400-miles directly north of Whitewall is the subterranean city of Gethamane, where 80,000+ people dwell in an enclosed society, fed on their Supernatural Gardens and protected by nigh impenetrable defenses. At a casual glance, Gethamane has everything they could reasonably ask for - food, shelter, warmth, a working economy, a functioning social system with room for upward mobility, viable trade links, shelter from Icewalker attacks and the harsh weather.
Yet despite its monolithic appearance, Gethamanians live in constant fear.
Everyone in Gethamane knows someone who’s seen the things that come up from the underways - circling tunnels that connect to an immeasurably vaster, deeper labyrinth beneath Creation from where nameless horrors rise. Everyone’s heard the stories and walked near an underways entrance and felt the cold touch of damp air against skin. Knowledge that beneath your feet, separated by only a layer of stone, are inhuman creatures who want to drag you into the darkness and kill you...
Much as anyone else in the North, Gethamanians require constant vigilance to survive.
Gethamane does not pretend to control any territory beyond the slopes of its own mountain, but its hunters and gatherers see most of what happens within the nearest 20 miles or so. The hunters sometimes venture farther, out of the mountains and all the way to the White Sea shore.
Sheltered valleys within the mountains sometimes hold patches of taiga that the Gethamanians cultivate and harvest with care—a tree can take 50 years to grow 10 feet high. Tundra covers the lower mountain slopes with hardy lichen, moss and patches of grass and herbs. The icy upper slopes are nearly barren. This far into the North, in a direct line from the Elemental Pole of Air, winter lasts much of the year and the growing season is just three months long. Farther out, toward the sides of the mountain, lie the tunnels and rooms that have been claimed as territory by the various families, and are used for accommodation, crafting and storage.
THE OUTER SLOPESEdit
Gethamane’s hunters and gatherers travel the slopes of the mountain and the surrounding tundra under all conditions short of howling blizzards. The appalling winter weather and marauding icewalkers makes it impossible to maintain stable farms during the winter, but hardy orchards and perennial crops mean there is some cultivated food to harvest in the brief summer and autumn. Otherwise, there are mosses and ferns to gather and local wildlife to hunt down.
About half a mile up the mountain, spaced in a loose circle around the peak, a dozen small, well camouflaged tunnels lead to clusters of chambers and from there to the Temple District and Upper Ring. Hunter-Gathers use these to store their equipment and hunting weapons.
Over the centuries, Gethamane installed a variety of locking cast-iron doors, false tunnels, dropfalls and other traps for uninvited visitors. Nobody in Gethamane can translate the ancient script carved around the entrances.
The two great gates of Gethamane are carved into the mountain stone. A foot thick, gleaming with the distinctive hues of jade and orichalcum alloys (pale blue in the north, reddish in the south), reinforced with heavy warding and defense enchantments. Inside, large wheels move stout bars to lock or unseal the gates.
Beyond each gate is a tunnel (50 yards long, 10-yards high and wide) which leads to a large antechamber, which has heavy orichalcum-infused adamant portcullises at each end. Only one porcullius will be raised at any one time.
Guards constantly man these posts; recording the names and descriptions of every visitor (usually no more than “black-haired woman” or “man with limp”). Noticeable characters, such as traveling openly Solars, are likely to have more details noted down. Any minor brawl or scuffle here is dealt with brusquely and effectively.
None enter the city without registration. Visitors must pay a silver dinar to enter (though slaves may pay half a dinar - a concession to the Guild). Any short of cash can pay with goods or labor - such as cleaning passages. Masters of slave caravans often arrange for their slaves to work off the fee in labor while staying in the city, rather than pay. The required amount is adjudicated by a Bethanite.
Particularly dangerous, penniless adventurers may be asked to undertake an underways expedition, with promises of significant extra recompense if they succeed.
Each antechamber also holds the keys to a set of explosives and sorceries set into the 50-yard tunnel leading to it, which should (it has never been tested) collapse the tunnel when activated. This is a last-ditch defense to be used if the outer gate falls.
THE SUBTERRANEAN CITYEdit
Gethamane consists of 5 layers. They are:
- the Temple District at the top; large open rooms decorated with jewel-encrusted carvings of mountains and enormous flying creatures.
- the Upper Ring below that;
- the Guild District; where the Guild may stable and house its caravans, trade with the people of the city and maintain a permanent market.
- the Outer Ring, by far the largest sector of the city;
- the Garden District at Ground Level, containing its food sources, its government, its records, the Courthouse the Dole distribution center, the Master’s quarters and the Guardhall.
Below the Garden District are the dreaded Underways.
Gethamane consists of hundreds of twisting corridors that connect countless rooms. Its passages are square shaped, their floors and ceilings carved from the dark gray stone of the mountain while other forms of stone or concrete sometimes cover the walls.
While smaller rooms are generally plain, larger rooms and halls are covered in intricate and beautiful carvings of unknown plants and beasts, strangely designed pictures that haunt the memories of visitors. Some rooms have stone doors, while others have newer doors of timber or stretched hide.
Since Gethamane’s current population exceeds that of the old City of the Mountain Gateway, many Gethamanians live in apartments partitioned from larger chambers or passages. Older or wealthier families have heavier, metal-nailed bulwarks or elaborately painted screens, while poorer families make do with roughly tanned leather, pieces of wood cannibalized from merchants’ carts and other makeshifts.
Large crystals of pale violet set in the walls and ceiling emit a clear white light which glows brighter during the day outside (even brighter than most days) and dim when night falls (though remain bright enough for most people to continue working on all but the most demanding tasks). Gethamanians cover the crystals if they want darkness, but few outside the visitors’ section ever do so.
Gethamanians are used to constant light: True darkness frightens them. Damaging the crystals is a Major Offense against the Second Law and Gethamanians learned centuries ago that removing a crystal from its setting darkens it forever.
