A Measure of Peace
History of Magnimar
In the High First Age, there was no city of Magnimar. You cannot find it listed on any of the maps of that era. Yet though it was not named as such, it existed even then.
Magnimar was once the palatial estate of Eclipsed Bounty, a Chosen of Serenity Sidereal. Naming his estate The Emerald Star of Delight and Delirium, he gifted it to his lover, the Waxing Moon Lunar Harvested Radiance. It was here that they spent their spare time relaxing in each others’ arms, away from the prying eyes of the Deliberative and in one particular room, from even the Loom of Fate itself. It was thus basking in each others’ glory that was their undoing, though who ultimately can blame those who are in love?
Eclipsed Bounty had ignored the debates of his fellows and as such, remained largely ignorant to the schemes of the Bronze Faction. He assumed that things would right themselves ultimately—not every prophecy is one that comes to pass. Debates about the morality of the Lawgivers’ actions did not interest Eclipsed Bounty—they distracted him from the many forms of masculinity that his lover could offer him. So when the day of reckoning arrived, both were playing quiet games with one another on the veranda of their magnificent palace. Their peace was not, however, to be maintained.
At the grand feast during Calibration when the trap was sprung and the Solar Deliberative came crashing down, Harvested Radiance’s Solar mate, [[Allenda Xing-hua the Morning Sparrow]], was one of the few who initially escaped. Fussing over her appearance had led to a quest to find more suitable oils to bathe in, which ultimately caused her to be late. She was alerted by the sounds of battle and when her Dragonblooded bodyguard turned against her as well, she let loose with the raw power that only a Solar of the Dawn Caste can. It is said that the path she cut through the Blessed Isle was paved with the blood and bones of 10000 mortals that stood against her.
After a solid week of fighting, Allenda made her way to The Emerald Star, where she assumed her Lunar mate to be residing—she desired allies against the treachery of the Dragonblooded and the Sidereals leading them and trusted only Harvested Bounty, who, while occasionally surly, had never been outright defiant. Arriving by a captured (sky plane) she first discovered Eclipsed Bounty instead. In her rage, she assumed that he had led Harvested Radiance away from her. She attacked. Within moments, both Harvested Radiance and Eclipsed Bounty, as well as their Dragonblooded servants, the famed Knights Pericles, were dead, and their haven from harm laid down in ruins.
But such a brilliant display of violence would not go unnoticed. The local legion, the 97th “Manta Rays” saw the anima banner of the Dawn Caste and hurried to their brothers, the Knights Pericles, aid. They found the Morning Sparrow weeping over the bodies of the two men she had once counted on as allies and as friends, sorrowful with the grave act she had committed. When the 97th attacked, she offered no resistance, dying pierced upon a dozen daiklaves. They burned the remains of all present with full honors (like Dragonblooded everywhere, they did not want to deal with a Solar’s angry ghost), but left the estate as they found.
In time, however, the new Shogunate needed naval bases throughout the South and the waters around the Emerald Star were perfect for such a spot. The Dragonblooded Indros Anjuman, a third cousin of the fourth Shogun, led the expedition to reclaim the area from the wild. They founded Fort Indros, originally named after his grandfather, the hero Indros Dura who personally slew two Solars during the Usurpation (though he in turn was killed by a dragon of sorcery enhanced Bronze Legionaires). Over the years though, his troops began to refer to it as Anjuman’s Fortress, due to his bravery in war against the enemies of Creation.
Originally, Fort Indros served as a refueling station for the Flawless Flames Fleet, the ships that patrolled the southern section of the Inland Sea. During the latter half of the Low First Age, it was further developed into a fishing port and became trade partners with Chiaroscuro and Paragon, as well as the Blessed Isle.
The area suffered as much as the rest of Creation during the Great Contagion. When the Fair Folk invaded, those soldiers who had survived the Contagion and were stationed at Fort Indros went to war. The 19th Shogunate Legion marched out and met the raksha in combat at the Battle of Sozen’s Pass. They were slaughtered, almost to the man, unprepared to face the behemoths and magics of the Fair Folk, their troops to weary from plague and fatigue. Even the spirit allies of the 19th, including their legion deity (Strife Inducing Stride), were defeated—(Strife Inducing Stride) was captured and tortured and then released back in front of the Fair Folk army as a warning of destruction and a message of malice. The survivors fled back to the coast and warned all they could. Fort Indros was evacuated as the soldiers fled to the Blessed Isle to make a final stand there.
