The road to Palisander is long since gone, frozen, blistered under the sun, and cracked by roots as thick as a man's leg and as fast as a snake. The city remains, a hidden jewel sitting in the heart of the Wastelands. It sits in the middle of the Plain of Alcadema, also known as the fields of Woe, the Desole Cylex, and what was once the heart of the greatest empire that Aterrizar has ever known.
Palisander and the Ring of Deneb
The heart and soul of the Old World, Palisander was at her time the most enlightened and cosmopolitan city in the world. She was once nothing more than a river-side stop over for the river folk where they would rest and trade with the horsemen of the Pralend. The great empires of that era rested in the east, where ogres and witches now hunt one another, and in the south, on islands now lost to the Cerulean sea. As those powered waned, a man named Nahar rose up among the Pralendians. He was reknowned for his prowess in battle, and his great courage. In those times, any man who claimed more than a hundred followers called himself a King. Nahar was such a man, calling himself a King, and like the others he fought and raided among his kindred tribes. But he was no short sighted man and he knew that there would be no change unless someone forced it.
He prayed by the river, and made sacrifice to the great spirits that lived in it's ever flowing currents. And after a great while, he was answered, as in those days the spirits of the air and earth and water and fire were more willing and attentive to mankind. The spirit of the river appeared as a great barbeled white and green serpent with flaring gills and powerful fins. Nahar prostrated himself and asked a boon of the little god of the river so that he could make the tribes of man whole and offer proper worship to the spirits of the water and the sky. The little god of the river pondered this and indeed bestowed a boon upon Nahar, a golden ring.
This ring I shape from gold taken from my waters, which I have called from the mountains and the highlands. This gold has come a great distance and bears with it both great power and burden. Do not take it lightly, Son of Man. If you are wise it will make you strong, if you are weak and foolish it will destroy you and your kind utterly.
The River-Gold Ring
The ring was a simple and unadorned thing, but was filled with primal power and the blessings of a powerful spirit. With the ring, and his courage, and his tenacity Nahar accomplished that which was deemed impossible. Within the span of his middle years the tribes of the Pralend were united under a single banner, and the place where he made his pact with the little god of the river, Nahar made his capital. Palisander grew upon the banks and became an important place, for the kings were made subjects to Nahar, and their lands were granted to him by gift, by boon, or by war.
With the Pralend secured and Palisander established as his steadfast and redoubt, Nahar looked beyond consolidation and conquest. He had neither wife nor heir but his time in the saddle was coming soon to an end. He returned to the river, where the white and green serpent greeted him again. Rather than ask another boon of the spirit, he did something unexpected. He returned the ring to the little god.
"I have neither wife nor son to pass the ring, and those who follow me are unworthy of it. I would not see such a gift pass into the hands of a tyrant or a mooncalf and as such return your gift with my humble thanks."
The spirit took the gold and swallowed it back into itself and looked upon the human and weighed him. He had indeed made the tribes into one, and brought tribute to the river, as well as trade and peace with the river folk, and those who dwelt in the northlands among the trees and in the east who hunkered in the swamps and the towering mountains.
"Human, you have surpassed that which I expected of you, it was no part of the bargain to return the ring and yet you have. Wisely. I offer you a second boon, free of malice and you have only to ask for what you desire. Your heart is pure and your soul is wise. Else I would not make such a generous offer.
"You honor me spirit, but I have only eyes for a wife to bear unto me a son worthy of what I have accomplished. An heir to carry on the peace I bring, and to continue to pay homage to the waters that brought us prosperity.
Men are petulant creatures, driven by greed and revenge, lust and violence, but the spirit knew what it was that Nahar desired before it offered a final boon. The serpent shrank in size, the scales and barbels falling away, and the broad fins narrowing to slender limbs. A woman emerged from the water, her form sinuous as the river her eyes as mysterious as the deep waters. Her name was Deneb and she was the spirit of the river.
"Nahar, of the Pralends, High-King of the Horse Lord, this is my boon to you. For the span of your remaining years I shall remain at your side, as devoted to you as when you wore me about your finger. I know you as no other, and in turn you will come to know me alike. I will give you strong sons, and worthy daughters until your time is wrought. Your legacy shall be one of greatness."
