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|Stadtus||Sol of Tsu-Ling|
|Magistrate||Lady Morilla Armastas|
Keys, The City of Trade, was a city founded very recently at the turn of this, the third, age, designated as a place for trade it lies in the north on the eastern coast north of the Empire, encompassing the ruins of Gileenim, the old pirate city that was destroyed during the High Final Dawn.
Keys Basic Background
The History of Keys
By far the youngest city within the Empire, Keys was until as recently as IM 1003 simply the coastal village of Armastas. Settled and expanded by a group of ten Noble and Merchant Houses the site was chosen due to the nature of its natural harbour. Though not large it was found to be the source of the curious trade currents along the east coast. So strange are these that they flow both into and out of the harbour such that skiffs, sloops, barges and cogs heading for Keys are swept along with relative ease. It takes an experienced trader or sea captain to make use of the Lowing Current (that going away, that coming in is the Wellowing Current) but given the way the city has grown most have taken the time to acquire such skills.
When the Ten Houses sent craftsmen to the city they sought out the best and made it clear that they would pay top grull for materials and supplies. With the land being free of anything other than an easily cleared village the houses and buildings were made large and sturdy. Cheap to the craftsmen they settled there with those that protected them. Well paid for their work the traders became interested and then the Sires were courted by the new Council. They had to be of course – the city was intended to be the trade capital of the Empire and there may be an argument made that this has indeed become so.
Near from the day of its inception, Keys has been governed by a consistent Council. Count Drago (or ‘Mother Drago’ as local slang would have it) embarked on an ambitious and successful plan that has seen Keys rise from little more than a muddy frontier town to a compact city of shining buildings, clad streets and Guild after Guild, after Guild. The facilities for trade are second to none and the Council has ever been at pains to welcome, aid and facilitate trade on whatever level. As a result the citizens have become rather rich and business thrives on every street.
Keys is very young and this shows both in the newness of even the most simple dwelling to the way it rises suddenly amongst the wilds about it. Other cities see a gradual change from urbane civilisation into rural dependant villages, to settled lands and then wilds. Such a blur across the landscape is not seen in Keys. Within its fortifications lies the city, directly without a northern wasteland with little to recommend it! Sparse and cruel, the territory of Keys is hardly Imperial at all – most of the few folk living there being tribal at heart and certainly with little in common with the citizens themselves.
The closest city to the Far North it might seem to have been an odd location for a trade city. But it gives good access to the Far North and excellent berth to shipping along the populous east coast of the Empire. The best roads in the Empire lead to Alguz – which was itself once the centre of trade for the Sallow Princes and those that came after. The Northern cities of the Empire have all based much of their policies on trade and certainly there are many, many traders whose routes centre purely on Keys. Deci and Eartholme. If the Northern cities weren’t in such stiff competition with one another they’d doubtless be able to buy the other cities in a few years…
Or at least be able to swap Deci for a good ox, only slightly lame, one careful owner.
The People and the Land of Keys
The people of Keys derive from two main groups. The first are, or certainly were, skilled craftsmen and experienced soldiery who were paid extremely well to come to Armastas and forge it into the City of Keys. Most settled when life was made further rewarding for them and they in turn brought the factors, retainers and artisans that trade attracts. Since then even the transients are swept up by the Guilds and newcomers soon learn to fit in – or go hungry.
Conscious of their former skills but lowly social roots, the citizens tend to be rather touchy. They are far richer than people found elsewhere and they take pains to show this by dressing gaudily, by living well and thinking of themselves as being very fine folk indeed. Arrogance hardly begins to describe the people’s opinion of themselves towards others and they are downright scathing to adventurers and common mercenaries. Here wealth is the key to everything, apparent if not always actual. The people are often plump, smug men and women who have done well and believe that if a person want to ‘get on’ then they need to do a proper days work. Violence is anathema – whilst a studied insult is perfectly acceptable. Always eager to rise higher they can be a bitchy people but ultimately they do know their place in society. Often starkly so. Social rank is all important and propriety ever to be observed. In short, the citizens are snobs – but hard working ones who fiercely believe in order and the rule of their Masters and Council. This attitude extends across the racial divide – the city has no qualms about what form one might take as long as one fits in. The city has ogres that dress well, orcs that skive a lot but make their way humping goods from ship to market and even the hired alfar tend to enjoy their punch-ups in their own taverns.
