On the western lip of the Archduchy, separated by the great birch and oak forest of Ganhojol, lie the two Graffs, cities built by rival brothers over two hundred years ago. Never had two brothers hated one another as these two had. No sooner had Powl decided to build his metropolis on the northern boundary of Ganjohol, so immediately did Vander gather his hired architects and masons and begin construction on his version of “civil paradise”, on the southern bawn of the forest, beside the Running Blood River. The two cities have been natural rivals ever since, leapfrogging and replacing each other in style, fashion, and industry, in the mind of the Archduchy’s zeitgeist. Though Powlgraff became an official city only six years prior to Vandergraff, that is all the difference the nobles of the former required in order to consider themselves the more superior of the two cities.
The following is an excerpt from the traveling journal of Pyuss the Second, ambassador to the One-King of Haracon. Observations on his return journey to the capital coming north from The Great Grass Sea, as he passed through the Archduchy.
Powlgraff the Fowl City is pleasant enough to behold as you approach it, certainly. The spires that have been built in its center over the years grow more numerous, as well as taller, thinner and closer together. The noble’s trend of separating themselves from the “rabble” continues as before. The spires and towers crowd the center, while the sprawl of the city, the factories, tanneries, and the houses of the common folk, spread out from the heart of Powlgraff. While more genteel than its more industrious rival Vandergraff, Powlgraff is in somewhat of a decline both commercially and in prestige. Folks are flocking to Vandergraff, while the only thing “flocking” to Powlgraff are maddening hordes of chickens.
Yes, I’m afraid this city is truly still fowl. Ever since the duke and duchess both choked on those chicken bones sixty years ago, that bizarre new law still stands. Kill a chicken, and you will be fined, and off to the gaol for a brief but agonizing stay. What is truly disturbing is that the nobles of Powlgraff think this law shows their refinement and enlightened thought. The truth, I’m afraid, is that strolling along the main avenues and plazas while being hounded by hundreds of fat flightless birds is a truly maddening experience, and does little more than exhibit the folly and cynical hubris of Powlgraff’s lazing bureaucracy. Chickens, partridges, and ducks, no doubt attracted by the city’s lunatic laws, roam the city undisturbed, clucking, pecking, and preening, in a mirrored personification of the very nobility that protects them. I will put this thought to rest for now, but in closing, suffice it to say that I have never seen more feathers and droppings in one place in all my years! Of course as any would, the populace has adapted, and life goes on in Polwlgraff.
Unlike its neighbor to the south and west, Powlgraff has eschewed assarting the Ganhojol forest, and prefers to make use of the limestone karsts north of the city. Almost every building worth its salt is built of stone. This limestone, which is used for almost all new construction, has a peculiar pinkish tinge, no doubt for similar reasons from which the Running Blood River derives its name. It is this unique color, which leads to the prized limestone being Powlgraff’s main export. It is truly comical, I must mention, watching these blocks of stone being transported to and fro, occasionally squashing the sacred chickens of the city, as fearful workers and masons, stop and glance around immediately to see if anyone noticed the poultrycide they have just committed!
As for the Duke and Duchess what can be said. Duke Glimpone is still as anemic and languid as he was during my last visit, his only claim to fame being his uncanny resemblance to his ancestor Powl. The Duchess Oswella on the other hand, seemingly has a hand in every aspect of Powlgraff’s daily existence. Whether setting the fashion trends for the nobility, or vexing the quarry masters and masons of the city with her ever-rising taxes, Oswella is at least quite active in the city’s affairs. Her balls and masquerades are as always, popular events, the exclusive invitations being highly prized among the nobles. Recently, in a fit of rage, Oswella has banned the novel and popular Zettelettes from Vandergraff, and this has caused an outrage among the commoners. Ironically, Oswella herself has become completely addicted to the rolled-paper tobacco sticks, smoking countless Zettelettes a day in private.
The true power in Powlgraff I fear however is Ossidra, guild mistress of the nefarious Cocks and Peckers thieves. Beautiful, wise and quite the political animal, Ossidra has the love and respect of the populace, unlike the mildly despised duke and duchess. She is very protective of her ‘birds’ as she calls them, and is always looking to further Powlgraff’s causes, despite her own guilds shady dealings. In fact there are whispers that she is secretly looking to make alliances in Vandergraff and possibly plans on toppling Powlgraff’s nobility altogether, while assuming the title of Archduchess herself. This new development certainly bears some watching.
What review of Powlgraff would be complete without mentioning The Beefery. While birds are never on the menu here, the cattle certainly are. In fact, Powlgraffians have made beef-eating into an art-form, and every imaginable recipe for beef is available here. The Beefery itself, still run by the Sisters Torraine, is an imposing three-story limestone and granite structure. The cattle go in on all fours, as they say, but come out on silver platters.
Not much left to say I’m afraid. A peculiar city with peculiar people, it is only a matter of time, in this ambassador’s humble estimation, before Vandergraff usurps the reigns of power in Haracon’s Archduchy. The incestuous noble family’s influence is in decline. The middle class is in decline as well, as hordes of enterprising merchants and craftsman move to Vandergraff to participate in its booming economy, and as yet unknown to the general populace, the limestone quarries north of Powlgraff are running out of rock, leaving porcelain vases and urns as the city’s seemingly last export product of note. The brothels and cathouses of Powlgraff remain somewhat well spoken of among visitors naturally. I personally wouldn’t know.
Decline- Powlgraff teeters on economic collapse. This infuriates Oswella, and she is looking to hire some outsiders to help her gauge how to bring the city back to the forefront and its former glory! If the pc’s have any interest in “city-planning”, economics, or engineering, they may very well be the consultants Oswella hires. Just don’t tell her to get rid of the chickens(!), unless you enjoy spending time in the gaol, or worse, the gibbet.
Bird-Flu (!)- A strange new disease has been affecting the chickens of Polwgraff. Birds can often be seen acting crazy in the squares and plazas, often dying a short-while later. There have even been a few human deaths associated with this mysterious virus. Can the pc’s (particularly the clerics) stem the tide, before an epidemic rages!
Dinner with Ossidra- Ossidra will seek out accomplished adventurers to speak with them, in order to determine if they can be trusted, and whether or not they would be interested in joining her revolution! Ossidra should be role-played as the extremely charismatic leader she in fact is.