Necropolis is a land of sorrow, first and foremost. Poets wax lyrical about the sad grandeur of the landscape, but even the least sensitive sometimes have to suppress a cold realisation of their own mortality. Yet the sorrow of Necropolis is tempered with the knowledge that all things pass - that sorrows teach valuable lessons, and that loss is part of life. Even the most bustling chapterhouse in Necropolis will contain some memento mori, some little touch that is ignored consciously but that subconsciously reminds them every day that people die.
The first Highborn settled along the coast of the Bay of Catazar here, and some of the oldest post-Terunael human-built structures are found here. In some ways, it is the foundation upon which Highguard - and to a degree the Empire - was built.
When the Highborn arrived, the entire area that is now Highguard was controlled by tribes of orcs. As they established themselves, the newly arrived humans drove the orcs north and east - eventually eliminating the majority of the tribes and forcing the rest to flee toward Reikos and the Mallum. Fragmentary records of the time talk to the conflict this created with the Navarr and the Urizen as the spreading Highborn kingdom drove angry orcs to attack Therunin and Redoubt. The early diplomatic incidents this created soured relations with the two "native" human cultures for several decades.
This first territory the Highborn conquered they called Pharos, and built a great city here to serve as their capital. The city of Pharos was burnt to the ground during the time of turmoil, the civil war between the patricians and the chapters. Yet Pharos was not the only victim of the war - a number of towns and early chapters were destroyed by one side or the other. Many were never rebuilt, serving as permanent memorials to, and warnings against, the most tragic period in the history of Highguard. Following the war, many citizens chose to establish chapters in Casinea and Bastion, beginning new lives and putting the memories of a vicious internal conflict behind them. As a result, Necropolis had the lowest population of all the Highborn territories - at least until the invasion of Reikos by the Druj.
The most significant event in the last hundred years was most likely the problems with Grendel raids in the early 300s. These were dealt with decisively during the reign of Empress Deanne - parts of Sanctuary Sand and Longbeach are still marked by orc attempts to secure the territory. These attacks petered out over the course of her reign, and had largely ended by the time Emperor Ahraz took the throne.
Recent years have seen increasing Grendel action, and the threat to Longbeach and Sanctuary Sand is all-too-real. The Empire has taken pains to try and ensure there is an army garrisoned along the southern coast as much as possible - the Grendel would no doubt relish the opportunity to pillage the tombs of the Thrones and heroes of the Empire. Fortunately, they cannot directly assault the Necropolis itself - the cliffs protect the city from marine assaults.
At the mouth of the river Couros lies Bastion’s shadowed twin, a mausoleum in black marble. The Black City is a mirror of the White City to the north, but where Bastion is full of life and a symbol of the pride and future of the Highborn, Necropolis is a silent, sombre memorial to the past. Built in the ruins of Pharos after its destruction during the civil war, the tombs have spread to encompass almost all the old ruins. Scattered throughout the ruins are mausoleums built to house the Highborn dead. To many Highborn it is as if the city itself has been entombed, its memory preserved in the house of the dead.
The Necropolis holds the bodies of the Empire’s heroes, along with the Imperial Histories, guarded eternally by the stewards of the dead. The legendary mausoleum has become the final resting place of almost every Emperor and Empress. In death, all Highborn desire to be lain to rest here, amongst the heroes of the past, where the stewards watch eternally over their silent graves. It is a tremendous honour for heroes of other Imperial Nations to be offered a final resting place alongside them. Those who would be heroes know that granite – and the words placed upon it – will endure long after their flesh has faded.
Preserved and maintained by several chapters with strong connections to the stewards, the permanent population of Necropolis is tiny compared to the area it covers. Some of these chapters are dedicated to preserving a single tomb, or the tombs of all the dead from a specific era or nation. Even for Highborn chapters, these chapters have a reputation for being dour, grim and restrained. "Only the dead live in Necropolis" is a common, if somewhat disrespectful, saying about the Black City.
