Campaign of the Month: May 2016
The Garden City of Siwal
The Garden City of Siwal
With its high walls and basalt minarets towering over granite fountains and marble statuary, The Garden City of Siwal is an impressive sight when approached from the desert. Like, Saph-Saph and Makuria, it is a satellite city to the great River Cities of Nuria Natal, famous for its Necropolis, its great library temple of Thoth-Hermes, carpet weaving, book dealing and dancing, with the exotic dancers Zahrah al-Zaina being famous throughout the Southlands.
Welcome to Siwal
The Free City of Siwal is ruled by Sultan Tayeb Al-Mamun (LN Human Rogue) and his second in command, Vizier Akil ibn Khaldun (LN Human Cavalier) and has a population of about 10,000 (8,400 humans, 700 gnolls, 500 dwarves, 300 heru (ravenfolk) and 100 kobolds. Gods commonly worshipped in the city include Aten, Nun and Naunet (Yarila and Porevit as Water and Chaos Gods), Sothis-Shai (Rava), Ptah (Svarog) and Thoth-Hermes, and goods commonly traded include dates, millet, barley, salt, rare flowers, herbs, mummy dust and opals.
The Necropolis of Siwal is famous throughout Nuria Natal and has many famous undead figures buried within its walls. People often come from all over Nuria Natal to bury their dead within its sacred walls, and for that reason it is closely guarded by a group of dedicated Gravebinders.
The Gravebinders of Siwal work tirelessly keeping the City’s population of Undead under control. The Necropolis is always busy, so it has several Gravebinders, as well as the usual diggers, mourners, embalmers and others. The main task of these Gravebinders is to ensure that no zombies, skeletons or other restless dead arise to plague the citizens. Their work is professional and thorough, and they hear few complaints; but the Gravebinders are bound by the Law of the Necropolis: Under the sun, the living reign, and they may make arrangements as they will; but after nightfall the spirits, ghouls and vampires hold their own court, and the living who dare to enter are fair prey for those who walk the shadows.
Chief among the Gravebinders is White Necromancer Kadir al-Shaba, who scrupulously adheres to the Law of the Necropolis unless it is broken or the citizenry of Siwal is under undue danger from the Undead within the Necropolis grounds. As a tender of such a place, al-Shaba is well versed in the lores of the graveyard and well acquainted with its important inhabitants.
Entertainment in the city is very important for a citizenship who have to endure the hardships of the desert each day. Official entertainment for the wealthy nobles is all licensed by the city authority and only those with wealthy backers or who can prove they have genie blood are granted licenses.
By far the most famous entertainment group in the city is Zahrah al-Zaina (The Bright and the Beautiful), a group of dancers who are also trained to defend the city and champion many worthy causes. Their dancing makes use of a wide range of desert combat styles including such feats as the Whirling Dervish, the Improved Whirling Dervish, the Dance of the Dervish and the Voice of the Desert Flower.
Among the general populace, entertainment licenses are not so strictly regulated, but groups still tend to do better if they have some sort of sponsor or backer. Perhaps the most popular musical entity in the common taverns is Peter and the Puddings, a group of highly experienced adventurers and collectors of Mysteria, working and performing under the sponsorship of the infamous black salt merchant, Abdul Ali Hamsa. Their use of ancient desert throat singing hovering over the mesmerising rhythms of traditional Kushite drumming is legendary throughout the whole of Nuria Natal.
Other less reputable acts can be found in and out of the markets – brave soloists, mimers, jugglers, sleight of hand specialists and even poets – but few of these ever get to fill a tavern or hall.
The Grand Souk is a location of much activity. It is not a single place, but a dense collection of streets, alleys, covered arcades, and small plazas filled with canopied stalls. Somewhere within the Souk, virtually anything can be bought or sold; it is only a matter of finding the right street and the right vendor to complete the deal.
Although it seems like a chaos of shop fronts, stalls, and street hawkers, the Souk divides roughly into different collections of professions. The camel dealers peddle their wares near the public fountains, the goldsmiths work along one dark alley, the potters stack their pots outside their workshops while their kilns belch black smoke, and the farmers park their carts of melons, tomatoes, peppers, dates, and bananas along the tight alleys.
Servants, mothers and children, old crones, scarred adventurers, and beggars touch shoulders as they complete their errands. Pickpockets and thieves lounge in shadowed doorways, on the lookout for the unwary or the rare patrols of the city watch. Buyers and sellers haggle, coins clink, and animals bray in the chorus of everyday life.
