Highport: City of Chains
Highport (Large City): Nonstandard; AL NE; 40,000 gp limit; Assets 30,000,000 gp; Population 15,000; Integrated (human [SOf] 5,550, orc 3,000, half-orc 2,700, goblin 1,500, hobgoblin 1,050, gnoll 750, norker 450).
Authority Figures: Braks (LE male half-orc Ftr10), Commander of the garrison, co-ruler of Highport; Tanva (NE female olve Wiz(Enc)10), co-ruler of Highport;
Important Figures: Turel Halreyn (LE human male, Rog6), leader of the Chainers’ Guild, Boss of Highport; Lordrenn Marr, (NE human male Exp5), leader of the Merchant’s Coster, Boss of Highport; Pyrra Burntaxe (NE, half-orc female, Ftr8), leader of the Burnt Axe mercenaries, Boss of Highport; Kuurag Crackskull (CE, orc male, Bbn5), chief of the Bonespear mercenaries, Boss of Highport; Lurghaleget – mercenary (LE, hobgoblin male, Ftr7), leader of the Olvereaver mercenaries.
Overview: Highport is the most populous city in the so-called Orcish Empire of the Pomarj. A squalid, stinking port of some 15,000 souls, it is the gateway to the northern plains of the Pomarj and the fearsome Drachensgrab Hills. Highport has long been a haven for pirates, slavers and scum of all sorts. Cold-blooded mercenaries offer their sword arms to the highest bidder here, while privateer captains gamble away their ill-gotten gold, stained as it is with the blood of innocents. By day, unscrupulous traders throng its markets, trafficking in slaves and contraband. By night, orcs, goblinkin and some say even the ebon-skinned drow make the streets their own. Temples to fell gods such as Nerull, Incabulos, Gruumsh and the enigmatic Earth Dragon thrive here. Life in the City of Chains is often short, brutal and - above all - cheap.
History: Highport was founded in 305 CY when the Poor March (as the Pomarj was then known) was a possession of the Kingdom of Keoland. The sundry barons of the March were vassals of the Dwur Prince of Ulek. Distant from the affairs of the Court of the Lion Throne, the human nobility chafed under a dwarven liege lord. Thus, when Prince Corrond of Ulek broke with Keoland in 461 CY, the barons in turn declared themselves the Free Lords of the Poor March in 463 CY. Highport became capital of the loose confederation of petty fiefs. For half a century, it flourished under the rule of the House of Bilarro, its merchants growing fat on the trade that mineral wealth of the Drachensgrabs and the decadent tastes of the Marcher lords attracted.
In 513 CY, Highport’s good times came to an abrupt end. Hordes of orcs, goblins and giant kin, driven from the Lortmil Mountains in the wake of the Hateful Wars, descended on Highport. The city’s defenders fought valiantly – throwing back no less than five assaults before the sixth shattered the gates and carried the walls. The slaughter that followed came to be called the Night of Bloody Spears, after the victorious orcs decorated the walls with the impaled bodies of the defenders.
For 60 years, loose coalitions of orcs and humans ruled the city, re-establishing a semblance of order after the slaughter. In these years, Highport acquired a fell reputation. Where once merchantmen thronged its quays, pirate ships now jostled for berths. In the late 570s CY, the port was home to the yellow-sailed vessels of the Slavelords. Slaves became the lifeblood of the city’s economy. The fall of the Slavelords hit this trade hard, until the outbreak of the Greyhawk Wars, when the city leaders swore allegiance to Turrosh Mak, Emperor of the Pomarj.
A decade after the end of the Wars, Highport prospers once again as the largest city of the Pomarj, enriched by the renewed slave trade and the spoils of war. Rumour has it that the Slavelords have risen again. If so, then Highport must surely be central to their plans.
Rulership and Law: To the world at large, the Council of the Five Bosses rules Highport in the Mak’s name. Made up of prominent mercenary and merchants, the Council ensures that the Mak’s laws are enforced in the city. An uneasy peace exists between the Bosses and the factions they control. Though they scheme endlessly to gain some new advantage over their rivals, none risks open conflict for fear of the terrifying punishment that the Mak would mete out for breaking his peace.
