With Strange Aeons
Dantir and the city of Night
The City of Night
Night is a sprawling maze of narrow streets and soaring towers. Founded approximately eight hundred years ago by Liak the Conqueror, it serves as the capital of his continent-spanning empire and is home to well over a million people. Liak is immortal. He is also a ruthless dictator who has raised oppression to an art form. He is the only god his people are permitted to worship, but for over eight centuries, he has justified that worship by protecting them from war, famine, plague, and natural disasters.
Citizens of the city of Night officially refer to themselves as the Blessed, seeing as how they live in the shadow of their god, though few actually feel very blessed at all. Most live in relative poverty with virtually no hope of upward social mobility. Laws are numerous, oppressive, and subject to change without notice. To make matters worse, their enforcement is in the hands of corrupt guardsmen who further drain the resources of a heavily taxed populace. All in all, the daily lives of working class citizens are studies in quiet despair.
The city’s noble houses, by comparison, have stunning amounts of wealth and privileges, and it is they that are held up by Liak, his councilors, and the Church as shining examples of the beneficence of the God-King. Naturally, these nobles are all fiercely competitive, each trying to rise in favor with Liak by humiliating or discrediting the others. This competition drives the demand for the professional thieves, saboteurs, assassins, and adventurers that are the player characters.
Above all is Liak, the Lord of Night, God-King of the Dantiri. It is he who subjugated and pacified all of the peoples of the Dantirian lands from the unscalable Diamond Peaks in the west to the Endless Sea in the east, from the icy waste of Lis in the south to the mysterious Shimmering Veil in the north. No creature draws breath without his permission (or at least that is the “official” line). Immediately below him is the Council of Nine, also called The Wheel, made up of the heads of the nine most powerful houses of the Blessed. One of these councilors is also the high priest of the Church of Night, making the Church the second-most powerful organization in the city. Both of these organizations have an enforcement branch that sees that their policies are carried out in the city. The Hand of Order serves The Wheel, while the Church has its Inquisitors. Lastly, there is the City Guard, tasked with keeping the peace and enforcing the Holy Writs.
In the lower levels of the city, the barter system is used almost exclusively. In the more middle-class areas, currency takes the form of copper marks, bronze talents, and iron nails, tokens that can be melted down for smithing when they are not being used as currency. Iron pieces are called nails because that is frequently what they are. The upper classes have minted coinage in silver and gold, although admittedly, most of them never see an actual coin. They conduct the majority of their business on credit drawn against their house account in the city’s bank. The amount of gold and silver each house has is little more than a number penned in a ledger.
The poverty of the lower classes is no indicator of the city’s relative wealth. In truth, the resources and taxes of an entire continent flow into Night. Liak’s personal wealth is uncountable, and the members of the upper nobility are not far behind. Every year, vast sums are spent on security, magical research, intelligence gathering, and bribery, as the various houses and secret societies vie for dominance in Night’s impossibly complicated social hierarchy.
The social cannibalism of Night dictates that the Blessed, at all socio-economic levels, form groups for mutual protection. These groups can be guilds, gangs, secret societies, trading companies, cults, clans, neighborhoods, noble houses, or any other type of group that provides some sort of benefit to its members. Many citizens belong to several groups, some of which are in direct competition with one another.
Because all the peoples of Dantir pay homage to Liak, all intelligent races are permitted to join the ranks of the Blessed, living and working in the city. In spite of this official tolerance, however, racism is rampant. Most neighborhoods are segregated, and at best, attitudes toward other races/ethnicities can be considered grudgingly tolerant. At worst, they are viciously hostile. Furthermore, because humans are the dominant species in Night’s nobility, they receive favorable treatment from both the church and the government.
Citizens of Night are expected to work and to lead quiet, law-abiding lives. A curfew of one hour past sunset is loosely enforced in most middle- to upper-class neighborhoods. For the most part, the Guard doesn’t go into the lower-class neighborhoods at night, so there is no curfew there. Vagrants can be sent to work in mines, quarries, or other dangerous places, so unemployed adventurers frequently carry documents identifying them as contract laborers for specific guilds or business owners. Weapons and metal armor are prohibited to most citizens. Individuals with security jobs (private guards, etc.) are exempted from this law, provided they have proper documentation and are currently performing their duties. Belt knives, canes, staves, and leather clothing are allowed, although obviously unnecessary or undeniably martial versions of these items will certainly draw the ire of the Guard.
The Kingdom Beyond the Walls
While Night may be the center of Dantiri culture, the kingdom of Dantir is vast and home to a great variety of peoples. There are countless agricultural villages, mining towns, lumber camps, caravan stops, and so on dotting the landscape. There are not, however, any other actual cities. The government sets strict limits on the size of settlements, and excess population is relocated to more remote areas, ostensibly to leverage that area’s natural resources. In truth, however, this is a control mechanism used by Liak to limit the potential for an uprising.
The contrast between the lives of the Blessed and those of the rural Dantiri is striking. While still heavily taxed, the rural Dantiri are, for the most part, beneath the notice of the Wheel and thus immune to their petty machinations and draconian laws. Ironically, most Dantiri wholeheartedly believe the propaganda that life in Night is far superior to that in the outlying districts, and young people still leave home to make their fortunes in the city.