|City||Population: 75,000||Goverment: Slaver-King|
There is no place as despicable in all of that despicable country called Essad as the city of Thurayn. Its three mammoth circles atop that once-proud Milean hill make a mockery of what the pillar stood for. Nevertheless, if you are forced to spend any time in the City of Sins (or the Slaver’s City as the locals call it), it would be best if you had a guide. And who better to guide you through the sinks alleyways of that city than I, your most humble and austere sage, Reynarius di Llun?
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The Slaver-Kings, the Rex Exactori, the evil men and women who have ruled Essad since the fifth age, are intimately bound with its history. It was the creature who made the title of Slaver-King mean something again who most concerns us. For centuries prior to the early 10th Age Essad was a backwater; it was Magron Thur who brought Essad back into prominance and remade it into a kingdom to be feared in the modern world.
A half-orc of extreme cunning, Thur overcame the petty jealousies of the slaver warlords that had taken control of the important regions of Essad and united them under a single banner. His methods were brutally effective; entire families of Masters were completely extinguished by Thur’s forces; their slaves, livestock, manors, and money being added to his cause. In the year X50, Magron Thur completed his grand union of Essad and began to consolidate his power at a single locale. It was in this year that the construction Thurayn was begun.
The old Essadi capital, Askorath, lay in ruins. For nearly two centuries it had been abandoned after being sacked by the Sorcerers of Dorlinum, the ancestors of the kingdom of Dorlan, and the forces of Archaic Avaria. To site his new capital, Thur chose a location overlooking Slaver’s Bay: an old Milean fortress stood there, and he made of those ancient walls and roadways his sewer system. Thus was Thurayn founded on the glory of Miles, polluting it.
The fortress itself had been built by the Milean arch-general and wizard Durius Wyrmcrown. Wyrmcrown was famed for putting down a Wyrmish “rebellion” or the foundation of a proto-empire within the Milean borders during the Fourth Age.
It became the new center of Essad. The Tallian priesthood supported Thur, and established the Black Dome within the first year of the completion of Thur’s palace. Slaver’s Bay has been the anchoring place of the Essadi fleet for millenia, and with the new city on its shores it has become the unloading point for all Essadi slaves – and the point of departure for their slave-selling ships.
Within a hundred years, Thurayn went from a small town serving Thur’s palace to a bustling city. By X300, Thurayn was the most populous city on the Thurian Littoral, outshining all its other contemporaries in size and might. It was in X307 when the Exactor Mellotus the Screaming established the Iron Guard as the city garrison. It served him well, for they repelled a Dorlish sea-raid on the capital in X317 and protected his life from a mob of angry Masters in X319.
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There are five kinds of people who live in Thurayn, just as there are five kinds of people in Essad. There are the slaves, at the bottom of the pyramid, the freemen just above them, the warriors, the Masters, and the priests. You will notice what at first glance appears to be a glaring omission in this list: there are no wizards! Indeed, in Essad (filthiest and most depraved of lands), magery is not considered any different from the other skills practiced by artisans. There are many slave-wizards who’s access to magic is strictly curtailed by their masters. There are also several Masters and their kin who practice magic, strictly for self-advancement. The class in which there are few wizards is that of free men – for magic is too dangerous in the eyes of the Essadi to allow many wizards to go around unchained either by real, physical chains, or by the binding interests of the Masters.
Slaves lead a miserable existence in most of Essad. In Thurayn, this is perhaps less true than of other locations. While escapes are still common, the slaves of the city are generally treated quite well. Those that suffer worst are the ones coming up the Street of Sails fresh to the selling block. The slaves of the city are generally given good quarters. They comprise several groups, however, so let me not be too hasty.
Slaves kept in wolf-dens and whorehouses can be divided into two groups: those that perform and those that do not. The second group is quite small, as most whoremasters seek to extract the maximum value from each of their slaves. It is more likely, however, in the wealthier establishments, particularly those in the Ring of the Masters, to have slaves that perform non-venal functions.