There are a great many point of interest in Necropolis but the majority are tombs or memorials to the dead. One of the best known memorials, outside the tombs of the emperors and empresses, are the Silent Obelisks, scattered here and there throughout the city. Each is roughly the same - an obelisk of black granite surrounded by a small memorial garden - and each bears the names of every known Imperial soldier who has laid down their life in a significant conflict against the enemies of the Empire. In each case, a small shrine is maintained by a dedicated steward of the dead that serves in the role of a museum - decorated with plaques and friezes that chronicle the conflict, and containing carefully chosen relics of the past war. The Obelisks sometimes attract criticism, especially from the Urizen, as they record history with a distinctly Highborn flavour that favours inspiring lessons over strict adherence to facts. Not every conflict the Empire has ever fought is recorded here - which has in the past been a source of additional criticism. A small number of the obelisks have suffered damage over the centuries, but only one has ever been damaged through malice. In 228YE a cabal of heretics lead by a false exemplar marred one of the oldest obelisks - the obelisk memorialising those slain in the war against Alderei the Fair. While the obelisk was partially restored, roughly a third of the names were lost beyond recovery.
While it is a respected repository of historical knowledge, Necropolis survived the rampage of Emperor Nicovar largely unscathed. While he was merciless in regard to the libraries and centres of learning elsewhere in the Empire, he spared the memorial shrines of Necropolis. That is not to say that he did not come here; his forces destroyed the Hall of Chronicles, a library dedicated primarily to the biographies of the dead. A surprising number of the actual documents survived this attempted purge however. In addition to those texts smuggled out when it was clear that an attack was imminent, magical means were used to preserve a number of the most valuable books. Even while the building was being burnt a dedicated coven of magisters evoked powerful Winter magic to place protective enchantments against fire on many of the texts. While the magicians themselves perished in the blaze, the books survived unscathed. Unfortunately, their magic had not gone unnoticed. After the destruction, Nicovar's forces searched the rubble for three days and found many of the undamaged texts and tore them apart. Still, not everyone was as committed to the destruction of the library as the mad Emperor - and as a result, fragments and individual pages - as well as entire books - occasionally turn up in the possession of descendants of these soldiers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Necropolis is one of the most haunted locations in the Empire. The stewards maintain careful vigilance for hauntings, and for the rare occasions where an unliving creature emerges from one of the tombs. The traditional approach is to make cautious contact and discover the purpose of the haunting. Ghosts invariably are brought back by some unfinished business, or terrible wrong that needs righting, and the stewards are experts at working out how to do this. Violence and exorcism are seen as a last resort: better to help a poor soul into the Labyrinth than to risk destroying it.
This single-storey building sprawls across a cemetery in the north of the Necropolis, and is the premier Imperial college specifically devoted to the study of death. Priests come here to study the funeral rites not only of the Empire, but of the entire world. Obviously, they have large stores of lore related to Imperial funeral ceremonies, but they also have extensive information about the rites of Faraden, the Iron Confederacy, Asavean Archipelago, Sarcophan Delves, Sumaah Republic, and Principalities of Jarm. They are known to have a great deal of interest in the death ceremonies of the Axou but to date have only managed to secure sketchy information - and a great deal of fanciful hearsay. Several covens of magisters proficient in the magic of Winter study here, and often support the priests in their work.
It is customary to speak only in whispers in Litharge, out of respect for the dead, and even lectures are given quietly. The priests who study here maintain several shrines of Pride, Ambition, and Vigilance, but the college is hardly a place of pilgrimage.
Highrod contains one of the oldest human-built structures in Highguard - and perhaps the Empire. The first First Sentinel was a fortification built in the first days after the Highborn arrived on these shores. Constructed to help secure the northern borders of the first Highborn kingdom against the orc tribes in Bastion. Later, when the Highborn began to expand, it was from the First Sentinel that the armies went forth. While the structure looks tiny compared to modern fortifications, the ruins still show all the expertise of the Highborn siege engineers, using the same effective techniques that they have honed over centuries and still employ today.
