Lyonesse, The Gleaming City – Salter Court

Salter Court
Salter Court is Lyonesse’s equivalent of a central business district – mostly tall buildings, some brick, most timber-frame, used by merchants, factors and guilds. Merchants are common in this area, as are clarks hustling from one place to another. Nobles are notoriously absent from this area, unwelcome by the busy merchants. Most of the buildings on Salter Court are four or five stories tall and have multiple people living in the flats therein.

Feather Merchant: Fionath is a flighty, fancy woman who loves money and showing it off. She is an importer of feathers and down, selling the more common materials to stuff cushions and mattresses for the wealthy and retaining the rarer and more exotic feather that come into her possession – couatl, pegasus, cockatrice – are usually sold to magic-users and alchemists. Fionath has peach-colored eyes and silky, buff brown hair. She is quite compact, with intelligent, quick features and a ready wit. Success has made her lazy, and her connections to the counts of Iver has made her rather cold-blooded.

Gallery of Trades: This narrow building of four stories provides booths for all sorts of tradesmen, who must pay a small fee and turn over 10% of their profits to the mercantile guild. One can find cobblers, ropemakers, etc in this building, which is quite cramped and rife with pick pockets, beggars and trollops, not to mention bakers’ boys with trays of hot buns and small meat pies for sale. The top floor contains the office of Breth, a spice merchant from Antigoon with a closet full of family skeletons.

Flagon and Swan: The Flagon and Swan occupies the ground floor (and its loft) of this building. The tavern is run by Valexine, a fragile looking woman with furtive, willow green eyes, silky, shoulder-length sooty black hair and a bland face. Allied with Guson, Valexine is an agitator for more control in the city-state by the merchant class. The Flagon and Swan serves wines and ales as well as coffee and a selection of snuff and pipe tobacco in addition to revolution. She allows the Princess Juliada and Geris the stable boy to use her backroom as an abditory.

Counting House: This building houses many mercantile offices, functioning much as a counting house. The most prominent tenant is Combanna, a plump woman, fit as a lass, brown as a nut, with long, wavy brown hair. A diffident art patron, she imports spices from Mu-Pan and Kirikersa, and is unhappily married to a sniveling aristocrat named Ysmay, a Kaspar. Combanne dreams of leaving Lyonesse for Antigoon, but is not yet wealthy enough to make the move. The building also houses the offices of Duhir, an obnoxious silk merchant who is suspiciously free with money for a man who has lost several barges to river pirates on the Danu.

Playhouse: Maggi (2 hp), an old woman from Ultima Thule, runs a very popular puppet theater. The theater holds about 30 people, with a small stage. Two women walk through down the aisles selling grapes and claret even after the house lights are down. The players, including Maggi, usually stage historical pageants and stories about the wild gods and goddesses from Maggi’s native Ultima Thule. Maggi is a secretive woman who puts her heart and soul into her work. She does not deal well with criticism, flying into a bit of a rage when challenged. Maggi has skin the color of driven snow, sandy brown hair and eyes the color of winter wheat. A widower, she is devoted to the worship of Law. She wears a platinum ring worth 2,500 gp, a gift from her father who led a band of raiders.

Locksmith: Nevias is the finest locksmith in Lyonesse. He is an old man with tanned skin, chocolate brown hair and eyes like burning embers. Nevias is built close to the ground and he’s shadow thin, the result of a large, psionic tape worm who dwells in his innards and whispers secrets to him in the night. Secretive and aesthetic, he has a weird obsession with vermin, especially snakes. Nevias is a stargazer, and can often be found on the roof of his building. He believes the key to understanding all things lies beyond the stars, and when he has a chance to speak with adventurers will immediately ask if they have ventured into the night.

The Blue Fairy: The Blue Fairy is a social club for the aristocracy. Admittance is by invitation (or membership) only. The Blue Fairy occupies the entirety of this four story building, having smoking rooms, an upscale tavern, guest rooms, a private gambling den and a trophy room. The club is overseen by Sanguria, a hauntingly attractive woman with a luminous pallor, goldenrod hair and misty gray eyes that betray an inner fire. Opinionated and demanding, she works the staff of the Blue Fairy quite hard, but they never seem to complain, probably because they, like she, are vampires. The social club provides a good base of operations as they slowly conquer the catacombs of Lyonesse. The next stage of their conquest involves conquering the city’s nobility.

That Wonderful "Oh Crap" Moment for a Writer

So, I’m writing up Lyonesse and I take a quick look at NOD 6 because I can’t remember a name of one of the powerful noble families – I tend to write in a stream of consciousness style – and then have this wonderful “oh crap” moment when I notice that a paragraph in which I note that the Diamontes overthrew the Mallor dynasty with the help of the Krumms is immediately followed by a paragraph in which I note that the Diamontes overthrew the Brute dynasty with the help of the Krumms. Dang. For the record, it was the Brute dynasty, and also for the record – I have no idea if Bob the high priest was a joke I forgot to excise from the final text or if I was serious – either way, Bob it is!

