Eternal Ur, the First City, is the greatest of the Four Cities, the largest, and the most powerful. The Ziggurat of Ur reaches towards the twilight sky like a sacred mountain, and its walls encompass 35,000 Keldians at any one time, crowded into its twisting streets all the way to the water of the great harbour. Here the Council of the Winds reigns supreme, and the Warders of the Black Order enforce their will. It is a city of ancient power and vast opportunity, for everything that can be bought or sold in the world can be traded somewhere in Ur's streets, all the canny trader has to do is work out where.
Ur, the Eternal, is ruled by a council of the Black and Red Orders, who call themselves the Council of the Winds. Six in number they keep their true identities secret, partly from fear of assassination, partly from tradition. When the Council does appear it is always robed in Black, regardless of Order, and its members wear black veils that hide their faces. They do not speak, but their edicts are issued through two Consuls. The current Consuls are Sakistra and Dolos. The Council makes all the decisions in Ur, save what is ruled by the Judges of the Law of Nastrim, and even then the Council may overrule them if it feels that the Code has been abused. Unfortunately no one ever said that the code was fair, and Nastrim was certainly no commoner. Most people try to avoid the eye of the Council, in the form of its Warders, whenever they can.
The Warders are an elite force of Black Order Warrior-Mages, recognisable by their distinctive Black and White robes, Obsidian Weapons and tasselled helms, if not from their cruel eyes and the way the crowd parts before them. A Warder is a high level Bonded One, with the power to administer 'justice' as he sees fit. Further they are assigned important posts in the running of the city, which they perform while lining their own pockets. The Council, it appears, does not care how the job is done, as long as it gets completed.
The Warders are the most tangible manifestation of the Council's power on the streets, but in fact the warrens of the Ziggurat are filled with Clerks and lesser Bonded Ones engaged in tallying the endless stream of Crdlu, Sand Spider, and grain that pours through the Raven Gates. There are a thousand records to be kept, and a thousand petty Clerks to bribe if you want anything done, such is the way of Ur.
Great Ur is roughly circular, surrounded by a wall of obsidian 40 strides thick through which a single passage runs, closed to all but the Council's Guards. Some say, however, that a hundred secret chambers and passages branch off the darkness of this tunnel, reaching all the way to the Ziggurat itself. This wall is pierced in three places, the Lion Gate in the East, the Raven Gate to the Darkwards, and the Harbour at the Counterturnern end of the city. From the harbour a canal runs through the city, all the way to the Turnwards end of the isle of Ur, where it rejoins the One River. This is simply known as 'The Canal'. In the middle of the City rises the Ziggurat of Ur, home of the Order Mages, the vastest of all the Keldian Ziggurats. It is said to contain miles of passages and acres of granaries and animal pens, which border onto the Pit, or slave pens, where those who could not escape the Warder's justice live out what remains of their lives. To the other side of the river lies the merchants quarter and the Suk, which runs down to the wide harbour in a series of narrow covered streets designed to keep out the burning dust or rain that sometimes escapes the Red Cloak's spells. Throughout the city lamps fuelled by plant oil and Crdlu fat burn in nooks of the brick buildings, lightening the twilight and deepening the shadows. These lamps burn all day, from star rise to set, and only the regular and relentless striking of the gongs on the Ziggurat marks the passing of time.
The people of Ur keep on the right side of the Warders, while at the same time breaking every law that they think won't matter. Ur is a place of routine and industry, tied up into a vast bureaucracy. The Eternal City was not built in a day, it was constructed by sustained effort and cunning trade, and now it grows rich on the same principles. Everyone takes a little of each transaction, every Clerk and Bonded One has to be bribed, and yet the goods flow through the gates in a seemingly endless stream, carrying glassware, grain, animals and stone in, worked goods, cloth, fruits, metal and obsidian out again. The people are proud of their city, they know how it works. If others think that the Warders act more like tyrants than police or that corruption is a crime it just proves how little they understand Ur. The naive don't last long in this city.
The people of Ur make no distinction between men and women, except in dress. The men wear simple tunics and robes that drop to the mid calf. Arms are usually bare save for bracelets, but a coloured scarf is often round about the waist and then passed over one shoulder. Women too wear short robes and tunics, usually cut down across the chest, but seldom wear scarves. Children wear loose white shifts if they wear much at all. As far as the people of Ur are concerned a child's first ten years are his or her own. After this the child is educated, and apprenticed to a guild or craftsman for training. Those who wish to enter the ranks of the Clerks, however, must go to a Calmecac school at the age of nine, where they are entirely under the command of their Bonded One teachers. As in the other great cities the Mages test children for mystic ability at an early age, as soon as they have their first Gift-day, and those they want they take into the orders. However a child found to have aptitude normally stays with his or her family until he or she is ten.