Disliking war and conflict (because it is bad for business, is the first resort of the witless and because they’re a bit too far and puffy to put up much of a fight) the people have learnt to regard formal Mercenary Helds as just about acceptable. They pay them a regular wage to go out and scour the land for them after all. Besides which, and probably more importantly, Mercenary Sires and their followers tend to be flash bastards. If one has to wear a sword then it is only right that it be one in a velvet scabbard and with a gold wrapped hilt.a
Since IM 1004 though various threats or warnings of impending danger emerged from the Tribal lands around the city. Not willing to risk the city they had developed the Council undertook a gradual development of defences for the city. Even here though the culture of the city shone though, where else would extensive walls around the city be faced and decorated with precious metal on the inside turning their warlike nature into one of a more ornamental (and gaudy) one.
The improving of defences in the face of threats have turned the city into one of the better fortified ones in the empire, gatehouses, watchtowers and warmachines line its walls, all for the basis of 'safe trading' naturally. Gradually the citizens of keys came to accept 'some' of those who were of a more military rather than trading tradition. The Mercenary helds hired by keys have all been employed for many years now and are widely regarded as 'our boys' as are the cities part time milita who are view by many as being those who couldn't quite cut it in a more mercantile profession and should be accepted (if pitied). More recently the glamerous boys and girls of the Keys Lancers under their dashing cavalry leader (and city commisent) Kintama have added glamour to the profession as did the raising of an Honour Guard by the citys own Governor Drago whose immaculate livery and shiny Laminar armour make them an impressive sight when parading in Armastas Square.
The attitudes of the city towards war and indeed the Tribes changed dramatically in IM 1008 with the War against the Torn Isles.
Why Mercenaries Adventure in Keys
Often they don’t.
Traditionally the city itself is not a good place for adventurers as they are regarded so badly. Adventurers are nothing other than assassins who don’t have the wit to pretend otherwise - it is said. Brutal, opinionated and dressing like beggars as they are the work to be had is typically found in more quiet tasks. In fact there is plenty of work to be found as there is so much wealth in the city but it is not hawked on street corners or even decided in public. The people who understand this best and have the skills needed are commonly traders. Since established traders are affectionately regarded as roguish ruffians anyway (they being the exception since they do, after all, trade) it is they that get a lot of the work. Traders are all adventurers anyway so whenever there is a particularly noisome orc tribe or the like to be dealt with it is to the traders that the concerned turn. They in turn then tend to seek out an adventuring party to do the work. Many traders have hiring licences to do just this and a few of these to nothing else but such seeking and hiring. Trading in skills, as it were.
In the aftermath of the War against the Torn Isles the attitudes between the City and the Tribes living around it are changing. Thanks to the presense of Ruk and his band, along with the Keys Lancers (Kintama's cavalry held) patrolling, the City has much more of a presence in the rural lands. Governor Drago, having accepted the Tribal title of King of Keys (while accepting it has no standing from an Empire view) and with his respect for the tribes of the Far North is trying to build a better relationship (from a tribal perspective)with those Tribes living in the Rural lands around the City.
Despite this Keys remains in many ways surrounded by a wild and hostile land. While the tribes no longer hate Keys in the same way it really is the only vestige of civilisation for days, even weeks of travel. With the Far North relatively close the city is the remotest settlement in the Empire – apart from Port Miere, which of course has a sea to contend with. There’s a lot of unsettled land out there, and plenty of space for evil, darkness and the hungry to spawn.
Then again, this is very much the face of things. With so much wealth in the city and with most of the Empire’s Sires and grand Guilds present the more specific, important and well-paid work of all can often be found here. Or at least it might be the place where a meeting might be held to decide upon, hire and support such. The work might not be in or even anywhere near to Keys, but the cities influence might touch on the whole of the Empire and beyond. Thus the work might be varied and of more importance than the commonly disturbed mine or ardent brigand chief.
