Welcome to Mellorian
My greetings, Freelancers.
Welcome to Mellorian, also known as the Isle of Wonders.
First, a word of friendly advice – forget what you have heard, or that which you think you know about life here. This is a dangerous land; one of intrigue and betrayal. You must proceed cautiously; identifying those that are truly allies – for there are many false men in this land, eager to take your coin and yet sell your secrets. In time you may be approached by a representative of a City, or perhaps something even greater, and offered a position of service. One must think carefully before accepting the coin of a master here, for it shall earn you enemies whichever choice you make.
It is true that the Princes rule this land with a fist or iron, this is well known throughout the World. Standing behind them, out of sight to those without the wit to see, is the true power in this vast land of ours. The Great Houses of Magic. Nothing of note transpires here without them learning of it. No decision of importance can be made by anyone, be they a Prince or a lowly Guard Captain, without first consulting one of their damned councils. The Great Houses maintain the status quo, either by direct action or for the lack of it, for it gives them unlimited influence over us all.
There are nine Princes, each the ruler of a City-State within Mellorian. They are ambitious and greedy tyrants one and all, and are constantly making and breaking alliances where they believe they can gain an advantage other their rivals. They each hold a dream of mastery over the continent, even though we Mellorians have never taken well to the idea of being ruled by a single person. Each hopes to amass enough wealth, secrets, and knowledge to convince the Great Houses to back them. But each is merely a pawn in a much larger game – they are hopelessly entangled within the Roots of Magic, just as the Great Houses want it.
There is one true power in Mellorian, and that is the magic of the World Tree…
The nine city states are:
- Metohs – City of Chains
- Vaetoran – City of Smithies
- Bibios – City of Plenty
- Tovenhal – City of the Southern Waters
- Nephastii – City of Ships
- Kul’Shen – City of Qing
- G’Barr – City of Markets
- Pann – City of Scholars
- Anadrakis – City of Mercenaries
Metohs – City of Chains
The city of Metohs has gained infamy throughout Mellorian and even the wider world. It is a name synonymous with the slave trade and has been the final destination for many wretched souls before being sold off to uncaring masters. Both the city and the surrounding territory it controls are geared towards this one trade; it is a wealthy apparatus built solely upon human suffering.
Flesh-auctions occur daily, in which many thousands of people are bought and sold. Metohs has grown rich by feeding distant Khethelia’s insatiable need for forced labour. Such is the wealth and power of the city that slavery is now somewhat legal in the northern territories of Mellorian simply to support the trade of this voracious city.
Metohs bankrolls the so-called Slaver’s League of the North – a commercial union with Nephastii and Anadrakis. This power block, as well as copious bribes from the inexhaustible Metohsi coffers, prevents the other Cities from prohibiting this most pernicious of trades within Mellorian and destroying the city’s power.
The gold that flows from the vaults of the Metohsi Prince, Avantis, also finds its way to the Great Houses of Magic. No House openly supports the slave trade, but few Houses openly decry it. Travium, the House of Power, is particularly opposed to the trade as they believe in personal empowerment beyond all things. House Durant refuses to accept funds from Metohs, but does not go so far as to actively challenge the city. Both Travium and Durant do not maintain a Chapter House within the territories of Metohs.
Vaetoran – City of Smithies
The City of Vaetoran is situated close to vast mineral deposits and thus is focussed heavily on the trade and manipulation of this valuable commodity. Vaetoran is well known for its vast workshops and skilful smiths of all kinds, and the city enjoys a close relationship with House Durant for their shared love of crafting.
Vaetoran has a fractious relationship with Kul’Shen to the east. Many wars have been fought over the years, with the last earning their rivals censure from House Durant and an economic sanction levied that has caused them to fall into decline. Despite their interest and skill at producing materials of war, Vaetoran has few soldiers to use them, and thus the threat of a rival taking advantage of them is always present.
The territories controlled by the Prince of Vaetoran, Faverge, are close to the central desert and so are of limited use for farming or raising livestock. This means that Vaetoran has an unhealthy reliance on other Cities for producing the food which its people need to survive. As people cannot live on minerals, the trades are often unfairly weighted towards the suppliers of food. In lean times this can make Prince Faverge unpopular even with his own people, and he rarely travels within his territories without a great number of guards.
It is rumoured that Vaetoran is close to agreeing a treaty with its rival to the North, G’Barr. Vaetoran will cede ownership over the port of Silver Wind in return for better rates on grain from its neighbour and the guarantee of assistance should Kul’Shen attack once again. With the growth of House Qing, there are many within the powerful elite of Vaetoran clamouring for the treaty to be signed soon.
Bibios – City of Plenty
The city of Bibios is situated on the Southern coast of Mellorian, amid many leagues of the most arable farmland anywhere on the Isle of Wonders. The soil is dark and exceptionally rich in the nutrients required which ensure a bountiful crop year in and year out. Because of this Bibios makes a killing by selling grain and other foodstuffs to other cities and towns that are not so fortunate.