The castle endured until the civil war, during which it was severely damaged during a bitter conflict between an occupying force loyal to the patricians, and three chapters of grim-faced cataphracts. The castle was re-purposed as a military academy, training generations of Highborn commanders. In 77YE, the structure was gutted by a fire that raged out of control for three days; historians are divided as to the cause. Most claim that the fire started when a candle was knocked over in one of the cellars, but a few point to fragmentary accounts about the fire that suggest the involvement of supernatural forces - perhaps even an eternal such as Surut. After its destruction, the ruins were troubled by the ghosts of the dead soldiers, and a team of exorcists worked year-round to lay them each to rest while also trying to piece together the story of the fire. In the end, the shell of the structure was partially reconstructed, but repurposed again as a place of pilgrimage and shrine dedicated to the Ambition, Pride and Courage of not only those Highborn who died in the fire, but those who defended their people or marched to war to build a better future.
Some Highborn point to First Sentinel as an metaphor for Highguard; while they can adapt to the times, their core identity endures, and remains unchanged. A popular heresy, however, suggests that First Sentinel is not simply a metaphor for the state of Highguard but in some ways a spiritual or magical "barometer" of its fortunes. They point to so-called significant events such as the multiple expansions during the initial conquest of what is today Highguard; or certain incidents during the civil war. They claim that its destruction by fire and return as a spiritual place of pilgrimage reflected the Highguard finding their new identity within the Empire. These Seers of the First Sentinel claim to be able to predict future events by studying the structure and the lands around it; when they are caught in the vicinity of First Sentinel, they are invariably moved on and in some cases have faced charges of heresy and blasphemy.
The Shrine of Britta
A recent construction in the Necropolis, this beautiful white granite shrine honours the Empress Britta. An eternal flame burns in a paved courtyard in front of the memorial, which serves as a place of pilgrimage for those wishing to pay their respects or meditate on the lessons of Britta's reign and death. While the body of the Empress was interred in the swamps of Kallavesa, her accoutrements were placed in the shrine. With the removal of these relics, and their internment in the marshes along with her body, interest in the shrine declined. The Guardian of Britta's Shrine watches over the memorial, but since the removal of the relics the title has become purely ceremonial.
The Sumaah Embassy
During the Spring Equinox 379YE, the Imperial Senate commissioned an embassy to the Sumaah Republic to be built in the city of Necropolis. Work began shortly after the Summer Solstice 379YE, and was finally completed shortly before the Spring Equinox 380YE. The white granite compound is built after the Sumaah style - a central five-tiered ziggurat surrounded by several single-story buildings nestled in extensive gardens.
Built in Coursmouth as part of the project to fortify the entire southern coast, Reumah's Rest is a proudly impervious, gleaming white fortress accented with red and black marble reflecting the colours of the namesake chapter. As with many of the fortifications completed with the aid of devotees of Vigilance, there is a beautiful chapel in the lower levels of the fortress dedicated to the inspiration of the Sentinel. Reumah's Rest was approved by the Senate in Autumn 382YE, and completed in a mere nine months thanks to the use of powerful Autumn magic that greatly speeded the construction.
The river Couros empties out into the Bay of Catazar here, but for the most part the coast is inhospitable. The Necropolis is built atop the cliffs around the mouth of the river, in the ruins of the first Highborn city. Outside the so-called Black City, most of this region is open parkland with a few scattered farms generally overseen by chapters based in the city itself. The presence of the Necropolis means that there are believed to be more ghosts here than anywhere else in the Empire with the possible exception of the Sovevann in Kallavesa. Occasionally the Stewards of the Dead are called upon to deal with a particularly disruptive or frightening haunting - or to deal with a creature of the realms that has issued from one of the several Winter regio found in this region.
