• Information • On the Surface

In-Depth overview of life in Etzos. A very good place to start.

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• Information • On the Surface

Postby Maltruism » Sun Apr 26, 2015 4:16 pm


Etzos, ‘The City of Stones’, is a growing stronghold in the eastern portion of the western continent. Founded in the cycle of Vhalar, in the 389th arc, it is approximately 300 miles from both the city of Hiladrith to the northwest, and the two bays that define the stem of the Bailey Peninsula. These two bays border this fist of land, which punches due east into the Central Ocean. To the south is Foster Bay, and to the north is the Gulf of Vigilance. Dotting this gulf is the Hivey Archipelago, a chain of islands which cross the interior. Just beyond the mouth of the gulf is Foothold island.

Etzos itself sits upon the Southwood River, which empties into Foster Bay, and sits within the southern rim of extensive forest lands. This part of the forest is not thick with low foliage, like jungles or rainforests. This is largely because the soil is too rocky to support thick scrub growth beneath the canopy of the forest. The trees have been cleared for a wide radius around the city for defense purposes. Much of what has been cleared has been converted to domiciles for new citizens that live beyond the walls of the city proper.

The city itself is situated on a high plateau that overlooks the river and three quarters of the avenues of approach visitors or enemies must take to reach it. A fair portion of the cleared woodland resources has also been converted into furniture and goods, to trade with the former, as well as catapults, ballistae and arrows, to deal with the latter. The city’s high ground gives the Etzori army a commanding field of fire. The one direction that would give an enemy a height advantage over the city, has a series of tunnels beneath it, that allow Etzori saboteurs to conduct sorties to delay or prevent the set-up of a base of attack.

This is not to say that Etzos is awash in an atmosphere of warfare and paranoia. ‘Readiness’ would be a better word. Readiness backed up by a competently organized and well-equipped army of 5,000 men. And many of the citizens take advantage of freely provided archery lessons, forming a back-up militia. The citizenry also accounts for a ready supply of willing bodies to provide a city watch force, The Black Guard, to free the army for more mobile operations. These include exercises, reconnaissance, some hunting, and guarding the city’s resources.

These resources include rich farmland in the plains to the south. Nearby mines provide iron, and other metals, for the armaments, and a large quarry to the east provides the stone for construction. In addition to wood, adobe is used for buildings in the perimeter area. These two materials are interspersed in the outer housing district in hopes that any fires, either accidental or deliberate, will not be able to spread too extensively. The river and forests contain plentiful game for the hearth, as well as hides, ivory, and some chemical elements. Other, more luxurious concerns, are acquired through trade.

The primary exports of worth, however, are the gems and rare minerals which have turned up in both the quarry and the mines. Of course, there are numerous, more mundane, goods produced in Etzos as well. But the gems are the items of renown. This suits the administrators of the town just fine, as Etzos is not a city that is inclined to jewel-encrusted displays of wealth. Fine wood and polished metals are the most common methods of grand ornamentation, and the city provides itself with the bulk of such needs. This allows the wealth of jewels to serve as trade barter.

This self-serving, self-sufficient, down-to-basics atmosphere of simple comforts and security are exactly the image Etzos wishes to present to the rest of Idalos. It encourages trade and growth. Reality, however, is somewhat different.

Etzos was founded by a group of skilled hunters and assassins that became disillusioned with their patron Immortal. They came to believe that there was little point in applying their skills on behalf of a being that felt it was simply his due, and did little to improve the lot of his faithful. During their missions, they encountered numerous viewpoints from supporters of other deities. They often found them very similar to their own, either as the initial naïve devotion to a god not really any different than the one they served, or the newer, jaded feeling of growing disdain.

So, when they eventually heard the theory that humans first arose as a counter-balance to the destructive presence of the many Immortals, something clicked in their collective agenda and they unanimously agreed that the more Immortals they eliminated, the stronger humanity would become on Idalos. They put this to the test when they returned and slew their patron. It was easy enough to put the blame on the agents of a rival deity, and provide a few dead bodies as proof of betrayal and infiltration.

Led by a soldier named Morgan Parhn, they led those willing to abandon the rule of gods out of their former god’s domain and soon found the site where they would establish Etzos. Others they manipulated with vows of vengeance against the slayers of their god. A considerable host set forth, both in search of rival Immortals to punish, to mollify those still clinging to devotion, and a new site to establish a town to build a new life. Those that knew the truth of who really killed their deity trusted that the devotion of the others would wane in the coming years of freedom.

