Sunday, December 20, 2009
The Free City of Kaladar
Kaladar began its existence as an Achelonian Fort called Hragdor, and remained an Achelonian city ruled by the Achelonian Queen until Old Calendar year 3020, eighteen years into the Old War between the Achelonian and Telengardian arcanists. In 3020, under the leadership of a powerful summoner named Kaladar, Fort Hragdor declared itself a Free City and elected its first Lord Mayor, Farstan the Deadly. Queen Lossar of Achelon sent a token force to Kaladar to regain control, but the city defenses were impenetrable; Kaladar remained free and declared itself neutral in the Achelon-Telengard War. At that time it was renamed The Free City of Kaladar and began flying the Kaladarian green dragon flag, in honor of its namesake's well-known tendency to summon that creature in battle. Despite this victory, the Achelonian monarchy did not acknowledge Kaladar’s sovereignty for many more decades.
During the Old War, Fort Hragdor was the site of many bloody magical and non-magical battles; while mostly held by Achelonian forces, Telengardian armies did breach the walls on numerous occasions and even successfully besieged the city for a full two years in 3012-13. More recently, as a Free City, Kaladar has seen its share of conflict and attempts at capture / siege. The most notable of these instances, besides the "three week siege" of New Calendar year 60, was the successful (if temporary) occupation of Kaladar by Achelonian forces under Queen Lossar V starting in New Calendar year 889. As previously mentioned, the Crimson Blade Balak, Life-Stealer, played a key role in the restoration of Kaladar as a Free City after the Achelonian Occupation of 889-95, becoming the possession of the Achelonian Queen as a condition of the treaty that ended that occupation.
Every accepted form of human magic has at least a small guild within the walls of the Free City of Kaladar. The Kaladarian magic-user’s Guild, located in the southwestern Dragon's Claw District, is the largest in Ara. Many practitioners of alternative and even forbidden forms of magic are rumored to dwell and operate within the Free City walls also.
Kaladar has a large and well-trained Royal Guard, probably second only to the Noffellian High Guard in terms of its overall efficacy and reputation for law enforcement excellence. The Kaladarian Royal Guard's training and reputation, combined with the city's location on an island between two wide, rapid-flowing rivers, makes Kaladar all but impenetrable and unassailable (not that many throughout Kaladar's stormy history haven't tried). There is a governing merchant prince called the Lord Mayor who presides over the affairs of the city and who commands his own elite regiment of the Royal Guard.
Bridges and Ferries
The northern river encircling half of Kaladar is called the King's Ford River, named for an Old War-era Telengardian king, Arkon III, who crossed it in a failed yet extremely valiant attempt to take the city by force. The southern fork of this river, as it sweeps around the south side of the island upon which Kaladar sits, is called the South Fork River.
There are four heavily guarded gates into the Free City, which sit roughly at (and are named for) the cardinal compass points: East Gate, West Gate, North Gate, and South Gate. All four gates include drawbridges across the wide rivers to the mainland. The Endyn Trade Route enters and exits the Free City of Kaladar via the West and East Gates. The North Gate is the least-used of all the entrances to the city, and is mainly frequented by Kaladarian Royal Guard units as they head in and out on patrols.
A ferry crosses the southern South Fork River. For a few spring months each year, the South Fork rises and floods Kaladar's south gate and bridge, so this ferry -- which costs 1gp per passenger per one-way crossing -- becomes the only means in and out of the south side of Kaladar.
It is rumored that one can access the lower, underground sewer levels of Kaladar from either the north or south rivers, but the Royal Guard is certainly aware of all such entrances and keeps them consistently patrolled.
The most opulent dwellings, inns and businesses in Kaladar are located in the center of the city at the top of Lookout Hill. This centrally located and extremely affluent Lookout Hill district is home to most of the local nobles and officials, including the Lord Mayor's manor and the single most famous (and expensive) inn in the Free City of Kaladar, The Hotel Kaladarian -- see below.
There is also a rich (if eccentric) neighborhood, the Dragonwing District, along Kaladar's northwest wall. This is a district largely inhabited by retired Achelonian nobles and affluent wizards of various kinds.
Kaladar's poor mostly live on the south and southeast sides of the city; the south gate and ferry are thought to be particularly useful for bandits and black marketeers, and there is rumored to be an assassin's guild secretly located somewhere in the Free City's southeastern Green Dragon district.