Gethamane has at least four large public fountains on each level and citizens draw off water as needed. Additionally the Outer Ring has two working bathhouses whose large, tiled pools magically heat the water in them. Two others no longer function. These bathhouses were all declared to be city property in the early days of the city and remain such. Even the wealthiest families must either come to the public baths or heat basins of water in their own homes.
They are considered social as well as hygienic locations, and were clearly used by the previous inhabitants, as the caves in which the springs are situated were laid out for bathing, with some small pools to one side for private use and other large pools for general use. Gethamane's Second Law forbid anyone restricting the use of a well save "at the will of the City in time of trouble”.
Unfortunately, most of the city’s internal plumbing corroded to uselessness during the long vacancy. Gethamanians make do with chamber pots and stinky non-flushing commodes.
THE PEOPLE OF GETHAMANE Edit
Gethamane has little direct contact with the rest of Creation. Despite The Guild's presence ensuring a constant stream of merchants, few foreigners visit them. And other than their Hunter-Gathers and Guard, the majority of Gethamanian's are born inside, live inside and die inside their city - never once seeing the outside realm.As such most Gethamanians know very little about the rest of Creation. It is easy to differentiate who go outside and the rest of Gethamane.
Isolationists have unnaturally pale, almost albino, skin. Many are known to flinch, tremble or even break down into fits of hysterics when exposed to sun or natural weather. The first time a child from one of these families goes outside the walls of Gethamane is a major rite of passage. These citizens regard outsiders with a tolerant but indulgent eye; strangers unable to understand the 'proper' way to live.
Alternatively, those who spend much of their time outside (Guards, Hunters and Gatherers) show color in their cheeks, roughened skin or other signs of exposure to sun and weather.
This has caused a division in society, but it is more of fashion than a genuine social rift. The Council knows it needsmembers of the city who can function outside and the food brought in by the hunter-gatherers is a vital precaution against Guild trade-blackmail by the Guild.
Only the farmers genuinely look down on those who go outside - mostly because they count few travelers among their numbers and theirtasks, by necessity, keep them working in the heart of the mountain throughout their lives.
Insulating stone and the heat of 80,000 bodies keeps Gethamane warm. Clothing in the city is lightweight, wear either robes of cotton or silk, or tunics and trousers. Guards wear tunics and trousers under their boiled leather or steel armor, though they wear boots instead of the usual soft slippers, while farmers wear simple brown robes.
Hunters and gatherers, of course, need heavy wool, fur and leather when they go outside. Regardless of occupation, Gethamanians prefer deep colors, grays, black or brown rather than the bright shades that look attractive in sunlight. Status and wealth is conveyed by the quality and elegance of the clothing, rather than by color or patterns. Brightly hued clothing is reserve for the bedchamber.
Much of the Dole is simply washed, sliced, spiced and eaten raw. Living underground limits Gethamanian cooking: the ventilation cannot handle a lot of smoke so people often stir-fry food using dried grass for short bursts of intense heat, or pack slow-burning, nearly smokeless fuel (such as dried peat) in a heavy crock and place a smaller pot within it. Gethamanians often freeze-dry foodstuff on the windswept mountain heights, then reconstitute it by stewing it in such a “Gethamane oven.”
Formal marriage is between men and women, but homosexual lovers are common. Quite often, married couples have a publicly acknowledged lover who shares both their beds. Gethamane doesn’t treat unions between cousins as incest but forbids unions between adopted siblings.
Most citizens are known by their personal name followed by a family name. For extra formality, Gethamanians give a person’s name followed by “of the such-and-such family” though this is used more by old fasioned or important families. Distinguished Gethamanians add a descriptive epithet (such as Katrin Jadehand ). Inside families, descent is matrilineal, though a woman’s current husband is legally the father of all her children, regardless if she was married to him or not at the time she bore the children.
Families often adopt children, a custom that began to make sure that orphans — future workers — could survive and provide childless couples with heirs to care for them in their old age. When a Gethamanian of humble birth shows great skill and dedication, a wealthy and socially prominent family may adopt her. This provide Gethamane with a unique form of social mobility, preventing leading families becoming stagnant and complacent. Most large families include a few adopted members.
Adoption ends all ties to the former family, legally and (Gethamanians hope) emotionally. A woman can bear a child to a man in another family, then give the child to be adopted by that family (if married, this requires her husband’s permission as well), at which point the child becomes a full member of that family. It is considered very rude to pry into someone’s past about something like this or suggest anyone feels loyalty to a family other than their own, even if they are the physical child of that family.
ADOPTING OUTSIDERS Edit
Inter-family adoption inside Gethamane is a comparatively simple thing. Adopting outsiders into is rather more complex and carries more social difficulties. Afterall, it is a high honor for someone from inside Gethamane to consent to bring an outsider into such a closed society.
- First, any family can only adopt ONE outsider per year (this was codified by the second Master, Gerath, to prevent any family adopting large numbers of outsiders.)
- Second, families don't want to adopt strangers who may bring disrepute on their position. Even middle/lower class who would be willing to adopt an outsider, particularly if a large payment in jade or goods was involved, want to be sure their family won’t be at risk from the outsider’s actions.
- Third, while the “parents” are the only ones who formally need to give assent to the adoption, if their family strongly opposes this then pressure may be placed to prevent the adoption. Accidents, such as falling into the underways or tragic overdoses of common sleeping drugs have been known to occur in particularly awkward cases (especially ones involving Guild members).
Sometimes, an outsider will do a Gethamane family such a definite
favor that adoption is the only commensurate favor the family can provide in return. In that case, adoption will be offered willingly, and the outsider is made to understand how large a favor is being done. If the outsider doesn’t want to be adopted, an accepted solution is to have a child of his blood (or, at worst, a deserving orphan) adopted in his place.
It’s impossible to perform an adoption without it going on the civil lists, the city records and the Dole. This has prevented the Guild and the Realm smuggling in full agents without them being closely observed (making it practically counterproductive).
