Population: 7,000 (Human – Mulan), plus 18,000+ slaves (80% Human – various, 10% Dwarves, 10% Other)
The city of Shussel (a corruption of Shu-Sel which roughly translates as Shu Haven or Harbour) is much diminished from its former glory. Once a major trade port to rival Messemprar and one of the jewels in the crown of Unther’s Empire, now Shussel is barely surviving on fishing from its port and what it can trade with the caravans that come from Messemprar down the Mhethrani (Wood Road – most of the wood in Unther comes along the northern trade road).
Ruler: E-Kurre (Evil, Human – Mulan, Magic User 6)
Shussel is a sprawling slum and a very obvious demonstration of the decline of Unther from its past glories. Once Shussel housed over 50,000 people (including slaves) in large stone houses spread across the coastline and up the cliffs heading north.
The city was built around a natural harbour with abundant fisheries nearby, large forests to the north and west, and iron deposits in the cliffs and hills to the north. Now the forest has been cleared, the iron has run out, and the sea is full of angry sahuagin that attack all but the most heavily armed of vessels.
More than half of all buildings in Shussel lie vacant, many have been that way for almost a century, the port is small and poorly maintained but now heavily fortified thanks to regular raids by sahuagin, and the only thing that keeps the sea devils from overrunning Shussel are 500 mercenaries from Chessenta that are under the direct control of Ul’Aen (High Lord) E-Kurre.
Life and Society
Shussel is a city on its knees, its people are destitute and its coffers are nearly empty. Ul’Aen E-Kurre imposes high taxes on all trade and produce as well as a land tax in order to pay for the Chessentan mercenaries that keep Shussel from being destroyed by sahuagin )and also keep E-Kurre in power and coin).
The people of Shussel live in constant fear from death (by starvation or sahuagin), or poverty and enslavement. Slaves work in dry and dusty fields with poor soil, or are sent out to fish in leaking boats, or sent to work in the mines with little hope of finding any ore. None of these assignments are free of the danger of wandering monsters, and yet the slaves do so willingly and rarely attempt to escape their bondage.
The nobility of Shussel are far more empathic towards their slaves than other slave owners. Slaves are well fed (comparatively for slaves in the rest of Unther), rarely mistreated, and never executed for minor crimes. The influence of the Church of Ish-Tarri is primarily responsible for the difference in attitudes between people in Shussel and others in Unther.
The city of Shussel is divided between those that support E-Kurre and hope to profit by his success, and those that support the Church of Ish-Tarri based in the Spring of Eternal Hope.
Who Really Rules: E-Kurre is in firm control of the city of Shussel, his Chessentan mercenaries are loyal while he has coin and they help enforce his taxes and will. This does not mean his control is absolute, the clergy of Ish-Tarri find many ways to subvert his tyranny, and when E-Kurre’s money runs out so does his control.
Nobility: There were once representatives of almost every An’Ular family in Shussel, now there are only 3 families left, the House of E, the House of Ish and the House of Shu. The Houses of Ish and Shu are opposed to E-Kurre, while the House of E supports its most powerful representative in Unther.
As a result of politics, the Houses of Ish and Shu are nearly destitute, living in empty estates devoid of furnishings (almost all possessions having been sold to pay off E-Kurre’s taxes), while the House of E is still wealthy (by Shussel standards). The minor members of the House of Ish and Shu are taking shelter in the Spring of Eternal Hope (the only establishment relatively unaffected by E-Kurre’s tax).
Shussel is protected by high stone walls that surrounds the city on the inland side. On the seaward side are smaller, makeshift walls constructed from the dismantled houses used to build defences against the more frequent attacks of the sea-devils. The harbour itself is far more heavily fortified, with a fortress located at the entrance to the port (and the entrance to the rest of the city from the port) which houses the Steel Dragons mercenary Company.
Shussel used to be (during the First Age of Unther) a major trade city of Unther. Located on the Mhethrani; the major northern trade route of Unther, it was the first stopping point between Messemprar and Unthalass, it was also the only other major trading port between Unther and Mulhorand outside of Unthalass.
Nowadays Shussel has precious little to trade (the wood, iron, and fish are all running out), and as a result few stop at Shussel unless they are desperate. Shussel’s economy is almost non-existent now, the people have sold what possessions and family heirlooms they owned to get this far and only have small amounts of fish and crops to trade, and even they are of poor quality.
Most people in Shussel rely on charity to survive, something that is in short supply in the rest of Unther, but in Shussel the Church of Ish-Tarri uses its resources to donate food and coin to those in need.
Like the rest of Unther, magic users are strictly controlled in Shussel. In order to practice magic a user must be a member of one of the 3 churches of Unther (the Church of Ish-Tarri, Ram-Manu, or Gil-Geamesq), or they must be born into one of the An’Ular houses of Unther. All other practitioners are outlawed in Unther and are to be executed immediately if discovered practicing magic.