The attitude of the people of Ur, or the enlightened, as they often call themselves, towards the other cities is one of insufferable superiority. If you are not from Ur then you are nothing, and nothing worth having lies beyond Ur, because everything you could want is already brought through its gates. Those from Ur with an interest in other places, or a desire for adventure, usually leave young, and seek their adventures elsewhere. The way it is in Ur is the way it has always been, and it is the best way of all.
Ur sits at the Counterturnern tip of an island in the middle of the One River, overlooking the bay of Ur. This island has been stripped bare of its cover of Poison Forest and is covered with the fields and irrigation channels of its slaves and peasants. These fields run right to the walls of mighty Ur, from which a series of roads run out across the island. The chief of these run to the two landward gates, the Lion and the Raven. The Raven gate leads to a road that runs Dayward across the island, till it reaches a village where a ferry runs to the foot of Nistray's cliffs. The Lion gate leads to a similar road running along the banks of the canal. From here one can hail a ship on the Canal or the river, and gain passage to Black Chald. Most travel to other cities, however, is through the mighty harbour. To the East of Ur is an elevated area of hills, containing small villages of hunters and gatherers. It is here that Mighty Nastrim is said to have been born, his powers detected by a wandering Mage of the Black who took him to Ur to learn his craft. Most villages in the hills insist that it was in their village, and no other, that Nastrim was born and raised. In the city itself such talk is best forgotten. The Council of the Winds does not like it implied that one might be raised to power in their places.
Ur is the city of a thousand tales. Everyone gossips about the Warders, and about which of them might in fact be members of the Council of the Winds, and they gossip about the merchants and their slaves. Everyone has something to tell, and everyone has a price to tell it.
Black Chald is the most Turnwards of the four cities, a massive edifice of glittering Obsidian. Where the other cities spread outwards Chald rises up, each successive layer belonging to those of a higher station. In this close environment politics and envy rub shoulders with hate and greed. The Mages of Chald are split into a hundred petty factions, ruled over by the ruthless Slayers of Chald and the two Principles elected by them. Those who cross the Slayers go to the Arena for the pleasure of the people, or are cast out of Chald forever.
At the highest point of Chald sits the Citadel, its version of the Ziggurat, where the Mages of the two orders live together. At any one time the halls of the Citadel swarm with the servants of half a hundred factions, each holding to some ideal, each attempting to gain dominance over the others. Assassination and blackmail are the weapons of the factions, sometimes even open war. No one can keep track of who is who for more than an instant. The only constant in this turmoil are the Slayers of Chald. The Slayers are the biggest faction, so large that they ignore the machinations of the others as if they were children. So long as another group does not threaten their power the Slayers are content, otherwise they are crushed out of hand.
The Slayers are almost entirely Red Order Mages, though some of their leaders are of both factions. They live in their own halls, outside the Citadel (The Halls of the Slayers) and elect two Principles, or leaders, to rule the city, one from each Order. The current Principles are Urisat and Kledan.
The Slayers are, in effect, the sole and only law in Chald. Though they have Judges and Clerks to do their work for them most of the powerful Slayers like to take a hand in their own work, and the people of Chald live in fear of a call to the Halls of the Slayers or the Citadel.
Chald is split into four main sections, divided by three circular walls. At the top lies the Citadel, surrounded by its own wall, outside of which is the Upper City, the domain of the Nobles, Clerks, and Bonded Ones, as well as the Halls of the Slayers (in fact raised above most of the upper city, but below the Citadel). The Upper City also holds the Arena, which just through is wall so as to place it against the sky for those in the best seats. Outside of the Upper City's wall lies the Lower City, home of the Slaves, peasants and common people. Finally, outside the city proper, lies the 'Freetown' where the transient and the dubious make their homes outside the Slayers immediate interest.
The entire city is built upwards. Houses are high, built of stone and obsidian, and pile on top of one another like heaps of roots. Almost all the streets are narrow and twisting, the one exception being the Merchant's way, which curves through half the town on its way from the Freetown gate to the Citadel. There are two gates in the outer wall, the Free Gate and the East gate, both heavily protected, and but one between the Low City and the Upper, overlooked by the Halls of the Slayers.
