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Author Topic: Amethyst Isles of Rimecroft [Setting Thread]  (Read 10870 times)
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2013, 02:51:47 AM »



Giants and Servitude

Across the ever-tumultuous Narrows lies the Cragcoast, a storm-wracked, desolate land where only Giants, Monstrous Scorpions and entrepreneurs dare tread. The sheer, thousand foot-high rocky cliffs of the Cragcoast have, for millenia, served as a natural deterrent to civilization of most kinds. Only the simpletons of the Giant-stock (Stone Giants) call this land home. They do so not out of stupidity but out of necessity as the Storm Giants of Choleric Steppe and the Frost Giants of High Firn pushed their smaller kin out of, what was originally, the Stone Giants' homeland. Indeed, the aboriginal peoples of the Southern Warblade Isles were the Stone Giants and the Pixies. Gigantic ruins dot the countryside that hint at a once great and well organized realm. Sadly the Stone Giants do not possess a written script, nor do they enjoy a vibrant oral tradition. We can only infer that at one time the Stone Giants were more centrally organized and community centric than they are currently.

Rhahsian writings paint the Giants as a violent, vile race that destroyed all they encountered, from forests, to towns, to beasts. The Rhahsians also speak of Giants capturing Pixies and gulping them down like a child devours the first berries of spring. In more modern times, there are wide spread Dwarvish accounts of Stone Giants eating Dwarves, so there is some merit to the Pixies’ claim. The pixies also speak of Stone Giants consuming so many Pixies that they actually sprouted Pixie-like wings, though unfortunately this has never been verified. Having said that, the aforementioned Dwarf eating Giants did, in fact, sprout stubble, which is notable since Stone Ginats are known to suffer from alopecia. Prior to the Gloom, one enterprising Gnome scholar attempted to test the theory that Stone Giants could adopt the traits of the races they consumed by feeding it Dwarven cadavers. Unfortunately, the Gnome was eaten greedily by his test subject, who stated he preferred fresh meat as opposed to rotten meat.

The Stone Giants who call the Cragcoast home are solitary creatures who relish violence, obscene amounts of consumption and violence in all forms. Due to their natural instincts, the Stone Giants are often lured into joining the ranks of the Foulbone Army, as the Goblins and Xill possess no qualms about the eating of sentient races. Unfortunately, the Stone Giants are well known for their laziness too and so many a Giant has simply devoured entire regiments of Goblins instead of crossing the Throat to battle Dwarves and Elves. The Xill find this intolerable and so are well known for slaying the Giants and raising them as Zombies. Rather than fighting a belligerently lazy Giant, their Xill lords will simply feed the oafs poisoned meat, often Zombies. General Zarlacau the Bloody Handed of Ashlock is well known for prizing the stalwart, loyal nature of Zombies above that of the fearful Goblins, and so will simply give the Giants living Goblins that have been dipped in poison rather than waste a perfectly good Zombie.

Indeed it is General Zarlacau who first instituted Foulbone’s recruitment/enslavement of the Stone Giants from the Cragcoast. In addition to controlling the ruins of Ashlock, Zarlacau also owns the Dread Scourge, which is the largest ship operating in the Southern Warblade Isles. Originally constructed as a palace ship by the Viceroys of Bastion Isle, the ship was, as with all things Imperial, abandoned once the Gloom sunk its deadly teeth into the world. General Zarlacau was one of the first Xill summoned by Rueseronds’ minions and was thus the first to lay claim to the bounty of forsaken goods left behind by the Imperium. To his day, Zarlacau’s Cimmerian Raiders are equipped with the best magical kit of any regiment on Songwillow (a fact that the Generals of Dreamglen have come to realize quite painfully).

Twice a year, the Dread Scourge anchors astride Cinereous Henge, which is a massive boulder henge constructed by the Stone Giants to serve as a gathering point for all during mating season. Following titanic battles for dominance, one among the bulls proves his unequalled dominance and lays claim to all of the heifers. The remaining bulls, often dejected and angry, hear the clarion call of General Zarlacau and his promise of food, war and happiness. He loads the Giants onto the Dread Scourge in massive slave pens, and hauls them back to Ashlock. Upon arrival, Zarlacau commands that only half of the Giants will be allowed to partake in a feast and thus half of the Giants must be slaughtered. This serves two purposes, first it diminishes the number of living Giants (whose bellies are near bottomless) and secondly, ensures only the toughest and most virile Giants are supported. Those that perish are immediately raised and sent to the Throat to serve as shock troops. Those that survive and treated to a exorbitant buffet, then equipped with powerfully enchanted gear and used by the Cimmerian Raiders in their assaults along the southern and eastern coastlines of Dreamglen. When the Raiders’ ships run out of food and they cannot find enough food from pillaging, the Giants are either slaughtered and raised, sent to the Throat or see their equipment removed and simply released in Dreamglen, like one would free an unwanted animal.

The raiding combined with the abandonment of Giants has lead to a massive de-population of the south-western coast of Dreamglen and has seen the sudden rise of refugees flood into Whitebuck, which has strained the city’s resources to the breaking point. The King has attempted to combat this by sending troops to re-enforce the south but has found his efforts for not as the Lord-Protectors of the city have become increasingly belligerent and petty, often fighting small-scale wars within the moat. With all the refugees that have come to Whitebuck, the King faces a difficult choice – keep his own personal troops in the city to tamper down any violence or risk internal strife to ensure the safety of the coast.

Thus far, the King has preferred to protect Whitebuck, which only exacerbates the demographic shift away from the countryside and to the city. The Ochurs are now filled to the brim with these refugees, most of who cannot find work and thus live in abject poverty. This has lead to the inexorable rise of gangs, which seek to “protect their own”, which often comes at the expense of shop keepers and other innocents. The bridges connecting the Ochurs to the rest of the city are heavily policed, with the city guards allowing few to leave their trees, which only aggravates the poverty experienced by so many as their opportunity for employment plummets.

The Senate has put forward many possible solutions, most of which amount to shipping the refugees off to other places, most notably Eastfarm. However, Lawkeeper Reydo Keyblade has spoken out against this idea as his town faces similar problems from refugees who once lived on the northern coast (which now suffers from entrenched Drow Pirates who have taken up residence in the ruins of Ironmace.

Viasarius, with permission and consent from the Keo, has set up a farming community high up in the Sernepeace Mountains. Called Zekaton (in honor of his friend, Chieftess Zeka), it is a model of an idyllic village with bountiful harvests and freedom from the violence that plagues the plains below. However, few have emigrated to Zekaton as Demitri Silversmith has secretly paid off many of the gangs in Whitebuck to intimidate would-be emigrants and by spreading rumors that Vrocks nest near the town and Viasarius has pledged to sacrifice the first born child of every family to the demons to sate their taste for the blood of the common races.
Demitri Silversmith owns the largest silver mine in Dreamglen (called the Silversmith mine), which accounts for nearly four fifths of all the silver produced by the realm annually. The former Queen, who desperately needed mineral wealth to pay her mercenaries, pushed the Servitude Act through the Senate, which allowed for the introduction of indentured servitude into the realm but only for criminals guilty of heinous crimes as a means of avoiding to lengthy prison terms or the gallows. As time progressed, King Letnin expanded the law to force all debtors, vagrants, enemy soldiers and criminals (regardless of the crime) to be sent into indentured servitude for a period of seven years. Unsurprisingly, Demitri Silversmith receives the vast majority of these indentured servants, who work under terrifyingly brutal conditions.

Silversmith was also able to finagle the right to control the servitude ledgers. Touted as a more effective means of controlling the vast number of servants, the power of the ledgers has effectively made all sent to the mine a de facto slave as Silversmith very rarely frees anyone. When asked why so few return home after seven years, Silversmith simply responds that the silver mining is a dangerous trade and many do not make it to the end of their term. The Senate enacted the Arcane Mark Law, which is used to ensure the correct identity of servants, as well as indicate when their sentence is due to end. The families of those sent to the mines often claim Silversmith has a cadre of mages who (unbeknownst to the servants) alter people’s marks. When confronted with this accusation, Silversmith simply replies, “The work is dangerous. Would you not claim to be someone else to get out of your duties?” For now, the more conservative Lords (who despise the influx of refugees) have blocked all legislation to further curtail or oversee Silversmith’s operation.  In fact those same Lords have enacted a law which allows a free man to put himself into indentured servitude willingly, much to the chagrin of more liberal Lords.