Even adopted outsiders are suffer as if they were still foreigners as they don’t yet look or behave properly. However, once local citizens are aware the person they’re dealing with has been properly adopted, they give them fair and civil treatment.
Most Gethamanians are not very religious and leave such matters to the priests. Most only go to the temples when they have particularly urgent concerns or hope for prophetic dreams. Similarly, most don’t bother with luck charms or amulets. Citizens who have frequent commerce with outsiders sometimes buy luck charms from them, but it is often a political statement than anything serious.
While they would not deny any deity’s powers, Gethamane’s gods make few demands — they haven’t even given their names — and other gods show little interest in the City. All temples to gods other than Gethamane's must legally lie in the Guild District. There are very few permanent temples in the Guild District, but there are several rooms available to passing caravans who want to arrange set worship for several days.
Small portable travelers’ shrines are politely ignored, but can be used as an excuse for arrest if the Guard has some reason to harass the people involved.
Gethamane has no objection to travelers worshiping the Unconquered Sun. As long as worshipers do not break Gethamane’s civil laws, the city government turns a blind eye. However, NO Immaculate temples are permitted (a centuries-old holdover from an encounter with exceptionally high-handed missionaries that went badly).
FUNERAL RITES Edit
Gethamane's dead are cremated by the priesthood in the essence-fires of the three temples. It is illegal to dispose of dead bodies any other way. Families keep the ashes in small ornamental boxes, scatter them on the mountain slope or add them to fertilizer the Gardens. Gethamane has no true ancestor cult since Gethamane has no ghosts at all. Some inhabitants say that this is due to the profoundly materialistic outlook of most of the citizens — they leave the religion to the priests. Regardless, Gethamanians accept this as normal.
Gethamane’s limited contact with supernatural creatures means the city has almost no half-breed Essence channelers. Gethamanians rarely try to enlighten their own Essence either, due to their cultural isolation and lack of any institution to encourage this practice.
MAKING A LIVING Edit
Gethamane is alive and busy all round the clock; citizens working “day” or “night” depending on personal preferences.Only the Council doesn’t work around the clock, though sessions may last for days as members debate especially knotty issues.Tasks often run in families
- Farmers maintain the magical Gardens.
- Hunter-gatherers bring additional food and other commodities from outside, and act as 'scouts'
- The Guard preserves civic order and defends against the monsters of the underways.
- The administrationkeeps everyone else working together efficiently—or at least tries.
- Artisans fashion the tools and implements needed for daily life.
- Merchants trade with the Guild and other outsiders.
Gethamane is mostly gender-neutral. Both genders can freely work as craftsmen, as gatherers outside (though hunters are usually male), as merchants or negotiators. However, there are certain areas where each gender tends to get shunted. The Guard is approximately 75% male, while the farmers are approximately 80% female, though both will take members of either gender. Most Gethamanians often follow the same occupation as their parents, however all citizens register their occupations and record every hour of labor to justify their daily ration from the Gardens.
HUNTING AND GATHERINGEdit
While Gethamane could live exclusively on fungi from the Gardens (and have in the past) the hunters and gathers supply flavor.
Hunters bag reindeer, ducks and other game while gatherers collect edible lichen, berries, bulbs and other foodstuffs. Hunters and gatherers can keep a 1/5th of what they bring to the city, to feed to their own family or sell. The rest goes to the Garden District depots for distribution as part of the Dole.
Over the centuries, the hunter-gatherers absorbed about every trade involving bringing raw materials into Gethamane. Logging and mining is also considered a form of gathering (Gethamane operates a few small mines for copper, salt and mica. The Guild operates several more, and Gethamane still gets most of its metal from the Guild).
Some Gethamanians keep sheep and goats. During the brief summer, their herds graze on the mountain slopes. The animals spend the long winter inside the city with their owners, harvesting huge amounts of hay to feed their beasts over the winter; as a result, animal husbandry is treated as gathering. Gethamanians usually pen these animals in sections of the Upper Ring, among the poor.
Hunter-gatherers also act as scouts, bringing information on local movements back to Gethamane. The Guard even pays a small bounty for useful reports. Generally, Gethamane's Mistress is aware of what’s going on a couple of days’ journey around the mountain — farther if good weather allows observation from the mountain’s heights.
Gethamane’s government offices all occupy the outer circles of the Garden District. Each location consists of several large rooms and corridors where clerks keep the Dole lists and visitor records. Citizens can visit the Hall of Records and Hall of Maps to check on property lines (Outsiders can also consult these records for a small fee)
Magistrates resolve civil disputes and try criminal cases in the Courthouse.
Bethanites staff many of the government posts but at least a third of the clerks and officials come from other families.
Even more than the rest of Gethamane, the administrative areas stay busy all the time. Each shift of functionaries takes the desks vacated by the shift before them.
Children who receive any education beyond basic literacy and arithmetic go to a school connected to the City Library.Children attend school in shifts as well, and mobs of children surge through the tunnels at each shift change. The Garden District includes the rooms and offices of Gethamane’s ruler, passed from Master to Mistress for centuries. It’s a point of pride to change as little as possible from Bethan Redeye’s original sparse furniture and belongings.
Gethamane encourages a culture of leisure. Citizens who perform sufficient labor to earn their Dole can do whatever they want with any spare time. "Proper-thinking citizens" (as they describe themselves) fill their leisure hours with:
- quiet exercise
- productive crafts (carving imported driftwood is currently very fashionable)
- watching morality plays
- writing epic poetry modeled on barbarian sagas that celebrates honor and virtue
- playing instruments (wind instruments are more generally used than soft string instruments. Drums are never played for recreation; reserved for the Guard’s use).
However Gethamane has its darker share of pleasures. These include:
- taking wide variety of drugs are taken.
