Niz’Jaree (Firetrees)

Size: Town

Population: 2,000 (Human – Mulan), plus 5,000+ slaves (99% Human – various)

The settlement of Niz’Jaree is unusual for many reasons, when it comes to population Niz’Jaree is different because the population is entirely human (non-humans do not survive long for some reason), also the people here are happy compared to the rest of Unther; Niz’Jaree has never suffered a rebellion or social unrest of any kind, even crime is almost totally unknown amongst long term residents.

Ruler: T-Ukuqlti (Evil, Human-Mulan, Magic User 5)

 

Overview

Niz’Jaree is one of the most ancient settlements of Unther outside of Unthalass. It straddles both sides of the River Alamber for over 8 miles of its length. It is surrounded by a stretch of woodland of trees that produce phosphorescent blossoms which shimmer like flames during the night and for which the town of Niz’Jaree gets its name.

The north side of the river; where the firetrees are most dense, is filled with the estates of the An’Ular, while the houses and warehouses of the An’Ulae and the slums of the War’Lur are located on the southern bank where the firetree growth is more sparse.

Niz’Jaree is the primary place of storage for grain from the Greenfields, and its massive warehouses and granaries prepare the produce for transport (via caravan) to the great market of Unthalass. The River Alamber is too deep, fast, and treacherous this close to its source to be traversed by boat and many a foreigner or desperate man has seen his craft dashed to pieces on the rocks of the riverbank.

Niz’Jaree is eerily quiet, the people are pleasant and quiet, the slaves are placid and obedient, and everyone is seemingly contented. Niz’Jaree has never rebelled against the harshness of Gil-Geamesq’s rule (even now when food is becoming scarce and the economy is suffering). The citizens of Niz’Jaree are so relaxed that none seem to notice their Rab’Aen (Great Lord) and his edicts, they regard him as a fool and not a true citizen of Niz’Jaree.

 

Life and Society

Life in Niz’Jaree is sedate compared to the back-breaking toil that most people undertake across the rest of Unther. The War’Lur (slaves) of Niz’Jaree still work from dawn until dusk processing and packing crops from the fields, the An’Ulae work their caravans and oversee the slaves while the An’Ular count their coins. At the end of the day all the people of Niz’Jaree come together (although they remain in their separate groups) to celebrate life in their town, and on special occasions there are lavish open-air feasts where everyone eats and drinks their fill before retiring when the light fades.

Celebrations: There are a great number of celebrations in Niz’Jaree that the residents observe.

The Ring of Fire: The first celebration is known as the Ring of Fire and is held daily at dusk as the “embers” of the firetrees begin to fall. Groups of people walk around a firetree, each with one hand touching the trunk. Newcomers and those coming of age must cut the palm of their hand that they use to touch the bark. Many people lose themselves in the ritual and more than a few regulars cut their hand at least once a month.

The Feast of Rise and Fall: This feast is held at the end of every month and commemorates the hard work of all in Niz’Jaree. Long tables made of the wood of fallen firetrees (they do not warp or dry and so keep their shape well) are laid out in the open air on the edges of Firetree Wood. Some food from the fields is consumed but mostly wild animals from the surrounding fields are feasted upon. Ritual sacrifices of the animals are thrown into the nearest grave pits before each feast and the leftover carcasses are also discarded into them afterwards.

Architecture: Niz’Jaree’s architecture is split along the northern and southern banks of the river. The much richer northern half of the town is made from the marble and granite stones of the Smoking Mountains that are whitewashed regularly. These large, high walled estates contain several Luut (houses) of the courtyard variety typical in Unther.

The southern half of the town contains a number of courtyard Luut that belong to the An’Ulae. The warehouses and granaries (which are almost empty now after years of poor yields) are similar but much larger buildings around a central courtyard that are sunk deeper into the earth. Slave barns are usually made of crude clay bricks with very large rooms around a smaller central courtyard.

 

Politics

There is almost no politics or intrigue in Niz’Jaree, all the permanent residents in the town are almost completely uninterested in taking extra effort to amass more wealth or power. Everyone seems to be completely satisfied with their status in the town, including the War’Lur (slaves).

