Population: 2,000 (Human – Mulan), plus 1,000 of variable race. The population of Nissel varies depending upon the season and which ships are in port.
Nissel is the most dangerous place in Unther, so dangerous in fact that even Gil-Geamesq ignores it’s very existence. The once much larger town is home to pirates and bandits, raided regularly by sahuagin, and a base in Unther for many secret societies from elsewhere in Faerun.
Ruler: Kar-Iguluzzu (Evil, Human – Mulan, Expert 3), is ruler of Nissel in name only. He was given the appointment by courtiers of Gil-Geamesq after he repeated (loudly) a remark that Gil-Geamesq would have killed him for had he heard it (Kar-Iguluzzu was too stupid to realise what it actually meant. The stitle of lord of Nissel is a punishment and many expect its holder to last little more than a year. Kar-Iguluzzu has so far lasted 7 years
Nissel is a den of criminals and outcasts from across and outside Unther, this makes it an incredibly dangerous place for those who do not know how to handle themselves. The town was once larger, and looked set to eclipse Shussel as that city began to decline when its resources ran out. Unfortunately, with the destruction of Unther’s fleet in 677 DR, pirate elements from the Inner Sea (and later the Alaor) began to move into the Alamber region and started visiting Nissel to avoid paying the harbour fees in the larger cities of Unther.
As the Empire of Unther continued to fall apart (after the Wizards’ Reach declared independence Chessenta soon followed) the pirates became entrenched and other criminals and outcasts moved into the settlement. Now the pirates are entrenched in Nissel, they view it as their home base and part of their livelihood, they will fight to keep what is theirs and even if they are driven from Nissel they can take to the sea and return when the invaders have gone (or let their guard down).
Nissel is almost completely devoid of Unther’s influence, it derives no patronage from the rule of Gil-Geamesq, and so most of the buildings are little more than shacks built out of the hulks of ships. Fights between pirate crews, bandit groups, sahuagin raids, evil cultists, and secret societies are a regular occurrence, anyone newcomers in Nissel will likely be “invited” to join one of the many factions vying for control of the town within a few days of arriving.
Life and Society
In Nissel life is strictly survival of the fittest, if you cannot handle yourself in a fight or do not have a group of dangerous friends to back you up then it will not be long before you wind up in a shallow grave (or at the bottom of the harbour) or on a ship bound for the slave markets of Thay.
The only people that come to Nissel are those that believe themselves tough enough to handle the locals, or those fools that think they can bluff their way through life. There are no An’Ular or An’Ulae noble houses in Unther. The few escaped War’Lur (slaves) or Seh’Nis that make their way to Nissel looking for a safe haven, survive by their wits and strength of arms, or disappear within a few days and are never heard from again.
Nissel is rife with complex local politics. Pirate crews resident in Nissel change with the seasons (repairing their ships and taking to the waves once more to raid the trading ships of Mulhorand and Thay) and the roster of the crews changes almost daily as the pirates are killed or sign up with a different captain promising more riches. The bandit gangs are quite stable throughout the year (some occasionally being wiped out by the Gurmasate of Unther) but the membership changes regularly as members are killed and new ones recruited. Secret societies in Nissel tend to run the few services that exist in town: ship builders and repairers, rope makers, blacksmiths, fletchers, weapon masters, shops, inns, etc, are all run or home to members of the Red Wizards, the Harpers, the Zhentarim, and hundreds of other organisations local to nations around the Alamber Sea. Recently rumours of snake worshippers moving into Nissel have been making the rounds and grisly murders are occurring with regularity.
Who Really Rules: Kar-Iguluzzu is the ruler of Nissel in name only. He has no authority over the lawless inhabitants of Nissel and thankfully for his safety he is too stupid to try and enforce it. Nissel is under a constant territory war with the rival factions and allies all trying to gain control over the majority of the town, so far none have been successful.
Nissel is devoid of defences. Kar-Iguluzzu has 13 warriors at his command and that is it. There are no resident masate of Unther based here, no walls, no fortresses, nothing that could be used in the common defence of the settlement. Nissel’s strength comes from the fact that almost every one of its 2,000 citizens is a hardened warrior and an experienced killer. This lethal mix of citizens is also the primary reason why crime is so low (apart from the fact that Kar-Iguluzzu has no authority to enforce the Will of Gil-Geamesq), few would dare to attack, steal from, or attempt to murder another because the victim is more than likely equally capable of doing the same to the assailant.
Due to the bandit and pirate groups that operate in Nissel, trade caravans do not stop here. Some might imagine that this would mean trade in Nissel would be nearly non-existent, however, the saying goes in Unther that “the black market begins in Nissel”. Pirates and bandits raid their goods from places inside and outside of Unther and bring the ill-gotten gains to Nissel.
