Locastus is a diverse city - not only have five or six different types of non-human intelligent species made the city their home, but is it also a melting pot for various tribes and races within the human species.
They are drawn here for a multitude of reasons. Some come here from the surrounding rural areas, following the dream of making it in the big city, others drawn by the lures of drugs, criminality and other manifestations of the pulsing of the city´s rotten heart.
Locastus is a port city, and see many traders from exotic places across the Iron Sea and beyond, such as the Emissaries of the Sea Traders and the noble-born, haughty merchants from faraway Katur, the Empire of the Iron Dragon, bringing with them exotic spices, silks and luxuries.
From the unknown reaches of the east, from beyond the Throne of Heaven range, come the caravans of the Autumn Kingdom, secretive traders from a place no-one has ever visited, bearing goods like ivory, jade, sweet-smelling sandalwood and exotic metals.
Locastus maintain two overseas colonies, one no more than a trading post on the northern coast of the continent of Aquur, the other a sizable, ever contested piece of land close to the infamous Fire Hills on the Nascogiban sub-continent. The natives of these territories - the fierce Aquurian tribesmen and the spirit-talking highlander clans of the Fire Hills - are now quite common in the streets of Locastus, having established their own districts and strongholds in the city.
On the vast moors north of Locastus, the young of the wild Grassdancer tribes, olive-skinned, totem-bedecked herders of the bison-like Reaghs, abandon the old ways and come looking for a better life in the city.
Beyond the moors, the hill tribes of the Thunderhead massif lose their young in much the same way, their lifeblood siphoned off by the new railway that funnels it away to the vampiric city in the south.
Far North of Locastus, nestled between the Thunderhead massif and the glacier-crowned Iron Chain mountains beyond, lies the enigmatic "Northern Hegemon", whose visits in Locastus (while not unheard of) are rare and far between. Even so, there is a tiny population of these raven-haired, tight-lipped folk in Locastus, although not many would recognize them as such.
But these are all newcomers. The founders of Locastus were the Acitans, the sailors that landed upon these shores over 250 years ago, led by Admiral Marcus Dohl and guided by the visions and dreams of the Bloated Moon. Soon after, they were joined by several bands of natives from the West - the Earthroot tribes - and a band of bedraggled refugees from the North that called themselves "the Old Blood".
So to begin our examination of the humans in Locastus, we have to begin at the dawn of Locastus itself, the time of the Arrival…
The Acitans are the founders and original citizens of Locastus. They arrived on these, then uninhabited shores, more than 250 years ago after a nine-year rootless life of sailing the seas, exiles from the mythical land of Acitae, from which their name is derived.
No-one knows the reason for their exile, or even the location of their supposed homeland, since Admiral Marcus Dohl, soon after disembarking on this coast, burned all his log books and instructed the people under his command to never speak of it again, or to teach their children about their ancestal home.
The Acitans are generally tall and lean, with almost universal flax-blonde hair, iron-grey eyes, angular features and long, slender hands and feet. Those of the Dohl bloodline commonly exhibit his large, hooked nose, a dominant and celebrated trait in Locastus.
They have a metabolism, honed and selected for during their long sea voyages, that gives them a spare, athletic build, devoid of extra fat but also negating greater muscle bulk.
Intelligence (of the coldly calculating and logical vareity), boldness, resolve, willpower and honor are all highly cherished traits in Acitan culture. They respect and celebrate individuals who commit themselves to duty with singlemindedness and assertiveness, who show "stiff upper lip" in the face of difficulty, and who are willing to put honour and integrity before their own well-being. Very little sympathy is spared cowards, slackers, cripples, criminals or those simply judged "stupid", "unfit" or "weak".
Aestethics are as spare and simplistic as their mindset, architecture tends towards the brutally, massively impressive and artwork is usually stark and realistic, but idealistically celebratory of nihilistic ideals, something painfully obvious in the many cast-iron statues that litter the city.
Acitans, of which there are more than 100000 in Locastus, form the elité clique which holds administrative and political power. The aristocratic families of Locastus are all able to trace their origins back to either Dohl himself, one of his officers, or another of the Seven Captains.
The dominating mindset among the Acitans is elitistic, haughty and, as often as not, downright racistic towards other human (and non-human) races. This unfortunate flaw in an otherwise intelligent race is the root for much of the strife and civil unrest that is now occurring in Locastus. The noble families keep a close watch on each other´s lineages, and try to prevent interbreeding with other races from "watering down" the Acitan bloodlines - a type of informal, peer-reviewed racial hygiene, a paradoxical measure considering the fact that Admiral Marcus Dohl himself had a non-Acitan wife.