And to keep this post from being nothing more than me admitting to screwing up, I present another locale from Lyonesse and the story behind it:

Flying Duck: The Flying Duck tavern is a sociable, musical place with a spacious common room filled with numerous tables both large and small, a few private booths and a side room open only to folks who know the password (see below). The place is run by Teine, a plump, ivory-skinned man with chins hung like curtains and blue-black hair worn down to his shoulders (a wig made from the hair of a captured Saracen, an article made in the Venatian League) and dazzling, peacock green eyes. Teine is assisted by a bouncer called Labrach.

Teine is analytical and quirky, and fancies himself a scientist and mathematician. In fact, he does have some skill in these areas, and keeps a workshop in the cellar hidden behind some old barrels and casks. Teine is a music lover of the first order, and offers cheap food and drink to minstrels and musicians who agree to play in the tavern. For this reason, the Flying Duck has music from dawn to dusk.

The side room can only be entered by speaking a password in front of the door, which is only a door in the academic sense of the world, for to be completely accurate it does not exist and therefore cannot be opened by any outside agency. Speaking the world causes the door to fully exist and open, revealing a dusty, dingy room with a floor marked by dozens of footprints leading from the door to an old cupboard. The cupboard is a singularity, existing in several Flying Duck taverns spread across the Cosmos. One enters the otherwise empty cupboard, which can hold up to 10 people, and then closes the door. One then waits for a few moments, opens the door and exits into another side room in another Flying Duck. One determines their destination by intuition and feel, initially having a 5% chance to end up in the correct Flying Duck, increased by 5% for magic-users and those with a Wisdom of 13 or higher. Experienced travelers increase their chances by 5% for every five trips they take through the cupboard, but the chance of success never increases to more than 75%. The cupboard cannot be used more than once per week by a given person, so cupboard travelers get used to spending time in far away, strange places. The password to enter the side room changes daily, and can only be discovered via the contact other plane or wish spells.

About two or three years ago, I was running my players through NOD for the first time, specifically the region known as Thule (it was called Og back then). The group had just picked up a new member, Luke, and thus the party had just picked up a new character, Dakk the ranger. Dakk, we decided, hailed from Azsor, a barbarian city ruled by King Mogg and constructed around a massive waterfall. Once the group entered the city-state, I asked Luke where they should stay, since it was his hometown. Of course, Luke knew nothing about Azsor, but he’s that kind of player a DM loves – rolls with everything. He immediately announced that they should go stay with his parents. The party decides this is a good (and cheap) idea, and off they go. At this point, they (and Luke) discover that Dakk’s parents are dwarves (mom puts her finger to her lips and then whispers “He doesn’t know he’s adopted) and this launches a running gag that Dakk thinks he’s a dwarf – including Luke inventing his famous footy pajamas that his mom made for him that include a fake beard sewn into them. The group also discovers that Dakk’s parents are the Nodian, dwarven equivalent of Frank and Estelle Costanza from Seinfeld, and they soon decide that an inn might be more comfortable. So – where now? Luke pipes up with the Flying Duck – a name that struck us all as so odd that every inn the group visited in every city (including the Asian-style cities of Mu-Pan) became the Flying Duck. As a DM, I then made the decision that the Flying Ducks were all interdimensionally linked.

I bring this up for two reasons – first, to thank Luke DeGraw for being a great player who truly left his mark on my little campaign world, and also to show that the best campaigns are not written on reams and reams of paper, but grown organically at the table. To do this, you have to be willing to cede some control over your world to the players, and they need to be willing to cede some control over their characters to you and to one another, but it makes for things you all remember and laugh about.

Image by NC Wyeth, via Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

Lyonesse, The Gleaming City – The Citadel

[No numbers on this map yet – just place buildings where you’d like for now]

The Citadel
The citadel is a massive fortress, the center of government in Lyonesse and home to its king and many members of his court. The citadel is constructed from brilliant, white lime-stone. Its towers have conical roofs of sapphire blue slates. The walls of the citadel stand 40-feet tall, its towers 60-ft tall, and they are routinely patrolled by crossbowmen.

Within the citadel dwells King Tristram, his wife Queen Lenore and their children, Burgon, Damoun, Juliada and Pontinae. Princess Juliada is in line to take the throne when her father passes, while her brother Burgon has been promised the Duchy of Lutece as his own. Pontinae is slated for education by the church and a prominent place in the priesthood of Ceres, while Damoun will be apprenticed to Master Odumnovice when he comes of age. Other inhabitants of the citadel include the aforementioned court magician Odumnovice, Tristram’s personal chaplain Father Roquelaure, lord high constable Ramee, the commander of the royal guard, the royal surgeon Dr. Menet and Fraien, giant, blue-black beaded master of the hunt. Various ladies-in-waiting and squires drawn from the nobility dwell in the citadel, and visitors from the countryside are common.