These black market goods include poisons, magical artefacts and spells, people, and many other goods stolen from the authorities in Unther. These are then taken to Unthalass by the fences that live in Nissel who organise pickups and drops along the Mhethrani (the main northern trade road of Unther) which is several miles south of Nissel and is as far as trade caravans get to this settlement.
As a general rule if it is illegal in Unther it can be found in Nissel as easily as food can be found in a normal settlement (although not in Unther at the moment due to the famine sweeping the realm). Normal goods are a problem to obtain in Nissel and are highly prized; tools, food, cloth, etc are uncommon at best due to them being manufactured elsewhere and few caravans coming here.
Despite the tremendous trade in illegal goods in Nissel, illegal magic users are not normally welcome, and legal magic users are non existing due to the lack of temples and noble households in town.
The few magic users that live in Nissel either keep their talents a secret, or they are indispensable to one or more power groups and so have secured their safety. Other magic users are likely to suffer a similar fate to the weak and wounded in Nissel (dead or sold into slavery) because harbouring lots of magic users is sure to bring the ire of Gil-Geamesq, so the locals keep the numbers low to protect themselves. If a magic user proves too strong a foe for the first few groups that try to move him on, then it is likely he will come to the attention of a power group in Nissel and gain the safety to stay here (for a price).
Religion is of little use in a town like Nissel, especially with magic users being largely unwelcome. There are a few small shrines and cults in Nissel, some a secret, some not so secret.
The Cult of the Old Gods: Numerous shrines to godkings long dead, exiled, or forgotten in Unther are found in Nissel tended by elderly fanatics (and or lunatics) who try to keep the memory of the old traditions alive. Few pay attention to these shrines or their watchers because it is known these godkings are long departed.
The Cult of the Fanged Mask: This cult is a front in Unther for followers of Set from Mulhorand who are using Nissel as a base to expand their influence into the rest of Unther. The cult is making inroads among some of the Seh’Nis of Unther that have fled to Nissel as it promises to get them the power to remove Gil-Geamesq and make a place for themselves in the new nation that will be born from the ashes of Unther.
The Cult of the She-Spider: This cult is an attempt by the drow of Undrek’Thoz to establish a presence among the humans of Unther. The dusky hued drow find it easy to masquerade among the Mulan of Nissel and other ethnicities that frequent the port settlement.
Operating as a dark cult that promises a quick path to power through ruthlessness, the She-Spider Cult worships a gigantic onyx statue of a spider with a human head which was supposedly found in the caves along the cliffs near Nissel (actually it was manufactured by the drow). Members of the cult are encouraged to sacrifice something of value to the spider each tenday (humans are the most prized sacrifice, then information, then gold or gems) and in return are given information about other opportunities or sometimes the assistance of the She-Spiders (the senior cultists) who are expert thieves and assassins.
Kar-Iguluzzu (Evil, Human – Mulan, Expert 3): Kar-Iguluzzu is ruler of Nissel in name only. He was given the appointment by courtiers of Gil-Geamesq after he repeated (loudly) a remark that Gil-Geamesq would have killed him for had he heard it (Kar-Iguluzzu was too stupid to realise what it actually meant. The title of lord of Nissel is a punishment and many expect its holder to last little more than a year. Kar-Iguluzzu has so far lasted 7 years
Ma-Lentiq (Evil, Human – Mulan, Expert 2): The owner of the Sea Hag is a strange looking woman who prefers to be called Ma-Lentiq. Ma-Lentiq claims to be of Mulan origin, and she certainly looks the part, however she has bands of slightly different toned skin in rings around her arms (and torso, although no-one ever sees them) and her fingers are ever so slightly webbed.
Mangred “The Ram” (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Expert 4): Mangred is one of the Seh’Nis of Unther, a non-entity as far as the authorities of Unther are concerned. He fled Unthalass around 13 years ago at the age of 14 after his parents were killed by the masate of Unther merely because they were discovered to have existed. Mangred is now the captain of the galley the Alamber Ram, one of the more feared and fair pirates that roam the Alamber Sea. Mangred spends most of the time he is docked in Nissel at the Sea Hag looking for potential recruits.
The Bore Holes: The cliffs around Nissel are filled with large holes (some 30 feet in diameter) that look as though they were at one time perfectly spherical (although erosion has clearly altered their appearance). These holes are tunnel openings that lead deep down into the earth in a maze like network of criss-crossing tunnels. Brave explorers claim to have found the skeletons of gigantic worm like creatures deep in these tunnels and some of them lead down and east under the Alamber Sea or south towards the Napi’Ther Eqlu (Greenfields). Every so often explorers disappear in the tunnel, their bodies are never located.