A splinter group within the Acitans are the "Maalhelmers", people who have adopted the more liberal, anarchic mindset of their founder, the Magus Remus Maal. Within the ranks of the Maalhelmers can be found some of the best magicians, alchemists, artisans and engineers, all vocations that go hand in hand with a creative, rebellious mindset, just like Maal himself.
Political struggle within the Acitan corps usually stems from the animosity between Maalhelmers and their more traditional cousins, who look upon them with disgust and fear, although even they must appreciate their worth. Without the Maalhelmers and their creative drive, Locastus wouldn´t be the industrial metropolis it is.
The Earthroot Tribes
The Earthroot tribes joined the Acitans soon after the founding of Locastus, forging an alliance with the newcomers for mutual support and cooperation. These folk were the original inhabitants of the Stub Hills, to the West, but were driven from their homeland by famine and the terrible Knife Plague that swept over this part of the world in the early years after the Arrival.
The Earthroot tribes are short, stocky and heavy-boned folk, with brown hair and amber eyes. The men have a predisposition for early hairloss, which leaves some three-fourths of them bald before the age of 30, while the women usually keep their long, coarse manes in neat braids.
Their skin has a greyish tint, and their features are slightly squashed, with a flattened nose, pronounced mandible and strangely low-set ears.
The people of the Earthroot are, thanks to their compact build and fortified bone structure, very strong and durable, and their upper torso bulge with well-developed chest, shoulder and back muscles, although they have a tendency to put on fat in their old age. Their thick, leathery skin protect them well against the elements and injury - a useful trait for a people with their origins among the sharp, rending rocks and glacial winds of the Stub Hills.
Earthroot people customarily dresses in drab, utilitarian leathers and wools, dyed to earth colours. They seldom go armed, but if they do, they prefer wide-bladed, business-like daggers and shortswords, unadorned but of excellent quality. Their jewellry is usually comprised of polished stones and exquisitely wrought iron rings, bracelets and pendants.
The Earthroot people have a sharp, inquisitive intellect, and a talent for craftmanship, particularly in earth-aspected raw materials. Their glass-blowers produce window-panes, goblets and optic lenses of a quality and durability unmatched anywhere, and their potters produce ceramics as tough and durable as metal.
The greatest talent of the Earthroot tribes, however, lies in the art of foundy and metalwork, where they are able to refine ore to unsurpassed purity, or produce high-strength, lightweight alloys by mixing different ores. They also seem to have an intuitive knowledge of the tensile strengths of various materials which, coupled with an instinct for mechanics, makes them very good engineers.
If the political leadership of the Acitans is the brain of Locastus´s success, then the dogged resolve, industriousness and inventing power of the Earthroot tribes is surely its beating heart.
The Old Blood of the Empire
The first Old Blood refugees came to Locastus late in the first century after its founding, fleeing the pogroms of the Northern Hegemon. They had lived in Locastus for the better part of a century when a botched rebellion, triggered by racist insurgents within the upper strata of the Acitan government, almost completely wiped them out in a terrible event that has gone down in history as the Great Fire of the Maul. Nowadays, very few true Old Blood people remain, but they have left their imprint in that a great many Locastrians have a drop or two of Old Blood in their veins.
The Old Blood is the last remnant of an ancient civilization, an empire of titanic proportions that once, a thousand years ago or more, ruled most of the known world, and they are the last repository of its history and secrets, handed down through the generations.
The Old Blood is synonymous with inherent magic, a living, ancient force coursing through their veins and built into the marrow of their bones. The Warlocks and Witches of the Old Blood were creatures of terrible, intimidating power - and not always good, but rather above such pitiful human concerns.
The Old Blood people, or those with a lot of Old Blood in them, are usually short and slender, with straight, sandy-blonde hair, mahogany eyes and a golden-tanned complexion. They usually have perfect white teeth, and they smile often. The women, in particular, are of uncommon beauty, and possesses an otherworldly allure.
They are famous for their love of music, and are adept players at the zither, harp and flute. They dress in colourful, loose-fitting clothes, flowing shirts for the men and frilly, low-necked dresses for the women.
The Old Blood have always had a close relationship with the Earthroot tribes, and the last few survivors now reside with them. There is also a large number of Old Blood/Earthroot half-bloods around, an unusual but not unattractive mix, the flighty essence of the Old Blood stabilized by the earth-aspected influence of the Earthroot.
Despite that their time in Locastus has almost come to an end, they have had a great cultural impact on the city, and the manner of their near-extinction is a point of cultural shame for the Acitans, a fact that, not surprisingly, makes them even less kindly disposed towards the last of the Old Blood.