They traveled for many cycles, Parhn’s leadership showing its worth repeatedly as monsters, food supplies, toxic flora and fauna, sickness and weather all conspired against them. Fortune smiled on them as they came upon a group of men beset by the minions of one such rival Immortal. This group turned out to be skilled stone workers that were nearly all that was left of a similar group of wandering humans. They had applied their skills to set up a defensive bulwark that had saved them long enough to be saved by Parhn’s group. After lengthy discussion, they convinced Parhn that they were of like mind, and that the very location they currently occupied was ideal to establish a stronghold. A quick vote was taken, and construction began.

Though Parhn insisted on a non-hereditary pass of city leadership, called the “High Marshall”, the established loyalty of this people has provided an unbroken chain of his line to sit in the High Marshall’s seat since Etzos’ founding. The current High Marshall is his direct descendant, Brogen Parhn. His Chief Adviser is a mysterious figure named Karnos Vuda

As one can probably guess, there is no recognized worship of Immortals allowed in Etzos. There has always been some muttering over this policy, but as long as it stays quiet, there are no repercussions. The “indifferent attitudes of Immortals” has been deliberately exaggerated in the city’s provided texts to ensure that the populace maintains its disdain for such worship. Visitors are required to surrender any pro-Immortal materials upon entering the city, unless they are involved in significant trade arrangements. Even then, they are not allowed to openly foster such attitudes.

Proposals for a lightening of this policy have been put forth in councils on a fairly consistent basis, but are usually waived on without serious discussion. It is becoming increasingly common for small crowds to gather before orators that shout down the “propaganda” that the city uses to smother “free worship”. It is equally common that these turn into brawls as those loyal to “free living” arrive to shout down the “Free Worshipers” as traitors and troublemakers. The Black Guard usually only gets involved in these cases to prevent property damage.

There are those in The Tower that approve of, and even engineer, these conflicts, as they ultimately provide fuel to the overall anti-Immortal policy of Etzos. This attitude is a fundamental foundation for many plots currently being devised against target cities with a strong presence of worship.

The following is taken directly from the Souls Primer: Thanks to Plague. :D

As for religion that IS practiced, the only recognized approach to the belief in life after death is Signalism:

For those who do not follow the Immortals, other understandings of the Afterlife have developed. For the proud Etzori, Kaison Derry, a noted spiritualist and advisor, pioneered the belief in Signalism. Signalism states that after death, the soul is thrown into a state of confusion. The only way to save a soul from the transformation into a ghost is a burden on the friends and family of the deceased. The living guide the dead to a place of respite and protection or punishment and darkness in accordance with their wishes.

Small altar-like shelves, called Lighthouses, are constructed after a funeral and affixed to either the grave or somewhere in the home. Here the family or friends will place items of symbolic or literal importance to the dead on the top shelf. This top shelf is known as The Entrance. Items of literal importance are considered the most useful in this ritual, but items of symbolic importance (provided they are significant) can work. This usually means that only those close to the deceased will have say on where they go. The middle shelf, or the Window, is where the family will place a black or white stone. Although many other items may be put on this shelf (including things the deceased enjoyed), the most important is the inclusion of the white or black stone. A soul may be led to punishment or reward by the tenants of Signalism, with the black stone signifying punishment and the white signifying reward. On the final shelf, The Sanctuary, is placed a single candle. Without a candle, the Lighthouse is not 'lit' and cannot guide the dead.

Many of these are created after the death of a loved one and often they are kept burning (as able) for many Arcs to come. Supposedly, each Keeper of a Lighthouse will know when it is no longer needed. This, however, also leads to postmortem forgiveness. There is precedent for later generations to forgive family members or enemies that died long ago, constructing a new Lighthouse to try and guide them from whatever dark place they were originally led to. While this belief is not absolute among the Etzori, it brings some of the population solace to believe the dead will find their way with their help, rather than the untrustworthy Immortals.

Etzos has no formal program of slavery, and does not generally support it among its citizens. But it does not interfere with the slave status of those brought to the city with travelers and traders. Nor is it well known that undesirables sometimes end up in the chains of visiting slavers. Usually they are drugged until removed from the city. But if they do manage to voice a protest, it is all too common that they only bring similar disaster on any who notice and attempt to interfere.