However, the true power in Highport lies in the hands of Braks, the half-orc commander of the garrison and Tanva, an olven mage, who between them rule the city from the old Palace of the Bilarro princes. Though they allow the Council the semblance of authority, their word, backed by the might of the Mak, is law. Braks commands the city guard, easily identifiable in their azure blue sashes. The guard, made up of a mix of humans, orcs, half-orcs and goblinkin, patrol the city, quelling disturbances with uncompromising brutality. Punishments for minor offences range from fines to imprisonment in the appallingly filthy dungeons beneath the city guardhouse. Major crimes are punishable by death or enslavement, as judged by Braks and Tanva. All crimes, great or small, are likely to earn the offender a savage beating at the hands of the guard.
Braks and Tanva are said by some to loathe one another, by others to be lovers. It is also whispered that Braks is the Mak’s anointed successor, while Tanva is none other than the infamous Markessa, one of the Slavelords of old.
The Old Port: The tumbled ruins of the original city wall encompass the Old Port, Highport’s oldest quarter. This area houses most of the human population, which huddles into the streets straddling the old walls. In the areas inhabited by humans, buildings are maintained and in reasonable repair – though to call it pleasant would be a gross exaggeration. Close to the waterfront, the streets are lined with shops and hostelries catering to the passing sea-trade. In places, though, the buildings give away to open fields covered in tent shanties that house the poor of the city. The most central is The Shakefork, so named for the shape formed by the three roads that meet here. Home to the city’s food and livestock market, the Shakefork is also a popular spot for visiting sailors to find cheap ale, women and accommodation.
Piers, wharves and warehouses line the waterfront, which is generally thronged with a mix of pirate vessels and merchantmen whose masters have paid a hefty protection fee to the Mak. The most prominent building in the Old Port is the old Temple of Xerbo, close to the waterfront. In years after the Greyhawk Wars, its gutted shell was reconsecrated to the worship of the Earth Dragon, an old Flan demi-god of earth, weather and hidden treasures, worshiped since ancient times in the Pomarj and apparently favoured by the Mak.
The New Port: Lying to the west of the Old Port, this district is mainly inhabited by orcs, hobgoblins and goblins. As might be expected, the New Port is appallingly squalid. The buildings here are mostly in a state of partial collapse, kept standing only by the most haphazard of repairs (though the hobgoblin neighbourhood tends to be far more orderly). The streets are little more than open sewers, whose stench mingles with that of the sides of rotting meat that hang from almost every dwelling. Temples to Gruumsh and Maglubiyet are located here.
The Palace Ward: This small walled enclave in the southwest of the city encloses the old Lord’s Palace and the townhouses of Highport’s old ruling class. The last portion of the city to fall, these fine buildings were spared the brunt of the invader’s wrath and thus have survived largely intact. Now they house Highport’s new elite - the Bosses, rich merchants and those favoured by the Mak. The Lord’s Palace itself is garrisoned by three score (60) of Braks’ elite soldiers. The Council of the Five Bosses meets here, quietly overseen by Tanva and (sometimes) Braks.
The Eastwarrens: The narrow tangle of lanes and streets just east of the southern Slave Gate is home to several communities of humans, orcs and goblins. The area’s name is apt – many of the non-humans have excavated and extended the cellars of the old houses into a multilevel maze of tunnels. Temples to Beltar, Erythnul and Michlantecuhtli, the Olman god of death, are located here.
The Ruinfields: Large swathes of old Highport are sparsely populated or entirely derelict. In many places, the old buildings are in an advanced state of collapse, overgrown with scrub brush, creepers, grass and weeds. Many citizens graze goats, sheep and even cattle in the meadows that have sprung up in old streets and empty lots. The surviving buildings are home to squatters, criminals, vermin and even a handful of dangerous monsters that have managed to avoid the attentions of the city guard. Plagues of giant rats occasionally swarm from out of the ruins to trouble the more populous parts of the city, while feral giant weasels also abound. Highporters often tame these vicious beasts to use as pets or guards.
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