The Mountains of Morpheus
The Sibarii in Detail
The Sibarii (pronounced si-BAR-ee-i) are the seven (or presently, five) independent city-states in northern Drau Mura, predominantly inhabited by the Azna humans. The majority of Azna live in villages and towns between these city-states — perhaps one in twenty actually live within the walls of one of the Sibarii. The city-states also house an assortment of other humans, as well as half-elves, clanless dwarves, halflings, and (rarely) the foreigner of another race.
By tradition, the ruler of a Sibarii city-state is called a Prince, though the Prince’s power is usually balanced (or in competition) with aristocratic and landowning families, middle-class guilds, and religious institutions (mainly the somewhat united churches of Ashoum). Subordinate to the Prince are various counts, barons, governors, and lordlings who rule over towns and the countryside, and collect taxes and tribute for the city-state in exchange for trade rights, military protection, and the occasional consultation on matters arcane and magical. Of course, this is rarely an efficient or clear-cut hierarchy; the Prince’s rule extends only as far as his soldiers and spies do, and ethnic solidarity is an unreliable motivator. It is not uncommon for a lord to defect to the authority of another Prince if she makes a better offer, or even to make a play for independence … or the Prince’s seat. Of course, many lords are just fine with their station, happy to interact with the Prince no more than needed to keep their territory managed. Also, some villages attempt independence from the Prince, though cutting oneself off from the support that a city-state can provide is a risky choice indeed.
The Sibarii have existed as urban centers for a very long time, and their development and expansion coincides with their subsumation into kingdoms and empires past. Their identity as Azna polities soldified some 180 years ago under the rule of Kasha Sword-Eye, the Azna warlord queen who temporarily united the Sibarii’s princes and overlords. Today, in the aftermath of the Wheat-Harvest War, the city-states of Strigis and Tsinnamarch are conquered by the kingdom of Kala Anar, while the remaining five city-states cautiously navigate toward the profiting off a landscape of increasing revolt, suppression, and banditry.
Residents: Azna humans, increasing number of Kala Anar humans,
Formerly two settlements on the opposite side of the Arnca River, Strigis has now grown to the third-largest city-state of the Sibarii. At its heart lies a fortress upon a small cliff overlooking the Arnca, with the more prominent sites — temples, mansions, and government buildings — clustered around the hill side of that cliff. On the opposite side of the city lies a patchwork of slums, shantytowns, and tanneries and smiths. Tall stone walls and owl-decorated battlements surround the whole city. A significant portion of the city was destroyed during the Wheat-Harvest War, but the Monarch of Kala Anar has sent architects to rebuild the city according to a more pleasing design.
Strigis has long stood in a precarious geo-political position, with Kala Anar to the west, the city-states of the Tesia to the south, and its rival Sibarii to the north, and relations have rarely been peaceful. Before the Wheat-Harvest War, Azna would raid settlements in Kala Anar and the Tesia, creating vulnerable borderland settlements for an ambitious Azna lordling to dominate and exploit (often with those same raiders under her leadership). Such action was tacitly condoned by the former Prince of Strigis, who acted as a patron to many of these bandit-adventurers and upstart aristocrats.
Within Strigis, reverence of a pagan owl deity, Sha Strigia, is popular, especially among Azna warriors and aristocrats. The owl-cult is local to Strigis, and devotees make burnt offerings in exchange for the deity’s strength and vigilance, as well as arrange yearly autumn festivities commemorating the city’s founding by distant, mythologized warriors. Sha Strigia, whose fierce visage was depicted upon the city’s former coat of arms, is often worshipped as a deity of war, cunning, and retribution. Her and Strigis’s Azna have long prided themselves on invulnerability from outside threats, and answering violence with violence. Thus is the memory of the Wheat-Harvest War all the more bitter — but it is memory that drives vengeance, not defeatism.
The postwar situation in Strigis and its surrounding countryside and towns is simultaneously more formal and more chaotic. Lord Count Aneth Arawn, the Sky-born general and strongman authorized by Kala Anar’s Monarch to pacify the local Azna, governs Strigis proper with an iron fist, while a mix of Sky-born, Azna, and even barbarian barons and vassals nominally loyal to him enjoy localized control over the outlying towns, villages, and manors. But these aristocrats have made slow progress in stopping the banditry that is driven variously by Azna rebels, opportunistic thieves, and former soldiers from any side of the Wheat-Harvest War. Besides, the loyalty of a countryside lordling can be fickle — especially when it is that of an Azna, signaling loyalty to his Sky-born superiors by day and sponsoring Azna rebellion by night.
