Cities of the Empire
The centre of the Empire and its capital, Halgar is a crowded, high walled city whose appearance is very much of old, somewhat outdated grandeur. Over the centuries successive Princes, Primarchs, Magiarchs and Emperors have sought to build on and improve the city such that by more current times the skyline is one of oddly shaped towers and whose rooftops are disjointed among the many levels of streets that are, in some cases, actually built upon earlier rows such that there are areas of the city where different levels are joined by bridges both wide and narrow.
A jumbled city, Halgar has seen great change, most notably relatively recently when most of the wealth of what is now the Empire was concentrated here during the Glorianave Magiocracy. It was then that the great rows of many floored buildings were thrown up along the wide avenues that are now mostly divided into the small tenements in which live a noteworthy proportion of the city’s population.
Only in recent years have the hundreds of statues and stone troughs been cleared and restored and what were once little more than repositories for bird waste now once more stand proudly amongst the dense, often squalid, streets and angled squares. Vines crawl about most of the buildings and for much of the year the city is spotted with the blooms of many flowers whilst old, twisted but leaf heavy, trees sit sturdily everywhere a visitor cares to look.
Possibly the most famous part of the city is the Inner City. Walled and lying slightly off centre to the rest of Halgar, the Inner City is the centre of the Empire and the fortress set to defend the Nagrech. Like some exaggerated reflection of the city proper, the Inner City is yet more crowded, built up on at least a score of occasions from more than a dozen architectural styles.
Although more than fifty-thousand people make their homes within the tenements and jumbled, refuse clogged side-streets more than twice that number dwell in the hundreds of villages and dotted towns that stretch into the Heartlands all about, but primarily to the west, of the settlement.
Urban Halgarians have a reputation for cynicism and will almost never admit to being surprised or impressed with anything. Outspoken and boastful, they tend to see themselves as above the ‘dirty, ignorant’ northern citizens or the ‘ignorant, dull minded’ denizens of the southern cities. Generally ambitious, Halgarians love to be part of something greater than themselves; Guilds for the most part but service to a Noble or Merchant House carries status with it only slightly less than joining the Imperial service.
Rural Halgarians on the other hand tend to avoid the city whenever they can. They would, in fact, never refer to themselves as Halgarians at all, preferring to be known as Heartlanders if anything. Insular to their villages they very rarely leave unless it is to go to the nearest Hiring or Bridal fair, which near enough amounts to leaving their village forever in any case. The Heartlands is rife with local superstition, local faiths and strange customs and if the rural folk share anything with their more civic cousins it is an ability to accept the strangest things without visibly being impressed by anything new, wondrous or even dangerous.
Of all the peoples of the Empire, the Heartlanders are perhaps the most typical of what would be considered the rural idyll. Despite the ferocious winters that beset the whole Empire, the myth of the Heartlands would have it that most of the year is composed of hot days and balmy nights, country ale and endless harvests. It is true that the Heartlands provides by far the majority of agriculture to the Empire and come the last days of summer then the view from the criss-crossing roads and lanes does seem to be comprised of nothing but a hundred strip fields in all directions.
But the Heartlands are not all farmland. The paths and roads naturally lead to the villages and the fields that surround them. But go further inwards, beyond the horizon, and soon the Heartlands becomes wilder. Woodlands that have not seen the footfall of man for decades, the ruins of towns that don’t appear on the maps and the craggy entrances to the caverns that litter the continent can be found everywhere. The more one finds in the Heartlands the more questions seem to arise that have no answer.
The villages are hotbeds of local tales and mysteries. Stories of ghostly warriors cursed never to find their home village, of wheaten faeries and vengeful spirits abound and, in most cases, are often found to be true!
Despite the differences between the rural and city folk their clothing tends to be similar, with the latter often only varying in quality and gaudiness amongst the more well-to-do. Like all the Empire, baggy shirts and britches are common, with low, heavy workman’s boots popular. Hats are worn often and the fashion is, and has been for more than a century, for bi or even tri-corn styles. If there are two things that would mark out a Halgarian amongst other people it is their preference for colour. It is not uncommon for a traveller going through even the meanest village to be startled by the variety of coloured cloth, often layered or worn in stripes.
There was an Alguss at the beginning of the Second Age and whilst nothing remains of that city. Alguz stands on the same spot. Ancient tallies imply that once the city could be found on both sides of the River Alg but the now walled city of Alguz is firmly planted on the northerly bank, and near to where the River Brockenthorn joins it.
