Uneasy Lies the Head
Old Players Guide
This is an old Player Guide I wrote about the city of Neu Ungren, its culture, religion etc… eventually it will be cut up and integrated into the Wiki proper:
Neu-Ungren The Players Guide.
Situated in the delta of the Tiertz river, Neu-Ungren is at the spot particularly ill suites for housing its nearly 80.000 inhabitants. Deep within the Tierz marshes it is six travelling days away from the closest piece of solid arable land and four days away from the closest source of the clear water.
To the south of the city lays the Sorrowful Sea – very large saltwater lake almost perpetually covered in thick grey mist. Marshes extend about six travelling days to the east where they slowly turn into marginal soil of Donetz plains. To the north Tierz meanders slowly through many leagues of swampland branching into countless canals and bayous and receiving two tributaries, Holt from the east and Gibbel from the west. Beyond those two, and several weeks of river boat travel north from Neu-Ugren river consolidates and marshes give way to the rolling hills of Weldermark – the borderlands of the Empire. Many days beyond, lays the first cataract with its cyclopean staircase climbing towards the highlands of Wuetla. West of the city is largely unexplored with marshes extending for numerous days and with paths becoming few and badly maintained. Since technically western bank of Tierz represents the ultimate extent of the imperial dominion all the lands to the west of the city are considered untamed wilderness.
The treacherous waters, thick fog and frequent storms make the Sorrowful sea a deadly peril to all but the most skilled of navigators. Even though it is probably not exceptionally wide, the shortest recorded “passage” – that is a successful commercial venture to the southern lands beyond took 46 days. This is largely due to the fact that significant manoeuvring is necessary to avoid the sharp coral reefs that are guaranteed to sink any ship big enough to withstand the sea’s frequent storms. The exact nature of these manoeuvres is the subject of valuable and jealously guarded navigational routers. Along the reefs a thousands of small islets exist within the weeks sailing from the city – only a small percentage with their own water sources.
Of those, largest and closest to the city is the “Isle of Dogs” so called for a short-lived penal colony established by the Neu-Ungren authorities some seven decades ago. The colony disintegrated amidst the corruption affair that deprived the prisoners of the food supply from the mainland. Last reports of the colony were macabre tales of madness and cannibalism.
More fortunate was the colonization attempt of a bigger but more distant isle under the name of Barburata. It was conducted as a private affair by an aspiring navigator Joackhim Fugger in his bid to break the monopoly the noble families on the food supplies for the city. 120 families of urban poor were transplanted to the uninhabited island some 95 years ago as an experiment in food production. However, soil and, even more importantly, supplies of fresh water were worse then expected and even though colony was eventually able to support itself, any thought of using the islands as a food base for the city was abandoned. The population of Barburata, however, grew and prospered relatively, so much so that a second generation came to see themselves as Barburatans, essentially distinct from the inhabitants of Neu-Ungren. No serious attempt has been made either by the house Fugger or by the city authorities to reclaim the isle although this may change if the council accepts the implied connections between the Barburatans and the recent rise in piracy on the open sea.
No other island is known to support the permanent population but at least several of the larger ones: Kolin, Yallna, Red Urgosh and Ferenz’s Rock are known to be in occasional use as bases for pirates, smugglers and fishermen.
The climate of the Sea is governed by the thick mists that densify in the north through-out most of the cold season. Besides reducing visibility, mists keep the temperature on the sea and its immediate environs relatively high. As a consequence Neu-Ungren rarely has temperatures much bellow zero and the snowfall in the city is a rarity. Mists are less prevalent towards the south and, in winter, at two weeks travel from the city it is often possible to have weeks of uninterrupted sunshine. In the summer most of the sea is covered in mists and even Bardia on the southern shore is frequently enveloped.
The swamp surrounding the city is by many considered to be the biggest in the world. Covering area of two medium size duchies on the eastern “explored” bank alone it is a veritable buffer between the city and the Empire. The land travel through the swamp is difficult and dangerous due to shifting and treacherous terrain. Only two overland paths are maintained with any regularity by public or private interests in the city and the empire.
First of those is so called “Grain Road” connecting the city to the Donetz estates in the east. It is maintained ostensibly as the backup in the case that riverway supply of grain becomes impossible. In effect it is maintained largely by the nobility of the city as an implied threat of imperial arms to the mercantile oligarchy and as the potential escape route for themselves. The prohibitive costs of maintaining the “Grain Road” are among the many reasons for the economic decline of the Neu-Ungren nobility. Second and less maintained road is so called “March” that goes straight north from the city and when possible follows the main flow of Tierz. Its purpose ceased with the abandonment of the Imperial guard –towers along the eastern bank of Tierz but is still sometimes used for portage of smaller crafts that follow the river northwards especially in early winter when river-level drops and navigation through swamp becomes difficult at places.
Seven old imperial towers still dot this road and are frequently used as the stopovers for river travellers or as hideouts for the brigands. After centuries of neglect they have fallen into disrepair but most are still powerful strongholds testifying to the capabilities of imperial engineering corps. One tower at least is known to be under permanent control of the brigand band, so called “Dozen Men”. Numbering in excess of five times their namesake and commanded by a charismatic nobleman-outlaw have proven to be a thorn in the side of river traffic over the several years. Lack of coordinated effort on the part of the merchant houses of the city, and the well fortified position in the Bishop’s tower, have enabled “Dozen” to last longer then the most river pirates.
It is rumoured that more such bands exist in the swamp but the fact is that most of the human denizens of the marshes are in fact refugees from the city or the Donetz estates, eking bellow-sustenance existence from the terrain uniquely ill suited for human life.
Main travel routes through the swamp are of course on the Tierz, its tributaries and myriad of canals, natural and man-made, intersecting the delta. The main overland trading routes into the city come this way from the north and the east and altrough river merchants have decidedly lower status in the city then the Navigators, richest among those “river rats” are among the most influential people in the city. Other then following main flow of Tierz or Holt, finding ones way in the maze of canals is almost as difficult as negotiating traitorous waters of the Sorrowful Sea. Special vessel – Ungren Barge, light for portages and shallow-bottomed has been perfected for the swamp travel and is often used for the first leg of the long northwards journeys.
It is almost undeniable that the climate of the swamp is detrimental to human health. The ledgers of the Donetz nobleman clearly indicate the propensity for early deaths as well as still- and misshapen births among the peasantry closest to the swamp. Thick green miasma that lies heavily over the marsh through most of the year is known to cause fainting and vomiting in the unaccustomed. Fortunately for the city-dwellers, mixing with much less unwholesome sea-mists makes the Neu-Ungren immune to the most deleterious effects of miasma leaving largely only unpleasant stench in the air and a thin oily layer on most outside surfaces.
Despite this, animal, in particular bird, life in the swamp is unequal throughout the empire. For centuries, barons, dukes and occasionally even Emperors have braved the miasma and quicksand to test their bows on the thousands of kinds of ducks, gulls, sparrows, and, most of all, on elusive and beautiful Tierz Red Heron, the bird whose feather is still on Neu-Ungren coat of arms.
The lifeline of the north, Tierz flows for uncounted leagues before reaching its sprawling delta. The empire, westernmost reaches of which it marks, is just the last of the many human habitations it connects. Indeed, the banks of Tierz, north of the marsh, form almost uninterrupted, if sparse, thin band of human settlement in the vast wilderness. Although there are no major cities between Neu-Ungren and the first cataract there is at least fifteen settlements with population over thousand and countless smaller ones, all of them living of, and contributing to, the unending procession of trade flowing up and down the river. Fact that most “river rats” or their families come originally from this settlements contributes to the widely held belief that original Ungrenites fear the river and prefer sea. The importance of Tierz for the life of her banks is reflected in that from the mouth of Holt northwards to the cataracts, barely anyone calls her anything but The River.
Despite the relatively numerous population banks of Tierz were traditionally rarely given to the establishments of kingdoms or any authorities larger then a town and its outliers. Empire, at its height, controlled, at least nominally, most of the eastern bank south of the “Judge’s Island” more then half a way towards the first cataract. It built scores of mighty watchtowers along the bank, as much in order to impress the river-folk as to defend from the potential enemy from across. Even so, feudal-manoral system, norm in the interior, was introduced into river-lands only haphazardly and without much success. Nowadays, last river-lands still part of an extant Imperial duchy are Neu-Ungren and Weldermark, hilly region immediately north from the swamp.
Each settlement in river-lands has its own peculiarity, its own prized export, its own dialect and its own attitude towards “those strange folk” day or two on a river boat north from them. Even though most profitable trade for “river rats” of Neu-Ungren lies with Smelter above the cataract, many small fortune has been made in trading porphyry cloth of Dard, edible snails and medicinal herbs from Jagrem, “Judge’s stones”, and other products of river-lands.
One important export of the river-lands to the empire at large is priests. Two days on a boat north from the present boundary of Weldermark lays the Miklos’ Stone, one of the largest and most respected monasteries of western lands. Erected by Miklos Kiraly (later known as St. Miklos), younger son of the Emperor Istvan IV, on the spot revered as sacred by the locals for generations, it grew into the wealthiest establishment between Ungren and the cataract. Despite its decidedly noble origins it quickly dispatched with imperial tradition of admitting only the second sons of nobility into its ranks. This made it a magnet for the intelligent sons of artisans and peasants from across the river-lands and its strict and thorough seminary shapes the most capable of those into the best educated and most respected priests in the empire. Moderate position that Sons of St. Miklos take on most divisive church issues and their strong internal loyalties help many of them rise high in the church hierarchy. It is almost entirely unknown that Emperor’s own Soul-Keeper started life as the son of a cooper, and although nobles and Navigators of Neu-Ungren know that their own capable Patriarch was a sailor-boy till his sixteenth year, they are careful not to mention the fact in his presence.
Elsewhere in river-lands, particularly around Judge’s island, there are still places where old faith is practiced openly. River-Landers are pious people but not given to bigotry, and, despite the efforts of the Sons of St. Miklos, trespassing livestock and marital infidelities remain preferred reasons for hating “those upriver” over the religious differences.
The most visible consequence of the long imperial rule, beyond the colossal towers, is the fact that most sizable settlements south of Judge’s island are on the eastern bank. Occasionally dragged bottom makes this side of the river somewhat easier for travel as well. On the western side, endless willow-weeds face the hills of Weldermark occasionally sheltering a small fishing village of “uncouth barbarians” barely visible from the eastern bank. In the north this distinction fades and before one reaches Judge’s Island the distinction between the shores is one of convenience rather then that of civilizations.
Leaning on the eastern side of the Tierz marsh, over-tilled and arid Donetz Plains are closest typical, feudal-manoral, imperial lands to the city of Neu-Ungren. This makes Donetz the primary supplier of food to the huge city and the place where interests of the empire and its knightly aristocracy clash with those of hungry civic plutocrats. In the high days of the Empire, high lords of Donetz, families such as Esthwan, Serworsy and Nemeth could dictate the price of wheat and with it entire policy to ostensibly free city. The word of mouth has it that in those days Donetz itself was more fertile and that Holt branched at Golennburg bringing much needed fresh water into what is today half-desert.
It is paradoxical that the greatest triumph of the empire over the burghers of Neu-Ungren, establishment of the major-duke as a hereditary head of the city, roughly coincided with the beginning of the decline of Donetz as a political factor in the life of the city. In the bid to prevent the grand western families from becoming too powerful majorality was bestowed upon Martilus Ambros Gergely, relative of the emperor whose family frequently saw interests of the city as closer aligned to those of the emperor then those of the landed noblemen. Slow shrinking of imperial influence and, more than anything else, removal of Ducal seat from Golennburg to Timosvar, many days further east on Holt, contributed to the decline of Donetz. Fragmentation of the manorial estates as the primogeniture was abandoned made it possible for burghers to negotiate lower prices on grain fuelling the growth of Ungren at the expense of the power and prestige of the noblemen. Simultaneously, turn of the Imperial attention to the eastern wars made Donetz feel even more provincial and abandoned. Chivalric tournaments, visits from the capitals and travelling Ducal court, the only things that made living in the lonely fortified manors in the dry planes even remotely bearable, slowly disappeared together with monetary and societal advantages of doing so. In these years more then a half of resident nobles relocated either to the lands closer to the heartlands of the empire or, in surprising numbers, to the Neu-Ungren itself, in the bid to supplement their dwindling incomes with some investment in manufacture or trade.
Absentee landlords and pressure to maintain incomes by the increase in output steadily worsened the situation of landed peasantry. This, coupled with a particularly virulent form of pious insurgency centred around abbey of Dovcar lead to several of peasant uprisings all brutally quenched in blood by the combined effort of the nobility and burghers. Other kinds of insurgency such as fleeing into the swamp and trying to make one’s way to the city are still practiced by the populace and have lead to the introduction of a practice-turned-sport of hunting peasants with wolfhounds that is also still widely practiced despite official religious and imperial proscription.