The citadel rests upon a fortified mount 20-ft tall. In front of this mount is the large, round bailey. The bailey is actually an open courtyard that is used for military demonstrations. A troupe of seven heavy infantry occupy the bailey at all times and the walls above are manned by fifteen crossbowmen, all elite men-at-arms (HD 2).

The City Wall
The city wall of Lyonesse is constructed from the same limestone as the citadel, and like the citadel is kept immaculate and gleaming. The wall is set upon a massive embankment (colored light gray on the map) that rises 30-ft above the surrounding land and is buttressed by 10-ft thick walls of limestone. The actual city walls are 40-ft tall. The guard towers are 50-ft tall, while the gatehouse stands 60-ft tall. The walls and towers are always staffed by soldiers – assume any 100-ft span of wall is manned by five cross-bowmen, while each tower holds five crossbowman and five heavy infantry with a sergeant-at-arms in command.

Gatehouse: The gatehouse, also called the Bridge Gate sports two steel portcullises and foot-thick doors of oak studded with hundreds of bronze nails in the outline of a lion rampant. The doors and portcullises are left open during the daylight hours, but closed (and never opened, save by direct order of the king) at night.

During daylight hours, two heavy infantry and four crossbowmen guard the entrance to Lyonesse, collecting tolls for an exciseman (1 cp per foot, 1 sp per wheel). The exciseman sits at a wooden desk with an iron strongbox that typically holds 1d10x10 cp and 1d6x10 sp per hour after daylight. The towers are used as barracks for twenty heavy infantry and twenty crossbowmen, who take their turns patrolling the walls and standing guard. The guardsmen are under the direct command of Captain Calie, an aging elven woman in platemail with skin the color of ancient ivory, hair of burnt umber and gentian eyes. Her natural grace and optimistic attitude have made her popular with the men-at-arms. Calie is one of the three famous “Harpies of the Bridge”, along with the female sergeants that command the guard towers that flank the gatehouse.

Mithras’ Grotto: This 20-ft tall building has a peaked roof of stepped stone and bears no decoration other than a bas-relief of a bull’s head over the iron door that serves as its entrance. The building is a temple to Mithras, the patron deity of soldiers. The upper portion of the building is an empty chamber decorated with frescoes depicting Mithras slaying a bull on the east wall and Mithras slaying a dragon on the west wall. In the middle of the room there is a secret trapdoor that can only be activated by simultaneously depressing hidden buttons in the frescoes, one on the bull’s neck, the other on the dragon’s breast, with a spear or sword point. Once opened, the trapdoor reveals a vertical shaft one can traverse using stubby iron bars that jut from the walls. At the bottom of the shaft one must let themselves drop about 8 feet to the floor of a man-made cavern. The cavern holds a shallow pool and behind it a sacrificial altar and idol of Mithras slaying a bull. The idol is made from marble and painted to look real. Here, soldiers gather under the guidance of Guson, the resident priest of Mithras, to sacrifice bulls and pay homage to their patron. The bulls are brought in through a secret tunnel that connects the cavern to the Corn Market.

Guson dwells in his own chambers in the gatehouse. He is a suave, well spoken man with black hair tinged white at the temples and an elegant pointed chin and aquiline nose. Guson always dresses in robes of blue linen over his plate-mail. He carries a shield bearing an image of Mithras and wears a red Phrygian cap in imitation of his deity.

West Tower: The west tower is commanded by Cwenen, young sergeant-at-arms with skin bronzed by many campaigns against Tristram’s enemies, chestnut hair and large, hazel eyes that flit constantly about a room looking for threats. An overbearing disciplinarian, her soldiers also know her to have a heart of gold – many soldiers down on their luck have found a few extra silver coins dropped in their laps as Cwenen walks by. Cwenen nearly became a priestess, but her lack of patience for book learning and love of swordplay sent her into the military life. Cwenen’s blade was taken as a prize when she faced down an orc chieftain many years ago on the field of battle. It is a bastard sword +1 of azure metal that grants its owner a +1 bonus to save against magic and, if it beats an opponent’s AC by more than 6 points transmutes metal armor to leather and leather armor to cloth. The bastard sword was forged for the bard Longorius, aid-de-camp of King Rollo of Lyonesse during his wars to conquer Western Venatia. The sword is aligned to Law and does not permit its user to lie.

