Villa Hargassah

2016-08-25

Overview

Villa Hargassah is also erroneously called Castle Dufien as it is currently under the control of the feared criminal boss Marcheval Dufien and serves as his base of operations and domicile. The villa is located 12 kilometers south of the city of Udynaesses and it’s accessible by road from Udynaesses only – albeit the only road leading to the villa is in essence only hard packed ground formed under centuries of use. To locals it represents the closest thing to an actual castle but in truth it’s not at all as well protected as actual castles  – such that are abundant in Groam – traditionally are.

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History

The place has a long and rather dull history dating back to it’s inception almost 400 years ago. Since that time it has burned a few times but besides that there hasn’t been much activity involving the villa and in fact it has been uninhabited a good portion of it’s history. The villa was originally constructed by the famous and rich Cahebian scholar by the name of Mamad who used it as a private teaching facility and center for learning for the close-by wealthy nobility of Udynaesses. It successfully operated in that role for 25 years after which it was abandoned for unknown reasons to be manned again half a century later by a group of merchants wanting to use it as a waypoint. The villa saw many active years at that time and some troublesome years as well until it was yet again abandoned in the wake of the terrible disease that swept the area a hundred years ago and subsequently led to the fall of Udynaesses as the capital city and as a center for culture and civilization. Yet another 50 years later it served as sanctuary for rebels fighting against the invading Groam and infrequently as a base of operations for small groups of outlaws and bandits – to the Groam officials rebels and bandits both are the same. The last 20 years it has been uninhabited until Marcheval Dufien took it over five years ago and made it his home.

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Geography and nature

The surrounding areas are all level desert with some low and persistent sand dunes dotting the landscape. The villa is on the outskirts of the city of Udynaesses and the sandy desert quickly changes to packed earth and rolling plains when moving towards Udynaesses from the villa. There are little vegetation around the villa and most of it is grass adapted to rooting in the sand. There are a few bigger trees here and there and towards Udynaesses their number significantly increases albeit there are no forests nearby. Some palm trees grow in groups of few giving away the locations of underground water sources easily. The entire reason why the villa is where it is and why it is still standing there is that there is a stable fresh water reservoir underneath the area and it is reaching almost to the surface right where the villa is located. The three wells of the villa (two of which are inside the keep) are tapping into the reservoir with shafts of about 20 meters deep. The wells have operated without disruption for hundreds of years but raising the water to ground level does require some effort since the water level is so deep below ground. The sand in the region is rather dense and much easier to move about than the actual desert ten kilometers to the south. The area is really a transitional area between savanna and desert.

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Strategic importance

The villa has never been in a position to offer any strategic importance. It’s location standing at the edge of a desert is remote at best and the only commodity worth protecting over is water – which is abundant in the north anyway. The location of Udynaesses is such that the city is positioned right between the border of Groam and Caheb and the villa and thus the villa has no importance even as an outpost or forward base. However, during the days when Udynaesses was the capital city and trade in the area was booming, the villa enjoyed it’s fair share of fame as a caravan stop for merchants. Better walls and more storage space was built simply to keep beasts of nature and bandits away from the goods and while even parapets were built on top of the walls, their importance as a defensive structure was mainly due to them keeping the wildlife out. Today there’s only one road leading to and from the villa and that road leads to Udynaesses having only a few intersections to connect local farms to Udynaesses. Currently the somewhat more fortified villa is serving as a wanna-be castle for the crime lord Dufien manning it but it’s quite doubtful the villa could stand even a smallish well-planned assault. The capacity of the villa to withstand a siege is also next-to-nothing as there’s limited space to store perishables and the villa imports all it’s food items from Udynaesses anyway.

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Architecture

The villa has a mix of modern and historic architectural features fusing together the more pragmatic, regal and no-nonsense old style of Groam architecture of old and the more elaborate and stylistic yet functional architecture of Caheb. The styles do not clash but rather merge in the structures of the villa and the many builders working on different centuries have done a swell job in maintaining a coherent and even beautiful serenity over the structures. The keep was originally only at ground level but a second story along with three towers were built 200 years ago when the villa was busy with caravans coming and going and needed additional space to accommodate both goods and men. The villa initially only had a sturdy cast iron gate and while the original gate still stands, a second gate and a small set of secondary walls was built at some obscure point in the history to make the gate less vulnerable and perhaps to keep the flying sand away from the courtyard as well.

