The White City - The North - The South - The East - The West
The main focus of the setting is the White City. The White City is an independent city-state and the most prosperous in the region. It is ruled by a nominal Governess, Her Eminence Rebecca de Courci, whose chief talent has been to weld the bickering noble Families, guilds, temples and of course dangerous mobs of lunatics with swords (who apparently prefer to be called "adventurers") into a coherent unit. The city lives up to its name being as it is carved out of fine white stone (for the most part, most of the outlying buildings depart from this pattern but since only the plebs live there it hardly counts). Being conveniently situated along a major river and at the centre of a large number of trade routes between other city-states the White City is a terribly cosmopolitan place, and full of terribly interesting people from terribly far away who very often seem to need terribly dangerous things done by people who are either terribly brave or terribly stupid. This, by default, is where PCs are assumed to be living at the start of play. Note that there are no horses in the White City (there are sturdy ponies used as pack and draught animals, but these are entirely unsuited to being ridden) - almost all travel is done on foot or by water.
The White City, although basically a republic, is still packed with Old Families. The De Courcis are naturally pre-eminent at the moment but since their major skill is social brinkmanship they don't play a terribly active role in the cut-throat business of politics. Notable players on the stage of the White City include the De Almedias (merchants with a lucrative steelsilk route to the west) the Velasquez (widely considered dodgy, tend to dabble in Sorcery) and the Cristoforis (more merchants, have a nice little trade route going east). These Families and others tend to pass their days in a mixture of idle self indulgence, casual assassination attempts and internecine bickering. Many of their more notable members are mentioned here.
Instrumental in the founding of the White City was the Exalted Church of the Light, whose headquarters are to be found in the very centre of the city, just across the square from the Governess' mansion. Occupying a position of some respect but less grandeur is the Temple of Ashes in the south of the city. Although all respect the Priests of the Burned Lords they are not exactly popular, they enjoy the faintly untouchable status which is shared by so many who deal with the trappings of mortality. The third major religious institute in the city is really not one, the Cloistered Brethren of Chains are not priests in the usual sense of the word and they view their duties as very real and very physical. Most other religions have a presence in the city, although they are often seen as backward or unduly romantic. Vitriarch worship is strictly forbidden. Many other Powers and deities have shrines and cults within the city, a selection of the better known ones can be found here.
Innumerable guilds vie for influence within the city, and numerous merchants ply their trade in the city's markets. Important secular and ignoble institutions include the Guild of Free Traders, the College of the Thousand Arts, the High Guard and Low Guard, King Eric's Men and the Embassies of the other city-states.
Some days travel to the north, south, east and west of the White City are the Watchtowers. These are kept garrisoned by the High and Low Guard and by soldiers supplied by the Temples and the noble Families. The White City is currently at peace, but none would even suggest leaving the Watchtowers unguarded.
To the north of the White City lie mountains and, according to some, dreams. There is little trade with the north, since it is a harsh land and sparsely populated. Three Rivers flow together from the north to form the Great River on which the White City is built, and the only city of any note in the North lies on one of these Rivers, which is a mixed blessing since the waters of the northern Rivers are said to have strange properties.
The Whistful City is the only large city in the northern mountains, and it has scarcely a thousand residents. It lies on the western bank of the River of Whispers (the central river, flowing from the Peak of Hope) and seems to deal predominantly in mysticism. Poets, seers and madmen are the biggest exports of the Whistful City, and also its biggest imports, since it is mostly those of a... shall we say... impractical bent that take the journey upriver to visit the City. It is by all accounts a marvellous place if you are interested in such things. Low timber buildings painted with murals of dream and nightmare line streets filled with quiet citizens and, by the River, a noticeable whisper in the air.
Where the River of Whispers meets the River of Shadows and the River of Echoes to form the Great River there is a palace which seems to have grown out of the living rock. It is this palace (along with the lack of useful exports) which can be blamed for the lack of river trade with the Whistful City. Until recently it was inhabited by a necromancer of mythic power whose armies terrorised the entire region. Since his demise the palace has been reinhabited by a mysterious dream sorceress and her manservant. Their powers and purposes remain unknown, but with the trade routes to the Whistful City and the paths into Dream in their hands, it is sure that the world will soon be taking an interest in them.
There's no bridge there now, of course, but there was a battle fought here a hundred years ago against something that came out of the North. The general assumption is that it was an army of the undead, but other rumours say that it was something far darker, and far stranger.