The simmering resentment of the Donetz aristocracy against both Emperor and the city was fanned into flames by the young and charismatic Andras Esthwan some thirty years ago. He rose the ducal standard at Golennburg and while declaring himself loyal Imperial subject he named present duke an impostor. The court in Pec at first laughed at the young upstart and ordered the duke to put him down. It was not before Andras routed the duke’s twice more numerous army, laid Timosvar and cut Neu-Ungren entirely from the empire that emperor took him seriously. By this time example of young and daring warlord inspired many discontents along the crumbling periphery and emperor found himself in a fair amount of trouble.
This was the greatest crises for Neu-Ungren in the living memory, starvation was already claiming the weakest among the underclass and the possibility of emperor recognising Andras’ claim was near disastrous for the merchants. The crisis was solved by the conjunction of two men Ferenc Martilus Gergely major-duke of Neu-Ungren and Gregor Kluni sub-commander of the imperial Eagles sent to deal with the insurrection. Kluni was contacted by Gergely and accepted to play the part in the dishonourable but effective scheme to end the insurgence. Kluni secretly negotiated the surrender of a large group of Eagles to the Andras. Fearing the betrayal, young warlord disarmed and imprisoned all the deserters. All, that is, except for an enchanting young lady introduced to him as Kluni’s southern mistress. She later turned out to be a member of an order of seductress-assassins, imported from the south by the order of duke-major. Bereft of their charismatic leader rebellion was eventually destroyed by the Imperial forces.
Despite the fact that a sizable detachment of Donetz nobleman fought bravely on the imperial side in the rebellion, including young Garos Serwosy, who was rewarded a title of captain, rebellion only fortified the Imperial contempt for Donetz and hastened the diminishment of Imperial influence on the Neu-Ungren. Nominal war heroes such as Captain Serwosy were celebrated for a while and then forgotten and real victors, duke-major and Kluni were actively despised by their allies. Kluni was tried for high treason and was let go on technicality and despite the fact that Ferenz travelled several times afterwards all the way to Pec he was never again admitted to the presence of his cousin the Emperor.
By far the most desirable part of the Donetz is its northern end that lies along the river Holt. Traditional feudal domains of Esthwan family are most populated and most productive of all Donetz lands. Only sizable towns of the region, Golennburg, Friulli and Timosvar all lay on the river. Built on manorial grounds and under strict feudal supervision, even though larger, this towns lack the vibrancy of those on the banks of Tierz. Nevertheless they are infinitely preferable to the lonely wood-and stone manors of the interior surrounded with miles of half-desert and emaciated and murderous peasants. Holt is used as a trading route between Neu-Ungren and the Imperial heartland and although Holt-towns contribute less to the river commerce then their northern counterparts they can not fail but be enlivened by it.
Only other location of note in the plains is the abbey of Dovcar, spiritual heart of Donetz peasantry. With its miracle-mongering, populist brand of religion it represents the perennial thorn in the side of Neu-Ungren, nobility and Imperials. Nevertheless it serves as a source of only succour for the thousands of Donetz peasantry and even a disproportionate number of urban poor of the city. Without seminary it can not catapult its teachings into the higher orders of the church but its mendicant friars are known for their charitable work, their personal poverty, fierce piety and hatred of any sort of exploitation or corruption. Superstitious to the point of heresy abbey was nevertheless the only church in the west that has produced the confirmed miracle working priest in the last two generation. Imre Pal who was killed in the Esthwan rebellion while trying to make levied peasants of both sides desert their oppressors was on record for many miraculous works not least of which was creating a small spring of fresh water near Yblovica estate in southern Donetz on the piece of formerly entirely unusable soil that the local landlord gave as a reward for saving his life to one of his serfs.
The principal reason why the city was built deep within the swamp in the first place and a principal cause of its growth lies in the fact that at this point – near the geographic centre of the Sorrowful Sea culminate the shortest and easiest trading routes that connect the empire with the southern lands. In the south the closest counterpart to the Neu-Ugren is the city and the emirate of Bardia – an enclosed enclave defending its independence and its trading privileges against larger and hostile neighbours. Several other destinations feature in the routers of the Ungren navigators most notable being the Ellam of Harid and Island nation of Toka.
The goods traded vary significantly but the most important exports of Neu-Ungren remain: metals; particularly steel, silver and gold, certain foodstuffs; most notably turnips and garlic – both rumoured to be having medicinal properties in the south, cloth and rugs – particularly imperial embroidery and alcoholic beverages, mostly strong spirits but also wine and reinforced beer. Of lately a significant new export has become the ships built in the Neu-Ungren yards which have in recent years with addition of the third sail overtaken their southern counterparts not only in bulk and carrying capacity but also in the short term speed.
Even more profitable if dangerous are smuggling exports which fall in the two categories, weapons and slaves, both strictly forbidden as the tradable goods by both Imperial and Civic authorities. Slavery in particular is strongly opposed by the official Church and is often punishable by death. Profits, however, that can be made even on a small shipment of pale northern girls or strong potential gladiators frequently tempt the greed of navigatorial houses.
In many instances the established, if dangerous, practice for Navigators is to commission smugglers – small time operatives or even pirates and furnish them with a router and a crew. Traditionally in such instances smuggler who runs most of the risk can expect to see about 5-10% of the profit. Unsurprisingly it is from the ranks of smugglers that the most dangerous open-sea pirates are recruited – often preying exactly on the ships of their previous patron house. Elaborate security measures including furbishing smugglers with dangerous and infrequently used routers are usually set up to avoid this and this volatile practice continues to the present day with slave supply being kept up by the slave caravans still being furtively brought to the city over the secret pathways in the swamps by the unscrupulous and with families of urban poor being sold by the desperate.
Weapons smuggle faces less of a religious and moral outrage but more practical difficulties. The most interesting item to the southern buyers is famous Garillian Crossbow – powerful and expensive weapon that was once a staple of the imperial land armies. Even though military monopoly on manufacture and sale of this weapon has eased with years, to the point where master fletchers of Doran and Neu-Ungren can produce even better specimen then the Imperial armourers themselves selling of it outside the empire has long been considered a capital crime. In addition to the reasons of the pride and security of the empire there is a permanent concern that if enough of those make their way south Emir of Bardia whose rule has too often been propped by the Ungren marines might be jeopardised and with it one of the principal trading lifelines of the city. Fact however that this shining and deadly weapon in the hands of their house guard has become a symbol of status among the rulers in the south drives it price to astonishing levels and risky trading ventures extremely profitable.
The principal imports from over the sea are silk, tooth-bone – extremely hard and decorative material, spices, wool, fighting animals such as those used by the emperor’s Leopard Guard, coffee – which has become addiction of almost all classes in Neu-Ungren and of wealthy elsewhere in the Empire and, secretly, poisons and other alchemical concoctions. The wild rumour circulates that greatest money can be made, if one knows right buyers and sellers, in the items of arcane and demonic nature but no official statute in the city goes as far as to acknowledge such practices.
In addition a brisk and profitable if only semi-legal trade goes in potential emigrants, people prosecuted on one side or the other and with enough money and courage to try for the new life beyond the sea. Sadly, all too frequently they end up on the slave markets of their intended or past home.
In theory, supreme authority of the city, and of all lands surrounding it, is His Supreme Glory Emperor Istvan XI Kiraly, king in Pec and in Miskolcz and in all Western Lands. His representative in the city and its executive ruler is His noble cousin duke-major Ferenc Martilus Gergely who at his leisure can chose to consult the body of 500 prominent citizens officially styled Five Centuries. Heads of each century, together with the city patriarch Maltino Sersez, Master of the Works and duke-major are supposed to form a small council that can in the cases of emergency enact ordinances without consulting the full Centuries.
In practice distribution of power is significantly different. No emperor within last three generations have ever stepped within the city limits or attempted to influence the politics within the city. Present duke-major is over a hundred years old, blind and deaf and have already outlived both of his sons who had hoped to succeed him. He is despised by the nobility for his dishonourable dealings in the past and distrusted by Navigators for his fanatical imperialist leanings. He has little support in the Centuries and even less say in the daily running of the city. Seen by many as a figurehead, the old man however still holds petulantly to some prerogatives of his position and works hard to maintain semblance of imperial rule in the city.
Centuries were originally stacked so as to give representation to all classes of the city while favouring the noble classes over the citizenry. They were meant to be composed of two hundred landed nobleman, hundred most prominent artisans, hundred merchants and hundred ordinals, later being various propertied citizens of distinction. Among them were to be included: higher clergy of the city, most respected of the resident aliens, sages and specialists in various fields and other local luminaries. Original intention was that the Centuries will advise duke-major in all important matters and will be the main executors of his will in the city. This last function made the position on centuries at best a costly honour and at worst a ruining experience. This was due to the peculiar system of taxation that plagued Neu-Ungren since its foundation.
Having from its beginnings a status of Urbis Liberum due to its being built on unproductive soil, city and its denizens were never in the position of imperial tenancy. As such only tax ever levied on the Neu-Ungren was symbolic levy of 12 ducats per-anuum and the pair of imperial slippers. This means that regardless of the decisions of the Centuries no citizen could be made to financially contribute to the civic or imperial coffers. This effectively meant that the people responsible for financing the decisions made at the Centuries were the members of the centuries themselves. With time, this came to mean those members who were present at the meeting where the decision was made, meaning that only the richest of the councillors ever dared to take their seats.
Several times, ambitious duke-majors with strong support of the centuries have attempted to extract the taxes from the unwilling populace. But each time public outrage, fuelled in large part by the Navigators made support of such measures politically and personally risky for both councillors and the Duke-major. It is not the secret that the father of the present duke was rendered paralysed by the stone thrown at him from the mob during the riots against an attempted tax.
Presently, centuries is composed of roughly six dozen counsellors less then half of whom can be seen at each given meeting. Given their minority position in the original making of the Centuries, navigators and their dependants have developed instinctual distrust of the body and spurn membership on it despite the fact that with their monetary clout they would probably be able to dominate it nowadays. Given the impoverished state of most nobility this means that the council is dominated largely by the prosperous civic merchants and “artisans” which is to say: heads of larger manufactures. Also present is a substantial but enthusiastic minority of River Rats, principal among whom is one Bartholomeus Twee, the Dean of the Centuries and very wealthy man who also happens to be one of the most popular and civic minded individuals in the city. With this composition it is hardly surprising that the main preoccupation of the centuries is the preservation of the personal property and combating city’s criminal element. This does not extract a heavy financial burden on the councillors as their contribution largely consists of pooling their already existing private guards for mutual protection and, occasionally, punitive expeditions onto those criminal bosses who consistently target the interests of the councillors. Occasionally, public outcry prompted by a large-scale calamity such as epidemic disease, flooding or fire forces Centuries to invest some of their money into the public good but even then foot dragging and general lack of will means that any relief from this quarter comes months if not years after it ceased to be relevant.
Nominal body with very little real power, Small Council was political non-entity throughout the most of Neu-Ungren history. Beyond the social prestige it bestowed on its limited membership and lavish dinners on each day of the highest tide it had practically no influence on the city. All that changed with the unlikely elevation of Maltino Sersez, former Neu Ungren sailor and dock-worker to the position of Patriarch of the city. One of the most talented disciples of the St. Miklos’ seminary, Maltino renounced the career in the upper echelons of the church in the imperial heartlands for the ungrateful position as the spiritual guide to the city’s less-then-pious populace. Among many things, young patriarch is credited with raising the profile of the church among the urban middle class, notoriously agnostic group, with restoring some of the decaying churches and with vigorously combating such crimes as slave trade. It is in this last capacity that he utilizes to the fullest the institution and he prerogatives of the Small Council. With the retirement of the duke-major from active politics and with the fact that Master of the Works, that is the head of the Guild, rarely if ever participates in the above-ground civic business, Maltino is the head of this body which have, through mysterious ways grown to 14 persons from the original 8. His effectiveness as the head of the council rests largely in the convincing power and the general belief in his neutrality with respect to the financial and political conflicts, but also in the connections, both real and perceived, he has with the powerful religious and secular authorities in the empire. That had enabled him to conduct such outrages as a search of a warehouse belonging to a Navigatorial family, that was suspected (and confirmed) to be used in slave trade. There is hope by many that Small Council under the leadership of the Patriarch will be able to impose some semblance of the rule of law in the city but if such is Maltino’s intention he had not confided it to anyone.