Slaves kept for work are treated rather well, as training a slave as an apprentice invests a certain amount of value in them. Many artisanal slaves scoff at the lower class of water-fetches and whore-slaves.
The lowest form of slavery, menial laborers are often treated as expendable. This means masters will waste little money feeding them or getting medical treatment for them – whatever keeps them alive. Of course, that is not to say that “kindly” masters do not exist. They are simply the most economical, realizing that it is cheaper to keep a stable of happy slaves than to replace them every year.
Gladiators and body guard
The chief type of slaves; these lord it over those lesser slaves in every way possible. They are more affluent in gifts than most freemen, and are considered insufferably arrogant. Often trained as well as any Iron Guard, gladiators and body slaves are the most expensive type, barring the last, which will be listed below.
Wizards. Magistri. These slaves are kept tightly in hand, but are many Masters secret weapon against their enemies. The treatment of slave mages varies from deplorable conditions designed to humble them to the most lavish of surroundings designed to placate them.
Regardless of appearances and rumor, freemen make up the majority of the population of Essad. The same is true of Thurayn specifically. Freemen are the bulk of its people. This class includes the dwarven clan beholden to the Exactor as well as most inhabitants of the Ring of the Warriors. Freemen often despise slaves, for many would rather purchase a slave than hire a free man.
Free warriors are those who fight for a living. Like the gladiatorial and warrior-slaves, these men and women are given a good deal of praise in Essad. They are the leaders of mercenary slave-companies that hire themselves out to the free cities, they comprise the ranks of the Iron Guard, and they are amongst the forces of the Rex Exactor when he marches to war.
Where most lands are ruled by nobility, Essad has the Masters. These are the great families that own most of the land, slaves, and mercantile interests in the kingdom. There is no sense of familial bond carrying any value in Essad; Masters come and go with alarming frequency as the balance of power shifts. As Thurayn is the heart of the slaver-empire, it is in that city that most Masters live, or at least maintain their great villas.
The ranks of the Masters may be divided into the lesser and greater for ease of comprehension. Greater Masters are like those great houses of other kingdoms; they control the political climate, the most resources, and form the great opposing power-blocs. The lesser Masters may have their own agendas, but each finds another, greater Master, to ally themselves with in case of danger.
Of course, in recent years the Masters of Thurayn have held little power compared to the Three and the Exactor; power-blocs have crumbled, giving way to a unified front of Masters who despise the Exactor Hyrek Thur, a full-blooded orc.
Priests are given special consideration in Thurayn. No priest may be enslaved within the city walls, and no priest may be held guilty of a crime. If a priest commits a crime against the Exactor, it is the right of the Iron Guard to make a visit to the temple and “sort things out” in the normal Essadi fashion. This usually ends with someone important chained to the Pillars of Shame.
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The city sits at the apex of Slaver’s Bay upon a hill overlooking it. It measure eight rods from the water, were the town of Eles serves as the docks of the city (in the same way that the Imperial city of Bataille uses the much closer and smaller Docktown). The Street of Sails wends up from the sea and into the city through the Sailgate. This is the route that most newcomers to Thurayn take – for most newcomers are slaves, come to be auctioned en mass at Branding Square; from there, most of those slaves will be sold again by the Masters who purchased them and distributed throughout the kingdom. A deplorable practice!
For those who have lived in Essad for some time and are not fresh slaves, I suppose live on the Bay can be quite pleasant. The brutal nature of Essadi society is made counterpoint by the rugged beauty of the Littoral. The wind from the sea, the lights of the other cities in the night, and even the shadows of the Whip Range behind… all can be splendid, if you forget that you are in the chief trading capital for slaves in all the north.
An average day in the life of an Essadi freeman in Thurayn consists of arranging meetings with his clients and preparing caravans and ships to sail. Work begins at two bells past dawn for freemen (the Essadi are a lazy bunch; their slaves waken one bell before dawn to ensure that everything is in order and begin working. Why they don’t slit their master’s throats is beyond me!) and continues on until around prime when a two bell break is generally in order for lounging and eating. Menial-slaves are not expected to break, and are often served the thick Thurian beer called thresk instead of food.
