The Border Kingdoms
Blackalblade
By Ed Greenwood

Blackalblade

Small city

Capital of the young but haughty realm of Ondeeme (which was named for the merchant-mage of Schamedar who founded it), this walled city isn't much larger than a grand and sprawling castle, but assumes all the airs (complete with arcane laws, fast-cudgel guardsmen, and ridiculous fashions) of Calimport and other prosperous, decadent cities of the South. It has cobbled streets, tall stone buildings with tile roofs which touch each other, but no parks or open space (except street-moots). It does, however, have large shop windows gleaming with fine--and expensive--wares. Rundaleer's, on Reldruth Street, is as pricey, glittering, and haughty a gem-merchant as one can find anywhere in Faerūn, with gliding, supercilious sales staff, wizards to cast tracer spells against would-be thieves, and furnishing opulent enough for many a palace.

Blackalblade's prosperity began with the wool-trade. Its weavers were enriched by working for, and having their designs enhanced by, mages and would-be mages (wastrel sons of rich Calishite merchants) that the wizard Ondeeme gathered around himself. When Ondeeme and his school were shattered and destroyed overnight (by an attacking Red Wizard, some say, or a furious Calishite rival, others swear; still other sources insist it was a spell-duel or dark summoning that got out of hand, or that something known only as the Night Parade was involved), the weavers were well established--but wise enough to attract more sedentary wizards (notably Hlaundurym Asarda of Chessenta, a NG male Mulan human Wiz14/Thaum5) to dwell in (and thereby defend) their city with generous offers of free residence and special status under local laws.

After a brief, ruthless power struggle, Blackalan merchants formed a ruling council of eight, headed by three well-balanced rivals: "Lord" Astlur Adaunt, a stern but just LN male Illuskan human Exp8, master weaver; "the Old Matron" Nardarra Leonpur, an aging but hedonistic NE female Calishite human Exp9, maker of scents, potions (and poisons); and Ylothin Tlarst, an outrageously merry and rude CN male Rashemi human Exp12, moneylender and fabulously wealthy merchant trader. They set about increasing Blackalblade's wealth and importance--only to cower into hiding at the return of the Slee (see Ondeeme).

Fine-forgers and jewelers came to Blackalblade because of plentiful gem supplies in the Raundawn Hills northwest of the city. The wily council hired famous gemcutters (including Ildyn Onsypir of Athkatla and Urthe Crownshimmer of Baldur's Gate) to come to Blackalblade and live like kings in Sparkling Hall, the first formal (human) school of gemcutting and jewelry-making. This establishment swiftly acquired a reputation for hauteur extreme even in Blackalblade, for the excellence of its stylish products (now adorning many a noble across Faerūn), and for the sadistic cruelty of its Masters to their pupils.

View of the City

Borderers laugh at Blackalblade as a ridiculously pompous copy of the worst of larger, older cities. Visiting Borderers are careful not to show such feelings within the city's high-towered walls, however, because Blackalans have high prices, quick tempers, and harsh laws (featuring floggings, confiscations of all goods, and exiles down the cobbled streets to the nearest gate at a fast drag--bound on the end of a rope pulled by a well-whipped horse).

Blackalans in turn sneer at "back country hay-heads" who come visiting from less fortunate places for "a look at the good life." Blackalblade is one of the wealthiest cities in the Borders, and "the" place to buy odd, arcane, expensive and fashionable things. The acquisitive hungers of its citizens--and those who visit to shop--keep the nearby port of Thur very busy. It's a city of glittering shop windows, few successful thieves, and grand, luxurious inns where guests share scented baths, and can hire any sort of service (for extremely stiff fees). These inns vie with each other to be the "best" or at least the haughtiest, but the top three are generally thought to be Naraxalan's (Excellent/Expensive) on Gardlaer Street; The Old Knight (Excellent/Expensive) on Reldruth Street; and Orlisk's Orb (Excellent/Expensive) on The Street of Stallions.

"Everyone knows" Blackalblade is ruled by the wizards known as the Slee, but its formal--though powerless--rulers are now the Lords of the Empty Throne (see Ondeeme). However, Blackalans heed their Kauroanars (russet-with-gold-trim uniformed constabulary), who wield cudgels, capture-nets, swords, and daggers, patrol in groups of five, and pounce on thieves, arsonists, and anyone fighting or creating disturbances (except in "drauda," local clubs that combine the functions of taverns, restaurants, brothels, and gambling houses; city law doesn't extend into the drauda, which have their own armed guards to keep the peace). There are over seventy leather-armored Kauroanars, headed by the grim, humorless zealot-for-order Lord Mace Heldraego Rauntlet (a LN male Calishite human Ftr15 known to wear a ring of the ram and some protective magic items, though there's much debate in Blackalblade--thanks to colorful but conflicting tales of his thwarting would-be slayers--about just what sort of magic he has). The Lord Mace lives and works in dark-pillared, frowning Lawgauntlet Hall on Murloar Street, which also houses the Hall of Law (courtroom, for the rare cases when disputes are heard, as opposed to Kauroanars dispensing justice on the spot), the Kauroanar armory and barracks, and the dungeon cells below (where the incarcerated are always manacled to the ceiling with choke-chains).

Drauda

Most Blackalans like the spice of danger--in small doses. Once or twice a tenday, usually after dark when the shops are closed, they venture into a drauda. A few are wealthy enough, or desperate and lawless enough, to visit specific sorts of drauda often, at any time of night or day.

Drauda can be roughly divided into three sorts of establishments. There are "respectable" drauda, frequented by wealthy matrons and families, where nothing darker than gambling and cutting-tongued gossip occurs. The Sunset Cloak (Excellent/Expensive) on Darcandle Street is the haughtiest and most expensive of these.

There are also "manydoors" drauda, open to all and tightly policed by the house guards to keep violence to a minimum, where shopkeepers, drovers, and most visiting outlanders go to gamble and eat. These are the cheapest of drauda, where any festhall pursuits are discreet and carried on via code-phrases, on upper floors, and range from small, dingy places dominated by locals relaxing and chattering, such as Droum's Beard (Poor/Cheap) on Turnwall Lane, to large, bustling, noisy places with central floors given over to dancing, darts and hurlball and other sports gambled upon, or exhibitions of fashions, inventions, or new goods--such as The Laughing Nazir (Good/Moderate) on Glaudra Lane.

Finally, there are "dark" or "blood" drauda, usually dimly-lit, violent places where stolen goods are bought and sold, illicit business is conducted, adventurers and hireswords are hired, dancing girls writhe for customers in full view, fights (sometimes duels to the death) are frequent entertainments for gamblers, and halfbloods and near-monsters unmask to drink at ease (food can sometimes be had, but there's seldom a variety of fare; one place might specialize in platters of stewed, spiced eels, another in liquor-drenched cheeses, and a third in particular fish or fowl eaten raw). The most notorious of dark drauda are Skaeling's Scorpion (Poor/Expensive) on Sarkskull Lane and The Burning Mask (Fair/Moderate) on Dragonfang Street.

The City Founder

The city is named for a notorious pirate, Kururn Blackalblade, who built the first (long-vanished) house on the site, and died in it at the ripe old age of one hundred and twenty-six winters. A magically-preserved painting depicts him as balding, fierce-moustachioed, and fat--and sitting on a heap of gold coins as tall as a coach!

About the Author

Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .


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