The Blood of Nahar
It came to pass that Deneb and Nahar came to share a deep and incorruptable love that was as deep and relentless as the river. She bore him seven sons and seven daughters, each of which was worthy of being a king or a queen. As Pralend grew, and the city of Palisander grew, those sons and daughters went out into the world to make their marks. The sons took wives from the tribes of the Pralend, and some took wives from foreign lands. The daughters too took husbands from among the Pralend and from among the foreign lands. These children were strong of spirit, tireless and untouched by illness and infirmity. They made pacts, fought wars, and dueled one another in politics and leisure and at each victory or defeat the empire grew larger and greater.
And then it came to pass that Nahar, at great and extended age, passed as mortals are bound to. Deneb sat with him in the last days, unchanged and ageless, yet she shed tears of great sadness as the first king died. Storms roared above the Pralend and the waters of the river surged and it became dangerous to travel as the river grieved mightily for her husband.
The Pralendian Empire
As the blood of Nahar spread, and the sons and daughters took mountains and storms for spouses, the might of Pralendia waxed. And as the empire grew so did Palisander. The city crossed the Spiritus River seven times with seven bridges named for the seven sons. Towers and spires rose as those who joined the empire brought their skills into the fold, carpenters, architects, designers, sculptors and enchanters alike.
AS the empire grew, so did the city by the river. Her wattle and daub and slatboard buildings gave way to larger and more robust structures. Stone replaced wood, towers rose above paved courtyards and where there were once vegetable gardens growing, manicured gardens and topiaries were soon being groomed. Palisander grew rapidly, but not without the steady guiding hand of the blood of Nahar. Each king and queen who ruled the city paid homage to the river and it's gods.
City Image - Palisander
Palisander is known for it's breathtaking architecture and wonders wrought in metal and stone. Most structures utilize advanced gothic stoneworking. Columns are ribbed and fluted for stylistic and strength purposes and flying buttresses and arching vaulted ceilings are the norm. The oldest structures retain support pylons, but most of these are now artistic as the structure has been reinforced from within by superior pillar and arch work.
The city is a riot of color, white is almost unheard of. Pink, lavender, and other such colors predominate in form of polished granites, marbles, and other metamorphic stones. Towers with fanciful domes are everywhere. Some are sectional works, made of panels of lacquered woodwork for brilliant colors, others are brightly polished metals such as brass, copper, and silver. The Palace of the Emperor has three towers, one capped in meteoric iron, one capped in gold, the last capped with platinum, all displays of wealth and power.
Palisander is laid out in a wagon wheel pattern, with dozens of avenues and tree lined boulevards that radiate outwards from the palaces at the center. The river cuts through the greater part of the city. It is crossed by seven bridges. Four of the bridges are large enough for oxen teams to pass along side one another without notice, two are riverwalks, open only to foot traffic. The final, seventh bridge is the largest and heads across the widest part of the river. This bridge is large enough that the Emperor's personal army can march in parade formation out of the city.
The merchant quarters of the city are criss-crossed with canals and small quays for merchants to move their goods on the bounty and blessing of the river. This has alleviated the need to have large roads all over the city, and limits the number of livestock required for moving goods.
Under the city is a maze of cisterns and brick lined tunnels, the sewers and undercity. During the rains, the undercity floods and the waste is washed away into the river where it is carried well out of the city and eventually into the ocean. Beggars, thieves and murderers would often hide in the undercity, finding places that could be sealed off during the rains so that they had a safe place to rest even in the worst of weather.
The Outer Rim
The inner rim of Palisander is contained by a decorative stone wall 12 feet high. It is a decorative wall as there are so many gates and passages through it, that it would be impossible to hold in a time of war. Beyond this wall are the sprawling residential regions. Houses grow like weeds, still of good size and construction, but lacking the omni-present stonework and razor clean lines of the inner city.
The Aegis Bulwarks
These seven citadels ring the city, their massive foundations surrounded by burgoise plazas, marketplaces and thousands of homes. Each citadel has a thick barbican wall, a five point lay-out of outer towers and a central fortification with lesser towers. These lesser towers contain Lightning Casters, The central Paling Tower, and other large weapons.
The Golden Age and Ruin
Palisander quickly became the center of the empire, every city facing it, every conquered monarch, potentate and tribe bowing to her vast power, vast wealth, and even vaster appetites. This would bring the city to her golden age, and the very heart and soul of the Aterrizaran continent. The city was the host of the first university devoted entirely to the study of magic. This was no basic technical college to train in the basics of wizardry, though there were several in the capital to provide for training magi for the nobles and the army. It was a university intended to explore the boundaries of magic, it's limitations.