This natural quirk has meant that the city has not invested in other areas and so is completely reliant on its domination of the Mellorian grain market. Due to the shifting nature of alliance between the cities, the territories that Bibios controls are very closely monitored. If agents of a rival were allowed to taint the groundwater at a key location, then it would mean the ruination of a crop, the city, and possible starvation in part of Mellorian. Because of this the people of Bibios tend to be humourless when it comes to agricultural matters.
Prince Comran rules the territories of Bibios from within his palace on the escarpment that overlooks the better part of the city. It is said that Comran is excessively fat; having partaken too freely of his city’s produce, and is unable to move around without being transported by a group of his servants. His greed for food is exceeded only by his hunger for profit, and the Prince is not well liked by his rivals or their peoples for exploiting the bad harvests of others.
Tovenhal – City of the Southern Waters
Although not quite as old as Pann, Tovenhal has stood for many hundreds of years in its current incarnation. Many ancient elements of the city remain, some from the first days of human resettlement of Mellorian and some older, stretching back into the murky history of the Cirdaecean Hegemony.
It is Tovenhal that boasts the Arena of Magic, the ancient duelling circle situated in a great amphitheatre from which the public may view sorcerous combat. If the feud between Wizards is particularly vicious, or the pride of a Great House has been wounded, then the venue for the duel of magic will always be Tovenhal. Generations have watched as some of the greatest Mellorian Wizards have fought and died to great acclaim and bloodthirsty cheers.
Tovenhal commands a swathe of coastal territories and through this has control over Whaling in the Frigid Straits to the South. Whale meat is highly prized throughout Tovenhal, Pann, Bibios and Kul’Shen and the oil extracted from the blubber is traded to the mysterious Dominion of the Steel Sworn, far to the east of Mellorian.
The people of Tovenhal are considered hardy and grim, and are at home as much on the Sea as on land, rarely staying in place for long. Their wanderlust is encouraged by Prince Bandos, who is acutely aware that the control of the whale trade, and the riches it brings, is based on the skill of his people. Bandos is an avid collector of rare objects and the small number of weapons he can coerce as trade from the Steel Sworn are highly prized and rarer than gemstones. He delights in wearing one at his waist for any functions involving his rivals.
Nephastii – City of Ships
Nephastii sits on the other side of the Bay of Chains from Metohs and is also a slaving power in the region. Unlike Metohs, the slave trade is merely fuel to its own strength, that of shipping. Metohsi gold through the Slavers League has paid for a shipping fleet to rival that of other great nations and empires within the world.
It is put to use taking slaves to and from Metohs, so the existence of one is intertwined with the other. This is to the great satisfaction of Metohs, but many within Nephastii question why they are still yoked to their more powerful neighbour. They argue that their naval power should now be used for foreign trade opportunities that are not run by a rival.
Nephastii boasts the sole Khethelian embassy anywhere in the world. To say the Khethelians are mistrusted would be an understatement. Even the most ignorant Mellorian knows that they openly worship the Great Wyrm of Darkness – an act punishable by at least long term imprisonment within the borders of the continent. That the Khethelians are rich beyond the imagining of your average ignorant Mellorian may have something to do with Nephastii turning a blind eye to this evil practice. Prince Tromath of Nephastii hopes that with the might of Khethelia behind him, he can extricate his City from the control of Metohs, but he is playing a very dangerous game with powers beyond his understanding.
Kul’Shen – City of Qing
Every city-state enjoys the control over a particular facet of trade, of resources or something that has allowed them to carve out prestige and control of their territories. Up until recently, this could not be said of Kul’Shen. It sits on the eastern shores of Mellorian, an area of little natural significance or merit, and one that is naturally bordered by the sea on three frontiers, making expansion difficult.
To the west lies their great rival, Vaetoran, gifted with seemingly limitless natural resources. This has enflamed the envy of the Princes of Kul’Shen for countless generations, and as Vaetoran lies in the only path of natural expansion there have been a number of protracted wars between the two cities. Kul’Shen has always been blessed and cursed by the same quirk: that of tremendous fecundity of its people. There have always been more than enough bodies to be spent in gruelling warfare, but in times of peace the hordes diminish the reserves of food at an alarming rate. Starvation and misery are the constant companions of its proud but weary people.
The abject conditions suffered by the subjects of the Prince of Kul’Shen, Jun Bai, played little on his mind for most of his life. Within his numerous and opulent palaces, surrounded by fawning servants and his elite Lotus Guard, he whiled away the days with various pleasures while Kul’Shen was run by his vassals. The people existed to make his life easier, not the other way around. But this opinion has been dramatically altered now.
