Istivin : City of Shadows.
1. Javan Gate: Most visitors who come to Istivin from the eastern lands enter the city through Javan Gate, a huge two-passage basalt barbican with three 60-foot-tall towers that offer a tremendous view of the surrounding landscape. A contingent of twenty-five soldiers armed with crossbows guards each tower; all are trained in the operation of ballistae positioned on the tower roofs. The largest tower houses a city watch station, and at least twenty guards man the gates during all hours of the night and day. At the base of Javan Gate, four statues of baying wolves the size of draft horses snarl a defiant warning to Istivin’s enemies. Local legend holds that the wolves predate the city itself, and that their incorporation into the city’s primary defensive post hearkens to even older traditions now lost to all but the most fastidious scholar of Allitur.
4 & 5. East Citadel/West Citadel: The Istivin contingent of Sterich’s army resides within two sprawling fortifications near Brink’s Gate and Trade Gate. West Citadel abuts vast stables and serves principally as barracks for the nation’s light cavalry, a force some 200 strong. Roughly 400 infantry (mostly halberdiers) dwell within East Citadel, which boasts a huge open courtyard used for drilling.
6: Krelont Keep: The hereditary seat of the rulers of Sterich is Krelont Keep, an imposing edifice perched atop a massive granite peak known as the Promontory. The heavily fortified keep got its start centuries ago as a bastion against raiders from the Crystalmist Mountains, and it still protects the ruling family of Sterich. The keep casts a long shadow over Qualtaine Square, and since Querchard’s disappearance four years ago, it has become a dark symbol of the protections surrounding the unpopular Marchioness Emondav.
In addition to the marchioness and her countless retainers, servants, and sycophants, Krelont Keep is home to more than 200 members of Istivin’s watch, who maintain order in the city under the command of Captain-General Frush O’Suggill, a former adventuring hero who came to lead the guard after helping to thwart Lolth’s designs upon Istivin eighteen years ago. Companies of soldiers from the citadels supplement the city watch of Krelont Keep, at any given time adding 50 to 100 crossbowmen to the outpost’s defense. A dozen accomplished wizards and clerics loyal to the march serve in a versatile strike force organized by the marchioness’s chief wizard, Verbane. They spend most of their time engaged in divinations to protect the marchioness and abjurations to prevent magical entry to the keep.
The series of hilltops outside the city walls serves as the abode of the gentry of Istivin. Palatial manors surmount these hills and the saddles between, guarded by large companies of hired mercenaries intent on keeping Istivin’s troubles firmly within the city walls and away from the private lives of the aristocracy. The cursed pall that hangs over Istivin seems not to have ventured this far, though some of the district’s wealthy denizens have vanished while conducting business in the city.
13. Algorthas the Seer’s Manor: This upscale manor lies atop the southernmost peak of Brink’s Hill. Algorthas the Seer’s reputation as a sage without equal stretches across the land as far as the city of Greyhawk, and no few of those willing to brave the trip to Sterich do so only because they are certain Algorthas knows some bit of lore forgotten everywhere else. The aging pedant does not discriminate in his clientele, believing knowledge is neutral and should be available to all who can afford his exorbitant fees. He is an expert in most fields, but specializes in knowledge of history, localities, politics, and prophecies. He keeps a cadre of eleven scandalously overpaid mercenaries on his property at all times.
14. Barclay House: This low-lying manse along the major thoroughfare of Brink’s Hill has recently become the abode of “Count” Tavisham Barclay, who claims to be distantly related to the Keolandish House of Rhola and an heir to one of the estates of Sterich. He keeps to himself beyond making daily appearances at Krelont Keep to petition the marchioness for title to his family’s land. He keeps a posse of thirteen hardbitten mercenaries as guards in his lavish home.
15: The Old Livery: This massive livery stable boards the mounts of many of Istivin’s citizens and visitors. Its proprietor, a Paynim horse-trader named Zarreff, charges standard stabling rates and even boasts facilities for exotic mounts, for he is no stranger to adventurers. Many powerful and famous personages called the shabby stalls of the Old Livery home eighteen years ago, at a time when most of Istivin’s city center had been engulfed by the foul planar gate of the Queen of Spiders. Many of these thrillseekers carved their personal devices upon the stable’s wooden walls, and even today a canny observer can notice the signs of Captain-General Frush O’Suggill, the Knights of Hommlet (led by Sir Ardorsus of Dyvers), and Theodain Eriason, elven wizard of the Circle of Eight.