- Casual sex, quite outside of marriage
- vicious sessions of gossip and destroying reputations
- private sessions of sadomasacisim between consenting (or paying) adults.
- Scarification is currently fashionable, sometimes undertaken using drugs to intensify the pain.
While 'regular' citizens disapprove of these activities, they are a recognized part of life in Gethamane. Bethan Redeye realized she needed a viable breeding population and recognized there would always be those who disliked her established system. Thus she felt it better to offer a cultural escape, rather than drive them out of the mountain.
Regardless of activity, Gethamanians are quite strict that indecent amusements do not leave a mark. Even the young who want to shock their parents keep their scars or welts hidden beneath clothing in public.
Most importantly Gethamane insist on keeping the noise down. It’s the height of bad manners to suggest that your next-door neighbor copulates with imported goats in his silk-hung bedroom. Unless, of course, it should be audible through the walls — in which case, it becomes a matter for public discussion. Many ears are listening… and no matter what you do, you want to hear the distant alarm-drum or the nearby hiss or scuttling that means the horrors are loose and you must run or fight for your life.
Gethamane is one of Creation’s most orderly societies; a place where dissent cannot be tolerated. People either conform or leave. Like most societies, Gethamane has its divisions of class, wealth and occupation. The four rough tiers of society are:
- the Council,
- the moderately wealthy and respected (who mostly dwell in the Outer Ring)
- the poor (who dwell in the Upper Ring)
- the truly homeless, poverty-stricken and family-less outcastes (who live anywhere they can).
In Gethamane, social rank goes with depth in the mountain. The closer a person is to ground level, where the sunken Gardens are, the higher-ranked she is. The Garden District is the most prestigious sector of Gethamane, while the Upper Ring’s renders it the least desirable place to live.
The upper classes adopt an attitude of generously appreciating the work of their lowergraded fellow citizens, while the lower classes openly scheme to raise their families’ status, secure dwellings in the Outer Ring (or even near the Gardens) and, some day, possibly gain seats on the Council. This is viewed as perfectly normal in Gethamane, and many popular comedies showcase witty servants or lower-class Guards or artisans manipulating circumstances so that they come out ahead of the game — or even get formally adopted by the Master of Gethamane as a possible heir.
Family and class intertwine in Gethamane. The prosperous folk of the Outer Ring and Garden District generally belong to clans who number in the hundreds and occupy large sectors of tunnels and chambers.
The poorer folk of the Upper Ring still manage to live as extended families with dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins and kin all together.
Quite simply, it takes a degree of wealth to acquire enough space for a family to stay together; but a family that stays together can also economize through hand-me-down clothing, stacking relatives in bunk beds instead of renting more space and similar expedients.
Children are lucky if they can stay with their parents until adulthood. Many waifs make their own way in the city because their parents are too poor to care for them.
THE RULING CLASS Edit
Bethan Redeye's descendants still rule Gethamane. The city’s monarch, called the Master or Mistress, must always have an heir formally named from the Bethanite clan — usually from their offspring, but sometimes a remote cousin - though the designation can be changed at whim.
Today, the Bethanites number more than 2,000 — all of them potential heirs - who form much of the city’s civil service as administrators, magistrates, accountants and scribes. Bethanites often undergo basic training as guards or farmers as well (to deal better with those important institutions). Indeed, custom holds that a Bethanite who wants to administer an aspect of city life should have practiced it as well. Most of all, though, Gethamane needs educated clerks and shrewd negotiators to distribute the Dole and deal with Guild. Some members of the clan choose occupations ranging from painter to swordsman, but all start by learning arithmetic, reading and writing.
Gethamane’s current ruler is Katrin Jadehand.
Unofficially, Bethanites gather information for the current Master or Mistress. Everyone in Gethamane knows this — only the rawest, most ignorant newcomers from outside would be unaware. As such the Mistress of Gethamane has to look outside her family for operatives to get further information. Shakan, the current Head Intelligencer solves this with blackmail. All his agents watch for criminal behavior, and use that information to recruit new operatives, using their loyalty to their family by inspiring fear that their families will suffer for the agents’ acts. Once the agents have work for him for long enough, that itself is another reason to fear exposure. Indeed, Gethamanians despise the Intelligencers and exposed agents suffers worse ostracism than they might have received from her original crime. Shakan has agents throughout society, except the temples (the priests are generally too preoccupied with their rituals to do anything significantly illegal) while he has agents among the foreign merchants, he distrusts them and cannot be totally certain of their loyalty. He currently has no agents who are Guild members but would like to gather some.
THE UNDERCLASS Edit
People disowned by a Gethamane families form the city's underclass, regardless of well-born, rich, or gifted they are. Shops overcharge them, The Guard treats them with distant curtness, they aren’t allowed anywhere near the gardens, and when found outside the Guild quarter or the temples, are politely encouraged to go back there and reminded none-too-subtly of the laws prohibiting a stay of more than a month.
DISREPUTABLE FOLK Edit
Most Gethamanians like to think of their society as prosperous and orderly, controlled and smugly secure (unsavory leisures aside). Nevertheless, the city has its poor, its discontented and indeed its actively criminal.
THE JADE HOSPICEEdit
Founded near the temples in the Upper Ring, this charity hospital is the biggest and most overworked in the city - staffed by priests, trained healers and citizens working off legal penalties or have chosen this way of repaying their Dole. While not necessarily the beststaffed or most highly skilled hospice in Gethamane, the Jade Hospice is kept busy dealing with the Upper Circle’s constant stream of injuries, illnesses and assault victims. The courts regularly sentence mild offenders to serve as unskilled labor or nursing staff here, and the staff is constantly coming and going. The Director of the Hospice, matronly Enath Daur of a prosperous farmer family, holds one of the farmer seats on the Council. She was elected at the time because the faction couldn’t agree on any other candidate, and has since used her position to make sure that the Upper Ring is not further marginalized.