Once a trade city, Alguss was the most northerly point of the Empire for many years (as most locals still don't believe Deci to really be part of the same nation as they) until the foundation of Keys (itself a city based upon the principle of trade). Even during the time of the Principalities it was a focus for such, it's own Prince being the wealthiest and (local legend has it) the most worthy of them all. Certainly its position between Myron and Halgar ensured this was so geographically and the Prince's taming of the Alg solidified this through the city's production of barge and sloop.
Never walled for much of its history, the open city always maintained a fine body of Mercenary Helds and can boast the oldest Watch in any city. Indeed, the strength of the Princes and the oddly calm, businessman like nature of the criminal Guilds saw the rise of a system of laws that were later adopted by the Republic and which in execution (if not entirely in nature) survive as the basis for all such in the present Empire. Despite what became of Alguz in later years the people are proud to know that their city saw to the foundation of law, of order and trade when Halgar was still a slum occupied by adventurers, rogue ritualists and other ne'er do well scum. Here too many of the early (and mostly now forgotten) grand Churches first made the jump from hermit ranting to formal Faith.
The city was still strong through the Republic but suffered more than any other with the rise of the Magiarch's. Though in recent years it has become clear that the city possessed its own figures of such power (though they never called themselves "Magiarch" preferring the title of "Centeriarch") they were never unified into a single body. Indeed, the city was effectively swallowed whole by Glorianave, and without so much as a ritual challenge. The Centeriarch's preferred study, especially concerning the River Alg, and for the most part were quietly killed by assassins.
With the strategic advantage provided by both its location (it buffered the Halgarian Glorianave from the summoners of Myron) and the travel and rumoured power of the Alg the city suffered greatly during the Magiarchal Wars. Great rites sundered it, demons stalked its streets and by the time Cerus Amora came to the Throne of Glass it was little more than rubble. Starkly similar to the state presently seen in Gileenim. The new Emperor poured enormous amounts of the young Empire's resources into the rubble, and Alguz rose once again on the north bank.
Two events of monumental importance occurred in more recent times. Firstly, and most unexpectedly, peace has been forged between the city and the tribes. When a great site was established outside the city by Watching-Owl it was long expected that the two would fight. Instead, using the fine links forged by the city's understanding and eager sponsorship of the pelt trade, Geld was given. Such was most commonly seen in the Republic, though it originated with the Sallow Princes. Gifts of precious metals are sent to Tar Edroul each year, so much indeed that the hill is scattered with so much gold that it glitters even in the dead of night. This gift has seen that few scraps have occurred between the city, the Taltharians and the tribes. Even those tribes, shaman, chieftains and champions that could not agree to the Geld took themselves to the Far North and the old hatred between tribe and city has for the most part been now directed to other places, more north and east of Alguz. Many mutter that "paying the tribes to be good" is not the Imperial way. Most citizens heartily disagree. They have seen more blood and ruination than anyone over the generations and are not willing to suffer such again because of the bold words of people that live far away. The tribes do not perceive themselves as citizens of the Empire, nor indeed do the scribes see them as such. Even Amora himself paid off invaders though such events are roundly buried in the dead events of his reign.
Secondly, the God Talthar Manifested in his Cathedral and to this day his presence is more closely linked to Primus than almost any other, along with Elbereth and to a different extent the Earth Dragon.
The City of Keys
By far the youngest city within the Empire, Keys was until a scant two or three years ago simply the coastal village of Armastas. Settled and expanded by a group of ten Noble and Merchant Houses the site was chosen due to the nature of its natural harbour. Though not large it was found to be the source of the curious trade currents along the east coast. So strange are these that they flow both into and out of the harbour such that skiffs, sloops, barges and cogs heading for Keys are swept along with relative ease. It takes an experienced trader or sea captain to make use of the Lowing Current (that going away, that coming in is the Wellowing Current) but given the way the city has grown most have taken the time to acquire such skills.
When the Ten Houses sent craftsmen to the city they sought out the best and made it clear that they would pay top grull for materials and supplies. With the land being free of anything other than an easily cleared village the houses and buildings were made large and sturdy. Cheap to the craftsmen they settled there with those that protected them. Well paid for their work the traders became interested and then the Sires were courted by the new Council. They had to be of course – the city was intended to be the trade capital of the Empire and there may be an argument made that this has indeed become so.