As one might expect, within the walls of the Free City there are at least sixteen different pubs and eating establishments with the words "Green Dragon" in their names, but the most famous one is in the Lord Mayor's District in east-central Kaladar, and is called simply The Green Dragon. There are also three separate Kaladarian streets with this name, a fact which can create big hassles for non-natives and first-time visitors.
The North Wall District, in the northeastern quadrant of the Free City, is best-known for the presence of the Arandish Warriors' Guild, and for housing the largest (if not most elite) garrison of the Kaladarian Royal Guard. Given that this sector of the Free City is overrun by fighting men and mercenaries, it should not be surprising that The Greedy Lion, a famous merc bar in the North Wall District, is rumored to be a place to pick up dangerous and not-quite-legal mercenary and courier work.
The Hotel Kaladarian
The most famous and expensive inn in the Free City is The Hotel Kaladarian, centrally located atop Lookout Hill in the affluent Lookout Hill district. The Hotel Kaladarian is built upon the ruins of the Queen of Achelon's former palace, having been constructed there shortly after the signing of the Free Kaladarian Decree of New Calendar year 60.
Scott Peoples, who created this famous Hotel, centered an entire campaign around it. The adventure party was hired by the kitchen staff of the Hotel Kaladarian to hunt down and bring back rare monster species for preparation by the Hotel Kaladarian's renowned chef, Escoffier. Escoffier plans his exotic and highly expensive dishes months in advance, gives a list of needed "monster" ingredients to his chief aide, and that aide (whose name I forget) seeks out adventurers to hunt down the needed creatures. This is all kept very discreet and quiet, and pays very well. The party I played with first sought out a sea serpent for one of Escoffier's preparations (the same quest upon which we first met Captain Hokka) and were later set after a wide array of rare and dangerous creatures.
Sawith, Scribe of Kaladar
Sawith [SAW-with] is the wisest "popular" sage in the entire Lands of Ara; like Captain Hokka of Noffel, Sawith's name is known to almost everyone throughout the Lands. There may be a few more knowledgable sages in Ara, at least in certain specific subject areas, but Sawith is by far the most popular and well-informed generalist sage. Sawith inhabits a famous tower and library complex at the foot of Lookout Hill in the Free City of Kaladar. Those seeking his wisdom must come to him in person, and must be prepared to pay a high price for his services.
Sawith was originally created by Scott Peoples, and in Scott's Arandish campaigns, Sawith charged 100gp per real-time minute for his services: that is, our party paid 100gp, then had one real-world minute in which to ask Sawith as many questions as could be reasonably asked in that time. In my own deployment of Sawith the Scribe, I am more inclined to charge by the question, and to adjust the rate based upon the difficulty in obtaining an answer, the obscurity of the subject, and/or the sensitivity / dangerousness of the knowledge sought. I retain Scott's minimum 100gp buy-in rate -- that's just to get a personal audience with Sawith! -- plus the additional weekly fees given below (much more expensive than the typical "Sage" rates given in Labyrinth Lord):
To obtain an audience with Sawith the Scribe: 100gp
Easy questions: 800gp per week
Moderately difficult questions: 1,000gp per week
Difficult / politically sensitive questions: 1,200gp per week
Seeking incredibly obscure / powerful / forbidden knowledge: 2,000+ per week
I would generally rate Sawith's accuracy as being quite high, especially in the easy and moderate categories (85-90% accurate). In the difficult category, Sawith's accuracy may drop to more like 60-70%, but this is still better than most other sages, whom I would estimate as being only (at best) 50-70% accurate in any but their own extremely specialized area(s) of knowledge. It is in fact Sawith's atypical "specialization" as an information generalist -- and his accuracy therein -- that has made him so popular throughout Ara.
Typically, parties make an initial appointment with Sawith -- for which they may have to wait many days if he is busy -- and then Sawith takes a few weeks or months to gather research, construct a precis, and meet with the party once again. Sawith will usually give a cost estimate and charge his estimated fee for the job up-front; sometimes, if the question ends up being more difficult to answer than initially predicted, he asks for additional funds before delivering the precis. Sawith has a staff of clerks, journeyman sages, and junior researchers, but to this day he still conducts all meetings with in-person clients himself, once an official appointment is made through his scheduling staff.