The only person that attempts to engage in politics in the town is the lord of Niz’Jaree; T-Ukuqlti. He attempts to issue edicts that will force the local noble families to treat with him to increase their position, attempting (very poorly) to play the families against one another. Unfortunately for T-Ukuqlti the noble families and the freeholders completely ignore him and carry one with their business as normal, only those new to the town engage with his intrigues and they usually fail within a few months or become increasingly sedate and happy.

Who Really Rules: Niz’Jaree is truly ruled by an informal council of the heads of each An’Ular house resident in the town. These leaders are well aware of the state of affairs in Niz’Jaree (why the people behave differently in town), and they will take whatever steps necessary to preserve the status quo and ensure Niz’Jaree’s secret remains that way.

Nobility: There are 7 different An’Ular houses in Niz’Jaree, each of them controls sizeable estates on the northern bank of the Alamber River and has significant slave farms located in the Napi’Ther Eqlu (the Greenfields). They are rich, powerful, and they like living in the security that Niz’Jaree provides.

Law and Order: The Laws of Niz’Jaree mirror those of Unther as a whole, like other settlements they generally follow the Code of E-Nlil, and if any new edicts from Unthalass reach their ears (meaning they have lasted more than a month before the whims of the God King repealed them and may prove more permanent than his usual edicts) then the people of Niz’Jaree attempt to follow them as well. Edicts from T-Ukuqlti are generally ignored and he holds little weight with the people of Niz’Jaree. The only law particular to Niz’Jaree is that no man may ever damage the firetrees, the punishment for doing so is death.

 

Defence

Niz’Jaree has very little obvious defences, there is no wall around the entire town, and no barracks or obvious troop housings. The northern side of town is composed primarily of individual walled compounds, each housing the An’Ular families and guarded by their own personal masate, which are usually better armed and trained than the other masate of Unther. The southern side of town is filled with the slave barns and warehouses as well as the dwellings of An’Ulae families that run their businesses in Niz’Jaree.

The lack of town defences is unsettling to newcomers but the reason becomes clear only to more permanent residents. Monsters rarely trouble the town, wild animals avoid it completely, and anyone that stays longer than a few days becomes increasingly pacifistic to the point that any internal conflicts in town are almost non-existent.

 

Trade

The primary produce of Niz’Jaree is the foodstuffs grown in the Napi’Ther Eqlu (Greenfields). It is farmed and harvested by slave farms owned by the noble An’Ular families. It is brought to Niz’Jaree where it is stored and processed. Caravans (owned by the An’Ulae) then take the goods to Unthalass for sale in the great market square.

Niz’Jaree has always been very profitable, producing most of the food consumed by the rest of Unther for millennia. Despite this success it has grown slowly and only within the confines of the wood of the firetrees, today it is at its largest with a total of 7,000 people living within its confines.

Niz’Jaree has fallen on bad times like everywhere else under the God King’s  rule. Gil-Geamesq’s policy of persecuting other faiths has recently (in the last century) resulted in a decline in the productivity of the Napi’Ther Eqlu (Greenfields). The ensi of Ish-Tarri and Ram-Manu would call the rains and flood the Napi’Ther Eqlu (Greefields) each year to keep the land fertile, since the Rain Ban edict the yields have steadily declined and Niz’Jaree and Unther have suffered as a result.

Despite the downturn in fortunes the people of Niz’Jaree carry on without showing any signs of having noticed the change.

 

Magic

Niz’Jaree used to be home to the greatest temple of Ish-Tarri in all of Unther, unfortunately shortly after the Rain Ban edict there was a fire in the Font of Life and the surviving ensi were not allowed to rebuild by order of the God King.

Since that time Niz’Jaree has been devoid of magical practitioners except for those in the employ of the An’Ular, and they become increasingly sedentary and disinterested in magic the longer they spend in Niz’Jaree.

The Firetrees: There is considerable magic at work in Niz’Jaree, but it is an insidious magic hidden in plain sight; the firetrees are responsible for the strange attitudes of the people of Niz’Jaree, they exert an influence over the people and it is not totally benign in purpose.