Near from the day of its inception, Keys has been governed by a consistent Council. Baron Drago (or ‘Mother Drago’ as local slang would have it) embarked on an ambitious and successful plan that has seen Keys rise from little more than a muddy frontier town to a compact city of shining buildings, clad streets and Guild after Guild, after Guild. The facilities for trade are second to none and the Council has ever been at pains to welcome, aid and facilitate trade on whatever level. As a result the citizens have become rather rich and business thrives on every street.
Keys is very young and this shows both in the newness of even the most simple dwelling to the way it rises suddenly amongst the wilds about it. Other cities see a gradual change from urbane civilisation into rural dependant villages, to settled lands and then wilds. Such a blur across the landscape is not seen in Keys. Within its simple fortifications lies the city, directly without a northern wasteland with little to recommend it! Sparse and cruel, the territory of Keys is hardly Imperial at all – most of the few folk living there being tribal at heart and certainly with little in common with the citizens themselves.
The closest city to the Far North it might seem to have been an odd location for a trade city. But it gives good access to the Far North and excellent berth to shipping along the populous east coast of the Empire. The best roads in the Empire lead to Alguz – which was itself once the centre of trade for the Sallow Princes and those that came after. The Northern cities of the Empire have all based much of their policies on trade and certainly there are many, many traders whose routes centre purely on Keys. Deci and Eartholme. If the Northern cities weren’t in such stiff competition with one another they’d doubtless be able to buy the other cities in a few years…
Or at least be able to swap Deci for a good ox, only slightly lame, one careful owner.
With about four fifths the urban population of Halgar, Deci has a greater number of people within its walls than even Scarlene. Unlike the other great cities however Deci has a minimal number of citizens in the rural lands that abut and surround it. The imbalance is the result of both the city’s unusual growth and the thin, rocky land that surrounds it. Arguably the most famous of the Imperial Cities, Deci was actually the last of those possessed of such status to join the Empire and it was never part of any real Magiocracy, nor the Republic, despite the attempt in IM 452, or even the Principalities before that.
Little more than a village in the early days of the Second Age, Deci was successively attacked and taken over by brigands of every stripe. Within a century it was a town, one with ramshackle yet high walls and an extremely rough system of laws and justice based about various codes and traditions decided by the then Mocker Lord, Robber Baron, Mouse Lord, or one of a dozen titles invented by the current ruler. So far north as to be of little interest to the Heartland’s centralised societies elsewhere it prospered in population over succeeding centuries due to the arrival of more wolfsheads, attacks and settling by various tribes and even those exiled by the Princes and then the Republic. Indeed it was the latter that lead to the emergence of some kind of stability as the brigand leaders wed their daughters to those exiled holders of the Blood. Justice became harsher, more simplified and the old rule of the strong over the weak just took on the veneer of civilisation.
Nevertheless the city was not ruled by one person, nor even a single family. Rival groups assembled in a crude council and over the years each developed different areas of control and expertise in craft and trade as well as crime. It was not until IM 752 though that the city truly united, if only for a short time, when it was attacked and taken by the tribal hero Cavrin. Part of an uprising against the demands of Magiarch and the cities Cavrin used Deci as his base but in half a year his horde had been poisoned or lured away, his treasure was stolen and his people scattered and divided.
Even when House Amora was exiled by Glorianave it came to Deci and there prospered. Such a time though, the Magiarchal Wars, are the cause of much of the cities current woes. Refugees came to Deci by the thousand and by the time of the establishment of Empire the city had tripled in population, if not in actual geographical size. It had not only been swamped by those fleeing the result of the Magiarch’s conflict but had sustained less direct assault at the hands of the same. Where once it had been able to support itself through trade, raid and even some farming this was no longer possible and for a good fifty years now Deci has either been under the rot of famine or desperately fending it off.
Deci is very much a traditional fantasy city in the manner of Lankhmar and Sanctuary.
One of the youngest cities in the Empire, Eartholme lies within a semi-circular mound of hills that forms the lower end of the range that then horseshoes north and forms the nearly enclosed territories of Deci. Lying beside the River Spittle, abutting the Western Trade Road and extending its influence over the passageway to the lands that were formerly free of influence from Prince, Republic or Magiarch the site has been variously a military camp at the hands of the Sallow Princes a free trade town a vagrant fortress under the control of the old Mocker Lords of Deci and then a border post of the Kesselharn Magiocracy. None survived the test of time and indeed it was the first place claimed by the Magiocracies to fall to Amoraâ€™s Long Ride and the eventual foundation, scant decades ago, of the Empire.
