Blue

From The Griffin's Crier
Jump to: navigation, search

A once-lawless town on the Pomarj that is now the second largest city in the Domain of Obsidian Bay.

Overview

The city of Blue lies on the eastern end of the Pomarj Peninsula, approximately 200 sea miles west from the city of Scant (on the opposing Dragonshead Peninsula) directly across the Gearnat Straight. The location was chosen as it is the largest and most accessible of a series of small natural harbors within an elevated headland (known locally as the Anchor Hills, so named for the common use of the iron ore extracted there) rising above the sea. The other bays are surrounded by steep cliffs making them unsuitable for a shipping port, and are only used as shelter during storms, or as a holding area for ships not yet granted access to the city docks, such as before the Sea Lords have been paid their landing fee. Occasionally, these other bays are used by slaving ships bearing particularly troublesome cargo so that the slaves may be unloaded a few at a time by longboat instead of all once at the docks lessening the chance of revolts, as the Sea Lords learned the hard way in 475 CY when one erupted from the holds of several slaving ships simultaneously, and took several days to quell. A group of islands lies a few miles offshore which are littered with shipwrecks and many pirate camps (and likely buried treasure). Residents of the city refer to the largest island as the "Pirate Academy", for indeed many youths make their way there hoping to serve on the crew of a raiding ship, and learn their skills in this cut-throat environment.

Naming a city Blue may seem strange, until one sees the city itself, for the naming was quite literal. A number of hot springs in the area yield vibrant blue mineral deposits that are used for everything from fabric dyes, ink and paint pigments, and an additive to glass tinting it blue. This darkened glass helps keep out the heat of the strong southern sun when used in windows, and also lends a distinctive color to the lighthouse beacons which mark the harbor entrance. However, just below a thin layer of topsoil in the area are huge blue clay deposits from which the very bricks and clay roof tiles the city is built from are made, colored with the same minerals as the hot springs. Thus, every building not of hewn stone construction is pale blue with a darker blue tile roof, as the hue deepens upon being fired in a kiln. The mineral is even used as a wood stain that is applied to the city’s docks and the few wooden buildings remaining (as the area was nearly deforested years ago wood is generally reserved for the shipwrights) as it has excellent weatherproofing qualities that allow the planks that it is applied on to resist rot and warping.

Blue’s dwarven-built city walls run from water’s edge at each side of the harbor, then up along the top ridge of a pair of crescent-shaped hills facing the sea. At either of the seaward ends of the crescent, slightly higher promontories that level out as small plateaus each hold one of the dual lighthouses that have become Blue’s trademark. The gap between the two hills inland from the harbor is pierced by a small river, called unimaginatively the Bluewater, which flows down from a series of lakes farther up in the Drachensgrab Hills. The city walls pass over top of the water creating the River Gate, which has a heavy portcullis guarding entrance to the city from upriver, and a pair of heavy bronzed gates stands to either side of the river for entry by land. The Bluewater is not navigable by ocean-going ships, but smaller river craft can pass through an upward-sliding gate built into the portcullis. Centrally located between the docks and outer city walls, and adjacent to the northern bank of the Bluewater is Sellark Citadel, the fortress that has served as the baronial residence for two centuries. Two other small fortifications are beneath each of the lighthouses, with the Captain's Council Chamber built at the foot of the South Light, and the Hall of the Sea Lords below the North Light.

Other than flat areas near the docks and along the banks of the Bluewater, the semi-circular city sprawls up the steep slopes of the crescent hills in terraced fashion similar to an amphitheater. As space within the city walls is at a premium, the buildings tend to be high and narrow, often with a lower entrance on the street nearer the docks, and an upper entrance on the street a tier higher up. Many buildings feature multiple sub-cellars which may be accessed from streets well below the ground floor, creating a confusing warren of tunnels, ramps, and stairs beneath an already confusing street layout connecting the various levels of the city.

Government

  • Blue Captains Council: A formal group of Blue's leading citizens, headed by the ruling Baron of the city by hereditary right.
  • Provisional Government of Blue: An interim government appointed by the Lord Mayor of Obsidian Bay until a formal government in Blue can be established. It is led by Governor Stefan Warrick.
  • Circle of Blue: An informal society of arcane spellcasters who work to lessen the influence of Blue's occupation government so they can be left to conduct business and research as they see fit.

Military

  • Garrison of Blue: The military contingent charged with the defense of Blue. It is comprised of members of the Obsidian Bay Army as well as local Blue volunteers.