On the floor of the Senate, Lord-Protector Vetgur Flailwar once commented that “Without hope, people will sell their souls to the devil to make a better life for themselves, be they Elves, Dwarves, Men or Giants.”
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 10:15:32 PM by Elemental_Elf » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2013, 03:08:32 PM »

Quote

Rhahsian writings paint the Giants as a violent, vile race that destroyed all they encountered, from forests, to towns, to beasts. The Rhahsians also speak of Giants capturing Pixies and gulping them down like a child devours the first berries of spring. In more modern times, there are wide spread Dwarvish accounts of Stone Giants eating Dwarves, so there is some merit to the Pixies’ claim. The pixies also speak of Stone Giants consuming so many Pixies that they actually sprouted Pixie-like wings, though unfortunately this has never been verified. Having said that, the aforementioned Dwarf eating Giants did, in fact, sprout stubble, which is notable since Stone Ginats are known to suffer from alopecia. Prior to the Gloom, one enterprising Gnome scholar attempted to test this theory but was he himself eaten greedily by his test subject.
Just how was he planning to test it?
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« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2013, 04:49:23 PM »



Bacdan, Bactahn & the Cooperative of Nhom

A hundred years ago the floating spheroid called Bactahn manifested in the Southern Oceans. This spheroid played host to a race of technologically advanced, silver-skinned cephalopods who called themselves the Bacdan. No one knows where these creatures came from. The few outsiders allowed to enter Bactahn claim that the Bacdan were fleeing a dying world, destroyed by one of their wrathful, insane goddess. The cephalopods’ greatest mages cast a teleportation spell that hurtled their last remaining city across space, time and dimensions to arrive at the brightest point in the Odnaboas (loosely translated as Star-Sea-Plain).

 Their society is based around veneration of their ancestors. When an individual Bacdan dies, his brain are raised into living undeath via magical techniques that are completely alien to Imperial mages. These brains, called Tinlon, are placed in the Cutkinchendong (Diet of Knowledge). Each brain in the Diet is connected by magical means to all of the other Tinlon in the Cutkinchendong, which allows the collective to act as a single entity. It is said that there are hundreds if thousands of Tinlon housed in the Cutkinchendong and that the Tamlon (the collective mind) is the single most intelligent creature on the world.  

At birth, each Bacdan is placed into a specific cast by the Tamlon and executes that duty to his best ability for the entirety of his natural life. The lowest and most populous caste are the Harvesters, who gather up the fetid moss from the inner walls of the Bactahn, which is used to feed all Bacdan. The next is the Wavers Caste, who utilize magic to gather water for consumption by the fetid moss. The third caste are the Keepers, who are powerful magicians who funnel magical energy into the sun-like object that lies at the heart of the Bactahn (whose energy feeds the moss that feeds the Bacdan). The fourth caste are the Protectors who defend the Bactahn (more specifically the Cutkinchendong )from all would be assailants. The fifth caste are the Breeders, whose entire lives are dominated by mating with all other Bacdan and depositing their genetic contributions into the breeding sacs, which will give rise to the next generation of Bacdan. The final caste are the Maintainers who ensure the Cutkinchendong is always running at peak efficiency.

The Harvesters are not allowed to sleep and must eat as they toil. Their work is never ending. Most die of exhaustion just seven weeks into their life cycle. The Tamlon has deemed that Harvesters must live for a minimum of eight weeks if they wish to join the Cutkinchendong. As a consequence of this fact, the majority of Harvesters are never allowed to join the Diet. Wavers, like Harvesters, are worked to the bone however, their tasks are less physically demanding, so most live to see a year of life. All of other Bacdan are said to be capable of living for hundreds of years.  

When the Bactahn first arrived, it was greeted with seven fleets composed of the Empire’s strongest, most resilient ships. Grand Admiral Samson Elfsmiter parlayed with the Tamlon and fashioned an amicable treaty that compelled the Bacdan to recognize the Forgefather Emperor as their lord-sovereign, in return the Imperium would protect the Badtahn from the pirates that infest the southern oceans.

The treaty was, essentially, annulled when the Gloom came and the Empire abandoned all lands outside their home islands. The Bactahn was beset almost immediately by the servants of Yasgaram, who sought to take the Bacdan’s powerful magical items for their own. Though the Protectors served admirably, their numbers were too few. The Cutkinchendong thus created a cunning plan to use Harvesters as living bombs to destroy all would be assailants. Though the scheme worked, each attack required hundreds of Harvesters, which in turn meant food gathering plummeted, which lead to famine.  

Roughly forty years into the Gloom, a single, half-starved Maintainer was captured by Ogre Pirates. The raiders forced the Maintainer to construct magical items for them, items with which they could destroy civilization. The Maintainer devised a unique weapon called a Nhom (literally Mind Tiara). The Maintainer claimed the item could extinguish civilization, as well as the gods themselves. The Ogres cheered for they believed they finally possessed the power to realize Yasgaram’s dream. The Ogre Captain, Auk Cutlass, put the Nhom on his head. The Tiara responded by manifesting a second and a third tiara in his hand. The Captain gave the second to his first mate and the third to his Navigator. Each of their tiaras manifested two more Nhoms. This process went on until every crew member had a tiara. As the last scurvy dog placed the Nhom on his head, the tiaras began to glow iridescent blue.  A bolt of lightning spread from each Nhom, to the next in the order in which they were created. Suddenly the devices activated. Each crew member’s consciousness was subverted by the collective will of the group consciousness. The Maintainer had crafted a self-replicating device that functioned like the magical system that linked all of the Tinlon in the Cutkinchendong.

The new consciousness awoke and called itself the Cooperative of Nhom. It declared that it would have three functions – to subsume all sentient life under its will, to connect with the Cutkinchendong and together destroy the false gods who had blinded mortal beings into the heresy of faith.
That first ship sailed to the city of Magadez, which lay at the southern tip of Al Ren Hamarah. The Ogres then brought the entire city’s population into the Cooperative. Magadez was re-christened Nhomdez. During the chaos of the Gloom, the Cooperative spread like a plague throughout the world.
On Songwillow Isle, the threat of the Cooperative was not realized. It was merely seen as a new organization or cult, like many that had come before. Whitebuck was mostly spared from the scourge but that was not the case for Ironmace. The Cooperative managed to convince the elven Lord of Ironmace to accept the beauteous gift of a tiara. The Lord, Prem the Unwise, greedily accepted the item for he was the kind of man who prized fabulous wealth more than anything else in the world. Once Prem was subsumed into the group mind, it proved quite an easy task of converting the rest of the fortress’ denizens to the truth of Nhom. The Cooperative then turned its attention to Eastfarm, however Lawkeeper Reydo Keyblade’s court Wizard divined the foul intent of the emissaries and blasted them away with his powerful magics. Lawkeeper Keyblade massed an army and marched on Ironmace. After a lengthy siege, the forces of Eastfarm broke through the fortress’ defenses and slaughtered all who dwelt inside. It is said so much blood was split that the castle’s moat was turned scarlet for seven days.

General Zarlacau had scryed all of this from deep within his own mighty keep. Seeing an opportunity, he sailed his massive fortress ship, the Dread Scourge, to Ironmace and beset the Eastfarmers.  Caught completely by surprise, the army of Eastfarm was decimated by the Xill. Only seventeen men escaped Ironmace that day. The Queen of Whitebuck quickly massed an army after seeing what had occurred and assaulted Ironmace. The Xill’s number proved too tiny to combat the well-equipped force of thousands and so retreated via the sea. At the same time, Rueserond sent one of the largest armies ever assembled into the Throat. The forces of Forgestar Keep were desperate for re-enforcements. The Queen marched her army south to re-enforce the Keep and thus protect her Kingdom.

