Semmarch is a city that sits just south of the border between the SouthLands and the MidLands. It is located in the western foothills of the Thair Mountains, and the Lessic River runs past it out of the mountains toward the mighty Vorilon River. Its location has made it a strategic city, and as such has been the site of many battles over the centuries.
Wars of Arin
For many years, Semmarch served as the first line of defense against the forces of the Onyx Empire. During the wars, most of the population in the area either fled, or was killed, and the city was little more than a military keep. It came to be known during this time as the "Keep on the Borderlands", as the wars went on so long that many forgot there was once a town there. For most of the wars, the garrison was commanded by Lord Mason Blairwood, who held the fortress despite several sieges over the course of the wars.
Transition to peacetime
After the Wars of Arin had concluded, Blairwood remained in the city, serving as its castellan. Once again, a town began to grow around the keep, as the land recovered its highly fertile nature. About ten years after the wars ended, Lord Blairwood finally retired to his estate to the east, and the town held its first election. The city chose as its mayor Kent Mydland, then a young lieutenant in the White Army that had served there for several years. Kent was made both military and civilian leader of Semmarch shortly thereafter.
Over the years, Semmarch grew again into the city it was in decades past. It resumed its function as an important stopover for travelers along the Old Gnome Road, and it soon found itself home to a Red Dragon Inn. During this time, the town was often used as a base for spies sent into Arin, while also becoming known as a meeting place for adventurers, who often went into the countryside seeking the evil humanoids that still roamed the wilderness to the north and east, especially in the appropriately-named Caves of Chaos. The city grew prosperous, but, as they say, nothing lasts forever.
Things began to change several years ago, when a criminal group known simply as The Organization began running a protection racket in the city. Kent and the city guard attempted to break it up, but it proved elusive. A small resistance movement, led by an herbalist named Alean, began to sprout up, but things only became more difficult. After a year, the ruler of the region, Duke Mirdael Hanaestor, sent in forces of his own to help break up the gang.
Then, four years ago, it was announced that the duchy of Byngh, of which Semmarch was a part, would be separating from the White Alliance. The duchy was renamed Hanaellan, and the city's importance became secondary in the region to Byngh. The announcement came on the heels of Duke Mirdael's successful campaign against The Organization, and that gave him the impetus to proclaim that the Alliance had failed the city. Thus, there was a good deal of support for the withdrawal. Duke Mirdael ordered many new and punitive laws, with the excuse of combating further criminal activity. Among the changes was the announcement that the Red Dragon Inn in the city would be closed.
Kent and several of his subordinates resisted and attempted to break Semmarch away from the rest of Hanaellan so that they could rejoin the White Alliance. There was a measure of support for this, but most of the citizenry supported the duke, and the duke sent a force to quell the rebellion. Kent's top lieutenant, a paladin named Otillis, was imprisoned for insubordination, but Kent himself, along with at least two dozen of his closest allies, escaped the duke's justice and fled into the rough country south of the East-West Road, where they play a central role in a resistance movement to restore Kent to power.
The city today
Today, the air of the city is greatly changed. No longer is Semmarch known as a gathering place for adventurers and frontiersmen, although the lands to the north and east are still home to roving bands of evil humanoids and other monsters. Some have even sighted such bands as far south as Gaithos, which many attribute to the Duke's focus on the eastern part of his lands. Some say that even the Druids have abandoned nearby Seldann Wood, although few now venture there.
Instead, the city is ruled with an iron hand by Duke Mirdael's new commander of the forces of Semmarch, Captain Strickham. The city guard is reinforced by a platoon of giff, who are also assigned to watch the bridge over the Vorilon River to the west. Most of the business district has been unaffected, but the open-air marketplace that once thrived here has dwindled to a precious few transient merchants -- most of the rest have moved on to either The Crossroads, Nazivonema, or Hanmer itself. As noted above, even the Red Dragon Inn was not immune, as it was ordered shut down, although it has recently been allowed to reopen.
Another recent development is the building of the Green Road, which runs between Semmarch and Byngh to the east. This road has brought more traffic into the city from the east, and allowed Duke Mirdael to move his troops into the city more easily.