Wyrmspire: The Noble Quarter

The Noble Quarter is one of the six quarters of Wyrmspire. It is, by quite a degree, the most posh and pompous one. It has all the nobles. It’s filled to the brim with various lord’s manors and assorted uselessness. Quite a lot of the upper middle class live there as well, but as they are comparatively less rich than the nobles and property values in the Noble Quarter are sky-high, most of them live in apartments. Whatever, it’s a prestige thing, living in the Noble Quarter.

Supposedly, the Noble Quarter is the safest quarter in all Wyrmspire. That’s not true; it’s safe for people who live there. If you don’t, you’re likely to get mugged by a gang of bored young delinquents or kidnapped and forced into selling Varith, a popular herb that makes you feel vaguely like you’re flying when smoked, and has seen increasing popularity recently. Of course, the local guards are very vigilant when it comes to countering these things. It’s just that selling Varith to stupid rich kids happens to be an incredibly profitable business.

The population of the Noble Quarter is mostly human, like most of Wyrmspire. Rich elves have a large presence. Dwarves are less common there than in other areas of Wyrmspire, but rich merchant dwarf families often have large houses there. Underfoot are practically unheard of, although there’s one rich winebrewer by the name of Gandris Silksleeve. There are no Rhokari in the Noble Quarter, and if there are any minotaurs, they’re probably just Varith dealers.

The laws of the Noble Quarter are slightly more restrictive than those of the rest of Wyrmspire (due to the size of Wyrmspire, its quarters are governed as individual cities and have their own laws, as well as their own city watches). Theft is punishable by anything from a month’s imprisonment to several years, as opposed to the custom in the Old Quarter of being given a stern talk by one of the guards (if they can catch you). The Noble Quarter is the only quarter aside from the Temple Quarter in which prostitution is illegal. This doesn’t stop it from happening.

Prostitution is, in fact, one of the most burgeoning and profitable trades in the Noble Quarter. It is disguised quite cunningly. A potential customer buys a small item from a *ahem* purveyor of carnal goods for a very large sum of money, and then the real *ahem* transaction takes place. This is quite commonplace, and has led to some very interesting slang. A brothel is referred to as a bazaar, a prostitute a merchantwoman (people who are actually both merchants and females are simply referred to as merchants), a customer an axe (actually, we’ve no idea where that comes from), and the process of searching out a prostitute “bazaaring”. As you can imagine, this leads to some hilarious misunderstandings.

The most prosperous broth- err, “bazaar” in the Noble Quarter is known as Madam Fantasia’s Curiosity Shop. In it, there are quite a lot of merchantwomen harking their wares upon various axes (isn’t slang fun?). Most of the merchantwomen are human, but there’s a few elves, and at least one dwarf for those with… interesting tastes. Quite a lot of funny conversations can be overheard if one frequents the Curiosity Shop (“Kind sir, would you like to buy this old boot for one hundred draketalons?”). Of course, if one frequents the Curiosity Shop, one is probably a sick fuck in the first place. The Curiosity Shop has a foolproof warning system to prevent watch intrusions (a random guy they payed a few coins to stand outside and holler if someone suspicious walks up). Of course, everyone knows what’s going on, but as long as they aren’t too conspicuous about it no one does much about it.

Of course, there are a lot of other things in the Noble Quarter besides fops, drugs, and whores. There are many wonderful (and expensive) inns, many wonderful (and expensive) theaters and other places of entertainment, and many wonderful (and expensive) casinos.

The inns of the Noble Quarter are quite splendiferous. They serve all kinds of fancy food, from odd fish imported from the far north and prepared in exactly the right way so as not to kill the consumer to the incredibly expensive delicacy that is dragon fillet (to be actually palatable, dragon has to have a delicate combination of several dozen spices applied in exactly the right amounts and be cooked at an incredibly massively high temperature for several days – a single pound of prepared dragon meat can cost as much as a house does in the Old Quarter). Of course, this is combined with some of the most amazing drinks ever served ever. Most of them are wines that actually don’t taste very good at all, but are very expensive and made from very rare berries and thus have to be good. Right?

The theaters of the Noble Quarter are among the most famous in all the Civilized Lands. The most famous is undoubtedly the Green Dragon Theater, a massive place that regularly shows various plays by all manner of famous playwrights, quite a lot of which were elven (the issue here is that most old elven plays were written in a form of poetry with an incredibly complicated meter that sounded beautiful in elven but, if translated, sounded like ass. Thus, most elven plays are performed in elven, to an audience that most likely doesn’t speak it but thinks the tickets are worth spending a small fortune on anyway. Gods, I hate rich people). Also shown are plays written by more modern playwrights, which are mostly in common. The theater makes massive amounts of money, something the theater’s proprietor, a half-elf by the name of Larissa Dúnevel, is quite aware of. She’s thinking of purchasing the entire upper portion of the Old Quarters soon. That’s how rich she is.

Gambling is both legal and incredibly popular in the Noble Quarter. Casinos are placed all over the bloody place, and many of them are combined with inns or even theaters for a better experience. The games involved are, of course, highly foppish and complicated. A very popular game currently is Gellért, a complicated game played with several eight-sided dice and the traditional deck of cards used in the Civilized Lands (described here). Karran is also widely played, and in some establishments there are special back rooms for the masters to concentrate on their games of Dra’Karran (both described in the above link). Most everything is gambled upon, from who’s going to win to each individual aspect of said victory.

The least legal method of entertainment in the Noble Quarter is the Arena of Blood. Technically, it’s in the tunnels of the Undercity below the Noble Quarter, but so many residents of the Noble Quarter visit it that it’s a large part of their culture. Basically, you watch people (or animals, or whatever the hell they dragged in this week) pummel each other for hours. It’s actually very cheap to get in, but it costs quite a lot to get into the special, upper-class section of the stands, so you don’t rub elbows with the common scum (of which there is a lot).

The governing council of the Noble Quarter is known as the Circle of Lords, a group of foppish nobles who really don’t do much good ever. They just try to further their own agendas and enforce their own (often dubious) morals. They’re also running a slave ring underground. Literally, underground – most of it is run through the Undercity, where they sell whatever slaves they happen to have to basically whoever wants to buy them. The most prominent buyers are various nobles who want servants, the proprietor of the Arena of Blood, who wants fodder, and various Varith lords who need dealers. Some of the shadier brothels also buy slaves to serve as prostitutes, but the most prestigious have more morals.

Important Noble Quarter Residents:

The Circle of Lords is the governing council of the Noble Quarter. It is made up of Lord Enuoc Vassal, Lord Uriel Vanticláim, Lord Thettin Auris, Lady Kendra Salkes, Lord Hardath Flinteyes, Lord Allatharis Dú Nassin, and Lady Thanassa Dú Laris.

Lord Enuoc Vassal is a man of about sixty. He’s a supreme classist, and believes that the poor should be sold to the rich for whatever purposes the rich desire. He’s helping this along in any way he can. The Circle of Lords was an actual governmental council before he got on it, maneuvered his associates into the other six positions, and began using it as a cover for a slave ring. Of course, they still make laws and things. They just also traffic in human lives.

Lord Uriel Vanticláim has been Lord Enuoc’s friend since early childhood. They grew up as neighbors, and they’ve been dealing in various shady areas since about age fifteen. He’s several years Enuoc’s junior. Uriel is a superb diplomat, and he often does the talking for the Circle of Lords when talking is required. He’s one of the most moralistic of the lords, and is currently trying to get stricter punishments enacted for prostitution. While selling slaves to brothels. Consistent morals are fun?

Lord Thettin Auris is vaguely frightening. He’s the only one of the Circle of Lords that was not actually born into a position of power. Thettin was a low-level administrator in a small drug ring several years ago when he encountered Lord Enuoc and Lord Uriel, who had both managed to get into trouble with the same drug ring. He pulled some strings and got them off the hook. Pulling strings in fact involved a dagger in the back of his immediate superior, but whatever. Enuoc and Uriel befriended him and contributed a small fortune to buy him both a lordship and a new identity to avoid the wrath of the drug ring. Thettin is a tall, wiry man of about forty. He kills people. Sometimes for business reasons, sometimes just because he’s bored.

Lady Kendra Salkes is the only human woman on the Circle of Lords. She was, at one point, the lover of Enuoc Vassal. At another, she was the lover of Uriel Vanticláim. Currently she’s with Thettin, but she’s thinking of going after Allatharis. The most amazing part of all this is that she manages to remain close friends with all her former lovers, thus insuring her continued position on the Circle of Lords and the fact that everyone else is more loyal to her than to each other. She’s a quite attractive woman of about forty, though she looks younger (we think magic might be involved). Also, she’s secretly a worshiper of Black Hundriss. She keeps this even from the other lords, who mostly adhere to Archus, for some reason.