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Defenses

Since the villa was not originally built as a defensive structure, it’s defenses against assaulting invaders are poor. Originally it was surrounded by an even lower wall than what it is now but about a hundred years ago the walls were rebuilt along with the massive corner towers in order to anticipate an invasion from Groam. At that time the walkways and parapets on top of the walls were built as well as supporting arches that simultaneously created cooler areas to store goods under the walkways and provided space for hammocks. All the villa’s various owners have made their own modifications and improvements but the four corner towers are by far the best defenses the villa has. The towers are built out of much stronger stone than the other structures of the villa. The corner towers are made of stone that comes from a now-forgotten quartz stone quarry on the north side of Udynaesses whereas the other structures are built from a rather low quality limestone (infused with sand and clay) excavated from the site. Grounded, graveled and packed limestone has also been used as the basing material for the corner towers to help with their enormous weight but while the towers seem massive they are not based well enough to withstand neither time nor actual combat because of the soft ground and the water reservoir beneath them making them less than ideal. They are heavy enough to provide protection against small infantry groups but they would probably not be able to take much beating from siege weapons until they would crumble or topple even. However, the surrounding area is rather level and plain and the towers do have an excellent line of sight all around to spot unwelcome visitors.

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Population

The villa can accommodate roughly 100 persons if some of them wouldn’t mind sleeping outdoors in hammocks under the walkways. The interior areas would easily accommodate between 30-40 persons. Currently the villa has 18 permanent residents – 7 of which are women and 3 children. A carpenter and a mason take care of the villa and it’s courtyard, a total of five persons both acquire and preserve foods and prepare them for consumption, three persons manage the stables, six Marcheval Dufien’s men loiter around as “guards” and two are too young to participate in anything meaningful. There are no maids, servants or slaves in the villa but come time for festivities and we can rely on Marcheval hiring additional people from Udynaesses.

 

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Marcheval Dufien “The Beheader”

2016-08-13

Name: Marcheval Dufien
Race: Human
Location: Udynaesses, Groam

The city of Udynaesses located in the border region of Groam and Caheb has been a lawless pit ever since the area was ravaged by a devastating plague and while the region in general has more or less recovered, the city of Udynaesses unfortunately has not. With a long and glorious history as the once capital city of Caheb, Udynaesses was seized by Groam during the period of plague some 80 years ago and is the southernmost population center of Groam. Groam hasn’t had an interest in keeping the place in line though and mostly this is because it’s hard to reach from Groam – one would have to travel through dense jungles, cross snow peaked mountains or risk dehydration if reaching by desert.

The de facto ruler of Udynaesses is now Marcheval Dufien who is known and feared in the region less affectionately as “The Beheader” because beheading his enemies is his signature gesture of power. Marcheval lives in a small fortified desert castle (Villa Hargassah – in reality not a castle but a well fortified villa) just a few kilometers south of Udynaesses. His power in the region is partially backed up by groups of Caheb origin wishing to see the city revert back to Caheb and this goal can possibly be achieved by disrupting the nominal leader of the city – commander Remnor Galant. Galant is appointed and backed up Groam but in truth has little say in the day-to-day affairs of the city.

Marcheval is of mixed descendence himself having a father from Groam and mother from Caheb and he himself initially had no political motivation – he didn’t care which country called the city as it’s own – but things have changed since the day when he saw a possibility,  grabbed it and became the feared ruler of the city by joining a few of the bigger outlaw groups and creating a unified force with him in the lead. Formerly he had made a name for himself by running various small-time crime operations in the region and gradually becoming a prominent crime ring leader. Since effectively taking over the city he has had ample opportunities to further line his pockets with coin and strengthen his presence in the region. He has no official intention of competing with the mighty countries Groam and Caheb – both of which countries haven’t shown much interest in returning rule of law to the city – but lately he has been contemplating with the possibility of forming an independent city-state and also seizing control of the harbor towns of Tash and Calemnor located in the south coast of Dhaira Bay. His plans are known only to a select handful of his most trusted men. Common people see him only as a violent opportunistic brute whose aim in life is to cause misery and pain.

As a man Marcheval is cunning and brutal. He believes that maintaining and attaining political and military power as well as coin actually requires the use of violence and that the brutality of the violence used must exceed that of the opposition – whoever it happens to be. Mercy and forgiveness are not words in his vocabulary. In a relaxed state he is actually quite jovial and friendly even but he rarely shows that side of himself in public; it’s strictly reserved to close friends and manifested within closed quarters.

