Feb 9, 2012

The Dawnlands: The Cities of Night

The Cities of Night were populated by elves, hobgoblins and gnolls in a multi-racial, polycentric society. These people knew themselves as the "Children of Night", and worshipped Eternal Night, who they believed created the world and themselves. Most of the population was dispersed between the various Cities of Night serving as nomadic pastoralists to raise the vast quantities of meat that a populous, carnivorous society requires. The cities themselves served as religious and political centres, as well as fortresses during wars. The Children of Night understood themselves as a single people, but each city had its own priest-king, and each clan its own body of elders, and they could be pried apart and played off against one another for political advantage.

The civilisation was destroyed during the Wars of Dusk and Dawn, when the kingdom of High Kaddish systematically exterminated each city with assistance from Dwer Tor and the "traitor clans", clans from the Children of Night serving as mercenaries against their own people. The descendants of the Children of Night are known as the Hill People, while the Kadiz nomads are descended from the traitor clans and the exiled upper class of post-war High Kaddish.


The City of Madness was destroyed when Kaddish warmages summoned a volcanic geyser that dispersed a vapour that caused insanity. The inhabitants ran through the streets scratching out their own eyes and murdering one another in a bloody frenzy. The mist lingers even now, but a group of hobgoblins live nearby. Their iron-souled members are immune to the effects of the vapour and have plundered the ruins to build the Toruum Bastion. The iron-souled still look through the ruins, attempting to find the strange and horrific weapons the Hill People war-wizards had created to defend their city. Undead creatures also roam the city, and while they ignore the iron-souled, they will attack all others who approach.


The City of Shadows was not truly destroyed. Instead, its inhabitants were transformed into insubstantial shadows and then bound to the city by powerful spells. Thousands of translucent, now-mad Hill People remain in the city, shrieking and wailing at all hours except for the height of noon and the night of the new moon, when they vanish. There is a colony of leper-priests nearby who seek to reverse the transformation and return Dabawa's citizens to flesh so that they may march forth once more to subjugate the plains. Their rituals require many rare substances and much flesh given to their god, the Leper Star.


The City of Silver Towers was flooded, and its inhabitants drowned. It now sits at the bottom of a rift lake. The water is warm but has some strange impurity that makes it appear as reflective silver, as if it were a mirror. It slowly dissolves everything it touches, and the sides of the rift are very steep from its work. Only the elvish buildings themselves are resistant, the largest and most important sustained by powerful sorcery. The tops of the highest buildings are just above the surface when the waves are still, and strange monsters now inhabit the lake. Access to the lake is in the hands of a gnollish tribe who claim to worship demons that live in the water. The demons themselves are said to be powerful oracles, existing half in the future and half in the present. This can be maintained only by drawing on the power of the lake's waters, and the gnolls will defend their masters and their home against all intruders and interlopers.


The inhabitants of the City of Light were slain when wizards from High Kaddish caused it to fall into a great chasm. Anyone who attempted to climb to safety was thrown back in, and the whole thing torched. Only its king "survived", becoming a powerful lich. He has since reanimated many of the city's inhabitants as undead. Many weapons and wonders from the city's wars with Kaddish remain, including a powerful but bound demon-lord underneath the city which is served by roving gnoll tribes. It is surrounded by the Ashlands, a broken, parched wasteland.


The City of Glass Thorns was shaped like a gigantic rosebush made of glass, with the priest-king and his most trusted servants living in the "blossoms", and with great walkways and markets amongst the stems for commoners. The Kaddish summoned a mighty whirlwind to batter it apart, and the inhabitants were flayed alive as glass shards and dust flew with supernatural speed. Even to this day, it is populated by elementals feeding off the magical residue that remains from the ritual. They can summon glass storms that will shred flesh off of bone to defend their nests. Like all places of extreme elemental energy, a giant claims it as his kingdom and demands tribute from all who approach. It is surrounded by the Glass Desert, created when it was destroyed.


The City of Doors was destroyed by an invasion of giant ants, centipedes, termites and other insectoid creatures summoned by the Kaddish from the dream world. The inhabitants were devoured within their walls, unable to escape from the besieged city. The creatures remain, and Tabal has become a massive warren, with few buildings still standing. Those that do have been converted into massive nests. Deep in the centre of the city is a gateway to the Hivehome, the domain of the Black Vermin Gods, the Many-Legged Queen, and the other insectoid gods and demons of the Dawnlands.


The City of Red Shadows was destroyed when a falling star was called down upon it. One of the feared "Dark Stars", it possessed no divine hero's soul, but rather was a concentrated ball of evil that burst into thousands of tentacled and fanged monsters that subjected the inhabitants to fates worse than death. Strange ruins project out of the impact crater at odd angles, and weird, previously unknown creatures can be found wandering the Burnt Hills surrounding it. A lone hobgoblin bastion nearby provides refuge to travelers, though many of their slaves have mysterious scars on their heads and necks.


The City of Prisoners was the only City of Night still inhabited, albeit unwillingly. Kaddish warmages cursed the inhabitants of the city to never be able to leave its walls and to never die, no matter what they did to themselves. Those who enter Wanad find that they cannot leave, with space looping back on itself so that those walking out of the gates find themselves suddenly re-entering the city. The inhabitants are insane, vengeful, and cruel. They still feel hunger and thirst, though the city's water supply has dried up, and all food within the city limits has long since been exhausted. A clan of elvish bandits roams the plains nearby, capturing travelers and throwing them over the walls to laugh at their anguished screams as the inhabitants of Wanad beset them.

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