The miracle of miracles occurred and the Scarlet Empress defeated the Fair Folk with the Realm Defense Grid, but still she had her opposition. A band of warlords calling themselves the Seven Tigers openly defied her rule and prepared for an invasion of the Blessed Isle, or the Realm as it was now known. The Empress destroyed them with the RDG and left their remains to rot in the sun’s glare. A few hundred soldiers escaped the destruction, fleeing in all directions. One band came upon the abandoned fort, which had been left in haste. As such, several weapons and supplies still existed there, in less than pristine, but readily serviceable condition. The soldiers, calling themselves the Lǎohǔ (老虎 in High Realm) quickly subjugated the surviving local peoples, a vast ethnographic population collectively known as the Chelax, or Chelaxians (邪魔恋人 in High Realm, شيطانة عاشقات in Fire Tongue). The Lǎohǔ began to wage war on their neighbors, hoping to recover some of their lost pride as well as wealth. One of their first targets was Lap, however, which easily defeated the poorly trained, low morale peasant forces of the Chelaxians before beating back the Lǎohǔ. The remainder of the forces retreat back to Fort Indros and nurse their wounds, but do not establish any formal government. Lawlessness reigned in the region for 80 years.
Circa Realm Year 90, the warlord Antiochus the Bejeweled, a former mercenary of Gem, took Fort Indros as a part of his Ara Pacis Empire. He renames the area Magnimar, a word in his native dialect of Tertullian (a Fire Tongue dialect used in the far Southwest) that means “Land of Ten Thousand Monuments.” He rules for 30 years before antagonizing one too many of the satrapies of the Realm and is defeated in the Battle of Redclay Fields by a joint force of troops from Paragon and the 24th Realm Legion, under the commander of [[Strategos Tepet Hsu, the Breaker of Stone Foot]]. One of Antiochus’ generals, Astyages, returned to Magnimar with a few hundred troops, and established the Xing Xing Dynasty, which ruled for roughly 350 years.
In RY475, the last of the Xing Xings, Archelaus the Hesitant, dies without a clear heir to the throne. Civil strife ignites as two noble houses, Ozymandias and Philocretes, struggle for the throne. Fighting continues for ten years before a treaty is brokered by the Counters, who in actuality support a third set of nobles, House Samar. The Counters, through House Samar, institute a new government, the Plutocratic Accordance. The system holds sway under the 14 Plutocrats for 180 years before House Gaugamela, under the influence of the Guild (the world spanning economic power house that was spawned from the philosophies of the Counters), subverts the government through an alliance with Houses Tyre, Bylon, Susa, Nestor, and the slaving, shipping, and fishing guilds. Under House Gaugamela’s leadership, the old ways of the plutocracy are replaced with the Mercantile Oligarch Consanguinity, an oligarchy that solidifies its first bonds in blood, both through marriage and thaumaturgic rituals. The government consists of a council of noble houses and guilds, each one possessing voting seats equal to their power, which is based on capital, land holding, and the population of indentured serfs owned. Each of the noble houses always has at least five seats (House Gaugamela currently has the most at 11 seats) while each guild has at least two seats, with the Guild of Meritorious Sailing and Coaching (more colloquially known as the Shipping Guild) currently possessing the most at six seats. The guilds currently have 63 seats while the nobles have 72; it is important to note, however, that neither group tends to vote as a bloc—the nobles tend to vote with the guilds most associated with their house and vice versa. The Guild maintains an ex-officio nonvoting seat to act in an advisory position to the council, as do the Counters.
Today, Magnimar stands on the brink of becoming one of the great cities of the South, if it can withstand its own internal divisions. Noble houses nurse old wounds—Ozymandias against Philocretres, Samar versus Gaugamela. The guilds are pawns to the Guild, whose factions use the local merchants and crafters as a testing ground for new economic theories and practices. Magnimar also faces enemies without as well—it is dependent on Lap for food, it competes with Chiaroscuro and Kirighast in the slave market, and is leery of Paragon’s intentions in the region, especially after the rise of the Perfect. Its allies in the Realm and in Gem have been taciturn of late, concerned with their own brewing problems.
Population Breakdown of Magnimar
In total, the nobles own roughly 940000 serfs, while the guilds own another 1.5 million. There are 50000 nobles and 200000 guilders (including members of the Guild and the Counters). There are 250000 freedmen, who are mostly either nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes that pay tithes to the government, but live on their own the rest of the time or experts in a field that have been hired from other nations and have chosen to stay and live in Magnimar (or their descendants). There are also roughly 60000 slaves owned by various nobles and guilders in Magnimar (there are roughly 200000 slaves in transit at any point in time going through Magnimar, to be sold to House Cynis or merchants from Chiaroscuro).
Gender in Magnimar
Magnimar’s culture has few, though prominent, gender roles. Women are barred from serving the navy and men are not allowed to execute prisoners. Men cannot make deals with the Fair Folk and women are forbidden the study of animal husbandry. No one is quite sure how these customs developed or became law—it is believed that they are holdovers from various immigrant groups that originally populated the area.