The firetrees are a small wood of trees that are covered in red floral blooms all year round. These blooms glow in the dark like small fires, giving off tiny glowing embers that drift over the town, and it is this that give the trees and the settlement their name.

The firetrees instil a calming aura in everyone that dwells within the confines of the wood for longer than a week. This aura reduces stress and anger in those affected, and promotes feelings of contentedness. This has been directly responsible for the behaviour of those living in Niz’Jaree, it keeps everyone happy with their lot in life and ensures there is no long lasting conflict between any residents.

There have been extensive studies of the firetrees by ensi of Ish-Tarri during the time of the First Untheric Empire. These scrolls (now locked away in the Citadel of Black Ash, having been relocated there from Unthalass) indicate that the firetrees may have a sinister purpose. The scrolls document a number of disturbing features of life in Niz’Jaree; the much shorter lifespans of the general population compared with the rest of Unther, the dedication to protect and preserve the firetrees, the way that animals instinctively avoid the area, and the grave pits (in Unther the dead are normally burned). These scrolls are almost always unfinished (the scholars having abandoned their work after living in Niz’Jaree for too long) but a few reach the conclusion that the trees are not trees at all, but part of a larger organism (perhaps a fungal growth) that feeds on the lives of those living beneath their boughs and influences the population into tending to the firetrees.

These conclusions are supported by ancient depictions of Niz’Jaree which shows it as a tiny village on the shores of the River Alamber with only a handful of trees at it’s centre. The trees have spread slowly with the settlement, perhaps feeding on the residents to fuel it’s growth.

 

Religion

There are a few manned shrines to Ish-Tarri and Ram-Manu in Niz’Jaree, along with a number of shrines to the Old Gods (those deities now absent from Unther). Otherwise the primary religious presence in Niz’Jaree is that of Gil-Geamesq, but only in the form of statues that line the streets and form the centrepieces of each monument and town square.

The ensi of Ish-Tarri and Ram-Manu maintain a presence in Niz’Jaree, their activities are strictly curtailed by the edicts of Gil-Geamesq; they may not build new houses of worship, they may not preach the dogma of their deity unless directly asked to do so in a house of worship, they may not convert people to their worship if they are already members of an existing church. Despite these restrictions the ensi continue to help in whatever way they can, overseeing marriages, praying for rain, etc, but they diminish in number with each decade that passes.

Unknown to all within the town the greatest source of religious activites lies in the catacombs beneath it where the Cult of the Queen of Chaos (TiaMa’at) has established its headquarters.

 

Important NPCs

Gil-Siareq (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Expert 1): Gil-Siareq is the serving ensi of Gil-Geamesq in Niz’Jaree and is now completely and utterly deranged. He has suffered disturbingly vivid dreams since his arrival 5 years ago, and hasn’t slept uninterrupted for more than an hour since. He will rant at anyone passing by his home; in the House of Tyranny, but will listen to anyone that comes to him with information about the Cult of the Queen of Chaos beneath the town, until about 10 minutes have elapsed and will then accuse the speaker of being in an alliance with the cult and promptly flee into the night screaming murder.

Kedrak Gilbane (Neutral, Half Dragon Half Human – Mulan, Warrior 8): Kedrak Gilbane is the wizened defender of the Cult of the Queen of Chaos. He is rumoured to be the eldest member of the cult and is also its most capable warrior and avid defender of Tiglath.

Shu-Errif (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Magic User 2): Shu-Errif is one of the An-Ulae of Niz’Jaree, he owns a caravan company that he uses to ferry supplies from Unthalass to the Cult of the Queen of Chaos in Niz’Jaree. He also supplies information and other services when called upon.

Sin-Luan’Na (Good, Human – Mulan, Expert 1): Sin-Luan’Na is one of the last remaining ensi of Ish-Tarri in Niz’Jaree, tending to her shrine (a natural moondial) on the northern side of town.

Tiglath – 1356 DR (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Expert 3 / Magic User 8): Tiglath is the leader of the Cult of the Queen of Chaos. She spends much of her time in the catacombs beneath Niz’Jaree in conference with a mysterious being only she and Kedrak have access to, but who is rumoured to be TiaMa’at itself.

