Marduran, a bustling city on
the Mithral Coast, is the biggest human
settlement east of the Mithral Mountains,
holding approximately ten thousand people. It is, in a number of ways, a
traditional Avennorian town.
This is most obvious in the architecture of Marduran which shows an extensive
use of hulk-roofing and oyster-shell decorations, but can also be seen in the
character of the people and their ostentatious modes of dress. Its chief
industry is as one of the major providers of
pearls to Santharia; it is also the main port
and markets for the few towns on the Mithral Coast of
Manthria. Marduran is also regularly used as a base for hunters: hunters of
many different things…
Description. Marduran sprawls across a broad valley which slopes down on both sides to its harbour. Due to the city’s history, it was never planned, so a jumble of labyrinthine streets – some paved, some little more than muddy alleys – is the setting for a mish-mash of different styles of houses. Tall granite hulk-roofed constructions, which sparkle more brilliantly than the sea with their oyster-shell paint and ornamentations adorning their light grey sides, sit cheek-by-jowl with rickety flat-roofed wooden buildings which are barely more than shacks. While it is true that the edges of town sport more of the former and the centre more of the latter, this is certainly not a hard and fast rule in the city’s chaotically organised streets. The city is, very roughly, divided into seven sections:
|Image description. View on the docks district of Manthria's large port city of Marduran. Picture drawn by Seeker.|
The first section is the docks; a well organised and maintained place by day but much more the province of the unsavoury by night. Tall cliffs of a grey stone meet the water at Marduran’s seaward edge, and at their lowest point these are equipped with large, well organised, well maintained piers at which to dock the many seagoing craft that berth at Marduran. The cliffs are tall enough even at the docks to protect the city from getting wet feet, especially with the protection of the offshore islands, except in the worst storms. Boathouses, storage buildings, manufacturers of fishing and whaling equipment and guard stations weigh down the jetties and sprawl shoreward.
District and the Taverns District
The second and third sections are the administration and taverns districts. These two blend together to an unusual degree so that one should not be surprised to find a roughly-built tavern right behind a sturdy Erpheronian-styled bureaucratic post. Roughly speaking, however, administrative complexes tend to be built closer to the water, on the south-eastern side, while the taverns tend to be built toward the north-western side of the city and further up the hill. The less salubrious the establishment, the further away from the official buildings it will usually be.
The Inner City
Further up the hill is the city proper. Here a jumble of warehouses, homes and businesses - including a year-round fish market - crowd for room, buildings overhanging the narrow streets in places. In the central district you can find many people whose families have lived in Marduran as long as they can remember, and it is, apart from the tavern district, the best place to hear stories about the history of the city. Some of the original shops and houses of Marduran, dating back hundreds of years or more, can be found in this part of town. Shops of this type include cobblers and tailors, a smith and an apothecary whose families, they say, have been here since Marduran’s foundation years. New arrivals with dark pasts can often be found here as well as at the docks, slipping through the shadowy lanes causing trouble and avoiding detection. Buildings in this area are securely locked after dark.
From a ship on the harbour or from the low hills above the city, the ruined remains of a city wall can be discerned circling the inner city and docks, covered in many places by the rambling buildings.
The Outer City
The housing district, where most of the more wealthy people of Marduran have their homes, is also known as the Outer City due to its location mostly outside the old ruined wall. This area runs in a wide half-circle band around the outside of the central city. Again, shops and taverns mingle quite heavily with the homes of the people of Marduran but the streets are noticeably wider here, and beyond the old ruined wall they almost seem to follow some sort of intelligible pattern to the point that one does not get lost too regularly, unlike in the central city. The further one moves from the centre the grander the homes become, as a general rule. The most luxurious houses are found outside the ruined wall in the north, past the lip of the dell which holds Marduran, and closest to the market and gardens. In some instances, larger pieces of the old wall have been incorporated in to these buildings.
Lawman’s Death (Market
The markets of Marduran are in a section all their own; the sixth. They are held in a wide grassed space which is next to a public garden, in the north side of the housing section. The green and the garden are collectively called, disagreeably enough, “Lawman’s Death”. The market green has a few permanent shops which open all year round dotted here and there under ancient eur’oak and baych trees, but it is by far the most pleasant place when it opens in the spring and early summer when it is filled with many merrily coloured tents, some peaked, and some of the old round whalebone hut style seen more often in the south. The aromas of jhelee and roasting sunseeds mingle with the sweet smells of roses, lady fingers and other flowers which are carried by the sea breeze sweeping across the garden. Sold here are products from all over the Mithral Coast. Thergerim trade at this market in the spring, often through a human agent but sometimes manning their own stall, and dyes from Holt are a popular item – many people prefer to buy them from here than to have to travel to that village, despite the increased prices. Races and games are often held here on Folkday or Restday, or at festivals. Strange and wonderful items and curiosities are occasionally sold or shown here too, brought by the Stormcloaks from far off places.
|Image description. The impressive sight of the temple dedicated to the Santharian God of Weather, Grothar, as found on the northern cliffs of the city of Marduran. Picture drawn by Seeker.|
The Rural District
Further out again is the seventh section – the farms and orchards which supply the city with fresh grains and supplement the seafood caught by the fishermen with beef and other meats, for the right price. The buildings here, too, are built in the Avennorian style and circle Marduran much of the way to Starmiran, so that there is little wild country between the farms of the two towns. Inns are spaced at convenient distances along the road.
