Friday, 6 February 2015

Nazawrath. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.


“Out where the desert moves south
And the thorn trees bloom
I see the sun as your left eye
And your right, the moon.
But at the death of day
The sands rise up and conquer
But my time here is fleeting,
And I must be on my way…”
A prayer of the desert dwellers

Nazawrath. Cradled in the shadows of the Vaulted Mountains, a free city, a desert city, grand, sublime, rising from the sweltering plains of the Apocalypse like a hastily buried corpse. High spired, with majestic towers that pierce the blue. Home to vast shimmering temples of dazzling marble, beneath the silver lacquer of a pirouetting moon.
Nazawrath. Built by more than mere mortals. Jinn, defeated, bound by chains of sorcery, driven mad with braziers of commanding, and punished endlessly by the howling whips of their masters.  
Enslaved  Jinn
They carved this city from the desert floor and shaped it under endless cycles of sun and moon. This was punishment you see, a sentence for their role in the Dune Wars, a brutal time when the living and the dead, fought side-by- side to drive away the invading host from above; and now the defeated Jinn are as dim and insubstantial as shadow. Like tiny, dweomered dust devils that dance and cavort at the feet of street urchins for the entertainment of well-heeled visitors, or passers-by.

The Wall
Nazawrath. A city cut in two. Dissected by a towering wall of desert-fired rock that’s buttressed with sun-bleached skulls and veined with the bones of creatures both large and small. It divides the city precisely in half. One side for the living, one side for the dead.  Two sides of a free city, with one half to favour the day, the other to cherish the dark. The wall begins in the north, at the Liars Gate, then winds its way south, to what the locals call the Gullet, or the Pluck, depending on who you talk to.
Nazawrath. One city, two rulers, but both as bad as each other. For the living it’s, Umbra. For the dead it’s, Necro Fasciitis, Vizier of the Shadow City. For that is the name visited upon the dark half of Nazawrath, Shadow City, home of the dead. The other name, the one they give themselves, is unpronounceable by the human tongue; but to hear it uttered, even under a noon-day sun, is to dip your heart in iced-water and make your balls crawl back from whence they came.
Shadow City

Nazawrath. Divided by day and night. Day is for the living, night is for the dead. Living here is easy, and ‘Do what thy wilt ‘, is the order of the day. With the exception of one cardinal rule: there’s to be no crossing over from one side to another. That’s expressly forbidden, except on those special festival nights, or when the dead open their market place to all. The only beings on either side allowed to travel through the wall are the incense burners and the gong beaters, the vulture priests that serve those of majesty, both high, and low.
During the day, when the sun rides high, Umbra’s half of the city goes about its business as normal. Walking in the bazaars, praying in the temples, strolling in the sun drenched streets. They do as normal people do, they shop, they gossip, they trade. But at night, when the shadows pool at the foot of the wall, they retreat to the safety of their homes.
When the sky turns the three colours of blue that signifies night is coming, then it’s time for the other half to come alive. Wights, skeletons, ghosts, spectres, even vampires, they do whatever it is that would pass for living, once one has slipped beyond the pale.
There is a truce in place, has been from the beginning. One side promises not to attack the other, and so, the two sides go about their business in harmony. Or so it would seem. As is often the case, a bunch of young humans will dare one another to climb the wall and bring something back from the city of the dead. In turn, when supplies run low in the flesh pits, it is not unheard of for a vampire to make its way over the wall to find a victim. But these infractions are oft overlooked. Dispute is bad for business, and business is what it’s all about. Money plays an interest to both, no matter what side of the grave you’re on. 
On the surface, if you had say, just wondered in from the desert, well, you’d be none the wiser. It would be just like any other desert conurbation you’d seen. Dusty, noisy, filthy in parts, spotless in others, especially in the temple districts. You wouldn’t suspect a thing. But then, you’d wind up having your throat slit and your body tossed over the wall, but not before your belongings were taken to the warehouses for reprocessing before being sold in the market place the following day.
It’s not always the case. Not everyone who visits Nazawrath disappears. There are merchants that come with camel trains that stretch for miles and miles, snaking deep into the wavering blue. They come twice a year, to buy and sell from both sides of the city. The dead can still ply their trade. Curses, spells, potions, poisons, and information that comes directly from beyond the veil, can all be sold for flesh or whatever else it is they require. The same applies to the living, anything exotic is taken back to the City States scattered throughout the land.  But most others that venture through the gates are fair game, unless you have something to offer, or Umbra takes a fancy to you, then you might just make it.
Dune Treaders
Over the years they have perfected the ways of sand travel. Huge ships called, ‘Dune Treaders’, journey out into the wastes capturing any and all they find. The bodies are given to the dead, while the living take their coin, raiment, and anything else of value. Then there are the three riders. Dark heralds, once known to be men, and wise, now stalk the desert luring the gullible back to Nazawrath, so that they may become a part of its never ending cycle of existence.
Nazawrath. Truly a place like no other… and thank the gods for that!
People of interest

