Dark Sun over Murray
(Fortified Trade Village)
Allegiance: Balican merchant houses (Wavir, Rees, Tomblador) / Veiled Alliance (secret)
Ruler: Governor Arisphistaneles
The town of Altaruk sits atop an important juncture along
the Balic-Tyr trade route. Other routes branching from
Altaruk extend toward the northern city-states and into
the eastern Tablelands. Altaruk lies near the head of the Big Fork of the
Estuary of the Forked Tongue, a silt channel dotted with
small islands that pours into the great Sea of Silt.
The powerful Balican merchant houses of Wavir, Rees, and Tomblador sponsor the heavily
fortified town, which serves as a key deterrent to raiders along this portion of the trade
roads. Protection is extended to caravans of other merchant houses, provided they
pay the toll as they pass through Altaruk. For caravans, the toll is one gold piece per caravan
mount, an exorbitant price that prohibits most merchants from spending more than one day in
the village. For individual travelers the toll is one ceramic piece.
Arisphistaneles, a Balican noble, governs the town’s day-to-day business.
He is well-known as a pragmatic man who holds citizens
and traders equally accountable to Altaruk’s laws. Arisphistaneles
also has a secret: he heads the town’s Veiled
Alliance cell and can be counted on to provide shelter,
information, and supplies to Alliance members who can
prove their dedication to the cabal.
Given the town’s covert status as a haven to preservers
and its fair rulership, Altaruk could make a good base
of operations for an adventuring group interested in
righteous action. Its way-station drama, regular bandit-clearing
excursions, and plague of giants keep Altaruk
flush with adventure possibilities.
A 15-foot granite wall encircles Altaruk with 20-foot towers at regular
intervals; a well-trained mercenary army of 500 (most of the town’s population)
mans its battlements and maintains order within the town; no easy feat with
the disparate merchant factions, bored out-of-work mercenaries, and violent
frontier types. This company, headed by Captain Bost, is armed with mekillot-hide
shields, wooden lances, and daggers of sharpened bone, and includes kank-riding
cavalry who frequently mount patrols to flush out bandits and predatory
creatures within a half-day’s ride. Only a sizable offensive might crack the
mercenaries’ defenses, although the town has been destroyed and rebuilt
several times in its history, most recently 23 years ago. The ruins of Old Altaruk
are buried beneath the sands. Lately, the army’s commanders have been casting a
wary eye toward the Estuary as rumors swirl that the giants who dwell on the
islands of the Forked Tongue are planning to again move against the town.
Around the fortress walls grow tall pyracantha thorn bushes. These provide
some defense, but mainly they serve another function. Every guard on
the battlements knows of the Green Test. When any wizard asks entry, the
guard demands to see a cantrip or other spell. He observes the thorn bushes
closely during the spellcasting. If they survive, the guard allows the wizard in.
Otherwise he sounds the alarm.
Major caravans pass through Altaruk about once every three weeks or so. Between
caravans, residents endure a tedious life of bad meals, boring guard duty, and routine
maintenance, punctuated by episodes of stark terror during the occasional giant attacks.
In this, village life resembles that in an army camp or fortress. Citizens pass the time
gambling, competing in wrestling or knife throwing contests, or, remarkably, learning to
read. Governor Arisphistaneles permits all citizens to read. He also has introduced other
radical ideas that have made the Preservers’ hard lives almost pleasant.
Arisphistaneles, Governor of Altaruk Middle-aged human male
Arisphistaneles is a 54-year old noble from the city-state of Balic. He wears Balican clothing, the chiton and chlamys, and
leather armor. He is of average height, muscular build, though paunchy, and bald-in fact, completely
hairless. Some speculate that the Governor must have dwarf blood in his past. However, a small
proportion of Athasian humans have no natural body hair.
He is outspoken, haranguing, curmudgeonly, but amusing and charming in his way.
Abusive toward those who question the wisdom of teaching slaves and soldiers to read, and harshly taunting of those who refuse the opportunity to learn, Arisphistaneles regards those who show a thirst for knowledge as his blood kin.
Selonius, the Governor’s Scribe Adult half-elf male
Arisphistaneles’s slender scribe. Quiet, efficient, and intelligent.
Tellemon, Captain of the Guards Adult human male
Known for keeping the merchant quarter well-policed, Captain Tellemon also had a fondness for pitting plaintiffs
and defendants in trial by combat in Bloodsand Arena. The last time he did this was when he placed Kaldras
against the PCs; he was assassinated after the trial. The reason for his killing was that he was supposedly a secret
agent of a templar of Tyr named Hasaval, and was plotting the murder of Governor Arisphistaneles. He also had recruited
Cawthra Cloudseeker to try to confirm his suspicions of a Veiled Alliance cell in Altaruk and report its members to him,
but his death freed Cawthra from having to betray his new allies.
Bost, Captain of the Guards Adult mul male
An ex-gladiator and retired adventurer, Bost has been hardened by seeing many of his most cherished relationships
shattered by death, while his greatest foes continue to live. Governor Arisphistaneles chose him to succeed Captain
Tellemon after his predecessor’s assassination, selecting Bost not only for his skill as a psychic warrior, but for his
dedication, toughness, and resolve.
