Alaran Subraces: The Humans of Tugél Vas

Tugél Vas. In the old tongue, the name means “City of Bones”. An apt nomenclature indeed, for it is descriptive of the overall attitude of all those residing in Tugél Vas and the surrounding environs. Simply put, Tugél Vas is a city of necromancers and death. Undeath pervades every aspect of the City of Bones, and it would surely have ceased to exist long since if this were not so.

Tugél Vas is the center of human society in the Wastes, the barren desert of the undead to the northwest of the civilized lands. It is also, essentially, the entirety of humanity in the Wastes. Beyond the walls roam the Asilin, the Zantith, and the Crows. Thus, any human that chooses to walk past the boundaries of the city will either get captured and put into slave pens, mutilated out of spite, or just eaten. This has led to Tugél Vas being a massive fortification that everyone stays in because it is entirely unsafe to leave. Tugél Vas is a huge city, dwarfing even the metropolis of Wyrmspire to the south. Its walls are a hundred feet high, and watchtowers dot the landscape.

These precautions are, sadly, entirely necessary. Tugél Vas is a city constantly under siege. The humans are hated uniformly by every other resident of the Wastes. Thus, they are surrounded on four sides by enemy armies. The armies of Citadel Zarathas, Citadel Niathnu, and Citadel Gishnath surround the City of Bones, as well as a small contingent of Zantith. These four armies have forged a temporary treaty pertaining entirely to the environs of Tugél Vas, and they do not attack each other while attacking the humans. The City of Bones is a five-sided city, and until recently the humans could escape through the fifth side. Recently, however, the Crows have begun ambushing humans on that side. You just can’t win.

Tugél Vas is ruled by a cabal of necromancers. These enigmatic figures control every aspect of the city, from commerce to war to… well, basically everything. The Cabal consists always of five necromancers. These necromancers have no real names, but instead go by the titles the Seeker, the Slayer, the Keeper, the Teacher, and the Master. These five all have specific duties pertaining to their titles. It is unknown whether they are the same men they have been for centuries (with the death magic practiced in the City of Bones, it is not unlikely) or if it is an inherited position, one that changes hands.

Death is part of every aspect of culture in Tugél Vas. When a person dies, their corpse is placed into one of twenty public vaults, a vault which is sealed on the eve of the new year. Twenty years hence, the vault is opened, and the corpses within, now skeletonized, are sold to the general public. The aforementioned public then puts the skeletons to whatever uses it sees fit. Skeletons are often reanimated as servants or bodyguards or used as building materials. It is considered unlucky to build anything whatsoever – a cart, a street, a building, even a sword – without using at least some skeletal material. Among the noble families, it is considered proper to conserve the skeletons of one’s own ancestors and use them in conjunction with cheaper skeletons purchased from the city. This requires a personal family vault, as well as an expensive license that allows families to keep their dead when they cease to breathe. Otherwise, all dead are considered property of the Cabal.

A public vault closes on sunset of new year’s eve, and a new one is opened only at dawn. If someone dies during new year’s night, and they do not have a family vault, they become Gishtith – Cursed Ones. The Cursed Ones, it is said, are doomed to wander the streets of Tugél Vas endlessly, for they were not permitted entry into the sacred vaults. By day, Gishtith look human, but the moonlight reveals them as pale creatures with stretched, leathery skin, who are hungry for flesh.

This system has worked well for centuries, but there are detractors. Often, the year’s bounty of skeletons is not enough to keep up with the demands of the city. When this occurs, a black market often forms. Using various methods ranging from bribery to secret tunnels, some of the more unscrupulous members of the City of Bones steal past the surrounding armies and go out into the Wastes. There, they gather whatever bones they can find (in the Wastes, there are many) and return to Tugél Vas with this bounty. This is, of course, forbidden by both tradition and formal law, but many of the city’s worksmen love the opportunity for fresh bones. However, it’s hard to disguise some of the bones found out of city boundaries as human bones. This has led to the occasional grotesque parody of humanity – a human-shaped skeleton formed from non-human bones.

