Kalstrand (large city): Conventional; AL: LE; 40,000 gp; Assets: 48,000,000 gp; Population 24,000; Mixed (Human 79%, Halfling 9%, Elf 5%, Dwarf 2%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%, Orc 1%).
Authority Figures: Xavener (NE human male Rog15), Overking of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, Grand Prince of Kalstrand, Crowned Head of the Celestial House of Darmen.
Important Characters: Rachern (LE human female Ari12), Queen Consort; Larissen (LN human male Clr19 – Zilchus) Grand Patriarch of Zilchus; Paldred (LE human male Ftr12), Prince of Darmen, commander of the Kalstrand Garrison.
Overview: Kalstrand is the capital of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, the most powerful of the successor states to rise from the ashes of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. Untouched by the ravages of the Greyhawk Wars, this former provincial city has stepped from obscurity to take its place among the great capitals of the Flanaess. Trade is the foundation upon which Kalstrand’s glittering palaces, temples and monuments are built. Wealth, privilege and profit are worshiped here and all power flows from them. The poor are naught but another commodity to be bought and sold. No other Ahlissan city so embodies the ethos of the princes of the Celestial House of Darmen, the noble house that dominates the United Kingdom. Kalstrand is the fruit of their ambition and a mirror to the darkness of their souls. It is a city where a smile can hide a thousand betrayals. Like a true Darmen, Kalstrand conceals its evil behind a glittering façade.
Rulership and Law: Power in the city of Kalstrand is divided between the Court of the Nightingale Throne, the Imperial Council and the Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy.
The Court of the Nightingale Throne: Overking Xavener is Kalstrand’s undisputed ruler. Strikingly handsome, charming, and urbane, on the surface he appears to be a vast improvement on the fiend-seeing Naelax overkings that brought about the ruin of the Great Kingdom. Beneath the charismatic façade however, there burns a fierce craving for absolute power. Members of Xavener's immediate family or other important Darmen Princes hold all the key positions in the Imperial Court. The elite Imperial Guard and the Capital Army of Kalstrand are under the direct command of Xavener's eldest brother, Prince Paldred. The city can also call on its Guilds Militia, as well as plentiful peasant levies and as many mercenaries as its vast wealth can buy.
The Imperial Council: Founded in 587 CY, the Imperial Council in theory enables the noble princes of the realm to limit the powers of the overking. The Council can vote on a wide range of internal policies, over which Xavener has only a limited veto. Only in external affairs does the overking have free rein. Xavener resents the constraints that the Council places on his power, but knows better than to challenge it openly. The princes on the Council have divided themselves along house lines and meetings often degenerate into interminable rounds of horse-trading. Xavener fosters schisms between the princes to keep the Council divided.
The Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy: Day to day administration of Kalstrand is in the hands of the Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy, of which Xavener is patron. Virtually all matters of city governance are overseen from the Guildhall, including the Watch and appointments to the Law Courts. The Watch maintains strict order in Kalstrand. While Judges of the Sessions pay lip-service to the equitable Code of Laws of Schandor, in practice the vigour with which the law is enforced depends on the relative wealth of the victim and the accused. The wealthy have little to fear, unless they offend someone more powerful than themselves. However, the poor can expect to suffer the full weight of the law.
Old Strand: The oldest part of Kalstrand, Old Strand is a maze of warehouses, rivermen's inns and gambling dens lying between the Thelly and the Goldburgh. Although the city’s poorest district, slums are not tolerated. The Watch levels inadequate buildings, fines the homeless and evicts them from the city. Those unable to pay are either imprisoned or simply murdered. The Watch busies itself with keeping the lower orders repressed rather than dispensing justice. As wealth buys immunity, the poor folk of this district are tireless in their pursuit of coin – often by slitting the purses (or throats) of the unwary.
Kalstrand's river port lies outside the Strand Wall, extending over 1,000 yards along the north bank of the Thelly. Ten huge stone piers, known as the Ten Princes provide ample berths for the barges that ply the river. The River Market deals in trade goods straight from the docks. Here, bargemasters bid for cargoes in frequently boisterous auctions, while rivermen vie for places on barge crews.