The Three Rivers flow from the Three Peaks, called Memory, Hope and Regret. Memory is the furthest East, Hope is the central peak and the western foothills of Regret almost brush the Great Forest. Echoes is the Easternmost river, Whispers the central and Shadows the Westernmost. Periodically expeditions will set off to discover the secrets of these mountains, which are said to include the key to your heart's desire, the secret of eternal youth, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice and indeed even the dreams of avarice themselves. Most return empty handed, some disappear. Some few come back claiming to have succeeded, but curiously unable to explain the form their success took.
To the south lie the Garden Lands. Pleasant verdant farming communities ply their trades largely unmolested. Trade with the south is bountiful, food is plentiful and aside from the Broken Garden, everything in the area is lovely. To the extreme south, at the mouth of the Great River, sits the somewhat less lovely Port of Glass and Flame.
Notable for its sea trade with places heard of only in tales, and for its Navy which dominates the shoreline of the South. The Port of Glass was once a wealthy city, but successive revolutions and coups have turned the city into a disaster zone, with great districts of the city consumed by fire. Since the retaking of the Port, Duke Karl Artois has begun reconstruction of his ancestral home, but his efforts are hindered by the presence of White City interests and the lurking presence of Belorite Cults still within the city. Vitriarch worship is common in the Port, and the cult of the King in Fragments is a major political power in the city.
A newly discovered island in the Mirror Sea, beyond the Breathing Isles. Controlled by the D'Artois family of the Port, it is scarcely populated now that they have retaken their home. It is said to contain many wonders including cities of glass and vast libraries of ancient, forbidden knoweldge. Fishermen's tales claim that that the Isle is protected by a number of strange guardians, apparently constructed by its sorcerous occupants.
The site of the last battle between the White City and the Port of Glass, some forty-three years ago. The anniversary of the Battle of Grey Ford is traditionally celebrated in the White City with a day of peace, contemplation and heavy drinking.
For their help in defeating the Army of the Red Gryphon, the Eastern tribes were granted a gift of White City-controlled land just outside the Watchtowers to the south-east of the city. There are all sorts of dark rumours about the new settlements here, as there usually are when a group of knife-wielding savages set up shop on the doorstep of the established order. Trade and communication with those of the Tribes who remained in the East are supposedly frequest.
Having awoken the Scorpion King, Tribe Nge has left, resuming nomadic ways. The Hung Boar tribe and Tribe Eagle have divided Nge land between them. Neither tribe particularly want to lay claim to the area in which the arena stands, and so it currently remains deserted.
An attack from The Hung Boar has left Tribe Jaguar split, some moving back east, some going back to Jaguar territory in the New Tribals. Their leadership is currently in flux.
Other, smaller tribes in the New Tribals have begun to seek ways of expanding their land.
A haven for pirates and, according to some scholars, the home of at least one Prince of the Breath. This storm-wracked island is often a place of pilgrimage for Wind Sorcerers, who speak of storms that rain tears and winds that blow like song. Many also believe there to be riches to be had on the island, certainly the pirates who live there seem wealthier than mere raids on coastal towns would suggest.
Three beautiful areas of carefully tended wilderness in the midst of the Garden Lands. These were created by the Bodach, territorial bird-men who guard them fiercely and who once served the Burned Lord known as the Lord of the Gardens. Following the Breaking of the Third Garden, the Bodach become even more insular and protective, either honouring the Lord of Grey Roses or forever mourning the Lord of the Gardens. Two of the Gardens are as they once were, but one has become corrupted into...
The Broken Garden was once one of the Three Gardens created by the Bodach, before it was recently blighted by an unpleasant succession of Blood, Ash and Glass sorcery. Following the destruction of the Lord of the Gardens, many of the Bodach were stricken instantly insane. Now it is a terrible, broken wasteland of madness, reflections, and vitrification. Scholars tentatively suggest that the area is probably now sacred to the Broken Gardener.
After the arrival of the Necromancer in the Garden small patches of it were slowly becoming cultivated, after a fashion, although much of it still remains untamed. Towards the centre of the Garden one encounters a maze of red roses. It is still rumoured to filled with undead and statues of living glass, who tend to the roses, as well as all manner of other horror.
From the very heart of the maze rises a Great Oak, visible from anywhere in the Garden. This great tree, the product of a vast Blood ritual, is believed to be slowly restoring the natural order to the Garden, but it could be decades before the health of the land is fully restored.