With Deci forced into the young Empire and the sweeping away of the old, brutal and often horrific systems of Governance in return for Imperial justice much of the territory about Deci fell into the wilds. Without the effective, if thoroughly evil, dominion of the former Deci over its lands the old entrance to its territories decayed, sagged and in effect vanished.
Perhaps eight years ago Shaderos Del Dets discovered that here was a source of power to the Earth Dragon. He and his gathered companions established first a town and then, gaining Imperial Charter, a city at the site. Promising much and fulfilling nothing Shaderos built his city but swiftly lost control as his allies, their friendships stretched and their debts un-honoured, crumbled about him. Finally capping his rule by effectively inviting destruction at the hands of Ragravagh of Ishma, Shaderos vanished when the city faced one of the last great ritual strikes. Only the efforts of the Golem Jaynus saved enough of the city for it to retain its name but even he could not prevent the small cities decline. By the time the true Final Dawn had come and gone only a handful of people remained, primarily the Kallah and the devout of the Dragon. Most if not all dwelt in the extensive catacombs under the city and only with the aid of Jaynus and Queen Gereaxe did the city gasp into something approaching life once more.
The city was given entirely to the Dragon and gradually people given to such a force came to settle there. The people came to hate Shaderos and all he stood for. They turned their backs on lies, on deceit and indeed on much of the outside world. A disproportionate number of the settlers were dwarfs, miners, even craftsmen and they set to drag what they could from the land about them. What actually was about them proved to be mines. Lots of mines. The people worked without much central leadership, trusting in themselves, the dragon and their neighbours. Certainly they put not their faith in troublesome, shiftless, lazy vagabonds with swords and spells. Adventurers became the epitome of all that brought trouble.
There the city might have remained. A mining town that by now would doubtless be a dominion once again of Deci had not two people come to the settlement. Fidgit, drawn by the Dragon, came to heal the city and to glory in the breath of the Dragon. Foretold, a councillor under Shaderos, and always the most lawful, trustworthy member of the pack, was woken from where he had remained battered since the ritual strike from Ishma.
Fidgit became Governor.
Choosing his council well he led the city ever onwards and upwards. The population swelled, the Guilds flourished and within months the city became a fine, prosperous place to live. Under the auspice of the Lady Alcaster the old Noble Academy, destroyed in Ickybiggle, was rebuilt in Eartholme. Under Brangorn and Tanfolio mines were established and then a flurry of recruitment and armament occurred that forged the cityâ€™s Militia, who but recently sought out and destroyed a brigand army that stood fortified in the cities territory.
Visitors possessed of vitae are often confused on revisiting the city if they had been there before. Though the locals would earnestly claim the city had always been so, such travellers are often sure that the city used to be entirely above the ground. For now, or perhaps as it always was, four out of five Quarters of the settlement lie firmly below the ground.
It was once a fairly rich port with good inland waterways reaching all the way to the capital, Halgar. It basically gained a reputation as a bit of a cut throats lair- with many of the east coasts pirates and privateers being based in the area. Various rulers tried to tame the sprawling settlement, but basically failed any form of Imperial, Princely, or landed lordship was quickly washed away, and in some cases literately so in this event the settlement was given over to the residents themselves to choose a leader- typically this leader who be the man that controlled the biggest fleet or mob of pirates
The once city of Gileenim was destroyed by ritual backlash a few years ago since then the survivors have slowly been putting their lives back together and are split into a couple of different factions mainly Scum and Freefolk. The Scum are your typical sea port scum, and the Freefolk your typical free people [mostly former survivors]- Most of the Scum have been imported from other ports and places drifted in on the mysterious seemingly secundal currents that lead to the Gileenim harbour
Since its destruction very little rebuilding has been attempted there is something [supernatural] about the place that lends itself to being a ruin oddly the locals like it that way many of the old ruins lay broken across the thoroughfares and plazas that used to criss-cross the old city - causing those that aren’t careful to become quickly lost amongst the devastation. Amongst the old buildings fields and groves of wild mushrooms and vegetables grow amongst the trees that have taken root -
Small pockets of peons live in the place making use out of the old things they find in the old city old sail cloth is commonly used as canopies along the rows of peasant dwellings, old and broken ornaments sit oddly in the small shrubberies the folk tend when they are not out scavenging for their livelihoods -
It’s a place for people to come and go visit and stay a while if they have no where else to go a people port really its not anywhere where you’d want to live but somewhere to hang out if your staying out of peoples way peons of course get little choice.
