Caption1 A rising city in the shadow of the Black Plateau

Overview

Spiral is a hard place to live; its arid and rocky valleys mean that the majority of food needs to be imported in from Highguard, the Marches, and Dawn. Where there is vegetation it is more often than not light scrubland except in Apstrus and Cinion which are home to light rolling woodland and a tangled mess of vines and trees respectively. And at the heart of the territory sits the oppressive malignancy of the Black Plateau.

Spiral has always been isolated, and has always had a haunted reputation. The Urizen lived here long before there was an Empire, although the main focus of pre-Imperial Urizen settlement was in Morrow to the north. The two territories were connected by a tenuous "bridge" of spires stretching across south-western Zenith. At some point in the far distant past, before even the Urizen lived here, powerful magic was enacted in Spiral. At the heart of the territory is the Black Plateau, a great plateau of volcanic glass with a dire reputation. Artefacts from the Black Plateau are often considered haunted or touched by malign evil, and are generally destroyed when they are encountered. Since being roused to full wakefulness, its oppressive miasma penetrates the entire territory, inescapable save in scattered oases bound with magically infused mithril.

Spiral has always been a battleground, most recently between the Empire and the Grendel to the south. Where it was once an Urizen territory, it is now part of the League. A clever political stratagem saw the Grendel governor of the territory, Salt Lord Kaliact, split from the orcs of the Broken Shore and become an Imperial citizen. The repercussions of this profound change to Urizen and the Empire are still being felt. Today Spiral is home to citizens of the League - a mixture of immigrants from the other cities, former Grendel orcs, and former Urizen who chose to embrace city life - as well as many Urizen who refuse to abandon their loyalties.

Recent History

Spiral was lost to the Empire over fifty years ago. In 331YE. Barbarians from the Broken Shore came up through Apulus along the coast, and with weapons fashioned from the glass taken from the Black Plateau overran the defenders of Spiral, resisting all efforts to throw them back. Refugees streamed into Morrow and Zenith, and many of them - and their descendants - remain in their new homes.

During Winter 377YE there was a concentrated effort to shore up the defences of Fort Mezudan. Identifying a weakness in the Grendel supply lines, a concerted campaign of seaborne raiding was followed in Autumn by the invocation of a cataclysmic tempest that devastated the docks at Apulian. Shortly after the Autumn Equinox 379YE the Grendel responded in kind when a powerful magical storm left the fort in ruins.

In Spring 381YE, the Grendel orcs launched a major offensive on all fronts that saw Imperial forces driven back to Cinion, and the territory again fell into barbarian hands. Over the next year, war raged relentlessly across the territory, accompanied by the slow rousing of the Black Plateau in Screed. The situation came to a head shortly after the Winter Solstice 381YE when the Varushkan army of the Iron Helms were unleashed against the Grendel. During the Battle of Solen's Doubt in Apstus, three Grendel armies were permanently destroyed as a wave of madness swept through both Imperial and orc forces that culminated in the awakening of the Black Plateau - an event whose repercussions are still not entirely understood.

The Senate ratified a peace treaty with the Grendel during the Autumn Equinox 383YE that saw the Empire cede the regions of Ankra, Cinion and Ateri to the Grendel. Over the next three months Salt Lord Kaliact established herself as the new, almost reasonable, ruler of the territory. Over the next year the new inhabitants of Spiral engaged with the Empire, helping to create the position of Spiral Envoy to encourage trade with the people of Apulian. The Senate voted against ratifying a treaty with Kaliact that would see the territory treated as a separate entity to the rest of the Broken Shore. Undeterred, Kaliact tried again and a season later, in Spring 385YE, the Senate voted to ratify a historic treaty that ceded the territory to the Empire and saw it claimed by the Wolves of War shortly after.

During the Summer Solstice 385YE Merchant Prince Kaliact and the rest of the Apulians swore to Guise and joined the League as full Imperial citizens. Genoveva Barossa d'Apulian, one of the many immigrants from the other cities, was elected as the first League senator of Spiral. Now, with the Empire once again at war with the Grendel, the territory looks south to the Broken Shore.