Sort of the counter-body to the centuries and the Small Council exist in the unofficial but powerful Compact of the Captains, the club that gathers the heads of the Navigatorial houses. Created to parry any attempt of the duke-majors to impose imperial hegemony into the city, Compact’ main purpose throughout the years became the maintenance of the uneasy peace between the families themselves. Despite, or exactly because of, their significant individual clout Navigators have never been able to work together and therefore this organization has effectively always been much less then the sum of its parts. Its perennial goals in terms of civic policies, establishment of the city mint and codifying the status of citizenship remain unfulfilled. The headquarters of the Compact in the Old Mariner’s Inn on the Docks and the informal etiquette put it in sharp contrast to both Small Council and the Navigators College where sons of most of the members of the Compact can be found.
Due to the issue with taxation there is practically no civil service or even a watch or public guard of any kind in the City. 21st Imperial Mandible which used to be stationed in the city still exists nominally. Technically it is responsible for controlling the river traffic and defending the city from the invasion from the west. In practice it has been reduced to the two score families which inherit the soldiering position and rank and with it the housing in the large imperial barracks in the north-east of the city. Mandiblers, as they are commonly known in the city, are respected as the growers of prime mushrooms and also for the colourful annual parade they stage in their ceremonial, if somewhat decrepit, uniforms (some of them more then the century old) but are not expected by anyone to ever actually perform the military duties.
Neu-Ungren is built on the spot where easternmost of the three main flows of Tierz enters the Sorrowful Sea. By the great engineering effort marshy terrain has been drained and embankments erected on both sides of the river-flow. The water from numerous side-flows has been channelled into four major canals through the network of smaller arteries both at and below the street level. At places, manually operated pumps work on daily basis to keep the water from spilling out of its regulated flows. City is encircled by the chain of dykes and drainage systems that prevent it from sinking into the swamp. Even though less then the third of the entire Tierz flows through the City, river is well over half mile wide and effectively cuts the city in two parts.
Best way to get the idea of the layout of Neu-Ungren is to sail down the Tierz on the barge from Heaven’s Gate to the Flotsam Rock in the middle of the harbour. Heaven’ Gate is a name given by the River Rats to the opening in the city dyke through which Tierz flows into its embankment. This is one of the few places in the city where Guildsmen can be seen on the daily basis, regulating the flow and manning the pumps that could, allegedly, in the case of emergency, dry out the channel and close the dyke. First impression of the city for the traveller will be sudden change of the smell in the air. Thick and putrid miasma of the Tierz marsh meets here, not only the mist that rises from the sea, but, in particular, the strong smell of blood and animal entails from the nearby Butcher’s Market. It is impossible to bring the fresh meat on the week’s (or longer) journey through the swamp and therefore most of city’s meat supply come in shape of live animals brought on barges and slaughtered in many small slaughter-houses around the Butcher’s Market on the east bank at the very entrance to the city.
Market itself is smallest and least pleasant of four principal Neu-Ungren markets. Smell and noise of slaughtered animals together with a large concentration of marsh fleas make the place unpleasant to visit even by Neu-Ungren standards, but nevertheless it is one of the areas where most eclectic cross-section of the city population can be found. Cooks and suppliers and even occasional Lady from the richer households of the west bank can be seen shopping for choicer pieces of newly arrived animals. Nobles and smaller landowners who have vested interest in much of the meat supply and in many slaughter-houses can be seen checking out on their investment and occasionally even managing the large scale sales. Mandiblers and their families can also be seen, peddling their mushrooms at this, closest market to their barracks. Taliveri and other middle-class citizens bargain for the meat for their high-week meal and urban poor fight the dogs, flees and carrion birds for the discarded entails.
Further away from the river and on the banks of the Kapuiszin and Eszaki Canals are many other small industries associated with the by-products of butcheries. Glue makers, tanners, haberdashers, but also surgeons, blood-letters and barbers all fill this area. Even further, beyond Eszaki, are the Grunds where once magnificent Imperial barracks still stand, their training grounds covered by makeshift cottages and tents of newly arrived river-landers and escaped Donetz peasants.
Western shore of the Tierz, with its symbolism of being outside the Imperial lands, has always appealed to the Navigators and their dependants, and has, as a consequence, prospered as the power and influence in the city shifted to the Burghers from the nobility. However, the orderly and decorated streets of Captainsezglesh are much to the south and neighbourhood facing the Butcher’s Market is still very low on the social ladder. A ferry service runs from Vaccinomuerte river docks on the butcher side to the pump-works on the west. It has been run for generations by the Bullino family, known for their hatred of foreigners and notoriously bad relations with River Rats. In the immediate vicinity of the works is a small windowless building of black stone – the recruitment offices of the Guild. In keeping with the city superstition that Guildsmen bring good luck, several gambling dens including the infamous “Black Peter” are located nearby. Area has a reputation for safety because neither guildsmen nor the gambling sharks would tolerate anything else. It is otherwise almost as unpleasant as the Butcher’s across the river. People who live here are largely the most menial of the employees working around the Captainsezglesh too poor to afford the daily expenditure on ferry and too scared or unconnected to find the accommodation on the Bank.
To the south of Kapiuszin canal on the eastern shore one can see the northern riverside of the enormous Neu-Ungren Park. Built many generations ago, to provide the respite from the unpleasant smell and the overcrowded streets for the civic dignitaries and the nobility, the Park was filled with the exotic southern flora, crossed and dotted with paths, small canals and artificial lakes. With time, park has fallen into gross disrepair and swamp climate had played strange tricks on the southern plants. Now, it is a dangerous jungle prowled by the brigands and wild dogs. Being crescent shaped it effectively isolates the High City, or Nobs’ Hill as it is commonly known, from the rest of the eastern bank. Those wishing to go there have either to jump the fences and brave the Park or go lengthy and costly route over one of the ferries to the west bank and then onto the “Hill” via Istvan’s Bridge.
Istvan’s Bridge is the only bridge ever built over Tierz and serves as another reminder of the greatness of Imperial engineers. Built of white marble it has two spans each over a quarter mile long. In the middle of the river it touches on the natural Koroly Island. It is wide enough to let two chariots bypass and is lined by the sculptures of the famous knights from Empire’s history. It is said, however, that one of the sculptures, despite the military garb, is a female, representing Lady Katalin the Regicide. There is a variety of contradicting rumours as to its origin of this very controversial statue and its existence has never been confirmed by the civic authorities. Folklore, particularly among burghers and riverlanders, has it that if Lady Katalin is ever discovered and removed by the Imperials, all Routers will go bad and city will die. Other legend says that if a young man in love guesses the right statue at the first try and kisses Lady on the mouth he will be united with his love no matter the difficulties but that if he guesses wrong and kisses one of the male knights, either him or his love will die before the end of the year.
Both sides of the bridge continue its splendour. On the eastern bank is the High City: home of the Ducal Palace, Patriarchy and Bernandino’s, city’s most famous wine cellar as well as the ancestral dwelling places of Neu-Ungren nobility. St. Feher square, on which all three of these magnificent buildings are situated is one of the architecturally most striking places in all of western empire and great effort is taken (largely by the patriarch Maltino) to keep it that way. It is one of the very few places in the city where thin slippery film of green-grey fog precipitate is regularly scrubbed of both the cobbles and building walls. Interior of the Nob’s Hill, while still architecturally magnificent, at times shows the signs of the decay of the Neu-Ungren nobility. Some houses lay empty and some are in bad need of repair. Streets, however, are wide and still the safest in the city. Civic art more abundant the anywhere else and even few fountains still work to the amusement of the city children. On the top of the “hill” – negligibly high bump above the city – is the Hall of Arms, sacred hall where dead nobles are buried in the stone crypts. It is the heart of the old Neu-Ungren and only nobility is allowed in. It is guarded by the magnificent equestrian statue of Matias Istvan, founder of the Koroly dynasty.
Across the river, almost exactly facing the Emperor, is another statue. Built in human scale and in severe realism that mocks the heroic imperial style it represents the Joackim Fez, imperial surveyor who, according to the legend, was imprisoned by the barbarian tribes and sold to slavery. He made himself useful and passed through many hands finally finding his way overland to the southern shore of the Sorrowful Sea. From there he stole the ship and braved the perils of the open sea without a router finally finding the way to the Neu-Ungren bay. Fez’s statue stands on the terminus of Balos, a wide avenue continuing westwards from the Bridge. Lined with birch trees and trading houses, Balos is a commercial heart of the city. At night it is lit by the thousands of lanterns and, frequently, paid musicians perform for the Navigators and their Ladies passing by in men-drawn carriages and rickshaws. Balos terminates in Captainsezglesh richest and most prestigious neighbourhood in the city. Here mansions of the Navigators and their chief associates stand besides expensive inns (including the “Lady”, one of the wonders of the West), bakeries, oddity stores, artist studios and such like. At the centre of the neighbourhood is Captainsezglesh itself, round square with red cobbles, site of famous outdoors parties which celebrate successful trading ventures, launching of new ships and discoveries of new routes. In the backstreets of Balos, much of the commercial activity of the city takes place: wholesale trade and rudimentary banking but also smuggling contracts and protection rackets are all arraigned in the small drinking clubs along this district. The large empty lot where Navigators intend to erect the Neu-Ungren Mint, once old Ferentz dies, or is replaced, is used as a storage space for trading goods.
Between Captainsezglesh and the Pump-works and further to the west lays the New City, district that is slowly taking over Taliver in being the most respected part of Neu-Ungren. Artisans and small craftsmen are setting the shop here to be close at hand to their rich customers. Tailors, potters, cobblers, book-binders, lantern makers can all be found now in this large area. This prosperous commercial activity, unprotected by the navigators’ private armies and located in the part of the city with streets particularily narrow, even by Neu-Ungren Standards brings its costs. Vicious gang violence and extortion are common, as the gang leaders fight for the slice of this most profitable “turf”. Now, shop owners have started to organise and fight back, leading to ever more violence. Prosperous by day, New City turns rather ugly at nightfall.
Tucked in the south-western corner of the New city is the most interesting of Neu-Ungren four markets. Southron Market is where many strange and expensive items brought from overseas and from upriver and from the empire can be bought and sold. While large scale goods are sold directly in the backrooms of Balos, many small items, jewellery, ointments, small alien animals and oddities of every kind brought by navigators or by their crewmen are usually offered here. Treasures can be had at southron market for the cost of a dinner and worthless junk can be bought for the fortune. The place exudes the atmosphere of the far of places and for many Ungrenites the visit to the market is like a trip abroad. Smells of foreign food and perfume mixes with the odour of alchemical substances making even the ever present marshy stench recede from this enchanted place. Market’s neighbourhood is smaller then those associated with its tree counterparts but it preserves the mysterious aura of the market itself. Speciality stores of all types can be found here including one that sells nothing but alchemical ingredients. Small private shrines to foreign gods can be found, some unlike anything that can be seen north of sea. Larissa’s Hammam, the renowned public bath-house opened by the exiled southern princess is here and so are the infamous tea-houses where opium and other drugs can be enjoyed. Richer aliens live in this area and to the south along Totbab canal.
Emperor’s isle, the small rock in the middle of Tierz that serves as the carrying point for the bridge offers the stark contrast with the marble bridge and luxurious streets on both sides. It offers the refuge to the poorest and most desperate of the city. Assortment of beggars, cripples and orphans live on the isle in a sort of commune. Fact that island can not at all be reached from the bridge makes any attempt to dislodge them extremely difficult. It is said that those who have lost everything, if they dare to swim the Tierz or steal some sort of boat will find the shelter of sorts on emperor’s isle and somebody willing to share their gruel. It is said that one of the high priests of the city abandoned his position and status in order to live with the beggars. Such indeed was their tenacity that when the centuries sent their thugs on barges to drive them of the isle and even brought the boiling oil to pour from the bridge beggars fought them to standstill until the civic fathers retreated with many casualties.
As one sails even under the bridge and past the isle of beggars to the east one sees the disturbing strip of lower riverside of great Park enveloping the Nob’s Hill from the south. Facing the Park and extending further south towards the harbour is one of the oldest and most interesting neighbourhoods, infamous Bank. Stretching in a relatively narrow strip from Totbab canal all the way to the western docks, Bank is a maze of impossibly narrow, winding streets, dead-ends and courtyards. It is home to countless bordellos and taverns, to some of the city’s best eateries and some of its most colourful criminals. At night, sons of the navigators from nearby college mix with the street thugs, errant noblemen, off-duty sailors and amazed foreigners in the pursuit of debauchery and entertainment. Particularly notorious is the Red Alley, place of countless duels and knife fights, where many young men died for the honour of the whore and the amusement of the drunk patrons of the “Snake” and “Bull and the Virgin” two taverns overlooking the street. While visitors are welcome, those born and grown on the Bank hold themselves to be the breed apart, aristocracy among the Neu-Ungren underclass. From the gangs of knife-wielding adolescents to the old grizzled pimps they would all defend the “honour” of their district with passion equalling that of a Lord for his family name. No “outsider” a crime lord, civic official or a gentleman has ever displaced a Banker or collected the protection money from one. Particular animosity exists between the Bank and the Cathedral district right across the river. Time honoured sequence of vendettas street fights and carefully crafted insults ties these two neighbourhood together as tightly as any civic bond.