Lord Hardath Flinteyes is the only dwarf on the Circle. He appeared in the Noble Quarter quite suddenly about twenty years ago. It’s impossible to tell how old he is, but he’s pretty damn old, and he seems to have money pouring out of his ass. He was not technically asked by Enuoc to join the Circle, but instead got wind of the slave ring and demanded to be included. He’s proved invaluable, as he has a secret source far to the north that seems to buy as many slaves as can be sold to them. No one’s sure what the source is, as he’s rather secretive. All that’s known about him is that if you look closely, you can see the remains of blue tattoos on his face…

Lord Allatharis Dú Nassin is an elf. He looks quite young, but that doesn’t mean anything, for an elf. It also doesn’t mean anything because he’s a vampire. Damn vampires. He personally buys one slave every week to serve as a blood source for him, as he doesn’t like drinking the blood of his neighbors and all the other quarters are a bit of a walk away. He’s got blond hair and piercing blue eyes, as well as canines that are just a wee bit creepy. He dresses in clothes even finer than all of the other lords, and constantly upstages them with his large vocabulary. Quite frankly, he’s not well liked by the other lords, but they’re all just a bit scared of him

Lady Thanassa Dú Laris is an elven woman.  She looks very young, but in her case it’s because she’s actually pretty young, not because of her being a vampire.  She’s not a vampire, she just has regular sex with one.  She’s the lover of Allatharis, and it was only due to his influence that she got on the Circle at all.  Of course, she’s well liked by all the other lords, as she’s very charming and has an absolutely beautiful smile.  Kendra objects a bit to what she sees as a usurping of her territory, but she’s not willing to say anything.  It’s not well known that she’s with Allatharis, or the other lords would almost certainly stop hitting on her out of fright.

Commander Abhaile Durnholt is the commander of the Noble Quarter guard.  He takes care of all those little things that matter so much.  Like law enforcement.  The Noble Quarter has an absolutely massive amount of money set aside for law enforcement, so it would seem logical that their guard would be very good.  This is not the case.  Abhaile is a corrupt bastard who skims quite a lot of money off the top, the bottom, the sides, and wherever else he can.  He’s also a regular customer at Madam Fantasia’s Curiosity Shop.  Basically, he’s everything you don’t want in a watch captain.  He’s roughly five and a half feet tall, overweight, balding, and has a generally sour disposition.

He is slightly balanced out, however, by his second-in-command, Captain Thywart Nottlehelm.  Thywart is noble, courageous, and wishes to uphold the law in any way possible.  This is made challenging by the absolute boob that is his immediate superior.  Thywart is currently campaigning to be installed as the Watch Commander.  This isn’t going well, mostly because the people who have the most say are the Circle of Lords, who have Abhaile right in their pocket and don’t want to lose their control over the quarter law enforcement.  Also, there’s a chance Thywart might disapprove of the whole “underground slave ring” thing.  Just a chance.  Overall, Thywart’s kind of screwed until the Circle of Lords gets overthrown.  He’s trying to do that too, of course.  It’s challenging, though.

Larissa Dúnevel is the proprietor of the Green Dragon theater.  It’s a massive venue, located right in the middle of the Noble Quarter.  You can tell which building it is by the huge frickin’ green dragon painted on the front.  The Green Dragon is the most prestigious theater in all the Civilized Lands, and at any time various mountains of foreign dignitaries can be seen attending it, eager to get a taste of the famous plays they serve.  On any given night, there may be minotaur warlords, Rhokari chieftains, elf lords, human nobles, dwarf merchants, and underfoot that somehow managed to sneak in seen in the stands of the prestigious Green Dragon theater.

Larissa herself is a half-elf.  Her mother was raped by a human (stupid humans) and she happened.  She later moved to Wyrmspire with her brother, Garamis Dúnevel, a full-blooded elf, to join a performing troupe.  This troupe snowballed into the Green Dragon theater.  Garamis is a playwright, and more than two dozen of his plays have seen the light of day on the stage of the Green Dragon.  Other playwrights commonly featured include Dandaril Quicksilver, a famous elven playwright from several centuries ago, Aedan Locke, a human playwright who is famed for his comedies, and Kargath dún Larik, a fanatical minotaur who wrote violent epics that often take at least a day to perform.

Agai Urun is not a nice person.  He’s the leader of the local chapter of the massive Shatva, an organization that deals entirely with the selling of Varith.  Agai is an elf.  No one knows how old he is, only that his hair is almost pure white and he’s probably blind, as he wears a cloth around his eyes.  Agai supervises all Varith sales in the Noble Quarter.  He keeps incredibly detailed tabs on all past, present and future Varith dealers, as well as all customers.  If someone is found to be betraying the Shatva from within, they disappear.

Agai is probably an assumed name.  People have tried to find out things about his past before, but they never find anything, and more often than not he kills them for trying.  He fights with two long, curved swords, and he’s deadly with them.  He’s been known to take an ear for disobedience.  He has a necklace of ears.  Occasionally he dies them different colors.  It’s actually quite a nice effect, once you get past the “holy shit, he wears ears as ornamentation” thing.

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Wyrmspire: The Palace

In the northernmost reaches of the glorious city of Wymrspire lies the Palace. The terminology here is a bit confusing: the Palace can refer to either the Palace itself or the general region of the Palace.

The Palace region is the only area of Wyrmspire that lies behind a wall other than that of the city itself. The idea was originally that in the event of successful siege, the citizens would take shelter in the palace region, and the enemy would be all like “shit, we need to besiege them again!?” and then they would leave. This is basically useless at this point, as anybody who even bothers to attack the power that is Wyrmspire is probably gonna stick it out until the end. The inner wall now serves as an easel for the local troubled youth. The graffiti is washed off by the city guards every week so as to keep the wall nice and shiny. The city guards resent this.

At the heart of the palace region lies the Palace itself. It is a glorious monument of architectural precision, made almost entirely from white marble. The main palace building is huge, and three massive towers emerge from it. The western tower is known as the Magus Spire, and is the seat of power for the Red Magi, who preside over all magical law in the civilized lands. The eastern tower is the Council Spire, and is the place where all council meetings take place. The center tower, and the tallest, is known as the Royal Spire. In it is contained the throne of Wyrmspire, as well as the living quarters of the royal family. Atop Royal Spire is a marvelously carved stone depiction of a roaring dragon, giving the city its name of Wyrmspire. Some of the council members are currently arguing that the Royal Spire should be used for council meetings instead of the Council Spire, seeing as it’s bigger and stuff, but it ain’t gonna happen if King Benedict has anything to say. All the council members also have lodgings in the Palace, even if half of them never use them.

Outside the palace, there are first the royal gardens. These sprawling, verdant areas are absolutely the most beautiful thing most people have ever seen. Rare plants from all around the world are grown here, and the result is a panorama of color and beauty. The gardener is an elf. Silly elves.

Past the royal gardens, there are fields that are used for military training, as well as the barracks of the Wyrmspire army, the most powerful army in the Civilized Lands. While entry is not mandatory, among the noble rings in Wyrmspire, it’s considered polite to serve at least a few years. The Wyrmspire army no longer actually fights direct wars with the armies of the Twelve, but merely takes part in a bunch of proxy wars centering around the Valley Kingdoms, a series of independent city-states that are often backed by either the Alliance or the Twelve. These wars are used as small power struggles to avoid actual war.

The Wyrmspire army is controlled by a group of four generals, who control the great Fortress Blacktree, and imposing fortress in the center of the palace region. This is where all the planning and plotting of the Wyrmspire army takes place. It’s been attacked several times by agents of the Twelve with the intention of destroying it, but they failed massively. And then they were thrown in the dungeons forever. Fortress Blacktree has some very nice dungeons – no one has ever escaped from them.

Important Palace Residents:

The Royal Family is arguably the most powerful family in the Civilized Lands. It is made up of King Benedict IV, Queen Katalina, Prince Adrian, Prince Randolph, and Princess Keara. King Benedict IV took power when his father, King Carith V, was slain in a hunting accident (although it was probably the Twelve assassinating him). Benedict was an adventurer and a rogue, as he was the younger son of Carith, and not expected to have any real responsibility. Unfortunately, his older brother Gandin was found dead in his room, shortly before the coronation was to take place. Benedict retired from adventuring and took the crown, a decision he has been regretting ever since, according to him. If it was the Twelve that killed his father and brother, they regret it, as Benedict has been a far better king than his father was or his brother would have been. He has prevented the fifth Imperial War from starting at least twelve times during his twenty-five year reign. He thinks this is a pretty good thing. Some of the more war-thirsty bastards disagree, but fuck them. He considers them shnathgotten, a very creative curse he uses.

Queen Katalina is King Benedict’s wife. It was an arranged marriage… well, almost. Katalina was scheduled to be married to Gandin when he took the throne. That fell through, so she married Benedict instead. Katalina is a benevolent queen, and spends most of her time wandering about the city, doing good deeds for poor people and generally attempting to help the populace, who love her very much. She is basically the only person from the Palace region that can wander the Old Quarter without being mugged, raped, or kidnapped and sold for spare parts. If anyone attempts to do those things to her in the Old Quarter, they are set upon by a gang of rabid followers and tossed into the vilest part of the river. It’s kind of disgusting.