With the recent (IM1010) war with Myron there is a strong interest by the council in the recruiting of Mercenaries to help patrol the rural lands. The focus of this is no longer Tribal as it was in the earlier years but now for agents of Myron.
Keys shares a boarder with Myron, the deathly wards cutting across part othe Keys Territory. There has been much infiltration by the Sons of the Black Lead a Myronese faction of slavers who have been gathering slaves (typically Tribal) and taking them back to Myron for whatever purpose.
Recently (IM1011) Governor Drago has begun a crackdown on Slavery in the lands of Keys, not the traditional small scale Tribal slave trade but the wholesale selling of large numbers of slaves to these Myronese representatives.
Thus mercenaries looking for well paid hire would do well to consider the city of Keys whose purse is bulging and willing to be opened.
The city itself is surrounded by a high strong fortified wall all around the city, watch towers, gate houses, platform towers and warmachines study the walls. Unusually from the inside it is apparent that precious metals and shiny stones were used as part of the construction as the very walls themselves seem to glitter in the sun. From inside the city you could almost forget there were rural lands outside the city as viewed from all bar the tallest of buildings the city is surounded by a glittery shining wall.
Every quarter has Finely cobble streets, quality housing, and all that would be expected from a modern city, from basic school, meeting places, farmers markets.
Harbour (Eastern) Quarter
The harbour has been broadened and expanded into a reasonable sized port. The city maintains several sloops manned by its harbour militia there along with its boatyards, the fishing fleet as can the bargees guild and the Netsmens guild Here too can be found the Cathedral to the Green Mana Dragon, once manifest in the city when it was under the threat of invasion it is calmer once more.
Closest to the Tribes and the north the multiple barracks built by the Bastion are here, though the cities own extensive defences and forces mean no bastion helds have ever been stationed in the city. The coursing run (racing arena) can be found here though it has been little used in recent years and is in need of more than a lick of paint. Here too are the famous Ogre watch whose hulking figures are a familar sight in the quarter, respectfully tipping their helmets to those of station.
There is little special to make this quarter stand out.
Like the Western quarter there is little which stand out, notable exceptions are Dirks Jousting Glade, a somewhat incongrous open area with seating where folks can watch would be knights (and the very occasional genuine article) charging one another in full armour.
Of more interest to Mercenaries it is here in the Southern quarter than the Volksraad Keep can be found - though it has fallen out of use since the contruction of the Volksraan hold in Athel.
The heart of the city in every way.
In many ways crime is similar to Halgar. This is to be expected as so many of the civic leaders came from there. They’re not as given to malcontention perhaps but neither do the people disapprove of the likes of assassination. The latter is just one more tool for social advancement and is certainly better than skirmishes in the streets. Noticable here are the Ogre Watch in the North Quarter, surprisingly well dressed and polite for their size and reputation the Ogre watch specialise in being seen and the rowdiest of drunks and malcontents swiftly choose to head home and 'sleep it off' upon their arrival.
There are very few Nobles in Keys. There is a lot of influence from such as they (of course) own Keys but almost none make their homes here. Instead the loftier social strata is made up of the many Merchant Sires that dwell here. Not that the people dislike the Nobility – indeed, Keys is a very loyal city to Empress and, perhaps just afterwards, Empire.
The city itself is owned by 10 Noble Houses who paid for its construction, their regular devidends means while their do not live here their factors do and they keep a keen eye on their interests in the city.
In IM1006 Governor Drago began courting Morilla Badrass-Amora, the sister of the cities beloved Empress, Morilla moved to Keys and brought her own unique brand of charm to the city. Despite her cutting remarks, disparaging comments and brutally honest observations the city took her to their collective hearts. In IM1007 they wed and after a Tithe of the Nobles the title of Count was bestowed upon Drago and a new noble house -House Armastas was formed. Thus House Armastas become the sole House based in the city of Keys.
The somewhat fairy tale nature of this 'boy done good' (mercenary becomes governor, meets Empresses sister, marrys her, becomes Count and Lord of house) combined with the cities affection for Morilla means they have achieved somewhat of a celebrity status as the city's First Family.
The War with the Torn Isles
The Threat of Myron
The Keys Council
- ↑ Alan Morgan, The Companion Issue 7 Vol 2 April 2005