To the east of the Bank in the area where foreigners of the Totbab canal start to give way to the workers and sailors of the west coast Docks stands the huge edifice of Navigators College. Erected two generations ago around the mad sage who came as the refugee from Bardia it has become a schizophrenic institution. On one hand it is a social club for the young and rich of the city and scene of some of the heaviest parties and most intense debaucheries, but on the other it is a only genuine place of learning in the city and some of its professors, imported from far and wide by the Navigators in the belief that only through education will they be able to finally establish themselves over the Imperials, are unequalled masters in their fields. Astrology and botany, alchemy and anatomy, philosophy and languages are all taught here. Several, times church have accused some of the teachers of heresy or even goddess worship and twice have holy men searched premises of the college looking for proofs of demonic activity. It is said that patriarch Maltino would like nothing as much as an opportunity to close the college but so far he has been unable. He has, however, repaired and refitted the church of St. Martha, one of the oldest and prettiest Neu-Ungren churches located directly across from the old refurbished warehouses that form the college. From here almost daily sermon can be heard imploring the sinning youngsters to return to God.
From the middle of the Bank the second ferry service runs to the Cathedral district in old Neu-Ungren. Pashki an old family of Bardian descent, who run the ferry, deem themselves as sort of referees and independent observers in the long “war” between the banks.
Cathedral district, together with all the other lands south of Grassello Canal forms what is called the old city. Undoubtedly the first part of the Neu-Ungren to be built, it is still its most densely populated area. Besides the Cathedral it consists of the Back-o-the-Docks, working class area further east along Grassello [that is where from most of you lot are from, Gratiano and Salarino grew up there and it was natural surfacing ground for Weasel], Docks themselves, Fisherman’s market and, even further east, Barrens: large area of manufactures now increasingly abandoned as the business shifts eastwards onto the “new claimed land” to serve enormous Neu-Ungren shipyard.
Cathedral district gets its name from the largest Neu-Ungren church, Cathedral of the Angels that puts to shame even the St. Feher basilica in the patriarchy. This enormous gothic edifice, work of the Galvanius, mad architect-engineer and founder of the Guild, was even beyond the power of the energetic young patriarch to restore. Big enough to house two sea-faring tall ships in its main nave it had suffered the faith of many other big civic buildings. Too big to maintain it has fallen into gross disrepair most of its stained glass windows stolen or broken and some of its masonry crumbling. Afraid of potential catastrophe church has stopped doing services in the cathedral almost forty years ago but even to this day pilgrims and curious city folk find their way over the obstacles or through the broken windows to admire the dying giant. More than any other church in Neu-Ungren it exudes the sacred presence being, according to the legend built on the exact spot of the only solid ground within the swamp sacred to either the goddess or the local spirits since the time immemorial. Even in its days of decay it is one of the unsurpassed wonders of the Neu-Ungren. District surrounding the cathedral is the heart of the river traffic. It is here that the shallow bottom barges of the River rats unload and sell their goods. Riverbank is lined with the hooks, pulleys and lifts, docks and warehouses servicing this traffic. While sharing much in the way of atmosphere with the Docks it is distinct from them by the smaller scale of the works. It is in this district that the River Rats are most at home in Neu Ungren and it is not a wonder that most of those growing up in the Cathedral chose the career of the river sailor over the post on one of the tall ships. It is along this shore, even more then on the Bank, that floating houses can be found. Hated by River Rats and barge captains for the problems they cause in docking they are tolerated by the local folk as they at least somewhat relive the pressure on otherwise incredibly crammed neighbourhood. Local pride rivalling that of the Bankers and advantageous position make for overpopulation problem even greater then in the rest of the city. Stories are routinely added to the lower houses and 5 and even 6 story high rickety constructions can be seen. Every few years one of these death traps collapses but it does not deter the ”Men of the Church”, as the denizens call themselves, from building two new ones in its place.
East Coast docks form most of the Neu-Ungren harbour. They extend along the sea coast, taking over from the cathedral district at the very mouth of Tierz and continuing in the long stretch of warehouses, docks and anchorages. Almost like the parasites in the shadow of the vast warehouses, there is a plethora of smaller buildings that make docks almost impassable. Taverns, cheep inns that double as brothels, hardware stores and stores selling the canvas, ropes and other nautical equipment. Docks are one of the roughest areas of the city as no single gang can keep control on the rowdy bands of sailors that rarely make it past this district in their search for fight or entertainment. Dock workers, almost hereditary stuck in the deadly and back-breaking labour are perennially the prime recruiting grounds both for sailors and for the city’s criminal element.
North of the docks and east from the Cathedral is the back-o-the-docks district. Old working class neighbourhood, in the old days dedicated to serving both the docks to the south and the Taliver to the north. With the decline of the later it started sinking into decay and ever deeper poverty and was soon embroiled in the gang warfare of the Barrens. It is home to the cheapest (and worst) ale in the entire-city and some of the city’s principal dog-fighting pits.
At the place where “back-o-the-docks” meets Barrens and Gorzly Canal flows into Grasselo, is situated city’s biggest, if most ordinary market. Fisherman’s Market is the biggest open food market in the city and place where most of the east coast gets their daily provisions. While not as unpleasant as the entails and blood of butchers market, smell of sour cabbage, fish, turnips and garlic does pervade the atmosphere of the market. Gorzly and Grasselo and two smaller canals bisecting the market are constantly filled with food refuse and cries of vendors and beggars complete the scene. Small, cheep and surprisingly good eateries line the edges of the market and the procession of people constantly in and around it significantly enlivens its neighbourhood. Child pickpockets of the Fisherman’ Market, as young as four or five are known throughout the city. At night many vendors sleep under their stalls and both street parties and street fighting are not unknown.
Further east along Grasselo, one gets into the Barrens. Until relatively recently this was the easternmost area of the city bordering the dykes. As such it was home to the city industries, brick makers, glass blowers, canvas weavers, carpenters, blacksmiths and many others worked here. After the guild, at the request from the centuries, drained a large track of land further to the east to enable the building of the new shipyard much of the industry moved to service it leaving Barrens as sort of no-mans zone in the middle. While some industry still remains here, particularly Goetlieb’s crossbow manufacture, much of the neighbourhood has reverted to the sort of the skid-row, a base for the criminals operating in Taliver and on the docks.
The large area behind the city park and between the Grassello and Kapiuszin is, mostly, a residential zone that is slowly going down in the world. Immediately north from the Grassello near Fisherman’s market lies Taliver, a strip of land that used to be the most prestigious middle class neighbourhood in the city [this is where house of Miranda’s Grandma is] In the days when Park was still open to the public it was the area closest to the High City and as such a magnet for the enriched artisans and other aspiring citizens. Even to this day the disproportionate number of centuries members live in this neighbourhood. Beautiful stone houses many of them with pleasant inner courtyards are a hallmark of Taliver and despite the isolation brought on the neighbourhood with the collapse of the Park and economic decay, most citizens would still not consider moving anywhere. Combined efforts of the centuries keep Taliver largely safe both from the park gangs and from the denizens of the Rat’s market and its surrounds. This applies mostly to the north and central Taliver whereas the southern side of the neighbourhood has slowly fallen into the orbit of Fisherman’s Market and the Barrens. City’s only hospice for the diseased poor exists, supported by the more charitable Taliver denizens in the grim looking building with a chain fence on the north eastern corner of the district. For some unknown reasons a small population of southerners have gave up their traditional ethnic dwelling places on the bank of the Totbab and have settled in Taliver much to the chagrin of some old-time residents.
While Taliver maintains its middle class standing previously decent areas to the east and north of it, particularly those anywhere near Rat’s Market are going downhill fast being abandoned by all those who can for West Coast. Neighbourhoods bordering the new claimed land are still quite vibrant but have definitively changed their population structure over last two generations or so.
As one goes further north and approaches eastern part of Kapiuszin canal architecture deteriorates and number of beggars and hookers increases. One is getting close to the Rat’s Market, centre of Neu-Ungren’s most dangerous neighbourhood. Originally intended as a large flea market Rat’s Market has with time become city’s greatest depository of stolen goods as well as the unofficial hiring place for thugs, ruffians and worse. Fence shops and loan sharks line the market and unsavoury looking types sell their wares and services at street corners. Brothels here have neither mystique and class of those of the Bank, nor the business like simplicity of those on the docks. They are places of desperation where down-and-outs go to prove to themselves that there are those even more misfortunate then them. Taverns here serve vitriolic spirits designed to make one drunk at the cheapest possible rate. Street fights here are not elaborate knife wielding duels of the Bank or even thuggish posturing of Barrens but rather honourless ambushes in the dark. Rape and abuse is everyday sight and danger practically constant. It is possibly the only part of Neu-Ungren where people are killed and maimed routinely, practically daily. And yet, people still live here as even this grim place plays its part in the city fabric. It is almost a public secret that slavers bring in their victims, mostly young females from riverlands or beyond, through the underground canals into the cellars of the “Kinfee” or “Gutter” in Rat’s Market to join those unfortunates who had been driven by desperation to sell themselves in hope of better fortune or survival of their families. It is only scarcely less known that one or two of Navigatorial families owe much of their fabulous fortunes to shipping of these unfortunates to their masters in Bardia and beyond. Those secure enough to brave the neighbourhood can make a pretty penny buying goods at the Market itself and selling them elsewhere. Beyond that high stakes gambling goes on the outcomes of the to-death gladiatorial matches in the secret pits of “Kinfee”, “Sloane” or other drinking houses in the Rats’. Many of the respected body guards of the richest navigators have honed their skills growing up in this neighbourhood. Further to the east to the city dyke slums lose some of the intensity of the Rat’s market but gain little in terms of personal security or sense of worth.
On the middle of the Tierz mouth lays the sizable island called Flotsam Rock. Connected to the Cathedral district with the Dock ferry and to the west side docks via Bank Ferry it is at a centre of the Neu-Ungren harbour. Used intermittently as a fortress, harbour, warehouse and quarantine the big stone castle guarding the mouth of the river is now empty after being bought several years earlier by the compact of several Navigatorial families. Many legends circulate in the city about the castle, known as the Andras’ tomb and many claim that its deep dungeons connect to the guild’s canals deep under the river. Many parts of it have been blocked of by the have been blocked of by the civic authorities but even so several people every year goes exploring the castle never to return.
Economy and demographics:
A peculiar fact about the City of Neu Ungren is that it has somehow avoided the significant inflation that usually plagues the commercial hubs. This means that the prices and wages have held roughly to the same level over the last generation or so keeping the value of the money stable. This in part is due to the fact that supply of actual currency remains limited. This is because Neu-Ungren does not mint its own currency but instead relies on two principal foreign sources of bullion: Empire and the southern ports, principally Bardia. Imperial currency comes in three major denominations: copper Penny (p), silver Shilling ($) and golden Ducat (D). Officially there is 100p in a Shilling and 22$ in a Ducat. In practice this varies due to the fact that Ducats and Shillings are frequently shaved for the precious metals they are made of so usual going rates are about 30p in an average Shilling and 5-10 average Shillings in an average Ducat. The prices rise with the new money that is one freshly obtained from the Imperial suppliers but practice of shaving the money is so widespread that it is almost unheard-of to see the genuine full minted Ducat in circulation. Pence which are largely unshaven have the monogram of the ruling emperor on the back and the Imperial coat of arms on the front. Shillings and Ducats have a profile of the Emperor on the back and one of the varieties of religious symbols on the front.
More stable currency is the southern pieces called Skudi (S) or “bones”. Made of the animal bone which is impossible to melt they are not nearly as much targets of the money shavers and therefore hold a fixed value. One can get about 7-10 average Shillings for a Skud even though the official exchange rate puts it at 10$ for 3S. Throughout this guide whenever possible, prices are given in S and p to avoid the confusion caused by the problems of shaving. Because they come from the variety of sovereign countries on the south Skudi differ in size and decorations but they are all characterized by the rectangular or octagonal hole in the middle, inscriptions in a southern alphabet on the front and the blank backside.