The City is also very much split into zones, each cast living in their part of Chald's hierarchy. Nevertheless the City buzzes with traders and craftsmen trying to sell their wares, especially in the Freetown. Just where the Counterturnern road enters the City there is a vast Suk and Bazaar, which, during market time, becomes almost continuous with the more dubious premises in the Freetown outside, something which the Slayers appear to tolerate. What the Slayers tolerate the people do, goes the saying, and the Freetown certainly swarms with goods of suspect origin that the other cities would never tolerate. Indeed there are few of the Clerks and Mages that one sees in the markets of other towns in Chald, perhaps because the factions are too busy fighting amongst themselves to care about the people.
Further into the city a person's status is measured by how high in the city his house lies, and how large it is. The most favoured are built on a rectangular plan, enclosing a courtyard with plants and flowers within. These exclusive residences are lit with the Shining Stone of Chald, a strange rock cut from somewhere near the city that glows with a pervasive white light. Poorer houses use the more common oil lamps of the other cities.
The people of Chald project a public humility, always ready to scrape at the feet of the Slayers. In private they are always looking for a way to circumvent the laws of the Principles. Chald can be a harsh place for the unwary, and it requires a tough person to thrive there. Those in power did not get there by birth or by favouritism, these get you only so far in Black Chald, they got there by their own wits. The people of Chald lack the fanaticism about their city that those of Ur, Derzak or Nistray have, for they are the ultimate realists of the Eternal Empire. They know what the Order Mages are like and they know they just have to live with it.
This fatalism does not hold true for quite everyone, however. Some people cannot live with the cruelty of the Slayers or the petty whims of the factions and they decide to take a stand. Many of these crusades quickly vanish into the ways of one apparently sympathetic faction or another, many others are crushed or destroyed, but a few survive. The most powerful of these band together into an organisation that they call the Messengers. The Slayers refer to them simply as renegades, dangerous elements who would get in the way of their plans, and many of the people see them simply as malcontents. The Messengers, however, are quite convinced of their cause, and can be dangerous foes.
Chald sits at the Turnwards extremity of the Eternal Empire, some way Darkwards of the One River. Beneath its walls lies a smaller channel and the Poison Forest crowds very close to the walls, always threatening to overwhelm the patch farmlands. Chald supports itself in food much less than the other cities, and it is a long way through the forest to bring Crdlu, thus the city relies on grain and cattle being brought up the river by barge to feed its people. A single road runs through Chald, entering the city by the Counterturnern, or Freetown gate, and going on Eastwards through the East gate towards the edge of the Empire. Both these gates are open almost all of the time, since few of Chald's people pay much attention to the chiming of the official hours.
It is well known that neither Urisat nor Kledan hold Hastru of Derzak in high regard. The common story is that the main cause of their hatred is some personal insult that Hastru is said to have made to Kledan. When Urisat objected Hastru openly threatened him. However, those with an ear open for gossip in the Citadel suggest that this is just an excuse to cover up for a more well planned Slayer reaction to Hastru's growing military strength. The Slayers dislike being threatened, and it may be that they plan to engage Derzak in open warfare. Certainly many people claim that certain Slayers have been making their way towards Derzak in the guise of common merchants, for what purpose it is not known.
Other gossip usually concerns itself with the doings of various factions or of the successes of Noble Merchants.
Nistray of the plains is the second biggest city after Ur, and in many ways the most pleasant to live with, as long as you do not disagree with the word of Ningaur. Perched on the edge of a cliff over the One River Nistray looks out over the endless plains which give it its name, opening its gates to the constant flow of Crdlu from the Dead Lands, and the trading expeditions travelling to the towns and villages beyond. The red sun here is strong and bright, moreso than in the other cities, since Nistray lies on the edges of the Poison Forest, and the gleam of Ningaur's crown is always visible atop the wondrous Ziggurat.
Nistray is ruled by Ningaur, the Ancient King. Nistray has always been ruled by Ningaur, King after King, each of the Black Order, has taken the name, the position, and the ritual mask to rule the city. Each Ningaur acts in much the same way, though with variations, keeping to the original set of pronouncements made by the first Ningaur. Though Nastrim's Code holds here, as elsewhere, Ningaur's Laws are thought o be more important.
Below the Ancient King are five Houses of Mages, The Blooded, The Grass Runners, The Chosen, The Reapers and The Faithful. Each House has power and responsibility over some area of the City, ad they seldom quarrel or interfere with each other, though each leader naturally distrusts the others.
