Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Near-Neth Experiences

Around the 3-walled, 4-districted city of Neth, home of the eastern caliphate of Saresare, there are some places of note.
Image and concept altered from default Nightmares Underneath

Firstly, from the spring and underground aquifer of Neth's mountain, there flow from the city the Twin Streams. Many small villages follow these streams, and for the most part are unremarkable sleepy goat herding villages. The streams eventually lead to Alnarij and Akbarang, renamed for their princes, which are a few days ride apart and are governed by jealous princes in constant dispute over water.

Alnarij is known for its impressive orchards, peaceful lands, marble quarries, and allegedly beautiful women. Their 'Prince of Flowers' is also regarded as weak in battle but wily in mercantilism and so more often favored by the Sultan of Neth. Higher-class political criminals chased out of Geth sometimes seek refuge in the loosely-policed lands of Alnarij if Neth itself seems too high profile, and if such things get out of control Akbarang usually assists in hunting down these escaped nobles and whatever support they rustle up. In terms of Nightmares Underneath Alignment, institutions in Alnarij tend to be Chaotic.

Akbarang is known for its disciplined and wide ranging oasis guard, merciless persecution of banditry, and voracious appetite for military conscription. Their 'Steel Prince' is regarded as a bold and courageous in battle and poetry alike, but draconian policies lead to constant unrest among the populace and there are a great many seditious revolutionaries lurking in the area, coming in and out with the many trading caravans from the sea. Akbarang is a fortified city and is the first real line of defense against serious invasions from across the lost bay. Institutions in Akbarang tend to be Evil due to the city's identity being defined by its enemies, within and without, and either Chaotic if they are revolutionary, or Lawful if they are part of the establishment.

The Road of the Warring Fish is not a paved road, simply a well-worn path through the dry lands of Saresare to the Lost Bay that nearly half of all Neth-bound caravans travel. Banditry is not uncommon in times of peace, but in wartime there are too many armies traveling via the road for any but the boldest bandits to try their luck.

To the northeast of Neth, there is a winding road that goes through several mountain passes. Stone pillars line this road, and gloomy Vulch often perch atop them, patiently waiting for disaster to befall travelers.As for the human inhabitants, mountain villages tend to be off the beaten path, and they do not advertise their presence. The Vulch nest in ancient ruins atop Mount Nasir, which are said to contain fabulous ancient treasures but probably contain nothing but the gnawed bones of fools and the sighs of the Vulch.

But past this bandit (and at times, monster) infested path, there is the town of Simurk, where nomads, silk wizards, and yet stranger things all clamor and trade in a mining town that has surpassed Neth in terms of raw ore production, though Neth's gemstone mines remain unparalleled.  From here, there are two more paths- one high into the mountains, and one into the dark Moonland deserts. Simurk has no prevailing institution alignment tendency.

On a high mountain plateau is the unfortunate Lenghul Monastery, which alternates between Silk Wizard library, bandit fortress, Lotus-Eater dervish cult, Nightmare incursion, military outpost, and moon-haunted ruin as often as the wind changes. It has been sacked and razed to the ground multiple times, but inevitably is reconstructed again and again.

The last major settlement to the east is Nightsand, a vast collection of tents around an oasis that despite the fragile construction of the buildings, has proved a stable settlement. Lamp oil burns in the eternal night and astronomers study the passing moons as laborers harvest crops from the banks of the central oasis, which is large, dark, still, and deep, and referred to as 'The Pool of Night'.

Most of these towns are often menaced by nightmare incursions and must petition Neth to deploy hapless adventurers from the Halls of Charity, but do not have official institutions to reward those adventurers, meaning most nightmare adventurers prefer to remain situated in Neth when possible.

As for Neth Itself...
Add caption
 Neth is a central mountain, upon which the palace of the sultan and the unknown palace rest, and at the base of which miners dig for gemstones.
Around the mountain is the Wall of Iron, a delicate looking lattice that separates the 1st district of the nobles from the hoi polloi, though the miners traverse through every day for work and may marvel at many sights seen dimly from their pit, which breeds some jealousy but for the most part means that Nethian gemstone miners are some of the most cultured and informed miners to be found in all the lands. There are relatively few structures in the 1st district- the highest Temple-Court to the Law in Neth, the Vault of Neth, which is the palace's treasury and a bank that doesn't deal in anything less valuable than gold and thieves idly dream about robbing, and the Embassy, which is practically a castle unto itself with all the hosted ambassadors of various nomad tribes, western barbarian princes, and other VIPs, to say nothing of the infrastructure required to entertain all those high-upkeep people. Residing here requires more than mere money.

Past that is the 2nd district, which is behind a stone wall adorned with the bodies of hung thieves, who hang for a few days and then are thrown out to the vulch in the 4th district. Fortified and wealthy, this is where successful craftsmen. merchants, and other specialists reside. An immediately notable building are the Halls of Charity, where dozens of legal and spiritual disputes are had every day, foreign barbarians and layabouts are assigned jobs to help them become faithful and lawful citizens of Neth (and adventurers are set out as bounty hunters against criminals and nightmare incursions alike). There is also the Hexacombs, a great cathedral/prison/vault where priests of the Law entombed the old gods, the new heretics, and recovered Nightmare Anchors, and now stand guard over this container of all things unseemly in the eyes of the Law. Living in this district requires 200 coins per month, but it is secure and full of business opportunities.

The 3rd district is behind an impressive wooden palisade wall, and the guards are bribed to direct newcomers to The Stallion Inn, which houses anyone for just 20 coins a month and is full of interesting characters like visiting merchants, nomads, adventurers, and so on. The 3rd district is full of laborers, layabouts, discount flea markets, and thieves, but the very fact that they reside IN the city gives these lower-class citizens airs of superiority and attempts at refined behavior, as opposed to the gormless worms that inhabit

The 4th District. Outside the walls of the city are ruined slums inhabited by scavenging Vulch who preach their detached philosophy to those able to bear the presence of the corpse-eating birdmen, nomad tents of wanderers too poor or too savage to be allowed inside the walls, endless hordes of lepers, beggars, and thugs, and the Twin Streams emerging from the springs and wells and aqueducts of the inner city to water the penniless hordes of Neth. Notable areas include the Grave Trees, a copse of huge, dead, hollow trees where the dead are stashed to avoid the light of Skull. Finally there are the Mound Men, a subculture of vagrants who rather than ever rise above their poverty, burrowed below it, becoming a subterranean culture living within mounds of trash and dunes of sand and by simple virtue of having some security in the lawless 4th district, became the most influential faction within it. Living within the 4th district costs a mere 2 coins per month, but will likely be as adventurous, if not moreso, than any wilderness travel.

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