A huge, stunningly beautiful white marble temple of Grothar is situated on the cliffs to the north of the city. Two long corridor wings extend from a tall central dome and the walls of these wings are carved with whorls and spiral patterns, echoing the shape of the wind. These act like soft horns, catching the wind and turning it into music. Inside the corridors the clerics who reside there have their rooms. The dome section is open to the weather on the ground floor, and a round altar in the centre is where petitioners can leave their offerings of wine for the God, along with food or the products of their labours for the clerics who live there. The second storey of the temple is open only on the western side so as to catch the last of Injèrá’s rays, allowing Grothar’s beloved sunset to stain the white marble room in beautiful pinks, oranges and golds as it shines briefly through the nearest peaks of the Mithral Mountains.
The temple has always been there, say the residents when asked, although there is a legend of its creation, which can be read in the Lore section below. Perhaps because of this temple’s presence, Grothar is the patron God of Marduran (although looking at the chaotic design of the city, one wonders if the whimsical Wind God had more than that to do with this place!). Both Rain-Beg and a Winter Solstice celebration with a particular focus on the Grey King are held as festivals here. Baveras is, of course, also revered in this city, although unlike most other coastal settlements, especially here in what was once Avennoria, She is not the main deity.
Location. Marduran is located on the eastern coast of the Santharian province of Manthria, between the Mithral Mountains and the coast. This puts it in the Duchy of Huiscen, in the Capstan Coast fief. It is one hundred strals from the centre of Marduran to the middle of Starmiran, a journey of two and a half to three days, although the journey between the most outlying farms of the two towns takes only one. It takes three days to get to Clendor Tower or Fanghenge, six to reach the ruins of Karthmor, and between three and five days’ sailing to arrive at Dead Fisherman’s Grotto.
Map description. Location of the Port City of Marduran, located at the eastern coast of Santharia in the Duchy of Huiscen, in the Capstan Coast fief. Map by Artimidor.
People. The ten
thousand people of Marduran are a diverse bunch, much as the
Avennorian tribe as a whole is.
Its history as an outpost of lawlessness is certainly apparent in the spirit of
the city, although not always in a negative way. The people are often the first
to speak out against unjustness in the Thanes or Gravens they are beholden to,
but will hold to those they deem worthy more faithfully than most towns.
The Avennorian spirit is noticeable in the people of Marduran’s clothes. Most people in this city dress as wealthily as they can, seemingly weighing themselves down with the pearls for which the city is famous, amongst other splendid ornaments and the most luxurious fabrics they can afford. It is also visible in their predilection for acquiring wealth and fame through whatever means are necessary, their enjoyment of competition and adventure, and their cunning in any sort of financial transaction. Many is the time an unwary traveller in Marduran has found herself on the raw end of a bargain or bet, leaving her muttering the old saying, “Never lay odds with an Avennorian”!
The enterprising Avennorian spirit can also be seen in the number of hunters of various sorts the city sees. Boar, deer and other game animals live in the forest and hills to the south-west of the city. For the more adventurous, it is said that a type of dragon called the blue drake lives on the islands off Marduran’s coast. For those more daring still, the ruins of Karthmor, Clendor Tower, Dead Fisherman’s Grotto and Fanghenge all wait to be explored from Marduran, most with rumours of great treasures for those who can survive these places.
Marduran is a port city, but it is not a major one. Most goods come through Ciosa unless they are bound for the Thergerim in the mountains, or a small town. The many offshore islands sea-side and the soaring Mithrals on land make it difficult to move cargo over the sea to the port, and from the port to the rest of Manthria. This does not, however, seem to deter the many smugglers the town seems to play host to. It is well known in the less reputable parts of town that they regularly buy off guards, or make use of sea-caves in the cliffs to hide their stolen or dangerous importations, before lifting them to the tops of the cliffs by whatever agency they have at their disposal.
