World of Gaus
Hard frozen mountains, cold still lakes, old whispering forests and a difficult life are the hallmarks of Estaag, one of the northernmost regions of Nol — for the most part.
Because in Estaag there are two distinct lifestyles, divided by the Purzu Mountain Range. There’s the soft life in the small southern portion, where food is abundant, trade is constant, and the wild is safe and tamed. And then there’s hard life in the far north beyond the mountains, where food is sparse, men are isolated, and the forests house evil spirits long forgotten. The two are so different It’s been debated they are actually two distinct regions, but mapmakers are loathe to redraw what has been the standard for years, and so they are the same.
The north of Estaag is the birthplace of the Quiet Ones, a pantheon of shadowy deities lurking in the bordering forest region of Londet. Adherents pay homage to these gods once every moon turn: offering portions of their harvests, as well as sacrificing livestock and other animals. Some more fervent believers have even paid tribute with human beings, though nowadays this is quite rare. It is believed that in doing these tributes the Quiet Ones will quell the fury of the wild: the frosts will be less harsh, and the demons more timid.
For a very long time, that is what the North was believed to be, and nothing more. But of course, the coming of the Kisst would forever change this.
When they made landfall but two short centuries ago, they wasted no time in establishing a firm foothold here, bringing with them the people, the power, and the vision to leave an indelible mark on the frozen forests and glaciers of Estaag. Their culture and life are here to stay.
All of Kisst society ( for the most part) falls under two categories, which are constantly at odds with each other: Bound, and Unbound. The former, the establishment and most of the general population favors (as its the more patriotic of the two), are committed to the ancient agenda to one day return to the homeland to reclaim it from the demons that took it. The latter, Unbound, are opposed to the idea, and dislike any move in that direction. They see it as too risky a gamble, and that the cost to not only the Kisst but all those under their influence to be too great. Often seen as radicals, disloyal, or at worst, treasonous, Unbound are often more quiet about their political leanings, and are not usually announcing themselves as Unbound in public.
Kalanyesh: Capital City of the Torosek Colony. A heavily fortified place, with tall black walls, huge catapults, elemental vortices, and sporadic archer’s nests. Erected almost entirely with elemental magic. The oldest kisst city on the continent, construction began some 200 years ago, and it has only grown in size and survivability. Home to mostly kisst, some of the local tribes and barbaric society have since been absorbed, leaving some sections of the city to have an oddly ancient and tribal flavor to them.
The history of Kalanyesh is surprisingly short. Simply put – there was nothing here. There was ice, snow, trees, the occasional Wizztry or Sept – but ultimately, it was devoid of relevance, or even of remembrance.
That is until one day, a speck on the horizon gradually grew larger. The speck became a bridge. The bridge reached over closer to land – until finally, it made landfall.
Over the next decade, a fortress city would emerge from seemingly out of nothing – the staging area for a grand conquest would begin here.
The Citadel – a lofty, spiraling structure of high walls and dense defenses. Improvements are made by skilled elementals every day, as they prepare for an eventual visit by the lord supreme himself. All of the city councilors meet and discuss local politics and laws within its central chamber. One must be summoned, and carry with them the summons, to be allowed entrance. Only royalty, the Regulator, City Council, and the Acquisitor can enter without proper documentation. These days, tensions are high outside its thick metal gates…
The Amalgamation – A Gigantic museum and vault for all of the strange, powerful, and unique items, plants, and creatures they the Kisst have thusfar discovered on Gaus. Each display visible behind thick sheets of crystal. Much of its content is not terribly impressive to any Gaus native, but to even those who have seen it all, there is at least one or two pieces that may peak ones curiosity. Particularly some of the magical artifacts. Visitors must be cleared and inspected before entry – but beyond that, its doors are open to the public. In fact, Gaus natives are encouraged to visit, so they might provide some additional information about anything they’ve found. A reward awaits any information that can be verified about any of the vault’s contents.
Hearthens are the Kisst equivalent to Gaus’s bars and inns. The only notable difference, are the presence of warmed, sunken sections within the buildings that serve to warm the cold-blooded kisst from the harsh winter. They feel like sauna’s, and are often perfumed with oils, spices, or incense. A hookah is not uncommon to find in the center of any of these sections. If invited or welcome, it is not a social faux-pas to touch another’s scales here. Three of the more well-known or popular hearthens are as follows:
Molters – a lower-town hearthen, where one goes to find buyers and sellers for more regulated goods. Mercs for hire, kisst prostitutes (called Tender Coils), and anyone else that typically looks out of place at your average dinner party.