Prince Adrian is a flaming asshole. He is King Benedict’s eldest son, at twenty-five years of age. He is as big as a bear and roughly as intelligent. He spends his time either drinking, gambling, or jousting and fencing with the various members of the army, who have mixed feelings about him. On one hand, he’s very skilled with all sorts of weapons, but on the other hand whenever battle is mentioned he hides under his bed. He’s also an incredible douche to people whenever he defeats them. Overall, he’s not very popular. His father considers him a worthless layabout who should get out and do some honest adventuring already. There’s rumors of Adrian messing about with prostitutes from the Noble Quarter, which would be a massive scandal if it was true.

Prince Randolph is the exact opposite of his brother, but almost as annoying. He’s twenty-two years old and spends all his time socializing with nobles and messing about in court, ingratiating himself to council members. He’s quiet and well-spoken, but lacks any actual opinions and is a bit of a fop when it comes down to it. Many of the council members are of the opinion that he should be the heir to the throne of Wyrmspire. Benedict vehemently disagrees. Prince Randolph expects it, however, which may be a bit of an issue when he doesn’t get it.

Princess Keara is King Benedict’s favorite child. She hasn’t been seen in the Palace since two years ago, when she ran away to go adventuring. She’s returned to Wyrmspire every now and then, but refuses to go near the palace and merely carouses in the Old Quarter. She is incredibly tough, and it’s best not to mess with her, or she’ll cut you. She’s at least as good with all manner of weapons as Adrian is, and can be as diplomatic as Randolph when it’s appropriate. She often dresses in leather and her face is covered in scars from various battles. And she’s only sixteen. Benedict is considering naming her heir, which would be a bit of an issue, as the throne of Wyrmspire has always been passed down the male line. But fuck that.

The Four Generals are the highest-ranking officials of the Wyrmspire army. They are General Adamus, General Rea, General Kharat, and General Lynodin. As well as making all overarching strategic decisions, they also each lead one of the four largest legions in the army: Silversword Legion, Warhorse Legion, Archaneye Legion, and Blackdagger Legion. These four legions are often referred to as the Imperial Legions.

General Adamus Caenas is the leader of the Silversword legion. He is exceedingly honorable, to the point of annoyance. In battle, he fights with a massive greatsword, and has a habit of challenging enemy leaders to single combat. The enemy leaders usually accept while subtly motioning to their minions to come around behind Adamus and kill him that way. The only reason no one has yet succeeded is that Adamus has a personal bodyguard, a hardened assassin who doesn’t play by the rules – and also happens to be completely in love with him. Funny how that happens. Of course, he’s got no idea. He’s too busy challenging enemy leaders to single combat.

General Rea Narcissa Ravenlocke is frightening. She leads the Warhorse legion. She’s technically the daughter of the illustrious Lord Hector Ravenlocke, an important noble of Wyrmspire. Unfortunately, she’s not the daughter of his wife. This has led to her growing up with her mother in the Old Quarter, hating the living hell out of all nobility. And then, of course, some asshole drafted her and she ended up in the army – in a unit commanded by Adam Ravenlocke, legitimate son of her father. This pissed the hell out of her. He ended up dead through a combination of buffoonery, an inability to lead, and a dagger in the back. She got his position. Afterward, she rose quickly through the ranks to become a general. She retains massive amounts of cynicism and distrust for nobility, and in fact keeps a secret police force for dealing with traitors. She and Benedict IV are very good friends, which is one of the only reasons she wasn’t drummed out of the army for being slightly unstable. In battle, she fights with a longsword in one hand and a shortsword in the other. She’s rather deadly.

General Kharat Blacktree is the only non-human general of the four generals. He’s the last member of the Blacktree family of dwarves, one of the original groups of Wyrmspire dwarves and the builders of Fortress Blacktree. The Blacktree family is very old, and he’s under considerable pressure to take a wife and continue it. He’s having none of it. He revels in strategy and battle, and is the general least often seen in Wyrmspire. He’s instead out killing whoever he feels like, and being really, really good at it. Kharat commands the Archaneye Legion, the oldest of the four Imperial Legions – indeed, its name is in Middle Common. That’s how old it is. In battle, Kharat fights with whatever weapon he feels like fighting with. Most commonly, he uses a massive warhammer, but he’s also been seen using a battleaxe, a lance, or just throwing rocks and shouting cusswords. Kharat likes to have fun.

General Lynodin is a bit of a mystery. He’s from strange lands to the northeast, far past the lands of the Twelve. He never speaks of his homeland. Indeed, he barely ever speaks at all. When he does, what he has to say is of the utmost importance, and the other generals always listen to it. He’s well liked by the other generals despite his oddness. He has a sense of honor similar to that of Adamus, a willingness to fight dirty like Rea, and revels in battle as Kharat does. Of course, his method of reveling is a bit odd. While the other generals wear armor of pure mithril, Lynodin goes into battle in simple leather armor and a long cloak. Then he fights like a fucking berserker. His favored weapon is a curved sword, and he’s really, really good with it. He leads the Blackdagger Legion. They all love him, for he is basically the perfect warrior. He’s pretty badass.

Lord Denedius Argyle is an important noble who lives in the Palace district. He is the chairman of the council, and an incredible bureaucrat. He regularly argues with King Benedict IV, whom he resents, mostly because that bastard ended up marrying his daughter. Denedius was incredibly excited when he learned that his only daughter Katalina was marrying the heir to the throne. He was considerably less excited when the soon-to-be-crowned Gandin III was slain, and she ended up marrying his scoundrel brother instead. Katalina was thrilled, of course, but Denedius doesn’t see it that way. Gandin was an upstanding member of the court, while Benedict spent his time mucking about in far-off lands chasing after riches, when he could have just sent somebody to go get them. While he thinks little of their father, Denedius loves his two grandsons, Adrian and Randolph. Keara’s just as bad as her father, though.

Denedius is the worst kind of bureaucrat – the smart kind. He’s intelligent, cunning, and revels in red tape. He also owns most of the mines in and around Wyrmspire, meaning he would profit greatly from another massive war. So he’s trying to start it. Benedict is trying to stop this. Katalina has, frustratingly, taken Benedict’s side on this one. Even so, she still invites Denedius to dinner every now and then, which leads to some awkward encounters. Denedius is also trying to get the Circle of Lords (a group of nobles from the Noble District) on the council, so as to get him more votes. He’s a crafty person. He’s just also not very nice.

Alara: Wyrmspire

As promised in the previous post, I shall now overview Wyrmspire. In following posts I shall go over the specific areas of the City of Kings in more detail.

First, a map:

Notice the shittiness of said map. If you could all do me a favor, imagine little buildings drawn inside the city walls (I hope it’s obvious where the city walls are). It should be better after you do that. Anyway, as usual, the purple lines are elevation lines (the palace is built into the side of a mountain). There are three gates into the city, at the north, the southeast, and the southwest. The north gate is most commonly used by visiting dignitaries, as it leads into the Temple Quarter, which is quite pretty. The southeast gate is often used by tradesmen, as it is near the Merchant Quarter. Nobody really uses to southwest gate, as the Old Quarter is not a pleasant place.

The various sections of the city:

The Palace is the seat of government in the city. While it is often simply referred to as the Palace, it’s much more. The area beyond the inner wall of the city contains, apart from the palace, various barracks holding Wyrmspire’s army, as well as training and drilling grounds. The Council building, the ruling area of all the Alliance, is also kept near the palace. On an upward slope to the north lies the palace itself, a glorious, shining edifice whose towers have given the city its name of Wyrmspire. From there, King Benedict IV rules, along with his wife, Queen Katalina, and his three children, the Princes Adrian and Randolph, and the Princess Keara.

The Noble Quarter is the living place of the nobles and aristocrats of Wyrmspire. It is a beautifully-kept, shining place, with large houses everywhere and expensive inns and taverns dotting the landscape. The Noble Quarter is a favorite location of visiting diplomats, and most of them stay there whilst visiting. The burgeoning prostitution trade helps this along. While said prostitution is technically illegal, many practitioners cover it up by selling their customers some small item for an disproportionately large amount of cash, and then proceeding to give them a courtesy screw. Courtesy screws aren’t illegal, after all.

There are many prominent figures in the Noble Quarter. Most of them belong to a group known as the Circle of Lords, a group of aristocratic bastards who love to bathe in red tape. The end goal of the Circle of Lords is to get every one of their number on the Council. This would be a very bad thing, as these guys are not exactly what you would refer to as intelligent. At all. There’s also rumors that they’re running a slave-ring underground. But we’re sure that’s all just balderdash.

The Temple Quarter is the location of all of Wyrmspire’s religious edifices. It includes many major temples, such as the massive temple to Archus (the second largest building in all Wyrmspire, after the palace). Other notable temples include the beautiful temple to Helena, the mysterious temple to Omora Agabai, and the militaristic temple to Jurgan. Smaller shrines have also arisen, such as small temple to White Aretha, and the well-kept secrets that are the temples of Anator, Black Hundriss, and Elleida. Even small cults involving non-Archan pantheons exist.

