The Xia Empire had its coast plagued by domestic pirates since its people took to the sea as a faster means of transportation. In the past few decades however, along with traders, pirates too have ventured ever westwards in to uncharted seas in search of fortune. In time, these daring souls would bring home what was referred to as ‘‘black powder’’, which was not only easily flammable, but could be dangerously explosive.
The authorities of the empire did not pay much attention to the spread of this substance at first. Initially it was used in beautiful displays of fireworks, and its potential in the mining industry were swiftly realised. That is, until some domestic monks attempted to recreate it, and ended up not only blowing themselves up, but consequently burned down their temple. The authorities quickly began cracking down on all black powder imports, and allowed it for use to licensed individuals only. But it was already too late…
The imperial navy began paying more attention to piracy, and began hunting pirates on the high seas as well to halt illegal black powder imports. On one occasion, one such pirate ship was armed with what could only be described as black powder weaponry, which had a much greater effect on ships at close range than anything seen before.
In reaction to this event, the authorities decided to find the source of this black powder substance, and set out a team of adventurers to find the origin and possibly procure the plans for this black powder weapon that had given pirates a new edge over the seas.
They were each given a compass, and a map of the known world to aid them in their search. Knowing the seas were bound to be swarming with pirates these days, they decided to take the land route north. They paid for a ride along with one of the many caravans that head that way, and set off towards the uncharted lands to the west, which were only briefly explored in ancient times.