“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Dark Sun. Athas. Desert Planet.
Blasted and bleak, Athas is a land turned vengeful by the defiling touch of Arcane magic. Life is brutal and short, the world a cruel landscape of sand and silt, stone and suffering. Scarcity defines existence, in water and metal and magical treasures. Civilization survives in seven city states, the domains of the tyrannical Sorcerer-Kings, while scattered tribes and nomads scrape out a living in the wastes beyond.
Nibenay, City of Spires.
In the shadow of the Crescent Forest, guarded by tall cliffs, is Nibenay, known in the Tablelands as the City of Spires. Ruled by its eponymous, enigmatic Sorcerer-King, Nibenay is a city of vast wealth and rampant debauchery. Nobles, whose houses control the many hot springs that provide the city its water, pile excess upon excess while engaging in intricate games of politics and intrigues. Nibenay’s Templars, his Shadow Brides, form the bureaucracy that actually runs the city-state, the power to balance the nobles’ wealth. And all the while, Nibenay lurks in his secret shadows.
One of the first families of Nibenay, House Drun claims to trace its roots to the founding of the city. With stewardship of the Ten Thousand Dreams of Tomorrow hot springs, Drun’s lands were prized and profitable. Its reputation and fortunes, however, have been put to the test by its current lord’s eccentricities. Mazakir Drun has spent his life devoting his house’s political capital and massive funds to unknown and enigmatic purpose. What is publicly known is that he has a rapacious appetite for slaves, and wives. Four women have been Lady Drun, and all four have disappeared or died – a fact that has led House Drun to make enemies among the wives’ former houses, and that has lent Mazakir Drun a reputation for being cursed.
For all his oddities, however, Mazakir has proved canny. To defend against the encroaching threats of enemy houses, especially House Ravanan, he split his lands among his seven daughters, rendering it impossible to make a single assault against the house. But Mazakir did not count on the true power of the city – Nibenay, himself. Emerging from his sanctuary, Nibenay claimed all seven daughters – each one an exceptional talent in her own right – as his Shadow Brides, effectively neutering House Drun.
But Nibenay understands the delicate balance of power and politics in his city. To compensate loyal and ancient House Drun, the Sorcerer-King has offered them some of his own lands; a prestigious gift indeed. Of course, those lands have been abandoned for decades, left to be reclaimed by the wastes. The estates are ruins, broken and unstaffed.
So now Drun finds itself rich in prestige and poor in assets. Mazakir, undeterred, has sent his youngest daughter – a Shadow Bride, but allowed freedom by Nibenay, for now – and some of the house’s most trusted officers to see to the lands. Mazakir, himself, remains in his cliff-side manse. Plotting.
An online D&D 4E Dark Sun campaign