The average daily wage for the manual labourer in Neu-Ungren is about 30p (or one shaven Shilling). For this, 11-12 hour work day, every day except the last day in the month is expected. This amounts to about 2.5 S a month and is roughly enough, with frugality, to maintain the 1-2 people, poor but not malnourished. Room in the dwelling where several families live can be rented for about 1S a month (varying with the area). A lowly meal can be had for about 5p (two such meals a day are bare minimum for survival) and watered down beer for about 2p. For the people employed by trading houses, housing is usually provided by the company so the rooms are more tightly packed but cost only about 0.5 S a month. Women are paid about third to a half of men’s wages and many in the poorest classes do work. Prostitution is rampant among the poor with rates going from as low as 5p. Bawdy houses generally charge between 30p and 100p per customer of which girl can expect to see about a quarter. There are exceptions which can command much higher prices but those are rare. A balloon (10 litres) of water can be bought for anything between 1p and 10p depending on cleanliness.
While roughly 70% of the citizenry of Neu-Ungren falls into the category whose economic circumstances are described above, middle class of about 7000 or so exist. It is composed on one hand of successful small entrepreneurs such as innkeepers, artisans, butchers and so on and on the other of those who provide non-menial skills to the navigators and nobility. Those would include scribes, domestics, entertainers and such. Occasionally, two groups overlap as in the cases of carpenters and other artisans who help outfit the sea-going ships. The primary advantage of the middle class is usually the possession of their dwelling place, either individually or collectively. While their average incomes are not significantly above those of the labourers, going between 4 and 20S a month, their standard of living is significantly better due to less crammed and less expensive living conditions.
The top stratum of Neu-Ungren society is composed of 24 noble and about 40 navigatorial families. Nobles depend on their incomes on the sale of food from their Donetz estates an on return on investment in many businesses they finance throughout the city. They range in income from dirt poor to commanding over 10.000S a year. Navigators measure their wealth by the number of “crossings” per year they can muster. This depends on the quality and number of their routers (some being useful only in certain seasons or under certain conditions), number of ships they have and offspring to captain them and trading contracts that let them dispose of the goods. With one crossing bringing anything from 3.000S to over 10.000S in profit most of them are quite well off. Most families can manage 1 or 2 crossings per year but the top families such as Borttelinos, Fuggers and Espieries can in a good year manage 4 or even 5 sailings if they acquire enough domestic contracts. It should be noted however that each sailing represents a significant risk to the navigators as the costs of equipping and supplying the expedition can routinely go over 10.000S. While those are more then recouped in the successful crossing a loss of the ship to either natural disaster or piracy can be a crippling blow to the house in question.
Four categories of people who can not be placed in one of those classes exist within the city. Those are: River Rats and small scale merchants, Sailors, Soldiers, and Criminal element. River Rats fill the gap between the Navigators and the middle class. Serving as middleman they are even more dependant on their network of contacts along the river as well as on their own skills in diplomacy, combat and subterfuge to travel through the inhospitable and often hostile lands. Very rarely will one Rat own more than a single barge because all the subtleties of negotiating Tierz are practically impossible to delegate. For this reason most successful Rat enterprises are family affairs with sibling partnerships. Because River Rats employ mostly relatives or the people from their villages and towns in riverlands and because most of their money finds its way back to riverlands it is hard to estimate how much they make but given the risky and uncertain nature of their business very wide spread, anything between loss and 5-6000S per year is quite possible.
Sailors are a class apart in Neu-Ungren. With crossings taking anything between two months and over half a year it is virtually impossible for the sailor to have a family in the city. Those that do, frequently maintain one on the other shore as well. While nominal pay for the sailors is miserable (amounting to less then 10p per day on a ship plus sustenance) it can on occasions prove to be a remarkably lucrative profession due to old unwritten rule of a Knapsack and a Hat. Under this custom every sailor on a merchant ship making a successful crossing is allowed to purchase on the way back enough goods that would fit a single sailor’s bag and under his hat. Reselling this goods at the Neu-Ungren southern market or privately lucky and enterprising sailors can make as much as 50S of a single crossing. This means that the sailors upon return tend to be very rich very briefly. As with most similar demographics only rare among them manage to actually invest or even save their winnings.
Soldiers are another special class in the city. The name covers the personal and property guards employed by most wealthy families, barge-men who double as rowing crew and essentially everything else on River Rat barges and, most distinguished of all, Marines who guard the Navigators’ ships from pirates. Main requisite for the soldiering profession, in addition to some skill in wielding them, is the possession of arms and a suit of armour. As those, particularly latter, can be very expensive, starting at around 40S for a lowliest suit of Scale, entering the profession can be a problem. Those that do and can hold their own in the case of need can command remarkable salaries ranging from 10S upwards per month depending on skill. A well trained marine can easily earn as much as 100S for a crossing without lifting a finger. They are, however, specifically excluded from Knapsack and the Hat rule.
In the fundamentals criminals are offering a similar service to the upper lower and middle classes as the soldiers do for the well off – providing security. Most middle class families pay a Skud or two every month to their neighbourhood goon and are as a consequence usually left unmolested. The volatile nature of the Neu-Ungren underworld means that sometimes this protection can be as dangerous as its absence but most citizens usually decide to risk and pay up. Even the labourers, particularly those with vulnerable families frequently contribute a couple of Shillings monthly for their security. In addition to this, burglaries, muggings, pick pocketing, arson and many other similar activities are staple of the Neu Ungern criminal class. The exact workings of those gangs are discussed elsewhere but in most cases they function as communal enterprises of 30-60 people earning collectively anything between 150S and 450S per month.
What follows is an extensive list of goods and services that can be purchased in Neu-Ungren with prices. Even when the range of prices is given the actual price may vary even more widely due to supply and demand considerations.
Studded Leather 10S
Chain Shirt 60S
Breast Plate 120S
Half Plate 300S
Full Plate 500S
Board & Lodging
-heat and light private chamber 60p
-beds for gentlemen, per night 40p
-beds for servants, per night 20p
-hot bath 50p
-worker’s room, per month 1S
-craftsman’s house 4S
-merchant’s house 30S
Buildings & real estate
Row house 300S
Craftsman’s house, with shop 700S
Merchant¹s house 1800S
House with a courtyard 5500S
Prices listed are for plain, standard-quality. Apply modifiers for expensive materials, fine workmanship, and so forth.
Belt, weapon 40p
Boots, pair 160p
Chemise, linen 160p
Cloak, woolen 720p
Gown (long), woolen 750p
Kirtle, woolen 480p
Quiver, red leather 180p
Robe, woolen 720p
Shoes, pair 100p
Surcoat, linen 480p
Trousers, woolen 400p
Tunic (short)/doublet 480p
-dear (scarlet, green, black) x1.6
-rare (purple, royal blue) x2
Fur lining, cheap +5S
-luxury furs +30S -60S¬
Fine cloth x2
Shoddy (recycled rags) x0.4
Basin & ewer 1S-2S
Blanket, woolen 60p
Bowl, earthenware 5p
-tallow, per lb 40p
-wax, per lb 130p
-large, for clothes 480p
Coffer (strongbox) 240p
Cup, earthenware 5p
Ewer, metal.(brass?) 120p
Knife, eating 40p
Mattress, straw 40p
Mirror, silvered 480p
Plate, earthenware 5p
Pot, cooking, ceramic 10p
-brass, large 240p
Sheet, linen 80p
Information and Instruction
Books, per pecia 200p
Book rental, per year, per pecia 20p
(a pecia is approx. 7,500 words,
the Bible is about 100 pecia)
Fencing instruction, per month 8S
-seminary, per year 32S
-private schoolmaster 15S
-basic courses, college 32S
-fashionable lecturers &c 100S+
Livestock is expensive in Neu-Ungren if it can be obtained at all. The prices given in brackets are civic prices and non-bracketed prices are those from breeding country (Donetz or Riverlands). If there is no bracketed price such animal can not be brought to the city.
Capon 40p (90p)
Calf, weaned 200p (800p)
Cow 5S (20S)
-good milker 8S
Duck 20p (15p)
Donkey or mule* 20S
Falcon, trained gerfalcon 4S (6S)
-trained goshawk 6S (8S)
Fowl (hen) 10p (25p)
Goose 60p (45p)
Horse, riding, hack 20S+
-draught horse 80S+
-trained destrier 650S+
Ox 8S (60S)
Pig 2S (7S)
Pigeon 5p (5p)
Sheep (in breeding country) 1S (4S)
-gold setting with diamonds 120S
-gold setting with ruby 20S
Spoon, silver 2S
Ale, per gallon 4p
Bacon, per side 1S
Bread, 1 loaf (24 oz?) 2p
Cider, per tun 3S
Cheese, retail, per lb 60p
² whole, 80 lb 800p
Eggs, per dozen 10p
Fish, herrings, per dozen 10p
-Pike, whole, 3’ long 800p
-Sturgeon, per barrel 13S
Fruit, figs, per lb 35p
² pears, 30 50p
² pomegranate, 1 only 1S
Gingerbread, per lb 2S
Grain, barley, per quarter 1S
-oats, per quarter 200p
-wheat, per quarter 400p
Ham, whole 1S
Onions, 1 bushel 160p
Partridges, per brace 90p
Raisins, per lb 30p
Salt, per bushel 40p
Spices, per lb up to 15S
Sugar, per lb 120p
-fine claret, per tun (252 gal.) 30S
-best, per gallon 3S
-cheapest, per gallon 40p
To feed a lord, per day 150p
-a squire 80p
Armour, clean & de-rust 100p
-overhaul & varnish 320p
Ferry, river crossing for man 20p
Guide, for one night 20p
Minstrel, to play at an inn 20p
Holliday gig at manor house 2S
Parchment, folio, per leaf 10p
Wax, sealing, per lb 40p
Tools and hardware
Armourer’s tools, complete 250S
Bellows, large (for forge) 17S
Canvas, 25 yards 5S
Loom and treadle 2S
Rope, light, per fathom 10p
Sand barrel (for cleaning mail) 200p
Saw, hand 240p
Saw, cross-cut 2S
Spinning wheel (late) 200p
Boat, 10¹ sailing 30S
Cart, iron-bound 4S
Dray/waggon, iron-shod wheels 8S
Wages & Incomes
Labourer, per day 30p
Craftsman, per day
apprentice carpenter 40p
apprentice armourer 75p
Landowner, per year 600S-10000S
River Rat, per year 0S-6000S
Navigator, per year 6000S-30000S
Mercenary, per day
-Infantryman, armoured 120p
Priest (in a chantry), per year 75S
Servant, per year (plus bed & board)
-carter, porter, groom, 40S-¬100S
falconer, messenger, etc.
-indoor and kitchen 2S-¬3S
-boys and pages 1S¬-3S
City does not encourage selling of military weapons and most regular weapons can not be purchased on the open market. Prices given are for those who have legal access to them. Prices for contraband weapons can be much higher. All unavailable weapons are marked with *
-Main gauche* 140p
-Short sword 280p
-Hand & a Half* 2S
-Two-handed sword* 3S
-Hand axe 10p
-Battle axe* 140p
-Great axe* 200p
-Short bow* 1S
-Long bow* 1S
-Heavy Crossbow* 5S
-Imperial Long Crossbow* 75S
-Arrows (longbow), 24 60p
-Bolts (crossbow), 20 150p
-Bullets, lead (sling), 8 20p
-Small round shield 60p
-Large round shield 90p
-Tower shield 140p
Poison, per dose
-Applicable to weapons 20S-400S
-strong man* 20S-100S
-city girl** 50S-300S
-northern girl** 150S-500S
: double if trained in arms
*: triple if virgin
Religion and History:
Church of the Living God:
There is no written history of the Empire. Collection of myths, stories and oral lore concerning the past is divided sharply into two categories, “Sacred Telling” of the Church of Living God and so called “Apocrypha” including everything remembered and retold by the people but not accepted by the Church.
Sacred Telling, which forms, at once, official history of Empire as well as the main religious narrative of the Church is composed of the five books each covering one of the five ages of the world. Those are books of: Struggle, Subjugation, Rebellion, Respite and Reckoning. First four are mythological history of the world and the Empire and the fifth is the book of prophecies of the incoming and final conflict against the forces of evil.
Book of Struggle is probably the most recent of the five even though it deals with the most distant period. While it is indubitable that many elements included in the Book of Struggle are as old as the church itself, the linguistic considerations date the bulk of this work almost certainly to the period well after the establishment of the empire to the age of the ecclesiastical dominance of the imperial society. Perhaps it was only at the height of its power that the church felt strong enough to systematically tackle such fundamental issues as the creation of the world, origin of the Angels and so on. With one notable exception it is literary the weakest part of the Telling and one whose characters are most stereotypical.