There are four different ethnic groups in Magnimar. The first are the Lǎohǔ, descendants of the troops of the Seven Tigers. House Nestor is well known as being primarily of Lǎohǔ descent. Lǎohǔ tend to have fair skin, dark hair and eyes and angular faces, as befits their Blessed Isle heritage. They speak Genja, an older dialect of Fire Tongue. Lǎohǔ men tend to pierce themselves as much as possible. Lǎohǔ names are smooth and tend to be in three parts: clan, family, and personal.
Next are the Chelaxians, who are the largest ethnic group. They have copper skin; the most common hair colors are brown and red. Their eyes are dark and their faces are round. Females wear their hair long and in braids, one for each child they have. Men wear their hair short, but under blue-gold caps called “sondas.” Names tend to be short and rough sounding. They speak Chelax, a version of Old Realm that uses the Fire Tongue alphabet. Unless otherwise noted, all noble houses are of primarily Chelaxian descent.
Next are the Varisians, immigrants from the East who arrived two hundred years ago. They tend to have large families, though, and they came to Magnimar in large numbers to begin with so they are now the second largest ethnicity in the city-state. Both genders keep their hair short, but men have long, elaborate facial hair. Their skin is lighter than Chelaxians, but darker than the Lǎohǔ. Their hair is fair, with blues and silvers as common as blondes and brunettes. Women tend to pierce their faces, especially the lips and noses; both genders are frequently and heavily tattooed. They have bred with Houses Ozymandias, Tyre, and Bylon. They have a reputation of laziness and thievery, which is mostly undeserved. The Varisian language is a combination of River Tongue and Forest Tongue, yet it uses the Air Tongue alphabet for spelling—a sign of their nomadic roots.
Finally there are the Kankou, who came from the Deep Southern regions to Magnimar as the first Guilders. They have dark brown skin, light eyes, and dark hair. Men tend toward baldness with women shaving their heads except for a top knot that is tightly bound with daub. White, yellow, and indigo facepaints are common, with red, orange, and black as less popular choices. House Samar and Zekariah have heavily bred with the Kankou. They speak Kankounese, a dialect of Fire Tongue, and their names tend to be fairly complex. Education is highly regarded, with good literacy rates. The Kankou have the highest percentage of freedmen and the lowest of serfs of all the groups.
Culture: Fine Arts, Crafts, Culinary Arts, Sporting, etc
Music is popular among the peoples of Magnimar, especially a Varisian style known as “Krata.” This music features accordions, ukuleles, mandolins, guitars, and horns, with hand drums providing rhythm. This style is especially popular with the serfs; the nobles tend to openly prefer more Realm inspired fare. Painting is a popular past time, with water colors being predominantly used—oil paints tend to melt in the heat. Scenic portraitures are the most common, but a new style from Port Calin called “Shincho” is gaining in popularity. Chiaroscuran love poetry is popular amongst the nobility and freedmen; serfs prefer Chelaxian sagas. A single chapter of volume 13 of Sethra’s Daughters is set in Magnimar—ownership of this volume is much prized by the nobility. In the chapter, Xuan Ju, Sethra’s step-great grandson successfully negotiates with Menjin the Terrible in Magnimar for the release of the Chiaroscuran courtesan Ice Willow, though Xuan Ju does not yet know that Ice Willow works for Karal Goto, his most hated enemy. Martial competitions of wrestling and sling use are common; nude wrestling is banned though, after one particularly embarrassing moment involving scions of Houses Ozymandias and Gaugamela. The region produces quite a bit of wicker baskets, furniture, and so on, and prized artisans can be expected to compete at the yearly market contest. Masonry and carpentry trials also exist and draw crowds—the winner of the masonry competition is blessed by Andromache Shieldmother herself.
Food in Magnimar tends to be spicy meats in a thin sauce of their own juices, served over long grain brown rice with steamed vegetables (usually onions, pease, and maize). Brown bread, goat cheese, fish, mussels and other shellfish, goat milk, camel milk, chicken, eggs, a local bird called shingling (a saltwater fowl), various spices, and fruits including olives, pears, oranges, and grapes make up the average diet. More exotic treats, such as dates, wheat, antelope, zebra, monkey, beef, candies, tofu, and sugar cane are delicacies enjoyed by only by the rich on a daily basis. Fish is the most popular meat and usually served in soups or grilled. Curry dishes are also popular. For a treat most people indulge in orange slices spiced with cinnamon (cream is added for very special occasions, such as weddings, births, rites of passage to adulthood, but never for funerals or divorces).
There are annual sailing and fishing competitions undertaken by the sailors—games such as who can get from point A to point B the fastest, who can get the biggest catch in an hour, and similar sports are very popular, especially among those Magnimarians who live along the coast.
