Unthalass

Size: City

Population: 100,000 (plus 300,000 slaves and non-citizens)

Ruler: Gil-Geamesq (Evil, Human – Mulan, Warrior 28), God-King of Unther, Tyrant of Unther, the All Father, commands ultimate authority in Unther and wields it like a hammer.

Overview

Unthalass is the greatest city in Unther and for a long time was the greatest city in Faerun (although Calimshan would vehemently deny this claim). Many believe Unthalass is named for the founding nation but the opposite is true, although sages cannot decide between two stories for the origin of the name Unthalass. The first account is when E-Nlil and E-Anu led their people from Raurin they founded the city “Umthor on the River Alamber” which translates as Umthor-Alamber-Lass. Before the end of the first empire this was corrupted to Unther-Alass and soon enough Unthalass, with the original name of the nation being changed by Gil-Geamesq upon his accession to become Unther in honour of its greatest city. The second account is far simpler and has the original meaning of the city’s name as the Throne on the River (Ustharlass) which over time was corrupted to Unthalass and the growing nation was named Unther in its honour.

The Unthalass of today bears almost no resemblance to its original incarnation. Twice Unthalass has been completely flooded by the Alamber River and almost totally buried beneath a thick layer of silt. A new city was built atop it each time, and each time the city was a pale reflection of its parent.

Beneath the streets of Unthalass exists no less than two levels tunnels and chambers where the streets and buildings of the older cities used to exist. The most well known level of tunnels is the Undercity and comprises of most of the second city of Unthalass, beneath this level is the Deep Warrens where only the most dangerous and desperate dare to tread for it is home to all manner of monstrousities.

Above all the decadence and decay towers the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory on the south bank of the river mouth. Here is the palace of Gil-Geamesq where the God-King rules over Unthalass with an iron fist. The ziggurat is also the greatest temple to Gil-Geamesq and holds the majority of his priests and devoted faithful who see to the day to day administration of the city and country.

Life and Society

Palace District: The Palace District of Unthalass entirely covers the southern half of the city and is divided from the northern half of the city by the River Alamber (and a stout stone wall). As the name suggests, the Palace District holds the main Palace of Gil-Geamesq; the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory, but it is also home to over 100 smaller palaces all built in a similar ziggurat style as the An’Ular houses tried to imitate the God-King.

The Palace District is heavily patrolled by at least half of the Anur’Masate of Gil-Geamesq, and it is further supplemented by the House Masate of each noble house as they patrol the palace’s of their employers. This makes the Palace District the most heavily defended and secure place in the whole of Unther (with the exception of the Citadel of Black Ash), and yet despite this level of security there are a surprising number of crimes in the district.

The slaves of the An’Ular are inwardly hostile to their employers and many are secretly working for other organisations that seek to divert wealth, information, and resources from the rich to themselves. The masate and ensi themselves are corrupt to various levels and will ignore events for a bribe (providing there are no witnesses), they have even been known to engage in petty crimes themselves. As with the rest of Unther, there is a maze of secret tunnels and corridors hidden beneath and inside the buildings of the Palace District that allow the nefarious to enter and escape secure domiciles with relative ease.

River District: The River District is home to those not born to a noble An’Ular house and a life of privilege. The district is home to a variety of dwellings spread along the northern bank of the River Alamber. The freehold An’Ulae households own the premier dwellings along the banks of the river, while the slaves live with their masters (if they are lucky enough to be a house slave) or at the place of business (warehouses along the river and at the docks usually) or in large slave houses, and finally the Seh’Nis (the “low people”) live in the slums and hovels that spread north and west further inland for several miles.

Life in the River District is as varied as its population. The nobility almost never venture into this district, and the Anur’Masate only usually venture beyond the river and the docks in order to collect their protection money from some of the more successful Seh’Nis. The freeholders meanwhile have turned the River District into something that is beginning to resemble ports in other lands such as Cormyr or Impiltur; there are crafts shops that sell their wares to buyers for the Great Market, and a few inns that cater to visiting merchants from Chessenta, Mulhorand, and Thay, while the Seh’Nis will sell any service they can perform to anyone willing to visit them.

The city is not officially open to foreigners (and anyone caught in the city after dark without a writ from one of the An’Ular can expect to suffer the Will of Gil-Geamesq), but that is only in the Palace District. Once an arrival makes it to the River District they can do whatever is available to them as long as they escape the notice of the Anur’Masate.