In IM1006 the great pirate captain Pa Tremens took up command of Gileenims scum and formed them into a more organised rabble bringing in his own people from across the sea [the mittlenacht] he amassed a strong presence in the settlement and sought to use 1st age rituals to make himself a walking God upon Primus this would have given his villainy even further power and control but a combined Imperial, Mercenary and Freefolk force fought to retake the settlement combating the Scum and his other allies drastically reducing his forces and then finishing off Pa Tremens himself.
What next for Gileenim? well the final dawn is coming and that means change as far as the residents, on the whole, are concerned change is a good thing (“a fresh wind”) they have survived this year and that what its all about, for most folk, survival..
Gothiel is the holy city of the Church of Elbereth. The settlement is relatively new - the temple was a baronial keep, later a bandit fortress and for a few years a stronghold of the Church's martial wing before the city was built up around it. The symbol of the city is an eight pointed silver star on a dark blue background, surrounded by a wreath of green leaves.
At the heart of Gothiel is the Temple-Fortress of Elbereth on top of a crag, surrounded on three sides by the river Windrush. This crag connects via a neck of high land to a range of hills, and settlement has grown out across this neck of land and down into the river valley over the past few years. There is a local saying that there's no such thing as a level street in west Gothiel, just that some have less of a slope than others.
As a result of its relative newness, most of the town is still built of wood. The Temple-Fortress and the city government offices down the grand processional that leads away from it are stone, but most shops and houses are built from the local chestnut and oak woods. There are parks, gardens and plenty of open spaces either for the city to grow into, or where the land is a little too steep for foundations, and given the local populace's religious bent, plenty of room to look up at the open sky.
Life in Gothiel is generally pretty good. The streets are kept safe by the City Watch, the Council are actively interested in the welfare of their citizens, and if trouble does break loose, the church has a fair number of military members to "deal" with it. Not that this happens often, as powerful rites cast on the city make it physically unpleasant for evil creatures to linger there though one side effect of this is that the worshippers of Dunatis, the evil god of pain have set up a small enclave of their own, as they find it appealing. The locals discovered that trying to chase them out of town didn't work, as they liked the "being hit with sticks" part of the process, so they have mostly been left in peace.
There is nothing much in the way of high society, most of the nobles consider it rather a primitive place, but equally there is no real poverty, with the church providing for those who fall on hard times. For the most part the people tend to be craftsmen and the city is particularly proud of its carpentry and wood-carving, merchants and artists, who are actively encouraged by the church. A large number of elves live in or near the city, and there's a small but visible dwarven populace mainly smiths and stonemasons.
The Temple-Fortress itself is an impressive building, forbidding grey stone on the outside, the inside has been re-worked in marble and silver, centred around the high altar, in a huge, high-pillared hall whose ceiling magically displays the night sky above and the movement of the stars.
Gothiel folk love any excuse for a party, though by comparison with the delights of Halgar these are pretty rustic affairs, typically involving a bonfire in the market square, dancing and large amounts of food and ale. The locals claim there's more, and better, ale brewed in Gothiel than anywhere else in the Empire.
The area around the city is considered part of the Gothiel "territory", and contains a number of small villages, mostly arable farming in the river valleys, and sheep up in the hills. Not all of these are exclusively ‘Elberethian’ in nature, but many are or at least have decided it's wise to claim to follow the Church whose troops patrol the area and dispose of bandits and suchlike with ruthless efficiency.
An extremely young settlement, the city grew up about the remnants of Catten Vale. Vale was always an important town, one that was as large and populous as the city is now. Then of course the population of the land between the Brandins and the Braekens was much greater and what composed a city was vastly different. Sited near to the union of three rivers (Eichian, Onwards and the Wend) it was both useful for trade but more importantly, due to its geographical location, dominated the approaches to Halgar from the east. Although Catten Vale was hardly an entirely martial town it was used to having spearmen in residence.