Tugél Vas is truly an extraordinary city. It is absolutely massive, and manages to sustain itself based on massive caverns of fungus and livestock below it. The constant siege it is under has prevented it from expanding horizontally as much as would be optimal, and thus has been constructed towers only rivaled by those of Wyrmspire. Tugél Vas is one of the most marvelous (if disturbing) cities in all Alara.

Citizens of Tugél Vas most commonly worship Elleida or Plaggan. There are several major temples devoted to both of these deities. Worship or Rudolphus is less common, but also present. The Humans of Tugél Vas are of average height, and usually posess darker shades of skin, hair, and eyes than their counterparts to the south and east.

Important Humans of Tugél Vas:

The Master leads the Cabal of Necromancers ruling over Tugél Vas. He is the absolute ruler of the City of Bones, and all within it report to him. Below him exist the Seeker, technological ruler of Tugél Vas, the Slayer, general of the city’s armies, the Keeper, master of traditions within the city, and the Teacher, he who spreads the art of necromancy among the city’s young. The Master has control over all these things. He is rarely seen in public, and when he is out he wears a feature-obscuring black robe.

The Master is the ultimate necromancer. He is incredibly powerful, and it is estimated that a fifth of the animated skeletons in the City of Bones report directly to him. He is also the master of the only legal non-human skeletons in the entire city, a small troop of cyclopean behemoths who are reported to be a race entirely extinct, their only remnant the warriors of Tugél Vas. The Master only enters into actual battle when there is no other option. The last time he did so, nearly a century ago, he turned an entire brigade of Asilin warriors to his side merely by force of his will. Truly, a more powerful man does not exist in all the Wastes.

Certainly, the Master is an enigmatic figure. There are many rumors about exactly what he may be. The most popular and most likely one is that he’s a lich. There are at least a small subset of the population that believe the Master is an inherited title, and this Master is a different one than the figure in the stories. Several among the population believe him to be an elf, unlikely, considering the fact that there are absolutely no elves in Tugél Vas. The most religious believe him to be a holy avatar of Elleida, Queen of the Undead. All are possible.

Shinaa Ul-Abbat is the leader of the Blackbone Brothers, the most notorious ring of smugglers and black marketeers in the entirety of Tugél Vas. The Blackbone Brothers escape Tugél Vas in the dead of night through a series of long-existing tunnels dug under the tall walls of the City of Bones. There, they set out and scrounge up what bones they can, returning to Tugél Vas before daybreak to avoid notice of the Asilin or the Zantith. The Blackbone Brothers are particularly succesful because of an agreement worked out with the otherwise completely uncivilized Crows – namely, the Crows give them all the bones of their finished victims, and the Blackbone Brothers give the Crows all manner of goods manufactured in Tugél Vas. Occasionally, these goods are humans. The Blackbone Brothers aren’t particularly nice.

Shinaa is a fearsome-looking person. He is of average height, but above-average musculature. He wears his long black hair in a ponytail down his back. His face is angular, and a scar slices vertically through his right eye. When in combat, he most often goes shirtless and wears loose-fitting cloth pants, wielding his scimitar with deadly force. Shinaa has faced his share of enemies, and was, indeed, enlisted in Tugél Vas’ army before he turned to a life of crime. As such, he is an incredibly deadly fighter. At the end of his ponytail, he weaves a small dagger, which he is prone to whipping around in the middle of combat for an incredibly deadly surprise.

Shinaa controls the Blackbone Brothers with an iron fist. The organization consists of some two hundred members, most of which are just grunts. The administration, however, consists of Shinaa, his younger brothers Algah and Durzen, and an enigmatic figure by the name of Ulen Ab-Shabbith. These four are the core of the smuggling ring. Many tradesmen in the city go entirely to them for their wares, not even bothering with the city, which often overprices its skeletons. At least one of the noble families also buys entirely from the Brothers.

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3 Comments

  1. pieboy said,

    August 12, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    The whole skeleton culture of the city is really fascinating. And sticking a knife in your ponytail is just badass.

  2. tuskedchimp said,

    August 12, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Yeah, I really like these guys.

  3. December 19, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    […] the Wastes, the city of Tugél Vas decides that it’s had bloody well enough with the way things are going for it. Tugél Vas […]


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