Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The City State of Catapesh

On the south west coast of Lemuria the Crimson City of Catapesh overlooks the Sonorous Sea from atop high limestone cliffs.  The Crimson City is so called for the red slate-tiled roofs that shimmer in the late afternoon sun, but refers also to its sanguinary history.

The ancient cyclopean towers of the city were constructed by slaves who toiled under the whips of their Atlantean overseers, and then were sacrificed to the dark gods of Atlantis to consecrate the temples; their very blood and bones mixed into the mortar.

Catapesh remained one of the last Atlantean outposts in Lemuria and served as the staging ground for their exodus, after which the city was inherited by the Rhajani, descendants of the desert nomads who had been enslaved and subsequently civilized after many generations of serving their Atlantean masters.  The Rhajani made Catapesh their own and built it into one of the first powerful human city-states to flourish after the Atlantean exodus.  They remained the masters of Catapesh until the city was conquered, sixty years ago, by an invading army of Dolrathans from the east, led by the enigmatic general known only as The Overlord.

Under Dolrathan rule, Catapesh has become a center of commerce, particularly in the slave trade, and slavers come from abroad to auction their merchandise in the flesh markets of the Crimson City.  Many of these unfortunates end up as labourers, galley oarsmen, gladiators, and pleasure slaves, but some few are loaded onto the sinister black barges of Atlantis that sometimes make port of call in Catapesh.  The fates of these poor souls can only be imagined and is the subject of much rumour and hushed gossip.

Among the more notable features of Catapesh is its vast necropolis, which lies north of the city beyond the Anubis Gate.  The necropolis has been home to the dead of Catapesh for thousands of years, and the recent crypts and graves on the margins give way to the ancient tombs of the Atlantean nobility deeper within.  The heart of the necropolis is dominated by a great Atlantean ziggurat, which is thought to have been a temple, and tomb of the kings of Catapesh in ancient times.  Thieves of the city near drool in their beer when they speculate on the riches that must lie within, but the horrors that guard it must be equally great and such is the ziggurat's evil reputation that it has become taboo even among the notoriously irreverent thieves of Catapesh who have made tomb-robbing a cottage industry.

More recently, rumours of a vast underground network of catacombs discovered beneath the necropolis has led to a resurgence of grave robbers breaking into family crypts in search of entrances to the catacombs.  By the command of the Overlord an elite guard unit known as the Barrow Wardens has been formed, who are tasked with patrolling the necropolis to keep thieves out and the dead in.  The authorities fear that meddling thieves and adventurers might inadvertently awaken some long-forgotten horror that will rise and threaten the security of the city.


Matt said...

I love the story, did you make those pictures yourself?

Personally, I love cities in a fantasy setting, we've run the majority of our current campaign within one giant city.

Sean Robson said...

Thanks, Matt. No, the pictures are courtesy of Google Images.

Cities do offer a lot of campaign flexibility and are always great fun. Plus I find it easier to wing an adventure in a city with the help of some encounter rolls.

burnedfx said...

I too loved the story. It was a great read. Did you find the pictures after the fact?

I often recall art in my head at the table when something needs to be described in detail.

It's not necessary for every moment, but it definitely helps answer player's questions about the environment more easily.

Sean Robson said...

Hi Burnedfx,

I found the pictures as I was writing the post. I had the imagery fixed in my head already, and a search turned up a couple of images that matched what I had envisioned. These were both from a search of Sumeria, which is one of my inspirations, especially the prevalence of ziggurats in Atlantean culture.

Matt said...

While many fantasy games feature the standard giant castles, winding dungeons etc, I also find ziggurats amazing. Imposing like pyramids or other giant structures, but with a much more "brutal" feel.

Plus any location with a huge staircase for sacrificial heads to roll down is instant game-flavor!

Sean Robson said...

Plus any location with a huge staircase for sacrificial heads to roll down is instant game-flavor!

You said it!

Shane Mangus said...

Great post, Sean. I am echoing Matt's comments, that ziggurats trump castles and dungeons any day!

Sean Robson said...

Thanks Shane, ziggurats have just the right exotic flare that distinguishes this setting from the standard medieval European fare.