Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crux: Urban Fantasy Campaign Seed (Part Five H-L)


Haelex: Lake town in Carta Mallus (Place)

The Hand of Calming Repose
Over the centuries, the Guild has emerged as the only widespread group able to consistently parry the intent and control of the Scarlet Throne. Other groups exist such as the Seventh Legion at Lookshy, the Lintha Family and the Lord of Bulls, but these tend to be geographically isolated. Once the power and threat of the Guild was truly understood by the Empress, she undertook measures to prevent other groups from reaching this level. Accordingly, the Thousand Scales and the All-Seeing Eye were set to monitor the strength and development of the various Thieves and Assassin Guilds scattered in the cities of the Threshold. If these criminal groups seemed to possess contacts across borders, they were to be crushed mercilessly. If they had a significant number of Exalts, Dragon-Blooded Outcastes or otherwise, they were to be crushed mercilessly. If they had operated on the Blessed Isle itself, they were to be crushed mercilessly. If they did not match any of these three criteria, they would be left to their own devices. Over the years these unstated rules spread out within the Threshold and underworld leaders made sure to obey them carefully. The exception lay with the East and the Scavenger Lands where the reach of the Scarlet Empress remained less tangible.

It is believed that within Crux two bands of assassins exist, independently of one another and with very different intentions. The smaller and more recent of the two, the Gatetakers, likely has only a handful of members but each is said to be potent. They may well have non-mortals among their numbers and clearly came here from another region. Their killings are quick and artless. The other guild, The Hand of Calming Repose, has a long history in the area. Most assume that Crux hides their central base, but that is more speculation than confirmed truth. 

While they maintain no contacts with Assassins Guilds in other areas they have operated outside of Cascading Flowers Kingdom, with evidence of their work to be found in An Teng, Carta Mallus, the Grim Reach, Khedaal and The Lap. Unlike their smaller rivals, The Hand operates with care and art. Most victims are posed in positions of restful sleep where possible. To support this style, the Hand is said to possess expert craft in the manufacture of poisons. So much so that the occasional Dragon Blooded from the Realm has come here to purchase assistance in dealing with troublesome rivals. While no outright war has broken out between the two groups, eventually the Gatetakers will cut across the Hand’s line of interests. We can expect the resulting struggle to be messy to say the least.

Harken: Amputee veteran of the Fate.s Talon who advises commander. (Person)
Hasien Feng: Bane of the Day Quarter. (Person)
Haven’s Way: Road to Khedaal in Blossoming Pearl (Thing)
Hesaal Chain: Cloth Merchant and notable Outcaste. (Person)
Hollow Cliff: Coastal town in Carta Mallus (Place)

House of Profligate Letters
Six years ago, when Anaza Dwells-in-Dusk heard the first news of the absence of the Scarlet Empress and the placement of a regent on the throne, he decided the world would soon come to an end. Wealthy, but having inherited it and spent a goody bit on his love of ancient letters, poetry and fine volumes of history, his grasp of the lore told him that everything would fall apart. 

Accordingly he went on a vast and mighty bender that lasted six months and burned through the last of his money in an orgy of wine, whores, gambling, eating and various illicit substances. Having exhausted his resources, he holed himself up in his house and awaited the end; an end which did not come. It took several weeks and the sharp smell of decay from his house and his own body to rouse him to the realization that unfortunately the world had not ended. Suicide was not an option as it had an anticlimactic sense to it. Anaza realized he would have to find some means to support himself. Lacking other skills he turned to his hobby and decided to become a writer of fine words, flowery words, words such as you have never heard. He sought out a few of the most conceited persons in town, offering to provide them with letters to lovers and friends, speeches for gatherings and reports to be sent back to those above them. Over time, he gathered to himself a fine collection of clients.

Though he now lives and holds his business in the Dusk Quarter, he can often be seen traveling to the Day Quarter to quietly meet with a person of some repute. Anaza keeps the identities of his customers secret, though one can often tell when the speech of the ancients emits from the mouth of a cow that he has been at work. Anaza apparently believes that the world will collapse soon- just not in the immediate future. He saves up his commissions carefully and blows them on booze and whores during the major festivals. Each time he awakens from his binges he regretfully realizes that the world has gone on and he must return to work.

House of Ten Thousand Folds: Artisan house of tailors. (Person)

Hypothetical Codes of Intercession
One of the central purposes of the Immaculate Order is the maintenance of the proper role of things. There is a hierarchy of life, a chain of being that reaches from the lowliest insect at the bottom to the Dragon Blooded at the top. But it is more than just a hierarchy, it also includes the sense that each place has tasks, duties and proper areas given over to it. To reach or act beyond those limits is to invite disorder and chaos. This is part of the reason why within the Blessed Isle and those places in the Threshold where the Immaculate Faith has stronghold, Monks and Priests are the only ones who are to interact and deal with spirits and gods. This is more practical in the Realm, where the shadow of the Scarlet Empress lies heavy on the supernatural. In the Threshold this is not so. Day to day life may require making allowances for these being, for example Guild Caravans must maintain at least one ritual specialist to deal with the Road gods and all others they might cross on the way.