It was during the wars between Glorianave and Seval that it came to its destruction. Besieged, taken, retaken and besieged once again many times over a period of some forty years. Catten Vale became increasingly more fortified and ever more military as it stood, survived or fell to successive armies. It became a matter of intense hubris to the Magiarch’s of both ritual states, it in turn focussing attention away from Halgar, whose walls and ritual wards were far more impressive in any case. Indeed, between IM 925 and IM 926 the town was held by no one faction, seeing constant skirmish fighting to and fro in the increasingly rubbled streets. The town became a source of political need between Boursos the Red (Seval) and Wrendel Daerk (Glorianave), each needing victory there to secure their own pre-eminence within their Magiarcies.
Despite the clashes elsewhere between rival armies, Catten Vale saw constant small attacks, skirmishes and the occasional outright advance as the by now ragged spearmen there fought for every street, cellar, catacomb and broken tower. Neither claimed entire domination, though both came close on several occasions, between 925 and 926 until Methac Woland was sent to resolve the matter, and did so once he unleashed his henchman Throttle’s warband upon the ruins.
Both were recalled to Halgar in the wake of the victory and then both were said to have been killed by Seval assassins.
The city depleted during the wider death that followed when ritual war was unleashed and it was not until a decade before the last True Final Dawn that the area was settled once again by the Knights of the Land, where it was renamed Mordred’s Rest. It flourished under their protection but still was not a city until two things changed the fate of the town dramatically.
Firstly the power of the Knights was then such that they were able to gain a Settlement Charter after much political manoeuvring. Not only Knights, but former Legionaries, adventurers and the assorted folk that cater to such came to dwell in the growing city. Secondly, the destruction of Ickybiggle meant that there was suddenly land to be governed. Whilst perhaps half of the old Ickybiggle territories are now either entirely within or indirectly influenced by the Forest of Trollsville the remainder from the rural territories of the city now more commonly called simply ‘The Rest’.
There is little to show of Catten Vale now. The rubble of the former town has been entirely reclaimed for the building of The Rest but much of the lost settlements nature lives on in the manner of the people that dwell there in the present day
The only Imperial City not to be found on the mainland, Port Miere sits tenaciously on the western edge of the Island that has formerly been known as Pelys, Long Rock and the Gravid Isle but is more commonly known by its typically mercenary label of the ’Isle of Dread’. Sitting determinedly in the shadow of the large Port that has been built within the Isle’s natural harbour the city is one of the smallest settlements within the Empire and newcomers are often surprised when first they alight on the quayside to see how small the city seems to be in comparison to its impressively large and well built harbour.
Built on the slopes that descend towards the bay, Port Miere is a sturdy city in which most of the buildings were built some years ago of a thick stone brought from quarries further inland and which now cannot apparently be found. Cresting the city is the settlements Citadel, a fortress about which the other buildings cluster in a loose curve. The design of the streets once channelled the incessant rain into the harbour but now, as a result of the Port construction instead floods northwards into the Marshes – the poorest part of the city where the houses of the single street are raised on rotting stilts above the muddy sludge below.
The city makes its way through three primary industries – fish, handicrafts and smuggling. The former very much serves the city but of late, with the repair of the city-owned salt mines this looks set to expand to a larger market. The ferocity of the winter storms has long seen the people retreat to their homes for the season and it is here that they work upon wood and stone craft of surprising delicacy - much in demand from the traders who call come the spring. Indeed, the Sloop-Traders often use Port Miere as their base since it is traditionally more lax than elsewhere regarding taxation – a combination of this and the cultural smuggling tradition has lead over the years to the point where the Governor does not even to seek to stop something that clearly gives the citizens so much pleasure.
Purposefully established by the Sallow Princes, Scarlene never grew into its present city status through the gradual evolution of village to town, and thence to city, as its citizen base grew. Rather, much has been seen in the last year with Keys, it was a deliberately sited and chosen location that served to fulfil two aims. Firstly it created a civilisation base on the east coast, the Principalities then being strongest further east, and secondly to create what amounted to a playground for the Princes and their scions. The importance of the former has become more clearly understood only in recent times as Keys has drawn back the veil that previously shrouded Armastas. Whilst the adventuresome and active tribals had been pushed far to the north much of the eastern regions of the continent were still littered with their more sedentary relations. Even the Sallow Princes baulked at hunting down and killing whole tribes whose only crime was a mastery of the land and the potential for taxation.