The Sea Traders
The Sea Traders are a seafaring people that spends most of their time on their great, ten-masted ships going from place to place across the seas to trade. They first came into contact with Locastus some 150 years ago, and have, since then, visited regularly to offer their exotic wares - ivory, silks, spices and weird lifestock - at the Great Market, near the Inner Docks. In Locastus, they buy large quantities of high-quality fire arms, precious metals (especially Entropium), wine, gems and alchemical potions for trade elsewhere.
Although rare, there is the occasional Trader that decides to jump ship, either to settle in Locastus permanently, or to await another Trader ship, perhaps sampling some of what city life has to offer in the meantime. As a result, there is a significant number of Trader half-bloods in Locastus.
The Traders are a very tall (averaging 6’5"), black-skinned race with odd, honey-coloured eyes and extensive gold piercings to the nose, ears and eyebrows. Facial scarrification is also common, denoting rank and life passages. Both sexes usually keep their hair cropped short and dress, when on dry land, in long, flowing robes of exotic materials, as well as an abundance of jewellry. The men are as vain as the women, and there appear to be great equality between the sexes, as evident by the fact that many Trader ship Captains are women. Almost all Traders carry curved, ceremonial scmitars with the pommel inset with a single great fire opal, moon stone or some other semi-precious stone.
The Traders have always had a a surprisingly good relationship with the otherwise xenophobic Acitans, perhaps helped along by their similar maritime backgrounds but more likely because of the value of cargo the Traders bring to Locastus.
The Katurians are natives of the Empire of the Iron Dragon, a near-mythical land far to the south, on the shores of the Emerald Sea. The children of the Iron Dragon are a proud, fierce race, warlike, ruthless, yet just by their own standards.
Recent Katurian expansions and the establishment of colonies on several continents has set diplomatic relations with Locastus, the only other great power in this corner of the world, on edge and, to make matters worse, several clashes have recently occurred on the disputed Nascogiban sub-continent. It is not impossible that war is brewing, a war that Locastus, despite its military might, is not certain to win.
In Locastus, the Katurians inhabit a large, walled compound, ostensibly an embassy, but with the look of a military barracks. The current Katurian Ambassador in Locastus is Akhet Zah, second prince of the Empire, a dangerous, intelligent and ambitious man.
Katurians are generally tall, dusky-skinned and with black hair. The men generally sport elaborately oiled and ringleted moustasches and beards. Their features are usually clean and angular, with a slim, equinine nose. Nobles wear their hair long, in a tightly wound, oiled braid, while the common soldiers shave their head hair short.
The women are seldom seen, dressed in loose-fitting robes and veils. They are kept back from the eyes of the public, but seem to be able to exert their own influence on events nevertheless.
The Katurian are a race of warriors, and they dress the part, in elaborately worked scale mail, each scale individually etched with an intricate pattern. They also favour open, flowing surcoats, knee-length, blue-steel chain coats and knee-high boots. The universal headgear is the peaked, turban-wrapped helmet with a long lobster-tail neck-guard and chain mail face veil. Rank is denoted by a precious stone set into the front of the helmet.
Weaponry is generally of good quality - fine, blue-steel flintlock muskets with stocks inlaid with intarsia and the barrels elaborately etched. As a side-arm most carry a large, hand-and-a-half tulwar, as well as fine flintlock pistols. The Katurians are a horse-culture, and many carry the recurved, bone-and-enamelled-wood shortbow, suitable for firing from horseback.
The upcoming crisis between Locastus and the Katurian Empire may or may not escalate into full-blown war, but if it does, Locastus will definitely have its hands full.
The People of the Autumn Kingdom
The enigmatic nation to the East has evaded Locastrian eyes for the better part of a century. The passes in the Eastern mountain range called the "Throne of Heaven" are all heavily guarded, keeping a tight regulation on who enters and leaves the Autumn Kingdom.
Judging from the few tales pried from the silent caravan traders, it is a vast, open land, studded with great cities, and ruled over by a mysterious God-Emperor. It also appears to be a culture in decline, slowly suffocating on its own apathy and decadence, which is why it is not uncommon for caravan guards, animal handlers and, sometimes, captains, to decide to try for a new life in the vibrant, younger city of Locastus.
The people from the Autumn Kingdom are usually short and of medium build. Their skin has an unusual golden tint, their hair is blue-black and their dark, exotic eyes are deeply slanted. Their own tongue is a musical, lilting language without glottal stops, but they are extremely adept at picking up new languages.