Sultan Tayeb Al-Mamun is also known as “The Defender of The Faithful” and this can be seen as quite a wide-ranging title, since there are temples and shrines to almost every Southlands deity within the walls of the city.
Although the Sultan himself is a follower of Thoth-Hermes, he is also a supporter of Aten, and indeed it is Aten that probably has the most support throughout the city poplulace. However, the cults of Thoth-Hermes and Anu-Akma are both very strong within the city, that of Thoth-Hermes being centred around the great library-temple, and that of Anu-Akma being centred around the close proximity to the Grand Necropolis.
The verdant gardens within the city walls are the responsibility of the Royal Gardeners, who are all priests of Nun and Naunet (masks of Yarila and Porevit) and they toil endlessly, using the elemental magical properties of the waters of the oasis to care for the plants, allowing them to flourish. According to the Priests of Aten, these waters also have healing properties, and waters from the fountain in the Temple of Aten, blessed by a Priest of Aten, become Holy Water.
The temple-library of Thoth-Hermes is the stronghold of the Cult of Thoth-Hermes and it is here that the great theurges congregate, disseminating both knowledge and religious belief. The High Theurge is Prasert Priam and he is a powerful man, close both to the Sultan and to the High Theurges of the great Nuria River Cities, as well as having regular correspondence with others of his ilk in the Seven Cities and in Bemmea itself.
The Libary of Thoth-Hermes is served by priests of that god but also by priests of Aten and Horus. In fact, there are some that believe Aten, Horus and Thoth-Hermes to be masks of the same God. A special wing of the library is devoted to Anu-Akma, who, as God of the Dead, is given a special place in most popular religions and cults.
Other gods worshipped to a lesser degree include Ptah (God of the Dwarves and also of Jewellery and Construction) and Sothis-Shai (a mask of Rava). The cult of Bastet is frowned upon within the city and worshippers of this Goddess are as secretive as those of the Dark Gods.
There are many criminal and even quasi legal factions and cults within the Garden City of Siwal, which is unsuprising, considering all of the trade routes, markets in black salt and poisons, cut throat traders, religious factions and the influence of the Grand Necropolis. However, nobody in the city would dispute that the most powerful of the secret guilds is The Sand Corsairs. With its leadership unknown but with strong ties to many of the prominent citizens of the city, it is a name whispered very carefully and is also known as the first place a person would look if he was trying to get something unsavoury done.
There are secret agents of “THE GUILD” in every bar and scattered throughout The Grand Souk, but the most common place to make contact is known to be Ye Olde Darakhul. Man of Letters,
Talvin Singh, who usually does much of his “community work” at Ragged Tooth Ralph’s establishment is rumoured to be able to put any adventurer in touch with the “right people”. Whether a person is looking for a “too good to be true” deal, an introduction to the Cult of SET or a meeting with the secretive priests of NAKRESH THE MANY HANDED; or indeed if the services sought are even more nefarious, it is whispered among those who do not name themselves that Talvin Singh is “the man” to speak to.
It is not surprising that there are very few of the reptilian humanoids living in Nuria Natal, so great was the friction during the war with the Mharoti Empire and in the years thereafter that most remaining soldiers of the scaled races were cruelly put to death. Yet some enterprising expansionist dragons dropped small units of kobolds that quickly buried themselves in the sand in obscure locations throughout the land, keeping quiet and biding their time until a promised future assault. The Oooze came upon and destroyed one of these units on their way to the Tomb of the Elephant God.
Most of the kobold gangs scattered throughout the ancient world of Nuria Natal are evil scheming communities that remain hostile to all humans, but there are some who have made truce and live now among decent city folk. Such a group is the Sand Lizards of Siwal, who long ago made peace with the humans in the outer desert and made particular strong friendships with the gnolls.
Great Rastus, King of Kobolds is the current leader of a group of over 100 kobolds that have sworn allegiance to Sultan Tayeb Al-Mamun and have been granted assylum. As honoured friends of Ragged Tooth Ralph they have been given protection of the gnolls and are permitted to frequent his bar, Ye Olde Darakhul.
Most of these creatures live in a small ghetto near to the gnoll’s tavern, although it is known they have dug extensively underneath, creating quite a labyrinth of tunnels and underground chambers, as is their wont. Most of these keep to themselves but a worthy representative called Snakey Slithers keeps company in Ye Olde Darakhul, and is both a watchful eye and a point of introduction to any who would seek to befriend their reptilian “cousins”.