There are situations where a citizen’s status is reduced to a condition identical to slavery, but that term is not used to describe their situation. They are generally called “debt servants”, or “sentenced workers”. The only real difference being whether their contract of debt is owed to the city, as a result of crime or city property damage, or to a citizen as a result of a personal debt judged reneged, or an acknowledged civil offense of a personal nature. Refusal to suspend pro-Immortal attitudes in public is becoming an increasingly occurring source of “sentenced workers”. There is currently discussion of changing the city’s tolerance to include displays of such devotion in private as well as in public. This is hotly contested in council.

When visitors that own slaves decide to become permanent residents, they are required to surrender their ownership of their slaves. This is held in a public ceremony that has less impact on the fate of these unfortunates than the public display would indicate. Prior to the ceremony, the history of how they became slaves is reviewed by the Citizen’s Committee and an appropriate change of status is awarded. For the most part, they are still servants to their former master, but a finite term of servitude is established, which is usually reasonably lenient.

There are cases where the Committee refers one to a different ministry due to exceptional skills or knowledge. Slaves with extensive, tactically useful knowledge of other cities are almost always immediately freed and offered placement in some capacity beneficial to the army, either as soldiers or support. If the former master has a reasonable claim of compensation, this is settled quietly…sometimes permanently.

Acquiring the label of “Sentence Worker” is the most common form of punishment for any transgression that can be weighed in damage costs. If the offender has sufficient wealth on hand, he may surrender it to the plaintiff to forestall this end. This is a common verdict for lesser crimes. If a patron wishes to provide this payment on the offender’s behalf, the court has never objected. For more serious offenses, Banishment is the usual result. In some cases, the offender will be provided a weapon and a few days’ provisions. In others, no such concession is made. In the worst cases, the criminal may well be taken into the wild and tied up, or staked out.

While this is tantamount to a death sentence, it does provide the opportunity for an accomplice to free him. But that accomplice then accepts the same level of banishment, if discovered. It also falls in line with the unspoken policy of slave trading with other cities and organizations. Only acts of outright treason or conspiracy to overthrow The Tower result in execution. These may be either public or private, depending on the mood of the citizenry.

In cases where all parties are judged to have contributed equally to the escalation of a criminal event, a verdict of “Static” is often handed down, wherein all parties are expected to accept their losses as they stand. Or a “Rule by Combat” may be awarded, if all parties agree. There is often public scorn for any that refuse, though cases of an obviously overmatched battle may require the selection of a champion. If a contestant chooses this course, but has insufficient funds or property to secure his champion’s service, he may accept a “Debt Servant” condition to compensate. In grossly overmatched cases, leniency of debt sentence is a common occurrence.

Cases are ruled on by any members of The Tower that are sitting at the time the complaint is brought forward. But any verdicts of Banishment are delayed until it can be brought in private to a quorum of Tower members. In the worst cases, Parhn himself must approve of the decision. There have been surprising reversals of this fate from time to time. If one was able to research these particular cases in depth, he may notice that these decisions are always to the benefit of Chief Adviser Karnos Vuda’s hidden agenda.

Racial Attitudes:
Humans are by far the most common and accepted race in Etzos. But most races are welcomed in Etzos with no special surveillance being maintained on their comings and goings. This is mostly due to the fact that there needs to be no real evidence of any subversive activity for an outsider to be picked up and sentenced. Testimony can always be found to support The Tower’s decisions against anyone that wears out their welcome. But there are only a few races where such an attitude is of any likelihood.

This is primarily only likely against the Aukari, due to their openly stated intent on behalf of their patron god, Faldrun. However, the Avriel, Naerikk and Raskithecal are commonly treated with poorly veiled suspicion, due to their reputation for aggression. Other races with strong ties to an Immortal are instructed to keep quiet about it. And as long as they do, they are not likely to be watched or harassed.

Mixed race hybrids are tolerated, but the scorn is usually plain to see. They will frequently find that prices are higher, supplies harder to find, shops just closing, courts less inclined towards leniency, and similar discrimination is more commonly practiced against them than others, even the known dangerous ones listed above. Still, they are not considered one of the “dangerous” races, and these prejudices are the usual extent of injustice perpetrated against them.