While most people simply think of temples when they think of the Temple Quarter, many people live there too. Priests need a place to live, and eventually someone’s going to move to where the priests live to sell things to the priests. Soon enough, a little community will spring up. The community of the Temple Quarter is regarded as the safest in all Wyrmspire. There’s not nearly as much shady deals going on as in other Quarters, as most of the inhabitants are, y’know… holy. Prominent residents of the Temple Quarter include the high priests of all the various faiths. The Temple Quarter also includes the massive library of Wyrmspire.

The Arcane Quarter is the home of many wizards, sorcerers, mages, and all that. At its center is the huge Arcane University, the largest magical education center in the Civilized Lands. All schools of magic are represented here, if not equally. Necromancy suffers a bit of prejudice, for instance. Aside from the University, many other people of arcane leanings live here as well. Alchemists, experimenters, cultists, archivists, and basically assorted weirdos. It’s not uncommon to see very odd things in the Arcane Quarter, such as many-colored smokes, things appearing and disappearing at random, water running uphill, flocks of fire-breathing chickens run amok, and the occasional escaped lab-created monster.

As with the Temple Quarter, not all who live in the Arcane Quarter are wizards. Some just sell to the wizards. Of course, living in the Arcane Quarter is a hazardous thing if you don’t have any magic at your disposal. Occasionally, things just explode. No explanation. Boom. The most important resident of the Arcane Quarter is Amaris Horoma, the archmage of the University. He’s got a position on the council, and he’s willing to use it. Mostly to fund new experiments of the arcane nature. He’s like that.

The Merchant Quarter is the most bustling, busy area you’re going to find in all Wyrmspire. Ever. Most of the middle class lives there, and they all sell each other, and anyone who happens to be wandering by, quite a lot of things. Actually, anything. They’re willing to improvise. People have been known to sell houses to nobles that happen to be wandering by, merely because they looked like they had enough money to pay for it. Long story short, the Merchant Quarter is home to a bustling economy, and everyone takes part in it. Tradesmen, craftsmen, entertainers, thieves – everyone has a part to play.

The most prominent merchants belong to the Merchant’s Guild, which oversees all economy-type things that go on in the Merchant Quarter. The guildmaster of this guild is High Merchant Tadaran Knopwhick. Everyone assumes his title is ironic, as he’s an Underfoot, and an extraordinarily short one, at that.

The Dwarven Quarter is home to the large dwarven minority of Wyrmspire. Nearly as busy as the Merchant Quarter, dwarves can be seen bustling about at all hours of day and night (they have darkvision, you know) trading, selling, drinking, smithing, and generally being dwarves. Though the Dwarven Quarter is the smallest of the Quarters, it boasts a surprisingly large population, mostly because dwarves are very compact beings. You’re walking along a row of two-story houses in the Merchant Quarter, and suddenly you’re walking along a row of three-story houses. Only they’re all still the same height. Oh, did we mention that every story has about twelve dwarves in it, too? Dwarves are promiscuous. Especially in the city, out of sight of their elders. The most prominent residents of the Dwarven Quarter are the heads of the various families, as well as the heads of the recently resurrected dwarven mountain tribes, which are now little more than street gangs.

The Old Quarter is the oldest part of Wyrmspire. It’s also the shabbiest. It is a place of thieves, beggars, drunkards, prostitutes, and all the other people that make a fantasy city really, really fun. The Old Quarter is ruled over by the Thieves’ Guild, which is engaged in a constant struggle with the city watch. The watch is losing. Badly. It doesn’t help that most of the inhabitants of the Old Quarter are loyal to the Thieves’ Guild, even if only because they’ll take your children if you aren’t. The Old Quarter is the most diverse of the quarters, with a large minority of Underfoot, the occasional dwarf, Rhokari and minotaur, and a massive amount of elven refugees from the conquered Asernaiar. This large influx of elves has led to a bit of a population problem in the Old Quarter, but it’s being readily solved through a rapid lowering of standards regarding quality of living. The most prominent resident of the Old Quarter is Salkiss, the leader of the Thieves’ Guild. He’s a badass.

The Undercity is called many things. It is referred to as the Tunnels, the Below, the Underworld, or, in the case of many members of the Council, “our little problem”. It is a massive complex that runs under the entirety of Wyrmspire, and is composed of various sewers, tunnels, and ancient caves. This makes it rather mazelike, and indeed, if you don’t know your way around, it’s probably best to hire a guide. Also, make sure the guide stays in front of you at all times, or he will stab you. There’s not even a question. The Undercity is home to many interesting phenomena, such as the burgeoning black market beneath the Old Quarter and the Arena of Blood beneath the Noble Quarter. There’s even a cult of vampires underneath the Temple Quarter, and there’s rumors of something even more nasty under the Palace. The Undercity is a place for the lawless, the broken, and, more often than not, a bunch of rat-people. The most prominent resident of the Undercity is not a resident at all, but rather the leader of the Thieves’ Guild, again. Salkiss is often referred to as the Undermayor by the people of the Tunnels.

Alara: Homostin’s Passage

Well, I’m done with the Wastes. So I figured I’d do something of a slightly different feel today. I’m going to expand a bit more on the world of Alara. This time, I’m going to do it in the form of a passage of a great scholar of Alara: Homostin of Wyrmspire, Formerly of Asernaiar. Today’s entry will also be a little shorter than normal, but that’s okay because there’s going to be a lot of information in it.

After this, I think I’m going to flush out Wyrmspire a bit more. It’s the most important city of the setting, after all. Maybe I’ll make a map of it. I already have several ideas for some interesting characters.

Well, let’s get going, eh?

This is to be the introductory passage of the Second Edition of the Chronicles of Alara. I write that this is the second edition because the first was recently lost. My home city, Asernaiar, was set upon by the Amen-Kathar, vicious beasts from the unmapped marshes beyond our city. In the attack, the great Library at Asernaiar was taken. My apprentices and I barely escaped with our lives, much less any volumes of the great Chronicles I had thus far penned.

So I begin anew. I start this second edition with a far greater knowledge of Alara than that I possessed four centuries ago, when I began my first edition. I hope that this knowledge will improve this second edition greatly. I also hope that somebody recovers the first edition soon, because not even elves are immortal and I was only halfway through that one. Also, my apprentices are all nincompoops.

Alara is a massive world. Our knowledge of it is incomplete, at best. The best known continent, the one upon which the Civilized Lands rest, is known as Aulind. Other known continents include Norgenar, Luinthras, Gúlind, Azshana, and Aul. Very little is known about many of these, so it is entirely possible that some of them could be the same continent, or not exist at all.

Aulind is quite large. Civilization on Aulind is concentrated in the Civilized Lands, a small portion in the southeast. Uncivilized areas of Aulind are far larger, and everpresent. To the west of the Civilized Lands lies the forest of Requiem. To the north of the Civilized Lands lies the Wastes, dark and barren homeland of undead horrors. Beyond the Wastes lie the Ebenian Plains and the Omarra Desert. Of the lands beyond that, very little is known. A place called Swelterholm lies somewhere, far to the north, but has only been visited by several explorers.

Norgenar is the continent, other than Aulind, about which most is known. It is the only one of the other continents that I have seen with my own eyes. It lies south of Aulind, and is taken up almost entirely by ice and snow. Wandering this tundra are savage men, ice dwarves, and tusked, hairy beastmen with odd elongated noses. The Alliance has one outpost on Norgenar, known as Arrath. From there, we trade with the ice dwarves, who are at least semi-friendly. The men of the tundra, however, are entirely bestial. Any attempt at communication with them is entirely useless.

Luinthras is a continent of which very little is known. Eight-hundred and twenty-three years ago, ships came from across the cloudsea. They claimed they came from Luinthras, a continent of advanced civilization and high standards. The influence of these foreigners is the reason the Civilized Lands are so far ahead of the rest of Aulind in terms of society. Even our language was entirely changed; modern-day common is made up of far more Luinthran than it is Old Common. Then, one day, roughly a century after the first ships arrived, they ceased coming. We lost contact with Luinthras, and it has not been reestablished since. No one knows if it even still exists.

Gúlind is a mysterious continent. The only records we have of it are those taken by the famous explorer, Hendrick Alantra, over a century ago. From what he said, Gúlind was a sweltering land, full of great, dragon-like beasts. There were no humans or elves in this land, but men resembling lizards, who rode the great beasts previously mentioned. The landscape was dotted with mountains of fire and steaming springs. Unfortunately, when Hendrick attempted to return to Gúlind, his entire exploratory fleet was lost, and all that was recovered was a spar from his flagship, the Discovery. No one has found Gúlind since.