Below the Houses is the usual structure of Bonded Ones and Clerks, mostly working for either The Reapers or The Chosen. Nistray is a rich and well fed city, and its bureaucracy is amongst the most efficient in the Eternal Empire, not least because all is done at the command of Ancient Ningaur, the benevolent King.
The City of Nistray perches on the top of a cliff that arches over the One River. Two semi-circular walls delineate the city, one about its outer extent, the second dividing off the High City at the top of the cliff. Outside these walls extensive slums have built up about the major roads on the Sunward side. To the Counterturn, at the foot of the cliff, is a sheltered and walled harbour, connected to Nistray by its own road and gate. When the passing is bright you can look down from the cliff of Nistray and see the distant walls of Ur in the river below and to the Counterturn. Naturally this positioning only helps to reinforce the Nistran's sense of superiority.
Five Gates define Nistray, four in the Outer Wall: The Harbour Gate, Dayward Gate, Corn Gate and East Gate, and a single heavily fortified Upper Gate in the wall of the High City. Above all this rises Ningaur's Ziggurat, unique in Keldian Cities because it is almost totally solid, being little more than a huge plinth supporting Ningaur's Crown at its top. Surrounding the Ziggurat are many of the wonders of Nistray, including the Hanging Gardens, built by the 23rd Ningaur, the Tombs of the grandest kings, the ornate House of the Chosen and the red Castle of Blood which perches over the Low City like a gigantic monster waiting to strike.
Nistray is a bustling and profitable place. Its ruling Houses generally care more for their internal politics than the policing of the people, and those people are, in any case, so devoted to the Ningaur that they would never dream of threatening it. With its gates open to the unending stream of Crdlu and Grain from the vast fields of the Sunwards Plains Nistray overflows with food. If one can avoid the purges of the Faithful's Swordmasters then it is an easy life in Nistray.
The other element that dominates Nistray is the cult of Ningaur. There are no Gods on Sun Keld, but Ancient Ningaur is the next best thing in the eyes of his people, a benevolent and eternal ruler, manifested time and again in the body of a new King. While each individual King may have flaws or individual traits The Chosen and The Faithful ensure that the laws of the first Ningaur are carried out to the letter. Indeed many idealistic Ningaurs have attempted to change or amend these laws before finding out, to their cost, that their own Mages would not permit it.
At four times through the day, just before the 4th hour, at midday, at the 14th hour and at the 17th, gongs are struck in the Ziggurat, and all the people of Nistray turn towards Ningaur's Crown and give homage to their King. It is only required to bow ones head and clasp ones hands, but many of the devoted will prostrate themselves, chanting the words of Ningaur's First Law "And I shall rise and come again in the body of another, and I shall be reborn to an eternal life, and my words shall be on the lips of my children forever and forever till the ending of days." Those closer to the Ziggurat may see the Clerics of The Chosen performing the rituals on its steps, and each day as the Day Star passes they may see Ningaur himself. The Clerics rituals bind the King and the people, requiring feast days and sacrifices where blood is spilled on the eternal fires of the Ziggurat.
Apart from their religious devotion to Ningaur the people of Nistray are very much like those of the other cities. This is a very big 'apart' however. The Nistrans are convinced that all other cities are inferior because they are further from the guiding spirit of Ningaur, and those that will not accept his eternal spirit are attacking the city itself. They will not tolerate such as suggestion, and even mild shopkeepers have been known to become rabid fanatics at such heresy. The worst example of such devotion can be seen in the Mages of The Faithful, who search the city for unbelievers to purge, and would welcome the opportunity to shut the gates to foreigners forever, or even take the crusade to the unbelievers by force. Luckily wiser heads prevail in Nistray, but the question of such fanaticism influences every decision made. It is for this reason that there is a 'Foreigner's District' in Nistray, near to the east Gate, where unfaithful may be separated from the people. Similarly a native Nistran who grows too doubtful about Ningaur's right to rule may find himself on the sands of the arena, with a drop to the One River behind and the shouting Blooded and Faithful on the other.
Another effect of this religion is that the people expend a lot of their resources on appearing particularly faithful. They will purchase images of Ningaur's Crown for their houses, construct miniature pyramids, and invest in expensive clothes for the feast days. Those that appear most devoted quickly rise in status, those that cannot do so are shunned, many ending up in the slums outside the walls.