The Islands: The Islands are a meeting point between the two halves of the city of Unthalass. The largest of the islands on the very edge of the mouth of the River Alamber is the Great Market of Unthalass where all the foreign merchants arrive to trade for the exotic goods of Unther.

Connected by wide bridges to both the north and south shore of the river, the Great Market of Unthalass is the only place where the nobility and the freeholders mix regularly (both accompanied by their slaves – slaves are not allowed on the islands unescorted).

The Anur’Masate number around 300 men on a busy day, with at least 20 soldiers at each of the 4 gatehouses on either end of the two bridges. The remaining soldiers are to be found patrolling the bazaar, looking for people not paying proper homage to the hundreds of statues of Gil-Geamesq spread around the island (as well as thieves and undesirables).

Undercity: Life in the Undercity is ruled by gangs. There is no law down here beneath the city streets, as a result people are apt to do whatever they feel they can get away with. A lone wanderer is vulnerable to predation by anyone stronger than themselves (although even groups are preyed upon by larger groups), and there is little mercy left in people oppressed by the Will of Gil-Geamesq for millennia.

The Undercity is not a uniform level, it is filled with dead end tunnels, collapsed shafts, and isolated chambers that approximate to the old streets and buildings of Unthalass from ages past.

Politics

The politics of Unther begins and ends in Unthalass. Ultimately all decisions regarding Unther’s policies and future are made in Unthalass, and anyone not following orders will have their fate decided in Unthalass. The majority of the wealth, nobility, and power resides in Unthalass and those that control it intend to keep it that way if they can.

Who Really Rules: Gil-Geamesq is the ultimate arbiter of law and order in Unthalass. However, Gil-Geamesq is primarily concerned with enjoying pleasures of the flesh and spends most of his time at his personal pleasure house or watching chariot racing or delivering his judgement at the “Victor’s Mercy” (the main arena in Unther where he often wrestles opponents).

As a result the every day aspects of government are handled by the ensi of Gil-Geamesq at the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory and they answer to Gil-Zimrilim, the most senior ensi of Gil-Geamesq and the Ul’Aen (Great Lord) of Unthalass.

Gil-Zimrilim’s hold on power is by no means absolute, Gil-Geamesq has many personal “favourites” who have the ear of the God-King, and the nobility of Unthalass constantly strive to impress Gil-Geamesq and gain his favour. There have been no fewer than 13 Ul’Aen of Unthalass (all high priests of Gil-Geamesq) in the past 20 years, but Gil-Zimrilim has held the office longer than anyone in a generation (11 years).

Defence

Anur’Masate: Unthalass has its own standing army dedicated to the protection of the city. Originally standing at 4,000 warriors strong, this military force is now much degraded with many of its officers acting as criminal bosses that use their underlings to extort money from the citizenry.

Unlike the other Esba’Tahar (armies) of Unther which were traditionally controlled by the Church of Ram-Manu, the Anur’Masate were always under the direct control of Gil-Geamesq himself, although they have never left the An’Eqlu region and nor were any of the other Esba’Tahar allowed within Unthalass itself.

The Anur’Masate are the primary defenders of Unthalass, they patrol the city, keep the peace, protect it from attack both within and without; at least that was their original purpose. After millennia of Gil-Geamesq’s tyranny the Anur’Masate are little more than allied gangs of thugs that pay their bribes to the authorities of Unthalass so that they may prey on the populace without interference.

Trade

Magic

Religion

Important NPCs

Arzithree (Neutral, Dragon – Bronze, Dragon 12): Dwelling in the Undercity is said to be a wandering mad woman obsessed with and knowing all about dragons and their history in Unther. For a pearl she will answer any single question about dragons, diversifying much during the course of delivering the answer.

Kol-Cheis (Neutral, Lizardfolk – Gaund, Magic User 12): Kol-Cheis, is a strange grey scaled humanoid lizard with three eyes who was found inhabiting the Pool of Du’uk by the Cult of the Queen of Chaos when it first discovered these ruins. He appears to be friendly and servile towards the cultists and has helped them discover the power of these ruins. Although he has displayed little interest in magic he is secretly a dangerous spellcaster and far more powerful than he appears.

