Thursday, May 29, 2014

Crux: Urban Fantasy Campaign Seed (Part Two A-C)

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 Akias are the family who bear most strongly the heritage marks of the Painter Families: raven hair, gold-dappled eyes, and skin pale but also flecked with gold. The populace of Cascading Flowers views that blood with suspicion, believing them bearers of a taint and curse. Some suggest that the ancestral Painters aided the Wyld when they assaulted Creation. That historical suspicion has resulted in the five Painter Families being the only ones in the region still bearing any trace of those ancestors. Of the families, the Akias has always kept to their old ways, making them an object of hatred from the other families. This rivalry was especially strong with the Wailingsong family who hounded them, nearly destroying the line until Akias married into the line of the Magister of the City. This alliance of interests brought Akias influence. However, that strength and their ties have grown more distant. Today, with the Wailingsong family on the rise, they may end up extinguished. The Akais have always been masters and specialists with screen paintings, a form that has also fallen out of favor.

Amaranth Sign: Northern coastal town in Blossoming Pearl. (Place)
Apex: The southern wealthiest section of Day Quarter. (Place)
Arexia Jadevine: Leader of the Merciful Company of Fletchers Underguild. (Person)
Azeries: Magister of the City. (Person)

Bed of Sorrows Festival
One of several festivals unique to Crux and Cascading Flowers Kingdom, the Bed of Sorrows rituals take place just before the Calibration each year. At this time, celebrants think long and hard on what they wish to be rid of from the previous year: bad habits, painful memories, a skin condition, regretful love, and so on. For each thing a person chooses the appropriate flower or plant representing it. They then place these just outside their door the night before Calibration begins, tied with a piece of string colored to match their hope for the coming year. Even the lowest beggar will gather something up to place outside their hovel. The spirits of the land accept these flowers and plants as offerings and each year a small portion of the lesser spirits are given the task of aiding the wishes of a select few. The days leading up to the Bed of Sorrows Festival are joyful, with food, dancing and songs to commemorate the year past and lift the spirits of the people higher. However, the last day is more somber. No bright colors are worn, meals are simply prepared, and some believe the more you speak on that day, the worse your coming luck will be. Children often poke and taunt each other trying to break silences.

The Festival is beloved throughout the region and its continuance was one of the terms of the Kingdom’s charter with the Scarlet Empress. Merchants who have to supply the various plants and flowers necessary for proper celebration love it as well. At the end of Calibration, a paired ceremony to Bed of Sorrows in celebrated at Blossoming Pearl, though elsewhere people generally have an auspicious meal. This festival- called the Blooms to Come Pageant- is said to be fantastical and wondrous for those who can make the trip.

Black Meadow: Town in Blossoming Pearl (Place)
Bloodwash: Outer district of Dusk. (Place)
Blooms to Come Pageant: Post-Calibration festival. (Thing)
Blossoming Pearl: Capital of Cascading Flowers Kingdom. (Place)
The Burning Stair: Southern stair in Crux. (Place)

Calm Wing
Though she rarely spends time in Crux, preferring the pleasures of Blossoming Pearl and the Court, the influence of Calm Wing is felt everywhere. Born to a skilled merchant family, she learned her numbers early on and graduated with honors from the Three Wisdoms' Towers (an experience she does not readily discuss). Her talent showed itself in an uncanny ability to observe and guide the market, a ready sense of applicable risk, and a mastery of exchanges. Rather than serving as merchant herself, she began to back and offer patronage to offer merchants of skill and talent. By building up this network of obligations, she gained vast influence in the Guild. Her special protegees now travel throughout the kingdom, carefully advising and monitoring the work of those who serve under her. Most feel that she would be the best replacement for Nilhus should he step down, but her own loathing for Crux might prove a barrier to that.

Carta Mallus: Neighboring kingdom to the west. (Place)

The smallest of the Painter Families, barely more than a single line and some cousins. They have a reputation as detail workers fashioning small pictures and miniatures. They maintain their place by being the family who has the made the most of their materials- continually developing new techniques and substances to make vibrant and sustained colors. They are also known as the family with the largest share of unfinished paintings.

Cathak Garel Night, House Cathak Senior
House Cathak has a strong interest in the satrapy of Cascading Flowers; they retain control over the neighboring satrapy of Carta Mallus and have a long standing dispute with House Peleps over Khedaal. Only in the last several years, however, has Cathak begun to expand its influence in this area. Traditionally they have been more interested in place where conquest could be obtained. This has been especially true in the Garel line of the family. The desire to hold territory of one’s own, kept in check by the Scarlet Empress has begun to fuel the ambitions of many young Dragon Blooded. As the most martial House and a strong contender to the throne, Cathak is likely to have many such upstarts in the coming years.