The Belly of the Beast – shaped like a dragon, this hearthen caters to the upper-town clientel, and is the largest hearthen in the city, and among the oldest structures to boot (bearing in mind that it’s no more than 200 years old). City Councilors, nobles, and treasured guests to the Supremacy find a relaxing evening of drink and aroma here.
Karinthyssa’s – A lower-middle town hearthen. Of seeming humble and modest price and furnishing, its utterly unremarkable in every respect; except that it’s often used by Unbound as a place of meeting and planning.
Square of the Supreme – A gigantic statue of the Supreme looks down on the Square with an implacable, domineering gaze. Many of the city’s official events and gatherings are held here.
The Garrison – a very hard structure, where the only permissible civilian access is the armory, where armor and weapons are sold and purchased.
Coin-Cobbled Road – the market district. All manner of Estaag goods are sold here – and for a hefty price, comforts from back across the ocean can be purchased to soothe homesick hearts.
Destiny Bridge – a GIGANTIC artificial land-bridge, connecting the colony with the rest of the kisst empire. Settlers, soldiers, and supplies travel from the mainland to here. Second to the citadel, the gate is the most heavily fortified location in the city. While normally full of traffic – the last year has seen almost no new kisst arrivals over the water. The official reason being logistical and bureaucratic troubles – the unofficial reason? Secrets, secrets, secrets….
Shesska : The First Conquest. The city was once home to a group of efficient and deadly northerners, who upon first sighting the kisst deemed them abominations, and pledged to kill every one that they encountered. The subsequent war was swift, brutal, and short, the city’s inhabitants no match for the reptilian war machine. Ever since, the humans and the kisst living here have seen a complicated relationship. Others appreciate the advances and higher quality of life the conquerors brought with them, while others still have grandmothers and grandfathers who remember the bloodshed, who still sneer with hate at the presence of the scaled horrors from across the icy waters.
Murzhan has also began dabbling in trade here, as kisst efforts to make the city more accessible to the world have been made, including enlarging the port and maintaining its roadways.
Grandlyn Hall – an ancient, gigantic mead-hall, now capital building, the structure serves as a place of diplomacy and a platform for inner-city politics. Bones, furs, fires, wooden columns and furniture, warm fireplaces and rustic aesthetics mix with the exotic elements of kisst culture in a bizarre melting pot.
The House of Scales – The only truly kisst structure in the entire city, it serves as the garrison for the kisst military and city guard. It also houses some of the artifacts its citizens have collected before they are sent off to Kalanyesh. Some weapons and armor can be sold and traded here – or work gotten, if one is so inclined.
The Temple of the Quiet Ones – Here, worship of the old northern gods still takes place, almost entirely by the local Gausian population. Incense burning, thoughtful prayer, druidic guidance and ancient ritual are all commonplace in the mostly external structure. Animal sacrifice is permitted, but human sacrifice is not – which is something of a hotly contested subject in the city. A petition to sacrifice inmates on death-row has been put forth to the councilmen, but they have so far been refused.
Bonabell’s Tavern – Here, tall tails and taller tales are observed. Don’t believe your eyes or ears…
The Khafah’d – An old, old structure, it is an arena for the barbarians of the north. It is a place where great spectacles and incredible feats of strength and courage take place. Likewise, the controversial institution of Kelit’bograhn finds its home here – the ancient method of settling civil disputes with combat, physical trials, or story-telling. It is tolerated by the kisst (and sometimes participated in) mostly because it is so infrequently invoked, and it helps to keep the local culture intact, but it is simultaneously disliked as uncivilized and too bloody. Combats to the death are frowned upon, but not illegal.
The Coil and Copper – A hearthen where many of the kisst (and some humans) gather to relax and remark upon the unlikely peace the two peoples find themselves in. Many a boisterous and interesting fellow may be found here.
The Moonforge -A communal crafting area, where makers of all kinds come to produce their wares and repair their tools and weapons. The area reeks of boiling fats and drying hides, and the air is filled with the pealing of armorers hammers on anvils.