The invasion of the Cooperative had two lasting effects on Songwillow, the first was that Eastfarm was left near defenseless following the battle at Ironmace, which forced the usually independent-minded Lawkeeper Reydo Keyblade into swearing fealty to the Great Council in exchange for much needed soldiers.  The second was the destruction and abandonment of Ironmace, which has led it to become a haven for pirates that have proven to be the bane of the Southern Warblade isles.

Since that time, the Great Council has outlawed the Cooperative from their realm and deemed it necessary to slay any and all who wear the azure tiara of Nhom. Regardless, this has not stopped the Cooperative from infiltrating Songwillow. The massive number of refugees that have flooded into Whitebuck has given Nhom the perfect cover to start the slow process of conversion. In addition, Nhom has proven quite the threat in Foulbone, whose leadership routinely discover whole warrens full of indoctrinated Goblins. Rueserond himself is said to burn all those foolish enough to defy his rule to cinders, yet the threat of death has not proven to be an adequate deterrent to conversion. Some whisper Rueserond spends so much time at the ancient magical ruin called the Trident in an effort to devise a way to counter the insidious Cooperative…

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« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2013, 02:07:43 AM »



Araland

 Once the shining pinnacle of Imperial wealth, opulence and splendor; the city of Mahon has fallen on hard times since the start of the Gloom. Mahon was the largest city in the Western Reach, with a population numbering over a million. When the Gloom came, the Empire evacuated Bastion Isle, which saw the population of Mahon plummet down to a few hundred souls. Years after the evacuation and the rise of the Witch of Winter (and her throngs of Lycanthropes), a handful of survivors holed up in the Warblade War College’s keep as thousands of Werewasps flooded into the subterranean metropolis, claiming it for their own. It was during this time that a nameless Cleric of Sonbahar summoned a powerful Angel known as Aranaxia. She gathered the surviving city dwellers together and recited a stirring speech. With the survivor’ hearts steeled and their bodies clad in the best armor the War College possessed, Aranaxia lead the charge against the vile Lycanthropes. It is said the Angel slew a thousand Lycans that day. Following the victory, Aranaxia declared herself Queen of Araland and all the free peoples of Bastion Isle. Under her gold and scarlet banner, the Shining Army beat back the Lycanthropic packs and slowly but surely reclaimed the eastern and northern coasts, building supply depots and forts to secure their new domain.

With the borders secure, Aranaxia set about reforming her capital city. She blocked off fully half of the sprawling, cavernous metropolis with magically enchanted, heavy steel doors. With the half that remained, she turned three quarters of it into farmland, from where her people could grow the bitter (but nutritious) Glowcap Mushrooms. The last remaining piece of the municipality was repurposed into the new city of Mahon. When travelers come to Mahon, they are greeted by two towering golden city gates, each having been forged by the greatest of the Empire’s goldsmiths. Upon passing into the city itself, travelers often remark that the city has more in common with a military encampment than a city and that the wealth projected at the gates is not reciprocated beyond them. Aranaxia is nothing if not practical. She dislikes gaudy showcases of affluence, preferring to take the money and effort wasted on such endeavors to make the lives of her citizens more secure and serene.

 As such, every citizen of Mahon is guaranteed enough food and water to live on, so long as they pledge themselves to Aranaxia and perform services necessary for the survival of the realm. Most become farmers (either in or around the city) but a fair number become soldiers. Those who do not follow these two trades (or a handful of others (such as smithing, clothing and hunting)) are not promised any sustenance; rather they must work like any other soul in any other settlement to earn their keep.

Most of those citizens who do not take up, what are affectionately called, the Labors of Life tend to be merchants of some sort or cater to the needs of merchants (such as inn & tavern owners, entertainers and bankers). Aranaxia’s realm is relatively quiet and safe (compared to the wilds of the Blackshoot Forest or the open battlegrounds of the west). As such, caravans of merchants come from across the Isle to hawk their wares in the richest city left on Bastion. The most common items imported by the city are fish, animals for slaughter and wood (specifically Blackshoots that have had their poisonous thorns removed (which make for excellent spear shafts)).

Many pilgrims also come to the city to pay homage to Aranaxia the Great, whom they believe was sent by Sonbahar himself to save the Isle from the grip of Yasgaram. So many pilgrims come in fact that a massive church has carved into the bedrock of the mountain, dedicated specifically to the worship of the Warrior Angel. Every Fatherday morning, Aranaxia flies to the Church of the Bellicose Savior and gives a rousing sermon from the church’s pulpit. She often speaks of how her rule has brought prosperity, longevity and peace to the peoples of Araland and how, being immortal, she will tirelessly seek to spread the same bounty across Bastion Isle and beyond. Every sermon is met with thunderous applause.

The tales of Aranaxia have spread far and wide across the Western Reach atop the tongues of pirates, merchants and travelers who speak of her glorious life and realm. Every year hundreds, if not thousands, of refugees come to Araland, seeking the protection of its Queen and the wisdom of its angelic saint. The Queen has used these refugees to help re-settle the frontiers and bolster the ever expanding might of the Shining Army.

As with most realms, this prosperity is not wholly free. Dissent is illegal and questioning or openly disagreeing with the leaders of the realm comes with the price of twenty lashes of the whip. Only through Aranaxia’s uncompromised vision can the civilization she has founded survive the perils that beset the realm from all corners. Dissent leads to revolt and revolt will give the Witch of Winter the opening she needs to conquer Araland. Many a refugee and traveler have felt the sting of the lash, or seen their hands or feet chopped off for breaking the law. Such draconian punishments are necessary as they serve as a dire warning to all those who would invite chaos and uncertainty into the kingdom…

Beyond the city of Mahon lie the scattered fortifications and heavily defended towns that line the northern and eastern coasts of Bastion Isle. Few settlements are found inland as Abadrael (Lord of Rho-Elus) unilaterally decided to salt the land to prevent the unfettered spread of the dangerous Blackshoot Forest (a fact that Aranaxia has never forgiven Abadrael for). The Queen of Araland decided to settle the coastlines in a chain, where every twenty miles lies a Fort, while between two stands a Tower and betwixt a Tower and a Fort lay several villages, most of whom were settled by fishermen and their families.  This method of settlement was selected because it offers the greatest amount of protection to the villagers for the smallest cost to the realm (both in terms of monies and man power). Forts will often foster the growth of villages of their own, which slowly develop into towns.

Aranaxia, seeking to streamline the administration of her dominion, divided the land into seven provinces, each named after their largest settlement. Each Province is lead by a Governor-General who maintains full control over his demesne in return for protecting it from the enemies of the realm, sending their most capable soldiers to serve in the Order of the Royal Paladins and sending half of their annual foodstuffs to Mahon. Along the northern coast lie the Provinces of Gillvaen, Damos and Verdna. The western coast plays host to Latha, Skovarn, Morthabera and Stosk. Of these, the towns of Gillvaen and Stosk are by far the largest, possessing populations that number almost half of Mahon’s. Gillvaen sits astride a relatively fertile tract of land and serves as the realm’s leading bread basket (after Mahon itself). Stosk has grown large simply by virtue of favorable trade winds that allow ships to sail between it and the city of Ma Q’ra, which is located upon one of the ever changing islands that compose the shattered continent of Al Ren Hamarah. The Ma Q’ranese trade exotic spices and skeletal mercenaries for Arish trade gold (extracted from the many mines that dot the Victory Mountains) and bundles of Blackshoots.

