Friday, January 31, 2014

A Visual Guide to Thither

Thither is a medium-large city of 15 thousand permanent residents and an additional thousand or two transient merchants, sailors, and laborers on any given day depending on the season. Thither is located about four miles from the mouth of the Xanthus river across from the Crying Swamps. Here the river is sluggish and meandering, almost a marshy tidewater.  The swamp itself extends for twenty miles of flooded jungle, marshy grasses, and choking weeds with a multitude of twisting channels.

Thither was constructed by refugees of the doomed city of Sinopia when that metropolis was destroyed one thousand years ago. At first, Thither was nothing more than a fishing village, a collection of hovels, home to five hundred survivors of the celestial holocaust. In time, traders from up-river began to return. Then ships from far off ports along the coast of Agartha, as well as far-off lands like Atlantis, Lemuria, Hyperborea, and Mu, began to stop in Thither. In time, Thither became prosperous and wealthy. The nobility of Thither believe they owe their success to Altina, the golden goddess of the river, and to annual human sacrifice to Bobugbubilz, the god of the swamps.

Like most of the towns and cities of the Xanthus river valley, Thither is ruled by a hereditary Archon who consults with a city council composed of nobles and influential commoners known as Patricians. The current Archon is named Kepha. Kepha is an overweight man in his forties, balding with a well-trimmed beard. Kepha has six wives and eighteen children. Kepha is a practical man but he has little strategic vision. He tends to manage the city one crisis at a time. Kepha is friendly, warm, and generous to his friends. He dislikes having enemies and tries to win opponents over rather than compete with them. Although Kepha is intelligent and astute and brilliant at forging compromises and resolving disputes, many of the patricians consider him weak and tend to work schemes behind his back. This situation has led to hidden corruption within the court of archon Kepha and the city administration.

1. Docks. Wooden platforms and moorings built over the bank allow for up to eight sea-going ships or twenty-four river boats to dock at any one time. The docks are always busy with activity as stevedores load and unload visiting ships.

2. Basilica of Altina, the Golden Goddess of Wealth and Trade. Altina is the patron goddess of Thither. She is depicted as a rubenesque woman made of gold with four arms in which she carries scales, an arrow, a sheaf of wheat, and a crystal orb.

3. The Pylon. This large pylon is connected to the docks by a narrow stone bridge. The bridge prevents loosed boats from floating downriver.

4. Warehouses. The buildings in this part of town consist of warehouses, barns, and storage buildings.

5. Villas. Walled compounds belonging to wealthy patrons of Altina, all of which happen to be successful merchants and moneylenders.

6. Currency Exchange. This temple-like building is home to the impenetrable underground vaults of the money changers. Most trade in Thither is done via notes, IOUs, and scrips, which can be exchanged for currency here. The currency exchange is guarded by an army of alert well-armed guards. The subterranean vaults are patrolled by fabulous guardian beasts, traps, and sorcerous wards. 

The Academy of Eskilik. Next door to the currency exchange is the Academy of Eskilik, an institution of higher learning dedicated to studying the laws and history of the ancient Agarthan empire. The Academy often funds expeditions throughout the valley to locate, explore, map, and recover lost treasures from the ruins of the fallen empire of the golden age.

7. Old South Gate. This older gate allows access through the older inner wall of the city to the newer section beyond.

8. Hostels. Several hostels and inns in this neighborhood provide group accommodation to budget-minded transient boat crews.

9. Patricians Villas. The political elite of Thither hold the hereditary title "Patrician". Those of patrician rank  live in walled compounds near the palace of the archon.

10. Palace of the Archon. Archon Kepha lives in this marble palace with his extended family, household, and regiment of personal guards.

11. Notice Board. A large covered notice board stands in the center of the busiest plaza of the city. Here one may read the day's news, official pronouncements, wanted posters, employment opportunities, and other public notices.

12. Old Temple District. Four temples occupy this row outside the entrance to the archon's palace. Here one may offer sacrifices to seek the blessings of Tzann, the God of the Sun; Pelagia, goddess of the sea; Thumina, goddess of the moon; and the Lazy Issari, demi-goddess of insight and strategy. Each temple is administered by a high priest (Level 10+ Cleric)

13. Monastery of Ulesh, God of Peace. This large walled compound is home to 60 monks overseen by High Llama Sham (Level 9 Monk).

14. Old South Gate. This old gate is covered in bas relief carvings.

15. Tenements. This large four story building is a tenement for the servants and laborers of the city's upper class.

16. Bazaar. Dozens of awnings and tents are erected here everyday in this outdoor market filled with milling throngs, shouting merchants, barkers, exotic performers, and street food.

17. Temples to Justicia and Bilgelik. These two new peripteral temples featuring dozens of gleaming marble columns were built in the last twenty years by wealthy merchant and philanthropist Bo-Mont Oacha.. They are temples to Justicia, Goddess of Justice and Mercy, and Bilgelik, God of Wisdom and Prosperity. The priests and acolytes of these temples endeavor to offer succor for the sick and poor. Their progressive philosophy is very unpopular with the established nobility of the Patricians who occasionally hire mobs of thugs to attack and vandalize the temples and their worshippers.

18. Hospital. Philanthropist Bo-Mont Oacha also constructed this hospital and hired chirurgeons and healing priests of Justicia to tend the wounded gladiators of the arena. The hospital also serves as a school for new healers and chirurgeons.

19. Arena. The small arena of Thither seats 4000 spectators who gather to watch gladiatorial combats, executions, plays, and other performances.

20. Villas. Walled compounds for the families of successful citizens, usually merchants, artisans, and craftsmen.

21. Tenements. Large cheaply-built apartment block-style homes for the city's lower class workers and laborers.

22. Tavern Row. Nearly a dozen taverns are located on this row servicing a mixture of local and visiting clientele. Rowdy brawls are a nightly occurrence.

23. Inns. Several walled compounds provide more secure private accommodation to travelers and their animals.

24. Shops. Artisans, craftsmen, and merchants sell their services and wares from more permanent shops in this lively neighborhood.

25. Garrison and Barracks. The large fortified compound houses the town garrison while the long buildings across the street are the barracks for the troops.

26. North Gate. This gate, built at the same time as the New Outer Wall, provides access to the trail that follows the Xanthus river north to Spit.

27. South Gate. The south gate opens to the coast road which leads south to the town of Orada with side trails to Yon, the "city of wizards".

28. Outer City. These small buildings house inns and shops catering to travelers and river fishermen alike.

29. Signal Tower and Temple of Anuran, Demon-Lord of Amphibians. The fires atop this tall signal tower are used to summon the colossal demon-lord of the frogs to provide him his annual human sacrifice. This annual tradition is believed to keep the city safe by appeasing malicious god and its reptilian and ranine servants.

30. The Crying Swamps. The vast marshes and swamps were once the location of the city of Sinopia, a great port city of the imperial age. Sinopia was destroyed by divine fire over a thousand years ago, leaving nothing but crumbling flooded ruins. Today the region is haunted by eerie wailing spirits and tribes of lizard and frog men.