In the days of yore when the Barony of Valsund was at its peak, four neighboring kingdoms entreated with King Jarregut the Great to establish a trade route which would span the breadth of the five kingdoms that they might mutually prosper. Reputable merchants would be given free passage, the flow of goods and services all the way from the Straits of Ymtal to Valfors Bay would be unimpeded by banditry or ill fortune. Or at least that was what the “Treaty of the King’s Highway” was intended to accomplish at its inception.
There was a time when merchant barrons would boast that they could ship a barrel of ale from the port city of Avenors to the far north bay of Galeron within a fortnight, and it was no empty boast. Unfortunately, that time is long past. Most of the King’s Highway has long since collapsed into ruin and neglect, and even in its heyday, much of the “highway” was traversed by rivers and waterways rather than paved stone.
The longest stretch of the King's Highway which is still essentially intact is the reach connecting the dwarven port of Stalgard to the coastal metropolis of Avenors. The Highway was built at a time when dwarves, elves and men still had amicable trade relations (if you can imagine it). The Steel Overlords of the dwarven clans would ferry goods from their capital city of Ul Balhar down to the port of Stalgard, where cargo was then unloaded onto caravans headed west. Even in those days the Saedre River was riddled with rapids and falls, so the first great bridge along the King's Highway was forged where the low mountains meet the forest of The Wilds.
Back then, the hill fort of Wildsgate was first human settlement to welcome weary travelers along the road to Veltos. But the Barony of Wildsgate seems to have grown weaker in its resolve to defend the road in recent generations, and the march between Stalgard and Wildsgate has become one of the most dangerous treks along the Highway. Only a small percentage of merchants have been able to steer clear of the goblin raiders lurking in The Wilds.
While the road between Wildsgate and Veltos has fallen into disrepair, it is still serviceable as need be. When the merchants of Avenors say they “do business on the King's Highway,” they are most assuredly referring to the small stretch of road between Avenors and Veltos, easily the most heavily trafficked portion of the Highway in the present age.
When the road was first built, the Elven Kingdom of Amn’crith allowed free passage from Avenors though the forest so that barges could make their way up river to the Uthurian city of Talisade. The road leading from Talisade to the Luithean city of Armandel is still heavily traveled, though there is a toll bridge to be found when crossing from one kingdom into the other.
In its day, Celinost was the capital ward of the Valsund Barony, which could be reached via waterway from its sister city of Araduin. The road from Armandel to Araduin still stands, but banditry along the road has been a constant danger ever since the Barony of Valsund fell into ruin so long ago. The former barony was not renamed “The Warlands” for nothing. What was once the most crucial link in the Galeron trade route from Kithmon to Celinost is virtually non-existent today. Valsund’s warring heirs tore up the pavement the King's Highway to build watchtowers and checkpoints along the way. Kithmon still entreats with tradesmen from the Kingdom of Morrain, but their longstanding feud with the Witch Wood elves has taken its toll on interstate commerce.
The barbarian chieftains of Ternyziem have learned that nothing but taxation and treachery awaits them in the corrupted port of Morcaut, and market their goods accordingly. Ternyziem has much stronger trade ties with Galeron than any city to the south. The last stretch of King’s Highway which was built and paid for from the same money chest was the reach between Ternyziem and Kyarovsk back when the Talons of the Horned King were still regarded as “the fifth wonder of the world.” Most of the locals have long since wised up to the tourist trap that it is, but some seers travel from as far away as Kithmon to visit the Talons each season.
In this day and age, when people are asked to point out the “King’s Highway” on a map, they will typically draw a straight line from Stalgard to Avenors and warn you steer clear of The Wilds. But how many still remember that the King’s Highway was commissioned by none other than King Jarregut the Great, or that songs of Ternyziem were once sung in the mead halls of Ul Balhar? Such are the ignorant and perilous times we live in.
- None the Wiser, Gentleman and Scholar