Cathak Garel Night may be ambitious, but if so he keeps that demeanor closely concealed. He oversees Cathak trading interests in the kingdom from the Cathak House in Crux. One might see him as a simple trade agent of his family, but he is in fact an Exalt. His placement here is a visible gesture that the family means to have a say in what goes on. Night’s cousin, distantly, is Cathak Graves, the satrap of Carta Mallus. The two have visited each other on occasion but their relationship is formal. Night, by virtue of breeding and position, has a swirl of political and social influence around him. He gives parties and salons less often than other great nobles in the city, but they are always spoken of as noteworthy by the attendees afterward. Of the Water Aspect, him speaks deliberately and, as one might expect from a family of strategists, with caution. He rarely makes broad statements; instead he commits only slightly in conversation. There are several members of House Cathak present in Crux, but Night remains the quiet public leader of them.

Owner of the Menagerie of Perfection. A seller of rare animals, including beasts of the plains, fish of the sea and reptiles of the air. Chail specializes in careful training and management for his creatures, but only sells animals small enough to be lifted by a man.

Changers’ Walk: Northern area of Day Quarter just outside of Tidesent. (Place)
Charton: Outer district of Dusk. (Place)
Chiasa Din: A former Guild Factor who handles the organization of the Fate’s Talon. (Person)
Circle of Belongings: Gathering of spirit experts in Waymark. (Thing)

The Clocktower
The turning of the Dusk Quarter marks out a perfect day, or so the scholars claim. Certainly no one has noted a deviation even during the Calibration, when the rules change throughout the land. From most points in the quarter, residents can make out the Clock Tower a great marble obelisk that reaches up some 100 plus hands into the air. It lies at the outer edge of the city in the section called Charton. The marble is white, flecked with veins of silver. Once a year, cleaners are brought in to wash and polish its surface. Usually within a few months the soot and smoke of the underground begins to stain it. 

To match the tower, the masters of Crux long ago laid carvings high in the cavern wall. The four- set at the quarters of the day- allow the dwellers to get a fairly accurate sense of the hour. Long-time residents of the Dusk Quarter have their own slang for the times, based on where the Tower is at that time. Groups with a cause: political, religious, or even in support of gaming or sports heroes, will climb the tower under cover of night to hang banners proclaiming their devotion. Among rival groups, this can be used to count coup and win prestige. The Watch of the Dusk make sure to take down inflammatory or revolutionary banners quickly, but usually leave the more innocent ones up for a day or so. The punishment for being caught hanging a banner is a beating, unless the text is seditious. Then the punishment is limited only by the imagination of the Watchmen that find the banner bearer.

Coffin of Grief
Named by a sorrowful mother when his twin sister died in childbirth and generally rejected by his family, Coffin grew up under his uncle’s wing. That uncle served as a Guild Factor for some of the more unpleasant and illicit trades the Guild manages. By the time he was sixteen, Coffin had earned a great deal of money, but also had come to loathe this business. He turned his attention to the most legitimate businesses he could find, becoming patron to a set of metalsmiths, armorers, tinker and other such craftsmen. As time wore on, he became known as a strong advocate for these Artisans attracting more to him. Eventually with this power he was asked to join the Guild Council. He is known to have an intense dislike for Khopus Barge.

Cold Pather: Merchant with weaver contacts. (Person)
Coldspike: Town in Khedaal (Place)

The Counting Lodge
Gateway is perhaps the most popular board game among the Dragon Blooded and the Patricians of the Blessed Isle. In the Threshold, high ranking merchants, scholars and nobles emulate this fascination. Among the populace, however, games of dice, cards and lots have more popularity. The Counting Lodge is a private house dedicated to the many flavors of Gateway. Built in a circle, the very center is open to the air outside, giving the interior the feel of an airy villa rather than a closed building. Tables for Gateway surround the outside, each carefully built at the proper angle to make up for the tilt of the city itself. The great jade inlaid board in the center of the interior plaza has two seats set for master and competitor, with the master sitting at the top of the tilt. Play on this board is reserved for those who have consistently scored well in tournaments, a reputation, or letter from a Gateway master or organization. Other boards surround this atrium, reserved for the more senior players. Others must play indoors. It is a great honor to be invited in to play inside and can be a demonstration of favor among the elites of the city. Membership in the Lodge requires a yearly fee and beverages and food can be purchased there. Observing Guests are welcome, if brought by a member, but must be properly quiet. The owner of the Lodge, Firewhite, is said to be an expert player but rarely plays in public.

Crossing: Major caravan stop-over in the mountains. (Place)

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