It has been rumored that Marcheval is somehow linked to the so called Dhaira Cult and one of it’s leaders – the High Priestess Chya. The nature and intimacy of their relationship is subject to speculation, however, but apparently Chya has been spotted at Marcheval’s villa on several occasions when wild (and some witnesses would use the word vile as well) festivities have taken place. Whatever their relationship actually is, some of Marcheval’s backers are less than thrilled about it since Chya’s activities directly threaten many prominent families and the coastal city of Tash in particular. And since the city of Tash is firmly under Caheb control, groups that are friendly with Marcheval against the invading Groam are very wary not to undermine their own country’s power in nearby Caheb -controlled cities.

 

Chya, High Priestess of the Dhaira Cult

2010-10-09

Name: Chya, High Priestess of the Dhaira Cult
Race: human
Location: North-Eastern Caheb (somewhere near Dhaira Bay in a secret nest)

One of the young prodigees of Hight Priest Dry’zan, Chya has mastered the secret black art of Nero Arachnitis – one of Syth’s magical spheres. High Priests of Syth generally master 4-5 of the black arts controlled by Syth and their most prominent apprentices learn directly from their High Priest or Priestess. Chya is one of three Syth’s priests and priestessess that Dry’zan has appointed to lead the new cult of Syth in the region of Dhaira Bay, Caheb. The other two are masters of two different disciplines. In this way Dry’zan can establish a formidable power block – each member of which control one important aspect of what it means to be a cult leader of Syth.

Chya was only 10 when her parents were killed in a massive fire that burnt down most of the village where Chya grew up in the north in Zarnova. Dry’zan and 5 of his disciples were staying in a nearby forest clearing at the time and once they realized the village had pretty much burned to the ground, Chya – shocked, dirty, crying and trembling – pleaded the strangers to help her as she was one of the few survivors wandering through the remnants of the village. He was just about to dismiss the wimpering poor little girl when he spotted a black spider crawling upwards the girl’s long flowing raven-black hair. To Dry’zan that was clearly a sign from Syth himself and Chya soon became an integral part of Dry’zan’s group. Chya was not “in the loop” of Dry’zan’s activities until well into her early adulthood when she was officially appointed a title of Apprenticing Priestess by Dry’zan. Chya owes her life to Dry’zan and also everything she knows about magical arts is from her mentor as well. The young girl was easy to influence to accepting Syth as her deity and is thus now a devout follower of the dark deity. She relocated from Zarnova to Caheb at the brink of her ascension to a Priestess in her early twenties.

Chya is today 28 years old and is quite an attractive young woman – except when vomiting black spiders, of course! Her raven-black hair and sensuously soft voice combined with her beautiful shape and delicate face make her a real head turner. Chya also knows her beauty and uses her looks to seduce men in order to exploit the men’s natural weaknesses. A real femme fatale. She has almost no moral boundaries and is famous for organizing foul and depraved all-night long orgies of violence, sex and intoxicants in which the participants willingly get involved in activities best left to imagination … or nightmares. Such festivities usually entail potent herbal concoctions that enhance the feelings of pleasure, pain and ecstasy.

In Caheb Chya has now formed a spider sect. The sect has 20 members – 5 of whom are Chya’s disciples and the rest are mainly younger local men who have been enthralled by Chya and her wild parties. The sect members are not just any random peasants and instead are all carefully hand-picked from an array of potent families. As such, the members are more victims than they themselves realize. The sect has several immediate goals set by Dry’zan and the most important one is to gain total control of the two rivaling thieves’s guilds in the nearby city of Tash. A work already nearly finished. As for the next goals … only Dry’zan knows for certain.

 

Shield of Aldamar

2008-10-11

An illustration to show a typical shield of Aldamar for my Cresia fantasy gaming setting.

Aldamar is the god of Justice and Redemption and his followers (called clerics, healers or arbitrators depending on where in Cresia you happen to be) are usually devoted to either helping people out in general or specifically on matters of justice. The sphere of influence of the god is limited to to kingdoms of Akron, Groam and Calishem with pockets of influence in Caheb and a few travelling healers in southern Gruenroth. The clerics of Aldamar are in grave danger in countries such as Horna (where matters are resolved solely via physical strength) and Zarovna (where justice is merely a distant joke).

Origins of Aldamar are not known but the deity has been known to exist before year 0 and his mission then was to spread the wisdom of rule of law to all people. While the details of his story are vague at best, he still gathered a stout following and attained the status of a demi-god around year 0. His followers today have access to some special magical abilities only available to them and granted only to devout followers. Aldamar has a following of around 300 priests, healers and arbitrators around Cresia and a base of believers in the region of over 80 thousand people (most of which subscribe to many other deities as well).