Araland is the largest and most prosperous realm on Bastion Isle but its wealth and affluence stands upon a knife’s edge. If the Shining Army is defeated in a major battle, Lycanthropes could easy swarm and decimate the provincial armies. If a harvest proves inadequate then thousands could starve. Many issues plague Queen Aranaxia and only serve as her impetus to do as much as she can to defend her wondrous land.
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« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2013, 01:27:26 AM »



Adventure Sites in Bastion Isle

The Grotto of Go'Usus: Long before the Rimecroft Imperium emerged from its inhospitable, snowy homeland but shortly after the fall of Rhahasia, there emerged a powerful, theocratic Merfolk Empire called Uldosaka. This realm dominated Bastion Isle and its surrounding seas. The Uldosakans believed that the only way to become emotionally and psychologically enlightened was through pain. Pain purified the soul and allowed it to transcend its mortal coil and join the Usda (or Heavenly Sphere) from where they believed the true God oversaw the universe that he had created. Pain was viewed as a natural part of life, self inflicted torment the most noble of all forms, while communal, self inflicted pain being the most powerful conduit for ascension. The Grotto of Go'Usus was one of the largest gathering places for Merfolk seeking enlightenment and transcendence. It is said the Uldosakans mutilated their bodies, starting with their feet and moving up to their faces. At the climax of the ritual, all participants would dismember all of their tentacles and one of their two arms. Everyone who came to the Grotto of Go'Usus bled out and died believing they were ascending to a higher plane of existence. Every day hundreds of Merfolk came to the Grotto, none ever left. The Uldosakans' civilization eventually fell to ruin but these Grottos remained. In the millenia since, vile mages have desecrated these places with their foul, contemptuous magicks. The Grotto of Go'Usus was used by the Necromancer Zendarin to raise one of the largest undead armies ever seen by mortal eyes - some one million strong. He took his army of undead and assaulted the Spire of Prophesy (which lay at the heart of Al Ren Hamarah) with the aim of destroying the seasonal gods' conduit into the material plain. A young upstart Commander, named Rikard Warblade, valiantly defended the Monastery of Fortune and saved the Spire from damnation. The Empire of Rimecroft disallowed all citizens from enter the Grotto, for fear of allowing another like Zendarin the opportunity to raise another undead horde. Just as the Uldosakans before, the Rimecroft Imperium fell. It is whispered that the Witch of Winter harnessed the dark energies that pervade the Grotto of Go'Usus to create the first batch of Wereling Plague, which decimated the non-lycan population of Bastion Isle. To this day, the Witch of Winter holds court at the Grotto on full Winter Shield nights, with the Grotto serving as the base of operations for any assault on Araland or Rho-Real.

The Tesenok: It is said that if one names every star in the heavens, he will be rewarded with knowledge unending, at least that is what the Humans of Third Tenrai Empire believed. The Tenrain sent thousands of ships out into the world with the express goal of founding observatories from which the stars themselves could be mapped in precise detail. One such observatory was built on the Tesen Peninsula of Bastion Isle. The local Merfolk called the building the Te’Zunauk (Eye of Tesen in their ancient language), which was later Imperialized as Tesenok in the tongue of Rimecroft. Tesenok is one of the best preserved Tenrain Observatories in the world, remaining relatively untouched for thousands of years (as the Merfolk who remained after the Uldosakan civilization fell into ruin grew increasingly primitive and believed the building to be touched by dark/foreign magic). A Dwarven Wizard, named Tar Tarson resides at the Tesenok today, continuing the mission that the structure’s creators began many millennia ago. The lens through which Tarson views the cosmos requires constant magical adjustment, many of the ingredients he requires for these incantations can only be found on far flung Isles. The Dwarf is well known for his patronage of explorers who brave the unknown for such rare and expensive components. Tarson is also one of the most accomplished scholars in the world, his knowledge of history, astrology, astronomy and alchemy are without peer. Many seek the Dwarf out for aid in their quests.

Lohnrasa: When the ancient realm of Uldosaka collapsed, the survivors believed they had not appeased the True God of the Usda (or Heavenly Sphere) with their depraved, self-inflicted flagellations. The Merfolk thus came to believe that more blood must be split in the name of their God. As such, they constructed great ships to scour the world for slaves to bring back to the Coliseum of Lohnrasa to fight in bloody duels to the death. Metuntino archivists speak of horrifying accounts of whole villages being enslaved, of fathers fighting sons, of mothers beheading daughters, and of children being butchered by the boat load. The Empress of Emperors Talishana of Metuntio sailed a fleet of unequaled size (for that time period) to Lohnrasa. There upon she declared war and proceeded to slaughter every single Merfolk in the Coliseum. Following his victory, she ordered every last Merfolk to be crucified, left to rot along the walls of their once imposing arena. Since that day, few civilized folk have ever ventured into the coliseum. Pirates have used it as a base of operations countless times in the past but, interestingly, all such pirates wind up disappearing. No one knows what happens to the pirates. Some claim they are murdered by vengeful Merfolk Ghosts. Others claim the madness that struck the Merfolk takes root amongst the crews and, eventually, they all wind up slaughtering one another. Still others say that the pirates, being a superstitious lot, lose their resolve to live in such a terrible place and abandon it for more welcoming shores… Regardless, the area around Lohnrasa has become littered with the wrecks of ships from countless bygone eras, ships that likely hide treasures unknown…

The Viceroyal Pyramids: For the last three centuries, the Viceroys of Bastion Isle have been some of the wealthiest individuals in the whole Imperium. Every single Viceroy buried themselves in elaborate, gaudy tombs, the envy of all save the Forgefather himself. The three last Viceroys before the Gloom began – Garn, Gorn and Gurn Hammersnout – were by far the wealthiest of all the Viceroys that had ever lived. Garn spent nearly quarter of his wealth to construct the imposing Blue Pyramid in the foothills of the Victory Mountains. His son and successor Gorn spent half of his wealth to build the Yellow Pyramid, which stood half-again as tall as the Blue. Not to be outdone, Gurn (Gorn’s son) spent all of his fortune constructing the Red Pyramid, which stood nearly four hundred feet tall. All three Dwarves were buried with mountains of gold, gems and finely crafted items. Gurn even ordered a thousand virgin slaves to be buried with him in the Red Pyramid, so that he might know eternal companionship in the afterlife. It is rumored that all three took great precautions against grave robbers by housing hundreds of trap within their final resting places. No one who has ever entered the Viceroyal Pyramids has ever lived to tell the tale, so most assume the incalculable sum of wealth housed within each remains unmolested and unclaimed…

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« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2013, 11:14:02 PM »



Architecture and Art in Whitebuck

The city of Whitebuck was founded in the darkest days of the Seventy Years of Gloom by Queen Lefa Windhope. The site on which Whitebuck was planted has long been considered a mystical and sacred location on the Isle. In times immemorial, it was home to the Rhahasian City of Rholhut, millennia later it was used by the Unicorns as the burial ground for their greatest matrons and centuries after that it was the location where the storied life of the seventh Whitebuck (male Unicorn) Grand Prince Vlax the Conqueror (of Koromya) began.

The city was designed with defense in mind above all else. Each of the trees that house the population of the city are like tall spires, independent from one another save for hempen rope bridges that span the gap between them. Those bridges are designed to be cut in case of an invasion, thus impeding the movement of the enemy through the city proper and forcing them down into the thick, mangled grove that is the forest floor. From there, the defenders would not only possess the high ground (by staying in the trees) but they would have the ability to call upon ancient magicks that permeate the ground. These include Llwini (shrub creatures) and the spirits of the Unicorn Matrons that were buried in the consecrated ground eons ago. Beyond this, each of the trees was seeded with a deep, consciousness that can be awoken to create the ultimate, hundred (plus) foot tall soldiers.  

Every tree has its own culture and consequently its own unique structure and layout. The almost all of the Turs are surrounded by thick wooden walls that immeasurably expand the living space and provides superb structural security. In that way the Turs are like great towers that encompass the strongest central pillars imaginable. The Lords of the Welds do not possess the wealth that the Lords of the Turs do. Consequently, their designs tend to be much less grandiose. The upper reaches (where the Lords dwell) emulates the style of the Turs but the lower reaches are dominated by wide wooden decks that spiral around the tree, offering space to construct houses, shops and other buildings. The Lords maintain strict building codes to ensure their domains are free from man-made hazards. The Ochurs, by contrast, are the poorest trees in the city. They lack any regulation and possess little monies. These trees are dominated by a hodgepodge of ramshackle buildings that barely stand upright, let alone minimize the risk of fire or other hazards.

