Thanks to ruthlessly killing a PC—and having a party willing to travel a great distance and plop down a big chunk of swag for a resurrection—I finally made good on moving play out of the 120 mile stretch of the Hill Cantons proper. Play for the last month has centered in the half-ruined digs of a city—and it’s vast, sprawling undercity--I have been wanting to introduce for years now.
What follows is Part One of my introduction to this new sandbox.
The ancient Southlands metropolis of Kezmarok has been known my many names over the aeons: Vu Commoron, Zenopolus, The City Three Quarters as Old as the Firmament of the Heavens, The City of 500 Graces (or the City of 500 Sybarites and Popinjays to some wags), the list rolls on.
Five long centuries of besiegement by the ever-patient and languid forces of the Turko-Fae have severed it’s dominance over a vast network of fortified ports. The resulting steady collapse and abandonment of great stretches of the mile-and-a-half long city have diminished its once teeming magnificence, but it stubbornly clings to a sad grandeur high on the Great Rock.
Barely 40,000 of its former 300,000 residents still make their home in the city, and a good quarter of those are the Northern cantonal mercenaries, bonded outsiders and slick operators looking to make a golden wheel (Ur Kolo) or two from the largesse of the city vaults.
Of its native citizens, gone are many of the common castes. The great legions of the indentured and poorer wage earners have long shipped out for greener pastures, northwards to the Cantons or southwards over the Persimmon Sea.
While clinging like the city to former greatness many of the nobility—almost a third of the residents now--have doggedly stayed, but downshifted into a “shabby gentility”. It’s not uncommon to come across a city block of half-collapsed red marble manses with great taub-taub trees growing through them and families of these pauperized patricians patching long-handed down robes and doublets, writing epic poems, polishing dented heirlooms, and acting out parlor theater in the remaining shells.
Defense of the triple great walls that choke off the peninsula from the mainland—and the great silken pavilions and stockades of the besiegers—is in the hands of the Bonded Companies. Many a northern landsknecht, gendarme, or reaver has made an easy lifetime of serving a “long bond”, a 20-30 year contract of service walking the walls and performing in the mostly bloodless and symbolic sallies against the great host outside.