Nevertheless people flock to Nistray every day. Every tribesman and villager for whom life is too hard wants to find luxury and fortune in the well-fed city of the plains. The saying goes that the gates of Nistray are always open. This is true, but it is another matter whether you can get through them or not. Thus the poor collect outside the gates trying to work their way inside, often as someone's slave.
The Hill of Nistray faces Sunwards, towards the wide sunlit plateau that marks the edge of the Drylands. Here vast herds of Crdlu roam, feeding on the razor Grass and other plants, tended by the herdsmen and Reapers of Nistray. Though some of these lands belong to other cities the greater portion is Nistray's, and the city does well from selling its produce on to Ur, Chald and Derzak. From the very gates of the city fields of cleared land spread away, where Maize, Coloured Corn, Night Fruits and Razor Grass plants are raised. These fields are fed by irrigation channels which carry water from the One River, around the outcrop of Nistray, and across the flat plains below.
50 klegs due Sunwards of Nistray sits the Town of Last Home, built around a fortress of The Blooded. Much of the cattle and food of the Dead Lands is brought to Last Home, where a pass makes an easy route up through the escarpment. Needless to say much of that food finds its way to the open gates of Nistray.
|Ningaur the 2nd||Ningaur's son, the first Ancient King|
|Ningaur the 5th||The first Ningaur to copy the tomb of the 2nd for himself|
|Ningaur the 11th||The Conqueror King. Ningaur carved Nistray's place as a great city and founded the Blooded|
|Ningaur the 14th||The poet king|
|Ningaur the 23rd||After a series of very short lived Kings (the 22nd died at 14) the 23rd reigned many years and built the Hanging Gardens|
|Ningaur the 25th||This Ningaur defeated Derzak in battle Counterturn of the City|
|Ningaur the 28th||When Black Chald thought to take Nistray's Lands this Ningaur threw them back|
|Ningaur the 30th||The Grey King. Ningaur purged the city of those that were untrue to him.|
|Ningaur the 31st||Like his father Ningaur crusaded against the unfaithful, dying the streets red with blood. A thousand slaves died to make his tomb, while he married his own sister.|
|Ningaur the 32nd||The last of the Bloody Kings, this Ningaur was overthrown by a new King of The Chosen who took up the true Law of Ningaur again.|
|Ningaur the 35th||Great Grandfather of the present Ningaur (the 38th), who brought prosperity and peace with Ur.|
There are many stories told in the streets of Nistray, and almost all of them are about Ningaur. Of course people are careful what they say about their current King when the Faithful are about, but the deeds of past Ningaurs is always a favourite topic.
For those who do dare to discuss the present King there are always two main rumours. The first says that the whole story about the spirit being passed from King to King is a lie made to protect Ningaur. In fact the Ancient King has been alive for 1100 years, protecting Nistray from harm by his magical powers. The other, more dangerous, rumour also thinks that the passing of the Law is a sham, but holds that Ningaur is nothing more than a tool of the Mages, a symbol chosen to keep the people happy while the Mage's feed off their labour.
Derzak the Mighty, Derzak the warlike. The city has many names. Almost as large as Eternal Ur Derzak is a city always ready for war. Here the Red Order rules, letting the Black Order only administrate, and Hastru marshals his people for a war of conquest as many other Sorcerers have done before him. Above this all the Sorcerer's Eye glows from the top of the Fortress-Ziggurat, shedding a baleful yellow glow over the City.
Derzak is ruled by a conclave of eight Mages called the War Council, made up of 5 of the Red Order and 3 of the Black, who elect a single one of their number to be Sorcerer of Derzak. The Sorcerer has supreme power, advised by the council, till he dies, or is slain in battle. The current Sorcerer is the fiery Hastru the Warmaster, the Judge of Derzak. Hastru's Red Order control the city, leaving only petty administration to the Black Order and the Bonded Ones.
In Derzak martial ability is supreme. Fully half of the massive dockside is given over to the Warrior's Quarter. Here there lives a permanent army of 1000 Red Order Warrior-Mages and Wizards, almost all of whom have a Bonded Warrior in their service. This backed up by twice or more of their number in Soldiers and a large navy of black ships, greater than that of any other city. These warriors are almost constantly preparing for war on the massive Training Grounds outside the city.
Almost all of the war Council is involved with the army in some way. Suil is Fleetmaster of the Navy, Sandir Kas commands the infantry, and Teklos Tirran the cavalry. While Seerdan and Daras of the Black Order are responsible for the traditional areas of trade and food. Quartermaster Salados is in charge of supplies and weapons for the army. Finally Teochran Pal is the head of the Silent hand, Derzak's spies and secret police. Untill the rise of Hastru, Derzak's war effort had been effectively crippled by infighting. Now, however, the Warmaster's spirit seems to have welded them together into a formidable fighting force.