Azshana is even more mysterious than the rest of the unknown continents. It is regularly found by ships sailing to or from the outer islands of Aulind, but never stays in the same place. Its inhabitants are said to be giant tortoises, who for some reason possess both the ability to speak and considerable magical prowess. It is possible that it is entirely mythical, and the sailors that corroborate the story (which was originally, in all likelihood, created by some drunk) are merely searching for attention. I know that I have never seen it myself. Of course, this would give need to some other explanation for the various magical artifacts brought back by said sailors. It is a mystery.

Aul is a purely theoretical continent, created by the Astrological Society to serve as a hypothetical center point for the rotations of the sun and moon. I have my doubts about both its existence and the mental stability of most of the members of the Astrological Society.

~Homostin, Chronicler of Wyrmspire, Fourth Day of the Waxing Hunter’s Moon, 823 A.F.

Alaran Subraces: The Crows

Of all my encounters in my exploration of the Wastes, one was undoubtedly the most disturbing.

After several long months getting accustomed to the politics and standards of the Wastes, me and my party were just starting to fit in. One day, we were meeting some of the Gishnath Asilin to trade several rare artifacts we had recovered from a nearby ruin for several weeks’ provisions. We were uneasy trading with the skeletons, but the Asilin had somehow picked up on that and consistently sent human or mostly-human parties to meet us. The envoy we met this day consisted of several young men and women, an older man who appeared to be in charge, and two of the Asilin.

We had just finished working out exactly what the exchange would be (we were trying to conserve several artifacts to bring back to the Explorer’s Society to be displayed prominently in their guildhall) when the sun was suddenly blotted out. Darkness struck like a snake, enveloping both parties. It lifted several minutes later. To our shock, Gaedric, one of the youngest members of our exploratory party, was entirely missing. Where he had been standing remained only a black feather.

The following day, a tall, black-feathered birdman appeared at the edge of our camp. He was immediately set upon by both Sturgis and Thassin, who had been good friends of Gaedric. He vanished in a cloud of smoke, and did not return until three days later. He then explained to us Gaedric’s disappearance: the ruins we had explored had been sacred to the Coalfeather Clan, and Gaedric had been taken in return for our violations. He would be returned to us if we left all the artifacts we had claimed in the middle of our camp for an entire night. We did so immediately (we still retained all the artifacts, as the deal with the Gishnath had fallen through after the attack), and went to bed with a feeling of foreboding.

When we woke the next day, the artifacts were gone. In their place was the skeleton of a young man, picked clean – except for the eyes. The dead, staring eyes…

-Excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot, famous dwarven explorer

The Crows are not a major power of the Wastes, but they are nonetheless one to be feared. Most Rhokari stand anywhere between five and six feet tall. The Crows are uniformly over six. They have pure black feathers, black beaks, and black eyes. This gives them excellent camouflage at night, as well as during their magically induced darkness.

The Crows have a very interesting history. Thought they have their own distinct languages, they were conquered and enslaved by the humans of Tugél Vas for a short time several centuries ago. Though the Crows quickly arose and overthrew the humans, their culture was permanently maimed, and many of the clans have since adopted Wastes Common as their official language. Some purist clans remain, communicating only in ancient Crow dialects. These clans are essentially limited to communication only within their own clan, as ancient Crow dialects vary greatly between clans.

All Crow clans are profoundly cannibalistic. Their very culture revolves around it: the most common form of commemoration ritual for a dead individual is to have the entire clan gather and have a feast, with the individual in question as the main course. When devouring individuals who are not of the clan, the Crows are much less ritualistic, and usually just tuck in. This is the most common form of retribution against those that offend or slight the Crows. They get eaten.

90% of Crows are warriors. Crows warriors wield small handaxes, often two at a time, with vicious rage. Crow warriors often weave died feathers into their hairfeathers (Rhokari possess an odd mane of hairlike feathers) to give them a fiercer look. Feather colors vary from clan to clan, but green, red, and blue are all common. Colored hairfeathers are used to display one’s experience; most clans weave one feather in per year they have been fully accepted as warriors of the clan.

The Crows that are not warriors follow the path of the shaman. The shamans are the most important part of Crow clans; they lead the clans, preside over rituals, and basically do everything. Shamans use the power of the spirits to their advantage, doing all kinds of magical things. Shamans are most often the diplomats used by the Crows, as they are usually more intelligent than warriors. They also possess the means to get themselves out of tight spots, which they often get into, considering the way they most often deal with other races.

Crow warriors typically do not wear anything. Clothes hamper them in battle, and what with being out in the blazing sun all day with those nasty smothering feathers, they get quite hot enough anyway. Crow shamans wear long, flowing garments, most often made out of leather taken from various animals of the Wastes and trimmed with beads. It’s assumed the shamans use their magic to keep themselves cool, or else they would be very, very unhappy. Crow shaman hairfeathers often turn white due to the large amount of mystic energies they are exposed to on a daily basis.

Crows pray to a deity known as the Skyfather. The high priest of the Skyfather (of which there is only one in all the Wastes) is known as the Sighted One. It is believed that the Sighted One is capable of seeing all, as he sees through the eyes of the Skyfather as well as his own. The title of the Sighted One is passed oddly: when a Sighted One dies, his servants will scour the land and search for a child that was born just as the Sighted One died. This child will become the new Sighted One.

Crows believe that the soul is contained in the eyes. For this reason, eyes are never eaten, as they believe it is a dire blasphemy to devour another’s soul, as all souls belong to the Skyfather. A member of a Crow clan will have his eyes burned after death. The Crows traditionally return the eyes of a devoured outsider to whoever (if anyone) the outsider was with, so they can do whatever they see fit with the soul. The Crows consider themselves very accommodating for doing this.

Crow clans owe no great allegiance to one another. While they may trade, they are just as likely to war. There are two exceptions to this: no one wars with the clan the current Sighted One belongs to, and if the Sighted One decrees that two clans should stop warring, it happens. Otherwise, anything goes. And we mean anything. Them Crows be some creepy muthafluffas.

Most Crow clans live in the mountains surrounding the Wastes. This is beneficial to them in several ways. For one thing, it means they avoid the wrath of Tugél Vas, the Asilin, and most of the Zantith tribes. This is a good thing, because the Crows are most definitely not powerful enough to stand up in a real war. Also, the varying terrains of the mountains allow the Crows to achieve sufficient height to be able to glide, and thus ambush travelers, as well as members of other Crow clans.

The Crows exist entirely in the mountains to the east and north – the western mountains are devoid of them. What Clans once existed there were wiped out by a combination of clan wars (the Sighted One was all the way on the other side of the Wastes, and thus didn’t have ample time to intervene) and exterminations performed by the dwarves of Dwargenheim. The clans of the east and north mountains often ally along those lines – that is, large wars occur between the northern Crows and the eastern Crows. It doesn’t help that the eastern Crows have had the Sighted One for the past several decades. Basically, they all hate each other. Hate makes the world go ’round.

Crow battles work like this: first, the shamans induce magical darkness. The warriors then glide down from whatever high point they managed to achieve, and, using their fairly decent night vision, proceed to beat the living crap out of whomever they’re fighting. This works much better when facing outsiders then when facing other Crow clans (although the Zantith also have fairly decent night vision, and also are uniformly batshit crazy, so the Crows avoid them).

The most important Crow holy site is a massive obelisk, a monument from a bygone age, dedicated to the Skyfather. This massive obsidian monolith is carved with all manner of ancient Crow symbols, four-fifths of which the meaning has been lost. What the shamans can decipher is that it’s the creation story. It involves an egg. Other than that, nothing’s really clear. The Skytotem, as it is called, is located far in the mountains to the west. This makes it basically as far away from the Crows as is physically possible while still remaining in the Wastes. Young Crow shamans often make pilgrimages to the Skytotem, so as to see the greatness for themselves.

Important Crows:

The Sighted One is the spiritual leader of the Crows. When a newborn Crow is selected to become the new Sighted One, it never receives any name other than the Sighted One, as Crows are only named when they achieve adulthood. Until then, they are often referred to by pet names that are bestowed upon them in their first year after birth. When a Sighted One is selected, none of this occurs. All refer to him as Sighted One, even if he is still a child. Sighted Ones often manifest great wisdom, even at very early ages. Although young Sighted Ones are taken away from their parents as soon as they are identified, the parents do not mind, as it is considered the highest honor possible to be a vessel of the Skyfather and to birth the Sighted One.

The last Sighted One died around thirteen years ago. As usual, his servants, the high shamans of the Crows, set out and searched for a child born at the time of the Sighted One’s death. However, a complication arose: two such children were found, one male, one female, one the son of a powerful clan chieftain, one the daughter of a hermit who had not had contact with the outside world in decades. Holy writ of the Skyfather declares that when such a thing occurs, both crows in question are the same person. Now, both children are the Sighted One. This has led to some issues.