It begins with the words “I Testify that to Live is to Suffer, that to Love is to Lose and to be Born is to Die…” this is one of the famous Seven Divine Testimonies that to this day precede daily prayers throughout the empire. It sets the stage for the short and stark account of the creation. World, it is said, is a place of suffering, created by a Demiurge, evil and alien entity, for the purpose that is incomprehensible to the mortal men. From the screams of the new-born to the degradation of the elderly, from the pain of the lamb in the wolf’s claws to the lonely death of the wolf too weak to follow his pack, followers of the Living God see endless proofs of the inherent evil of the creation. Men, they say was a final addition to the creation both sentient witness to the suffering and its greatest cause. Everything was stacked against the men, from his fear of death and emptiness beyond and his animal’s urges to eat and procreate to his reason with which to comprehend the universality and immutability of pain. In the perverse perfectionism of the Demiurge he was created with just enough moral sense as to suffer when he inevitably does evil. Placed on this stage of suffering he was given a unique gift of free will so that the twisted creator can watch his creatures struggling to free themselves from pain, by inflicting the pain thousand fold upon their fellow beings and do so in the full knowledge that they could have done differently.
The book goes on to show how this crowning touch of cruelty proved to be the seed of hope for the world. The time of Struggle itself is described as a period following the creation during which humans were just a little above animals, hunting with bone knifes and gathering into packs, torturing each other and the world, driven by fear and gnawed by the sense of right. It is in this age, it is said, that the Angels came about. In his infinite contempt for his creatures Demiurge failed to realize that some of them will actually use the gift of freedom he has given them. He thought that the inescapable urge to cling to the few moments of existence and the stark reality of survival will sooner or later drive each and every of them to spit on their humanity and become animal like all the others.
In this he was wrong. Every now and then there was a man for whom loyalty to the fellow creatures and the respect for them overwhelmed even the most deeply set urges. They would not hunt but would eat the fruits that have fallen off the trees. They would not hit back at their fellow men even when they hurt them. Some of them even comprehended the universality of all the suffering and overcame their fear of death and started inviting it as a sort of salvation. These individuals caused a great consternation to the Demiurge. Somehow very fact that there were those who resisted to their death all he can throw at them made him doubt the perfection of his creation. Finality of the death, intended as the ultimate terror turned now into the ally of those humans who refused to compromise themselves and made it possible for mere mortals to somehow “win” in the game against him.
To prevent this, Demiurge committed the first “katalyoarxomai“– rule breaking, change of his own way the world was made. To those who defied him, the only creatures who had resigned themselves to the grand emptiness, he decided to deny that emptiness. Instead of having them vanish entirely at the end of their brief tenure on earth he made them stick around, turned, upon death, into sort of disembodied spirits tied closely to those places and people whom they loved the most during the life. Free of physical suffering themselves but empathically attuned to the suffering of others and yet mute and powerless to help. The eternity of commiseration, he reckoned should be enough to drive those noble creatures into madness. In most cases it did. To this day those who got attuned to angels can sometimes sense their unfortunate cousins as howling spirits, their humanity striped away by the millennia of impotence. The minority, however, did not remain mute. Somehow they acquired the ability to speak back to the world whose suffering they felt so acutely. Those creatures, whom followers of the living god call Angels, were at the root of Demiurge’s long fall.
When and how did the Angels get their voices is unknown. One of the poetically most stunning parts of the Sacred Telling is undoubtedly the “Song of the Voiceless”. This allegorical composition predates the rest of the Book of Struggle by at least four centuries. It speaks about the first lament of the Angels on the world but is considered even by the churchmen to contain little fact among its beautiful metaphors. Whatever the way, fact remains that somehow, some of the disembodied sufferers found the way to communicate to the world. Audible only to those in strong pain or those in deep meditation they have nevertheless succeeded. In doing so they have preserved, not only their own sanity but also the hope for the redemption of the creation that they have embodied. With their powerless but unshakable voices angels have become the conciseness of the world. So commenced the Struggle, period when the disciples of Angels worked tirelessly to instil goodness into the heart of humanity, many and nameless are the brave who have with their own example of humanity and humility wrought a small change into what seemed unchangeable evil of the creation.
Naturally, fundamental human nature has not changed much during the Struggle and the world remained fundamentally wicked place, but the effort of the Disciples was not in vain and to this day there is memory of such places as the White Halls of Gershak and the Isle of Parlaman where human societies have formed, based, for the first time, not on power and jealousy but on mutual respect and trust.
Existence of such enclaves hurt the Demiurge much more then the mere existence of Angels ever did and he struggled hard to suppress them. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions destroyed Parlaman and Academy at Catta was burned down by a thunderbolt. Most rewarding victories for the Demiurge, however, were those enacted by his mortal followers. Systematic and imaginative cruelty that humans are capable of never ceased to surprise and delight their creator and being mortal themselves they were much better at devising the pain and torture for their mortal brethren. The betrayal of Gershak by one of its most revered angelic disciples for the knowledge and power promised by the Demiurge was one of his greatest victories and one that virtually put the stop to the struggle for almost an entire generation.
The Angels, however, were immortal and patient, and even though some of them turned away from humanity disgusted at the betrayal and cruelty, most persevered, hoping against hope for unobtainable victory. At different times and different places there always was a bastion of hope and whenever Demiurge turned his attention indomitable spirit of Angels and their disciples won victories against odds and war was continuing. It was in the face of his that Demiurge committed second katalyoarxomai. Aware that his best hope for final subjugation of the world lives in his mortal followers he let some of his own essence flow into the world and fill those most deserving of his favour with unimaginable power. While Creator was not weakened much, the leaders of the evil men and, even more tragically, some of the best among the Angelic disciples were filled to the brim with the divine energy which slowly started to consume and change them. In some the newly formed power manifested in incredibly increased battle prowess in others even the sheer laws of realty were no longer obstacle, they have become as gods themselves. Years of their lives prolonged beyond the counting and nothing could withstand them in their might. The price they paid was that of degeneration of both body and soul. Over time, their physical and mental shape changed, they became strange and deformed creatures vastly powerful yet constantly in painful craving for more power. They have became the extreme point of what Demiurge wanted humans to be, ever suffering creatures inflicting even greater suffering on the world around them. They have become Demons.
At this point the Book of Struggle ends and Book of Subjugation begins. While not as old as the original Divine Trilogy it is older then the first book and is shortest of the entire Pentateuch. It is extremely dark book written with flare and imagination. Contrary to all the other books, style and compactness indicate that it has a single author. Imperial vaults in Pecs claim to have original of the Book of Subjugation written in white on black pages with original disturbing illustrations, copies and imitations of which are to this day plaguing the nightmares of the young seminary students. Wise agree that this book was written by someone with extensive personal knowledge of the Demons and, to this day, those who wish to dabble in the dark and forbidden art of trafficking with those vile creatures, begin their study with the thorough reading of the Second Holy Book.
Creation of the Demons for long time seemed as the unqualified success for the Demiurge. No human or angelic effort could stop them from taking over the world. Every resistance has been crushed and Demonic rules instituted themselves throughout the world. Tower of Pain in Raglor and Black city of Ungren were just the most know places of corruption in this bleak times but there were many others and they were fighting each other. Demiurge has decided that he likes war, however, and even after all the forces of good were vanquished Demons and their servants continued bloody wars against each other making the earth itself scream in pain at the marching of their countless armies and their mighty war engines. This was the time of war, and it was also the time of magic. All the forces of the world were in upheaval and Demon warlords were looking for every possible edge they can have against their kindred. Those among the angelic disciples who survived did so by turning to black arts that either appeased their Demonic overlords or kept them at bay. Necromancer Pan Galgol was able to defend the ruins of Gershak from the Demon-king Motylleus but did so only with the army of living dead against the pleads of his angelic patron. Nothing remained uncorrupted, all the work of Angels was turned into tools of the Demons or into the grim parody of itself. Some wizards even succeeded in imprisoning the Angels into the Crystal Balls and other devices and using them as the sources of knowledge and power. Some Angels went feral, abandoning humanity entirely and retreating to the last untouched preserves of the wilderness in the hope that they will avoid the attention of Demons and Sorcerers many other kept on trying to preserve hope in the face of the race that was turning the earth into the living hell.
Besides temporary preserves of the mightiest of the Sorcerers only part of the Earth not conquered by the Demons was in the far north where Dragons dwelled. Book of Subjugation does not mention dragons but both Book of Strife and Book of Rebellion do. Their origin is ambiguous. Book of Strife maintains that they are early creations of Demiurge, exemplifying his favourite characteristics of Malice, Greed and Cruelty, abandoned as the experiment because they were too powerful and cursed to barrenness and eventual extinction. Book of Rebellion, on the other hand treats Dragons in much more positive light, as the creatures of immense power who defied the Demiurge in much the same way as the angels did but with much greater impact. Some of Apocrypha maintains that the Subjugation came as the answer, not so much to the successes of the Angels and their ilk but to the threat of Dragons. Whatever the case, all agree that during the Subjugation many Dragons were killed, and the remaining ones pushed ever northwards unwilling to bend to the Demons’ will and yet unable to resist their advancement. It is said that Humans have learned the first magic from the Dragons and not from Angelic disciples but it is not something anybody is certain about.
Most of the Book of Subjugation describes the period of the demonic rule in vivid detail. Last chapter however deals with one of the most important episodes in history of the church of the Living God, Paliestran rebellion and setting the stage for the arrival of the Redeemer.
It has already been mentioned that some of the wizards who worked for or warred against the Demons developed a technique for trapping the Angels into the crystal devices an using them as the spies, advisors and such. One of those wizards was one Jonah Paliestra. Jonah was once a good man whose family were once upon a time Angelic disciples. Store of great and good learning was kept in his family even after his grandfathers grudgingly bended the knee to the demonic overlords. Magical skills of Paliesrtras and their already high standing with the local populace made them natural governors of their small region (somewhere to the south and east of the old city of Ungren deep within present day Empire). As the governors Paliestras were better then most but years of servitude under Demons have hardened their hearts and by the time Jonah was a boy Paliestra mansion was no longer a safe house and a fount of justice it once was. Jonas did not approve of this and vowed to bring his house back to its original high moral standing. He adored the Angels and studied everything there is to know about them hopping that once he will hear the voice which will invite him to become a disciple.
Now, Paliestra’s overlord was an old Gornugon Demon, subtle and intelligent representative of his kind. Despite secrecy with which young Paliestra imagined to be conducting his studies Gornugon soon learned about the dispositions of the heir of one of his Governors. Gornugon could have killed the boy but the old Demon was too faithfull follower of his master to be satisfied with such an easy solution. In fact, through his men and his own magic he encouraged the youngster, making him believe that angels are really near him and that he is their favourite. By the time Jonah became the Governor he was enamoured with the angels and deeply resentful towards his own masters. He restored the traditions of sanctuary, mercy and justice of the Paliestra house, all the while believing that his actions have passed unnoticed. His estate become the refuge for the haunted from the entire region and he did his best to help them. One of such refugees was a beautiful girl called Adrianna who was Jonah’s age. Jonah felt in love and married Adrianna secretly. For a year Gornugon let them live in peace and almost forget the cruelty of the world they live in. In the mean time Gornugon kept on giving hints as to the presence and reality of Angels to the Paliestra and even allowed one of his own Angelic prisoners to briefly appear to the young wizard. Then he cast a slow withering curse on the young bride and inflicted her with slow and painful disease. Suddenly heaven that Jonah built for himself fell around him. His wife was dying in a most gruesome way in front of his eyes and he was powerless to help. He pleaded and pleaded to the Angels for help but all the voices he thought he had heard were now silent and even his friends stopped visiting him (having been rounded and killed by Gornugon). Jonah was left alone in the crumbling house with the infant daughter and the dying wife. Her agony was increasing every day and Angels did nothing. When she finally died he took a torch and went on to burn all his books of Angelic lore. A voice then came to him claiming that he had passed the test and has been found worthy to become Angelic disciple. Horrified and outraged Jonah extinguished the torch. All his adoration for the Angels turned into blind hatred and he studied the arts of Binding determined to avenge the cruel test and death of his wife for which he held his intended tutor responsible. Gornugon, who in fact was the “angelic tutor” was happy as he had created a most loyal and manifestly desperate subject. Paliestra grew to be one of the greatest binders of his time, he imprisoned a female Angel Ezarriell, very old and very wise whom Demons have been hunting for a long time. He tortured her and forced such secrets out of her that no Angel ever gave to a mortal before. When Gornugon arrived to claim Ezarriell he found that Paliestra as erected the defences around his estate such that even him would have problems cutting through them. He decided to leave Palestra alone confident that the wizard will continue his crusade against the Angels and will further Gornugon’s cause even without openly acknowledging him. Indeed with Ezarriell broken, imprisoned and used Paliestra started on making ever more elaborate Binding schemes, once again fancying himself untouchable by fate or by demons.
