Into the Burning Wastes
“In Balk, we treasure our freedoms. You are free to speak as you will. Of course, Andropinis is also free to speak as he will, which might very well be an order for your execution. Choose your words with care, my friend.”
—Darian, a patrician of Balic
Balic at a glance:
A wealthy mercantile city-state on the shores of the Estuary of the Forked Tongue, Balic is under the control of Dictator Andropinis, a sorcerer-king who claims to have been elected to his throne over seven hundred years ago. Despite the dictator’s grip, Balic is perhaps the most affluent city-state in the Tyr Region and is home to powerful merchant houses that bring great wealth to Balicans fortunate enough to share in the prosperity. The business of Balic is business, and for the most part, Andropinis does not interfere in routine affairs of nobles or merchant emporiums.
The city is renowned for its democratic traditions. Balic’s nobles are seated in a Chamber of Patricians that creates and maintains the code of laws, and its templars must stand for election to 10-year terms. The various professional guilds (and Balic’s chapter of the Veiled Alliance, for that matter) conduct their business by taking votes and electing officers; even the dictator is, in theory, elected. Much of this democracy, however, is little more than an illusion. The office of dictator is held for life, and Andropinis has endured in his position now for centuries. Public debate and discourse is allowed, but only up to a point. Any direct criticism of the dictator or his templars is dealt with harshly, and the patricians learned long ago to pass only those laws that meet with the dictator’s approval.
Balic enjoys a cultural heritage and a civic mythology dating back thousands of years, which finds expression in a public appreciation for poetry and drama. The mythology still lives in the form of powerful arcane vestiges; Andropinis and his templars are masters of manipulation. The cultural heritage is evident in the dozens of theaters through out the city-state, which run the gamut from crowded, ramshackle stagehouses in the poorer quarters to magnificent amphitheaters in the noble districts. In Balic, talented playwrights and orators can win acclaim equal to that held by the greatest gladiators as long as they steer clear of subject matter that the dictator’s templars might find offensive.
About 28,000 reside within the city.
Eighty percent Human, no other race is overly represented – though Thri-kreen are a rarer sight in Balic than any other City-State.
Balic is prone to sticky mornings – slaves and freemen alike moving through the fields and scrub lands with rags, squeezing the precious drops into ceramic pitchers and sealing them before the first rays of the morning sun. Within the city, wide drooping tarps are cast between homes to gather water of a lesser quality.
Balic gains most of its wealth from acting as the premier port along the Silt Sea – transporting supplies rapidly to the northern City-States of Draj and Raam and cutting weeks of dangerous travel from even such sites as Urik or Tyr. That said, they do produce bountiful crops of grain, salt from the silt sea, olives and an abundance of livestock. No other City-State can boast such an ability to transport meat, salted or no, nor for so cheap.
Balic faces few threats from other city-states, but giants and desert raiders are drawn to the fields and manors outside the city walls. Five legions are housed in garrisons throughout the city and its fields – but many threats are met at sea where the sand ships can dance circles around wading giants. Though not as prepared for war as some city-states, Balic’s sheer population and relative isolation do much to maintain its relative safety.
Inns and Taverns:
As the city premier for trade, inns and taverns can be found across the vast majority of the city, though nowhere with greater density than the docks. The relative affordability of quality food and the stoutness of Balic’s famed beers do much to attract the steady flow of coin from traders and longshoreman alike. Watered down or salted, it is still a luxury few freemen forget and a highlight that brings trade back time and time again.
Agora: All the merchant houses have their emporiums in the Balican agora. Surrounding the agora is the Elven market.
Criterion: Balic’s gladiator arena sits beneath the stony bluff of the Megaleneon. The Criterion is an architectural marvel, constructed of pure white marble, with great sails rising from the walls to provide shade. The arena floor is rectangular shaped and consists of hexagon‐shaped marble slabs. The slabs are 10 feet wide on a side and rest on a bed of sand. This unique floor is always uneven since no two adjoining slabs are of the exact same height, but the white stone keeps the arena cooler than any other in the Tablelands and the blood pools in such a way that can be found no where else.
Fort Glamis: Established and maintained by House Wavir, Fort Glamis is located on the Balic/Ledopolus road and is an important supply center for caravans from Balic on their way to the rest of the Tyr region.
The Shining Bridges: Ravines, filled with silt, break through the ground around the agora. Monumental bridges made of marble allow access to the agora.
Segovara: The village of Segovara is a client village of House Rees of Balic. Located southeast of Balic across the Estuary of the Forked Tongue, the village rests inside a small narrow canyon. The village is mainly a collection of huts built against both sides of the canyon walls. Because of the lack of space inside the canyon only one narrow road exists in the cramped village. The villagers manufactures leather goods for House Rees, however their isolated position, without a source of water, leaves them utterly depended on Rees and they are little more than highly skilled slaves.
Altaruk: Altaruk is a large client village of the merchant houses of Wavir, Rees, and Tomblador. This major trade village is located at the head of Big Fork of the Forked Tongue Estuary. Heavily fortified, a 15‐foot wall surrounds the village, and 500 free mercenaries defend it. Altaruk is commanded by Arisphistaneles, a powerful preserver who is allowed to live by special dispensation of Dictator Andropinis. The village is regularly attacked by giants from the islands of the Forked Tongue, hence why Arisphistaneles is allowed to live. Regardless, the village does sustain damage in these raids, and Balic is often in the process of rebuilding one section of the village or another, for it serves as a key deterrent to raiders along this portion of the trade roads. Protection is extended to caravans of other merchant houses, provided they pay the toll as they pass through Altaruk. For caravans, the toll is one gold piece per caravan mount, an exorbitant price that in large finds its way into Andropinis’ coffers but prohibits most merchants from spending more than one day in the village. His charity is well regarded however, and the toll for individual travelers is one ceramic piece.
Last Port: The village of Last Port is a moderate sized village surrounded by a silt moat. The village falls under the influence of Balic, but has maintained its independence as much as it can. Aicmenes, a telepath, leads the village. The village is a mix of Dwarven architecture, influenced by the Smokestone clan that makes Last Port its home, and Balic artistry. A small amber mine is the main source of income for the village, though many villagers also provide services for the silt skimmers that stop at the village’s small docks.
Walis: Walis is a small hidden village in the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. From its position atop a high rock spire the village sits on one of the only active gold mines in the Tyr region. The merchant house Tomblador controls the village and keeps the village’s defenses as strong as possible. The village can only be reached from the ground by a cargo bucket lowered by the villagers. Besides a large company of soldiers, three defilers are stationed at the village at all times to add to the defenses – a garrison provided by the government of Balic in exchange for lucrative shares of the mines bounty.