Religion, Spirits, and Native Gods
The city-mother of Magnimar, Andromache Shieldmother, has a very unique history of amongst the gods of the South. From her humble start as a spirit of marble to her transformation as a goddess of war to the dual patron of philosophy and misery that she is now, the Splitface Matron is above all an adapter to the march of time.
She started as a goddess of marble in the region that the Emerald Star was built in. Eclipsed Bounty negotiated with her for the marble; so much was used in the construction of the Emerald Star that she became the spirit of the palatial estate as well.
After the battle between Eclipsed Bounty, Harvested Radiance, and Allenda, Andromache was devastated. When Shogunate soldiers occupied the area, she actively recruited their worship, going so far as to wed their legion deity, Strife Inducing Stride. She evolved into the image of the defender of the castle, the seneschal who watches the gates while the lord is on campaign. After the 19th Shogunate Legion was defeated and her husband maddened by Fair Folk magics, she used her divine powers to ensnare the closest soldiers she could. It took her many years of searching, but she was eventually able to find troops that had once sworn allegiance to the Seven Tigers, until they were defeated by the magics of the Realm Defense Grid.
Using these soldiers, she showed them, through dreams and other mystical connections how to enslave and conquer the local peoples. As the slave trade in Magnimar increased, she became the keeper of Locks, the Lady of Gates and Chains. She leant her aid to the Guild and encouraged worship of Ragbolza, god of slavery. She is now one of his many secretaries in the Bureau of Humanity.
As a goddess, Andromache now rules over the concept of the gatekeeper who keeps the unwanted out and the unworthy trapped within. She is both the noble virtuous defender and the hag who stands watch with whip and brand ready. Her visual appearance reflects as such—one half of her is carved from the most beautiful marble while the other half is that of a wizened, chipped crone. She carries a ring of keys in her left hand and a shield over her right. Her keys transform into a grimcleaver, the End of Strife (carved out of her husband, the first victim of her enslavement campaign). She wears a breastplate carved out of equal parts white and red jade and her shield is red and black jade with orichalcum gilt.
When the Shogunate soldiers fled, the local Fire Elemental Court, the Court of Heated Passions, went to war, joining with the Court of Orderly Flame under the leadership of the Lesser Elemental Dragon of Fire and Heavenly Arbiter, Swan Dragon. During their absence an Air Elemental Court, the Court of Regal Whisps, attacked and destroyed the area’s Water Elemental Court, the Court of Indomitable Waves. Upon their return, the Fire Elementals, who had taken great losses, were forced to negotiate with the Whisps over territory. The Whisps, for their part, feared angering the Court of Orderly Flame and so were willing to broker peace. The two factions have coexisted at a n uneasy peace since then. The Whisps, in the last 200 years, have been in league with House Ptolemy and have bred freely with them. The Passions have avoided contact with almost all humans, the key exception being House Ozymandias, who they train in anti-Fair Folk battle techniques. This training occurs at least once a generation.
As for the Fair Folk, they are welcome only as envoys to the Guild, there to buy and sell slaves. They travel under heavy guard, in warded palanquins. House Samar are the only nobles allowed to officially interact with the Fair Folk, and then only the female nobles are allowed to make deals with the raksha.
There are few ghosts in Magnimar. For minor problems, the town relies on experts from Chiaroscuro. For major problems, they call on Immaculate monks from Lap and the Realm. While few ghosts are in Magnimar, there is a small shadowland 80 kilometers southeast of the city, near its borders with Belkezen. Once a collection of prosperous fishing villages, they all died to a person during the Great Contagion. A being calling itself the Commandant of Lost Beasts lays claim to the Coast of Sorrows (as the shadowland is called) and is placated with yearly sacrifices of criminals and slaves. But the ghosts don’t devour everyone tossed into the shadowland—this has led to a small, but well-known group of [[Ghost-Blooded]]. These people work as mercenaries and hired muscle—especially for those who don’t mind necromancy. They are known as the Flayed Hand.
Demon worship is forbidden in Magnimar. Thirty years ago a branch of House Bylon fell to infernalism, worshipping a 2nd Circle Demon known as the Cardinal in Red and Darkness. As punishment, Bylon lost two seats and paid a fine of 10 silver talents in addition to having the offending members killed or sentenced to exile in the Coast of Sorrows.
About a third of the city-state’s population follows a more liberal approach to the Immaculate Order’s strictures. The rest tend to fall into what is generally classified as the Hundred Gods Heresy. Very few are Ancestor Cult worshippers, though those that are usually rich and/or foreigners working for the Guild. A growing minority rejects religion altogether in favor of a philosophical path known as the Counters.
A map of the city.
A map of the Underbridge section of the city.