THE JANISSARY VAULTEdit
Not everyone in Gethamane relies on the Guard for their safety. Anyone expelled from the Guard or unable to endure its standards of courage and discipline (but want to continue a martial lifestyle), or those who have entered Gethamane from outside and been adopted by a local family are all welcome to join the Janissary Vault.
Located in the Outer Ring, supplies warriors, bodyguards and assorted muscle for hire. Its owner, the melodramatically named Vaultmaster (who always goes masked) says his service would never consider doing anything against the laws of Gethamane. Nevertheless, a sufficiently discreet client can arrange for anything short of murder. Janissaries receive little respect, as they are not duty-bound to run toward monsters and Gethamane does not accept Vault employment as any sort of city service, greatly limiting their Dole ration. As such, they are constantly eager to take on any potential work.
Many suspect the Janissary Vault as a front for the Guild (mercenaries being one of the Guild’s core businesses). The Guild would like to own the Janissary Vault, but the business has stayed independent since it began 50 years ago.Mistress Katrin and the Council would like an excuse to shut down the Janissary Vault, or at least force it to register every job and client. Despite the close similarity of functions, the Janissary Vault has no actual connection with the Guild itself, though the Guild would be delighted to absorb it as an affiliate. Should it happen, Mistress Katrin would need take urgent action ranging from declaring the Janissary Vault illegal, to requiring close observation and registration of all the Vault’s jobs and actions.
HIDDEN FIRE MANSE Edit
The Janissary Vault doesn’t realize that there is an old Fire-aspected Manse (Manse ••) located directly above the set of caves in which they’re based. Concealed by hidden doors and by careful design of the surrounding passages, the Manse was originally used as a private laboratory by a Twilight Caste Solar who visited Gethamane frequently before the Usurpation. The fact that the Manse is safely capped has stopped random flares of Essence or other possibly dangerous manifestations, but even so, something of the temperament and nature of fire leaks out into the vicinity, fanning local flames of aggression and igniting passions. The Manse itself is a small set of rooms, furnished with expensive but old wooden furniture and with a few sorcerous texts (mostly standard reference works) left behind by the previous owner. The Manse was sealed and empty of human life when Vodak struck, and the hekatonkhire never entered it.
THE PHILOSOPHY CELLEdit
A collection of public meeting rooms in the Outer Ring hosts an informal club of amateur intellectuals and pseudointellectuals. It is a haven for unlicensed thaumaturges, devotees of self-created religions, drug addicts, people who just want to argue, young people who want to pick up some radical ideas to shock their parents,, and amateur historians attempting to discover the true history of Gethamane. It has spread from a single-room debating society to encompass several rooms that are officially listed as public meeting places. The current occupants aren’t actually breaking any laws, but the Guard could easily move in and clear the place out if they wanted to. Though it is a hangout for the young and frivolous, serious research does take place here. A number of regulars are professional and capable in their respective fields. Notable members include:
- Damaithe Yarni; thaumaturge and secret demonologist
- Serret of the Bethanites; a painstaking but reliable historian — who reports all he observes to Gethamane's Mistress
- Tazar Pellan; a cold-blooded alchemist testing out some of his concoctions on those wanting mystical experiences
- Arik Varken, willing to try anything that will shock his family.
THE RAT’S NESTEdit
This abandoned storehouse/ junkyard far to the east of the Outer Ring serves as home to Jaxar and her group of child-thieves - all 14 years or less, mostly from the middle or upper classes, who regard the whole “Society of Thieves” as a huge game - regularly executing pranks or petty thefts for her.
As of yet, none of the children have realized how deeply they are in her power considering what might happen if she chooses to pass information about the children’s crimes to the Guard.
The Rasri family have held this set of Upper Ring chambers for many years despite their poverty, working as dung-carriers, sweepers and garbage pickers. They now use the Seventh Hall as a conspiracy meeting place for the poor and discontented Gethamanians angry with the city’s government.
The bitter but cowardly family patriarch Yftar Rasri is the de-facto leader of this conspiracy.
LEGAL SYSTEM Edit
Crime in Gethamane was defined by Bethan Redeye as “trespass on person, property or domain.” This was further codified by Master Senet, her grandson, into the Three Rules which are the main source of Gethamane’s law. Trials take place weekly in the Courthouse in front of three judges:
- one a Bethanite,
- one a senior member of the Guard
- one a senior member of the farmers.
Lately, a movement among the artisans, the merchants and the hunters and gatherers to permit other judges from their ranks, but it lacks support among the Guards and farmers.
Complainant and criminal both state their cases to the judges, though if the complainant cannot speak or present their case, a family member or Guard may do so in their place (the latter usually in homicide cases). Information obtained through spells and bound demons are permissible evidence, though attempting to sorcerously influence a judge is considered a serious case of personal assault and garners the appropriate penalty.
The judges the consider all the evidence, deliberate, then pronounce sentence. Typically civil disputes and criminal trials often hinge on how (or if) one of the Three Rules was broken.
Though execution is the ultimate sanction, the Council prefers demonstrative penalty for the most serious crimes. Those found guilty of violent murder, serious fraud or conspiracy to give outsiders access to Gethamane’s Gardens are blinded, branded and set to labor for the rest of their lives in the fungus gardens - providing a salutary example for other citizens.
Judges regard exile as a merciful punishment, and use it to punish crimes of passion or on citizen who cannot live inside Gethamane. Exiles may serve their sentence in Gethamane’s mines and remain loosely connected to the city. Temporary exile usually lasts a minimum of five years, after which the criminal can resume their place in the city and their family.
Instituted by the second Master, Gerath, to prevent slave labor causing rising unemployment inside Gethamane. It is illegal for any Gethamane citizen to own slaves. Labor must be hired from within the city. Some merchants lobby to repeal this law, but most Gethamanians want to preserve tradition as they identify slavery with The Guild. However, not wanting to lose the associated Guild trade, Gethamane permits slave caravans to pass through the city.
