Monday, February 23, 2015

Lands of Pergerron: The City of Ambashan on the Silver Coast

The Silver Coast: The City of Ambashan


Ruled by the half-elf Lord Dathain Kalumses latest regent of his royal line, Ambashan is a client state of Haggain, though in all other respects Kalumses is seen as a king by local standards. Ambashan maintains a great deal of autonomy, and is even relied on by Haggain’s King Kataelroth to enforce control of the Silver Coast northward through the region of Caruum; in this regard, as Ambashan is a client state of Haggain, so then is Caruum a client-state of Ambashan.

Ambushan is a powerful city-state in its own right, with a local population of nearly 20,000 it is second only to Haggain in size (which is itself nearly 40,000 in population). It has an ethnic center of high elves who are descended from the old Ihanefir houses, who now call themselves the Sindanyir (elvish for Elves of the Silver). While elves have remained a minority population in most cities, the royal line of Dathain Kalumses was intermixed with elven blood some time ago; Kalumses himself is a century old due to his half-elven nature. This has also had the side effect of making elves and half-elves a significant minority in Ambushan.

As a coastal port Ambushan fares well, receiving ships year-round from far and wide. Local fish markets propagate like wild along the docks, and the city seems to thrive on seafood and shellfish as a staple. Ambushan is known for its exotic dyes used in clothing, which are culled from the local mussels and clams. Inland the farmable terrain is prosperous, and the entire coast is a series of graded tiers along the low hills, covered in wheat product, tubers, grapes and various nuts. Ambashan’s greatest export is its comestibles.

Physically the city of Ambashan is an architectural marvel for the Anansic people who colonized the region; it is a marvel of design for its age. Some of the buildings of Ambashan are much, much older than many suspect, however. The city itself was built on the ruins of an older elvish city called Fyrutheil, once the southern Capitol of the old Saric province. Fyruthiel, according to historical tablets from the era, was prosperous until roughly year 50 of the Rule of Man, when the old ruling elven houses agreed to migrate to the Ihanefir Mountains as they followed their leader of that era, Coriathis. It is said an ancient Coriathis still rules those houses in the subterranean realm of Caeoloth beneath the mountains.

When the city was annexed by the Dreaming Empire a dozen elven houses swore fealty to the Emperor Sakan’Dazar, and were allowed to remain. The fascination for elves among the men of the old empire was such that the earliest product of elven and human union started in that era, and the city itself was largely kept intact, the men of that age greatly admiring the elvish architecture. It wasn’t until the year 415, which marked the end of the empire and the rise of the Anansic conquerors in the region, that the city fell. The men of Anansis were not as fond of elves, but they recognized that the Sindanyir houses had bred with the local men and were quick to swear fealty to the Anansic warlord Katum-Harran who claimed the city as his own. For this reason they were spared.

In the subsequent five centuries the elvish houses have learned to live with the Anansic invaders, and those humans are regarded even today as “invaders” by the elves though they make such comments only among their own. The population of Ambashan is now a strong mix of the old imperial bloodlines that did not retreat to Thassar, the Saganyir elves, the half-elven descended bloodlines and the pureblood Anansic clans. It is possible this could have been a volatile mix if not for one quirk of the historical tale: when Katum-Harran invaded the city, he took an elven wife named Siona for his bride. All of Harran’s lineage up to the present lord Kalumses are half-elven as a result, and it was established as tradition that the regent of the city must take a half-elven or pure elven wife (or husband).

Five centuries after conquering Ambashan Lord Harran is long dead, his great memorial and tomb in the center of the city. His wife Siona lives on, though she is said to have retreated to the Island of Menhapur in the Shanhavael Isles, where she remains isolated with a select number of her elven kin and a contingent of Ambashani soldiers who are stationed at the keep on the island. Her descendants have made it a tradition to visit her on occasion for advice, and curiosly she is known now as the Oracle of Abia, and is believed to receive visions and portents of the future from the Enkanneth goddess.