It was this great reach for power that would eventually spell the end of the Age of the Pralendian Empire, and the extinction of the Blood of Nahar, and the ruin of the splendid city of Palisander. The Emperor died, still young and vital, to mysterious circumstances. Without an heir, several potent generals, magi, and courtiers contended for the throne. Under the shell of wards and magical barriers, spells of increasing complexity and force were being used in a covert shadow war between the factions trying to claim the throne. This placed a great deal of strain on the geomantic network of clathrates and ley lines that supplied the magical essence required by the city. These resources pulled thin, there was a breach.
There are abominations and horrors that some call demons, devils, astral horrors, and hundreds of other names. The breach tear allowed these monstrous entities entrance into the realm of man, directly into the most densely populated and magic saturated region in the world. The devastation was immense. Thousands died, some from hooked claws and gibbering obscenity spewing jaws. Some had their bodies transmogrified into still living soup to be sucked up by giant hellish insect demons. Others were simply pulled through the breach into the blind beyond to a fate worse than hell. This apocalypse lasted a scant seven days, and when it was over, Palisander was a city of the dead, ghosts and gore, memories and fading screams.
The broad fields were devoured by trackless monster infested wasteland. The small rivers were soured and unfit to drink, and many survivors perished as the land around them died. The massive alteration of the landscape came from the ruin of many clathrates, some of which were completely destroyed. Geomantic based magics, the most common kind used in city and urban construction all failed as the geomantic topography changed violently. Some places became badlands of broken rock, others were swallowed by a pestilential forest of fungus, rot, and carnivorous plant monsters. In many places, pieces of tainted crystal could be found, a sort of fall out from the nightmare war. For some reason, Palisander did not suffer this fate. Instead, the final sacrifice of the Hero Thyr insured that Palisander herself was spared much destruction. The city is now locked in a perpetual winter. Ice clings to almost every surface, and the corpses scattered about the once beautiful avenues and boulevards remain as they were when they perished, encapsulated in a protective layer of elemental ice.
The Patient City
The Wastelands are in slow retreat. With time, all wounds heal, and the wastes are no exception. The massive decline in magic use following the Nightmare war allowed the geomantic landscape the opportunity to restore itself after centuries of extensive and cultivated use. The tainted regions remain as a sort of splinter in the wound, and will not be healed until the cause of the taint is removed. This taint can be massive pieces of cankerstone, the shattered corpses of demons, destroyed but still seething with malice, or vortices of negative energy, such as fallen temples filled with spectres.
Atlantis Awaits - Just as the myth of Atlantis sends people into speculative fits, so does the myth of Palisander. The city has been lost close to a millennium and many common folk believe it to be a bit of folklore, something to tell gullible children. But it is there, like the City of Gold, the Vale of Diamonds, it is there, filled with the wonders and luxuries of a world unimaginable. To find it is the quest of a lifetime, and to escape away from it, the challenge of a lifetime. Yes, here there be dragons (of a sort), and what is a dragon without his horde of treasure?
Old Blood Stirs - While the great bloodlines of Nahar are long since gone, it is not extinct. There are some pockets where the blood has some minor presence. Someone coming from one of the regions could possibly awaken Deneb, the god of the river. This could in turn spark a revitalization of the old blood, bringing the realms of the divine and man close again and restoring the splendor of ages past. It could also start a series of violent wars, assassination attempts, magical duels to gain control of the city of cities. Either way, plenty of interesting stuff can happen.
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? Responses (7)
Looking forward to seeing this done.
Excellent setting location with a nicely detailed history that really brings it to life. Tis place can fit perfectly into any fantasy game with a little tweaking, and is the perfect location for those scholar and historians to investigate. (Either as pc's or by hiring the pc's for protection)
I would definitely like to see Deneb written up as a separate sub since she woudl make a great ally for the serpent to conjure up to help any adventure restore the kingdom to it's former glory. (Or as a reward for a job well done to keep the heroine/hero company on the nights there after.)
(on a small note I think the "Atlantic Awaits" woudl read better if it was "Atlantis Awaits" )
Fixed, and thanks :)
A truely great submission worth every bit of a 5/5.
Yep, brilliant... I do like tales of decadence and futility, and this is one of them, but spiced with desperate heroic efforts and courage.. and the description of the place itself is splendid.. It makes a perfect centrepiece around which revolves The Old World, King Thyr and so on.
As noted, this unfortunately passed under my radar - a mistake that has now been corrected.
Wow, this is an excellent work Scras! Somehow missed it when it came out before.
Nice ... this is a good backdrop to put a city in.