Malise (Evil, Human – Mulan, Expert 5): Malise is Shudu-Ab’s second in command for the Unthalass cell of the Cult of the Queen of Chaos. He is a sly, manipulative man and spends all his time in the Pool of Du’uk dabbling in the magical arts and experimenting upon poor creatures that he makes increasingly monstrous.

Shudu-Ab (Evil, Human – Mulan, Magic User 7): Shudu-Ab is the Dark Scaly One for the cult cell in Unthalass. She takes her orders directly from Tiglath but secretly is waiting for the opportunity to remove her from leadership

Important Sites

The Palace District: This district covers the southern half of the city of Unthalass. It is extremely lavish, filled with many multi-tiered ziggurat style palaces, the largest of which is the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory; the home and temple of Gil-Geamesq and the centre of government in Unther. The whole district is surrounded by thick marble walls on all sides with a single gate leading only to the River Alamber.

The Ziggurat of Eternal Victory: The Ziggurat of Eternal Victory is a testimony to the glory that was once Unther at its height. This enormous structure is one of the greatest man-made monuments in Faerun, with 16 tiers and over 300 ft of structure visible, all decorated in rare metals, intricate enamel work, and precious stones (the most prominent of which are pearls).

The ziggurat was the first building constructed in Unthalass when Unther was founded. It was originally home to all the godkings of Unther before they each moved to found their own settlements and seats of power. Beneath the surface are many more levels that extend at least another 400 ft and 10 tiers beneath the surface (it was so large a structure that it dominated the southern half of the city).

Since Gil-Geamesq’s accession to the throne of Unther, the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory has become home to the administrative arm of Unther’s central government which is run entirely by the Church of the All Father.

The ground floor tier is the main visiting area for those wishing to pay homage to Gil-Geamesq and his glory directly (although he would never appear to receive such homage), it is filled with statues, sculptures, paintings, and other artistic works that glorify Gil-Geamesq (focusing on his masculinity). The middle 14 tiers are reserved for the Church of the All Father and the administration of Unther, it contains living quarters, offices, storage chambers, etc. The topmost tier of the ziggurat is a living shrine to Gil-Geamesq the God-King, it is the most opulently furnished floor, and contains the best of whatever Gil-Geamesq may desire; including his own personal pleasure-house.

The underground floors are filled with prisons, treasure vaults, torture chambers, and storage for things the administration want to disappear. The bottom two floors have been largely abandoned and are rumoured to be stalked by creatures that deliberately target the ensi of Gil-Geamesq. The underground floors are filled with a cacophony of screams when Gil-Geamesq pays a visit to his favourite torture chambers.

The Island District: This district is a series of islands in the River Alamber. They are usually connected to the shore by bridges, although any bridge leading to the southern shore is heavily guarded with a large gatehouse and a unit of the Anur’Masate. The most notable of islands are the Isle of Winds, the Isle of Blood.

The Isle of Winds: This island is by far the largest island on the river (large enough to house a town of Cormyr) and is home to both the Great Market of Unthalass and the main docks (what is commonly referred to as the Port District).

The Great Market of Unthalass: This market is built upon the base of what may once have been an enormous ziggurat (almost rivalling the Ziggurat of Eternal Victory in size had it ever been completed). Extending three tiers upward to almost a hundred feet in height, the open plan floors of the ziggurat are filled daily with a huge number of bazaars of various sizes (depending upon which traders are in town).

The bottom floor is usually home to the slave markets, where human meat is bought and sold at an astonishing rate to Thayan, Chessentan, and Untheric merchants. The middle floor is usually where the craft goods and food are traded, and is usually only frequented by the wealthy merchants that seek to buy in bulk. The topmost tier is where the more exotic goods are traded, access is by invitation only, and it is rumoured that anything can be traded if the price is high enough.

There are rumours of secret subterranean levels within the Great Market where the black market trade occurs. If this is true the subterranean level must be connected by tunnels that travel beneath the River Alamber. Money is rumoured to be a worthless commodity here, one trades in secrets, power, lives, or other rare and valuables.

The Port District: The eastern edge of the ground floor of the Great Market has three ramps that descend 30 feet to the floor of the island and to the “Port District”. Although nowhere near the same size as the River or Palace District, the Port District is still large enough to allow 16 wharves to extend out into the Alamber Sea, hold numerous warehouses and inns for the sailors, as well as its own wall to keep the district self contained from the rest of the city.