Invasion of the Beast Cults

In the city of Ambashan a plague of the beast cults has risen. The Beast Cults of Hadumari are usually found far to the north, but an enclave has infiltrated the region, for two purposes: first, the cult seeks to set up a base for trade in the region with other beast cults located in Mesutin to the south. Second, the cult lord, a Jackalwere priest named Savache, has discovered an ancient map indicating that there was once a strong temple and cult to the Enkanneth god Skuurn in the region, a cult which was given great prominence in the old days of the Dreaming Empire. He has taken a contingent of true believers, including human, jackalwere, gnoll and minotaur priests and infiltrated the old catacombs and tunnels beneath the city (which were built long ago in the era of the Empire of Sar) and now seeks to find this temple. Meanwhile, the bloodlust of the Beast Gods must be sated, and he continues to sacrifice hapless citizens kidnapped from the city streets to the gods Skuurn and Vornen. He has received some aid from the elven house Uderastei, which itself maintains a mystery cult and temple in the catacombs to the goddesss Medrea, said to be the wife of Vornen. They believe that the arrival of the beast cult is a sign that Medrea will soon rise to prominence and oust Abia as the local civic deity.

The Marriage of Dathain Kalumses

The regent is soon to be wed, and it is causing a riot in the streets. Six months ago Kalumses returned from a journey south to the Mesutin port city of Angar. While there he met the enigmatic southern elf-queen Seridreisa, the ruler of the Elvish polities of the south called the Isunnei. As it turns out, something interesting happened: Kalumses and Seridreisa fell in love, and decided to marry. From a political standpoint this is a serious coup, as it means that the polity of Isunnei, long exclusively holding fealty to the Mesutin Empire, will now be politically aligned with Ambashan and Anansis. There are several forces at work to make this stop, even as Seridreisa arrives to marry Kalumses, leaving Isunnei in the hands of her own regent back home, her son Madavar Krei. The risks include:

The Ire of House Atheryn: elven lord Zashain of this house had been working for years to groom his half-elven daughter Merisia to be the betrothed queen-to-be of the regent, and prior to his journey south all looked like it was destined to happen. With the plan for Kalumses to wed on his 100th birthday, it looked as if all was well, and suddenly this Mesutin elf of the south has brought everything crashing down around Zashain’s head. He’s not a moral elf by any means, and is already considering hiring assassins of the Guild of the Black Court to assassinate her. Merisia is not so jealous (and even slightly relieved) and may seek out adventurers to help stop her father from committing an act that will bring ruin to her house.

The Menace of Mesutin: while the city-states of Anansis welcome any opening that gives them power in Mesutin, the Imperial rule of Mesutin is not so pleased. The current emperor Ovidas Halambor III will not tolerate such a union even though ostensibly the Isunnei elves are their own polity of rule and are considered merely a client state to the Empire. He leaves it to his agents to resolve the matter in the most bloodless way possible that does not spark a war; the spymaster Harvaid and his dragonborn agent Koars will take a small fleet north, with the intent of intercepting Issunei’s own fleet of ships carrying Seridreisa to her marriage. His goal: to force the queen to marry one of the emperor’s cousins, a young fop named Morgainos.

It is possible that word of this intended betrothal gets out and Morgainos may beseech allies in the form of the adventurers to interdict and stop this forced marriage; indeed he’s not only not the marrying sort, he’s interested in quite the opposite and would much rather pursue Seridreisa’s own son Madavar Krei.

It is also possible that the kidnapping happens as planned, and the adventurers are among those recruited by the regent Kalumses himself to find and rescue Serdreisa before she is forced to wed the Mesutin noble.

A third possibility for the most direct action would have Kalumses himself sending the adventurers south to meet Seridreisa at the beginning of her journey, as guides and bodyguards, to insure she arrive safely. Some intrigue might rise when the elven fleet stops at the Island of Menhapur so that the queen may consult with Lady Siona on the portents of her marriage. Perhaps while there she learns that the portents of the marriage are curious: Siona will state that three great deeds must be done to insure peace and prosperity between Kalumses and Seridreisa in their marriage. One deed would be to quell the ancient beasts of the land (stop the Beast God cult from rising).

