Monday, August 6, 2012

The City of Thelaed


Thelaed, Capitol of the Island Kingdom of Theliad

Rulership: The Council of the Sun, presided by official elect Adaeus; appointed regent: General Tiraeus, with High Priestess Aetra

Patron Deity: Pallath Eridanos

Government: Democracy (councils elected by city state; one general to act in the defense of the Isle)

Population of Other Thelaedian Cities: 37,000. Approximately 95% human, 5% other (Halflings, shifters, goliaths and serpentfolk)

Average Population: each city state averages 5,000-25,000 population in size

A Brief History

   Thelaed (the archaic form of Theliad) was founded about one thousand years ago, according to the legend, by the avatar Pallath Eridanos. Eridanos had studied for many years in the ancient libraries of Eristantopolis, and his own writings are said to have later influenced the philosophy of the Preservationists when they were formed in later centuries.

   Eridanos was a simple man, who eschewed much wealth in favor or learning, and he led his followers to the site of Thelaed, where he established a community people far from the rest of civilization, to seek greater truths. In time, he was recognized by the natives of the island as a demiurge, and in his later years a great temple was constructed in his honor, despite Eridanos’ protests to the contrary.

   Eridanos taught a philosophy that showed great disdain for sorcery and magical teachings, for he believed that it was only by man’s own hand that the world would one day be restored. He eventually left Thelaed, about six hundred years ago, to travel to “places beyond,” he said, for he felt the calling of the Leo Stone, of which he held a shard, urging him to seek out the greater truths of the cosmic unknown. He has never been seen again, although his temple and following remains strong, and is the official state religion of the city of Thelaed.

   Thelaed and the island at large came under attack about four hundred and fifty years ago during a Sabradani expansionist period, which led to assaults by that southern kingdom from across the Boiling Sea of Iliadin. The Sabradani of the time had been united under the banner of the warlord and master artificer Ghormas Zelar, and in their fever to conquer they took much of Nuliria and Nelindiros, but found the shapeshifters of Ekarthask and the patriots of Theliad too much to handle. When Zelar was deposed by his own people in a coup, the forces of the “ten year war” withdrew, and left the region in peace.

   The effect of this conflict had a lasting impact on Thelaed, which until now had maintained a proper militia only to defend against occasional raiders from Ekarthask or other lands. A position of regent general was appointed, to be filled by an elected man for ten years as chosen by the council, whose job was to keep Theliad safe, and to be aware of the plots and events of their neighbors across the sea. This gradually led to an obsession with militant fitness and a strong culture of professional warriors arose, to become a new class of knights, noblemen trained in war.

   Today, Theliad is a respected and somewhat feared member of the region, an ally and trade partner to Nuliria and Nelindiros, as well as Sytaris. The embrace of sorcery in Ghurthal is repulsive to Theliadians and so they eschew relations with that land, but they do welcome the occasional Syrgian vessel from the east, finding the Syrgians to be not unlike themselves, except for their tolerance for sorcery. They remain in conflict with Ekarthask, but grudgingly respect their life-long foes and sometimes allies. The Theliadians hate the Masari, and would wipe out that city state if they could muster the support for such an action. They remain bitter enemies of the Sabradani in the south, having never forgiven that land for the incursion four centuries earlier, and will fire on site of any Abraheilite vessel they see, especially since most Abraheilite ships are powered by harnessed elementals and captained by mages. The Abraheilites are content to leave Theliad alone, as there are few from those lands who seek trade with the eastern kingdoms of the Glittering Ocean, preferring to give Theliad a wide berth.

Religious Beliefs

   Prior to the arrival of Eridanos and his followers, the island people (who called themselves the Kael, for “people” in the native language which was derived from old atarthic) had lived egalitarian lives, for they had once belonged to the now collapsed Atarthic empire of the old god-king Hakarthos, and after his passing and the collapse of that empire, they had gone back to their old tribal ways. With four centuries of enlightenment under the rule of Eridanos, the people grew cultured, and developed a complex democratic society, at the pinnacle of which was the city of Thelaed. To this day the city remains the center of culture for the island, with its outlying city states looking to the council of the sun for guidance (though they have their own regional councils as well). These outliers include Glassarin, Shathir Timarkos, Aetrashis and Ataraskis.

  Thelaed is also the religious center of the many city-states. Theliad in general is remarkably non-religious, with a modest priesthood dedicated to Pallath Eridanos and virtually no recognition for any other gods in the region or beyond. This prudence and monotheisim leads to a disdain for the followers of other gods, and in some of the cities it is forbidden to even speak of the other gods, punishable by imprisonment or worse. Naturally, this has led to secret cults in some cases, in which dissident or rebellious elements of the Theliadian culture seek out such cults specifically to be oppositional, or to see if the teachings of these other beliefs are more significant or profound than those of Pallath Eridanos.

    Theliad, despite a lack of religious tradition outside of the various ceremonies and holidays dedicated to Pallath Eridanos, has a wide variety of lesser beliefs and ritual practices, especially with regard to the spirits of the land, and engage in a form of minor ancestral worship, to appease the spirits of the dead. They do not believe in reincarnation, instead believing in an underworld afterlife, in which the spirits of the dead descend to be greeted by the old gods, who are (all being dead) waiting in this underworld of judgment. Death is regarded as a terminus, and it is believed that those who lived good and productive lives will be rewarded with some sort of ascension in the afterlife, while those who did not will be condemned to a dark and dreary underworld.