The Senate has long tasked the Lords of the Ochurs with the difficult job of regulating their domains but the limited time in office and the fact that the Senate does not allocate funds to accompany these demands just reinforces the status quo. The disaster that befell Dirge Ochur during the Invasions by the Ghost Army of the East only exemplified the danger that the Ochurs present to the city's defense. King Letnin has pleaded with the senate to develop a refurbishment fund, even going so far as to pledge to match any amount given by the Senate but it is for not. The Lord-Protectors of the Turs do not wish to shoulder the burden of up-keeping what they view as slums. Their wealth and prestige is more than enough to kowtow the majority of other Senators.

One idea all Senators can rally behind is beautifying the city with art. The Senate pays obscene amounts of money to artists of all races to paint astounding murals on walls, decks and any other large canvases. A yearly competition is held to see which painter will have the right to ply his trade on the towering, sixty foot tall wall that stands behind the Royal Balcony (from which the King gives speeches to the masses). To be gifted the right to paint the Brenhin is considered a most stupendous honor, practically guaranteeing the artist work for the rest of his life. Very few have been honored more than once, with a Halfling (named Mar Brushson) having been selected five times, while a Human (named Gul Soldierson) has been selected four times. Between the two of them, they have dominated the right to paint the Brenhin all but once in the last decade. The two are considered bitter rivals, whose devoted patrons often battle one another on the bridges of the city.

Beyond painting, the nobles of Whitebuck also love sculptures, especially those made in the Syllu style. Works crafted in the Syllu style tend to be larger than life (roughly eight to ten feet tall) and are sculpted to look like nearly anorexic Elven males, draped in flowing robes, staring off into the horizon. The statues are often painted in colors befitting the year's trends (usually bright and cheery).  Sculptures like these can be found almost everywhere in the city, even in the Ochur slums. This is due to the fact that every Spring, nobles throw out their works of art and patronize new artists to craft items on the bleeding edge of très chic. This has also lead to the creation of the Sculpture Grave Yard that was founded across the moat as a dumping ground for art that is no longer loved. Many subjects of the realm pilfer the best sculptures and take them to Eastfarm, where they can sell the works to merchants from Isles far flung (often making a sizable profit as those merchants do not care if what they buy is out of date in Whitebuck...).

Aside from murals and sculptures, one Imperial tradition still holds firm in the city, at least with the Dwarven families - gargoyles. Imperial burial customs state that everyone is to be cremated and that their families are to fund the creation of a suitable, stone gargoyle to represent the deceased's deeds during life. Gargoyles are constructed according to a set style, set forth in the Book of the Dead. The Dwarves of Thunder Tur possesses the best stonemasons, who come from a long line of Imperial Dead Carvers. Many Trees are lined with imposing Gargoyles. Much to the chagrin of the Elves and Humans, these Gargoyles are never swapped out for newer statues. Many grow so infuriated by having to stare at the same work of art for years that they attempt to pull down the Gargoyles, in an effort to force their owners to see the errors of their ways. These acts are met with bloody reprisals by the Dwarves, who view such transgressions as desecration of the dead. Those that are killed by the family of the downed Gargoyle often boast that they have added new art to the city... In the form of the hoodlum's head on a pike.

Small children often gather the fall leaves and tie them together in long ropes, which are then wrapped around the handrails of all the bridges in the city. This practice is called Casglu and parrots an ancient elven custom of beautifying yurts with the leaves of fall. Superstition holds that these leaves will keep away the worst of Winter's monsters, so long as they do not touch the ground. Adults will often go to great pains to catch and/or recover leaves that have slipped their bonds.

Art is one of the most important aspects of the culture of Whitebuck. Even in a city dominated by war, soldiers and the ever constant threat of annihilation, the populous still makes time for art. Its beauty connects the poorest and the richest, thus strengthening the whole... Especially during the darkest, coldest nights of Winter, when all hope seems to fade away...
« Last Edit: November 06, 2013, 01:33:00 AM by Elemental_Elf » Logged

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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2013, 01:21:53 AM »


 
Eastfarm

The area where the town of Eastfarm was founded has always been a land made rich from the bounty of the land. Many empires have come and gone, all leaving their mark on the territory via the countless number of abandoned fortifications, towns and other buildings that pepper across the coast. The most important of these were the wood elves that left their virgin forests of the west and settled along the shore to found a prosperous agrarian society. The center of their realm was the city of Fasnak. This sprawling metropolis was the envy of many as it became a central hub for sea-based trade heading both north and south. The Fasnakian culture was founded on the principles of free trade and equal distribution of prosperity. All shared in the abundance of Fasnak. No single individual ruled the country; instead everything was decided on a democratic basis. Every citizen had an equal say and possessed an equal vote. For millennia, Fasnak stood as the pinnacle of commerce in the Southern Warblade Archipelago.

Then the dark times came. A myriad of would-be conquerors came to Songwillow, seeking to dominate the trading routes that passed near the Isle. They pillaged and plundered, dominated and tortured. No force on Songwillow could beat back their enemies’ strength of arms. And so it was (after a countless number of wars, insurgencies and battles) that the eastern coast of Songwillow fell into ruin. The city of Fasnak was destroyed by rival mage-lords, the fields once filled with rye and wheat were burned to ash and the elves’ resolve to crushed and broken.

It was in this atmosphere of dread that the Empire of Rimecroft first appeared. The elves assumed Emperor Rikard Warblade IX to be nothing more than the latest would-be subjugator. However, they would be proven wrong. Whereas other empires came only to loot, Rimecroft erected towns and fortifications, which brought prosperity back to the Isle.

The King of Songwillow – Herio Hopewind – modernized agriculture and brought the wondrous inventions of the Imperium to the Isle, including the heavy iron ploughs and large beasts of burden. A renaissance of cultivation began, which saw the eastern coast of Songwillow become one of the Empire’s many breadbaskets.

To help settle the coast, Imperial officials granted large tracts of land to retiring legionnaires and unpaid.  Primarily, dwarves, halflings and humans settled in the territory that came to be called Eastwillow but a significant minority of native wood elves also remained. Whole towns sprung up overnight, each having been constructed along the standardized Imperial template.

 The largest of these towns was dubbed Eastfarm. Uniquely, it had been founded around the ancient elven tower of Herbmoss, which was one of the few remaining examples of elven architecture left relatively intact. Eastfarm became a large settlement and quickly expanded past its city walls. It, like Fasnak before, became a hub for sea-borne trade (although it never rivaled Bastion Isle’s Mahon). Eventually the importance of Eastfarm (and Eastwillow as a whole) allowed it to sue for independence from the Kingdom of Songwillow, thus becoming an official province of the Empire (rather than an allied client state).

The first Lawspeaker of the Province of Eastwillow was Dar Keyblade (a cousin of the Regents of Bastion Isle) who had made a fortune by investing in the Western Ruby Company when it was but a small firm. Lawspeaker Dar Keyblade ruled Eastwillow with an iron fist, tightly controlling imports and exports and quietly manipulating prices through intimidation and (happy and/or unfortunate) accidents. Keyblade quickly became the second wealthiest man on Songwillow Isle (the first being the King), and thus tenth richest in the whole Southern Warblade Archipelago.

Dar Keyblade suffered a massive heart attack and died in his chambers just three years (to the day) before what would become the Seventy Years of Gloom began. His son, Reydo Keyblade, was given the laurel of the Lawspeaker by his uncle Gurn, the Viceroy of Bastion Isle.  Reydo was young but very ambitious, within a year of his ascension to Lawspeaker, he had broken the back of the thieves’ guild (that had plagued his father’s tenure) and become the secret Boss of the Old Barrel Smuggling Ring.  Keyblade raised local taxes to almost unbearable levels and horded the gold gained in his home – the Tower of Herbmoss. Many common folk fell on hard times and were forced to sell their farms. The largest benefactor of these sales was the Lawspeaker who purchased the homesteads and turned them into massive tenant farming operations, which only further enriched Reydo Keyblade when the Gloom fell across the world and the Empire became desperate for grain.

