The Slumbering Tsar
Once long ago, the plains outside the walls of Tsar were an important crossroads for the civilized world. A great trade road ran between the southern kingdoms and the exotic lands of the north, seeing a constant stream of traffic. From behind the mighty walls of Tsar itself, great trade caravans emerged to travel in either direction. Likewise the road from the Black Gates of Tsar ran east to the far distant sea coast where a great port city likewise carried trade to points throughout the known world. Taxes on the goods traveling these two roads made Tsar rich and gave the city leaders great international influence.
Then a shadow fell upon the city. The priesthood of Orcus came to power and slowly gained sway over the city. Harsher tariffs and citysponsored marauders harassed traffic along the roads. Eventually the far distant coastal city shriveled and died as its only major land route for goods was choked off. The southern kingdoms and northern lands became more distant and estranged from each other as travel between the two became a chancy thing. Eventually the first caravan to brave the route for some time discovered that the city of Tsar had grown into a massive citadel and temple-city devoted solely to the foul worship of the Demon Prince of Undead — a blight upon the land. Trade all but ceased save for the slave caravans and bandit companies brave or foolish enough to do business with the decadent disciples of Orcus.
Now the east-west road tapers into nothing only a few miles beyond the edge of the Desolation where it enters the broken, goblinridden hills. The north-south road still sees some traffic, supported by the ignoble trade community known as the Camp, and still runs from Bard’s Gate to the now-unknown northern lands. The road itself is a bare hardpan sunken at least a foot below the surrounding ground from the centuries if not millennia of travel it has seen. Tracks do not linger long on this hard surface as windblown dust quickly erases them.
Every night the crossroads is visited by a strange outsider known as the Dweller at the Crossroads.