In his bleak wizardly abode his daughter grew up. Small, pale and mouse-like she was nothing like her beautiful mother. Her father had become recluse and cast-out and Paliestra estate was shunned by all. Anett grew up not knowing any other child her age and barely any adult save her father. He did love her and provided for her but somehow her presence reminded him too much of her mother so he largely left her alone. She spent her time reading his books and wondering through his beautiful crystal contraptions. It was so that by fate or chance she discovered the prison in which Ezarriell was kept. Girl took pity on a wretched creature and kept her company talked to her and helped her almost insane mind recuperate. Grateful Angel talked back to the girl telling her about the world before Subjugation and of her mother and about her kin. Forgotten by anyone deep in the Binder’s prison 14 year old girl has become a first true Angelic disciple in more then three generations. Anett shared her father’s youthful idealism but not his overconfident pride. She knew very well what she is setting herself against and she listened and learned from Ezarriell. The Ezarin heretics of the early church taught that the old Angel possessed and merged with Anett but even though church admits that during the rebellion girl referred to herself as Ezar she was just guided and by no means possessed by the old Angel.
Using her father as a shield she started learning both magic, military science and lay of the land. Very carefully she planted the rumours of the impeding rebellion she tested those who looked like the potential leaders and threw the dust into the eyes of the Demons and their spies. Finally she confronted her father, explained entire demonic ruse to him and reminded him of his own ideals of youth. Deeply humbled Jonah renounced his mastery, freed Ezarriel and two other Angels he had bound and swore fealty to his daughter. At that sign entire countryside rose in arms. Demons were attacked by the most fierce uprising in the living memory. Jonah and Anett, both powerful mages led the army of men not seen since the fall of Gershak. His remorse and rage drove old Jonah into misjudging the danger and he was killed in the assault on Fok where Gornugon held his court. He died but the battle was won and Gornugon imprisoned by Anett. All of his lands and that of two of his neighbours were taken over by the humans. Anett found herself a queen of the large kingdom with many loyal generals and knights. The situation of the rebels was still very bad however. Sizable as their free territory was it was still encircled by the Demonic lands and the power of such enemies as the Pit-Fiend of Ungren was unmatched by anything her small army could muster. Rebels were divided as to what to do next. Anett forcefully advocated the assault on Ungren itself knowing that only thing Demons will not tolerate the human kingdom to exist and will join their forces to crush it as soon as they realize what happened. Their only hope, she argued was to keep on striking hoping for that by some miracle they can take over one of the mightiest strongholds in the land and maybe in its secret vaults find something that will make it possible to continue on to the final victory. Opposed to this advice were Generals, most of them came from the Gornugon’s lands. They have fought bravely to liberate what was theirs and were uneasy about fighting far from home where terrain will be on the side of the enemy. Against superior odds defence is better then the offence they advised and Ungren is particularly bad target being most powerful of all neighbouring Demonic domains. In the end she over-ruled them and ordered the army to march on Ungren. Colourful banners of the Army of the Men were flying over the Gorogothan plane. Anett was taking a thousand-to-one chance.
An assault on Ungren was an act of heroic desperation. Had it been successful the history would have been vastly different. Had it failed it would be a material for songs for the eons to come. It never happened. Anett was betrayed and denied her thousand-to-one chance. Name of the traitor is well known to all believers of the living god. It was Belsmeth the Fair, one of the first to join Anett’s rebellion, her most proficient general, head of her guard and, by many accounts, her lover. Belsmeth was genuinely opposed to Demons and wished for nothing more sincerely then the freedom for the men. He masterminded some of the most brilliant early victories and although conservative was one of Anett’s staunchest supporters. Even the small territory such as one that was already liberated by the Army of the Men was a source of joy, pride and hope for him and he loathed the inevitable destruction and carnage that will follow after the failed assault on Ungren. As a natural military genius he knew what the odds of the success at Ungren were and as a thinking man rather then a hero he was against the battle. It was him who was approached by the secret envoys of the Pit Fiend and offered a parley. Anett was to be captured alive two dozen of other generals and most fanatical elements were to be killed and no further war was to be waged on the Demons. In exchange rest of the army was to live and incredibly, the small kingdom they have won was to remain human without Demonic overlord and with Belsmeth as a king free to rule it as he pleases as long as he does not threaten his neighbouring Demons.
Belsmeth accepted. Anett was taken captive by her guard even after she pleaded with each men to take her life. Two dozen of her followers were killed to be forever known as the “Two Dozen Martyrs and One” the One being Fylvo, another General a friend of Belsmeth who was to become his second in command on the new kingdom. Uppon hearing about the deal he hurried after the assassins demanding that they finish the job by killing him. Pit Fiend respected his word and let Belsmeth become the king of a small human kingdom. He immediately faced a civil war as a part of the army deemed him unfit to rule as a traitor. In defeating and cruelly suppressing the rebels he started his slow slide towards tyranny that Pit Fiend knew he is embarking on. Anett was brought to the city, her magic stripped of her. She was made Pit Fiend’s concubine, one of a Thousand and One but one that brought him most pleasure as she was never able to forget her hope and her dreams and yet was perpetually aware of her defeat shame and humiliation. She died without ever hearing an Angelic voice again.
On this dark note the Book of Subjugation ends and the Book of Rebellion begins. It Is the oldest and the longest book of the Sacred Telling. Centuries of meddling, fixing and attempts to extract simple moral allegories have not succeeded in significantly diminishing the narrative greatness of this sweeping epic. It speaks of 12 years in the life of a half-demon half-human Yrzebell, son of Pit Fiend of Ungren, From his Dragon Slaying expedition as the champion of his father when he was 22 and his subsequent renouncing of his name and kin rebellion to his tricking of the Demiurge himself and “Levelling of the Field” 12 years later. Currently accepted church doctrine has Yrzebell being a son of Anett by her captor and tormentor but there is nothing in the Book of Rebellion to support this and although Anett is praised as “the Mother” in the daily liturgy, most early texts in the apocrypha indicate that there was no blood kindred between the two but that Yrzebell’s rebellion was in a sense fed by the memories of the Army of the Men and the resentment towards the Traitor.
There are many reasons as to why Yrzebell succeeded where Anett failed and most of them must be in the simply incredible conjunction of personal characteristics he must have had even by the most un-generous estimate. One of the most learned wizards ever, among Demons or men, he was also warrior of epic courage, natural born leader and trickster without equal. However, he also had what Anett gave everything to obtain, the Secret Lore of the City of Ungren. Ungren, also known as The Pit was one of the oldest cities of the world, preceding even the second katalyoarxomai and he creation of the Demons. Even in the ancient days it stood as a counterpoint to the bright Angelic schools being a centre of baser kind of knowledge, dangerous and forbidden practices. One of the human rulers of the Pit, wizard so corrupt and debased that even his name is now forgotten, rose to become one of the most powerful Demons having through sorcerous means imbibed the greatest proportion of Demiurge’s essence than any other Demon. He became known as the Pit Fiend and throughout the countless years of his rule he continued to amass the knowledge and power in his vast libraries in Ungren. It was this knowledge that drew Anett to the city and this knowledge that started Yrzebell on his road to greatness.
Demons are exceptionally infertile needing thousands, even tens of thousands of couplings to beget the child. Being even more demonic then most Pit Fiend was exceptionally infertile even for a demon. However, Demons have been men once and need to have progeny burns deep even within their selfish souls. For Pit Fiend it burned exceptionally deeply once he has proven to himself that he has no equal in the world in either prowess or knowledge or wisdom or beauty. He longed for centuries for a son who would be his viceroy, who would appreciate his ingenious schemes and whom he would be able to be proud of. However, neither his magic nor his pleadings with Demiurge nor ultimately his harem of 1001 most beautiful women in all the land were able to produce him with the son. It is said that at the bottom all Demons suffer as much as the victims they torment and probably nothing caused Pit Fiend as much grief as this inability to have an heir. It is no surprise then that once his son was born he moulded his natural greatness into the stuff worthy of legends. With the cruelty of a Demon and a love of a Father he schooled him in the arts of war, subtleties of the intrigue, perplexities of magic and any other craft that men or demons have devised. His loyalty to his father and his cruelty towards his mother’s kin in his early years is unquestionable. As a part of His early education he was sent to quell one of the dangerous “copy-cat” uprisings of men inspired by Paliestra rebellion of the previous generation. He did so with ruthless efficiency that surprised even the Pit Fiend himself. His successes against the other Demons reinforced the overlordship of Ungren over the vaster territory then any nation before and his forays into the study of magical lore in the vast libraries of Ungren had him being able to even teach his father a trick or two before he was 20.
He was a source of immense pride for the Pit Fiend and, although vary that this exceptional son might one day rise against him, old demon almost cherished the prospect of being able to play his favourite mental games against the worthy opponent. The coming of age task for Yrzabell was to be a monumental one. He was to go to the deepest north and slay one of the greatest opponents of the Demons, possibly the oldest living creature on the world Rasmaele the Black, Dragon who has once defeated and nearly killed the Pit Fiend himself. Yrzabell went and after enormous effort succeeded in slaying the old dragon (losing half of his left hand in the process which is why the salute with a thumb and a fore-finger is to this day a symbol of the church) but something happened during that battle that fundamentally changed the young half-human. He was to rebel against his father, but not in order to put himself into his place but rather in order to bring an end to the demonic rule and redeem the world.
The story of the rebellion itself is too long and to involved to be retold here even in brief. It is a Gilgamesh-like epic that culminates with Ungren in ruins, torn down by the avenging flames of surviving Dragons and the Angelic Hosts embodied in the new powerful forms taking the field at Gorogoth together with their mortal allies against the still imposing might of Demonic Army. But Yrzabell who has by then abandoned that name is not at the field. He knows that another katalyoarxomai is imminent for he has faced Demiurge once already and have fled in terror. He understands the imminent impossibility of fighting against someone who can change rules as he pleases and he is preparing one last trick. He is issuing the challenge. He summoned all the wizardry and all the divine power he inherited from his father to contact the Demiurge. He challenged Him to a single combat n the plane of Gorogoth before the assembled armies to determine the fate of the world. Demiurge knew that he in his infinite power can not lose against this upstart mortal and decides to teach him a lesson. Earth trembles and lightning thunders as the firmament is split in two and the Creator walks the earth. Both armies are amazed at the power and glory of the Demiurge, for the first time fully revealed. Even Angels shake in fear and in knowledge of a certain defeat. But the Son of a Demon has no intention to fight. His wife and two sons on his side, he flees the battle-field all his power focused in a single spell. He closes back the firmament beyond the hope of opening from inside. There will be no more katalyoarxomai, Demiurge is trapped within the world.
When he realized he was betrayed former God released unequalled fury upon the assembled hosts at Gorgothan plane rebellion was defeated but from that defeat the victory was to hatch.
Book of struggle does not tell us of the following two decades of fight against the Demiurge but their content is subject of many learned treaties as well as vulgar poems. It is likewise silent as to the fate of both Demiurge and the Saviour. The church doctrine as to this most important matter derives from the last Book of Pentateuch – that of the Reckoning. This book states that the Living God drove Demiurge and his hordes into the furthermost West and after the heroic battle imprisoned him under the mountain in the land of eternal scorching day. It prophesises that the Demons will escape their torturing prison and will evil men will work hard to liberate their master. When the hearts of the men turn black and the example of the Living God has been forgotten they will succeed and then as before only the utmost valour will stand between the world and its destruction.
The book is unclear as to the ultimate fate of the Living God. Palatines, strong sect that used to be a church mainstream in the early centuries but is now condemned as heretical claimed that he had in the end succeed in wrestling Demiurge’s divine privilege from him and has Himself passed through the Firmament onto the other side to become the benevolent God. Second heretical sect Sepiones claims that He and His younger son sleep under the lake somewhere in the land of Dragons to be awakened when the Demiurge breaks out of his prison. Umbrini, who are now in power, state that He could have claimed divinity but have instead chosen a mortal life renouncing his wizardry and mastery and living as a simple peasant watching proudly how just empire of his elder son takes shape. After death he became an Angel, wisest and most compassionate of them all, always talking to those who can hear and continuing his war against the evil in the subtle and non-violent way. Umbrini claim that when Demiurge breaks out there will be no supernatural aid to the mankind but that ism mankind is worth it no such help will be necessary for we will be wise from listening to the whispers of our Living God and will know how to face every adversity.