Derzak is circular, and almost as large as Ur, though not so grandly built. It curves around a vast harbour, the East side of which belongs to the Warriors, the Counterturn to the Merchants. In the middle of this bay rises the stubby Fortress-Ziggurat. Unlike most Keldian Ziggurat's this one has only two steps, topped by a sheer walled fortress. Atop this fortress sits the Sorcerer's Eye, a potent artefact of the ancient days. The Eye is a golden sphere, perhaps 14 strides in diameter, that sheds a constant yellow light that illuminates all of Derzak. This beacon can be seen for 50 klegs in the darkness of the Twilight lands, proclaiming Derzak's mastery of the land.
Derzak is a city built for war. It is divided by a series of heavy internal walls between districts, each with a single heavily guarded gate. Beside the Fortress-Ziggurat are extensive Granaries and Crdlu Pens where Derzak hoards the food that it cannot produce itself. In addition a canal runs from the harbour under the ziggurat and through the city, ensuring that it is well supplied with water.
On the opposite side of the Ziggurat from the granaries sits a massive arena, again with its own wall, connected by a covered road to the Ziggurat. Though smaller in floor area than Nistray or Chald's arenas Derzak's can sit most of the city, for it is not only a place of punishment for criminals, but an area of display and practice for the best warriors. Derzak prefers to send its criminals to the penal legions to be used in war.
Outside these features Derzak has a similar structure to most Keldian Cities, with a Clerks and Bonded One's Quarter, and a Suk. However it also has a vast Warrior's Quarter, housing the fleet, the Red Order and the army.
The people of Derzak are fanatics about their city. Kept in an almost constant state of fury by their Red Order Masters they desire only to create one vast Empire of Derzak where all other cities and towns bow to them. Hastru has said as much in his speeches. Derzak has always been militant, and has, through the history of the Eternal empire, fought many wars, against the other cities and against tribes and bandits, but Hastru's reign seems to have brought a new kind of fanaticism from his people.
At least half the adult male population is either serving in, working for, or supplying the army. This massive military formation is larger than the fighting forces of any of the other cities, a fact which the other cities are well aware of. With his personal magnetism Hastru appears to have welded the rival factions of Derzak's Orders into one group. Unsurprisingly Hastru now never goes anywhere without a heavy guard, well aware of how ready the leaders of the other cities would be to assassinate him.
The rulers of Derzak are clearly convinced of their cause. They are dedicated warriors whose aggression has been challenged by Hastru's manipulation. The people are less fanatical on the whole. While they are convinced of Derzak's superiority they are not so willing to throw away their lives on a dream of conquest. Naturally most of Derzak's citizens are careful not to let the Warrior-Mages know of their reservations.
Derzak sits far to the Counterturn of the other three cities of the Eternal Empire, surrounded by fields cut into the forest and abutting directly on the river. Once fallen Nammu linked Derzak to Ur, Chald and Nistray, now the city relies heavily on its harbour. Derzak has the biggest fleet of any of the Cities, indeed it probably has more ships than all the other cities together, and its merchants constantly ply the One River, carrying cargo from Ur and Nistray, and ferrying grain and cattle from Crab Need, Darkin and Thorn Town. A large part of this fleet is Fleetmaster Suil's navy of Black Ships. These fast war vessels guard the barges from pirates living in the swampy banks of the One River, but also represent a significant threat to the other cities.
Surrounding the City is a low flatland, thick with the Poison Forest. Though some areas near to the city, such as the warrior's Training Ground, have been cleared, Derzak is hemmed in by the forest, and is often harassed by malicious and destructive night Goblin patrols. Derzak's satellite villages all lie very close to the city. The only exception to this dense jungle is the Turnwards road to Ur and Chald. Though little travelled Derzak makes sure that it is kept reasonably open, and a well prepared party can use the land route to travel the full cycle's journey to Ur.