The Chimera’s Claw: This is one of a chain of inns set up by the An’Ulae (freeholder) Esh-Nin-T Jehokim who suddenly elevated his house in wealth after a successful foray into the Methwood.
The Chimera’s Claw is typical of the Chimera chain of inns. It is painted the characteristic grey colour, and is little more than a courtyard house typical of Untheric design (although in Nissel it is made of driftwood and ship planks), filled with box rooms barely big enough to house a bed and a lockbox.
The rooms are dirt cheap, the food and drink of poor quality (and likely dangerous to consume), and it is not uncommon for a patron’s belongings to go missing despite the lockbox. The central courtyard is shady and filled with sheltered hideaways to encourage patrons to talk, however anyone divulging secrets here or keeping illegal items in their lockbox are likely to find themselves arrested by the ensi of Gil-Geamesq if they ever venture outside of Nissel (Gil-Geamesq has no ensi in Nissel and the local lord has no authority here).
The innkeeper of the Chimera’s Claw varies every few months as Jehokim likes to rotate the staff around his establishments to stop them getting to well connected with local criminals.
The Sea Hag: This tavern, inn, and festhall sits by the harbour and is made out of the hull of a three deck war galley from Unther that has been turned upside down and sunk into the sand. Access to the tavern is through a large round hole (supposedly made by a legendary sea serpent that sunk this ship 130 years ago – or so the tale goes) on the second deck with a ramp leading up to it from the ground.
The upper deck (now the lower deck in this upside down ship) houses “the hags”, a local name for the ladies (and men) of pleasure who are anything but hags, these ladies include half drow from Dambrath, halflings from Luiren and even a wemic if rumours are to be believed.
The middle deck is home to the drinking, drug, and gambling dens as well as the kitchens (which cook mainly fish). The food is heavily pickled with the famous liqueurs of Unther, the gambling dens are usually only lightly rigged against patrons, and the drinks include a wide ranged of exotic drinks.
The Upper deck is where people go to sleep in comfortable (if small and slightly damp) rooms, it is also where the owner of the Sea Hag dwells when she is not behind the desk at the entrance, the owner is a woman called Ma-Lentiq who is very aloof and mysterious but not unpleasant in her dealings with customers.
The Sea Hag is an oddity in Nissel, it is far more lavish than one would expect for a backwater and lawless town in Unther. It is in truth an information gathering den for the Harpers and a means for them to potentially gain agents in this far off land. Patrons are plied with drink, and encouraged to spill their secrets to “the hags”, they are spied upon in their rooms, and anyone deemed to be useful will soon find their luck in the gambling dens runs out and they become heavily indebted to the Sea Hag. Indebted patrons are given reduced debts and discounts at the establishment in return for information and services they provide.
Nissel is home to more than a few major organisations from across Faerun, as well as a few that are more local to the Old Empires. The lawlessness of Nissel makes it the perfect base for those organisations seeking to infiltrate the rest of Unther.
The Cult of the Fanged Mask: This cult is an extension of the Church of Set in Mulhorand, but stripped of all mention of that foreign god.
The Zhentarim: Zhentarim presence in Nissel is relatively small compared to most of the secret societies present here. It would seem that the goal of agents here is primarily to assess the trade patterns of Unther and find ways to manipulate them. Most of the agents here have some link with Manshoon (although they are not aware of it).
The Harpers: The Harpers maintain a small presence in Nissel that exploits the tastes of people in Unther, by providing a little bit of what the nobility of Unther have to the scum of Nissel. This is done through a drinking, whoring, and gambling den known as the Sea Hag, useful patrons are likely to be fleeced of whatever information they possess through whatever means the owner has at her disposal.
The Alamber Rams: This pirate crew is relatively new but is already famed for being an efficient scourge of trade galleys from Unther. The favourite tactic of this crew is, as the name suggests, to ram the slow moving galleys and then board the ship while the two boats are connected. The Rams kill all the crew but will spare the slaves (either giving them a chance to join the crew or allowing them to swim to freedom), they always throw a third of their plunder overboard.
The She Spider Cult: This organisation specialises in fencing drugs and poisons to locals. The cult is actually supplied by drow from Undrek’Thoz and its compound hides deep cellars that house a huge statue of “The Night Spider”, the deity of the cult.
The Snake Men: In the last decade there have been rumours of snatchers in the night with the faces of snakes, tales told in alehouses by drunken sailors that supposedly escaped their attackers. Rumours are that these snake men live in tunnels beneath Nissel and capture people to eat them alive.