East Tower: The east tower is commanded by Sergeant Ursuin, third of the three Harpies of the Bridge. Ursuin is a young woman from Blackpoort who entered Tristram’s service after saving Yarvis Krumm from bandits on one of his travels between Lyonesse and Blackpoort. Ursuin is tall and muscular, with tanned skin, bushy black hair and a heavy frame. Ursuin has a forceful personality, and few care to get in her way, though she is also very forgiving and great fun in a tavern brawl. During combat, she can choose to accept a -1 penalty to hit in exchange for a +1 bonus to inflict damage. Unlike her sister Harpies, she wields a battle-axe, a gift from Yarvis Krumm that is so finely forged it gives her a +1 bonus to hit.

All-Saints StreetAll-Saints Street is a fashionable promenade of sepia tiles and tall, imposing buildings of dark oak and yellow-white plaster. It is usually crowded with strutting students, aristocrats on parade, chattering bourgeois on the hunt for fun, strolling minstrels mingling their voices and lute-songs with the murmuring of the crowds, street performers in gaudy costume, coy prostitutes in their mandated yellow cloaks and partridge feathers tucked into their hair, beggars who look as though they’ve never missed a meal and craft pick pockets. The most impressive displays on the street, however, are made by the nuns of Nunnery of Proserpina. Each Sunday they emerge from their cloisters in vibrant blue robes and black shawls marked with the three golden pomegranate seeds that are the emblem of their order. Four nuns hold aloft a small golden altar of their patron goddess while the others hold sheaves of golden wheat and chant hymns in honor of Proserpina and Ceres. Young members of the order scatter pomegranate seeds while the senior members distribute silver coins bearing the goddess’ likeness to the poor who line the street.

Nunnery of Proserpina: The abbey is a fine building of limestone, two stories tall, with a tall, peaked roof clad in copper. The abbey has an almshouse on Bulwarks Lane, where copper coins and porridge are distributed to the poor, a hospice for those who cannot pay for their care, especially farmers, a chapel, rectory and dormitories. The abbess is Damma (2 hp), a plump woman with short hair the color of dark chocolate (a well known vice of the abbess, who spends rather more of the abbey’s budget on cocoa than she should) and olive skin. Damma is a devious woman, well versed in church politics and opposed to Bishop Bob, a member of the Kaspars, rivals to her own Papelard family. All nuns are technically married to Pluto, but Damma has been known to see men on the side when it was advantageous to her politically.

All-Saints College: All-Saints College was endowed by Queen Yvette-Mimi about 350 years ago. It occupies an ancient building of limestone, four stories tall and housing dormitories for the four sages and their fifteen to twenty students, lecture halls, a dining hall and kitchen and a small library with five tomes, these tomes composing the curriculum of the college. The dean of the college is one Malbot, a willowy man with thin arms and fingers and a face like a tack. Despite his imposing appearance, Malbot is a gregarious, good-natured old gentleman and much beloved by the students. Malbot is a devout worshiper of Ceres, but shares rooms with his good friend Guson, the cleric of Mithras who would like to overturn the old faith in Lyonesse and institute the worship a more robust and virtuous worship geared towards Law. Malbot often lectures his students on matters of divinity while walking through the streets of Lyonesse, sampling the wares of local pedlars and restauranteurs while he talks.

The Hôtel Kaspar: The hôtel of the Kaspars, the dukes of Brioche, is an imposing structure with a large armorial emblazoned on the third story wall. The house has four floors and a peaked roof with a copper roof. Two guards (heavy infantry) stand guard outside the thick oak front door at all times. Entrance can only be gained by getting past the butler. The hôtel is often visited by spies and various cousins and children of the Duke, who rarely enters Lyonesse for fear of assassination by his enemies. The main inhabitant is Tadoc, the Duke’s son and an infamous rake who spends his time drinking, whoring and keeping ill company (including dwarves!).

The Yellow Queen: The Yellow Queen is a restaurant and tavern run by Ywell (3 hp), a halfling chef with a puffy face and nut-brown skin, grey eyes and shoulder-length black hair always kept perfumed and curled. The restaurant derives its name from a marionette of a queen in yellow that hangs from an upper window. Most folk in Lyonesse know the story of how a very drunk Ywell got the marionette hurled at him by an angry Maggi when he got rowdy in her puppet theater some years back. He never gave the marionette back, and the two would be enemies yet had not a basket of warm muffins not appeared on Maggi’s doorstep the next night, and once a week thereafter. Ywell serves plates of trout in generous portions, steaming platters of escamoles in coriander sauce, bread dipped in cream and then fried in dill oil and ginger beer. His staff are all relations, and they are known to help themselves to patrons purses, replacing them after extracting a few gold coins or tiny gems. The restaurant has eight tables and five booths shrouded by curtains of light blue linen. The waiters and waitresses are famous for their copper helmets, essentially little kettles of hard cider worn on the head and in which patrons can dip their copper mugs. The upper floor is reserved for the “nobs”, and no pilfering is allowed there. Ywell can’t personally stand the nobles, so he spends his time on the ground floor with the bourgeois and peasants, smoking his ivory pipe and swapping stories.