Alastari is a small and beautiful land in the vastness of Ghea, a world frozen in the grip of an age of ice. Alastari would be far colder than it is, (though it is still south of the glaciers), but the horrible battles fought there by ancient wizards have left a magical afterglow that heats the land. Also there are the Chaos Gates. Once, armies of monsters swarmed through them to invade Alastari. Now the Gates are sealed, but they still leak energy, warming the air. Still, the summers are cool and the winters are deadly. (The climate ought, by rights, be comparable to, say, Canada's Northwest Territory, but is, instead, closer to the Great Lakes region.)
A major trade route, the Great Eastern Way, comes from the frigid Ivory Wastes in the northeast, stopping at many of the cities of Alastari on its way to Skaithvarn, Lirith Kai, and Alfhame, its exotic merchants bearing treasures from the far eastern kingdoms of Serevada and Ferencia. Countless men and women have died for this trade, because there are two possible ways for the merchants to go--north, through the Karnhorn Empire and the Andorian League, or south, through the Charter Cities and the Delarquan Federation. Some say the fierce competition over the trade route is the real reason the Andorians and Delarquans hate each other so, but the bad blood between the two kingdoms goes back for hundreds of years. In any case, the wild swordsmen of the independent Cities on the western coast of Alastari take a more even-handed approach: they plunder the caravans no matter which way they go.
Perhaps it is because of the trade route that the people of Alastari are relatively tolerant of strangers and strange ways. In any case, Alastari probably has the most varied mixture of races of any area of its size in the world of Ghea, and some of them don't even try to kill each other. The typical resident of the region, while he may look human, probably has the blood of elves, giants, dwarves or some of the less common races flowing in his veins.
The Chaos Gates are ancient phenomena, the last artifacts of the original inhabitants of Ghea, which were once used to travel to other dimensions and worlds. The Gates have been used by those on the other sides of them as well; most recently in the Chaos Wars of five centuries ago, when wave after wave of bloodthirsty monsters invaded the rich land of Alastari through these portals. Finally there was an enormous battle in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and the area now known as the Twisted Lands was reduced to glowing ruins. The Chaos Gates were all sealed shut by the great mage, Sheila of the Grey Wand. However, it looks like the seals on some of them may be starting to decay, and things are getting out.
Sheila Greywand knew that the Gates would not stay closed forever, and that there would be more invasions. That is why she has recently helped to establish the Duelmasters arenas throughout the cities of Alastari, to train warriors for the coming battles. When they have proved their skill and valor, she makes them immortal, and invites them to come and continue their training on the Isle of the Eye, her stronghold in the mysterious and deadly Lake of Mists. The Andorian League now has its own arena on the Isle of the Eye: a shining white edifice known as Andorak. Darkholm, the Delarquan arena on the Isle of the Eye, is a forbidding pile of mossy granite, ornately decorated with stone beasts and strange runes, in the center of which stands the Black Tower. The smaller kingdoms and city-states that make up the Independent Nations have, after much haggling over who is to pay for it, erected their own arena, and most recently, ambassadors from far Lirith Kai have arrived to open an arena for their own warriors.
Alastari is in political turmoil, as the Delarquan Federation and the Andorian League are both growing, and the independent Cities struggle not to be overrun, dealing with strife both among its own people, and against ravaging hordes from the realms of Chaos. It is an age when five warriors and their manager can make their mark upon the world, emblazon their names and legends in history's scrolls, and fight for the ultimate prize of immortality.
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