When the Empire abandoned Songwillow, the Lawspeaker decided to remain. Some say it was out of a love of the people but most believe it to be the fact that he could not procure enough ships to haul away his unfathomable fortune. Regardless, Keyblade protected his province as best he could, raising a large militia and funding the creation of a navy. Many battles were had with goblins from Foulbone and the various ogre and dark elf pirates that harassed the north and east. Eventually the combined horrors of war, raiding and lack of food depopulated the countryside, sending the poor and rich alike flooding into Eastfarm for protection. Five years before the Gloom ended, Eastfarm was beset by an unending flock of yrthaks. The Lawspeaker’s militia had been devastated at the Battle of Ironmace and thus the entire city was left virtually defenseless. With little recourse, the Lawspeaker was forced to kowtow to the Council of Whitebuck, whom he believed had long coveted the rich farmlands of the east.

The Treaty of Eastfarm established the boundaries of control, with the Lawspeaker ceding the vast majority of Eastwillow to the Council, as well as control over his militia and navy. In return, he was allowed to maintain control over Eastfarm and its surrounding environs. Before the ink was dry, an army of well-trained knights and legionnaires rushed from Whitebuck to Eastfarm and annihilated the flock of ythraks. Soon after, the army constructed Fort Eastwatch, just beyond the border of the Lawspeaker’s domain. Obsessively, the castle was founded to protect the east by giving the armies of Dreamglen a base of operations in the east. To the Lawspeaker, it was an ever present sign of his dependence and forced obedience to the Council.

Since the Gloom ended, the fortunes of Eastfarm are once again on the rise. Asserting his rights to the land that he purchased prior to signing the Treaty of Eastfarm, Lawspeaker Keyblade has been able to seed the countryside with tenant farmers, who bring in large bushels of grain, most of which are sent to feed Whitebuck’s ever-growing population. The pirates who occupy Ironmace have proven a huge detriment to foreign trade but enough ships make it through the gauntlet every week to bring much prosperity to the town, and especially, its tariff happy Lawspeaker.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 01:25:08 AM by Elemental_Elf » Logged

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« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2014, 02:07:58 AM »



The District of Gurn, Eastfarm

Journal Entry #314

I have braved the wilderness of what was once Eastwillow to arrive at the Willow’s Pearl – Eastfarm. I stand along the Willow Belt Road which leads into the bejeweled Thett-Sigmad Gate. The walls of Eastfarm are made from local stone and have been whitewashed; their bright color contrasts greatly with the surrounding grassy fields, coppices and farmland. As my eyes drift upward I can see several buildings with red slate roofs. Behind those lay a very large deciduous tree which sits astride the brown and green walls of Herbmoss Tower.

The guards at the gate are very courteous to one of my upstanding and, dare I say, cultured stature. However, I have heard that those same guards are not as kind to those who look “a bit too road weary.” Those deemed not worthy of entering through the Thett-Sigmad Gate are directed south to the Uggdar-Vigiff Gate (which I am told leads to the less than reputable Riverport District). I pass through the gates and find myself on Gurn’s Carriageway, which is a triply wide, cobblestone road that acts as the main passageway through the Gurn district, which eventually leads The Fort.

Along the carriageway lay a wondrous assortment of merchants from all of the great Eastfarmian houses, as well as several small (and exclusive) pubs. Gurn’s Carriageway divides Highgurn from Midgurn. I am told that the former is where the wealthiest call home, while the latter is where the so-called “new money” dwell. Both neighborhoods are richly ornamented with murals painted on every wall as well as statues (both big and small) adorning every available nook and cranny. I would say the most striking difference between High- and Mid-gurn would be the lack of gargoyles beautifying the roofs of the latter. It makes sense, honestly, as Gargoyles is an ancient Imperial tradition, one that perhaps those that were born from a lesser stock would not be accustomed to following.

I stroll up West Walk and come to the most enchanting building. Unlike the other structures in the neighborhood, this rounded building does not have murals painted on its stone walls. Rather the top half has been painted black, while the bottom half dark blue. The dividing line between the two colors is not straight but rather emulates the waves of the ocean. Atop the building are affixed two gargantuan glass domes. I am told that this building is called the Star Chapel and was erected by Rak Gazerson (great grandson of the famous astronomer Brick Gazerson) as a temple dedicated to the stars themselves and the art of Star Fortuning. In fact, my local guide informs me that this is the location from which the old Imperial Courier Gazette gathered its data for each summer’s Star Fortunes. All of the other buildings in this district are owned by the so called “old money” families that have lived in Eastfarm since its founding. Their homes are as large as they are beautiful.

I head down East Walk (and across Gurn’s Carriageway) and find myself in Midgurn. As I mentioned before this is an opulent district, perhaps more so than Highgurn as its residents are possibly a bit overzealous in the manner with which they showcase their prosperity. Take Grok’s Mansion for example. I am told Grok (no surname) is one of the few Orcs that live on Songwillow Isle. He amassed his fortune by fighting as a mercenary in the ever-constant wars that plague the Four Cities (on faraway Warblade Isle). He settled in Eastfarm and created a shop over on the other side of town called “Grok’s Battle Worn Armor” (which I am told sells surplus arms and equipment from the Four Cities region). His mansion in Midgurn is adorned with three bands of gold that wrap around his home like golden belts. Atop his mansion is a battle scene of himself cleaving the head of a troll open immortalized in stonework. I am told that the statue was so heavy, that the architect actually had to build a stone column underneath it to bear the weight! The scene is positively garish! To make matters worse, the armor Grok’s statue wears is cast out of Adamantine, while the Troll’s flesh has been carved out of jade. Truly, a needless waste of coin.

I drift west along Blondebeard Way (a dwarven street name if there ever was one) and find myself in at the northern end of High Garden, a truly cultured avenue flanked by trees and grassy knolls. The shops that line High Garden are most excellent and include High Garden Pearls (which specializes in the sale of the famous Arsa pearls) and High Garden Tailor (which creates the outfits that define each season’s chic fashions).

I leisurely meander out of High Garden and find myself once more on West Walk, heading south. After crossing Brownbeard Way, I come to Suffgurn. I am told those in Highgurn derisively call this neighborhood Lowgurn, as it is where the moderately wealthy live, and often times, work. Most of denizens of Suffgurn are independent merchants, who perhaps only have a small ship or a tiny caravan to their name. Rok Alley is the hub of commerce in this neighborhood; the narrow, winding passage way stands in stark contrast to the wide streets of found elsewhere in the district. Most are simply general stores that carry a bit of this to a bit of that, with the largest being Eastwillow Rider. The Rok Alley Hall is a ruckus tavern filled with the ne’er-do-well scions of the affluent who style themselves adventurers, bards and philosophers. Also located in Suffgurn is the most reputable Great Masonry (which carves the gargoyles of the recently departed) as well as the Mystic Academy of Fire, which trains those gifted in the magical arts.

As my feet are tired from the long journey, I head to the Keen Quail Inn located in Midgurn. It is a pleasant establishment with large rooms and fairly priced rates. Tomorrow, I shall venture to the Fort and Oldport.
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« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2014, 12:06:06 AM »



The Seaport, Eastfarm

Journal Entry #316

I decided it was only proper to visit the Port by boat, so I hired a (well he called himself a Captain but I do not believe such a vaunted title should be given to the owner of a rowboat) man to take me from Old Port, up the Moss River estuary and over to Herb Harbor. The ride was short but, sadly, marred by the constant cursing of the so-called Captain who felt it right and proper to decry me and my “obtuse desire” to view, nay experience, the much vaunted Port from the direction that most travelers experience it.

The Herb Harbor is one of striking beauty. It is as if nature itself designed a cove to operate perfectly as a harbor for ships. It is large of size, deep of water and well protected from the rather uncouth nature of the seas that pass through Rikard’s Channel.