History

Founded shortly after the conquest of the Pomarj by Keoland began in 295 CY, Blue was ever the hotbed of defiance to the Prince of Ulek's suzerainty over the baronies of the Pomarj. The Keoish noble family assigned to rule the area, the House of Sellark, was a cadet branch of the ruling House of Rhola, and distantly related to the Dukes of Gradsul and Counts of Flen. The Sellarks had been a thorn in the side of Keoish monarchs for generations, as they were often in conflict with other noble families at particularly inopportune times, so when the head of the House, Lord Karsten Sellark, requested from King Tavish I to be included in the invasion force of the Pomarj, the king was happy to oblige, hoping to rid himself of his troublesome relatives upon successful completion of their campaign. Little did Lord Sellark know that after establishing baronies for the leaders of the conquest that Tavish I planned on granting the entirety of the newly conquered land to his ally, the dwarven Prince Olinstaad Corond of Ulek, to better oversee exploiting the areas mineral wealth.

The subjugation of the Pomarj was accomplished within a few years after the invasion, as besides numerous types of monstrous creatures it was only sparsely populated by primitive Flan tribes and a few remnant pockets of degenerate and wicked outcast Suel from the time of the Great Migrations. What would become the city of Blue began as a resupply point for the Keoish forces sent to garrison and patrol the eastern end of the peninsula around the time when Highport was being built on the north coast of the Pomarj in 305 CY. A particularly resilient Flan tribe in the nearby hills had finally been convinced to cease hostility, and the forces under Lord Sellark began trading with them. When deposits of high grade iron ore were discovered in those nearby hills, and soon after gold, silver, and electrum farther inland, it was decided to make the military landing into a permanent settlement, and the Sellarks immediately began petitioning for the establishment of their barony here. King Tavish I finally sanctioned this in 315 CY, the same year he granted the entire peninsula as the "Poor March" of the Principality of Ulek, much to the chagrin of all of the newly made Keoish barons. Tavish I made sure he had a representative on hand when Prince Olinstaad Corond's appointed dwarven magistrate arrived to announce the decree and report back Baron Sellark's reaction. The Sellark's future relations with the dwarven magistrates were forever strained by this parting slight from the king.

Surprisingly, the Sellark dynasty began their rule as strong and capable barons, overseeing the construction of Blue's harbor as well as the dwarven commissioned city walls and a modest but stout citadel. The Sellarks created a number of lesser lords to help them rule from among those who served them well during the invasion, mostly soldiers, but also some who had been (or were apprenticed to) Sea Mages of Gradsul. The land holdings, mostly mining concerns or agricultural estates, were granted to the soldiers, while the mages became the "Sea Lords", who held various administrative positions in serjeanty, such as Lord Harbormaster, Lord Dockwarden, Lord Excisor, Lord Shipwright, Lord Lightkeeper, Lord Porter, and the lowly Lord Fishmonger. These Sea Lords, being nearer at hand for day to day consultation soon became the Baron's closest circle of advisers, while the terrestrial lords became more distant and independent. As long as obligations for taxes, goods, or soldiers were met, they were left to their own devices. Several decades of prosperity followed, with tons of precious metals passing through Blue's port to enrich the Sellarks and their vassals, the Prince of Ulek, and the Kings of Keoland alike.

The fortunes of House Sellark grew from one generation to the next while the line of succession remained certain, but by 395 CY the family had a crisis when there was no direct heir remaining to Baron Karsten IV, and after a brief internecine struggle, the title of Baron fell to the teenage Laskaris I of House Vonderzee, the son of Karsten IV’s widowed female cousin Eirene Sellark, who had married into a recently arrived Keoish family who ran a trading consortium and owned many ships. Some say that Laskaris Vonderzee’s ascension was either aided or orchestrated by the Sea Lords, who were now referred to as the “Circle of Blue” since their membership had remained exclusively wizards. It was rumored they had formed a secretive cabal to manipulate the politics of Blue from behind the scenes using their administrative authority, and were often at odds with the dwarven Magistrates of the Prince of Ulek, who obviously cared little for nautical concerns. Laskaris I relied heavily on the counsel of the Circle of Blue to rule, which was likely their intent for supporting him, and during his reign Blue’s black market, smuggling rings, and schemes for avoiding Prince Corond’s taxes grew substantially. Blue also began building a reputation as a haven for piracy during Laskaris I’s rule, for safe harbor was often granted to sea raiders as long as they only preyed upon ships not flying the colors of Keoland or its allied nations.