Followers of Aldamar have no special places of worship and they do not follow any strict doctrines or rituals in their daily life although most have abandoned the pursue of riches and creature comforts. Many of the priests are not at all liked in upper crusts of society since Aldamar does not rank people based on their merits, wealth or bloodline – the lowliest servants are as important as the mightiest of kings even if the powerful people try to pass on laws to secure differential treatment to them. But some benevolent rulers appreciate the followers of Aldamar and treat them in respect because they can provide valuable insight into the mindset of the common folk.

 

 

Isant Gassta, a Cartographer

2016-02-27

Name: Isant Gassta
Race: Human
Location: Tyrros, Caheb

A former Master Cartographer of the Calishem Guild of Cartographers, Isant fled from Calishem over 20 years ago in fear of his life and settled down – quite accidentally – in Tyrros. He liked the location and has stayed there ever since.

In Tyrros Isant is best known for his shop there: the Mapmaker Gassta’s Emporeum which deals in practical use maps of the surrounding areas and of the vast Kiloui Desert in it’s entirety. Maps are Isant’s life and passion and while he is already quite old and wealthy, he will probably keep his shop operational as long as life essence allows him to breathe. Well, he does have three assistants in the shop but none of whom are yet competent enough to continue the business as is. Isant has no living relatives whatsoever but rumors do say that he has made a testament that gives his wealth and the shop to one of his assistants by the name of Gaynor Weimar whom is usually seen as the best apprentice Isant has.

Isant is a shrewd and cunning businessman and uses the lack of competition to his advantage which shows in his profits. However, anyone who pays top coin for one of Isant’s maps, do get highly accurate and high quality maps that are drawn with water resistant inks on top quality parchments that will stand the test of time. Isant no longer travels himself on map making quests but uses either his assistants or outside hired help to aid in making completely new maps. One of the local guides – by the name of Liff Qapar – is a frequent helping hand and gets good coin from Isant as Isant has learnt to trust the young woman.

A man of many merits, Isant is still haunted by his past that hides an unsolved feud with an unknown former colleague. Isant Gassta was once a renowned and respected Master Cartographer map maker in Calishem being a proud member of the Calishem Guild of Cartographers but had to eventually flee the land fearing for his life as he had fallen into disrepute with the leaders of the land regarding some maps allegedly drawn by him. Isant believes he was back-stabbed by one of the other cartographers in the guild who had forged a map making it look like one of Isant’s work. The culprit is yet to be found. The wrong map resulted in the deaths of 19 men and women seeking an unknown location near the northernmost border area of Calishem and Caheb. One who died – a young man by the name of Masau Calishem – was the brother of Waru Calishem – the present day ruler of the Calishem Mirhamate! As a result Isant was ordered to be executed but successfully managed to escape just in the nick of time by accomplishes never to be found and only known by Isant. The incident has prevented Isant from ever returning to Calishem but in the back of his mind he still dreams of resolving who betrayed him thus returning the honor to his good name in Calishem where he is discredited and considered a traitor.

Liff Qapar, a desert guide

2015-09-11

Name: Liff Qapar
Race: Human
Location: Tyrros, northern Caheb

Miss Qapar is born and raised in the small village of Tyrros to merchant mother and carpenter father both of Groam origins. At a fairly young age she exhibited signs of active telepathy with animals of all sorts and since then with the aid of her parents she has cultivated exceptional magical prowess with which she can charm, beguile, bluff, enrage, communicate and even befriend animals of many different species. She has no other magical abilities or those are suppressed or dormant due to her being “self-taught” as opposed to being trained by a prominent wizard who would have had the means to unlock Liff’s true powers.

Liff is now living her prime years as a desert guide who rents her services to caravans and merchant convoys helping them cross the ocean of sand. She has gotten a lot of training in the merchant life from her – now sadly deceased – mother who roamed the wild dunes for over a decade before Liff was born. She is not very skilled in reading maps or seeking guidance from the night sky but her success in the profession is mostly gained through the use of animals which – according to her – are superior navigators to humans. With her current skill set she can seek advice from even scorpions if desperate enough.

Nowadays she is the leader of a small pack of Kiloui Desert Wolves (that are – despite their common name – in fact more like stout jackals) who accompany her wherever she goes. They perform as her eyes and ears while she is travelling with a caravan or a convoy. While occasionally interested in human companionship as well, she never leaves her little doggies for long and vice versa.