The establishment of Scarlene thus spread the Principalities and called into being a City Spirit. Though many generations had passed between Weaver and Prince still enough of the old lores remained that many still understood the significance between land and soul. Many of the Weavers Blood descendants cared little any more for rite, lore or tradition. They only knew that there was better land to be had on the east coast than on the west. Whilst in their more traditional demesne the terrain was broken and wild and merely ‘perfectly adequate’, it did not compare to the softer hills, herds and more richly glittering oceans to the west. So the early Nobles hunted and created extravagancies, building a city about what had previously been little more than a fishing port.
But the erosion of the Sallow Princes and the rise of the Republic saw the city wither. Though this was a time of growth for the cities, Scarlene sunk in importance even as it rose in population and the people started to return to the Gods. A strong vein of religion was sewn into the city then that continues to this day and the people are more tolerant about other, even rival, faiths than the majority of the other cities. Whilst such a deep-seated attitude has seen less of the constant, bubbling suspicion that characterises other faith-divergent cities it has meant that when trouble has flared up it has done so in the most dramatic and damaging way possible. It is easy for extreme cults and beliefs to take hold as the people are both tolerant enough to keep their thoughts to themselves and plentiful enough for word of such to be lost amongst the babbling tongues and minds of thousands of people.
Scarlene is big, it has a large population spread over a wide area amongst a city that has grown across a series of five flat hills that act as the step for yet greater examples of the kind between the settlement and the rural lands over which it governs. Almost all of the rural folk on the east coast acknowledge Scarlene as being their ‘home’ city even though geographically there are many who were once closer to Gileenim, which had few rural adherents, and those who are still closer to Alguz and even The ‘Rest.
Of late yet more changes have come to the city. The last few years have seen the city become famous as the location for the Festival of Fish. Pilgrims, often coming from cities a considerable distance away, have taken to coming to the city at such times in order to enjoy the entertainment and celebration, and fish, on offer in the old, jumbled streets of the aging city. Of late, Gysmo has been joined by a number of companions in forming a Council for the settlement and though the holy spirit now goes by the name ‘Mirras’ the citizens are well versed in the nature of faiths and understand how bodies, names and even spirits change in the course of a heroes long life.
More recently still the city has become the home to what seems to be every bird in Primus. Not one ledge, roof or tree has been left free of the nests of birds, even those that are more commonly only seen in the forest and even fens. The return of the cities fishing fleet is announced first by the formation of a cloud of such creatures who seek to snatch what they can from the catch and even those most natural-hearted of the citizens are finding it hard to find a silver lining to the guano carpet that is growing upon the city of Scarlene.
In recent years no city has suffered so greatly or faced one-tenth the terror of Sellaville. Once a city of such magnificence and power that it was the seat for one of the three most powerful of the Magiocracies (Seval) it survived even the Magiarchal Wars and continued through Amora’s reign as the most powerful city in the South and the most magical city in the Empire. It was scant years ago though that its power and Entropy were turned against it and the city was cast into the Mittlenacht for a year. There, bereft of aid, the people were hunted down and fed upon by the demons that were fattened on the two-legged cattle they found within.
Small groups of citizens, lead by the Hanot (the Kallah having been driven mad by the lack of a City Spirit) managed to hide and even fight back. When they received brief aid from mercenaries and food from House Stoneheart it was enough for them to temporarily turn the tables on their conquerors such that the (by now) hardened survivors were able to forge a defensive Quarter and see out the remainder of the year when the city was thankfully returned.
It might have gone ill for Sellaville had its scars not been slowly healed by its Governor Latona, but even now the citizens rarely go anywhere unarmed and the Hanot have appointed themselves the cities guardians with the approval of the few hundred people who saw out the Bad Days with them.
Now the city is effectively confined to one corner (the Refuge) where almost everyone lives in the houses they have made from a cities worth of ancient stone. Beside the Refuge and overlooking it on a flat, rocky hill is the Peace Quarter where Latona’s roundhouse can be found and beyond that the Tip where the citizens first piled the Brandin stone and seasoned wood that made up the cities rubble.