Residents: Azna humans, increasing number of Kala Anar humans
Tsinnamarch has the unwholesome distinction of being founded, in times long past, by warlocks. Although the original traditions are now lost or outmoded, the city-state still boasts a relatively high number of practitioners of the dark arts. Most were allied with a local aristocratic house, but many of those relationships were broken or suspended during the Wheat-Harvest War. Although these warlocks mainly venerate the Great Hart and the Serpent, they frequently face charges of devil worship and similar evil behavior: Over the last century, many secret covens have come into conflict with a growing number of orders of paladins and their supporters among the Ashoumite peasantry. With several generations of strife having pitted Ashoumite Azna against “pagan” (or “devil-kin”) Azna against each other, the Sky-born conquerors of Tsinnamarch were ready to exploit that division during the Wheat-Harvest War.
Prewar infighting among the Azna of the Tsinnamarch area was so intense that a number of pro-Ashoum Azna lords sided (with little fanfare to their neighbors) with Kala Anar during the onset of war, having been promised both Sky-born protection and the opportunity to vanquish their hated warlock enemies. So far, it remains to be seen how well those promises will be kept by the Sky-born aristocracy and Lady Count Lydia Tisemenes, sorcerer and new ruler of Tsinnamarch. For now, the city proper is overseen by Count Tisemenes’s sorcerous and military forces, while the majority of the countryside and towns are allowed (or have successfully fought to keep) Azna leadership. Banditry and unrest in the Tsinnamarch area is no less vigorous than in the Strigis area, but the vast majority of it seems to involve Azna preying on each other. (That said, freshly arrived Soil-born are considered easy pickings, and receive a great deal of theft and violence.)
In contrast to the countryside’s viciousness, Tsinnamarch has long enjoyed a reputation as a center of culture and learning, owing in part to its summertime bardic festivals that embrace serene, ritual pomp and oratory as well as frenzied, drunken dancing that heralds the succeeding pilgrimage of adventuring parties to the Mountains of Morpheus. (These adventurers usually go insane, die, or turn into monsters — tha’ts why the partying is so intense.) More importantly, Tsinnamarch is home to the greatest library among the Sibarii. Originally a temple to the Serpent, the Ostrisza Library stocks an immense collection of text on nearly every major and minor subject. But books are expensive and fragile: Access to the Ostrisza requires the patronage of one of the city’s leading aristocratic houses, and even then, the theft and destruction of knowledge is punishable by a slow death. Scribes work tirelessly to reproduce the library’s knowledge, and the most elite of warriors are rumored to protect arcane lore sealed beneath the library, in the city’s ancient catacombs.
Aristocratic Hierarchy in the Strigis Area
Map of Strigis-Tsinnamarch Area
Black circles indicate villages and small towns; concentric circles indicate towns; squares indicate cities; green circles indicate sites in the wilderness. Not all villages and towns are indicated on this map.
Villages and Small Towns:
- Aiovra’s Dance: Small village near mountains, worgs in nearby forests.
- Carnosella: Small town, site of Baron Sata’s manor, large castle under restoration.
- Dasio: Town between Nardo and Kasha’s Watch.
- Dona’s Solitude: Small town in moorlands, base of two warlock cults.
- Dragon’s Eye: Lakeside small town, governed by Tesian mercenaries.
- Flower River: Small town, Old Ways dominant, mysterious statues.
- Giavino: Small seaside town, rumors of ghosts.
- Green Hill: Idyllic small town, Old Ways dominant.
- Grezzapo: Village near mountains, ruined castle nearby.
- Half Moon: Small town between Nardo and Kasha’s Watch.
- Khrysmara: Small town, ravaged after the Wheat-Harvest War.
- Makona’s Meet: Small town, base of paladin order.
- Maria’s Meet: Village, under patronage of Brixia vassal.
- Middlewater: Small town, site of Sky-born Baron Rahar’s newly acquired castle.
- Northwater: Lakeside small town, amazing hallucinogenic honey.
- Ozro’s Dance: Small town, site of Baron di Zhatto’s somewhat ruined castle.
- Romero’s Meet: Village, base of warlock cult.
- St. Albano: Small town, ravaged after the Wheat-Harvest War, Ashoum-dominant.
- St. Hermos: Village, halfling minority, Ashoum-dominant.
- St. Moyros: Small village, Ashoum-dominant, resting place of an important saint.
- St. Oranos: Village, Ashoum-dominant, abandoned mines nearby.
- Trezzano: Village, near Baron Sata’s manor.
Villages have a population somewhere between 50 and 1,500; small towns have a population somewhere between 1,000 and 2,500. Usually, the larger population and a town market distinguishes a village from a small town, but there is no formal identification.
- Granitecastle: Seaside town, rulership contested between Azna and Sky-born.
- Kasha’s Watch: Fortified town in hills, under puppet Baron di Zhatto’s rule but local Azna are restive.
- Nardo: Town in Azna moorlands, ransacked during Wheat-Harvest War, destination for Ashoumite pilgrims.
- Sisziano: Town near swampland, ruled by Azna lords puppeted by Sky-born in Strigis.
Towns have a population somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000.