16. Qualtaine Square: Named for the first earl of Sterich, this cobbled plaza lies at the heart of Istivin, at the base of the imposing Promontory and in the shadow of black-walled Krelont Keep. Many of the city’s most important temples Zilchus Pelor and businesses front this plaza, bringing thousands of visitors each day. Two neglected, once graceful fountains mark its southern end, and a marble shrine to Heironeous stands before the road rising to the keep, as if guarding the ruling family.
17. The Effluvium: Located at the base of the Promontory, the Effluvium is a huge drainage pool of porous stone that serves as a natural sump for the city. All of Istivin’s storm drains and sewer channels eventually empty into this collection basin, where the effluent slowly drains and evaporates. The result is a massive pool of foul-smelling, murky brown water. Nothing is known to live in this fetid soup, and hardly a ripple breaks its algae-covered surface. Most of the dozens of drains that empty into the Effluvium are only a few inches in diameter, but some open as wide as 4 feet across, and widen considerably deeper underground. These lead to sewer channels that run beneath Istivin and are always barred by thick iron grates to prevent the egress of sewerdwelling creatures or to keep out those who might use the tunnels for nefarious ends. These grates do not open, and sewer workers enter the drains from elsewhere in the city.
The Abandoned Quarter
As the open waste pit known as the Effluvium fermented over time, a noxious stench of human waste and rotting garbage inhabited the stones and woodwork of the neighborhood northeast of the Promontory. Over the past century, things have become so bad that most buildings stand unclaimed and abandoned, giving the district its common name. Several roads remain completely blocked by collapsed buildings, and the government long ago gave up hope of ever reclaiming the area for a useful purpose.
Now, only the most desperate addicts and alcoholics call the place home. Even civilized criminals avoid the Abandoned Quarter, although many keep bolt-holes and safe houses within the district’s crumbling tenements and lonely towers, for if you can find a way to deal with the smell, the Abandoned Quarter makes for one of the best hiding places in Istivin. Duty on the walls bordering the quarter is reserved for those soldiers who have fallen into disfavor with their superiors, and the city watch never patrols its trash-filled streets. The policies of the marchioness and her government never touch upon the Abandoned Quarter, and she apparently prefers to treat the neighborhood as if it didn’t exist.
Mark has discovered that Mongrelmen live here too.
18. Chapterhouse of the Star: This once-elegant building houses a shadowy chapter of the mysterious Order of the Star, a fraternity of blademasters devoted to the hero-deity Kelanen, the Prince of Swords. The Order takes its name from Kelanen’s symbol, nine swords radiating outward to form a starburst. The organization spans the western nations, but Istivin’s chapter in particular always best exemplified Kelanen’s dedication to swordplay and the pursuit of a cosmic balance between the Four Dooms: good, evil, law, and chaos. The principles that had for so long served as the chapter’s foundation ironically led to its undoing on the eve of Istivin’s fall, when most of its members perished standing their ground against Galmoor’s army. The futile, spirited defense allowed thousands of citizens to flee the city, and many common folk of Istivin give thanks to the gentlemanly ghosts of the Order of the Star each time they pass the chapterhouse on Whetstone Way.
But some life yet remains in the old lodge, thanks to the efforts of an aged swordsman named Baldram, too infirm to stand with his brothers ten years ago but still able to train others in the disciplines of the nine blades of Kelanen. Only a handful of these new blademasters dwell in Istivin, and many of those that do are early in their training and not nearly equal to Baldram in knowledge or skill at arms.
19: The Circus: Of all Istivin’s magnificent structures, only Krelont Keep is more spectacular in scope and imagination than the city’s Circus, an ancient relic dating back to Istivin’s earliest days nearly a thousand years ago. As Sterich began to adopt the more civilized ways of the east, bloodsport gave way to horse and chariot races and field games. Such endeavors now seem quaint to the battle-hardened citizenry of Istivin, and lethal gladiatorial combat has made a triumphant return to the Circus.