Liff is a somewhat inward person taking the silent route when things do not go her way and loathes being in charge or in limelight. Her usual mode of working is that she takes but one person out of the entire group she is travelling with and almost solely communicates with only that person regarding their whereabouts and estimates of arrivals et cetera. She is capable of communicating like a normal person if another party initiates a conversation but she would never start talking to strangers herself. While en route to destinations she usually scouts ahead with her pack and even when the group is halted for the night she rarely joins the others preferring to set up her own little tent out of the way of others.

Liff does not show off. While she can summon a vulture seen from a distance, she would never do such a thing just to impress others, win a wager or without an actual need to do so. She knows very, very well that the desert is so ruthless a place that there simply is no room for shenanigans.

Village of Tyrros

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Overview

The village of Tyrros is located in northern Caheb in the desert. Northwest of the village are the unclaimed mountain regions and northeast of the village is located one of the biggest lakes in Cresia. Nearby is another village – Tyrros Dal – which is located in a vale between sandy hills. The area is dotted with both permanent and ad-hoc oases by the dozens. The water is crystal clear, cold and rich with minerals.

Importance to trade

The village of Tyrros and the dozens – if not hundreds – of oases of the surrounding area are of crucial importance to the trade routes between Calishem, Caheb and Groam. Many routes regularly use Tyrros as a way point gathering strength and supplies before entering the merciless desert. The next supplies of water in the south and west are hundreds of kilometers away but if moving to southeast, we are suddenly talking about a thousand kilometers. Although there are many oases dotting the desert, only a handful are stable enough to really rely on as water sources. Maps of the desert oases are in existence but sell for quite large sums and the more expensive the map, the more accurate it can be expected to be. Map makers and dealers in Tyrros earn quite the coin making and selling maps. Around 90 caravans use the village annually and most spend a few days in the area. The village thus now have two fairly good and large inns and a surprisingly well-equipped tavern offering a wide range of beverages and snacks from all over Cresia. Those are – of course – gained through the caravans travelling here. The village is, however, much too small to adequately cater bigger caravans and therefore only foolhardy or ill-informed merchants rely on Tyrros to thoroughly supply them.

History

The village has a long history being an important way point for trade caravans and the general area has had permanent inhabitants for at least 500 years. The oasis around which the village has been formed, is a stable oasis and has remained there for around 200 years. No signs of it weakening – or strengthening for that matter – is both giving the place a future and also severely restricting it’s growth.

Flora and fauna

The palm trees in the area grow exceptionally large, healthy and reach maturity just in few years. The biggest palm trees easily shadow the tallest of the man-made buildings and provide excellent shadow from the burning desert sun. Despite abundant fresh water, the soil of the area is not really suitable for large scale farming and thus the village has remained rather small although a number of small vegetable gardens do provide the odd carrot and turnip every now and then. Furthermore, regular sand storms would cover grain fields with sand and the villagers have little else weapons against the sand but bolt down their windows and wait out the storms. But there is natural vegetation circling the oases and some of the plants are used by the villagers to further supplement their diet and used as spices as well. The water allures thousands of species of animals and the biggest of the stable oases are rich with crustaceans, small fish, nutrient algae and mollusks all of which form the basic diet of the inhabitants. Meat is rare and mostly gained through hunting the wild life and birds which are drawn to water. The area is known for large packs of hunting beasts such as jackals, lions, wild boars and even elephants and to keep those at bay the village is entirely protected by a wooden palisade supplemented with observation towers. The palisades do not actually protect the village all that much against the bigger mammals but it also serves blockade sand during sand storms.

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A view across the central pond towards the west side of the village.

Inhabitants

The village has a permanent population of 183 residents – all human – with a fairly normal age distribution although quite a few villagers are abnormally old – clearly much older than is considered usual taking into account the harsh environment. Around one third of the villagers gain their living solely through auxiliary duties performed on the stopping caravans – fixing broken down items, offering lodging, food and selling supplies. A few make their living through hunting, some are solely gatherers, few excel in crafts (such as making candles, papyrus, clay ornaments, clothing, shoes, barrels and such) and yet others offer their services as desert guides or as guardians to valuable cargo.

Locations in Tyrros

Mapmaker Gassta’s Emporeum

The most prominent cartographer in the area – Isant Gassta – also runs his own store in Tyrros and his store is the go-to location of cartography items for those wanting to head south to Caheb.

Notable villagers

Liff Qapar– A desert guide.
Isant Gassta– A cartographer. Owner of Mapmaker Gassta’s Emporeum.

 

Creative Commons License
Map of Tyrros by Kimmo Mäkinen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
Tyrros village view by Kimmo Mäkinen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.