The Port District is the only place where foreigners are allowed to stay overnight, although they are limited to a week of residency at which point they must apply to the administration for permission to stay. The Port District is surprisingly well maintained when compared to the rest of the city, although the price to berth here is more expensive than any other dock in the Sea of Fallen Stars.

There is round the clock presence of Anur’Masate in the Port District, and the soldiers here are among the most strict and incorruptible. They are rigorous in enforcing the laws of Unther, although they are less strict on forcing people to pay proper homage to Gil-Geamesq (there are relatively fewer statues of the God-King in this district). Any law-breakers are usually fined, beaten, and confined to their ship.

The Isle of Blood: This island is dominated by a large inverted ziggurat (each tier sinking another 20 feet into the ground, with its lowest point serving as the main arena floor). The silty sand floor of this island is almost black thanks to the hundreds of people slain here every year (and their bodies buried outside the arena. When the River Alamber is at its highest, it swamps the island and reaches several feet up the side of the arena (the owners sometimes open floodgates to let the water flood the arena floor when fights are uninteresting).

The Victor’s Mercy: The greatest arena in all Unther has its own island home in the middle of the Isle of Blood. The arena can seat 100,000 people in its many tiered towers that loom high above the arena floor, the towers are split into white (marble) and grey (granite) coloured stone where the citizenry of Unthalass is divided.

The An’Ular sit in the white towers in the greatest of comfort and luxury, with canvas coverings over all seats and water spouts at regular intervals and slaves provide food and any other requests (for a price). The An’Ulae, War’Lur, and Seh’Nis are seated in the grey towers (although War’Lur and Seh’Nis would be foolish to enter the arena unaccompanied) where they have only the comforts they bring with them. There is no direct means of crossing between the towers; the bridge on either side leads down to tunnels that split into great staircases that ascend each tower. To ascend a tower on the other side of the arena one would have to pass through a great portcullis that leads onto the arena floor (lethally dangerous without all the guards) and out the other side.

The arena floor is regularly changed and filled with traps and structures to increase excitement. It is also possible to flood the arena floor up to a height of 20 ft and has been used to hold mock naval combats. There are rumours of ghosts inhabiting the arena and occasionally a staff gladiator is found dismembered in his quarters.

The General’s Repose: Formerly the greatest temple of Ram-Manu in Unther, now an empty monument under constant guard by the Anur’Masate of Unthalass (the honour guard of the city), this large building is constructed in the style of Unther’s famous citadels built during the First Age of Unther.

The General’s Repose was previously the high temple of Ass-Uraqn before Gil-Geamesq helped Ram-Manu supplant and exile the former Untheric god of war. In the centre of the citadel is a keep where Ass-Uraqn and now Ram-Manu kept their personal quarters. Adjoined to this keep is the main temple where Ram-Manu held his war council and where worshippers were admitted in times of peace.

The temple was the site of a great atrocity which permanently altered the state of the General’s Repose. When Ram-Manu ousted Ass-Uraqn from Unther he personally led his priests into this citadel and ordered the priests of Ass-Uraqn to leave the city, when they resisted Ram-Manu flew into a berserker rage and killed every inhabitant of the citadel, including his own men. Since that day the inner walls of the citadel have been stained the darkest red colour (the colour of dried blood) which refuses to be removed by any amount of cleaning.

In the night wailing can be heard inside the citadel, although no one can pinpoint its exact location. The priests of Ram-Manu have tried hard over the years to keep it a secret, but on the anniversary of Ram-Manu’s arrival, a lone guard disappears leaving behind only his clothes and equipment bundled in a heap next to one of the walls. The senior ensi of Ram-Manu used to ensure they were always absent from the citadel during this night.

The Undercity: The Undercity are the remnants of the city of Unthalass before the second great flood of the River Alambar. It extends only under the River District as a complete sub-level of the city, the second flood was not quite so devastating for the walled Palace District (although most buildings in the Palace District now have a subterranean level). Tunnelling beneath the Palace District by undesirables of the Undercity have extended it somewhat but there are still isolated chambers cut off from access to the rest of the Undercity.

The Undercity is home to the criminal elements of Unther’s society (which is small enough because the punishment for most crimes usually results in death – directly or indirectly), it also houses monstrous creatures (marauding creatures from outside the city or those created within the city and that have escaped or were released).