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The Ring of the Masters lies just outside the Ring of the Three. It is a clean and well-sanitized region of the city. The plaster walls of the great Masters manors are white; white too are the Pillars of Shame. This Ring is where the wealthiest of Essadi live who are not in the confidence of the Exacator. For that reason, there are no artisanal workshops to be found here. The only businesses are inns, whorehouses, and small but exclusive fighting pits.
Work crews of slaves sweep the streets constantly, overseen by Iron Guard. Patrols of Iron Guard range from the garrison day and night to ensure there is no thieving, robbing, or murder within the walls.
The Ring has several important landmarks:
Fighting Pits of the Masters
The city is rife with fighting pits, only two of which are located in the Masters Ring. Both of them are ancient and steeped with tradition, owned by the Rex Exactor himself. All fights taking place there must pay a premium to the Exactor for the privilege. That being said, most bouts in either of these arenas charge upwards of fifty gold blades a seat.
The Bloody Eye
The more respectable (if such a thing can even be said!) of these two arenas is the Bloody Eye. Overgrown with palm and ferns, the Bloody Eye fades into the background if you aren’t looking for it. It can be spotted easily by looking for the placard with the red eye painted on it, for this is the Bloody Eye Tavern which serves patrons of the arena. Fights here are rare, but lavish affairs. For some reason, the Essadi love to sponsor arena fights in honor of their hideous religions, so it is not uncommon for a each of the more bloodthirsty temples to sponsor a fight here once during the year.
The Pit of Violence
The Iron Garrison
A triangular fortress that stands just outside the Gate of Iron (which leads into the Ring of Three), this structure is rather small compared to the number of Iron Guard that are present in the city. With one side along the street and a tower at each corner, the Garrison also extends through a clutter innocuous looking long outbuildings. The fortress itself is used primarily for administration and in the case of attack.
The slave-patrols that clean the city and work on the sewers all originate here at the Garrison where either members of the Iron Guard or specially picked Masters gather up city-slaves and lead them out under the lash.
The fortress itself is a gray monstrosity with no decoration to speak of. It has a massive portcullis as its main gate which is drawn open at dawn every day.
The Temple of Aros
The Temple of Glyrea
The Walk of the Masters
One of the most important routes of the city. The Walk of the Masters belts the upper portion of the city in a circular roadway. It is a broad street of flat well-tended paving stones. At regular intervals along the way stand the Pillars of Shame. These are tall white pillars with Dorlic capitals; each bears a hook facing the road upon which lanterns are hung come sundown. Their main purpose, however, is served by the manacles inset into each. Political prisoners and those who have defied the Exactor to his ire are shackled to the pillars and left to starve or dehydrate where the Masters can see them. They serve both as a source of entertainment (for what depraved Master would not like to see one of his fellows on the Pillars?) and a warning (for who can deny the Exactor’s power when one of his peers is literally dying before him?) though their use is infrequent.
The greatest of the Master’s manors stand along the Walk, and it is common for the patrician class of the Masters to take leisurely strolls along this otherwise pleasant route.
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The outermost ring of the city, this is where most people who live in Thurayn live and spend the majority of their days. It is walled in with a massive winding wall (the Melloxian Wall, commissioned by Sarcos Mellox in X.410 and completed and X.432) which separates the Ring of the Warriors from the Outer City.
The Promenade Area
The Street of Sails
The street of sails winds from the Walk of the Masters all the way down to the Sailgate. It has filled in some over the years, and now plays host to a number of towering four- and five-story buildings with adobe walls. More than a few of these are hung with sailcloth or have spars from ships integrated into their architecture, fitting for a place where ex-sailors and captains have purchased land to convert into drinking holes and wine sinks.
Branding Square and the Pens
The Street of the Armorers
Just down a side-street from the Street of the Armorers one will find the Sign of the Black Skull, a little cesspit to drink in.