A little more than half the citizens of the city itself are those that fought for a year in the ‘Nacht. Survivors of the Bad Days they are far tougher than the people found in other cities and more closely resemble mercenaries in their manner and watchfulness. Both the Council and the new life that is blooming in the city now have to some degree healed many of the wounds left by their experiences. Still though there is a fierce determination to never again let what happened to the city do so again. The citizens tend to swing between great happiness at their present lives, new children and even the rays of a yellow sun, and bouts of moody remembrance at what they all went through. The citizens very much want to put their experiences behind them, they truly want to settle and be good people with dreams, aims and desires and to some extent they have succeeded. But it doesn’t take much to set the people back again, hands twitching towards a nearby spear, hunched and watchful of a strange sound in the night.
Beyond the city and the rural folk do not carry the scars of their more city-bound brethren. They never went through the Bad Days and if anything came of that it was the way in which each village and town became a little more independent. Even now there are villages and farms that are being found once more by travelling scribes and added to the cities core of knowledge. Healthier than many rural people, Sellaville villagers are similar to Heartlanders in many ways but more likely to indulge in a little improvised crop-hiding or even highway robbery if they think they can get away with it. Primarily, the villagers look after the village first and everything else thereafter. For the most part rural life can be found to the north and east of the city and the further west one goes from Sellaville the wilder and less lawless the land becomes.
Whilst the rural folk dress similarly to their Heartlands cousins (but without the often grandiose colours) the city dwellers are far more likely to wear pieces of armour – padded jacks, leather armour and the like and wander the streets with at least a sword or spear to hand.
A city revived in recent years, Thimon has arguably changed greatly during this time where, like Alguz it has risen from adversity. That its troubles are less widely known says a great deal about the city and its character; for the Thimonese are a close-mouthed lot who rarely tend towards boastful or arrogant behaviour. Such sullenness is often confused for meekness amongst first time visitors, but this is a mistake for in the main the Thimonese are clever, watchful people who rarely forget and never, ever forgive. So close to the border with the Baronies there is a thick, racial streak of Bulaslavian blood in the people and they often resemble Baronyies folk more than the people of their native Empire.
Though seemingly crowded, the city is not in actuality very populous. Great chunks of the settlement are made up of ruined buildings and the ignored damage of various conflicts down the years. Indeed, so depleted is the population compared to that which it was in the past that there is hardly a need to buy property at all. First time visitors to the city are often surprised by the scarcity of Inn’s at which they might stay. More regular travellers know that an hour’s hunting will turn up an empty, long abandoned house with little effort.
The skyline of Thimon could also be confused with no other. So close to the Brandins, fine stone and slate are not only cheap but they are effectively free if one cares to strip the nearest empty buildings. Though the typical Thimon building is old and in need of repair, patched up with boards and canvass, the materials are of fine quality and the buildings tend to be tall, thin, pointed structures with sharply sloping slate roofs. The Brandins also provide cheap blackstone and during the cold winters the sky of the city is thick with the dense fog of a thousand overlarge fireplaces.
Much of the recent damage to the city is a result of the conflict between the Ratfolk of Slavik and the Knights of the Land. Though the Knights proudly declared their victory it is interesting to note that the rats are not only resident in great numbers but that they are well regarded citizens by both the locals, who have come to appreciate the similarity of character they share, and the Council. Indeed, Governor Saldana is known to not tolerate a word being said against his newest citizens.
Strangely, Thimon is almost bereft of the ghouls and other nightwalkers that are both a nuisance and an unacknowledged form of walking sewer in other cities. Scant years ago a plague swept through the city and the corpses that remained were then seen to walk out of the settlement and not only have they failed to return but physical undead in general seem to scent something worrying about the city and avoid it if they can. As much cannot be said though for their more ethereal peers…
Not as dark as Deci, but not far off, not as united as Sellaville, but close when faced with outsiders, nor as mercantile as Keys, but, again, close, Thimon is a city rich in character since it is the place where the culture of the Empire and the Baronies merges.
There are a number of other cities within the Empire, with short descriptions provided below. In addition to the cities there are literally thousands of small towns, villages and hamlets across the entire landscape. Some are well known to either the entire mercenary caste or perhaps to a small group that have adopted the safekeeping of one settlement or another.
Trovil (formally known as Trollsville)
Not exactly a city as such, but a living forest state. A centre of Druidic Power cared for by the three druidic aspects (Beneficiant, Hostile and Benevolant). It is the site of the World Tree and has strong wardings placed upon it affecting summonation of unnatural beings.
Formally a city of the Empire, but recently absobed into the control of the Circle and the Baronies