Cascading Flowers Kingdom is a prime example of a place which has a different relation. Numerous festivals and events honor the local spirits and gods, general superstitions hold sway over the populace in the countryside and Crux itself has its own pantheon of little deities and spirits. For the most part, this relation is amicable, but requires upkeep in honor, gifts and sacrifices. The Immaculate Order has permission to intervene only in the most serious of cases of these things abusing their position. The Scarlet Empress permitted the Kingdom to keep its relations with the spirits for two reasons. First it was among the first places to throw its lot in with the Empress and later, it was the birthplace of Adaiko, a favored consort of the Empress. This Outcaste, raised here, drew the attention of the Empress who took him as her lover. Their child, Adaika, grew to found her own Dynast House some five hundred years ago. However, it was eventually snuffed out by a coalition of rival houses almost two hundred years later- yet another Dynasty forgotten and lost in the Blessed Isle.

The agreement that binds and sets the relations between the spirits and the little gods in Cascading Flowers is called the Hypothetical Codes of Intercession. It requires that all spirits communicating with persons other than Dragon Blooded, the Immaculates, the Civic leaders and the line of the King must speak indirectly and mostly in metaphor. Some spirits are bound to alternately lie and tell the truth depending on the season or time of day. Most locals pay little heed to communications with spirits that seem to be direct as these are likely tricks. But symbolic actions and events carry great weight.

Idomatu
The lost family of the painters of Cascading Flowers Kingdom. Once upon a time they were notable for their great scrolls, paintings which unfurled to tell magnificent stories. However, they were destroyed, with some of their talent absorbed by the other families shortly after a peculiar incident. Chias Idomatu, a brilliant painter until that time, painted an amazingly offensive anti-Scarlet Empress painting. The painting itself had been a commission from House Nellens to the Court. The revelation of the actual content resulted in swift reaction and Chias vanished shortly after. The scroll which has come to be known as “The Empress Whore.” It is known (in some circles) to be in the possession of House Ragara.

Iron Petal: Fortress town in Blossoming Pearl. (Place)
The Kaffodo Families: Rice growing group. (Person)
Karascend Bastion: Palace Bastion in Crux. (Place)
Keep of the Last Hour: Fort and town in Blossoming Pearl on the edge of Khedaal (Place)
Khedaal: Neighboring kingdom to the east (Place)

Khopus Barge
The apparent current director of drug and slave trade coming into and out of the kingdom. Khopus’ veneer is thin. Unlike others who heavily cloak their activities in legitimacy, Khopus maintains only a slight illusion that he trades in real goods. Some suspect that he did not want to inherit this business but was forced into it. Shortly after he assumed this role, a number of his family members died in brutal and unpleasant ways. Khopus is currently waging his own war against the rural Thieves Guild known as the Freeing Grip. They have been particularly active against his operations and caravans.

Knifepoint
One of the six districts of the Dusk Quarter of Crux, and perhaps the seediest. One of three districts that make up the outer band of the quarter, it hugs closest to the south stairs throughout the night. The southern entrance, called the Burning Stair, is known popularly as Thieves. Gate. Since people can travel up and down as they wish without charge and is has fairly broad avenues, it is the most popular for those with the least coin. City administrators take little care of this entrance beyond having the Watch maintain the most basic monitors. As a result, walking the stairs can be a trial. Rain pours down in when the skies open up, ice sometimes forms across it in the coldest seasons and in summer. Though the light in Dusk Quarter is dimmed, the heat from the devices that draw in the sun can murderously bake those traveling on it. Evenings in Knifepoint often begin with small gangs- street toughs and worse- gathering at the base of the Thieves’ Gate stair, watching for likely marks and stragglers. Often these groups, when not fighting among themselves will filter out to the other districts to gain their entertainments.

The Dusk Watch presence in Knifepoint is strong, but devoted in great part to keeping trouble well contained within the area. Glain Kolath Bloom, the Thorn of Dusk Quarter, feels that this keeps the inevitable to a minimum. Knifepoint, unlike the other districts, has Watch guards constantly rotated through. Every member of the Dusk Watch must spend at least five days a month at a watch station or on patrol in Knifepoint. The rest of their time is spent at one of the five other districts of the quarter: Charton (the outer band lying to the east of Knifepoint), Bloodwash (the outer band lying to the west), Stonespoke (the very center of the Quarter surrounding the pillar), The Gavels (the area next to Stonespoke that hangs to the north during the day), and Grace’s Hold (adjacent to Stonespoke and hanging south during the day). While this policy is intended to avoid corruption, it also means that the Watch members have little connection with the residents of the district. This may be Glain’s intent as well. Still, despite the dangers and troubles there, many live in Knifepoint- staying in packed cheap houses, squatting in collapsing buildings or huddling in alleys. Those who practice the subtle arts of lifting, cutting purses or pick pockets find that Knifepoint makes an excellent avenue of escape. Few with sense will follow a thief into the area. However, thieves who make such an escape must also watch for bigger fish waiting there for such a meal to come running to them.

Lantern Courts: Day district comprising the public and entertainment areas in the east. (Place)
Last Flower: Furthest southern town in Blossoming Pearl, caravan post. (Place)
Lavender Gate: Town in Blossoming Pearl (Place)
Leodis of the Wane: Owner of the Garden of Ablutions. (Person)

Lock Gate: The western gate of the Day Quarter (Place)