NOTE: permanent hard labor is not considered to be slavery - even if it means the rest of your life working, branded and blind, in the fungus gardens.
Slaves are considered property, and are thus covered by the Second Rule. Should Guards witness particularly unpleasant treatment of slaves, they can arrest everyone in sight on charges of “damaging another person’s property” until the legal owner of the slaves testifies they deliberately ordered the mistreatment. In such cases, nobody gets penalized, but the general confusion and delay does nothing for the slave caravan’s operations or reputation.
The Guard seldom helps owners find escaped slaves in Gethamane. An escaped slave adopted into a citizen family also leaves the Second Rule’s purview, as she becomes a citizen herself. As such, though not encouraged by the city government, Gethamane includes a few abolitionists who encourage slaves to escape and come to them for adoption.
FOREIGN RELATIONS Edit
Though many desire the city, Gethamane has few outright enemies. None can conquer Gethamane, and it doesn't threaten anyone else. Only the Guild and the Bull of the North particularly trouble Gethamane.
Currently Gethamane is pursuing a policy of cautious but proactive friendship with almost everyone. Gethamane’s Mistress and Council now believe, however, that they must learn a great deal more about their neighbors… particularly the Bull of the North.
Gethamane has built enough links with the world outside that the city has to pay attention to what’s going on in the North. Even the most insular farmer acknowledge it’s useful to be able to obtain trade goods, and the Guard appreciate the steel brought in for their weapons.
Previous Masters have fluctuated in how much they try to interact with regional politics or deal with icewalkers and the like, but only the most isolationist of Masters have totally ignored the outside world.
The Guild and Gethamane have a cordial but extremely guarded relationship. The Guild wants Gethamane as controlling it would be far more profitable than having it as a hub city but the residency rules inhibit factors from building long-term business relationships. So a quiet, bitter war goes on in the shadows - Gethamane strugging to maintain its independence as The Guild takes any opportunity to sink its tentacles deeper into Gethamane, while refraining from trying anything too obvious.
Gethamane can, if necessary, throw the Guild out and keep it out for years — it produces enough bare necessities of life and has enough luxuries now (cloth, wood, metal) to hold out for (uncomfortaly) decades. Similarly, the Guild could completely stop supplying Gethamane but would suffer from the loss of the convenient point on the trade routes, especially the slave trade. For the moment, both parties continue co-operating - both aware the other could enact sanctions if matters go too far.
Gethamane’s leaders additionaly cultivate merchants from Whitewall - just to remind The Guild they can be replaced; and it’s often cheaper to buy Whitewall’s metalwork directly than through Guild intermediaries.
The current ranking Guildmaster in Gethamane is Master Tengis the Vintner, a specialist in alchol trade but also well-versed in drugs and exotic foods. He has visited Gethamane a dozen times in the past and has a good working relationship with the Mistress and the Council. At the moment, he presides over several ambitious juniors who are longing for a chance to prove themselves to the Guild who include:
- Master Samirel of Gem (who trades in gemstones and ornamental carvings and who is trying to get adopted by an upper-class Gethamane family)
- journeyman Gentris from the Haslanti League, with a good eye for furs and hides, (who deserted family and home to join the Guild but still has many contacts there)
- journeyman Alathea from distant An-Teng in the West (who is well-informed about all sorts of cloth and fabric but is also a secret Yozi worshiperand has plans to form a cult inside Gethamane).
HASLANTI LEAGUE Edit
Gethamane has an unfortunate history with the Haslanti League, and Guildsmen still disparage the Haslanti. Nevertheless, the Mistress and Council now seek better relations with the League as another alternative to the Guild.
Every year or two, an icewalker tribe follows a mammoth or reindeer herd through Gethamane’s territory. Gethamane’s hunters pick off straggling beasts, which the icewalkers do not like. On the other hand, Gethamanians sometimes trade with icewalkers for meat, furs, hides, horn and ivory; but much of this trade goes through the Guild. (The walrus-hunters along the coast form a notable exception. Gethamane’s hunters trade with these barbarians directly.)
THE REALM Edit
The only faction not receiving Gethamane's 'friendly treatment' is the Realm. Mistress Katrin has consistently refused to consider its requests to use Gethamane as a staging-post for the legions and doesn’t want to ally with any one Great House at the moment, given the potential for civil war.
The Empress once commissioned her strategoi to evaluate Gethamane for conquest. They concluded the feat possible (smuggle in spies and agents under the cover of merchant caravans, find a way to cut off Guild supplies to weaken the place) but, since it wasn't harboring rebels or fostering anti-Realm sentiments, it wasn't worth the trouble. Past Masters and Mistresses did not flaunt their defiance of the Realm, so the Empress never felt the need to make an example of the city and viewed Gethamane with a lenient eye. She mercifully allowed it to ignore paying tribute, and in turn Dynasts could occasionally visit to seek treasure in the underways, and far-traveling legions would be allowed to buy provisions at Gethamane. Recently, with the Scarlet Empress vanished and the Great Houses contending for power, numerous Dragon-Blooded have planned to boost their houses’ prestige and their own fame by conquering or controlling Gethamane - making it a tributary of the Realm. So far, their plans have ranged from the wild and woolly to the ineffective, but a couple of the better planners are prepared to spend decades building up spy networks, agents and influence. Like the Guild, these Dragon-Blooded have realized that Gethamane depends on its sunken Gardens, and, like the Guild, these Dragon-Blooded are faced with the problem of how to enfeeble Gethamane without destroying the Gardens and causing the city’s ruin. Gethamane doesn’t want to be part of the Realm (and certainly doesn’t want to pay it tribute), but the city has never wanted to be a Targeted Example of Stamped-Out Rebellion either. While Gethamane’s defenses and selfsupply are legendary, the city has never actually had to stand up to a sustained assault by Terrestrial Exalted (let alone Celestial ones) and would rather not find out any weaknesses the hard way. The city, and its previous Masters and Mistresses, have preferred to maintain a dignified independence while at the same time not attacking any of the Realm’s tributaries or attracting the Realm’s notice. Noble declarations of never having paid tribute sound very well to similarly independent powers and help to increase Gethamane’s reputation, but, all in all, Gethamane would prefer not to ever be in the position in which the Realm asks for tribute. Gethamane has NEVER paid tribute to the Realm as it would be an uneconomic conquest — the place is too easily defended and can support itself from the inside Gardens for decades, while besieging armies are left without food or shelter. It’s simply not worth the Realm’s time and trouble to conquer the city and impose a satrap. On the other hand, the Realm is aware that Gethamane is an individualistic self-supporting city with a strong interest in neutrality and stability. Although Gethamane could potentially serve as a base for a small strike force, the sunken Gardens couldn’t feed a full army. Bearing all these factors in mind, the Scarlet Empress left the city in peace, though did seed Gethamane with the usual complement of spies in order to ensure it didn’t become a problem later.