To the east lie the plains, the City of Crossroads, and ultimately other Kingdoms of which little need be said here since they are distant in the extreme. It is to the East that the Cloistered Brethren of Chains look most strongly for signs of the return of the Bound Ones.
"The City of Crossroads rivals the White City for the strength of its trading empire, since it dominates trade with the distant Eastern Kingdoms. The City of Crossroads is a civilised place, modelled after a similar structure to the White City, but it is younger, having arisen as a trading post some three hundred years ago. Recently it was rocked by a civil war precipitated by Light fanatics. It is now ruled by a Merchant-Governor called Gerran Bellart, who is advised by a Council of nobles, merchants, mafiosos and a representative of the Cloistered Brethren of Chains. The Cloistered Brethren have a large presence in the city, and they have been using their influence to limit the political power of all the temples in the city. In particular, the Light has no Church in the city, and is widely distrusted despite the charitable work its followers have been doing. The caravan routes to the East and the West have been re-opened, and business is returning to the city as before. The city features an institution of learning known as the Burned College. It's so named because the Light fanatics burnt the old Invisible College, and many of its members."
Nearly a thousand years ago, when the White City was founded, a war was fought against those things which we now call the Bound Ones. Armies fell against them, the mightiest Sorcerers of the age were all but powerless. In the end it fell to the Exalted Church of the Light and the new-born Cloistered Brethren of Chains to force the things back whence they came. Between the White City and the ruins of the City of Chains there are three Battlefields, where key battles in the Binding War were fought. Each of these places was twisted and broken by the events that took place there, and each of them has bound beneath it some being of intense and ancient power. The Cloistered Brethren of Chains watch these places closely.
All in ruins now, the City of Chains was finally destroyed at the climax of the Binding War, its stones were cracked, its walls cast down and its towers made as dust. Only the traces of the walls remain on the surface, but underground many speculate that the city remains much as it ever was. Many, particularly those who have forgotten the full nature of the City of Chains, speculate that riches and wonders untold could be found just beneath the surface.
In recent years there have been stirrings within the ruins and the Cloistered Brethren have established a makeshift cordon of observation posts around the city.
The plains in the East are riddled with tunnels, many of which are home to troglodytes. The largest tunnel system is actually a ruined city, dating from before the Binding War and buried in a mighty earthquake. It is here that Streng, King of the Troglodytes, sits on The Throne of Streng. Every few hundred years another tremor hits the city. If this tremor uncovers any stone with the word "Streng" on ("city" in the Oldest Tongues), that stone is declared The Stone of Streng. The trogs then erupt into violent inter-gender warfare, as whichever gender controls the Throne of Streng when the Stone of Streng disappears becomes the new rulers of trog society.
The Thirteen Tribes are a group of tribal societies that live on the Eastern Plains and on the edges of the Waste of the Rose. Once plagued by infighting and petty warfare, the savages of the Eastern Tribes were decimated by the Army of the Red Gryphon, reducing their numbers. The formerly dissident tribes were then united by one of their number - Kisu of the Nge, and a number of brave warriors bearing gifts of steel weapons from the White City.
The united Tribes fought in the Battle for the White City, and was granted lands to the south-east of the White City. Many chose to return to the east, but a large number of settlers remained, building on lands not too distant from the Watchtowers. Then came a series of gladiatoral combats, which were actually a massive Blood ritual run by the Nge and Tribe Jaguar, that culminated in the birth of Nge, The Scorpion King, steed to Karan Al Mejir. Since the birth the Nge and some of their allies have disappeared, and many suppose a war to be coming. Thanks to the efforts of a party led by Henry De Courci, it appears that an alliance of Tribes Eagle, Grey Dragon, Glittering Eye and Hung Boar would be willing to fight against the Nge, Raven and Jaguar if such a war did arise.
A certain amount is known about some of the Tribes, namely:
Tribe Scorpion (The Nge) - Led by Kisu himself, the Nge are a tribe of ambidextrous warriors and shamans. The Nge were once all but wiped out by the Red Gryphon, but have been rebuilt using freed slaves and mercenaries. Their totem is the Scorpion, and many of their warriors use scorpion venom on their blades. The Nge dwelt almost exclusively in the New Tribals, to the south-east of the White City, however since the birth most of the Nge have disappeared. No-one is entirely sure where they have gone.