As a major city, Shussel has more than a few magic users within its confines. The Spring of Eternal Hope is home to no less than 11 people capable of casting spells with varying degrees of skill. The House of E is home to the most powerful spellcaster in Shussel, Berhasshepu (Master Wizard) E-Bailoks, who specialises in ancient magical traditions and knowledge from long vanished nations in and around Unther, with a particular interest in the sauroid races he believed once inhabited this land.
Shussel has been the centre of power for the Church of Ish-Tarri since 1338 DR when her former high temple (located in Niz’Jaree) was destroyed in a fire and Ish-Tarri vanished from public life in Unther. It suffered a significant setback when the entire church hierarchy was slaughtered on the orders of Gil-Geamesq for being in league with TiaMa’at, but has since recovered due to an influx of ensi from the Marthessel.
The Spring of Eternal Hope is now the largest and only temple of Ish-Tarri in Unther (all others having been destroyed or abandoned due to a series of “accidents”, it is built around a former temple of Shu-Mmatq (Untheric god of navigation and the sea), known as The Beacon (Ish-Tarri inherited responsibility for Shu-Mmatq’s clergy when he left Unther long ago).
There are a number of other shrines to the Old Gods lying around Shussel, and of course there are statues of Gil-Geamesq that line every street and corner and public square. People in Shussel however are almost entirely devoted to Ish-Tarri thanks to the tireless devotion of the clergy to those living in the city, only the House of E and it’s privileged scions continue to worship Gil-Geamesq and even then it is only lip service to keep favour with the God-King should any of his ensi come to visit.
E-Kurre (Evil, Human – Mulan, Magic User 6): E-Kurre is the ruler of Shussel, a dilapidated city that is crumbling under the pressures of high taxation, constant raids from the sea-devils, and dwindling resources. E-Kurre maintains his hold on the city thanks to the 500 member strong company of Chessentan mercenaries he has paid to enforce his rule. E-Kurre knows the rule of Gil-Geamesq wont last long and he is trying to forge an alliance with the powers in Shussel, in the meantime he relies on the Steel Dragon mercenary company to keep him alive.
E-Bailoks (Neutral, Human – Mulan, Magic User 11): E-Bailoks is a minor member, by birth, of the House of E. His talent for magic however has enabled E-Bailoks to rival E-Kurre for power in the dwindling An’Ular House founded by E-Nlil himself. E-Bailoks is the Berhasshepu (Master Wizard) of the House of E and is responsible for all the magical might of the noble family, he is particularly interested in the magical traditions of those nations that occupied the land of Unther before the empire existed, not just the Imaskari, but also the strange serpent worshipping nation that was centred around Azulduth. E-Bailoks hates E-Kurre and what he has done to Shussel in recent years.
Ish-Ibalpiel (Good, Human – Mulan, Magic User 7): The reigning high priestess of Ish-Tarri is a known pacifist, and like many of the ensi of Ish-Tarri in Shussel, speaks halting Untheric with a strange accent. She is in reality a priest of Isis from Mulhorand that is helping to prop up the failing Church of Ish-Tarri, while at the same time steering the church towards worship of Isis. She hates violence and despises E-Kurre, but recognises that he may need her help as much as she needs his in the coming years.
Sin-Ningal (Good, Human – Mulan, Warrior 5): Sin-Ningal keeps her origin to herself but her accent is reminiscent of old Akanic (a fact known to few in Unther today). Sin-Ningal is a fervent worshipper of the old gods, in particular Sin-An’na of ancient Akanu, and she is secretly gathering followers to her in the abandoned slums of Shussel. Sin-Ningal is possessed of a startling array of magical powers and items which she is now distributing among her most loyal followers.
Debuni Amitu: Known as The Shield, this fortification has stood mostly unused since it was erected millennia ago to protect the city from potential invasion by Mulhorand and later Narfell. It stood as a monument to ancient Untheric construction for a long time until around 800 DR when attacks from sea-devils (sahuagin) began to steadily increase.
Today the great stone fortress has been occupied by nearly 500 Chessentan mercenaries from the Steel Dragon company. The high walls are constantly guarded by expert archers with siege defences from the Vilhon Reach (ballistae) and inside are expertly trained shock troops with experience of breaking poorly disciplined opponents.
The armoury and larder of The Shield is well stocked with all the weapons and food traded by the citizens of Shussel to pay their taxes. The castle and its 500 defenders could easily withstand a year long siege and have access to masterfully crafted weaponry and ancient heirlooms from the noble Houses of Ish and Shu.