Derighat Caves – within these icy caves is where one goes to buy and sell their wares. Each business has eked out a place in the frozen caverns, the more prosperous and influential ones at the cave-mouth, while the lesser and poorer go deeper.
Harbor Keep: Located at the southern base of the Purzu mountain range, and named as such for its position along the Awlish sea, it is here that the rumors of strange snake-people from the north began to become more than just fanciful talk in the local inn. Travelers and merchants reported strange, frightening creatures in the mountains and low-lying foothills, leaving many to forgo travel north until the sightings abated. They of course, did not abate. Soon, a most extraordinary procession of scaled soldiers and diplomats made its way into Lord Havermyer’s castle. The kisst were coming, and the city could choose to join them and reap all the benefits that came along with doing so, or to choose bloodshed. They chose both, in the end. Havermyer grossly underestimated the size and strength of the army that came through the Purzu, and the battle had not even begun before a frantic truce was called. By the time word reached his Bascardi allies, the surrender papers were being signed. Hyvermyer would keep his title and status as King, but the city was firmly in control of the snake-people from the north. This was but two years ago.
The city has since recovered from its brief trade interruptions, and for the most part, the people have been happy enough with the kisst presence. They have brought trade from the north, and have incentivized the Murzahn Triarchy to bring more of their merchants here than the further east, resulting in a dynamic and powerful market in its own right. Some would even go as far to say they feel more at ease being under the Supremacy’s rule than under Bascard’s; so long as the kisst do not continue their march south…
Harbor Castle – The tallest structure in the city, it is still quite humbled by the Purzu behind it. Fortifications have recently begun an upgrading process, but beyond that, it still very much resembles the building it always was. Civil matters are still discussed, diplomats and treasured guests are still had, and a king still sits in its throne – there are simply more slightly scary looking snake people around.
The Watcher of the Wood – A mighty statue of a proud warrior woman stands in the north-easternmost section of the city, who eternally stares down any evil that should dare consider emerging from the Londet forest. Perhaps it should have been built facing the northwest instead? Regardless, it is an impressive marble construction, and most of the towns festivals and official events are hosted under its shadow.
The Fae’lery – A large (but squat) wooden structure at the easternmost section, the Fae’lery is something of a gathering place for the Vadla, who enjoy and relish what remains of their culture, that has not been plundered by Bascard and their shadow-states. A myriad of exciting and interesting rituals, celebrations, foods, brews, weapons, fighting styles, worships, and even prophecy are all things indulged in and enjoyed. The Vadla are still mostly regarded as lowly heathens by much of Gaus, but here, in the Fae’lery, they are home.
The Redstone Bazaar – where goods from all over the world, goods which have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, from all rare and exotic parts of the earth, are haggled and shouted over by any two pair of smelly peasants and merchants.
Syla’s House – A humble tavern some 300 years old, it became something of a local landmark when the book Cold Hands: An Estaag epic was published. It was learned that the prince whom the book was written about slept here before heading north on his ill-fated and tragic journey, where he would never be seen by another local again. It no longer serves princes, but it serves everyone else, and the owners are proud to boast an impressive personal library to boot. Perhaps the only tavern in the world where patrons come to drink and to read at the same time, and to trade stories that aren’t their own.
Grimble’s – This tavern is this antithesis of Syla’s House. Cheap beds, bad booze, and no questions asked is what this place is known for, none of that book-readin’ bullshit. Criminals on the run are oft to stop here before continuing their flight north, past Purzu. Many a bandit company has been started in this seedy bar.
Twin Tails – Unlike most Hearthens on this continent, this is one of a relative handful that offer a kisst a chance to cool off rather than warm up, especially during the hot summers. Relatively brand new, it sees business from all races – though it is not immune from racial violence. While mostly a pleasant place, fights are not terribly uncommon – especially lately, thanks to a select few rabble-rousers.
Pasture of Graves – a large cemetery on the outskirts of town, this field of stoic gravestones remind all passersby the fleeting joy that is life, and how quickly it might be taken.
Empty Grove – this is a section of the Pasture of Graves, but no bodies will be found here in this soil. Instead, it is a memoriam to all those who went north, either through the Purzu, or to Londet, and were never heard from again. Somehow, knowing there is no body to accompany the lonely headstones makes the sight that much more grim and despondent. Many a painter has been taken with the forlorn structures before the proud mountains behind them, and it is not an uncommon painting in homes abroad.