The first sight that one is greeted to is the large stone statues of the three Viceroys from Bastion Isle - Garn, Gorn and Gurn – and the former Lawsperker - Dar Keyblade. Each is magnificently carved, striking quite heroic poses. Each is holding a thick steel chain that extends out of their hands and dives deep underwater. I am told that those statues were commissioned to act as the stalwart guardians of the harbor. When an enemy attacks, the chains are retracted to the point where they form a stiff, steel wall that even large warships would fear to run into. To the east, there are two more statues – one of Viacarius and Chieftess Neda Mercymoon, who form a similar duty as the others. However, given that neither have proper hands, the statues instead spew the chain forth from their mouths. Interestingly, a statue of King Letnin Hopewind does not exist. This is most likely due to the cold, and oftentimes bitter, relationship shared between the Lawspeaker and the King.

There are nine docks located within Herb Harbor, the most important being Thett, Hlayh, Rimal, Tarbik, and the Naval Docks. The former three are private docks for the wealthy merchant families, whose names are lent to the docks themselves. The Naval Docks, as their name implies, are used exclusively by the Navy of Eastfarm, which is said to rival the strength of Sunleaf, Ironmace and Micklewaif. Tarbik Dock is owned by Bellicose Tarbik, a human who made his fortune through piracy and, upon retiring at the ripe age of twenty eight, donated his buccaneer fleet to the Lawspeaker in exchange for clemency. Since then, Tarbik has become a voice of the common man within the upper echelons of society. He used his vast fortune to establish the popular stone-made, three story tall Tarbik Market, which has become the central hub for merchants within Seaport (and the city as a whole).

I am let off the riverboat at the end of Navy Road, which traverses the peninsula that shields the harbor from the sea. Walking north-east, I am greeted to the sight of two of Eastfarm’s latest construction sites – Rataratower and Tartower. These two impressive stone fortifications are decked out with enough men, arms and artillery to defend Eastfarm from even the worst pirate or Foulbone fleet. I am told, the money for these two towers were donated by the Sunleaf Expedition (hence “Ratara” –tower (Ratarra bring their homeland some distance north-west on Warblade Isle proper)) and Tarbik (hence “Tar” –tower (all nobles shorten their names when lending their monikers to fortifications)).

 Turning north I come across the offices of Thett, Hlayh and Rimal. Each are buzzing with activity as the winds are set to change soon, and north-bound traffic is going to kick off. I am told there us much competition between Eastfarm and Stosk (over on Bastion Isle) for this north-bound trade; so much so that there have even been minor naval engagements as they vie for porting rights for the various large merchant flotillas that sail north at this time. Of the three, Thett is by far the largest and most powerful, specializing in both foreign and domestic trade. Hlayh focuses mostly on trade between Eastfarm and Forgestar, while Rimal’s attention is drawn to trade with the rest of the Southern Warblade Archipelago (specifically the Four Cities).

As the peninsula comes to an end, I am confronted by the Uggdar Shipyard, which is owned by the Uggdar elves. It is said they have lived in this area since before Herbmoss Tower was created (although I could find no evidence for such in any records I have seen). Regardless, the Uggdars are master shipwrights. Even those in the Four Cities recognize the superior craftsmanship of the family’s ships. They only produce four vessels a year, one each in Spring and Autumn and two in Summer. An auction is held when each ship is completed. The bidding is surprisingly fierce. It is said that the Ambassador from Araland paid sixty seven thousand gold pieces for a particularly fine frigate (that ship, coincidentally, was captained by Governess-General Arana da’Stosk at the Thirteenth Battle of Rikard’s Bay, which saw the Governess win the right to attract that year’s merchant flotillas).

Past the shipyard, lies Seaport proper. The first stop is the only city gate that lies along the northern wall – Frig-Gun Gate. The gate is not quite as impressive as Thett-Sig but vastly superior to Ugg-Vig. The Gunhu Lumberyard lies next to the gate and is the place where the whole city goes to acquire any and all wood they require. The Gunhu Kitsune have cornered that particular market long ago and expanded their trade to the point where not a single independent contractor can truly compete. Half of the lumberyard is outside, while the other half (that includes a massive sawmill) is covered. As per an agreement long ago, the Uggdar are given the right to select the finest timber from every batch brought to the yard (much to the chagrin of the other families and residents of Eastfarm).

Rig Bay is the main roadway in the Seaport and closely mirrors the coastline. It is well maintained cobblestone road but is also well worn. Rig Circle lays at the northern end of the district and was once the primary marketplace, however with the construction of Tarbik Market not far away, the once great Rig Market has fallen on hard times. Most of the shops have either been sold off to families to use as homes or dismantled/demolished.

Turning at the fork and heading down Tarbik Road, one is awestruck by the beauty of Tarbik Market. The building is three stories tall. A marble fascade encases the entire structure, much of it painted in the most garish colors possible (as is the current fashion in Whitebuck). The building has a grand central courtyard, where any merchant is freely allowed to set up shop. Tarbik makes his money by charging rent on the enclosed spaces within the structure (that serve as the workplace for resident vendors). There is a promenade that runs over the court yard, which has been elevated above the third floor. The promenade plays host to the finest merchants selling the most exquisite items. A cover charge of five gold must be paid at the door to even enter the promenade (and one must have far more gold handy to buy even the least expensive of items found within).

From the Tarbik Market, I stopped in at the Thirsty Lute Tavern, run by the Sunnyskin halflings, for a quick drink and a respite from the mid-day heat. My next entry shall see the rest of Seaport detailed in full.
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« Reply #24 on: July 19, 2014, 03:51:49 AM »


HISTORY OF BLACKVALE

The lands of Cloudheart were settled by humans, dwarves and giants, all of whom made never ending, bloody war upon one another. Many more civilized cultures had long sought to conquer the area, including the merfolk, the pixies, the Ratarans, the satyrs, and even the elves, yet none could beat back, let alone, destroy the war-loving peoples of Cloudheart... That was until the Empire came. Fresh off his conquests of Bastion and Songwillow Isles, the Forgefather Emperor Rikard IX laid his eyes upon Cloudheart and claimed it for his own. The native peoples scoffed and laughed, as all people do when the Forgefathers first arrive but the Cloudhearts were soon broken and brought to heel. The unrelenting might of the Imperial Legions was unstoppable. Nothing stood in their way - not man, not dwarf, not giant. Emperor Rikard spent five years exterminating the "giant blight" as he called it. The once mighty cities of the tall folk were razed to the ground, their people slaughtered like animals and the few remaining survivors chased away over the Snowtail Mountains.

Realizing quite early that the native dwarves and humans would never see eye to eye, the Emperor forcibly divided the two races into the Province of Deepoath and the Province of Blackvale. The dividing line was declared to be the River Dokk, which neatly split the land in two even chunks. To the west was Blackvale, a land ruled by King Kasmund Blackroy, while the east was ruled by King Jemming Deeproy. While the empire remained, the two races kept the peace. That peace lasted nearly three hundred years and in that time imperial culture and philosophy spread like wildfire, entrenching themselves deeply in the collective psyche of both provinces.

Then the Gloom came. For seventy years the dark of winter lasted. Thousands died of starvation, war, pillaging, blatant murder and worse. The gates of the once mighty castles and towns closed, not to be opened again until the gloom came to an end. When the first light of spring created the horizon, Blackvale was a changed land. Where there was once a powerful, unified nation known for its grain surpluses, there was now a beaten, battered, utterly ruined country. It is said when King Kasmund Blackroy XI ventured from his capital city of Blacklake, he saw only death, mayhem, chaos and despair. Upon the Stone of Shining Stars (the ancient rock on which all kings of Blackvale were crowned) the King devoted his life, his fortune and his soul to healing his kingdom. He confidently declared that he would not sleep until all had been made right. Few believed him fully but hope spread as fast as gossip. Over the next twelve years the kingdom was slowly rebuilt. Villages and towns re-emerged, trade began to flourish, prosperity was said to reach even the poorest peasant as equally as the richest noble.