The male Sighted One, being the son a chieftain, was doted upon, commonly visited by his father, and so on. The female One was neglected (if such a thing is possible when speaking of a holy figure who is higher than everyone else, ever) for several reasons. One, she was the daughter of a hermit, so her father was not permitted to see her. Two, Crow society is pretty damn chauvinistic. When coming to ask the advice of the Sighted One, shamans and chieftains would most often go to the male Sighted One. This has led to the male having a massive ego, a bull-headed attitude, and a sense of overall superiority. This is contrasted by his great sense of honor and personal responsibility for his people. The female Sighted One, on the other hand, is wise and a great leader. However, she has almost no sense of honor, a product of her male (dumbass) counterpart being consulted more than her over the years, leading to bitterness. She is willing to kill to have her way. She is currently attempting to have the male Sighted One assassinated, leaving her as the sole Sighted One, something that would almost positively be good for the Crows in general. The problem is that she can’t ask a Crow to assassinate him, as assassinating a Sighted One is basically the equivalent in sin of decapitating the pope and then skullfucking him.

Add to all this the fact that the female is from the north, and the male from the east, and you basically have a huge clusterfuck. Many shamans are beginning to ignore the writ proclaiming that both Sighted Ones are the same person, and take sides. This may eventually lead to a war the likes of which Crow society has never before seen.

Alaran Races: Zantith

Three days after my sighting of the Asilin slave ship, I managed to run into the other major undead power of the Wastes.

It was the end of a long day. The sun had dipped beyond the horizon. The exploratory party was entirely exhausted, as we had spent the entire day trudging through a flatland, looking for a suitable place to make camp. To a man, we fell asleep in mere moments.

I was awakened by the sound of Sturgis’ snoring. It was absolutely black out, the gibbous moon surprisingly not helping in the least. I turned over and was just beginning to drift off when I heard a noise from just outside the camp. It sounded like a whispered conversation, although I could not make out the individual words. Quickly, I rose and attempted to wake the rest of the party.

I was just shaking Harguras awake when they struck. From all sides, silent figures emerged, barely visible in the moonlight. They wielded long spears, striking quickly. It was obvious from their manner of combat that they meant to take no prisoners. We retaliated, and I traded blows with one of the figures. Out of the corner of my left eye I witnessed Harguras incinerate several of the figures with a well-placed fireball. Soon afterward, I severed the head of my own foe. The rest of the figures withdrew. We waited a few tense moments, but they did not reappear. After an hour we returned to bed, with Allaura volunteering to stand guard until morning.

When morning came, we took the opportunity to examine the body I had decapitated the previous night. We were shocked at its appearance: a gnarled and half-decaying corpse, but one that had been quite obviously alive only the previous night. The implications shook us.

-Excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot, famous dwarven explorer

Sorry for not posting for a few days. School started, and it ate me. Literally. Also, teenage drama suuuuuuucks.

Aux Azalia. Few know the location of the fabled city of the Zantith. Indeed, even the Zantith themselves do not know where the metropolis is located, relying on an innate, inner draw to guide them toward their home.

The city of the Zantith lies beneath the ground, the center of a series of caverns and tunnels that stretches the entire length and breadth of the Wastes. Trying to find it is not a good idea. At all. There’s more than just undead in the tunnels, and it’s not at all friendly.

Zantith is a word meaning “fleshed ones” in the language of the Wastes. The Zantith are just that: a halfway point between the humans of Tugél Vas and the Asilin. They have much in common with the appearance of the common Zombies used as minions by necromancers all over the world, but they are so much more. The Zantith are possessed of a dark and terrible cunning, one used to wage a constant war of stealth and attrition upon everybody else in the Wastes. The tunnels of the Zantith emerge all over the Wastes, and often cannot be found without careful searching. A Zantith hunting party is capable of emerging from one of these tunnels, attacking, and disappearing again within minutes.

Zantith society is not as rigid as either that of the the humans of Tugél Vas or that of the Asilin. The Zantith keep no slaves, all new additions to their population come from enemies slain and reanimated. In the process of reanimation, the outlook of the being is changed, leading to a dark and horrible hatred coursing through its veins instead of blood.

The origins of the Zantith are contested, though not nearly as much as those of the Asilin. This is because tablets have been found that describe, in great detail, the experiments used to create the first Zantith. This proves conclusively that the Zantith were purposely created by a human. No one knows who created them, however, or when. Depending on the age of the Zantith, it’s possible they were created to counter the Asilin. It’s even possible that the Asilin were created to counter them.

Zantith clothing is simple. They most often dress in the black pelts of the various beasts that live in the caves near Aux Azalia. Depending on which beast the pelt is taken from, these pelts can be entirely hairless or very furry. The most common animal the pelts are taken from is a variety of hornless, blind rhinoceros, a common fungus-eater of the caves below the Wastes. The Zantith hunt this beast most often for food, but its skin makes good clothing, as well.

Zantith personal decoration is more complicated than their clothing. Depending on whichever tribe the individual Zantith comes from, personal decoration ranges from a simple necklace of teeth (often taken from their first enemy slain as a Zantith) to elaborate dies and tattoos covering every inch of the Zantith’s leathery skin. The latter example is rather uncommon, but not unheard of.

Tribes control everything in Zantith culture. What tribe a Zantith is from dictates what his role in Zantith society will be, and individual tribes argue and strive for control of Aux Azalia every moment of every day. There are countless Zantith tribes, but several large ones control most of everything. Most Zantith tribes belong to two overarching categories: Warrior tribes or Necromantic tribes. Warrior tribes are made up almost entirely of soldiers and fighters, while Necromantic tribes are made up of spellcasters and mages. The occasional odd tribe is made up of an almost even combination, but these are rarely heard of. A balance exists between the two tribal categories: the warrior tribes need the necromancers to animate new members of their tribes, and the necromantic tribes need the warriors to fetch new reanimation fodder.

While Aux Azalia is the center of Zantith culture, only about a quarter of the Zantith reside there at any given time. Other tribes roam the Wastes, each having their own territories. Tribes trade off guarding Aux Azalia every season, while one ruling tribe remains there year round. Zantith tribes differ greatly in particularities based on where they are from. Those who hail from the petrified forest to the west are adept at climbing and leaping, and often put on shows for the other tribes when they meet in Aux Azalia. One tribe of Zantith, the Agathi, hails from a blackened volcanic field to the northeast, where the very earth smokes and fire erupts from the ground at random intervals. These Zantith have built up great heat resistance, and are incredibly tough.

No matter which tribe you’re fighting, the Zantith are incredibly fierce in combat. All Zantith warriors are incredibly adept at spear-wielding, and depending on which tribe you’re facing, they could be using some very odd looking spears indeed. Some Zantith spears are pointed on both ends, some have curved, falchion-like blades, and some even have slings on one end! Zantith warriors fight dirty, appearing out of cracks and crevices in the earth and disappearing as soon as the battle turns against them. If anything, the necromancers are worse. They use their magic to disguise themselves, blending in with the rock and dust. They then strike from hiding when their opponents are unaware and surrounded. The most fearsome opponents, however, are a combination. It’s a good thing the necromantic and warrior tribes disagree so much, or they’d be kicking ass all over the place.

One exception to the necromancer-warrior conflict is the Haranji. The Haranji are the one tribe that everyone agrees with, because if you don’t, they will get you. They are the priest class of the Zantith. Every one of their members is devoted to Elleida. The Zantith really like Elleida. They’ve even invented three aspects of her: the Mender, the Raiser, and the Destroyer. Depending on which aspect a Zantith chooses to worship, his duties differ vastly. Those that follow the Mender heal fellow Zantith of their wounds, while those that follow the Raiser create new Zantith, as well as lesser undead to serve as minions. Those that follow the Destroyer… they destroy. They’re basic battle-priests. Many of the Haranji stay in Aux Azalia year round, but young up-and-coming priests often are sent out to one or another tribe to help out for a while as a right of passage. The Haranji are second only to the current ruling tribe of the Zantith.

While all the Zantith are technically allied, fights between various tribes occur on a daily basis over land, loot, whatever. The Zantith like to fight. The ruling tribe does not discourage such altercations, as if they did, the tribes would unite and overthrow them. All tribes fight all tribes (even members of the Haranji staying with a tribe will fight other Haranji members if they are staying with an enemy tribe), but there are some traditions: if one of two fighting warrior tribes is threatened by a necromantic tribe, the two will unite to throw off the necromancers before continuing with there conflict, and vise-versa. All tribes will instantly unite if any non-Zantith threat presents itself. To do otherwise would simply be unpatriotic.

Important Zantith:

Chieftain Arcen zul-Shaa Kitinari is the current leader of the Kitinari tribe, the ruling tribe of the Zantith. The Kitinari took power in a bloodless coup (which is like a bloody coup, only the Zantith don’t really have blood). They have been in power for about twenty years now, and they like it. The Kitinari are a very powerful necromantic tribe. Their traditional ornamentation is a necklace of very small bones (often those of a small rodent or bird) that they can animate as a small familiar at will. Arcen’s familiar is a skeletal falcon. When in necklace form, its bones are weaved in an intricate and eye-pleasing pattern. Its name is Durgath.

