Fabled Lands of Byrra
Hawkspire is a medium-sized city, ruled by Lord Governor Pompilus, located about a 12-day journey (approximately 250 miles) from the Brixian capital, Caelot. Pompilus governs Hawkspire with an flexible but iron grip. Being a fair distance from the capital, Pompilus has tugged at his cities leash as much and as often as possible.
As a growing port metropolis, with over 50,000 inhabitants, Hawkspire continues to be an important merchant city on the southern coast of South Brixia. Its strong guard, known as the Crimson Hawks, the presence of the powerful mercenary company, Blackthorn’s Bravos, and to a lesser degree, a number of Imperial troops, maintain order within the city.
Hawkspire sits on a plateau of rock above the Bay of Storms. The city is bounded on the west by the Gargoth River. To the north and east, the steep cliffs of the Stormtooth Mountains define the city’s boundaries. The city also extends underground, into sewers and long-forgotten ruins.
Hawkspire’s docks and shipping facilities are among the most efficient along the coast and the city relies heavily on the ships that dock in the Bay of Storms. A large open marketplace dominates the southern portion of the walled city, and other large structures include the Great Spire, the seat of the city government, the Temple of Vexus, and the Citadel of Stone, a small fortress in the center of the harbor.
The city takes its name from the concentration of hawks that nest in the rocky cliffs that the Great Spire was build upon. Long ago, ships keeping close to shore could see the majestic hawks swoop out of the sky, plucking fish from the waters.
At the time, the growing town was controlled by local farmers who mercilessly taxed incoming shipments. This infuriated ship captains, who believed that since the harbor wasn’t walled in, its traffic should not be taxed. It is said the captains hired pirates to overthrow the farmers. The two eldest captains then ruled the city together, calling themselves the Lords of Hawkspire.
Over time, the two Lords came to disagreement over how the city should be governed. One wanted to join the growing South Brixia kingdoms. The other wanted to remain independent. The two lords went to the Citadel of Stone alone, and on that same stormy night, a red-sailed ship sped away and there was only one governing Lord of Hawkspire.
The Beast War brought violence and trouble to the city, but Hawkspire continues to grow with each passing year. The population of Hawkspire had always included immigrants from the other nations of Byrra, many of whom retain fond memories of their distant homelands. The fact is that Hawkspire remained neutral throughout the Beast Wars and became a haven for dissidents and defectors.
The city is an imperfect sanctuary due to the occasional lawlessness of the streets, but those who have sufficient funds can always turn to the Fighter’s Guild for security. The less affluent can always find even find sanctuary by joining the Crimson Hawks, the Crimson Hawks. Whatever their flaws in protecting the common people, the guards look after their own, and the Crimson Hawk Recruiters ask no questions; when a recruit picks up a guard’s sword, he leaves his past behind.
Despite Hawkspire’s neutrality, echoes of the Beast Wars resonate through the city, where gangs have arisen based on national and racial themes. An adventurer who thinks the war is over might change his mind after clashing with the Sons of Brixia or the Talons (as long as the general populace is not threatened, the Crimson Hawks ignore sectarian violence between immigrants).
The Beast Wars continue in Hawkspire in ways unseen in Byrra; ways that surprise visitors who were in some way involved in the war. Vengeance, bigotry, and hope are all aspects of Hawkspire. Even in this land of new opportunities, adventurers should come face to face with the consequences of the war.
Hawkspire is currently ruled by Lord Governor Antus Pompilus, the richest and most powerful man in the city, but also a skilled politician and tactician in his own right. The city is part of the Middle Kingdoms Alliance, a direct nod to the past, which includes Caelot, Vermillion and Paranor, among others.
With the empire’s power and reach being greatly reduced, Pompilus has initiated trade with any faction that has the coin to do so. it has been rumored that even the slave trade has been reestablished with the east.
Hawkspire also is home to a very effective Thieves Guild, the Unseen Hand, as well as a powerful Merchant’s Guild and the mysterious Arcanist Guild. Arcane magic is still frowned upon, after all these years, in many areas, reflected in the popular saying: ‘The three swords are always watching’, meaning the Emperor’s spys.
Additionally, the Knights of the Blade are active in the city. Various thieves guilds have risen and fallen in Hawkspire. The Shadow Assassin’s Guild is also rumored to be active in the city, although their local operations are believed to be strictly commercial. Also, many fighter’s guilds have sprung up, often as recruitment spots for various mercenary companies, which in these times, are in high demand.
Lord Pompilus is using Hawkspires wealth to beef up the cities military and infrastructure. He worries that if the Emperor thinks Hawkspire is getting ‘too big for its britches’, that Caelot may interfere directly.
Hawkspire pays a seasonal tax to Caelot, somewhat based upon the ‘need’ for a permanent Centuria of 50 men stationed there, who are in reality outnumbered easily by Hawkspire’s Crimson Hawks. The taxes are collected by the knight Lucan Tamel along with a mixed retinue of lesser knights, men-at-arms, clerics and their retainers.
The journey takes about 12 days by horse and cart, each way. none dare to attack the caravan, for it is said that Tamel wields the fabled Mirrored Shield of Nora, which allows the wielder to see into the hearts of men. In fact, Kingdom Road, the road travelled on this journey, is mysteriously free of banditry and beasts while the holy caravan passes through.