For the markets in spring, in part due to the closure of Broken Dream Gap over this season, Thergerim come from their cavernous homes in the Mithral Mountains. There are usually some of the dwarven race, mainly “Kavoninn Yabarrah” (which translates from ThergerimTaal as “travelling unwed males”) who live permanently in Marduran, often as smiths or building advisors. Other than these, the city’s permanent population is mostly human and for the greatest part, Avennorian.
This tribe is so well represented here that there are even quite a few of that rare type of Avennorian person who, instead of ears, has slits which they can close – these are here, as everywhere, most often employed as divers for the pearls and seafood which can be found on the offshore islands. Many of these people are very rich; they are well-paid when employed by a captain as their diving skills are highly sought-after all over Santharia. These divers are also often members of the blond, fair-skinned Glandorian-descended Avennorian upper class, so many can afford to run their own vessel to take out diving, rather than diving for another captain, becoming richer still as they get the best prices for their catch.
One might imagine that there are a number of unflattering “nicknames” for those who have these ear-slits as opposed to “normal” human ears. As a matter of fact, the typical names one might hear for these people in other Provinces (from the least offensive “slit-ear” to the highly offensive names “gill-face”, “fish-man”, or “redfish” for their usually pale, easily burnt skin) are only ever heard rarely in Marduran or, in fact, in greater Avennoria. In fact, a much more common insult in Avennoria and Marduran is the opposite: people with non-Glandorian ancestry are often called “Tarep-ears”! This may be a large part of why these people are most often seen in Avennoria when they could command high prices for their services in any province of Santharia.
While there are no derogatory sayings about these people, there is a saying which is often used to explain the ear-flap peculiarity to those from other parts of Caelereth before they rashly offend a person with this characteristic. It goes: “Big slits – big lungs – big house – big pouch”. This attempts to illustrate that having ear-slits means that they can dive for a long time and this, along with the high probability of connections to the nobility (or a noble "house", as it states in the saying), means they are rich, and therefore powerful people.
The professions best represented in Marduran are those which involve gathering the bounty of the sea. Sailors, fishermen, whalers and the slit-eared divers mentioned above are regular fixtures in taverns when they are not out at their work. Traders of all sorts are perhaps the next most regularly found, especially in spring and summer when the markets are opened. Less common, but found more regularly in Marduran than in other places are the adventuresome types – hunters, rangers and those who study the old ruins in the area, trying to understand the magic of the old sorcerers… or worse. Similarly there is a high number of people living in the centre of the city who seem to be involved in nothing good – thieves, itinerants, those wounded in shipwrecks off Marduran’s coast and stranded with no money. The middle of this city is no place for the weak or unwary, particularly at night.
The Gravens of the Capstan Coast have a residence here, but they usually seem to stay away from Marduran, taking residence on a large estate in the smaller town of Starmiran, just inland. When asked, Gravens usually say that this is because Starmiran is more peaceful. Whether they mean in ambience or merely for them, given the reputation of the people of Marduran to speak out against unliked leaders, has been called into question by the people here.
Coat of Arms/Sign. The coat of arms for Marduran is a karikrimson toran eagle spread-winged on an ancythrite blue shield. The head of the toran is turned to the left and it wears a slim silver band around its neck. These two aspects both signify that Marduran now looks to Santharia's rulers for guidance, rather than using its strength on its own terms. Above, below and to each side of the eagle a perfect pearl is depicted, showing off Marduran’s wealth. The toran represents both their pride in their Avennorian Mithral Coast heritage and the proud, martial nature of their ancestors. The blue background represents the ever-present, life sustaining sea.
Climate. Marduran’s weather is characterised by variation. Spring is cool, with occasional gentle rains which never seem to deter the marketers from their business. The breeze from the sea means that a lot of the rain falls further inland, toward the Mithral Mountains. Summer is hot, although the winds off the sea keep the city’s people cool enough, especially in the evening. Autumn is clear, with warm days, crisp mornings and cooler nights. Winter brings high winds, heavy rains and regular storms. Snow can cover the ground briefly in mid-winter, but it is usually quickly trampled to slush in the city proper, and scooped up by children to make snow-elves or throw at one another at Lawman’s Death on calm days. Hail and sleet are much more common than snow, driving people indoors and occasionally punching holes in roofs of shacks in the central city. Late at night during the hours of nightsban or daybreak in any season, sea fogs occasionally obscure the docks and shroud the taverns and administrative areas in a murky haze.
Flora. The areas beyond the farms around Marduran are mostly grassland, with the occasional thickets of bushes and stands of trees. The only real exception to this is the wood to the south of the city. Despite the occasional complaints from farmers who wish to work the land, these large woods – fifty strals long and eight wide at their widest point – have been kept as they are. The opinion of the town is that they and the grassy hills beyond make an excellent hunting ground for the various fauna which can be found there, for both locals and visitors who enjoy hunting as a sport. Pines and coastal redwood trees feature heavily in this forest making it an airy, spacious wood with little undergrowth in most places, although toward the centre are more thickets.
