One of the major features of the town of Weaverham is the statue of Gullifurd, a famous explorer. He is depicted pointing west, his finger demarcating the location of Gullifurd's Path, a hard-packed dirt road that rises into the Smoky Spine mountain range to the west of town. The question is then: Where exactly does Gullifurd's Path go? Why is it so important?
The answer to the first question is a bit easier to answer. After the Path moves up and then across the great peaks of the Smoky Spine, it runs south and west to the mouth of the Antrash River, named after Gullifurd's second-in-command. Here lies the fabled walled city of Mirandir, home of the Olans, a mysterious people who built the city and have lived there for generations.
Actually, there are really two towns -- Mirandir itself and the town of Pemelo. Pemelo is a fishing/farming community of about 3000 people, blessed with a deep harbor that easily accommodates the various trade vessels moving up and down the coast. The Pemeolese, like everybody else, are not allowed within Mirandir, the closest they come is leaving a weekly "gift" of foodstuffs in return for the Olan warriors that patrol Pemelo and the surrounding areas. The only Pemeloese who carry weapons are the crew of The Blue Lady, a medium-size caravel that patrols the harbor and the surrounding seas, keeping the area clear of pirates as the Olans, despite having lived on the coast for centuries, have never quite developed an interest in seafaring.
The stories go that one day ships traveling up the extended empty coast between Struborg and Westmouth saw a large tent encampment on the south side of an unnamed bay frequently used for shelter in storms. The encampment was soon surrounded with a stone wall, now 40' tall on all sides, with only a few towers and minarets poking above it. The Olans, tall, pale and with ritual blue dot tattoos on their upper cheeks and the center of the forehead, crop their hair short, make good use of horses and typically carry chain mail, shields, spears and broad swords. No-one has ever reported seeing an Olan woman, should they exist. Extremely taciturn, Olans are unlikely to communicate much more than the bare necessities and there have been many flashpoints between Mirandir and Pemelo over incidents where Olan warriors could be regarded as treating Pemeloese and travelers with less regard than they might have. This behavior is tolerated as they keep the area clear of bandits and monsters and thus provide a valuable trading post in a largely desolate area -- this is why caravans are keen to head over the Smoky Spine once the passes clear.
The Olans, to get the air of mystery finally out of the way, are in fact named after their god, Olan. Thing is he's dead. Well, he's been blown into pieces. One of which is below Mirandir. See, turns out Olan wasn't exactly the best-liked god and after some higher-plane shenanigans, his actual corporeal body was exploded over the known (and some unknown) planes. His right ring finger landed on the coast west of the Smoky Spine -- some legends still exist of a firey blue meteor that raced across the sky -- and embedded itself deep into the ground.
After tracking it to its eventual landing place, a small sect of the Olans were extra-dimensionally dispatched to set up an encampment to secure the body part and to prepare it for eventual extraction. In one sense they were lucky, in that the finger landed in a wild and forgotten part of the world, and so was unlikely to attract attention from other groups (plus it landed on land, which is always a bonus). However, although Olan's finger is nigh-indestructible, it still split into many parts, not all of which have been found. Considering the high weird-magic potential of a dead god's finger that has plowed through the earth, creating all sorts of odd caverns in its wake, such excavations are somewhat fraught, even with extensive constructions and underground forts added by the Olans. Plus, considering its size (roughly the size of a 4-5 car subway train), building the extra-dimensional portal with which to move Olan back to his own plane has been a bit of a engineering boondoggle. The training needed to reproduce the intricate runic carvings required for the portal is complex enough to explain any amount of ill-temper displayed by those servants of the faithful who get rotated onto guard duty for the local bumpkins.
As for the women, perhaps they keep them secret as they are the main priestesses; or maybe all the followers of Olan are actually sperm taken from his testicles and there are no women; or maybe you'll come up with something good. I know you will.