As shown in our campaign map, the lands to the west of the Skyspine Mountains are referred to as the “Hordelands,” divided into north and south relative to the Silk Roads.
Vast expanses of plains, taiga/tundra, and desert (depending on latitude) stretch the length of the continent between the Free Cities and the fabled Eastern Empire of Cathaerion. Only those intrepid — or foolish — enough to travel for months along the Silk Roads have ever seen both coasts. Between the Skyspine Mountains and the Great Wall of Cathaerion lie the domains of the Ancient Imperium, now overrun by savage monsters.
Some areas are ruled by hobgoblin kingdoms, who exact tribute but are longsighted enough to allow trade through their territory. Other stretches of the Roads are home only to nomadic tribes of orcs, as likely to demand tribute as they are to simply burn and pillage a hapless caravan. Occasionally, an evil dragon will awaken from its centuries of slumber to tax or destroy those who trespass upon its domain.
Crossing the Hordelands takes roughly three months afoot, though far less flying (beware of dragons!) and teleportation spells enable intermittent contact between the east and west. Trade between the two civilizations is extremely lucrative, accounting for the great many souls foolish enough to risk the journey.
The ruined cities of the Ancient Imperium still lie along the Silk Roads, a testament to the fearsome destruction wrought by the First Mighty Horde over a thousand years ago. Rumors abound of great treasures and powerful magicks secreted within those crumbling walls. Most caravans choose not to heed such tales.. and explorers who take the stories seriously are rarely seen again.
The monsters of the Hordelands expend most of their energies fighting one another for territory long ago lost to mankind. Every few decades, however, some impetus will bring together the terrors of the plains with the aim of conquering the remaining realms of man. Perhaps a great hobgoblin or orcish overking has welded an empire of lesser tribes together, or an ancient wyrm holds sway over a thousand tribes, or… in the worst case… an avatar of some dark god of blood and slaughter has appeared suddenly and mysteriously to spread suffering upon the mortal plane…
Then, will a true Horde assemble.
Hordes typically descend upon whichever coast is closer, aiming to despoil civilized lands. While the leader — if s/he is mortal — may dream of conquest, the bulk of a Horde cares only for pillage, rapine, and the sheer carnal joy of watching cities burn and widows weep. Hordes led by dragons usually seek only plunder; Hordes led by an avatar of Nerull, Hextor, or Gruumsh seek destruction.
Most recently, the Painted Horde swept across the plains, sacking the cities of Fourwinds and Rhys five years ago, before being turned back by the the hosts of Tarsus, Dyvers, and Urnst.
Tarsus faced the worst damage of those three victors, enduring a year-long siege of Blackwall Holdfast and widespread depredation at the blades of Painted raiders. Though the siege was eventually lifted, the hosts of the Five Duchies would spend another three years hunting down the remnants of the horde. That bloody war ended only a few months ago, leaving the population and economy of the greatest City-State greatly reduced… and their putative allies, the Dukes of Dyvers and Urnst, looking greedily to the weakened garrisons of the southern Tarsun border…