Roadside inns tidy up, painting, repairing and decorating, in the hope that the caravan will stop and bring good luck and tidings to their establishment, for the coming year.
Most of Hawkspire’s neighborhoods are socially stratified. For example, while the Mid Gate is known as a center of entertainment, the type and quality of entertainment available varies. High Gate, usually referred to as “Upper Hawkspire”, offer high art in the forms of opera, theater, and symphony, as well as housing the Arcane University and a thriving community of writers and other artists.
The middle level , referred as “Mid Gate” houses a thriving theater district with more affordable shows, a large number of professional minstrels, acrobats, and similar entertainers, and a year-round circus complete with animals.
The lower level, called Low Gate, contains a very different sort of theater district, marked by burlesque shows, a red light district, and a great number of taverns for cheap and bawdy entertainment, concentrated near the docks.
A long wall rings the Great Spire at its lowest level, interrupted by towers along its entire length. Populated by the upper classes, the Great Spire houses the seat of the city’s government, and its wealthiest noble citizens. Embassies from other nations, important representatives of the guild houses, and banks are found here as well.
Beneath the streets of Low Gate, sewer networks fill the upper regions of the depths before giving way to the ancient ruins and forgotten levels of earlier ages.
Passages and shafts are neglected, and many have collapsed over the centuries, but who knows what wonders and horrors roam the vaults tombs that have been abandoned by those living in the city above.
The upper wards of Hawkspire use an ingeniously devised network of chutes to funnel garbage down into the sewers. Garbage and filth is channeled into cavernous chambers, where it is left to rot or be devoured by the vermin and oozes that inhabit the sewers. Beyond these areas, the sewers are completely lawless. The tunnels are unlit, and vermin and oozes are common throughout the region.
While the sewers were never intended to support a population, over the centuries a subculture has evolved in this region that lies directly below Low Gate. A few tribes, mostly goblins, along with a few dwarves, feral wild elves and orcs live in the sewers, rummaging through the garbage heaps and selling their goods in impromptu “rat’s markets” in the Under City.
These sewer clans are constantly battling over territory, as control of refuse chambers is critical to the survival of a clan. The sewer clans can pose a threat to adventurers who travel to the Under City, but they can also be valuable allies; there are no better guides to the sewers and the beyond than one of the cellar dwellers.
Places of Interest
- The Lucky Goat- Located in the Dock district of the Lower City.
The Goat is renowned up and down the Coast as a meeting place for those who wish to conduct ‘secret’ business. It is a noisy place frequently beset by brawls, and patrons either go in groups or do not survive for long.
Architecturally, the Goat is surrounded by a tangle of stables, outbuildings, and enclosures. It is known to have at least four levels of cellars, and innumerable stories abound of hidden passages and connections to the city’s sewer system. The tavern’s rooms are low of ceiling and dim of lighting, furnished with mismatched and much-abused furniture. A representative of virtually any illegal group operating in Hawkspire can usually be found somewhere on the premises. The establishment serves sea-ale, stout, light lager, and whisky. The Mermaid operates around the clock.
- The Crystal Goblet- An upper-end inn, boarding, and feasting establishment. Located in the Mid- City. The establishment is favored by upper middle-class locals as a fashionable place to dine and chat, and by established travelers for its superb accommodations. An entire floor is devoted to long-term occupancy rooms. The Crystal Goblet is frequented by many influential individuals, both from the city and afar. The decor is elegant while somehow managing to retain the best of informal good taste.
- Three Vines- A quiet, high-end establishment, intended for quiet rest rather than revels. Located along the east wall of the Upper Cit, three stories tall and of middling size. Most of the walls are crammed with bookshelves, and most of its patrons spend the day in napping, reading, and low-stakes gambling. Most sounds are absorbed by the thick rugs and wall-hangings. Patrons are not permitted to carry weapons, and rowdiness is not permitted. The Three Vines serves many varieties of wine.
- The Blind Eye- Located in the Lower City. A middle-grade establishment named for its long-deceased owner, who was a mercenary in the war. The inn itself is very long and tall, two stories in height. Decor is simple, clean and fairly new. The Blind Eye is notable for its security, which is very effective at handling both thieves and disruptive patrons.
Churches and Shrines
If there is one thing that marks Hawkspire as a South Brixian city, it is its grand places of worship.
- The Church of Vexus- Located in the northwest corner of the Middle-City. It is hard to miss. The church is located in the Upper City, and is primarily used by the nobles and upper class of the city. Less desirables are often ‘encouraged’ to worship at the Temple of the Ascended, located in Mid-City, or even Lower-City shrines. The Cathedral is an imposing structure of grey stone, with crimson stained glass windows depicting the trials of the Ascended. Led by the High Cleric, the Church of Vexus has at its disposal, an anointed Bernium (squad) of man-at-arms, led by the knight Atellus Gratius.
- The Temple of the Ascended- Located just south of the North Gate the Middle City.
- The Shrine of the Ascended- Located along the west side of the harbor. Casual visitation is discouraged.
Hawkspire Arena is known far and wide as being the most exotic around, with warriors and beasts from all over Byrra competing for fame, fortune, and freedom. Some whisper that it rivals the Grand Arena of Caelot. Once construction of the Hawkspire arena was complete, rumors spread that Lord Pompilus had aspirations of becoming the next emperor, with Hawkspire as the new capital.
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