Pale of skin. Dark of heart. Long flowing hair that has a mind of its own; hair that is bathed in blood every seven day. The hair is bewitched, sorcerous. It creeps around the city at night dispatching those that have traitorous thoughts against her rule. It could stretch for miles if she let it, but she is content to let it wander and skulk around the halls of the living, sowing fear and obedience wherever it goes. She has ruled here for centuries, replacing her father, after she had him executed. A devout worshiper of the god Fumus, she has created what’s known as the Martyrs Mile that’s to be found just outside the city in the foothills of the mountains. Long rows of crucified beings, offered up in splendid sacrifice, so that her reign may continue unabated and unopposed.

Necro Fasciitis
Once a General in the Psychic Wars, Necro led the charge at Kaalindar, which put paid to the tentacled invaders once and for all. Now he is content to rule his half of the city and spend his eternity revelling in the flesh pits. It’s rumoured that he and Umbra were once lovers, and who knows? Maybe they were, but just don’t say it out loud, or her hair will be at your throat when you sleep. He is secretly planning to take over both sides of the city and drive Umbra out into the wastes. Why share, when you can have it all? And besides, what’s the worst she can do? Kill him? The dead already have the upper hand in this.

Them Crooked Vultures
They are the priesthood. Currying favour between gods such as Fumus, Vulturus, and Walpurgis Rex. During the war they would encircle the fields of battle, ululating wildly as the sirens rose and fell before rushing to dine on the corpses of the fallen. They can smell carrion, and sinners, from miles away. Umbra is particularly fond of these avian clerics, and it is rumoured she has taken one as a lover. Their power lies in prediction of death, and they can move with ease between both sides of the city. Necro doesn’t mind them either, despite their penchant for dining on his people.

The Three Wise Men
Evil. False heralds and advertisers of lies. They recruit the unwary to visit the city and thus, keep the cycle of death and robbery in motion. They turned their backs to the light, sold their souls to Fumus, and are now chief amongst his disciples. They are chaos and anarchy made flesh, albeit it corrupted flesh…

Oddities and Rarities.

The Inn of the Red-Headed Step Children
Run by two sisters, the inn caters to both the living and the dead. Their status as witches allows them a special dispensation in this regard and is in fact the only place on either side where the two states of being may mingle outside of a holy/unholy day. It is also well sought out by travellers, and, if you don’t get murdered before you get there, you can revel in the delights the Inn has to offer. Divination, corruption, cursed items, all of this is the speciality of the house. You’d be wise to keep an eye on your coin too, just in case. Not to mention your soul.

The Night Garden
The name given to the Bazaar found in Shadow City. A wondrous arraignment of all that is truly macabre, where everything is for sale. Magical mirrors, skulls, bones, carpets, material, potions, weapons and armour are all available and highly prized by the living. An enchanted evening is guaranteed for all, just don’t wander down any side streets on your own, or you might never come back.

Martyrs Mile
Also known as the Wailing Mile because of the screams of those being tortured in the name of  the dark gods. This is the where the Vulture Priests spend most of their days, punishing, killing,and interrogating those that might try and usurp either, Umbra, or Necro.

The Shuttered Lantern
A famous and well visited bordello on the Street of Harlots. However, this one is different from all the rest. It has a tunnel that goes under the wall to Shadow City, thus allowing Madam DeBouvier  to cater to both types of clientele. What happens in the lantern? Well, lets just say that if you were found out, you'd be singing the dark lords praises before sunrise.

Long Tom's Stables
Tom looks after the riding lizards belonging to Umbra's army, as well as raising and rearing his own. A fully grown Akkedis is worth a fortune and only available to the elite of Nazawrath. However, if you can afford, it's worth it, as there is no real way to see the wastes except from on the back of an Akkedis.

* Incredible art by, Roger Dean, Rodney Matthews, Daniel Serra, and Bruce Pennington, specifically the cover to the Album by Nazareth, called, 'No Mean City', by Rodney Matthews. 

Nazawrath, a mean, mean city!

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