One talk dominates Derzak, what Hastru plans to do about the growing tension with Chald. Both Chald and Derzak want a larger slice of the hills Nightwards of the river, and neither wants the other to get any. Already the Black City has sent its Slayers to scout Derzak's Land and Derzak has sent patrols far further East than normal. Is war certain? Hastru's rhetoric would say so, but he has bluffed before. At the same time there is the question on Nagash. In response to Nagash's apparent move towards independence Ur and Nistray have been gathering their forces, will Derzak do the same, or is this the perfect opportunity to strike at Ur while its army is away? Every soldier has his opinion on all this, and every merchant is bribing some Bonded One of one of the War Council to tell him more about their plans. Hastru, however, is keeping most of the plans to himself.
Nagash is quite unlike any of the other Eternal Cities, indeed it is hardly a city at all. Where the Four Cities rest on the shadowed and wet plain of the One River, surrounded by food, Nagash clings to life in the harshest land the Keldians have ever conquered, the Burning Hills at the very edge of the Deadlands. Nagash is equally harsh, clinging to the shadows beneath a overhang of a great cliff the towns Orders are driving their slaves and people to death to build them walls and ziggurats for the city's glory.
Nagash, or Dragon's Canyon, was until recently the least normal of the Keldian Towns, rather than a city. Founded in the distant past to oversee the vital flow of Sacred Iron from the mines of the Dragon Mountains, it was beholden to Ur and ruled by a group of Mages and Bonded Ones. Over the years the city grew in influence and size, and new Magi, raised and trained in this distant land chafed at the commands of distant masters and planned the command of their own city. Less than 30 Long Years ago the Mages of Nagash rose up against their superiors and claimed independence for their town, renaming it the City of Nagash. This uprising had the popular support of the Nagashian people, followers of the Rashin (or Talite) way, who believed strongly in the principle of living by their own hands or dying by them.
So far, due to distance, and the control of the Sacred Iron trade, Nagash has kept it's new status.
Nagash is ruled by the Council of Three, all of whom are dedicated followers of legendary Rashin, founder of Nagash. The Red Mage Harrin rules the Council, aided by the enigmatic Black Mage Seerha and the ill-tempered warrior Kee-horsha. Harrin is the grandson of the Mage Horkusa, who led the uprising and formed the first Council of Three, but it is not yet clear if hereditary rule will become the norm in Nagash as it has elsewhere.
Below the Council of Three are the Inner Chamber, which comprises the leaders of various factions, such as the well-keepers, the wall-climbers, the builders and so forth. Below the twelve Inner chamber members is the Suthik, which comprises 1 in 20 adults in Nagash, and carries voting rights to approve the laws of the Inner Chamber (so far the Council of Three has been above Suthik control, but the Suthick constantly agitates to change this). Many of the Suthik are Bonded Ones of the Mages, whose own council, the Kalik exists alongside the Suthik. Finally the masters of the Satvans, the clerics of the Earth worshipping pits, also have great power in Nagash.
Nagash is in no way a normal Keldian City. Instead of the usual circular city on a flat plain Nagash huddles in the shelter of a cavern 200 strides up the face of the great canyon through the Burning Hills. Angled sharply away from the sun, and sheltered by the overhang above, it escapes the worst of the heat, burning ash, and the deadly sands. Red Order spells, constantly renewed, offer protection from the storms that regularly scour the canyon floor clear of life.
Within the cavern the buildings of Nagash fill every available gap, driving far back into the rock face through further, smaller, caves. The largest of these caves, the Cave of The Spring, holds the real secret of Nagash's survival, a pure and large artesian spring, maintained and guarded by the Black Order of Nagash. The Legend of Nagash's founding holds that it was this spring that Rashin created with his staff.
Nagash is a far and smaller city than Ur, Chald, Derzak or Nistray. In much of the Empire it would be accounted a Town, no matter what it's ruling Mages say. However the buildings look old, many of them crumbling from the harsh air, or built at odd angles to one another. Many houses rest on a 3 or 4 strides thick foundation of rubble and ruins from previous buildings, and tales are always told of secret ways through thee old ruins by which a thief might gain access to the richest of merchants' houses. The whole aspect of Nagash is of a place slowly becoming one with the dead majestic rock about it.
The face of Nagash has been violently changed over the past 100 Short Years. The Council of Three has put in action plans to turn Nagash into a true Keldian city. Fearing an invasion from Ur the Nagashites have laboured to erect a huge defensive stone wall along the lip of the chasm, reinforced with square towers and buttresses. Within the city boundaries the old Zigguarat is being rapidly enlarged, the better to suit the newly found status of it's Magi. Much of this work is done by those under Talite vows, though Nagash has recently started making slaves of it's own in the law courts.
