The Province of FreePort rests along the western edge of the Atla and is known for everything from its robust economy to spectacular geographic features. Some of the best wines in the world are made by the people of the province. Some of the best lumber in the world is grown and shipped from within the Valley of Gent. The western coast of the province is known for attracting countless tourists who wish for a little fun in the sun. And, perhaps most significant of them all, the Province is home to the Cliffs of Gent.
The city of Dames and the surrounding region, set just above the eastern ridge of the Cliffs of Gent, are home to more vineyards and wineries than any other place on Atla. Wines from this region are known for their high alcohol content, bold flavors, and low acidity. Though Dames is home to the densest accumulation of vineyards in a given area, the varied climate and landscape surrounding the Cliffs of Gent, within the Valley of Gent, and along the high and low coastline of the province allow for a huge variety of wines to be grown throughout the entire province. In fact, there are nearly 5,000 active wineries throughout the area—five times as many as any other province.
But wine isn’t the only thing the province is famous for. Within the Valley of Gent you can find lumber mills turning the hardwoods of the region into everything from massive debarked logs for shipment overseas to fine furniture and interior decorations. The first lumber mills opened hundreds of years ago and have since expanded to fill most of the valley. And though the mills are plentiful, the family owned operations believe the health of the forests and environment as a whole are just as important as profits.
Though the Province of FreePort is prosperous and profitable the region has not always been trouble free. FreePort City itself was the site of major civil unrest which resulted in the construction of the city’s wall as well as the deaths of thousands. But that was hardly the deadliest battle in the region’s history.
The attack on Old Dames that took place more than 800 years ago resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people and the destruction of an historic metropolis. Prior to the attack, Dames (referred to as Old Dames now) was located several hundred miles north of where it stands today and rested against the foot of the Morrid Mountains. Due in part to the abundance of wildlife, long growing season, access to both the coastal regions of the current province and the mountains, and a thriving economy throughout the area (including Alpine City and the northern coast of the current province), Old Dames grew to be a dominant power in the region. While it wasn’t necessarily densely populated, the city covered a vast area, stretching more than 50 miles south, east, and west from the city’s capital at the foot of the mountains. A combination of records and archeological evidence suggest the city’s population reached almost 400,000 during this time, far greater than any other city in the province.
Around 550 PM the city was plagued by a wave of crime unlike anything they had seen before. Theft, burglary, vandalism, assault, and murders were as common there as any other large city. But when people began vanishing from their homes, never to be heard from or found, the people began to fear something other than what they expected or knew. Records show that up to a dozen people would go missing each night—friends and family waking to find the people they knew and loved gone without a trace. For a sizable city a few missing citizens is nothing new. However, the circumstances and almost rhythmic frequency with which people disappeared exacerbated what would have been mild panic.
People continued to vanish for over a year, with more than 4,000 people missing exactly one year from the first reported incident. Everyone who went missing did so under the same circumstances—late at night, from their own homes, and without anyone else seeing them vanish.
Speculation ranged from the mundane—a nefarious faction within the city looking to wrest control from the local government—to the bizarre—Demigods claiming the innocent for their own. To this day the cause has never been discovered.
A year and a half after the first disappearance a large group of assailants attacked the vast city of Old Dames. The attackers came from the mountains under cover of darkness and began a relentless slaughter. Though Old Dames had a sizeable military it proved ineffectual in stopping the well organized (and unexpected) band of warriors from the mountains. Tens of thousands of people were killed by the end of the next night and a vast majority of the city’s homes were burned to the ground. Farms, farm equipment, trade centers, and schools were targeted as well. It is unclear how large the enemy army was, though estimates place it somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000.
The slaughter continued through the second night and into the next day. By noon of the third day all but the most remote regions of the city were either burning or in ruins. Entire families lay slaughtered in the streets or burned to death under smoldering rubble. After realizing any attempt to stop the attackers was futile and with thousands already dead, a small band of survivors some 1,000 strong escaped the carnage and fled south. They expected to be followed and slaughtered in their flight. South of the foothills the region of Old Dames is mostly flat providing the attackers with an unobstructed view of the horizon beyond. If anyone wanted to follow the survivors and slay them nothing prevented them from doing so. However, the raiding party never came and the survivors were able to escape.
Eventually the people of Old Dames settled in the region above the Cliffs of Gent and renamed the city Dames. The Dames of today is separated into two distinct parts—the city center which is surrounded by a 15 foot stone wall surrounding a single square mile, and the rest of the city—several miles of neighborhoods and vineyards a mile south of the city center. The city center and its wall were constructed shortly after the refugees from Old Dames settled in the region, the wall designed to protect them from the unknown assailants who never returned. Today Dames has recaptured much of its former glory. It is also the future home of a high speed rail station, a line that will connect the west coast to the east.
The province’s single most defining geographic feature is the Cliffs of Gent. These towering cliffs encompass the entire Valley of Gent and are one of the most awe inspiring natural wonders of the world. Their unique size, shape, and characteristics have made the Cliffs of Gent the subject of scientific inquiry, religious worship, and supernatural tales throughout the world. Standing 4,000 feet tall, the cliffs are known for their sheer face, craggy surface, and a startling lack of vegetation or wildlife. Indeed, as though the soil has been poisoned, only two different flowers and a unique species of fly inhabit the otherwise lifeless soil above and below the cliffs. Science has yet to fully understand the reasons behind the soil’s sterility despite numerous attempts to uncover the secrets
Because of the steepness of the cliffs and their extreme height only a couple of trails have ever been carved into their face. One of them, the Ghost Trail, is known for more deaths than successful ascents. As a result, trade between the Valley of Gent and regions beyond requires hauling goods to FreePort City where they are then loaded onto ships, carried north or south beyond the cliffs themselves, and then transported deeper inland, a process which can take weeks or more.
FreePort is one of the most prosperous, advanced, and diverse provinces on Atla. It’s geography, cultures, history, and climate means it has a little something for anyone and everyone. No matter what you are interested in you are sure to find it in the Province of FreePort.