Not all races have yet been encountered by the Etzori, and the reaction and attitude resulting from first contact has yet to be seen. There have been rumors of a new culture of Raskithecal that is less hostile than the race the Etzori have encountered in the past. The use of the shortened “Ithecal” to identify them is not taken as any proof of these rumors, and the Etzori will continue treat any members of this new tribe with great caution.

As well, these far-fetched rumors of some exotic race that can alter their shape...even taking on the forms of animals! Most citizens regard these tales as preposterous, thinking it nothing more than an exaggerated sev'ryn thing. But in the Tower, while admitting such claims to be unlikely, the thought of how such a talent could be used in an espionage capacity, makes them far more than merely eager to discover whether it's possible that such stories are true.

Relations With Other Cities
Etzos is on genuinely good terms with its closest neighbor, Hiladrith. As a city also known for trade, and not focusing on devotion to Immortals, these two similarities make them natural associates. More than once, Etzos has sent military aid to its less martial sister city to the northwest; especially in regards to threats of Aukari incursions from Sirothelle. In exchange, Hiladrith makes needed food and equipment stores available to Etzos at beneficial rates.

Sirothelle itself is one of two cities that Etzos would like to see wiped off the face of Idalos. The other is Rhakros to the south. Both cities are distant enough to be logistically difficult from which to mount a serious offensive against Etzos. Yet still, both are on the same continent; and in opposite directions, making sufficient reconnaissance a challenge to maintain.

Also, they both house the seat of their patron deities, making them all the more offensive to the policies of the Etzori. And while Faldrun and Lissira are not exactly allies, neither are they enemies. They have a mutual friend in Syroa, which is one of the main reasons that members of the Avriel race are frequently persuaded to cut short their stay in Etzos.

The sea-faring cities of Argos and Ne’haer, to the southwest, are maintained as non-contentious associates. The policies favor Argos, as it is not a very devout city as far as worship goes. But the Tower of Etzos considers Ne-Haer the more significant of the two. Its ship building economy and exploratory sailing make it a hub of information; and Etzos keeps a low profile ear on what news abounds in this coastal city. This is outside of the generally cold but civil relations held between the two.

Etzos hopes to send agents to the distant cities of which it hears tell, to be sure that the tales recounted in Ne’Haeri taverns are not misdirecting exaggerations and lies designed to create vulnerabilities for later exploitation. High Marshall Parhn is loath to establish policies towards distant cities based only on hear-say.

Stance on Magic
The Etzori have no public prohibition on magic. But it may surprise one aware of its growing place in Idalos how little of its use you see within this city. This is due the unspoken policies of Chief Adviser Karnos Vuda. He is by far the most capable wielder of fractive power in Etzos, and he means to keep it that way. He is not only concerned with the possibility of future rivals unseating him, but of greater concern is the chance of someone detecting the aura of power radiating from High Marshall Parhn’s armor. The enchantment imbued into this armor is what keeps Vuda in true charge of this city.

This is not to say that he seeks to destroy anyone with such potential. Far from it; he sees far too much value in those of this capability. But he seeks to take immediate control of their comings and goings, once identified, to steer them away from anything that might come back to betray him.

Once noted, a practitioner of pretty much any level will be approached with an invitation to meet with the Chief Adviser. They will be extended an offer of employment where their talents will be out of the public eye, frequently in the army. They will also be asked to accept that, wherever they land, they are now a resource of the Ministry of Advisers, to be available for any sudden need the Ministry requires. Most people get the hint, but some fail to make the connection.

If such people begin to ask around, two results are inevitable. The first is that they will find nobody that will have ever heard of such a Ministry, even from other practitioners they may come in contact with. The second result is that they will be invited a second time to meet with the Chief Adviser, where he will spell things out in a more blunt fashion.

What it amounts to are all that all practitioners of magic in Etzos are his assets, and that divergence from this priority will be met with…dissatisfaction. He will explain that such men enjoy a reasonably plush lifestyle as long as they toe the line. He will explain that he allows all his assets to make this mistake once. That it is a sign of their superior intelligence that they noted, and pursued, this seeming incongruity; but that now that they have their explanation, they are to drop it. No indication, beyond Vuda’s steely gaze, is given to clarify what will happen if they continue to pry.
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