Tribe Eagle - Fiercly matriarchal, comprising mainly hunters and archers. Their totems are the eagle, and the bright star of The Huntress. They have a long history of feuding with Tribe Jaguar. Note: These are not the same Eagles as the Northern mountain tribe of the same name.
The Hung Boar Tribe - One of the largest tribes, and one of the most prosperous farmers and herders in the New Tribals. Their totem is an ancient collection of teeth and skulls, worshipping their ancestors. They are loud, proud and fond of fighting. They despise weakness.
The Cold Water Tribe - One of the smallest tribe, known as mediators and organisers of inter-tribal agreements. Dislike lies and trickery (and thus the Dry Sands tribe in particular), and hate being reminded how weak they are.
The Dry Sands Tribe - Known as being a particularly devious tribe, fond of trickery. Dislike the Cold Water.
Tribe Raven - Former worshippers of the Eater of Wings and masters of training slaves, Tribe Raven are respected among the tribes as merchants.
The Glittering Eye Tribe - Enigmatic mystics, known for their love of portents and signs.
The Grey Dragon Tribe - Isolationist and xenophobic, the Grey Dragon are a tribe of fiercly territorial serpentmen. They devoutly worship a being they simply call the Great Dragon, and have a particular interest in Wind Magic. They respect piety.
Tribe Jaguar - Highly matriarchal allies of the Nge, led by female Blood sorcerors.
The Thirteenth Tribe (The N'Cora) - A small tribe who were long kept secret by the other tribes due to their terrible curse. The tribe was home to a Shard of the King in Fragments, who possessed any tribesman who reached 50 years old and lived off their regrets. This curse was ended by a party led by Selena Curiana, who slaughtered most of the warriors of the tribe and took the Shard for herself.
Merchants from the City of Crossroads talk of the mighty three month caravan route that leads to the Eastern Kingdoms. It passes first through the lands of the Twelve Tribes, and then moves north as it skirts a great desert, the Waste of Rose. The caravan route avoiding the whole area and eventually curves back south to the coastline at the Port of Sands, last remaining city of the devastated kingdom.
This desolate area is said to have once been the nearest of the Eastern Kingdoms, until the Rose Princess of the East destroyed it for reasons unknown. Few attempt to pass into it, and those that do return driven insane by the heat, telling tales of desiccated corpses rising from the sands to consume those who trespass on their ancient lands. In the middle of the Waste there is said to be an oasis, in the center of which is an island covered in red roses, inhabited by a woman who never leaves.
The Port of Sands is a cosmopolitan crossing place popular with merchants and mercenaries. Mercenaries are ubiquitous in the East, where the Kingdoms and Dukedoms continually jostle for power amongst each other- open warfare between Kingdoms is rare, open warfare between Dukedoms allied to different Kingdoms is common... Westerners have not yet been allowed beyond the Port of Sands.
The lands beyond the Port of Sands are highly conservative tyrannies, ruled by nobles that largely ignore the gods and practice magic purely in its unordained 'Adept' form. The closest Kingdom is that which has been ruled for a thousand years by the King Who Waits from the City of Lights, who employs a force of unordained Chain and Ash sorcerors. To the south east is the kingdom ruled from the City of Ash and Iron by the Name sorceror known as the Unnamed King, Emperor of the New World. Finally, to the north east lies the matriarchal Verdant City ruled by the Crimson Queen, the only kingdom where it is 'done' for nobles to practice Blood magic. Of these, the White City only has formal relations with the Verdant City, however the City of Lights has an unofficial embassy in the White City run by Nerino Velasquez and the Cloistered Brethren of Chains.
In between the great Kingdoms are a large number of Dukedoms. The Dukedoms are fragmented, and constantly vie for power. Some of the Dukedoms have close political and cultural ties to their Kingdoms, whilst others are more independent and even plan to form their own Kingdoms one day. Whilst they are famous for constant wars and skirmishes, they also engage in a lot of diplomacy and ever-shifting alliances. A lot of the peace settlements and diplomatic talks are arranged by the Shengzi, a nomadic tribe of diplomats and merchants ruled by secretive female Dream sorcerors.
Reports suggest there are five Eastern Dragons, children of the Mother of all Serpents and an unidentified Burned Lord. These Eastern Dragons are regarded as a major threat by the rules of the Kingdoms and Dukedoms, as they often take the side of the common people against the oppressive governments. Three of the Eastern Dragons have become known in the White City- Matahadraes, Herald of the Morning, who is concerned with birth and has incredibly hard to kill serpentment; Palistrata, Bride of Evening, who's touch brings old age; and Rashamaya, Voice of Midnight, who is sly & manipulative and concerned with death & the dead. It is not known whether the being worshipped by the Grey Dragon Tribe is one of the Eastern Dragons or something else entirely.