By the mid-400's CY, the economy of Blue had drastically changed. As the deposits of precious metals began to fail after more than a century of rigorous mining, the city became evermore dependent on commerce raiding as a source of income. The landholding lords who held estates outside of the city remained for the most part self-sufficient and removed from the day to day urban politics, while the Circle of Blue increased its influence over the barons of the Vonderzee dynasty and tightened its grip over Blue’s underworld. In 450 CY, a pirate captain of Keoish noble blood distantly related to the Sellarks of Blue who had often used that city as a remote base when raiding in the Sea of Gearnat and northern Azure Sea led a rebellion against the Lion Throne of King Tavish III of Keoland. With him, the southern reaches of Keoland beyond the Hool Marshes seceded. Keoland had been involved in a number of wars along its northern territories, and could ill afford the distraction of another conflict. A number of pirate crews from the Pomarj and the Wild Coast joined their scalawag brethren from Keoland and were able to seize the islands off the coast, including Flotsom and Jetsom Islands, Fairwind Isle, and the Sybarate Isles. In 453 CY, King Tavish III led an army across the Hool Marshes to lay siege to the now pirate city of Westkeep, but died during the unsuccessful campaign plagued by sickness and heat, his army either defecting to the pirates or perishing while trying to cross back through the Hool. This left Keoland in turmoil, and the expanded empire of the previous kings began to unravel, beginning with the Ulek states.

At the direction of Baron Tamar Vonderzee, a Captain’s Council was formed in 460 CY by the leading ship captains, whether merchants, privateers, outright pirates, or otherwise. It was intended to be a democratic body to give the populace the feeling of at least some say in how Blue was governed, but in practice it was dominated by the Circle of Blue and the still powerful Vonderzee merchant family, who owned a dozen ships, and thus had as many votes in council. Following the dissolution of the Principality of Ulek from the Kingdom of Keoland in CY 461, Blue was the first of the Pomarj baronies to declare its own independence in CY 463, expelling Prince Corond's dwarven Magistrate when the recently established Captain's Council had gathered enough strength and support. The landholding lords also supported independence from Ulek, if only for their own interests to end their vassalage to the Baron of Blue, who was little interested in lording over what he saw as worthless land full of played out mines and poor soil anyway. In 464 CY, the Keoish fleet had a pyrrhic victory over the rebellious pirates in their southern waters at the Battle of Jetsom Island, but failed to exploit their success. These pirates, now calling themselves the Sea Princes, decided to settle down and established vast plantations worked by slaves captured from the Amedio Jungle instead of remaining brigands. Thus began Blue’s involvement in the slave trade, as hapless victims from surrounding lands were captured and sent south to be traded for easy coin, supplementing the savages taken from the jungles.

By the early 500’s CY, Blue had cemented itself as a key center for villainy on the Pomarj. Most of the landholding lords had by then given up agricultural pursuits and had either left the area entirely or had become leaders of mercenary bands serving various nobles across the peninsula. Once the humanoids invaded in CY 513, rather than face a long and hopeless siege the powers that be in Blue simply made a deal to pay off the monstrous hordes. The Circle of Blue proved its worth for once and made demonstration of their magical prowess, showing that while Blue could never withstand a concerted effort by the humanoids to take the city, it would cost them dearly, and thus an accord was struck. As long as they were allowed to keep control of the city to conduct piracy and slave raids, Blue was content to be surrounded by tribes of orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls, and even recruited from among the humanoids for their ship’s crews. The Circle of Blue proved skillful as always at pitting various factions against one another, keeping the balance of power among the tribal chiefs and pirate captains, while maintaining the latest Baron Vonderzee, Sammel I, as a figurehead.

Organizations

Gangs

  • Blue Smugglers Cartel: Criminal smuggling syndicate operating in the port city of Blue
  • Cutters: The dominant street gang of Blue, known to hang out at a dive called Shanks Alehouse.

Guilds

Guilds, Adventuring

  • Madbrand Guild: Humans who were taken as slaves by Pomarjian orcs, but later threw off their chains (both of slavery and civilization).

Guilds, Thieves

  • Blue Thieves Guild: More of a gang of street-toughs than a true society of skilled rogues, the Blue Thieves Guild is now much more respected than in its prior existence under Malvan's leadership.

Ships

  • Never Sunk: A sorry looking ship that is nevertheless seaworthy. The captain Yanos is a crusty old man who's usual response to almost any situation is to shrug and mutter grumpily "So what?"
  • Breka: Everyone is surprised that the captain of this doughty ship is a dwarf. But Ol' Pierce hasn't bothered to explain himself or his motivations. His crew is fairly inexperienced and Breka doesn't usually have an unusual cargo or specialize in certain "runs".
  • Salty Dog: Jonah is fairly unremarkable, even for a captain in Blue. He hauls staples, most of the time.

Churches

  • Church of Ralishaz, Blue: The church has a few erratic (some would say insane) followers, who worship wherever their leader, Nerrandez, happened to pass out on any given night.

Sites

This is a dynamic list of all the sites associated with this location.