Whitewall is the closest Gethamane has as an ally as neither city has many other neighbors (that are human, at least). While Gethamane is glad of the trade from Whitewall, particularly the minerals and ores for which Whitewall is famous, there is little diplomacy between the two cities. Both remain snug barring themselves against the world outside, and both are content with the current state of affairs.
While some Gethamanians hold Whitewall as an example of weak-minded feebleness (alliances with the Realm, the fey and the undead) and praise Gethamane’s compartive independence, most citizens willingly acknowledge Whitewall gets along as best it can and does so better than most.
Gethamane’s hunters and gatherers occasionally encounter Fair Folk. The tales of the survivors ensure the Gethamanians’ thorough hatred and fear of the raksha. Fortunately for Gethamane, the local Fair Folk have no desire to enter a city that gives them the creeping horrors—not even fae who normally might relish such a strange and dramatic emotion. Fair Folk blame this on the city’s jade and orichalcum gates.
Gethamanians abhor demons as most people do. Fortunately the few who rarely enter Gethamane — likely summoned or sent there by a sorcerer or thaumaturge - also seem to loathe Gethamane, and do not linger even when they have the chance. They feel something immensely darker and more dangerous than themselves lurking nearby. Gods and elementals avoid the city for the same reason, though none of these spirits can find the ultimate source of the terrifying Essence.
While the current citizens of Gethamane are descended from those who fled there during the Usurpation, the lack of constant Realm influence or Immaculate presence has left them with no particular hatred toward any Exalted. The citizens’ attitude toward beings of great power who command mighty Charms and spells and wield ancient weapons is merely one of sensible distrust and caution. Any obvious Solar who enters the city will be noted at the gates, directed to the Guild District as a visitor and watched by the Guard (within reason); a sigh of relief will be generally breathed when she leaves the city. They will not be unduly persecuted, however, or have people trying to lead mobs against her. Individual action by visiting Dragon-Blooded or Immaculates is possible, but in that case, the Guard will primarily blame the aggressors rather than the Solar and appreciate any attempts made to avoid significant property damage. The Mistress of Gethamane is interested in employing Exalted to clear out portions of the underways but otherwise has no real need for them — that she knows of. She is very much aware of the power of the Solars (The Bull of the North is a powerful reminder to the whole North that the Solars are dangerous) and knows a number of them are currently looking for defensible bases While she has no wish to anger any Celestial Exalted, she would prefer they stay out of Gethamane. Failing that, if they are in Gethamane, hope they behave according to the city’s laws. Gethamanians do not much like the Terrestrial Exalted, chiefly because of high-handed Immaculates and Dynasts. They also know the danger of showing such dislike. The Dragon-Blooded rarely stay in Gethamane for long, though. They have bad dreams as the maddened gods clumsily try to warn them and, through them, the long-dead Solar Deliberative. The people have no experience with other Exalted (that they know about) and base their opinions on stories. They fear the Lunar Exalted as patrons of the icewalkers and other barbarians. Naturally, Gethamane has no knowledge of the Sidereals and other Exalted are too new for Gethamanians to know about them. Any Exalted who visit Gethamane, or Exalt among them, could determine how the people feel about their kind for centuries to come.
Bull of the NorthEdit
Even isolationist Gethamanians hear stories of the Bull of the North. While they don’t credit Realm propaganda about “Anathema,” anyone who can massacre Dynasts (the city’s standard for powerful, erratic individuals) is a danger Gethamane don’t want to face. However, eventually, the Bull will want Gethamane, as an ally or a tributary (or to serve as a public example) thus the Council currently debates on how to react. The easiest option is to close off the mountain and maintain a state of siege. While Gethamane could probably sustain this longer than the Bull could, all trade would be disrupted (or worse, the Guild might ally with the Bull) and there is always the dire possibility the powers of the Bull and his allies could crack Gethamane open like an egg. The second option is to ally formally with the Bull and pay tribute. Given recent events in Halta, more Council members are inclining to this point of view. While this would compromise Gethamane’s independence, paying tribute would preserve the city and its inhabitants. No one even considers outright defying and attacking the Bull, or allying with anyone who has such plans. Gethamane is biased toward survival, not suicide. All agree Gethamane must learn more and acquire whatever power and allies it can find. The Mistress can see the threat of the Bull of the North looming on the horizon, and she doesn’t want to be an isolated target if — or when — he arrives with his army.