Fourth Book, Book of Respite has practically no religious content whatsoever. It is a history of the Empire and as such is probably the most edited and argued over part of the Holy Writ. In short it recapitulates the fact that the Empire was founded by the Allan, elder son of the Living God with express theological purpose of defeating the remaining Demons, hindering any attempt at freeing the Demiurge from his imprisonment and mustering all the strength of men to defeating him once he breaks out in the final reckoning. From the outset it centred itself in the city of Miskoltz an old and beautiful human city with memories of Angels, not so far from the birthplace of Paliestras. From there it expanded quickly to the north and west taking vast territories and within the generation reached the easternmost shores of the Sorrowful sea. To the east and the south its expansion was checked by the peoples who did not worship the Living God and failed to respect his heirs as their rulers. In the south those were barbarians of many nations disunited but fierce in combat. They have worshiped various demons as gods and had a very dim view of those who claimed to be their enemies. Great victories were won by the empire against the southern tribes but the ultimate goal – overland passage to the rich lands south of Sorrowful sea was never achieved and the war simmers on this frontier to this day. To the east Imperial preachers had better luck. The people of Magyr planes were not friends of Demons and were staunch warriors well able to respect the military prowess of the Empire. Even though their customs of Chivalry and strict customary division of power did not square well with the imperial theological autocracy strong bonds developed between the two and the high born Magyr for whom war was the only honourable profession often joined imperial forces and rose high in the wars of the south and west.
It was during the reign of the sixth Divine Emperor Dorius that the Seim of the Magyr announced the whole-scale conversion of their people to the faith of the Living God. Magyr introduced many changes in the way of worship and were not beyond altering even the holy texts themselves but become staunch upholders of the Faith and gave many holy warriors and priests. With their warrior virtues they were highly esteemed in the Byzantine world of imperial policies and although frequently deemed too naïve they were known to outsmart the wily imperial bureaucrats with simple honesty and steadfast tenacity.
Perhaps the greatest crisis of the Empire and one that caused greatest deal of additions and changes to the Book of Respite was a great succession crises when Magyr have in effect excluded the line of the Living God from the throne and installed one of their own Barons Matias Istvan Koroly as the Emperor. Great deal of whitewashing went into explaining this fact but it is relatively clear that growing power of the Magyr militaristic nobility and particularly their insistence on changing the holy texts as to address their own virtues drove them into sever conflict with the established church hierarchy but not with the bulk of the faithful. When the 13th emperor Yrslav, great supporter of the church and testified enemy of the Magyr, died young, unborn child of his pregnant wife was to be recognized as an heir. Such a recognition, perfectly normal within the imperial law, went against the customs and the desires of the Magyr and they claimed that the best possible ruler is their own Matias, related to the imperial house through the maternal line and therefore of Divine Blood and also a renowned warrior and not a suckling infant of a concubine. Great conflagration engulfed the Empire bordering on outright civil war and a schism divided the church of the Living God. Many doomsday cults arose, thinking that the foretold reckoning is at hand. Many subjugate people also rose in arms trying to throw off the Imperial yoke. In the end Loyalty and military discipline of Magyr triumphed and the capital of the empire was moved to the fortified city of Pec, old seat of Koroly family.
Korolys changed both the church and the state in their own shape enforcing the feudal manorial system throughout the empire with almost inevitably their own Magyr in charge as feudal nobility. They consolidated their grip on the religion and although were never able to achieve the same level of unity with the church as their predecessors they reduced the number of cults and heresies, particularly the most dangerous Basilean heresy which taught that the only true Imperial line is one still hidden somewhere that follows son from father from the Living God himself. They were, however, changed themselves. By the time of Matias’ son already marital simplicity was replace by the pomp and ritual of the Divine Emperors. Instead of reducing vast bureaucracy burgeoned and instead of replacing them Feudal Knight just supplemented the armoured legions of professional soldiers. Empire still grew under Koroly’s reaching at its apex all the way to the ruins of Old Ungren in the north and to the vast Tierz river in the west but many have said that with the loss of its natural ruling house it has lost its purpose and that seeds of its decline were already planted.
Worship of the Mother Goddess:
It is in many ways wrong to think of the worshipers of the Goddess as a single unified faith in the way of the Church of the Living God. As a matter of fact it was only the arrival of the later and the subsequent persecution that forged any sort of unity between the variety of cults, traditions and beliefs of the denizens of the Western Empire.
Most prevalent linguistic group in the west of the Empire at the time of conquest were Gualea whose short stocky type is still best exemplified in denizens of northern riverlands and surprisingly some of the richest navigatoral families. Gualea migrated across the Tierz from now largely uninhabited territories some fifteen generations before the arrival of the imperials. The exact reason is unknown but church believes that it is related to the eventual settlement of the Demiurge somewhere in the far west. They have colonised the Donetz plains, much more fertile then than now, and settled as far east as Timosvar on Holt which they first founded under the name of Panomini. They mixed with the local populations and introduced their language and customs. Most important of those being the universal worship of the mother goddess. Being inherently tribal, Gualea worshiped many gods, as many or more as there were tribes. Besides the tribal gods they worshiped all sorts of small nature gods most of whom were designated demons by the Church with the few, notably Aureamus, protector of Donetz and Huber the Guide being recognized as Angels. This worship ranged from placating to adoring to literary bargaining with or even forcing to work for the worshiper in magical rituals. There were wars and vendetta’s among the gods and very few of them were recognised much beyond a single tribe or a region. Each of these disparate traditions however recognised the existence of a single unifying divine principle, the All Wife or All Mother: goddess of fertility, love, rejuvenation and agriculture. Goddess of the changing seasons, of physical enjoyment, goddess of birth and of coming of age and of timely death. She was a cultural common denominator for the Guaela and all the peoples they intermingled with and the three great festivities associated with the goddess: Planting, Harvest and Marriage ( those are Donetz names, names in the riverlands where people are considerably less agricultural vary but the times, early spring, beginning of the fall and mid-winter do not) were times when the wars stopped and all sort of inter tribal communication was made.
In most of the Guaela myths goddess does not play a central role being relegated to the role of the advisor, helper and occasionally even consort or adversary of the hero of the myth – usually the main tribal god. Her presence is always important and her favours much sought by the lesser gods. Traditional games held during the winter festival are supposed to represent the competition among the tribal hero-gods for the favours of the Goddess. Similarly while tribal gods usually had at least one “Speaker” – their representative among mortals Goddess, while universally probably did not have any priesthood in Imperial sense of the term before the conquest. This is however hard to ascertain as the distinction between the priests, shamans, witches and witch-doctors, and even between the priests and ordinary worshipers pleading or cajoling for assistance, were always blurry among the Gualea. It is almost certain however that even before the conquest heartland of the goddess worship was always on the banks of the Great River, at places of natural beauty and ancient spiritual significance such as Stone of Gerbel (which later become Miklos’ Stone), Willow-weeds of Rallah at the northern edge of great marsh and the large river island almost exactly half way between the sea and the first cataract that later got named by the new-comers “the Judge’s Island”. It was from riverlands that the most known witches originated and in most myths, even those from far-away Donetz, it was always to the River where hero went to experience strange and supernatural.
It is often said that the Goddess worship carries no moral significance and at least superficially this is true. While wiser and more powerful She is portrayed as no more benevolent or less self-centred then the plethora of Her consorts, sons and daughters that form the pantheons of the thousand tribes. A handsome and egotistical boy who wins the games was more likely to win her favour then the most altruistic or noble loser and wicked witches always outnumbered the good ones as even the followers of the goddess would admit. It was this moral ambivalence coupled with some truly disgusting customs done in the name and with apparent consent of the Goddess as much as the political and religious disunity that made the Imperial conquest so easy. The old tradition however does carry an ethical message even if it never spells it explicitly. Its message, which put it in even deeper opposition with the Church of the Living God, is that the primary meaning of life is pleasure and self-fulfilment, that taking anything too seriously is stupid and potentially even dangerous and that at the end of the day only thing that counts is the wine and kisses. The best of the hero myths and the ones most widely told are the ones which reinforce this message. Story of Adam the Fierce, hero who became a war god of a large Donetz tribe, who went of to Slay the Dragon in order to present his sapphire heart to his beloved, only to return to find her married to a witty coward he saved on his journey is a typical one of this genre. Tradition of the “Sacred Kings”, much reviled by the Imperials, wherein in some tribes every year a single man was chosen either by lot or by a game to be fully supported in maximum comfort and luxury by the tribe all his wishes to be adhered to only to be sacrificed to the goddess when the year is out is another representation of this philosophy.
Now, almost fifteen generations after the conquest by the imperials goddess worship is almost entirely extinguished within the confines of the empire and even in the neighbouring regions that no longer accept the supremacy of Pec. Fiercely moralistic tone of the Church of the Living God particularly of its populist branches its interest in ordinary people and not only in the strongest and most handsome were as important as the militaristic and economic supremacy of the Magyr and their allies. In encountering the faith of the Goddess Imperials firmly believed that they are finally approaching the hidden place where demons took their last stand. Sheer plurality of gods and undisputable powers of witches and magicians of riverlands convinced the conquerors that they are dealing with the forces of the demiurge himself and excited the knights and priests to the crusading frenzy. Divided, both politically and theosophically, followers of the old way did not stand a chance. What cemented the victory of the Church, however, was the clemency and good treatment reserved for those lay-worshipers willing to change their allegiance. Through the fortuitous theological reading conquerors saw the mass of the population as the unwitting victims of the handful of demon-worshipers, most of them female. That meant that the whole-scale genocide so frequent in the religious wars, which would have certainly made west forever impervious to the Doctrine of Living God did not happen. What happened instead was the fierce prosecution of all the “practitioners” god-speakers, witches, fanatically devout and even all sorts of magic-users who had little or nothing to do with the actual worship of the Goddess or Gods. As such individuals were usually seen by the populace as the power-hungry and dangerous at the best of times their burnings at the hands of the Church usually only served to enhance the prestige of the Imperials. By the time St. Miklos captured Gerbel and sent the “Seer of the Rock” into the Imperial imprisonment, almost entire Donetz and most of the Weldermark and southern Tierz were already converted.
It took almost five generations of persecution for anything resembling the unified Cult of the Goddess to form and when it did it formed around the group that was never before in the forefront of spirituality – witches. Witchcraft is a magical tradition endemic to riverlands but similar in general principles to some traditions found elsewhere. Like the southern Hypogamists it places a great deal of emphasis on using the sex as the means of focusing magical energies. It largely shuns necromancy but makes liberal use of curses and talismans. It is frequently combined with exceptional, if pragmatic, knowledge of mineralogy and botany and potion making skills almost equalling those of the alchemists and physicians. As with the Hypogamion greater sexual self control that women can exert makes them natural practitioners and although warlocks have been known they are definitively exception rather then the rule. It was probably this gender bias together with the witches’ undeniable knowledge of nature and medicine as well as their reluctance to follow or deal with lesser gods that first made them, in popular imagination, exclusive servants of the Goddess. Even before the conquest they were often invoked as mediators and judges in the conflicts between the tribes but only after all other avenues, sometimes even the open warfare have been exhausted. “Witch’s Judgement” is to this day a saying in Neu Ungren for something not likely to please either side. Selfish and secretive they remained the dark figures in the myths but the fact that they were favoured by the goddess was never disputed. During the persecutions witches received the brunt of the hatred of the conquerors but also the increased respect of those who resisted the conquest and the conversion. As they went into hiding they incorporated the significant amount of pre-conquest mythos into their own practice and became de-facto church of the goddess although disunited and fractious one.
Today with the decline of the Empire goddess worship is starting to reappear o the borderlands. Rumours circulate of the mighty coven setting itself up on Judge’s Island rumours that would in different age had a hertzog of Weledermark sailing north with a flotilla to burn the heretics. Old women wonder again as deep as the Dovcar selling herbs and stories and even in Neu Ungren old families are remembering what were they ancestors doing before the men on horseback came. But in the budding of their strength their great weaknesses can be sensed as deep as ever. Stories of most gruesome rituals in the name of the nameless divinities under the willows of the west bank scare the peasants and when a corpse of a half eaten infant floats down mid stream and gets caught in the nets and reeds even the tolerant riverlanders can be brought into the pitch of witch burning frenzy. Some cults with little love for life and laughter claim to follow the goddess and in the perception of the most are associated with her. Worshipers of the dark things in dark places of the world all pay lip service to the Goddess even though they hate her as much as they hate the Living God. Even witches themselves are disunited some are no more then Herbalists and Hypogamists but other study from the creatures who are not human and mix with anyone who claims to oppose the Living God. Stories about crazed women who enter villages and slay all males older then five are most certainly apocryphal but are not told only by those who are enemies of the witches. When the persecutions eased all rivalries have awoken and sisters scheme against each other. The winds of change are starting to blow over the riverlands but whether they will bring anything except smell of sulphur and demonic laughter remains to be seen.