Legacy of the Swan
Rising from the fenlands of the Swanfleet Marshes, the City of Ghosts is the great surviving work of Hepekerian traders. The tendency of its buildings to sink into the muck, challenged the efforts of its early engineers, and the recent lack of effort has led to decay in both the appearance and spirit of the city becoming readily apparent.
Once the proud trade and manufacturing city of fleets of trade ships, the community’s fortunes have declined with its realm, Cygnus – The Swan Kingdom. Home to more than 10,000 people little more than two hundred years ago, it presently has a population of barely 1700 citizens struggling to survive. Compounding this, is another two times that number in refugees who fill the city but not its coffers. The wool industry and sea trade have not revived in the past century, but it remains important to the region as its central location, fortifications and craftsmen ensure it will have a place in the region. Before the fall of the Coranik Empire, the city received regular gold shipments, but these ceased in 1021 TR. The people of the city had become dependent upon these doles, and led to them becoming an unruly and riot-prone lot. Now, the city is practically ungovernable, although some semblance remains under the thumb of the Regent’s Council and their control of the local army.
The city sprawls across an artificial island, deliberately laid-out by the early founders to provide a safe place to repair and construct their tradeships. It’s most notable features, are its twin bridges, the Iant Formen (Elvish : “North Bridge”), and Iant Harnen (Elvish : “South Bridge”), that span the mighty river Gwathlo (Elvish : “Greyflood”). The city has grown between the bridges, and its formerly grand gardens and fields have an over-grown look to them, though the central stone constructs remain impressive and well-built. The enormous Rammas Nin (Elvish : “Water Walls”) protects the city from the deep marshes and river basin. The outer defenses of the city are large, long walls that run in a circle around the gardens and fields of the outer city, protecting its food production and common worker’s homes by its dike and massive stoneworks, though age and a lack of money have diminished their strength.
The city is also unusual for its Chiraint (Elvish : “Canals”). The canals were built to provide ships access to the drydocks under the central tower, and ensure its true strength, the trade fleets, remain inviolate. The once bustling city canals are now silted and outside of the spring floods, has become little more than open sewers and dumps.
Most of the folk of Pelargir are human, but elvenkind and dwarves often pass through on various errands. Gnomes are surprisingly common, but have begun moving from the region over the last generation, finding homes in the abandoned lands north of the city. Most visitors come to the city today seeking smithwork in its craftshops, thugs from the waterfront, or general trade. No other location in the Vales has the selection of services that Pelargir possesses.
The city is also home to various wonders, the legacy of the gnomish smiths and tinkers that once resided in the area. Known as a Steamjack, these monstrous machines do the work of entire teams of laborers, and are used by locals to load ships, maintain the city walls and other defensive structures, and as support for defensive actions. The machines cost around 10,000 gps each, and coal/oil costs of 1 sp per cycle, making them rare and expensive to own and operate.
The South Bank : The oldest portion of the city, the South Bank has been recently rebuilt. The Annon Harn (Elvish : “South Gate”) stands on the site of the first tower built to defend the city back during its founding. The South Bank is the bastion of the Clothier’s Guild. Most of the local garrison also resides here, as do most of the government officials. This has tended to make the better homes here popular among the city’s merchants.
The Island : The districts in the midstream of the Gwathlo are generally known to locals as simply The Island. This is an accurate depiction of the importance of the island, since it is the mercantile and commercial center of the city. Expansion on The Island began soon after the city’s foundation, with the now-ruined fortifications on its north end. Now the area is the undisputed realm of the local Thieve’s Guild, while the southern area is the realm of the Bargemen, a rival Thieve’s Guild. The central section of the Island remains neutral ground , as both factions realize business must continue.
The North Bank : The newest section of the city, having been built to fortify that end of the city by King Thorondur in the ninth century. The eastern end of the North Bank is the stronghold of a recently risen faction, the Salter’s Guild, who control the riverbank, and the Timberwright’s Guild who control the rebuilt western portion. The central portion of the North Bank has become the safest location for travelers to stay.
The Shambles : An area of the great contrasts, The Shambles are a wide area between the outer and inner walls, boasting finely appointed manors, gardens and open, glowing fields. King’s Row, a section of the quarter known to harbor artists, landless and other petty nobles, and wealthy tradesmen, lies near the river on the north bank. In sharp contrast, ruined manors and barren fields are marked by the poorest area in the region, Badtown, a decayed cluster of streets, buildings and tents frequented mainly by thieves, poor city folk, common prostitutes and all other manner of degenerate folk. There are few warehouses, but the handful that exist are heavily guarded, and used for grain, vegetables and water storage.
City Factions : When the last king of the realm died, he left an under-age daughter on the throne, and wisely organized a Regent’s Council to look after governing the city (and realm) in his absence. There are five basic factions of importance within city government; the Noble’s Faction, the Merchant’s Faction, the Military Faction, the Temple Faction, and the Mage’s Faction. Each has component portions that make politics in the city something of a mess, but these five factions have voting authority on the Regent’s Council.