Oxgrinnr Clan Stronghold
The Black Dome
The Veiled City
Located in the northern section of the city, just north of the Slavegate, the Veiled City is the more settled and sedate answer to the Stews. High-rent wolfsdens litter its streets and each funds a small platoon of its own men to ensure that the alleys are free of violence. At night, the Veiled City is well lit by braziers and lamps hung by the dens and mercenary companies.
This region is where a man goes to buy the finest of slaves, hire the best blades, speak with the most educated women, and fuck the most elucidated of whores.
The Street of the Idols
The Street of Battle
The Walk of War
The Palace of Fortune
The Great Arena
The Garden of Ailex
Named for the Exactor who fired the slums where the garden now stands, the area is a walled garden open to all freemen of the city. Unlike most cities in the North, the disposal of the burned dead is done within the walls of Thurayn; this vast rambling garden serves as the final resting place for the ashes of many freemen and Masters and several Exactors as well. The only quality necessary to be interred there is the money to pay the Exactor’s tax. Otherwise, burial must take place somewhere outside the city.
The gardens are huge, taking up nearly an eighth of the Ring of the Warriors in the northwestern section. It is regularly patrolled by the Iron Guard in order to prevent squatters from settling in it and is kept clean and pruned by the slaves of the Exactor.
The Ailexean Arena
In the southern part of the Ailexean gardens stands the Arena of Ailex. It is actually larger than the Grand Arena; it is rarely used, but the greatest and most important fights (for example, between Fire Giants and great beasts – the most well-known of these being the arena fight between Thorogis the Crusher and the captive Red Wyrm Astheruz) are held within this ancient vine-covered arena.
The Treaty Stone
The Treaty Stone is a huge obelisk in the Milean style that was carved by the Fire Giants from obsidian. It is a major landmark in Thurayn, and all who live in the city know that as long as the Stone stands the treaty stands with it. It stands just outside the northern edge of the Garden of Ailex.
Stews Fighting Pits
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Thurayn is the current capital of Essad. The city was built by Magron Thur during his rule when he transferred most of the important sites in the slaver-kingdom to the littoral between the Whip and the sea. Seated on the slopes overlooking Slaver’s Bay, Thurayn is protected from sea raids by the simple fact that a smaller more easterly port supplies her and the city itself does not extend to the water. It is fortified in massive rings of stone that were pulled forcibly from the ruins that dot the Thurian Littoral.
The city is divided into three rings which are kept strictly separated by the presence of the massive Thurian Walls. The innermost ring is known as the Ring of the Three; only the leading families, guilds, and otherwise most important people of Essadi society inhabit the Ring of the Three. Its single gate is kept closed and guarded at all times by the household soldiers of the Rex Exactor (the Slaver-king) himself. The Ring of the Three contains several esoteric temples visited by the more refined of Essadi society: a temple of Glyrea, another to Ashad, and one to Tyros and Dinismayl.
The second ring is the Ring of the Masters. This is where the wealthier but-not-quite-top-tier people in Essad keep their manors, slave-pits, and mercantile houses. The Ring of the Masters has three gates that open into the lowest ring, the Ring of the Warriors. This is where the average rank-and-file of Essad live, along with where most of the large slaving accommodations in the city are.
The Ring of Warriors also holds many of the larger and more important public buildings (as it is the only ring where all members of the public may move freely) of the city. These include the Grand Arena, the Black Dome of Tallial, the Branding Square, and the Oxgrinn clan fortress.
Beyond the outermost wall of the city, there is city yet! This is known as the Outer City, and it does not formally belong to the government of Thurayn. In fact, it has no lord and no law of any kind. It is an unpoliced mass of buildings, most of them slipshod or makeshift, that has grown up around the Promenade, a street that is technically part of the true city of Thurayn and which extends southwards from the Promenade Gate. The Exactors troops frequently patrol this route and are extremely brutal to any outer city denizens who cause trouble, sometimes going so far as to beat them to death.
The Outer City houses a large minority of gnomes in a gnomish tent-city called the Gnomish Quarter. Most of these are rock gnomes who work for the meager coinage of the Exactor, performing state sponsored labor on the roads, walls, etc.
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