Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Lands of Lyrion - Neethra, City of Thieves
Of the seven City-States of the Three Seas region, Neethra is, easily, the most notorious. Also known as the "City of Thieves", the city is a sprawling hive of dark alleys, sullen tenements, and rowdy taverns that clings to the side of Mount Raven-Red like some seething mould. It is also one of the greatest trade cities of the Three Seas, being somewhat free of the normally heavy-handed import restrictions of the Imperial officials who nominally rule the city in the name of the Sorcerer-Kings of Lyrion (the current governor being one Hjorrm, a Lyrion admiral who is seldom in attendence). The harbormasters are also, for the price of a modest bribe, known to turn a blind eye to the export and import of goods that would be considered illegal in the other City States. Nearly anything, be it goods or services, may be purchased in the City of Thieves for the right price.
Neethra is a favored destination of depraved pleasure-seekers: the "Night Garden", a maze-like district of brothels, theaters, and outdoor auditoriums and parks, provides any distraction the bored wealthy thrill-seeker can imagine, again for the right price. The so-called "Guild of Lanterns" provides guides knowledgeable in the ways of the Night Garden for a nominal fee to steer tourists towards the indulgences they crave. Looming ironically close to the Night Garden is the "Plaza of Five Lies", a great circular plaza surrounded by the temples of the five primary deities of the Three Seas (Mythra, Kronus, Lansril, Phrygios, and Belara), as well as numerous shrines consecrated to dozens of other, foreign, gods. The temple of Phrygios was, once, the grandest of the five, but its famed School of Mysteries (a college of sorcery) was cast into ruin decades ago by the Sorcerer-Kings of Lyrion, and the ruins left for all to see as a warning to any who would defy their mastery.
Higher up the side of the mountain is the mysterious Tower of Louris the Lost, a sorcerer who disappeared a century ago. The Sorcerer-Kings have tried many times to enter or destroy the Tower, but it has, thus far, withstood even their most ardent efforts. Louris is suspected to be the creator of the Mad Halls, a unnatural maze of chambers and corridors that exists beneath the City of Thieves. Scholars endlessly debate the nature of these halls; some assert they are ruins left by a lost civilization, while others claim they are an actual, physical encroachment of the dark Underworld. The Underworld hypothesis is not so far-fetched as it would seem - the Mad Halls earned their moniker well - the place is ever-changing, and haunted by beasts and dark folk that should not be found there, and the traps and hazards within seem to reset and move themselves around at their own whim. Despite the danger, the Mad Halls are reportedly filled with wealth as well, however, so they have become a favored destination of treasure hunters and explorers, and it is not considered polite among their company to speculate over-long on the mortality rate of such endeavors.
Slouching beside the deep black harbor of Neethra is a notorious inn and tavern - Verdigris House - with a dark reputation and a clientele of pirates, outlaws, smugglers, and renegades, as well as treasure hunters looking to take advantage of a peculiarity of the establishment's cistern. At the bottom of the great well is a stone face, through the open, gaping maw of which one may gain entrance to the Mad Halls, if one is unwise enough. Old Fang, the innkeeper, a hideous hulking man rumored to have some Lizard-Man ancestry (though the author is loathe to ponder how such a thing may have come into existence), charges a small fee for access to the basement in which the cistern lies, and keeps its door heavily locked and barred - not, it would appear, to keep anyone out, but, rather, to keep something in.