Noble Faction : Led by Lord Ciramir, Chancellor & Regent of Cygnus, the realm’s titular ruler and guardian of the princess. His position, originally appointed by the Coranik crown, has placed him as guardian of the realm’s future, as he leads the Council in most matters. He watches over the future leader of the realm, Princess Nirnadel, the late king’s only surviving child. The noble houses in the city are almost entirely united behind Lord Ciramir, who recognize his diplomatic skills but also vie for the hand of the Princess, in hopes of being named Prince.
Merchant Faction : Leading the collection of various guilds and merchants from this faction, is Lady Verresa Kraal, a tall, vibrant woman whose apparent youth disguises her intelligence and wealth. Leading an important local family, she is known to have most every guild in her pocket, and should she wish it, could whisk power from the city like a broom gathers dust. While she leads the wealthy merchants, she also has the support of Lamril, an important smith in the city, whose leadership of the refugees is considered absolute.
Military Faction : Captain Lars Oelvenwold, leader of the realm’s Swangaard, is an imposing man with countless combat scars and the undisputed leader of the realm’s military forces. Several other younger captains idolize the man, and make him something of a legendary hero from his battles in the borderlands of the realm. Although the quality of his troops has diminished over the last generation, he fights constantly to get them supplies, equipment and fresh recruits, and is known to be uncompromising regarding their training. Many younger captains, however, do not agree, and would rather use their position to impress noble daughters of the realm; including the Princess.
Temple Faction : Tredora Goldenbrow, the local High Priestess of Nolom (the High Lord), holds a position of great power in the local hierarchy. As a Deva of impressive stature, her ethereal beauty has enchanted many, and leaves many young noble worshipers of Nolom in the throes of hopeless infatuation. It is known she has a poor view of adventurers s greedy buccaneers, and at best mercenary cut-throats.
Mage Faction : The Guild of Arcane Lore holds a quiet, but important position in the Regent’s Council, led by their Guild Master, Dirhavel the Red, a noted mage and alchemist. He is known to live a quiet life of seclusion, but trains local nobility in rituals and alchemy for high fees, considering himself a scholar and businessman. Combined with his good looks and vanity, he is able to hold together the Mage’s Guild despite failing membership and a growing lack of funds. He is known to take a dim view of visiting mages who “poach” his income.
Designed as a means for Hepekerian ships to engage in trade with the wealthy Coranik Empire, the city’s economy was based heavily on ship-building and acquiring salt, wool and timber from both the local region and nearby Aleath in exchange for the Hepekerian exports of carpets and silks, spices, wine and gems produced from that distant region. In 721 TR, the city was founded on a small fishing and timber village, in a rocky region that was nevertheless well-watered and quickly proved to be amenable to wide-scale cultivation.
Investment from numerous Hepekerian merchants and colonials led to the region broadening its trade and development. Further colonial expansion continued into the southern frontier, and led to the rise of Pelargir itself as a cultural center. Tolls from trade and active colonial efforts helped a great deal to found the city as an independent power, and it was able to bind the various lesser nobles in the region under its own banner, known as the Swangaard, until the Fell Swarm in 1021 TR. A great drake flew past the city, but did not land and destroy the city during the event, but the fall of the Coranik Empire led to a rapid decline and eventually broke the economy of the realm and its capital.
Orc, Tauri and Worgen raids into the Land of Five Waters drove people steadily back from the frontier, until the armies of the Dark stirred and swarmed across the realm in the Wolf Winter of 1042 TR. Within four years, the frontier lands were abandoned altogether, and the remnant of the realm withered. Now, in 1049 TR, the realm suffers from a lack of trade, a failed merchant fleet, and an army of refugees that have swelled its numbers but not its coffers. Though much of its earlier grandeur remains, the years have not been kind to the city. Even the locals are among the first to admit they lack the knowledge of their ancestors to maintain some of the city’s great works, making the city a grubby, dirty place.
The Military : At the realm’s height, the city could call upon 400 mounted knights, 2500 regular spear infantry and mercenaries, and several thousand spear levies. Each noble clan held around a hundred soldiers and mounted knights in their own service. Fully 80% of this force died in the retreat and ill-fated defense of “…the lands over the mountains…”, during the Wolf Winter of TR 1042. The personal troops of many nobles suffered complete losses when their lands fell to the hordes; only those troops under the command of Captain Oelvenwold survived in any great numbers, and in the end only just managed to make it back to the city with the tattered remnants of the remainder of the army.
Consequently, the most urgent concern of the military, now a generation later, is to maintain the army as a cohesive unit – loyal, fed, and in the field – and to increase its numbers as quickly as possible. Recruitment is easy, but troop quality remains an issue, as many new hires join simply for the chance at a regular food and pay. Furthermore, the military has seized almost every able-bodied horse left loose in the realm.
The realm and city maintain a small navy, consisting of six light tradeships, that spend most of their time on the seas trying to trade goods to increase her coffers. Four are normally at port at any given time, under-going repairs, and remain in very good condition. Their crews are remarkably very good as both merchantmen and combat ships, surprising many pirates.