Rhotan Vor, Wavir representative Elderly dwarf male
The head of House Wavir’s outpost in Altaruk, and its representative among the triumvirate of merchant barons who oversee the town. Years ago, he was a reliable caravan master of Lord Tabaros Wavir. A surly, no-nonsense businessman, Rhotan has a fearsome reputation, and is widely known to have been involved in the hostile takeover of several Rees trade routes. Always accompanied by a half-giant bodyguard.
Wavir sigil: a silver jozhal on a blue field.
Specialties: grain, ceramics, precious metals
Adonia Rees, Rees representative Adult human female
A bored noblewoman, wed to the nephew of the head of the house, Lady Essen Rees, Adonia represents
House Rees’s interests in Altaruk. She cuckolded her husband with Jotano when the rogue had evaded
capture after the party’s arrival in town. A psion bodyguard accompanies her at all times.
Rees sigil: a black snake skull on gold
House Rees once dominated Athas’s grain trade, but was supplanted by Wavir. They now have more specialized
foods, including olives, grapes (and wine), and herbs. They also breed field slaves to tend their crops, and
are major moneylenders in some settlements, including Altaruk.
Farlahn Barba, Tomblador representative Middle-aged human male
A boisterous bruiser from Balic, Farlahn is a former mercenary wounded in the service
of Lord Kaladon Tomblador. As a reward for his loyalty, the soldier of fortune was
made head of the Altaruk outpost when the opening presented itself. He is a man of simple pleasures, oft seen with wine in hand at Bloodsand Arena. When business matters arise, he is quick to seize on weakness. Even drunkenness seems not to be a handicap: if someone arouses his fury, Farlahn is likely to have his bodyguards deal with them harshly. His two chief guards are a pair of mul slave soldier sisters. That they share his bed is an open secret.
Tomblador gladiators compete regularly in Bloodsand Arena, and over 100 of
the town’s mercenary army consists of slave soldiers sold to and set free by the Governor.
Sigil: a white inix on a green field
Specialties: weapons and armor, fighting slaves
Gallard, Stel representative
The Stels have a token outpost in Altaruk, mainly acting as an exchange point with the Wavirs. They are not part of the ruling triumvirate, and are excluded from major decisions of the village. The head of the outpost is a former bandit lord who made a fortune raiding other caravans and desert tribes, eventually taking Stel funding to subsidize his pirating. He now takes a desk job at this small outpost, wanting nothing more than the quiet retirement he longed for as a raider. Gallard owns the One-Eyed Kank, Altaruk’s primary inn and tavern. This is his personal property, not that of House Stel. The inn is named after his personal mount, Boreas.
Main routes to Ringing Forest, Ogo‐Makla‐Urik‐ Raam‐Draj. Exporting ceramics, gold, weapons, art & slaves; importing grains, iron.
Sigil: a black and white banner
Birk Suntouched Middle-aged dwarf male
Seemingly a crazed beggar, Birk is an operative of the Veiled Alliance, which is to say of Governor Arisphistaneles.
He was the one who ordered the death of Captain Tellemon, using a mul gladiator as his catspaw. After a brief clash with the party, Birk turned himself
in and was set free by the governor.
Banoc Elderly human male
A member of the Veiled Alliance. He was a friend of Suldin of Nibenay, Cawthra Cloudseeker’s late mentor. He sent Cawthra to kill Elek the Enchanter, a royal defiler of Andropinis, Dictator of Balic. When Cawthra succeeded, Banoc
named him a member of the Veiled Alliance.
The Blue Raven Adult aarakocra female
Altaruk’s one aarakocra whore,The Blue Raven keeps a roost above the roof of The Oasis, a winesink and pillowhouse run by a silver-haired elf matron and served by a big-bosomed dwarfess. She came to know Cawthra Cloudseeker more than once during his dealings there with Elek the Enchanter. When he turned out to be penniless following their first liaison, she was less than pleased, but when he returned to pay his bill and have another tumble she was more than inviting. Cawthra also made sure to pay her extra ceramic to keep her beak shut about his comings and goings.
Charl Middle-aged human male
Silt priest who has taken guardianship of a shrine near Altaruk, always clad in a stained beige cloak. Charl’s shrine is about a mile to the east of Altaruk’s main gate, on the shore of the Sea of Silt. Often seen destroying trees and grasses near the sea. Much maligned by Aristphistaneles and indeed most others in authority in Altaruk, but has an intense following among the locals, who respect his power and that of the Sea.
In the Nearby Wastes
Kesi Middle-aged dwarf female
One of Athas’s few remaining druids, Kesi is grove master of a nearby oasis. She hates arcane magic in all its forms.
Areela Middle-aged elf female
Chief of the Moonrunner Clan. Negotiated for some of Kaldras’s gear after his death. She knows the PCs are stronger than they look, but wouldn’t be above ambushing or stealing from them in the right circumstances. Like many elf tribes, the
Moonrunners are known to trade, raid, hunt, or herd as they please, depending on their conditions and how desperate they are.
Kaldras Adult elf male
A Moonrunner elf, dune trader, and opportunistic slaver. Hoodwinked in an iron deal in Tyr, Kaldras sought to regain his losses by taking on some hired swords and then selling them into slavery. His marks, the PCs, bested him in a trial in Altaruk’s
Bloodsand Arena, and Kaldras was killed by Jotano while fleeing for his life.