T-Ukuqlti (Evil, Human-Mulan, Magic User 5): T-Ukuqlti is nominally the lord of Niz’Jaree, he likes to believe himself clever and ambitious and rising in importance within Unther. Unfortunately for T-Ukuqlti everyone else in Niz’Jaree disagrees with that assessment and ignores him completely, and everyone in Unthalass thinks him unimportant and also ignores him. T-Ukuqlti spends most of his time on his estate in Niz’Jaree waiting for the God King to summon him to court.

 

Important Sites

Firetree Wood: The wood of firetrees covers the entire town of Niz’Jaree (but only just), it is more dense on the north side and a sparse covering on the south side, but every house in Niz’Jaree is within 20 feet of one of the firetrees.

Firetree wood is devoid of all animal life, even the rats that infest Unther’s settlements refuse to live in confines of the wood. Some curious, brave, or desperate creatures (including the occasional monster) make occasional forays beneath the blossoming boughs, but these visits are brief.

The firetrees never seem to get old and die, they never grow above 20 feet, and they remain constant and continually in bloom. Those few trees that are felled or snap in storms quickly wither away to nothing and a new tree usually sprouts in the exact same spot within a year.

The Font of Life: This withered garden was once the greatest temple of Ish-Tarri in all of Unther. Here grew plants and lived animals from all over the lands once owned by Unther, in a lush garden that covered a square mile stretch of the River Alamber.

The site was originally far out from the settlement of Niz’Jaree and was once a former temple to an ancient Untheric godking of agriculture. When Gil-Geamesq led the Akanic pantheon to Unther, Ish-Tarri chose to construct a many levelled ziggurat (with each level smaller than the one below it, and different animals and plants on each level) outside Niz’Jaree so her ensi could assist the farming that took place in Napi’Ther Eqlu. It was home to many wondrous plants and animals of incredible rarity from all over the lands of the Mulan, and it was here that the ensi of Ish-Tarri used to create the famous oil of eternity that is said to bring youth to those that wear it.

The Font of Life was Ish-Tarri’s premier temple (although she rebuilt many other old and abandoned temples from other godkings of the Untheric pantheon) for over a millennia until a fire swept through the ziggurat one night and ruined it. Ish-Tarri and her ensi must have predicted the fire, because most were out in the fields or travelling to other temples.

Nowadays the Font of Life is home to ashes and a few of the firetrees that have begun to reclaim the ziggurat for nature. Some of the more exotic predators kept in the garden may have survived because those choosing to enter the former garden do not always return.

The Grave Pits: These strange, and seemingly natural depressions are documented as being here when Niz’Jaree was first settled. Some time after the settlement they began to be used as grave pits despite the traditions of Unther (legends hold a man fell and broke his neck in the pit and the following day the people of Niz’Jaree found a new firetree blooming), since that time burial in the grave pit has been the traditional method of interment.

There are a total of 8 pits located around the settlement of Niz’Jaree (the slaves in Napi’Ther Eqlu talk of other similar depressions across southern Unther), each one is 50 feet in diameter and slopes gently to the centre. The sides of the pit are all thickly coated with a white mossy growth that smells of flowers and almonds. Any body left in the pit sinks gradually into moss until it is completely covered, the bodies give off no odour and the moss turns pink and then red over the following days.

Each death is a cause for a celebration by friends and family as the bodies are rolled down the gentle slope and people drink and feast to their lives and the renewal their deaths will bring.

The House of Gil-Geamesq’s Order: This tiny temple is all but abandoned save for a lone ensi of Gil-Geamesq that lives as a virtual recluse inside its wall. The informal name for this building among the local populace) is the House of Tyranny, and shows the general feeling of the town about their ruler, only because of the attempts of each newly arriving ensi of Gil-Geamesq to halt the festivities and joyful atmosphere in the town of Niz’Jaree.

The House of Tyranny lies on the northern edge of town (with the noble estates), and is a building of the typical courtyard design, standing in the courtyard is a 15 ft tall bronze statue of Gil-Geamesq in a strongman pose. This grotesque effigy towers above all other buildings in Niz’Jaree, but is thankfully sheltered by some of the taller firetrees that surround the building.