A second deed would be to seek the favor of the First King by offering a prayer before his tomb: Lady Siona must journey to  the Tomb of Katum-Harran, located conveniently on a remote island in the Shanhavael Isles, but one which is monster-infested and lost to human control. The third portent requires that she mend peace with her father, something which confuses Seridreisa as she knows only that her father journeyed to the Outworld centuries ago when she was a little girl, and fails to understand the proper meaning.

In fact, her father (Arios) did leave for the Outworld long ago, because it turns out he forsook his own soul to the Unseelie King Malador in exchange for his daughter. Seridreisa was never informed of this, though a conversation with her elder seneschal and advisor Keillith reveals the truth: Arios could not bear children, and he and his wife (her mother, who she was told passed away not long after her birth) desperately wanted a daughter. Seridreisa was the result, but it took Arios petitioning The Lord of the Unseelie himself for this blessing.

At this point there is the possibility of a protracted campaign in planar adventuring, will lead to the revelation that on the Island of Menhapur there is a Summoning Circle which allows one to migrate into the dominions of the Outworld (the planes). The circle leads directly to the vast desertlands of the Outworld itself, where the Primordials once roamed and are now trapped by the spells and prisons forged by the Enkanneth. From there one may find the Forest of Lost Spirits which itself is a gateway to the Arboreal Kingdoms of the Fey. In this dominion the adventurers may yet discover the mystery of Seridreisa’s father Arios, and how he has now served for centuries as a dark knight of the Unseelie King Malador.

Or, they could find that the summoning stone allows them to contact and bring him, albeit momentarily, back to the mortal realm, allowing a father/daughter reunion. Either way, the reunion (whether after a long journey in the planes or via a quick shortcut) will reveal something important: Arios, though he loves his daughter, did not sell his soul to Malador to insure he and his wife gave birth to a daughter. No…she was stolen from Malador by Arios, and Malador took Arios in exchange for keeping his own daughter. Seridreisa is actually of unseelie eladrin blood!

This complication can lead to a myriad variety of plot complications. She’s not a blood heir to her own realm of Isunnei. It means her marriage might not be regarded as so strong. Her own son is half-unseelie eladrin and half true elf, so he may have a legitimate claim to remain in power, but her heritage now makes her suspect. She will feel compelled to be honest, but a cover-up might make more political sense. Revealing this fact to any agent of Mesutin may prompt them to call off any forced marriage to the Emperor’s cousin, but they will also want to spread word to sabotage the marriage to Regent Kalumses.

It’s a messy situation, in other words.

Here’s a suggested timeline of events for this proposed campaign:

Start: adventurers are sent by Kalumses south, to shores of southern Isunnei to collect his bride. Journey takes 6 weeks, and starts in early Spring. He provides them with his fastest longship, the Morning Dawn, with a crew of 40 sailors and 120 hardy oarsmen/soldiers.

At 6 Weeks: adventurers brave the Amber Sea and arrive in Isunnei to the south, to meet the fleet of eleven elvish long ships prepared to sail north.

At 9 weeks: the Mesutin fleet led by Harvaid, Koars and Morgainos intercept the elven fleet, and a tense risk of engagement ensues.
At 11 weeks: assuming everything continues as planned, fleet arrives at Menhapur Island and they spend ten days visiting the Oracle of Abia, learning of the three portents that must be fulfilled.

Between 12-13+ weeks: adventurers protect and aid the queen as they seek out the tomb of the First King, then back to the Circle of Summoning. The “quelling of the beast gods” cannot be done until the fleet arrives in Ambashan.

Weeks 13+???: If the extended “journey through Outworld to the Arboral Kingdom of Malador” is used, indeterminate amount of time taken, though only hours may pass in the mortal world. Quicker “we summon Arios and learn of the bad news about queen’s lineage” takes a day.

Weeks 14+: Another week of sailing brings fleet to Ambashan. How this plays out depends heavily on player decisions and influence of the NPCs, but the default is that the queen informs the regent of her true lineage, and he decides he doesn’t really care and that as far as Anansic law is concerned she is the legitimate ruler of Isannei and he will give her all the men she needs to enforce her rule in the south if needed. This of course sounds like a call to war, and the spymaster from Mesutin will do what he can to cause sedition in the ranks. Meanwhile, as the marriage will go forward, the PCs need to then track down the beast cults and put a stop to them.

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