People and Culture

   The city itself is of modest size, with a population of approximately 37,000. Most of the citizens are human, as Thelaed is fairly intolerant to nonhumans, a side effect of the island’s relative isolation, although the culture at large has a curious fascination for serpentfolk, who are welcome and regarded as fascinating curiosities. Likewise, goliaths are regarded as especially hearty demihumans, and are prized by many nobles of Thelaed for their strength as guards and agents. Halflings dwell in the city, but are regarded as second-class citizens, and most Halflings dwell in their own district. There are several inland and coastal townships consisting entirely of Halflings, who are called Kinaes, for “little folk,” a diminutive term among Theliadians. Finally, there are a handful of shifters, most of who belong to three exiled tribes from Ekarthask that fled their homeland during the civil wars of two centuries back, and sought refuge with the islanders of Theliad. The shifters are regarded as inferior of intellect, but respected for their strength.

   The Theliadian obsession with purity and strength has led to a focus on militant skill and ability in the last four centuries, such that most nobles are expected to be strong and capable, as are all men required to join the militia at a young age, and to serve in the defense of their land for five years. In practicality warfare is uncommon, and so in later years most Theliadians “let it slip,” but the overall obsession with beauty of form and strength of body is pervasive in the land, and anyone who “doesn’t quite fit,” can feel the disdain. This is especially hard on half-breeds such as half-elves and tieflings, who are regarded as anathema, and pure-bloods of other demihuman types are seen as freakish curiosities.

   Slavery is acceptable in Thelaed. Slaves can work as indentured servants, eventually earning emancipation and becoming freedmen, though few slaves are able to earn enough to buy their own land and become voting citizens. Slaves that can’t advance are criminals, prisoners of war and “lesser races” such as lizardfolk, orcs and the like, who will never be seen as anything less than thralls.

A Typical Household

   A typical household in Thelaed will consist of 2-4 acres of property, usually with several acres of farmable ground given to dates, pears, olives or grapes. The landed gentry (voting citizen) will have his wife (Theliadians are monogamous) and several kids, and often an extended family, usually of one or more kin and aging parents if they are alive. Any men in the family between the age of 15 and 20 will be living off-site in the barracks of the standing militia. The property will have somewhere between one and sometimes several dozen landless commoners and slaves, usually 1-2 commoners supervising 4-8 slaves. A landed gentry’s stables will usually have several godo horses, and if he is not in to farming he will have a lively stock of cattle or goats.

   About one in five households will have a commons area used for community activities and learning. Priests of Pallath Eridanos will attend these community halls and teach classes daily to children (though not children of landless commoners, who are usually working in the fields). Some of these priests will teach classes to the children of the commoners after hours, or on rest days (every sixth day of the ten month calendar is a day of rest, according to the temple).

The Layout of Thelaed

   Thelaed is a large city by the standards of the region, and has several districts of note:

The Theliopolis

   Here the council elect meets and discusses matters of commerce and politics. The theliopolis was constructed about five centuries ago and has been the center of politics for the land ever since. It is also where judgements and executions are held (which are very rare, as most condemned criminals are enslaved).

Temple of Pallath Eridanos

   This large pyramidical temple with a great acropolis atop it is plated with gold and marble, and decorated with vibrant white, red and silver designs. It rests along the northern hills of the city, and overlooks the entire region, a reminder of the power of the city’s divine benefactor.

The College of War

   Here lies the quarters and grounds of the standing city militia, which doubles as the forces for its navy, as well as the small palace of the appointed general.

The Open Markets

    Located along the waterfront, these markets allow for trade with many cities and nations abroad, and is where demihumans and other races are most likely to be encountered.

The Merchant and Trade Quarter

   It is here that local merchants ply their wares and various trades have their respective districts. Thelaed is famed for its distinct steel arms and armament, considered superior to the arms and armor of all other kingdoms in the region. All good Theliadian arms and armor are masterwork in quality.

The Commons

   Here lies the housing and businesses of the commoners, all considered good emancipated citizens of Thelaed. In Thelaed, any freeman born as an owner of land is given right of vote to the call of the council. Women, demihumans, slaves and landless commoners have no voting rights.

The Demihuman and Foreign Districts

   There are three distinct demihuman districts, including the Kinaesaed, or city of the half-folk for halflings, as well as the foreign quarter in which serpentfolk and shifters native to the city dwell. The third district is adjacent to the open markets, and is where housing for foreigners who own property in the region are allowed to live. Such foreigners must have the blessing of the council, which usually means at least two sponsors and some bribe money.

The Shipyards

   Thelaed makes galleys, of all types, and some of the largest and finest muscle-powered rowers in the region. The largest galleys every invented come from Thelaed. They also build wind-powered coastal schooners, which are unsuited to long-term voyages over the ocean, but are excellent for coastal traders.

Geography Around Thelaed

   Thelaed rests at the southern tip of the foothills leading up to the Ismadin Mountains to the north, a major chain where several active mines operate. The mountains are also inhabited by various underworld denizens, and it is a common superstitious belief that these caverns eventually descend deep enough to penetrate the underworld of the afterlife.

   Southward, along the low-lying saturated basin adjactent to the bay is the Ethelar Swamps, where it is said that one can find the scattered, half-sunken remains of an ancient, pre-cataclysmic city from old, possibly a ruin of one of the old cities of the Atarthic Empire. The swamps are infested with foul, fast-breeding creatures such as frogmen and lizardfolk, and many militia patrols spend their time sparring with these beasts.

   The thick forestlands west and north of the city are deep, arboreal forests, somehow still strong despite regular deforestation for the wood used in the construction of their great vessels and houses. The forest, not given any particular name, is believed to be inhabited by many strange monsters and spirits.

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