The gleaming fortress of Reumah's Rest guards the approach to the Necropolis, defending both against the threat of seaborne assault from Sanctuary Sands and against (admittedly unlikely) overland attacks from Reikos or Morrow
The open plains of Fishguard are criss-crossed with roads and scattered liberally with chapterhouses. Trade caravans constantly move across Fishguard. The roads here connect merchants from the Brass Coast and Sarvos, as well as numerous Marcher grain wagons to customers in Bastion, Urizen, and Therunin. Many chapters maintain hostelries, and there are several very old Navarri wayhouses established here during early contact with the Highborn newcomers. Perhaps the best known is Myfanwy's Rest; legend claims that when the First Empress was on her way to Anvil, she and her companions paused here for two days to prepare themselves for the final leg of their journey. The wayhouse was built in 1YE by members of Myfanwy's striding - partially to commemorate the story, but primarily because its position at the point where the three major roads diverge both makes it a healthy business, and gives the Navarr access to a great many people potentially in need of their aid.
The river Couros is navigable for much of its length, allowing riverboats to travel up past Bastion and Redoubt to Haros in Reikos, as well as to reach parts of Morrow. Chapters are built at regular intervals along the banks of the river, and Hedrossan is one of the most populous regions of Necropolis as a consequence. The trading port of Hedra is a fair distance inland, but is the favoured destination of ships from the League and the Brass Coast. Vessels from as far afield as the Marches and even Wintermark prefer to bypass the archaic docks at Crown's Quay and do their trading here. A great deal of grain and other foodstuffs are sold to merchants destined for the peaks of Urizen, despite (or perhaps causing) a great deal of economic rivalry with the port of Cargo in Redoubt.
Quality: Forest, Haunted
Highrod is rolling, gently-forested plain known for bounteous lemon crops. According to Highborn historians, the common refreshing drink of lemonade was invented here in the early days after the Highborn arrived. This claim has been contested, but the fact remains that the best lemons in the Empire come from Highrod, generated perhaps by the unusually hot summers and cold winters that the local chapterhouses endure with pride. It is also known for containing one of the oldest human-built structures in Highguard - and perhaps the Empire - the remains of the First Sentinel, a fortification built in the first days after the Highborn arrived on these shores.
The chapters here are almost exclusively built around the margins of the forest rather than at its heart. At the time of the civil war, the woodlands here had been extensively harvested by the Highborn. After Pharos burned, however, the woodlands were allowed to grow wild again, to cover over several especially bitter battlefields. According to local legend, the woods are haunted by the unquiet spirits of the Patrician's soldiers who died here in great numbers during the civil war. Occasionally, travelers encounter ivy-choked ruins in Highrod, the shattered remnants of Patrician palaces and villas, several of which have their own unpleasant spectres associated with them that prove particularly resistant to exorcism. Consequently, Highrod remains the least populous region in Necropolis.
With one of the most literal names of all the regions of Highguard, Longbeach is home to several fishing villages and most of the chapters here make their living from the sea. It is perhaps best known for the port-town of Crown's Quay. Once a small fishing village called Westport, Crown’s Quay became notable as the preferred port for those wishing to travel to Anvil, and its docks were rebuilt by the military council in the early days of Empire. Legend also says that it was the place the Three Sisters, the founders of the Brass Coast, took ship. Despite its age and fame, it has never been especially prosperous as a trade port - although several attempts have been made to built lighthouses and to upgrade the quayside they have rarely amounted to significant change. One point of interest at Crown's Quay is the unassuming building that serves as the offices for overseeing the Imperial orc national Bourse Seat known as the Steel Fist. Every season, a fast ship belonging to the rulers of the Sarcophan Delves arrives at the Quayside to deliver a parcel of ilium as part of the trade deal negotiated by Empress Britta. Crow's Quay is also the site of the Kruidenkenner magazjin, a warehouse used by the Sarcophan herbalist and apothecary guild of the same name to trade cerulean mazzarine with the Empire.
This is where the Highborn ships first made landfall. The only major settlement in the region, the town of Sanctuary, is said to have been built on the very spot where Atun's ship first came to rest in the new world. Since the establishment of Necropolis, this is where funeral boats land their cargo of the dead. From all over the Empire, great heroes take their final journey to Sanctuary and then are carried along the steep cliffside trail to their final resting place.