What with the Kitinari tribe being necromantic, you would think their leader would be as well. Wrong. Arcen zul-Shaa has a basic skill in necromancy (enough to animate Durgath, at least), but he is first and foremost a warrior. The traditional weapon of the Kitinari is a wooden staff, often one enchanted and with a skull placed on the top of it for bonus fanciness. Arcen holds with this tradition, but his staff is made of rare Agathan Heartwood, the hardest wood known on Alara, from the heart of the Agath trees of far-off Swelterholm. He also has a skull of a small dragon, but it’s coated in frickin’ adamantium. He is adept at using this staff in battle, and is also skilled at hitting in the exact right way so as make the fangs of his dead dragon scrape through the flesh of his opponents, which due to a nicely-placed enchantment also makes them incredibly weak for a short period of time. The wound often catches fire, too. The moral of the story: don’t fuck with Arcen zul-Shaa Kitinari.

Chieftain Jirit du-Kath Haranji is the current leader of the Haranji tribe, the priest class of the Zantith. This makes him the second most powerful Zantith in all the Wastes. He uses this. Jirit is a priest of Elleida in her aspect as the Raiser. This means that he’s not terribly powerful on his own, but if you wait a few seconds he’ll summon a friggin’ flesh goliath through the walls, and it will eat you. Jirit is most often seen in official capacity, preaching the glories of Elleida at the central altar of the great temple in Aux Azalia. When he attends these functions, he wears a pure white robe that he says he took himself from the corpse of an albino cave rhinoceros.

Traditional Haranji ornamentation takes the form of an amulet of Elleida. This amulet is usually made of ebony stone (of which there is much in the Wastes), and has a sacred symbol on it. The symbol of the Healer is a skull encircled by a ring of ribs, the symbol of the Raiser is two crossed bones raised over a skeletal hand, and the symbol of the Destroyer is a skeletal fist gripping a dagger. Jirit du-Kath’s ornamentation is slightly more complicated: his amulet is made of purest adamantine (a rarity, as most adamantine is an alloy with mithril to make it lighter), and from the rest of his necklace hang the skulls of rats. It’s unclear what the rat skulls symbolize.

Jirit is very vocal in his support of Arcen zul-Shaa. Secretly, he seethes at the fact that the Zantith are controlled by what he sees as a stupid warrior type. Jirit sees warriors as useful for front-line meat, but not much else. They certainly aren’t fit to lead. For this reason, Jirit has been secretly supporting Ugat ahn-Rhat for quite a long time. Ugat isn’t quite sure of where the secret donations and minions come from, but he’s sure as hell not complaining.

Chieftain Ugat ahn-Rhat Igiti is the current leader of the Igiti tribe. Ugat is contesting Arcen for leadership of the Zantith. In this he has the support of most of the necromantic tribes, who see Arcen as a pretender at necromancy: a warrior at heart. The Igiti tribe is one of the most necromantic tribes in all the Wastes. Every one of their number is adept first and foremost at magic of some sort. Ugat is adept at fire magic. This, plus the required amount of necromancy, leads to his enemies being hounded by burning skeletal assassins. Zantith politics are just like that.

The Igiti tribe hail from far to the west, in the foothills beyond the petrified forest. They are very far removed from quite a lot of Zantith culture, and as such they are kind of odd. Every Igiti mage has at least three skeletal minions. These minions wield Shak’zaa, an odd spearish weapon that consists of a spear’s shaft and an axe-like blade on both ends. Igiti ornamentation is just plain weird. They dress in the traditional black clothing, of course, but retain the headskin of whatever animal they killed to achieve it and use it as a hood. Their traditional staffs are long sticks of petrified wood with various creepy things hanging from them: skulls, bones, patches of mottled skin, locks of hair… all kinds of things. Where the Igiti excel in weirdness, however, is their tattoos: all Igiti are covered from head to toe in various images, in vivid color and detail, of traditional Zantith mythology. Ugat is no exception to all of these oddities. His hood is made of a wolf’s headskin, and his hanging from his staff are two skulls, several ribs, and the skin of his first victim. Upon his skin is depicted the legend of Ugat ur-Kaat Jarati, for whom he is named. Ugat is gaining considerable power, and is likely to attempt a takeover soon.

Alaran Races: Asilin

It was my twelfth day out from Dwargenheim when I first encountered the Asilin.

The mules set up a powerful braying, and Araullia went to calm them.  Sturgis and Thassin were fishing for a pack they had managed, somehow, to drop down a ravine.  The rest of the party was a ways back, hacking their way through a thick collection of bushes (how such life managed to grow in this wasteland, I do not know).  I myself had climbed the next peak, attempting to scout out our future path.

As I looked over the ridge, I beheld a macabre sight.  A wide-bowed, sail-less ship made of blackened wood was floating across the landscape in front of me.  On its side was emblazoned in blue paint a large, pupil-less eye with three lines coming out from beneath it, as well as several runes which I knew not the meaning of.  On deck scurried what appeared to be human skeletons, reanimated and set to work.  The ship scurried across the land on several sets of pole-like oars, making it look like some monstrous wooden spider, though by what means it was held aloft, I do not know, for the oars obviously could only propel it, not support it.  My heart clenched in horror as I saw that the oars were manned by manacled and enslaved humans.  One of the skeletons strode among the rows of slaves, whipping them seemingly at random.  It opened its mouth and emitted a high-pitched keening.  After a moment, I realized that it was laughing, a horrible imitation of mortal mirth.

The ship floated on, past me and on over the horizon.  I stood there, horrified, while the rest of the party of caught up.  I told them of my encounter, but only a scant few believed me.

-Excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot, famous dwarven explorer

This post is about the Asilin.  By the way, as you’ve probably noticed, I have a new way to start off posts: with an excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot.  I figure it adds depth to Alara.  It’s fancy.

The Asilin.  Few outside the Wastes know of them, and those that do would be shocked and terrified at the very idea of them.  Within the Wastes, they are a feared and respected source of power, and are indeed the most numerous population of the Wastes.  The Asilin are fierce, sentient reanimated human skeletons.

Asilin society is concentrated along the three major population centers (and major factions) of Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath.  These three cities are floating citadels of massive size.  The ability to make something float consistently is a magic designed by the Asilin necromagi.  The citadels are kept afloat through gigantic, enchanted crystals, often purple in color.  One of these crystals is placed in the exact center of the citadel, and is referred to as the Keystone.  Others are placed in the area surrounding the citadel to support the Keystone.  These other crystals are usually either hidden or kept well-defended, for if they were destroyed the Keystone would fail and the citadel would come crashing down.  Often there are many extra crystals as a failsafe.  Though the main population centers are Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath, many smaller citadels dot the landscape, all aligned to one of those three.

The floating technology is also used in the ships of the Asilin.  A small Keystone is used, and no other stones are necessary to support it.  This severely limits both the size of the ship and the height it can float off the ground, however.  Most ships of the Asilin can float, at most, twenty or thirty feet above ground level.  The magic of the necromagi does not provide a method of locomotion, however, and so the ships are propelled by slaves chained to oar-like poles.  The skeletons aboard the ship take care of all the other duties, which often amount to attacking other ships and defending theirs.  Asilin ships are very dangerous, as they’re mostly sent out on slave-taking missions, so if you see one, it can probably see you, too.

Asilin culture is death.  Every aspect of it revolves around death.  In the basement dungeons of the great citadels languish human slaves, occasionally taken out for some sort of manual labor but mostly left to rot until their twentieth birthday, at which point they are sacrificed in a blood ritual, the flesh flayed from their bones, and are reanimated as a full member of Asilin society.  As most slaves know nothing but slavery since birth, being animated as an Asilin is the highest honor, and any thought of revolt is completely unheard of.  Newly captured slaves are often attacked mentally by the necromagi, so as to weaken them into a state of submission.  This makes them stupider when they are reanimated, but their descendants are perfectly intelligent.  These rather dumb Asilin are referred to as “first-generation” Asilin, and are often treated as scum and forced to do manual labor with the slaves.  Occasionally, a captured slave will show absolute willingness to be reanimated as an Asilin.  These are treated as full members of Asilin society, and are not submitted to mental attack.

The origins of the Asilin are murky.  Everybody agrees that they are somehow the fault of the humans of Tugél Vas, but no one knows exactly how this came about.  Asilin legend tells of Zarathas, a non-sentient slave of the humans who manifested sentience, broke free, and heralded an entire race.  This is entirely unlikely.  The more likely version, and that told by the humans, is that some mad scientist attempted to create a sentient skeleton servant, succeeded, and things got out of hand.  The Asilin regard this as heresy.  All Asilin stick to the legend of Zarathas, although by what means he manifested sentience is contested.  Some think it was entirely random, some think it was an act of whatever god they choose to worship that day, and still other believe that it was due to some magical accident that occurred.  The true answer is unknown.  Asilin are often ranked in society by the number of resurrections they are away from Zarathas: those claiming to be resurrected directly by Zarathas are first-degree Zarathites, those resurrected by first-degree Zarathites are regarded to be second-degree Zarathites, and so on.  Past about five it stops mattering.  Most of Asilin society ignores this, but among nobles one’s degree is very important.  It is agreed upon, even by the humans, that some historical figure named Zarathas must have existed, because all this to-do about him couldn’t have just popped up out of nowhere.