To the west of the White City is a vast and dense Forest. Scholars speculate wildly about its possible denizens, from unknown flora and fauna to the possibility that the Old Powers have retreated to its murky depths. Numerous villages lie on the outskirts of the Forest, combining farming of the outlying grasslands with hunting further into the Forest. Most of those who dwell in or near the Forest worship the Old Powers in some form or another, it's quite clearly their turf and it pays to show them some respect. The Silken River (a tributary to the Great River) runs through the Forest, and it is down this river that the steelsilk from the City of Silk is brought.
In recent months, word has come from the City of Silk that there is some sort of sickness in the Western Forest. Throughout great patches of the forest one can travel for days without hearing a noise from the wildlife, and rangers report finding animals of all description lying comatose and twitching upon the forest floor. Darker rumours speak of madness amongst the 'civilised' weaver tribes and of Children of the Vine who wander aimlessly, lacking the drive to eat or drink.
The primary trading city in the Great Forest, the City of Silk has made wonderful use of what most human travellers in those parts would consider a hazard. They have taken to farming the Forest's abundant spider population and harvesting the silk to be woven into materials of the most remarkable characteristics. The city itself is a little odd, since its buildings exist on two levels: the humans primarily live on the ground, and the Weaver city has been built around the trees, rather than out of them. The ruler of the city is an elderly Sorcerer-Priestess of the Old Powers known as Queen Marianna Mor.
For example, an explorer returned some time ago with a tale of a great spire of earth, more than a hundred feet high, crawling with insects of every description. He claims to have observed this spire for some days and to have seen men walk up to its base and then dissolve into a cloud of buzzing flies. Furthermore he claims to have seen them go the other way, a swarm of insects coalescing into human form. Following repeated encounters with the phenomenon, referred to as "the Swarm", diplomatic relations have been opened and an ambassador has apparently been sent from the White City, though little news of his progress has been heard.
Some old tales tell of a mysterious place called the Heart of the Forest, and some new ones claim that it was here that the Black Fire dwelt until it was driven forth by Teresa De Courci and Adi. Others speak of something called the Seat of Thorns, though none seem to know exactly where or what this might be.
Certain maps show a city in the north-west, at the foot of the Northern Mountains, where it is rumoured Barameus the God-King, one of the Western Dragons, has his lair. Those who claim to have been there speak of strange, twisted architecture, and a race of silent lizard-like people who worship Barameus as a God.
Redbridge was once a village co-inhabited by humans and vinechildren, guarded by a priestess of the Lady of Blood and Wine called Belladonna. The region produced the finest wine in the Great Forest, until Belladonna was turned into a Crystal Vessel for a Vitriarch and Redbridge was corrupted by Glass sorcery. The taint of Glass was finally removed by the sacrifice of Captain "Ripper" Bill McKenzie, and Ulf became the new guardian of Redbridge. It is now a hunting ground dedicated to the Lord and Lady of the Pack, and trades mainly in furs. On a cairn in the centre of the river that runs through Redbridge there is a shrine to the Lord of Blood-fury, containing the still-bleeding hand of "Ripper" Bill.
Not one tenth, nay not one half of one tenth of the Great Forest has been truly explored. Wonders are brought out of the Forest every day, and many merchants, scholars and bored dilettantes are looking for a piece of the action. About half the things that are discovered in the forest are pointless or of purely academic interest, of what remains about a quarter are interesting diversions, a quarter remarkably useful or significant and about half monumentally dangerous. Of course, some are all four.
Following several daring missions, a settlement was established on the far side of the Great Forest, known as Belor's Folly. As the town expanded, it came into conflict with the Empire of Unbound- an empire of Name sorcerors in the Far West. However it appears the Empire is not all-powerful, and the attacks have ceased. Recently, contact has been made with villages who claim to know of an independent trading city in the South. The Mayor of Belor's Folly is rumoured to have sought an alliance with the Empire of the Unbound, making both the White City and City of Silk uncomfortable with him as ruler- the City of Silk in particular seeks to remove him and bring the Folly under the rule of the Mors.
The White City - The North - The South - The East - The West
This page last updated: 11th February 2007
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