The City of Sails is a splendor of white marble, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. It is unique amongst the Great Cities for the way it elects its politicians democratically. The people of Balic worship no gods, but they do hold the virtues in high regard and honor their heroes and statesmen who have shown excellence in these areas.
Trade is the lifeblood of the city, by silt skimmers which sail all over the region. But the true passion of the people is theater, philosophy, and rousing debates with friends which go deep into the night, lasting for as long as the wine does.
Most politicians are elected for a period of 10 years, except the Dictator who is appointed for life and handles the execution of the Senate’s laws. Seven centuries ago, that honor fell to a wise and learned man named Andropinis. A skilled alchemist and man of science, he somehow acquired eternal life, which he credits to something he calls the Philosopher’s Stone.
Andropinis uses his political power sparingly – he doesn’t need to. As the wisest and most skilled in the city, he has been the mentor of countless heroes in the past. Whether one wishes to know about mathematics, history, the bow, or statecraft, Andropinis is the greatest teacher. As such, all great politicians think much as he does and create the correct policies he also would have made.
The city is well defended by legions of soldiers, armed with round shields and bronze-tipped spears. Andropinis has also created the Spartoi, a species akin to half-giants, who make up the Titan Legion.
God-King Tectuktitlay and his senior Moon Priests
The City of Moons is built on a dry island surrounded by mud flats, which is the source of its wealth. A network of irrigation and drainage channels has created enormous fields of hemp, cotton, and grains - mostly maize.
Nevertheless, Draj is in a state of constant war. Her Jaguar Warriors, armed with obsidian-ridged clubs and harpoons, raid the surrounding lands and wandering tribes for captives. Some of these are enslaved, but most are dragged to the top of its massive central tiered pyramid where the God-King rips out their hearts in offering to the two moons.
The current God-King is Tectuktitlay, also called the Father of Life, who claims to be child of the two moons and to have eternal life; time will tell if this claims holds any truth.
Some of the strange ruins around Gulg
The Forest City is the smallest of the Great Cities, both in terms of size, military, and wealth. Yet its inhabitants will tell you that they are the most fortunate ones.
For Gulg is built around the Sunlight Home, an enormous agafari tree which towers far above the forest. The spirit of this tree is the Oba, the Forest Goddess. Gulg is ruled by a queen, a mortal woman who has voluntarily given herself over to the Oba, being possessed by the great spirit, her will made flesh. When a Gulgan dies, their body is buried amongst the roots of the tree, their essence flowing into the roots and mingling with the spirit of the tree. In this manner, the Oba is Gulg, Gulg is its people, and the people are the Oba. All are in harmony and forever, and they pity the foreigners whose souls are doomed to rot inside their flesh upon their deaths, trapped inside with nowhere to go .
The current queen is in the prime of her life. She is called Lalali-Puy and she was a Judaga head-hunter warrior before she was exalted as the Oba reborn.
The city is defended by a hedge of thorny trees, so thick and tangled that even a cat couldn’t crawl through. But long before an intruder can approach the hedge, they would be spotted by the many hunters and also the spirits of the forest which whisper to the Nganga Priests.
A Nibenese noblewoman
Holy King Nibenay, deep in meditation
The City of Spires is ancient, wealthy, and strong. The Nibenese see themselves as the only people of refined culture, surrounded by a desolate world of savagery. Others would argue that their city is decadent, more concerned with caste and dances than issues of true importance.
The city is ruled by enigmatic King Nibenay XXXIV, also called the Shadow King. He dwells in the inner city-fortress known as the Naggaramakam, where he devotes himself to mysticism and study of the Way. He is old and often absent for so long that the people begin to whisper of his death, and nobles move to seize power. Then he is forced to reveal himself, quashing any rumors and attempted coup. He has hundreds of wives, many of them married only symbolically and having never met him, and these women form his ministers, senior bureaucrats, and elite agents.
Some people claim that the king’s studies go far beyond just the Way and include deals with rakshasa demons. He would also use a mysterious device, the Dark Lens, to see into a strange world of shadows and wrest secrets from its inhabitants.
The City of Unrest is ancient and wondrous, but centuries of poor leadership and squandering of resources has brought it to the brink of civil war.
In name it is ruled by Grand Vizier Abalach-Re, possibly both the most beautiful and the most hated woman to ever exist. She was a high priestess who erased the old faith and introduced the Amonkhet, a religion she invented herself based on the worship of five new deities. As long as she has their pleasure, she will neither grow old nor sick, but if she ever fails in her duties they will strike her dead. Or so she claims.