The man-made plantings around the area are much more varied. Along the clifftops, pines and cedars act as windbreaks for clifftop farms. Near the Temple of Grothar groves of willows wave in the wind, awaiting their branches’ use as headdresses or ornamentation for the temple. The Lawman’s Death gardens are planted in what seems to be every imaginable type of flowering bush, tree, shrub, vine or herb, along with some of the more beautiful non-flowering plants. Willows are favoured here, too. Out on the market area, a small number of huge old baych and eur’oak trees ornament the lawn.
Fauna. Many sorts of tame animals – cats, dogs, and occasionally birds – live in the city as pets, and many other sorts dwell as pests. Horses are common, although there are some lanes none but a shire-pony could fit through. On the farms cattle, sheep, fowl and other livestock are as common here as anywhere.
Banded ricau and gulls are a familiar sight on the cliffs and shoreline, and many types of fish are found offshore, including the tasty barsa. In the waters off the islands, crabs, lobsters, trysters and oysters are caught by the divers of Marduran.
In the woods to the south many small birds and animals can be found, like rabbits, rats, kuatu, ferrets and others. Hunters come for the bigger game of deer and wild boar. Foxes and wolves can be found here too, as well as in the hills further south. Toran eagles are seen here occasionally, although their homes are much further inland in the Mithral Mountains.
All these are well enough, but what the hunters really wish to find is the secretive, elusive blue drake. Occasionally spotted by diving boats that sail to the islands, the drakes are said to live on all of the islands off Marduran at one time or another – Gaurgoroth’s Claw, the Cliffs of Hyndillan, the islands of the Strait of Kharamm, and the Nightfog Cliffs. For a fee, some diving or fishing boats will take adventurers out to look for the beautiful lesser dragons.
Resources. Pearls are, and have always been the main export from Marduran. As a port which is comparatively difficult to access from both land and sea, it was never going to be as commonly used for sea traffic as Ciosa or even Lorehaven. Early on, therefore, the people began to focus on harvesting the pearls which are available in abundance, as compared to most other towns, on underwater rocks at the base of Marduran’s cliffs and the islands off the coast. Marduran also trades with Starmiran and the Thergerim, sending live fish and other edible sea creatures by fast coach in exchange for money or resources.
Some locals, notably tavern owners and stall holders, consider the ruins around the area a resource. These “curiosities” bring travellers from far and wide – travellers who must eat, sleep, and provision themselves, spending their good coin. Others, however, find the travellers that these ruins attract to be a nuisance, arguing that they are violent, ill-intentioned and unscrupulous.
Myth/Lore. Marduran is full of stories; it seems you only need to turn a corner to discover a new one. Karthmor, Clendor, Dead Fisherman’s Grotto, Fanghenge, shipwrecks aplenty over the years, murder, oppression – Marduran has it all. Part history, part embroidery, some of the most important stories which relate to the city itself are recorded here.
Of the beginnings of Marduran: The first people to settle in Marduran are popularly said to be the remnants of the fabled settlement at the base of Clendor Tower. This is unconfirmed, although the fact that the town was called Clendor when it was “discovered” by agents of the Avennorian Kingdom supports this line. Others espouse the view that the Darian people (ancestors of today's Shendar) were the first to live here, later joined by Avennorians. It is possible that both are true; however, the Mitharim affirm that humans have always lived at Marduran – at least for as long as they have taken an interest in above-ground affairs. Explorers, wrecked seamen of varying respectability, travellers, adventurers, and those fleeing from things such as justice, or conscription in the times of war have over the millennia stumbled upon Marduran and settled there, unrecorded by the rulers of Avennoria:
Of the Temple of Grothar. One settler who
came to Marduran in the earliest years, millennia ago, is said to have
been an ex-cleric of Grothar. People tell that he was ousted from his
faction and the God no longer heard his prayers for rain or to calm the
sea, as punishment for evil deeds he had done. These deeds had made him
very wealthy indeed, although it is not known exactly what he did.
Different versions of the tale expound different ideas of what it may have
been, usually at great length, but no two versions seem to be the same. He
is said to have found Marduran in his shamefaced wanderings and stayed on
there. After a time, following a long period of meditation, he received an
inspiration and set out to use all of his ill-gotten money to build the
most magnificent Temple of Grothar he could design, carved out of white
marble, to try to please Grothar. Years passed and the building was
completed. Having spent every last san, the man lived in abject poverty
for forty years, praying to the Rainlord to forgive him. Eventually the
Grey King listened again to the old cleric's prayers; some have said that
this was Grothar at his most capricious, as the man led a mere – but
joyous! – three days of re-blessed existence before he died of his old