While Gethamane has its poor, people from outside form the true underclass. By law, foreigners can stay in Gethamane for just one month a year, and they are strongly encouraged to stay in the Guild District. (Visitors who wander soon find Guards asking, with edged politeness, if they are lost. Visitors who wander near the Gardens find Guards drawing steel on them.) Shopkeepers overcharge them. Other Gethamanians treat them rudely. Even the beggars who smile and plead for coins then sneer and mock when no outsiders watch them. Foreigners stand out. They lack the subterranean pallor, the clothes, the accent and ways of speaking that characterize a Gethamanian. Most of the time, foreigners are fairly obvious. They don’t wear the clothes of Gethamane, they don’t have Gethamane accents and they don’t have the dark eyes and pale skin of the inhabitants of Gethamane. Hunters and gatherers may have sun-touched skin and the carriage of those who go outside, but they have a native accent, and they give the proper nonverbal cues to other citizens. Of course, the citizens of Gethamane have more sense than to overcharge or snub obviously dangerous foreigners or those who have the potential to be valuable contacts. The citizens will be polite, even flattering, and save their amusement and sneering jokes for when they are in private with their families. As one of the earlier Masters said, “Be like the mountain: snow and ice outside, so that none can take offence, but life within, where families can share the joke.” The only way a foreigner can stay indefinitely in Gethamane is for a native family to adopt them. Even marriage does not suffice: Gethamane does not recognize marriages to outsiders. Someone must attest that she takes the foreigner as a son or daughter. The adopted outsider then must register for the Dole and turn in timesheets that prove her daily labor, just like every other citizen. Such adopted citizens still endure chaffing and snubs for a while, but they eventually learn to fit in and other Gethamanians learn to recognize them. Very few foreigners win adoption into Gethamanian society. The Guild has tried for centuries to get agents adopted into Gethamane. So far, the result has been the disgrace of any family the Guild bribed or deluded into performing the adoption.
Like many of Creation’s great cities, Gethamane began in the First Age. Its history, however, is stranger than most. Perhaps it’s a good thing the Gethamanians don’t know it.
The Newcommers - RY 102
Led by Bethan Redeye a group of humans fled north beset by hordes of furred, semi-human raiders, plague, and starvation. Amid the snow and tundra, the survivors stumbled on an ancient entrances into the mountain. Afraid but driven by the perils outside, they entered the mountain city and found it empty. The only remaining traces of the prior inhabitants were the three strange temples, carved with ancient depictions of flying creatures, and the city’s magical Gardens at the base of the mountain (which, fortunately, had carved pictoglyphs on the wall detailing how to work and harvest the Gardens). Within a few months, the Gardens functioned again and produced nourishing (if bland) mosses and fungi.
It quickly became obvious these Gardens were vital to life inside the city. Thus Bethan established a system called "The Dole" where all the inhabitants of Gethamane had an automatic right to a daily share of the food from the Gardens. In the absence of money or trade, she also established a tithe from the hunters and food-gatherers who went outside and distributed it to the Guards and farmers who worked directly for the city. Everything else was a barter economy, and though the inhabited parts of the city were soon roughly furnished with wood, leather, bone and stone, the people lacked the resources to make anything better.
It was also obvious that adventuring into the lower tunnels was dangerous and frequently fatal. Yet within a year, Bethan Redeye’s people were comfortably established. They named their home 'Gethamane', which meant “Sanctuary” in Old Realm, hoping it would be a good omen for the future and a propitiation to any gods that might be listening. Forming the Council - RY 103
Bethan Redeye formalizes Gethamane's Council. Initialy consisting of 12 members (three from the City Guard, the farmers, the hunter-and-gatherers, and three artisans).
The Guild's Arrival - RY 107
A wandering Guild caravan meets some of Gethamane's hunters and are invited back to the city. Bethan Redeye trades immediate food supplies in return for cloth, spices, metal and other things. In turn, the caravan leader quickly realizes the subterranean city would make an excellent trading base for ventures in the North, and recognized the inhabitants’ urgent need for outside sources of food, clothing and luxury items.
Thus began Gethamane’s association with the Guild
Seeing potential problems ahead, and fearing her few people would be absorbed into the Guild, Bethan made the Dole contingent on labor for the city. Additionally she decreed none could stay in the city for more than one month every year unless adopted by a Gethamanian family and be entered into the Dole’s labor register (though adopted citizens could pay in jade or goods instead of labor - offering a means to increase Gethame's economy).
This discouraged Guildsmen building strong connections, allowing Gethamane to remain moderately independent. Bethan increase the Council to 15 (adding three Merchants).
Death of the Founder - RY 150
Bethan dies at the age of 93; survived by two husbands and twelve children,
and names her secondborn son Gerath Redeye her heir. This established the tradition that the Master/ Mistress of Gethamane would choose an heir from their assembled descendants, rather than automatically passing the position to their firstborn. The office of Master or Mistress of Gethamane has stayed in Bethan’s line ever since.
A Failed Coup - RY 498
Mineko Threebrand, a disgruntled member of the Guard, poisons all the current Master's close relatives. The crisis is resolved the crisis by the Master quickly adopting three popular Gethamanian's, each a descendant of Bethan Redeye, to replenish the clan.
The Trade War - RY 586
Gethamane finds itself pressured by the Guild to refuse shelter to traders from that area or at least to tax them prohibitively.
Present Day - RY 768
Gethamane grew in importance as Guild traffic through the city increased. While the Masters of the city retained its social structure and customs, new traditions developed to handle the growing amount of jade and goods and the rising demand for food by travelers passing through. Particullarly the Dole laws were strengthened, and the City Guard similarly improved in order to protect the Gardens and food stores. Relationships with other city-states in the North have varied from good to difficult, somewhat dependent on the Guild’s relationships with those states. With the recent disappearance of the Scarlet Empress and the rise of the Bull of the North, Gethamane has become nervous. The current Mistress of Gethamane, Katrin Jadehand, has drawn up several plans for possible disaster scenarios, ranging from a serious assault by the Bull on Gethamane to an attempt by the Guild to take over. In the worst case, her planned strategy is to expel all foreigners while closing the city gates, place all adoptees under the direct guard of their adoptive families and sit tight and wait a few years.