With the rise of Lord Qing and his coterie of human lieutenants, Kul’Shen is now under the control of the mad spirit. Ru Wen, Primus of Qing is the true ruler now, and Jun Bai a prisoner within the least of his own palaces, guarded round the clock and fed as infrequently as possible. The knowledge of Lord Qing is returning prestige and power back to Kul’Shen, his advanced understanding and designs being passed off as Cirdaecean discoveries within their borders. To what end this aggregation of power, no one is sure except perhaps those with an eye of steaming jade…
G’Barr – City of Markets
The city of G’Barr and its territories are a place of unparalleled commerce. It is said that anything can be had in G’Barr, for a price. This is no vain boast. The city is situated in a fortuitous place between Vaetoran and the Northern cities of Nephastii and Anadrakis. It has grown rich acting as a middle man between the opposing interests of its rivals, charging levies here and there on vital goods each of them cannot do without.
The people of G’Barr are considered very cunning and despite this being general knowledge are still able to spin a good tale and convince the unwary. It is said a fool and his money are soon parted, but in G’Barr a fool doesn’t even know he had money before it is lost.
Trade is the fulcrum on which the interests of the city balance. The land they own has little more to provide than the people need, and certainly nothing to hoard and sell as with such places as Bibios. Their success comes from a shrewd understanding of the needs of their fellow Mellorians, and of exploiting those needs.
The Prince of G’Barr, Wurthod, is as tricky as one might expect from the ruler of such people. The other Princes refuse to entertain him for they always lose out to his seemingly innocent suggestions and offers. Prince Bandos lost no less than five Steel Sworn swords after agreeing to what he thought was the offer of a rare painting from a valued artist. The sword worn at his hip was not the first to be shown off to others, and Bandos still feels its loss keenly.
Wurthod has been instrumental in engineering the rumoured treaty with Vaetoran, and surprisingly for him G’Barr only comes out a little ahead in the agreement, for a time at least. Opening the port of Silver Wind to his army of merchants will soon mean that G’Barr will attempt to usurp the lucrative whale oil trade with the Steel Sworn. If Prince Bandos were to discover this, then there would surely be war between them.
Pann – City of Scholars
The ancient Cirdaecean capital city of Lem-Hloc lies under a week’s journey from Pann. No other city can lay claim to those ruins, or to the richness of discoveries that still come from within it. Pann has been built solely on the findings made by researchers, for the Mellorian craze for Cirdaecean knowledge shows no sign of abating. The discoveries made by Pann have led to advances in engineering, medicine, mathematics, and Pann has secured legal ownership of many of these new concepts simply by sharing them (to a lesser extent) with powerful allies such as Metohs.
Pann is named the city of scholars as both a blessing and a curse, for as much as Mellorians admire their quest to unearth useful lore from the past they find the haughty manner of those from the city to be highly irritating. The researchers, professors, and scholars are prone to being insufferable bores and highly sensitive about their interpretations of the past.
Pann has the universal backing of all the Houses of Magic, great and small. They help to fund the research done by Pann in return for being updated about any particularly interesting material uncovered. The Prince of Pann, Sevestis, brokered the deal between all the Great Houses in order to prevent certain bloodshed should any gain information their rivals do not have. This of course does not stop the constant attempts of the Great Houses to spy on him, or his people, such is their hope to win a coup over each other.
Anadrakis – City of Mercenaries
Anadrakis is the smallest of the nine cities and sparsely populated compared with its teeming rivals. The territories it controls are abundant enough; especially for the population they bear, but are incredibly dangerous. The mountains that define their lands are home to an array of fearsome beasts, most of them with a predilection for human flesh.
Working the land in this region has bred multiple generations of exceptionally hardy people. The richest land is that closest to the mountains and therefore the most dangerous, but this does not stop the hardy settlers from setting up farmsteads, even on the ruins of farms that have been overrun before. The youth of these farms, bored with the labours of the field, eventually make their way to the city of Anadrakis, and there they are inducted into one of the many mercenary guilds that operate from its confines.
Long ago, the Princes of Anadrakis recognised their most valuable export was a people hardened for combat. They could not compete with crops, materials, or with slaves, so they set about encouraging the formation of groups to offer protection for a high price. Few mercenaries are regarded as highly anywhere in the world as those trained in the schools of Anadrakis.
The slave trade is lucrative, and therefore attracts many rivals and usurpers. Metohs has spent a mountain of gold ensuring that Anadrakis protects its interests. Every ship that sets out from Metohs or Nephastii has a party of mercenaries on board to protect the precious cargo. It is said that even the notorious Telmark Reavers will not try to board a ship under the flag of Anadrakis, such is their reputation.
Any merchant of means with an ounce of good sense will keep an Anadrakian at his side wherever he goes, and such is enough to dissuade all but the most desperate of bandits. This ubiquity provides the Prince of Anadrakis, Tessem, with not only the funds but the threat to counter the overmatched population of his territories. Anadrakis is currently a minor power, but soon the other city-states will learn that it holds formidable clout.