(The City of Silver)
“Mind your manners and watch your purse, my boy. Sarthar have a delicate sense of honor, and they’re quick to draw steel when you offend it.”
On the shores of Lake Sarn stands the city-state of Sarthel, the largest and most prosperous city remaining in the heartland of old Nerath. The city’s foundries and workshops produce jewelry (especially silverwork) and goods known for hundreds of miles around. In this dark and doubtful age, few cities thrive as Sarthel does . . . but a deadly threat lies hidden in the very heart of the city.
Gold is king in Sarthel, and the city is constantly humming with trade and speculation. The city’s noble families own mercantile empires that bring in raw goods from places far and wide. Dozens of guilds of artisans compete fiercely to turn out the finest jewelry, silverware, blades, and clothing. Trade is a bare-knuckled affair, and more than a few commercial rivalries between noble families or guilds are resolved with duels or riots. The people of Sarthel are
notorious for their quick tempers, and they see rivals and competitors as their worst enemies.
Sarthel is a surprisingly old city, dating back two thousand years or more. In the centuries since the collapse of the last great empires, Sarthel has slowly established itself as a regional power and center of civilization in an otherwise wild and desolate land. Some of the city’s lords eye the smaller, scattered towns of the Dragondown Coast only a hundred miles to the east and dream of making Sarthel into a republic—or a kingdom. But Sarthel now faces a dark and deadly peril: The city lies in the grip of the Iron Circle, a secretive and powerful cult dedicated to the worship of Asmodeus, Lord of Hell.
With the collapse of imperial authority a century ago, the leading noble families of Sarthel established a Council of Lords to govern the city. The council consists of the ranking noble in each family, but it rarely meets as a body—many of the lords are content to delegate authority to the High Seneschal. Instead, the lords use their position on the council and their influence over the civic bureaucracy to jockey for the best mercantile licenses and most important civic offices. Many of the powerful noble families are fierce enemies.
While the city lords squabble and the civic officials line their own pockets, the true power in Sarthel now lies in the hands of a secretive society known as the Iron Circle. Scores of Sarthel’s most powerful and inf luential citizens have been drawn into the society.
The Dark Maze: Beneath Sarthel’s streets lie the foundations and hidden vaults of the ancient Turathi city that once stood here. Much of this older work serves as the sewers for the Sarthel today, but isolated cisterns, buried catacombs, secret tunnels, and more pockmark the area beneath the High Ward and Low Ward. The upper reaches of this labyrinth serve as a refuge for gangs of thieves and bands of smugglers, and they are haunted by a number of monstrous scavengers. The lower depths are home to buried Turathi shrines and vaults, many of which still hold ancient treasures—and monstrous guardians.
Population: Roughly 15,000 people live in Sarthel, with more in outlying villages and farmlands along the Blackfall Vale. About two-thirds of the population is human. Dwarves, halflings, and tieflings are the most numerous nonhumans, and each congregate in different districts.
Government: Sarthel is ostensibly ruled by a Council of Lords, a body consisting of about twenty hereditary nobles. The council appoints a High Seneschal as the leading civic official, who runs the city’s daily affairs. However, the council and the city bureaucracy have been subverted by the Iron Circle. The secretive cult now holds effective control of the city.
Defense: A strong wall forms a half-ring around the city; Lake Sarn guards the rest. Sarthel has a small standing army of about 200 cavalry and 800 foot soldiers, but each of the noble families commands scores of mercenaries and loyal guards.
Inns: The Sarnview Inn near the city’s east gate caters to travelers, offering decent lodgings at a good price.
Taverns: The Thirsty Rider is a rough taproom favored by cattlehands and laborers in the western district. The Silver Cup is a wine shop and banquet hall favored by many of Sarthel’s wealthy and influential citizens, although travelers might find trouble in the form of quarrelsome young nobles quick to draw blade against any insult, real or imagined.