The Undercity is a maze of tunnels that were once the streets of Unthalass now covered in silt and excavated by the survivors of the flood and newcomers to the Undercity. Chambers exist were the buildings once stood and are now home to numerous residents of various kinds. Gangs are a common feature of the Undercity, as are swarms of large rats and other creatures.

The Pool of Du’uk: Hidden in the Undercity of Unthalass is a series of tunnels and chambers that once were part of a great temple from the First Age of Unther. The Cult of the Queen of Chaos have taken control of this ruin to secure a weapon that could potentially be used against them should it fall into the wrong hands. The chambers can only be accessed through the Undercity tunnels using a series of markings made by the cultists that lead to a hidden opening on the banks of the River Alamber beneath the bridge that lead to the Isle of Winds from the north bank.

At the centre of the temple is a pool filled with a viscous liquid as black as midnight. Any weapon coated with this liquid becomes deadly to all dragonkind. In the adjoining chamber is a series of ancient rune markings in a circular pattern on the floor which when activated cause invisible walls of force to appear and imprison whatever is inside the rune circle. The cultists believe this set of chambers once were part of a temple dedicated to Amar-Du’uk and that he enchanted this pool of dragons blood (gathered from the dragons he had slain) to create a magical weapon to aid in the fight against the flights of dragons assailing Unther at the time.

The Pool of Du’uk is the most secret of bases for the cult within Unther except for the Catacombs of the Sleeping Serpent. Only Shudu-Ab and her most loyal and trusted agents know the location (and none of them are allowed to leave the Pool of Du’uk – only Shudu-Ab can leave the base to make contact with agents in Unthalass who make contact with their sympathisers).

Currently the Pool is home to Shudu-Ab, an ageing cleric known as Malise, and an intelligent, humanoid, lizard who was found living in the ruins when the cult first arrived. Malise is working on many experiments with the captured survivors of the Plague of Dragons, his results now guard the Pool of Du’uk and its cultists.

The Deep Warrens:

Important Organisations

The Church of the All Father: This organisation is by far the most powerful organisation in Unthalass and indeed the whole of Unther. The Church of the All Father effectively runs the country for the God-King and has amassed all the power and wealth of Unther within its own ranks.

The Bloody Hand: This organisation is a collection of An’Ulae households that banded together long ago to run the Victor’s Mercy arena. They have a writ from Gil-Geamesq himself and are responsible for running twice monthly Tanas (roughly translates as blood sport).

The Tanas consist of a variety of exhibitions which see animals and monsters from across the realms brought to Unthalass to fight for the pleasure of the citizenry. Gladiators are also included in the Tanas against the animals or monsters or themselves. Very occasionally huge numbers of slaves and Seh’Nis are rounded up and slaughtered in bizarre ways (the largest number slain in one go numbered more than 2,000 people.

The Bloody Hand has composed a variety of An’Ulae households, some have died out naturally or violently (on the orders of Gil-Geamesq when he was particularly unhappy with a Tanas), but new members are always recruited by the chance for favour from Gil-Geamesq.

The current families comprising the Bloody Hand are the Shugi-Niin-Asq, Ear-Situ, and Dar-Tes families. All the families recognise the winds of change coming to Unther and are determined not to be destroyed them. They have made sure not to too many slaves or Seh’Nis in recent Tanas and have more than a few popular gladiators on permanent hire (they double as bodyguards within the Victor’s Mercy) in case the masate come for them.

The Bloody Hand are however secretly at war with themselves. They have been infiltrated by an organisation known as the Lost of Ravan, these shapeshifting humanoids have established a pair of their number (mother and son) to head the House of Shugi-Niin-Asq (by posing as pureblood Mulan from Murghom and marrying the head of the family) and are using the business to establish agents and contacts among the corrupt officials of Unther’s government and soldiery as well as paying the lions share of gold to ensure the loyalty of its gladiators (and making sure they know who is paying their wages). Should trouble arise, the Lost of Ravan intend to slaughter the other houses of the Bloody Hand and steal their accumulated wealth.

Local Lore

Body Snatchers: People and corpses are being stolen by criminal gangs for suspected nefarious purposes

Demons: A number of Qabisqi, believed to be 13 in all, appearing as ghastly draconic/demonic monsters, are stalking the Undercity of Unthalass. They have been spotted a variety of different coloured beings with similar appearance who swoop out of the darkness and drag off unsuspecting victims. The Cult of the Queen of Chaos are very interested in establishing communications with these creatures.

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