The Floating Chimaera: One of the inns owned by Esh-Nin-T Jehokim, this hasn’t inn hasn’t seen any custom in over 3 years and Jehokim is considering closing it down until the city’s fortunes recover. The innkeep will faun over any potential customers, desperate to get some income to keep a roof over his head, if he suspects the customers have more coin he will resort to attempting to poison them and steal their possessions before dumping their bodies in the sea.
The Pit: Shussel’s arena is located outside the city’s walls and due to current economic conditions has not seen an event staged for over 7 months. It is run by a gladiator guild known as the Quivering Thumb, but the guild has all but packed up its business and is just waiting for an opportunity to abandon Unther completely (E-Kurre is threatening to arrest the troupe if it attempts to leave).
The Pit was at one time renowned as one of the most fair (no doubt due to the influence of the nearby Church of Ish-Tarri) and entertaining of arenas, where the outcome of events was never fixed or influenced before fighting began, making it very popular with professional gladiators in other lands looking to make a name in Unther.
The Pit is now largely abandoned (the Quivering Thumb headquarters is inside the city), but passing caravans report groans and growls from inside the arena, leading many to wonder if a fighting beast or two was left behind in the chambers beneath (or if a wild animal has taken up residence).
The Spring of Eternal Hope: This temple consists of two flat topped, circular buildings, one contains a tall tower with a lighthouse beacon atop it, the other contains an empty courtyard in the centre with the ruins of another tower in the middle.
The tower still standing was the first building constructed in Shussel, years before the settlement was founded. It was first established as a signal for the landing point of E-Nlil and Anu on the western shore of the Alamber. Later it became a lighthouse and temple to Shu-Mmatq and the focal point for the city of Shussel and it’s harbour. The ruined tower was already here and already abandoned and falling to ruin when the Mulan first arrived here.
The circular buildings constructed around the two towers were created following Shu-Mmatq’s departure from Unther circa XXX DR, when Ish-Tarri took over the responsibilities of her priesthood. It remained as an important temple of Ish-Tarri until 1338 DR when Ish-Tarri retreated from public life and her Church declared that she had taken up residence in the Spring of Eternal Hope which had now become the headquarters of the Church of Ish-Tarri (it’s previous headquarters in Niz’Jaree were destroyed in a mysterious fire that year).
The Church of Ish-Tarri: The Church of Ish-Tarri is the single most powerful organisation in Shussel, based from the Spring of Eternal Hope near the harbour. Almost every one in Shussel depends upon the charity of the church to survive the troubles the city is currently experiencing. As a result the word of the church carries a lot of weight with the people, and at the moment the word is that E-Kurre should not be resisted, but that does not mean he must be supported.
The Quivering Thumb: The Quivering Thumb are a gladiator troupe out of Chessenta (all pure Mulan owners) that were given exclusive rights to the Pit over 14 winters ago. The enterprising troupe specialized in staging non-lethal combats between the house gladiators and a caravan’s guard with the promise of a 100 ilguz (gp) prize for a 10 ilguz entry fee. As the caravan traffic dwindled and then stopped following Messemprar’s riots, the company are considering relocating to lands far from Unther but are thus far prevented by the threat of E-Kurre and his Steel Dragons.
The Steel Dragon Company: This 500 strong company of Chessentan mercenaries were hired nearly 20 years ago when the Church of Ish-Tarri moved their headquarters to Shussel and the city’s economy degraded to the point that the citizenry were reliant upon the church for survival. E-Kurre officially hired the mercenaries to guard from the ever increasing attacks of sahuagin, but in truth it was to keep the populace and the Church of Ish-Tarri in line.
The Beacon Light: Shining lights have long been reported above the Spring of Eternal Hope, however, they are not reported from the lighthouse tower that still stands, instead they are reported from where the original tower would have stood millennia ago when Shussel was founded.
The Black House: In 1345 DR, the ensi of Gil-Geamesq, backed by the masate of Unther, rounded up all the senior ensi of Ish-Tarri and led them to the Salt Market, here they were publicly tried and executed for being worshippers of TiaMa’at (in truth E-Kurre declared their guilt and the masate began hacking their way through the terrified captives). The bodies were piled into a nearby slave house which was put to the torch (along with any slaves still inside). Rather than collapse, the house became blackened and petrified, which the ensi of Gil-Geamesq announced was an indication of their guilt. The house still remains and a low moaning can be heard by those nearby (along with the sickly, sweet smell of burning flesh), any that venture into the house are never found again.
Murder Most Foul: Every year on the same day (23rd Mirtul), a soldier or ensi of Gil-Geamesq is found dead in the Salt Market, his body hacked and burned. This has happened for the past 5 years in a row, and many believe the vengeful spirits of Ish-Tarri’s ensi are breaking the confines of the Black House and committing murder.