The Goldburgh: The Goldburgh is the administrative, religious and geographical heart of Kalstrand. It is adorned with ceremonial avenues, majestic palaces and ostentatious temples and monuments. Since Xavener’s coronation, the Goldburgh has seen a massive influx of noble, priests and merchants seeking to be as close as possible to the epicentre of power in Ahlissa. Along with the genuinely powerful come hordes of ambitious young bloods determined to attain high office and great wealth. The Goldburgh frequently echoes to the sounds of duels fought over honour, allegiance to a noble patron or the favours of an influential courtesan.
As ornate as it is well defended, the Prince's Palace is Xavener's private residence. While the Imperial Palace is under construction, Xavener holds court in the Great Hall here. Courtiers continually compete for the overking's attention, while incessantly plotting the downfall of their rivals. The palace is the focus of nearly every intrigue and machination in Ahlissa. It is no place for the innocent or unwary.
Crowned with a vast gilded dome, the Grand Cathedral of Zilchus towers over the centre of Kalstrand. Its vast, shadowy interior is decorated with gold mosaics. Pilgrims come from across the Flanaess to pray before a towering golden statue of The Great Guildmaster. Nearby stands the Museum of Antiquities, which houses a large collection of ancient relics and tomes. The centrepiece is the original Histories of Epitecus the Wise, which extols the real and imagined glories of the House of Darmen.
New Strand: Lying just north of Old Strand and the Goldburgh, New Strand is home to most of Kalstrand's middling merchants, artisans and lesser guildsmen. The area is packed with shops and market stalls. Many guildhalls of Kalstrand's "Petty" Guilds are located here, along with a wide variety of inns and alehouses. This is a bustling, noisy district, its streets crowded with wains, traders and garishly dressed guildsmen in their finery. Kalstrand’s citizens regularly whet their appetite for bloodsports at the Arena. Games ranging from the ritualised ballet of the bullfight to the no-holds-barred slaughter of the slave gladiators are held here on Freeday and every day of the four festival weeks.
New Strand has two markets: Wain Market and Kinemarket. Wain Market caters for itinerant artisans and merchant caravans and is the chief focus of Growfest’s Windmarch Fair. Straddling the Kinegate, Kinemarket market deals in animals, slaves and menial labour. Before dawn each morning, peasants from surrounding villages, who are treated little better than the slaves and animals bought and sold alongside them, compete for casual work in the city.
Crownburgh: Crownburgh grew up north of the New Strand Wall within the last 50 years, as people were drawn to Kalstrand by its wealth and security. The quarter was enclosed by a wall after the Greyhawk Wars. Most of Crownburgh is residential, though a new administrative district is springing up around the Imperial Palace. The construction of the new palace and the arrival of foreign ambassadors has caused a wave of paranoia to sweep the city and Crownburgh in particular. Foreigners and non-humans are likely to be frequently stopped and questioned by the Watch here.
Xavener has decreed the construction of a palace worthy of "the greatest kingdom in the Flanaess". A swathe of Crownburgh was levelled to make way for the Imperial Palace, the future seat of Ahlissa’s overkings. Vast amounts of building materials are transported here daily and hordes of masons, labourers and not a few slaves swarm over the site. The palace is due to be completed by 600 CY. In the meantime, the Imperial Guard and Xavener's court warmages guard the site vigilantly.
The Palace of Envoys is a large enclosed compound designed to house foreign embassies to Ahlissa. Ambassadors from Irongate, Greyhawk, Nyrond, Sunndi, Onnwal and Rel Astra have already taken up residence. For their own "protection, " Xavener has placed a full company of the Kalstrand garrison to guard the envoys. One of the wonders of Kalstrand, the spectacular Hovering Gardens sprout forth from a set of nested tiers that float over the city like verdant clouds. Access to the Gardens is strictly according to status: commoners are allowed into the ground level, guildsmen, the second tier and nobility, the third tier. The top tier is reserved for the overking, and has a spacious lodge where Xavener can enjoy his private gardens in palatial splendour.