The traders dress in silks, furs and other exotic materials, often bedecked with thick gold chains and precious stones. Glyph-painted headbands are common, as are fur hats and hoods. The guards wear articulated, strangely crustacean-like black-enamelled armour with insect-like helmets, and are armed with exotic weapons such as long flute-swords, long-handled battle-scythes, jointed spears and complex, repeating crossbows.
Lately, the traders have brought word of rebellion growing in the east, an event that, if it takes place, will probably send thousands upon thousands of refugees to Locastus. If the Autumn Kingdom falls, there is no knowing what will replace it, since no one in Locastus has a clue as to what lies beyond.
The Fire Hill Clans
The first Locastrian colony was established in 183 on the south-western coast of the Nascogiban sub-continent, across the Iron Sea from Locastus. The Locastrian-controlled territory is situated directly below the barrow-cluttered, cave-riddled volcanic Fire Hill highlands, and it didnt take long before the first clashes occurred between the invaders and the ferocious inhabitants of these hills.
The highlander clans have, with great success, used their spirit-arts in defense of their holy ground, allowing the harsh, unforgiving spirits of their ancestors to possess their flesh and turning them into superhuman, bloodthirsty killing machines. The ensuing battles have, on more than one occasion, left the Locastrian occupation forces with their collective noses bloodied.
A spirit-possessed warrior will enter a berserker rage which allows him (or her; the Fire Hill women are as ferocious as the men) to take massive, crippling injuries without falling. While their numbers are low, the Fire Hill clans are formidable opponents, and does not shrink back from attacking vastly superior forces, something the Locastrians have experienced time and time again.
The Fire Hill natives are among the largest of the known human races, standing on average 6 feet tall, and usually heavily muscled. They have dark-blonde or copper-red hair and their eyes are blue or green. The men all have heavy, dense facial hair, which is usually worn in braids, a point of pride with clan warriors, while women favour long, free-flowing manes. Woad tattoos are common with both sexes, as are bone ornaments, scalps, teeth and other trophies.
Weaponry is generally heavy, unsophisticated and of mediocre quality. Double-axes, morningstars and clubs are common, as are large, wooden round-shields, painted in garish colours. Heavy armor is rare, most make do with studded leather cuirasses or mail-shirts, as well as conical helmets.
The Fire Hill natives that live in Locastus itself usually come from the defeated clans that has been under Locastrian rule for a long time, and, hence, are more integrated into Locastrian society. The Locastrian districts with the highest density of Fire Hill inhabitants are the Witherdowns and Luc Barrow, although many work as sailors aboard Locastrian trader ships as well.
Recently, rumor has reached Locastus that the exiled General Brennan, commander of the legendary Maul Rats and charged with the seemingly impossible task of managing the unruly colony, has achieved a armistice with the savage natives and is, possibly, making plans to use the clans to bolster his forces in preparation for a strike on Locastus itself. According to intelligence, the harbour of Ribcage, the principal town of the colony, is now filled with great longships of native design, probably intended as troop transports when the time comes.
With the Katurian situation rapidly degrading, the Locastrian government has begun to panic at the prospect of one of its foremost military commanders going independent on them. The impending Katurian naval blockade would isolate Locastus from its Nascogiban colony and leave Brennan free and untouchable to prepare his army. Sending Brennan away in shame might not have been such a wonderful idea, after all…
The Aquurian Desert Nomads
The second and latest Locastrian colony is little more than a trading station on the coast of the Southern continent of Aquur, a landmass mostly covered in inhospitable desert and shrubby veldt, but nontheless inhabited, although sparsely.
The nomads of this harsh environment has taken surprisingly well to the newcomers on their coast, and have begun intensive trade with the Locastrians. The nomads bring exotic wares, such as metals, venomous creatures and resins, out of the deepest reaches of the high desert to trade for high-grade weapons, tools, alchemies, wine, beer and household gear with the Locastrian merchants.
For some, especially the younger ones, the temptation of faraway Locastus proves irresistible, and they join ship´s crews to work their way across the oceans to the fabled city in the North. Nowadays, Locastus has a sizeable Aquurian population, who has choosen a stretch of land, a former military exercise ground along the western banks of the river Urok for their own. Here, they pitch their traditional tents, to create a small, pennon-bedecked, cloth-and-leather city in the city that is called "Tent Town" by locals.
The harsh life in the desert has created a hardy, toughened people. The Aquurian Nomads, who migrate from oasis to oasis on the backs of their behemoth Caravan Beetles, are a lean and sinewy folk, their skin leathery and bronzed by the unforgiving winds and sun. They have dark eyes, fixed in a permanent squint, and blue-black, curly hair. They also have a long, sinewy neck which combines with a large adam´s apple to lend them a vulture-like demeanor.