The current ensi has lived in Niz’Jaree for 5 years (the longest serving ensi in town for a century), and he has long since descended into madness, believing that serpents dwell all around him seeking to devour him, that even the trees are in on the plot to consume him. This madness is driven by vivid dreams that have disturbed his every attempt to sleep, and he now shouts at passersby out of his windows and doorsteps, raving about the sleeping dragons and that he knows everyone is plotting against him, often accusing townsfolk by name of increasingly bizarre attempts to murder him.

Most ensi that arrive in Niz’Jaree usually abandon their posts within a year, the current incumbent is different in that he is a wild talent (from secret chondathan heritage) with telepathic sensitivity that is manifested during his dreams, causing him to sense the thoughts and emotions of others.

The Catacombs of the Sleeping Serpent: Beneath Niz’Jaree are large tunnels carved into the earth and rock and lined with stone sculpted into circular tunnels.

The tunnels are completely unknown to the townsfolk above and the authorities of Unther, only the Cult of the Queen of Chaos knows about the tunnels (discovered when some cultists fleeing persecution found holes at the centre of the Grave Pits beneath the moss).  It is hear that the bulk of the strength of the Cult resides in secret preparing for the revolution it will one day start.

The Catacombs are a network of tunnels that stretch across southern Unther. Some of the tunnels nearer to the Methtir region are clearly of dwarven make, others seem like they were tunnelled into the earth by some gigantic creature, however the majority of those in Napi’Ther Eqlu and those beneath Niz’Jaree are of a particularly ancient make and look like they were shaped, or rather moulded like someone fashioning clay. The tunnels of the Catacombs were in a very poor state of repair when firstdiscovered, with many of them partially collapsed, and filled with a strange spongy growth that regrows constantly (and similar to the moss in the Grave Pits). The Cult have repaired what they can and walled off a section of the tunnels whilst making extensive modifications to include chambers and a further level of tunnels beneath it.

There are definitely more than a few malign presences within the Catacombs. Although no verifiable sighting of a gigantic serpent have been made, there have been numerous sightings of three red eyes in the shadows and there are regular disappearances of items and people, but nothing more substantial than shadows and rumour.

 

Important Organisations

The Cult of the Queen of Chaos: A relatively new organisation in Unther and Niz’Jaree, this cult venerates TiaMa’at the Dark Lady and is vehemently opposed to Gil-Geamesq and his rule of Unther. The main headquarters of the cult are hidden directly beneath the settlement of Niz’Jaree and have been there for around two centuries. They quietly recruit new members from among the desperate slaves that work here, although since TiaMa’at was summoned in the catacombs under the settlement they have begun recruiting new members and stockpiling wealth and weapons in earnest.

The Church of Ish-Tarri: The Church of Ish-Tarri had long been a major player in the politics of Niz’Jaree (and in Unther), however the destruction of its headquarters here has seen the church hierarchy move to Shussel and leave only a token presence (7 Seedlings with a Farm Maiden in charge) to oversee the shrines and the ruined temple. The rest of the church’s former presence here are now spread throughout Napi’Ther Eqlu or in other settlements across Unther.

 

Local Lore

The Lady in White: The people of Niz’Jaree maintain that during the winter of 1338 DR, around the time fires swept through the temple of Ish-Tarri, a tall woman dressed all in white was seen leaving the Font of Life the night before the accident. The following night, robed and masked men (one with a red skull-like mask) were about town asking questions about the lady in white and seen heading east deep into Napi’Ther Eqlu.

Neither the Lady in White nor the masked assailants were seen again, although rumours report of a ghostly figure in white near the River Angol who silently begs and pleads for help, beckoning them inland towards a lone white tree.

The Sleeping Serpent: There are rumours among the Cultists of the Queen of Chaos that a gigantic serpent lives in the tunnels beneath Niz’Jaree. Occasionally groups of cultists exploring or repairing the tunnels go missing and when this happens it is blamed on some huge serpent.

 

 

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