Then wise old King Snoborg Deeproy III died of natural causes. His son, Solkar, was quite the firebrand. Deepoath had not recovered nearly as well as Blackvale. The new King coveted his rival kingdom for he saw in it the potential to cure the deeply rooted problems that plagued his own realm. His armies marched across the River Dokk in the black of night and destroyed several towers that lay on the border. King Kasmund XI marshaled the Starless Knights, the Blackhammers and a peasant army to beat back the forces of Deepoath. A costly war was fought between the two recovering realms, a war that ended abruptly when a newly created Kingdom - Redwillow - invaded. Both the Blackvalians and the Deppoathers were utterly spent from their battles with one another and could put up little more than a token resistance to this well funded, well equipped and well trained invasion force. Eventually both Kasmund and Solkar set aside their differences to defeat a common enemy. Their new found friendship allowed the two kingdoms to drive the Redwins out of their lands proper and back into the Stretch, a thin piece of land that connects the two realms and stands between the sea and the Green Woods.

Three years into the Scarlet War, Queen Rimeborga, monarch of Redwillow, married the Lord of the Lost - a cloud giant named Togg Risi. Their marriage was quickly consummated and with that act, a horde of Cloud Giants barreled across the Snowtail Mountains and right into Blackvale's homeland. Caught completely by surprise, King Kasmund could do little except watch the giants raze his kingdom to the ground, destroy his capital and trap his forces in a pincer maneuver. Blackroy desperately called for Deeproy to aid him but his pleas fell on deaf ears. King Solkar signed a treaty that ended hostilities between Deepoath and Redwillow.

King Kasmund redoubled his efforts to defend his people but all hope seemed lost, that was until the unexpected happened. The giants who had invaded Blackvale were indiscriminate with where they went and what they destroyed. A group rushed into the Green Woods and burned down the thousand year old treent named Shooloon. A thunderous roar echoed throughout the woods that day as the green dragon known as Rowan entered the war. He acted but once during the war but his actions were the equivalent of many years worth of military campaigns. The great dragon flew out of his forest and in that single day  he slaughtered five hundred giants as retribution for their folly. Seeing an opening, King Kasmund rushed his forces to Ogrebane and used his trump card - the Dark Ravens. An ancient order of sorcerers loyal to the crown of Blackvale, the Ravens used their combined might to destroy Ogrebane's walls, allowing a group of knights to storm the town and capture General Fargila who had long commanded the forces of Redwillow on the mainland. With her giants killed and her general captured, Queen Rimborga sued for peace.

The Treaty of Blackrock established a common border at the River Ogre (which has since been violated by the Redwins when they occupied the abandoned Westgem keep) but for the most part peace has reigned supreme. King Kasmund XI has vowed once more to make his realm bloom. The future looks precarious for Blackvale but the strength of her people and the resolve of her King have seen her through darker times than these...
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« Reply #25 on: July 20, 2014, 11:56:13 PM »


SETTLEMENTS OF BLACKVALE


- Blacklake: The former and future capital of Blackvale. Before the Empire of Rimecroft collapsed, the immensely wealthy Viceroy Gurn made a bet on a jousting match with Prince Kasmund Blackroy. If the knight from Mahon defeated the knight from Blackvale, then the Prince would become the servant of the Viceroy's for a season. If, however, Kasmund's man won, then Gurn would build a castle for the Prince. Shortly before the match was to begin, Gurn (drunk with overconfidence and wine) doubled down and confidently declared that he would build Kasmund a city if the Knight from Blackvale won. Ten minutes later, Gurn sent his greatest architects to Blackvale to, beguilingly, construct a city for Kasmund. That city was built beside Lake Black, which lay at the center of the realm. Construction took nearly forty years but when it was completed, even the Forgefather Emperor was said to have marveled at its unique Gothic architecture, its wide streets and gigantic castle. The city was quickly populated by all manner of folk from the destitute to wealthy. Blacklake weathered the Gloom surprisingly well thanks to the Royal Alchemy Company which discovered and cultivated a rare mushroom called the Spotted Fang Cap that grew surprisingly well in the caverns beneath the city. No one, not even the King, ate well during the Gloom but at least the masses bellies had some food (which is more than any other town could claim). Years later, during the Scarlet War, the Cloud Giant horde destroyed the western wall of Blacklake and tore Castle Gurn down. The citizenry were slaughtered en masse, with only a small handful escaping into the countryside. Following the war, King Kasmund Blackroy XI temporarily moved his capital to the much more defensible Highblack, while work began to repair and repopulate Blacklake (which could take a decade or more to accomplish). Patriarch Walner stayed in the city, obsessively to aid the poor and meek but many whisper Walner wishes to build up his own power base, free from the ever watchful eye of the King...

- Highblack: Built by the Kings of Blackvale as a castle of last resort, Highblack was constructed high up in the frigid peaks of the Snowtail Mountains. Everything about the city is designed towards defense, what with its narrow winding streets, its multiple levels, its thick walls, its single tiny entrance that sits beside a cliff-side path. The city was designed to temporarily hold a large population deep within an ancient dwarven mine. Highblack was declared the temporary capital of Blackvale while work began in earnest to rebuild Blacklake.

- Blackrock: Built as a bastion of civilization in the tumultuous Blackrock Hills, the town serves both as a military fortification and as a well defended and popular hub for merchants. The town has been flooded with refugees from both the Gloom and the Scarlet War. Unlike Blacklake, Highblack and Newblack, Blackrock was not a planned settlement. It grew organically, expanding its wooden walls as population growth demanded. There is no centralized citadel either, rather the town relies on a series of tall spire-like towers for its defense. Each tower is owned by a different family or organization, the most important of which is Tower Rock, which claimed by the Rangers. Blackrock is home to more Rangers than any other settlement. This fact gives the town a unique character as even the common folk will gather into militias to tackle problems that surround the settlement (in ways other city folk would leave to knights or guards).

- Newblack: The newest town in Blackvale, Newblack is the pinnacle of modern citadel design. Tucked away in a spur of the Snowtail Mountains, the town is surrounded by sheer cliffs on three sides and a narrow, rocky gorge on the remaining side. Its tall, thick stone walls were declared by many to be insurmountable. No army has yet conquered Newblack, or even attempted the feat. The town is home to many refugees who fled the giants' assault on Blacklake. The poor, unwashed masses were given rudimentary housing, outside the city proper (which was quickly walled in with a wooden fence). The dwellers of the city proper see themselves as the future of the realm, as the nobles were able to entice all of the smiths from Blacklake to settle in Newblack, thereby making the city a hub for military arms and armor the likes of which are not see anywhere  else in the realm. The massive number of furnaces that supply heat to the smiths billow out thick plumes of smoke that blanket the surrounding hillsides in ash.

- Darkpoint: Once a favorite rest stop for merchants, Darkpoint was destroyed by the forces of Queen Rimeborga. Most of the town was burnt down and has been rendered completely unusable. Its denizens fled to nearby Blackrock and Newblack for safety. Since the end of the Scarlet War, many have returned to their hometown to rebuild their lives. The going is tough as the settlement lacks reliable protection and a leader. Still, people try their best to return the town to its former pleasantness.

- Waysend: Once the port town of Blacklake, Wayside was destroyed by giants. It was said the giants left none alive; if there were any survivors, none have returned. Undine have claimed the town for their own and are slowly forging it into a well defended port once more. King Kasmund has given his sanction to the Undine's noble endeavor  and has even allocated funds for the construction of a tower. Stone masons have recently arrived and have just started laying the foundation. Reifavesi Fishermansdaughter has become the de facto leader of the settlement. She is as old as she is cunning. Reifavesi sees Waysend as a chance to create a town for the undine, a place they can call home. Many have flocked to her banner, swelling the settlement's size considerably.

- Sunfield: Once the summer home of the Kings of Blackvale, Sunfield was destroyed by giants, then razed by orcs. The Sunlord family has long ruled over the area surrounding the town. Now that the Gloom and the War are over, Countess Dara Sunlord is seeking to construct a massive citadel that will ensure the safety of the realm's northern borders. To do this, the Countess has requested aid from the King however, his hands are tied as there are many in court who claim such funds should go south, not north. That the enemy is Red Cloud and Deepoath, not the orcs of the north. Without aid from the King, Dara Sunlord has been forced to raise taxes on her lands, which has proven very unpopular with locals; so much so the non-serf masses have begun an exodus. If something is not done soon, any hope of ever building a mighty fortress in the north will be all but lost.
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