The people of Nagash are like their land, harsh, enduring, weathered by the wind and rain. The Nagashites take everything stoically, as they believe Rashin did, knowing that the world is stronger than they are, they prosper or fail entirely by their own efforts. Where other Freemen put their trust in the Orders to deliver food, prosperity and safety, a Nagashite will always attempt to guarentee these things by their own efforts. Someone who cannot look after themselves is both pitied and despised, and no Nagashite likes to be indebted to another.
This hatred of debt has led to the system of beliefs known as the Talite ways. The Talites hold that all debts must be repaid as soon as possible, by returning the favour in kind to the one who gave it. If a Talite is forced to accept charity they will do everything in their power to pay back the one who gave it as soon as they can. If the debt is very great (for example if you feel that someone has saved your life) or you cannot return what was given (for example you are given the food you need to live, and cannot return it) then the right response is to make a Talite Vow, and offer yourself as a willing slave to the one you are indebted too, until the debt is paid off. A Talite is highly respected in Nagash, and it is a great dishonor to refuse such a service. In recent years it has become something of a fashion to make a Talite Vow to serve the city itself for a time, raising the walls, or enlarging the cavers.
The Talite philosophy has served the Nagashites well. The smaller settlements that dot the Dragon Mountains are fiercly independant, well able to survive even when cut off for many cycles at a time. The system of vows, in turn, makes sure that every Keldian pulls their own weight, and that those in need can accept help when required without shame.
Nagash lies above the infamous Dragon Canyon, the one route through the Burning Hills to the Dragon Mountains. Although much of the canyon lies in permanent shadow, it is nevertheless arid and harsh, its crumbling stone and dry soils hostile to any living thing. Only the toughest of plants will grow in small irrigated fields close to the cliff side. Nagash overlooks the Nightwards end of this canyon, connected to the floor by a long winding road cut into a shelf in the cliff side. Traders and travellers are allowed up this road, but what Tribesmen there are in the desolate hills are forced to camp at the base where a slow spring feeds a shallow pool of azure water.
The Hills of the plateau are scattered with a small number of similar settlements, many founded by miners, or escaped workers from the expeditions of the other cities. Where possible these settlements are sunk into caves in the stone, the only places where cool temperatures, darkness, and water are to be found..
Food here is as hard to obtain as water, and the Nagashites have had to learn to live from the strange plants that cluster around the minderal springs. A certain hardy breed of Crdlu, smaller than their Nightwards cousins, can be raised in the long valleys, but they are too infrequent to be a staple. Most staples that the rest of the Empire takes for granted must be imported into Nagash.
Once Glorious Nammu rose by the shores of the One River, a magnificent edifice of golden towers and wide avenues. Built from the ruins of a city of the Ancients Nammu rivalled Ur in prosperity and Nistray in comfort. Placed between Ur and Derzak Nammu was a significant power. Nammu's ruler Senjee, however, made the mistake of challenging Ur in battle when Nastrim was in power. After a long war Ur's armies crushed Nammu and ground its ancient towers into the earth. Then Ur's Mages cursed Nammu, so that the Poison Forest swallowed it forever.
Now Nammu is no more than a shadowy ruin hidden by the trees, its people long dispersed to the other cities and their origins forgotten. In the 1100 years since its destruction most of Nammu's wealth has been stripped away. Certainly all that remains of the great Golden Towers are skeletons of a strange substance that no weapon will cut, and which cannot be removed. Now only the Poison trees and the dangerous beasts of the forest call Nammu home.
Nevertheless it is not uncommon for brave, or foolish, bands of adventurers to venture into the ruins in search of some item of treasure that has been left behind by previous fortune hunters. The main prize is fragments of gold that were once part of the coating of the famous towers of the ancients, but gemstones, weapons, tablets and magical objects might also be found by a successful hunt.
Only the brave and the skilled find profit in Nammu's ruins, for the crumbling city has been entirely reclaimed by the Poison Jungle, and is thick with toxic plants and dangerous animals. As if these dangers were not enough old men in taverns will mutter about Ghosts and ancient magics that they say survive until this day, protecting the secrets of the city from outsiders. The most commonly heard version of this tale has it that Chalandac, the Prince of the city, and son of its King, still leads a spectral horde of warriors. Unable to leave Nammu's ruins and take revenge on Ur he strikes against those foolish enough to try and steal from the ruins. Others say that it is the alien Halfmen that inhabit the ruins, eager to set their lethal Halfhounds on the unwary. Whatever the truth of these tales only the well prepared and skilful take profit from Nammu.