The Asilin most commonly worship Elleida, Queen of the Undead, and White Aretha, for they believe greatly in death exactly when they plan it and when they want it.  Jurgan is often worshiped by soldiers, and the necromagi have a healthy respect for both Omora Agabai and Rudolphus.  Captains of the Asilin’s floating ships occasionally hold an odd reverence for Zaran.  Worship of Plaggan is entirely unheard of, as the Asilin never pass on.  If their skeletal bodies are destroyed, their spirits do dissipate, and they probably go to the exact same place mortals do, but for some reason the Asilin never think about that.

There are three major citadels, and factions, of Asilin.  The largest of these is Citadel Zarathas, named for the first Asilin.  Zarathas is the largest and most powerful of the Asilin factions.  When most people say “Asilin”, they are referring to those of Zarathas, and it is from Zarathas that the standard of Asilin culture springs.  Zarathas is power-hungry and dominitive, and if not for rival citadels they would have in all likelihood taken over all of the wastes by now.  Zarathas slave-takers roam all around the southern and central areas of the wastes.  The areas between Zarathas, Niathnu, and Gishnath are in constant warfare, and when a ship of Zarathas sees a rival one a battle always follows.  The symbol of Zarathas is a large, pupil-less eye with three lines extending below it in a splayed fashion, making it look rather as though it’s on a tripod.

Citadel Niathnu was the first group of Asilin to split from Zarathas.  Their main difference from Zarathas is one of religion: the Asilin of Niathnu follow the Elder Gods, the three sons that were precursors to Archus and his brood.  That two of these are dead and the other one is stuck holding up the continents seems immaterial to them.  The necromagi of Niathnu are currently researching ways to resurrect the two dead Elder Gods (good luck with that), and also a way to free the live one.  They have determined that the live Elder is split into seven avatars, one holding up each of the seven continents (it’s unknown how they reached this conclusion or if it’s even correct, as nobody else is sure how many continents there are).  The way to reunite this god is to find the avatars, take the large diamonds from the heads of each of them, and bring them all together.  This would require reaching the avatars.  Thus, a massive mining operation is currently occurring beneath Niathnu, as well as attempting to discover a way to reach the other continents.  They’re not having much luck.  The Asilin of Niathnu are also practiced in a technique they refer to as bonegrafting, where they take the bones of something dead and combine them with their own bones.  This has led to some interesting creations.  The symbol of Niathnu is a diamond with two dragon wings.

The last of the great Asilin citadels is Gishnath.  They have split off from Zarathas only recently, and for idealogical reasons.  The Asilin of Gishnath do not believe in repressing humans as their slaves, something the Asilin of Zarathas and Niathnu do every day.  Human society is fully blended in with Asilin society in Gishnath, and it is not uncommon, when wandering the streets of Gishnath, to see a group of humans and skeletons traveling together and acting entirely comfortable with one another.  Human young are raised by the entire city, and on their twentieth birthday are given the option to be converted into Asilin.  Those that opt out are given the chance again every five years afterwards.  Some never take it, and die as humans.  And that’s okay.  Gishnath society is entirely blended between humans and Asilin.  This relaxed stance has led toward a peaceful relationship to both the humans and dwarves who come north from the Civilized Lands, and with the Sand Dwarves of the Omarra Desert to the north.  Gishnath and all of its mini-citadels act as a trading post for both these races.  The symbol of Gishnath is a spear striking through a chain.

The last and smallest faction of the Asilin are a small group known as the Hundrites.  These rebel Asilin are devoted followers of Black Hundriss, and go around killing at random and resurrecting more followers every day.  This cult started recently and is growing at an alarming rate, something rather disturbing to about everybody else in the Wastes.  The Hundrites are unbiased in their selection of victims, and many Dwarves and Crows exist among their number.  The Hundrites ride giant, skeletal birds that live about the Wastes.

Important Asilin:

Lord Aegan the Mighty is the leader of Citadel Zarathas.  This is a position he has held for centuries, and although stories are murky, it is said that he defeated Zarathas himself to attain the position.  According to Aegan, Zarathas went mad in his later years, the oddity of nature that gifted him with sentience finally slacking off and leaving him a crazed shell of his former, noble self.  Eventually, Aegan, who was one of the first of those resurrected by Zarathas, defeated the mad Zarathas and claimed the title of Lord for himself.  Aegan is, obviously, a first-degree Zarathite, one of those resurrected by Zarathas himself.

Aegan is a fearsome fighter, and those who face him in battle rarely live to tell the tale.  He fights with a massive Halberd, and, as his strength has been magically enhanced by his cohort of necromagi, he fights with it quite well.  In battle he can often be seen wading into the middle of an enemy contingent and swinging his weapon around and around for minutes until everything near him is dead.  Aegan most often wears black leather armor that allows for movement while providing some protection, and a black cloak with the symbol of Zarathas in blue emblazoned upon it.  Aegan is fond of going out on crusades against whatever enemy he wants, and often does so on his own personal ship, the Dracthan.  He has his own personal contingent of slaves that he prefers to man his pole-oars, and brings along a hand-picked group of soldiers.  Aegan, while he pays the mandatory tribute to Elleida and White Aretha, is at heart a devotee of Jurgan.  He has been known to skin his enemies after a battle and ride home with a cape of hides flying along behind his ship.

Lord Garath the Cruel is the Lord of Citadel Niathnu, as well as its founder.  He is a first-degree Zarathite, and was one of Zarathas’ most fanatic followers.  He practiced his worship of the Elder Gods in private, and his beliefs were known and tolerated by Zarathas.  After Aegan took power, Garath took his group of followers and split off from Citadel Zarathas, though it pained him to do so.  Garath is completely in opposition of Aegan, who is a heartfelt follower of what Garath terms the “young pantheon”.  Garath believes that it was through the wisdom of the Elder Gods that Zarathas was gifted with sentience, and it was through the interference of the jealous younglings that Zarathas’ madness struck.  Thus, Garath has devoted all his power and that of his people to restoring the Elder Gods to power.

Garath is, while a fearsome warrior, first and foremost a necromagi.  In battle he wields a massive sword, set afire by his magic.  He has been known to gesture at Zarathas contingents and have them fall entirely to pieces (literally) simply by the movements of his hand.  Garath is one scary motherfucker.  He is an avid bonegrafter, and is currently in possession of a pair of curling ram’s horns on his forehead and the skeletal wings of a young dragon erupting from his back, which somehow give him the power of flight despite not having skin on them anymore.  Magic.  Garath has also bonegrafted several fangs into his mouth, making him even fiercer than he was previously.

Garath most commonly wears a suit of full plate armor, colored absolutely, color-sucking black.  The exception to this all-blackness is the necklace he wears around his neck, which consists entirely of fragments of bone collected from slain Zarathas Asilin.  There are so many of these that at this point each bone fragment is little larger than a speck of sand, and the whole necklace just looks like one continuous stream of white.

Lord Ihirin the Just is the Lord and founder of Citadel Gishnath.  He is a believer in the forces of good and law, and it was through his interference that all of Gishnath came about, along with all its weird human inclusiveness.  Ihirin is the only one of the three citadel lords that is not a first-degree Zarathite, but a second.  Indeed, there aren’t any first-degree Zarathites in all of Gishnath, as first-degree Zarathites have far too much of a hatred for humanity to condone Gishnath’s philosophy.  Ihirin split off from Zarathas several centuries after the rise of Aegan and the split of Niathnu.  The story goes that Ihirin was captaining a slave-taking ship of Zarathas, when they were attacked by a group of Niathnu slave-takers.  The battle raged, and toward the end, a human slave jumped in front of Ihirin to save him from a mace blow that would have shattered his bones and destroyed him completely.  This sacrifice compelled Ihirin to seek a greater human equality in Zarathas.  Aegan would have none of it, of course, so Ihirin split off.  And Gishnath happened.

Ihirin does not go into battle very often, but when he does he uses a rapier.  Which seems stupid, considering most of the time he’s fighting skeletons, but he somehow makes it work.  He knows all the points at which the bones are connected and held together by necromantic magic, and he pokes those points forcefully to make his enemies fall apart.  This is rather surprising to his enemies quite a lot of the time.  Ihirin wears stately black robes with a blue and purple pattern swirled throughout.

Lord Aldric the Blackened is the leader of the Hundrites.  It is unknown what degree of Zarathite he is, indeed, most of his past is completely murky.  All that is known about him is that his bones are completely black (a contrast to the bleached white of all other Asilin) and he’s completely batshit insane.  No one knows why his bone are black.  To emphasize this oddity, he rides into battle naked, fighting with two massive maces.  He kills like a madman, and is feared by everyone, even his own followers.  Don’t cross Aldric, or he’ll kill you, mash you to a pulp, and use your remains to nourish his garden.  Yes, he has a garden.  A garden of blood.