Lighthouse for the Blind
A city of unrest…
Ancient and magnificent, Raam has fallen far from its formerly wondrous heights. Centuries of plundering the countryside for its resources, rampant corruption in its government, and the rule of a hedonistic and disinterested sorcerer-queen have brought the city-state to the brink of disintegration. The alabaster quarries and gemstone mines stand exhausted; reckless agricultural practices have led to disastrous food shortages. In the streets, violent factions sworn to one warlord or another battle for control as the once-vibrant and influential city slips into ruin. Mobs riot daily against their ineffectual ruler, the sorcerer-queen Abalach-Re, and her templars dare not set foot in some of the city’s districts.
Extensive irrigation combined with the water beneath Raam’s holdings have transformed the natural scrubland into a rich, verdant area ringing the city for miles. At its height, Raam rivaled Draj in grain production, and its date orchards were second to none. Now, many fields lay fallow, burned, and salted, the work of raiders and warring nawabs. Such destruction has led to food shortages, driving up prices for the most basic foodstuffs.
Raamites are a somber, spiritual people, now given to a certain degree of fatalism. Before Abalach-Re’s “revelation” many years ago, Raamites venerated a host of mythological figures and held mystics and sages known as saddhus in the highest esteem.
Raam is ruled by the sorcerer-queen Abalach-Re. Centuries of age have not diminished Abalach-Re’s physical allure. Her voluptuous figure is as youthful as it was the day she first seized the throne of Raam. She is the exception to Raam’s rigid castes, largely because she has the power and arrogance to ignore them.
Abalach-Re has comparatively few templars. When she has need of new ones, she performs divinations to discover young citizens who might be suited for wielding magic. Then she removes the candidates from their families, regardless of caste, and trains them to serve her. The templars take new names and exist outside the caste system, like their mistress.
The mansabdars are Raam’s police, city watch, and soldiers. They are a mundane part of the civil administration, supervised as needed by the templars.
Raam’s nobles (known as nawabs), are families of high caste that have amassed wealth and property over the centuries. From their estates (which are fortified with mercenary guards), the nawabs wage war against one another to crush opposition and rally supporters.
Places of Interest
Natural Arena of Raam
The rumpled land north of the sorcerer-queen’s palace is barren, unfit for cultivation, yet Raamites travel nearly a mile across narrow pathways to watch gladiators duel for their lives in the arena. The arena floor is small by other city-states’ standards, bounded on one side by a steep hill pocked with veiled observation balconies and on the other by a great chasm called the Maw.
Growing like a boil against Raam’s eastern wall is the Ghost City, home to the unclean. Morticians, butchers, tanners, and every other unpleasant industry sets up shop here. Those in the Ghost City cannot escape from the unclean caste, but at least they are not in danger of being enslaved.
A prosperous area in better days, Coins Quarter lies in the eastern portion of Raam. Civil unrest makes trade difficult if not impossible, and the once fabulous quarter has become a gathering of armed encampments built around the merchant houses of the city-state.
Opposite Coins Quarter under Raam’s western gate is the Temple Quarter, the spiritual center of the city state. Small shrines devoted to the thousand spirits and powers venerated by Raamites crowd the wide thoroughfare that wends northwest through the city to the Queen’s Hill.
The center ofRaam is dominated by a sprawling complex of administrative buildings courts, records halls, mansabdar barracks, and more. Most of the templars sequester themselves in secure palaces in the Official Quarter.
This large, sprawling district in the southern part of the city-state comprises many neighborhoods, none of them very well off. More Raamites live in the Low Quarter than in the rest of the city put together, and its narrow, twisting streets lead to residential communities, trader quarters, slums, and marketplaces, with a few shrines scattered here and there.
Commanding a view of the entire city-state is Queen’s Hill, a steep, grassy ridge in the northwestern corner of Raam. Recent troubles have seen the hill’s elegant gardens and quiet pools replaced with imposing walls, breastworks, and bristling ditches.