In their natural habitat, they wear long, flowing robes, deep hoods, protective goggles and face-masks to protect them from the blasting sand-storms, but they are quick to adapt to local fashions, as is evident in Locastus.
The Grassdancers are the native people of the moors North of Locastus, where they follow the migrations of the once vast herds of the great curly-horned, shaggy-furred bison-like creature known as Reagh.
This pastoral lifestyle has been greatly disrupted by the new Thunderhead Railway Line, which freights ore and coal across the moors and plains from the mines in the Thunderheads to Locastus, and the herds of Reagh has been severely decimated by overhunting. At an ever increasing rate, the young of the Grassdancer people leave their tribes behind, to follow the railroad south and seek a new life in Locastus.
The Grassdancers are a olive-skinned, lithe people. Their hair and eyes are dark, and they ritually knot fetishes and totem figures into their wild manes. They are extraordinary nimble, a trait that allows them to sprint across the backs of a stampeding herd of Reagh, and also possesses great endurance.
They speak an alien, guttural language that is full of glottal stops and clicking sounds, and dress in soft, buckskin pants and fur vests.
A oddity with the Grassdancers is that they are all severaly allergic to metal, and will develop rashes and excemas if in prolonged contact with that material. Hence, all their utensils, tools and weapons are made from bone, stone or wood.
Their weaponry range from bone and flint daggers, to bone-tipped spears, wooden clubs and flint axes. Warriors sometimes carry the shell of a great land tortoise as a shield, and apply a special mixture of resins, sawdust and mud to their skins before battle, a second skin which gives them a certain amount of protection, equivalent to that of leather armour.
In Locastus, the Grassdancers fare poorly. Those that end up in the industrial district of Witherdowns quickly grow sick and die, due to metal poisoning. Moreover, few of the skills they possess are worth anything in the big city, but that doesnt stop the influx from the grasslands.
The mysterious nation beyond the Thunderhead massif that calls itself the "Northern Hegemon" is the traditional, long-time enemy of Locastus. Over the years, several wars have been fought over the handful of passes that allows access from that inhospitable land to the moors and grasslands south of the Thunderheads, wars where the human forces of Locastus found itself opposing armies of the demons, obscenities, abominations and unnatural creatures that serve the rulers of this land.
The few spies and emissaries that have returned, tells of a dark, rugged land, covered in primeval forest interspersed with eskers, moirain ridges, boulder-fields and kettle lakes.
The Hegemon is ruled by a council of women that call themselves the "Rift Hags", and they impose their murderous dominance on the people through bloody rituals, acts of cannibalism, obscene hexes and mind-numbing terror. A Northerner knows that he or she might, at any time, be whisked away and consumed by the dark forces that serve these women, and they live their lives in unimaginable fear.
The few people from the North that has made their way into Locastus rarely advertise their origins; they are usually freed prisoners of war or even traitors to their own lands, deserters that have sold informations about their country in exchange for protection and a chance at a new life.
The Northeners are as unlovely as their country of origin - generally tall, but lean in an emaciated way, and their complexion is pale, pasty and unhealthy, with disfiguring excemas, moles and sores being common.
Their features are narrow, with a lantern jaw and close-set dark eyes - eyes that lack depth, like those of a shark. Their nose is usually long, and their mouth thin and inexpressive. It is said that Northerners never smile, and that might well be the truth.
Their native tongue is a harsh, grating language, filled with ejective consonants and nasalization.
The Northerners are a surly, glowering lot, who keep mostly to themselves and seldom looks anyone straight in the eyes. A careful observer will soon notice a degree of paranoia in their behaviour and, beneath the surface, a barely disguised, generalized fear. Those fresh out of the North are, almost to a man, analfabetic and cowed, which makes them appear stupid, which they in fact are not.
Hegemon people usually dress in furs, rough, dark cloth and heavy boots, and they favour heavy crossbows or bows in combat. Most carry no other meleé weapons than the occasional broad-bladed, hooked gutting-knife or, at most, a boar-spear.
Phew! This monster of a post is meant to serve as a reference chart for the rest of the Locastus posts. It is something I felt I needed out of the way before I continue in earnest. It´s long, and long-winded in places, but I really felt it was time to get all that clutter out of my head and down on paper. Perhaps now I wil be able to move on a bit…
If you want to use any of these folks in YOUR campaign, feel free to scavenge, rip it apart and pick out what you like. There´s some original ideas in here, but I don´t expect anyone to use all of it (I probably won´t). Have fun with it! My humble hopes are that something in here will prove of worth for your campaign.