This happened centuries ago. While some have accepted the new religion, many others cling to the old ways in secret. Abalach-Re is not an inspiring leader and is far more interested in slaking her carnal desires than in the prosperity of the city. While the city grows hungry, she holds a grand feast nearly every night filled with shocking hedonism and perversions.
The citizens starve and the ruling priest castes are hopelessly corrupt. Meanwhile, the landed nobility stoke the flames of discontent with promises of rebellion and hope, but these too are just the selfish ambitions of a corrupt few.
The Grand Vizier is well protected by walls and ditches, and most of all the Ifnir, her children from unholy unions who are her servants and sometimes guards. These inhuman offspring resemble enormous men and women, like half-giants, but with the heads of animals.
The city of Tyr boasts the region’s sole true Sorcerer-King: Kalak, the most powerful defiler in the region and possibly the entire world. It was he who created half-giants through profane and obscene magic, it was he who granted his servant Templar minor magical boons, and it was he who ensures the continued safety and fertility of the Tyr Valley.
But Rikus, a Mul gladiator slave, struck him down with an enchanted spear. Grievously injured, King Kalak retreated into the Ziggurat where he has stayed for the past year. High Templar Tithian rules now in his name, claiming King Kalak is dead. Other Templar claim Kalak is merely recovering and has decided not to expose himself to a second assassination attempt.
Whatever the case, Kalak’s absence is driving the city into turmoil. New templar are unable to receive Kalak’s magic. Nobles and templar struggle for power. Revolutionaries loudly call for the abolishment of slavery. A dizzying variety of cults flourish within the city now, some heralding doomsday, others promising salvation.
Tyr has the region’s last great iron mines, which has brought the city great wealth in the past. But the restless slaves don’t work as hard as they once did. Trade is drying up and it remains to be seen if the surrounding valley remains fertile in the coming years. For the sake of his freedom, Rikus may have sacrificed the whole city.
The private garden of King Hamanu
The City of Lions boasts the largest and most well-trained army of all. Its society is stable and the surrounding fields are teeming with cattle. Slaves mine obsidian and bake pottery as well.
But above all these things, Urik is famous for its king: Hamanu, King of the World, Lion-Hearted, Warrior-King, and many other names and titles has he. The winds and the sun gave him his name at birth and foretold that he would be the greatest amongst men, destined to be a great hero.
And he did not disappoint. The deeds and works of Hamanu are famous, and many walls in Urik depict scenes from these tales.
Hamanu slew six monstrous lions in single combat. When their mother hunted him down to avenge her litter, he defeated the great lioness as well and – thirsty from the battle – drank her milk, nourishing his body such that he has eternal youth and vigor.
Hamanu once wrestled an efreet, seizing its body of smoke and heat-shimmers, and held it pinned to the ground for three days and nights, until the evil spirit purchased its freedom with the secret to stay unharmed by flame and ember.
Hamanu outsmarted the three Sister-Sphinxes, whom he has taken on as his counsel and, when they change their forms into maidens, sometimes his lovers as well.
When a roc preyed on the cattle of Urik, Hamanu tricked it into picking him up. In the sky he fought it and broke its wings, killing the creature. From its feathers he made his signature brown and white cloak, which lets him fall safely any distance, as well as leap up to 416 cubits far, the exact wingspan of the roc.
All these tales and a hundred more the citizens of Urik can recite by heart. Without Hamanu, there is no Urik.
The Weeping Walls of New Kamesh
Street View of New Kamesh
Long ago the city of Kamesh was destroyed, struck down by the gods by a giant spear of fire which plunged from heaven. For many years it was but a crater in a desolate wasteland, distant and forgotten.
But at the time of the disaster there were some of the royal lineage who weren't at the city, away as envoys. The line survived and never forgot its birthright. Recently, last scion of the line Prince Shapur uncovered a mighty djinn which was imprisoned. He set it free in exchange for a great boon, to claim his destiny!
The djinn granted Prince Shapur his four daughters as slaves.
Sahasra, the many-handed maiden, gestured at the wastes and from the sand rose a great palace and brilliant walls from which flows yellow sands.
The nurturing Vari coaxed water out of the nearby mountains, irrigating the fields and spouting from fountains, free for all to partake.
Wise Arcari's song rode the wind and spread the news that New Kamesh had risen, its gates open to all who yearn for peace and freedom. She taught skillfulness to healers and mercifulness to judges. At dawn and dusk she sings from the palace's highest tower to mark the passage of the days.
Mighty Ajivani sounded her brass horn and called forth a silent legion, so that the people of New Kamesh would be protected from its enemies.
For New Kamesh does have enemies. King Hamanu of Urik has declared the city to be a font of sin and lawlessness. As it was destroyed once by the gods, he has vowed to destroy it anew.