Major Features

Apulian

Standing on the coast of Apulus, the fortunes of the town of Apulian have waxed and waned in recent years. A centre for sea-trading, as well as a regular destination for League and Freeborn vessels operating in the eastern Bay of Catazar, it was a jewel of the Urizen coast. This changed with the Grendel invasion. Perhaps the worst casualty of the barbarian invasion, the Lighthouse at Apulian was a great work that served as both a spire dedicated to foreign trade and a beacon for all the Urizen fleets based in Spiral. The last Keeper of the Lighthouse, Hadrian of Apulian, burst the entire structure apart once it became clear it would fall to the orcs, shattering the magical stone (a gift from the eternal Kimus) that served as the light. The white granite tower exploded in a thunderous detonation, the echoes of which were reportedly heard as far away as Sarvos and the island of the Lyceum. The release of magical power incinerated several hundred orcs, along with all the defenders of Apulian. Some refugees from Spiral attempted to have Hadrian declared an Exemplar of Loyalty, but received little support from the Imperial Synod. Most of the survivors are dead now, of course.

In 378YE the invoked devastation finished what Hadrian of Apulian had started - the rebuilt waterfront at Apulian was smashed to pieces. Then in 380YE, during a conjunction of the fountain, powerful ritual magic sank the entire coastline of Apulus into the Bay, transforming the region into a stinking mire. Many of the remaining buildings collapsed and sank in the marshes, leaving the entire area in ruins. Since then, Apulian has switched between Urizen and Grendel control several times. The Grendel seem to see it as a prize, rebuilding the docks and many of the buildings. When Merchant Prince Kaliact took control of Spiral, she spent white granite like water to restore Apulian. Reports say that she had the support of both local Urizen architects, and Jarmish magicians in not only building the city but also establishing a fortification here.

Apulian is now the "City of Nets" and an established city of the League, equivalent to Meade in the Marches or Gildenheim in distant Skarsind. It boasts strong walls of solid granite, extensive docks, and a melange of architectural styles both Grendel and Urizen. All the newer structures have been built with the aid of Urizen scholars, and incorporate mithril weaves that protect those within from the worst effects of living in Spiral; the intricate designs give a certain continuity of theme to the otherwise disparate building styles, and have led to the name "City of Nets." The beautiful, well-fortified palace takes pride of place near the docks. OOC Note: The Palace of Apulian is a rank one fortification.

The Black Plateau

The Plateau Ascendant

Shortly before the Spring Equinox 382YE, the Black Plateau became active to a degree unprecedented in the history of the Empire. This has a number of effects, many of which are not yet clear. What is certain for the time being however is:

  • Every army fighting in Spiral takes 25% additional casualties
  • It is impossible to receive natural resupply in Spiral
  • Any army that sends the season in Spiral will lose 5% of its maximum fighting strength over the course of that season even if it is not engaged.
  • Fleets, military units, businesses, and farms have their production reduced by a quarter. The nightmares and the oppressive power of the Black Plateau encourages any living person in Spiral to leave. Only the completion of the Block allows other personal resources to prosper, and creates safe havens for Urizen citizens to live here.
  • The mithril in the Legacy appears to shield the workers there somewhat, but there are few workers prepared to make the trip to Ossuary given the recent history of the mithril mine and the constant threat of the Black Plateau. As a consequence the upkeep of the Legacy has been doubled for the foreseeable future.
Over the last few years there have been several magical rituals designed to deal with the Black Plateau. None of those rituals will have any effect, for good or ill, on the active Black Plateau. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that any ritual magic will be effective against the Black Plateau in its current roused state.

A great plateau of volcanic glass with a dire reputation. Artefacts from the Black Plateau are often considered haunted or touched by malign evil, and are generally destroyed when they are encountered. Scholars have established that while many of the artefacts recovered from the Black Plateau date back to the days of distant Terunael, and to pre-Urizen Spiral, there are occasional artefacts that reach back even further - they cannot agree on the exact age of the plateau but the volcanic glass may date back to a period before human history.

Barbarians armed with weapons fashioned from the glass taken from the Black Plateau overran the defenders of Spiral, resisting all efforts to throw them back. There are no permanent settlements or spires in the area around the Black Plateau - attempts to establish them ended in tragedy without exception. For the last four decades there have been stories of wild, bestial humans - presumably the offspring of Urizen left behind when Spiral fell to the barbarians - who live on and around the plateau. Their motivations, assuming they even exist, are unknown.

The plateau feeds on and amplify negative emotions - especially hate, rage, fear, and despair. Those fighting in the territory when it became active also reported hallucinations and oppressive, malign thoughts causing them to dwell on past failures, insults, and suspicions. In some cases these thoughts lead to tragic action. Shortly before the Spring Equinox 382YE, the Black Plateau was roused to full wakefulness with dire consequences.

Interestingly, it seems that those of the cambion lineage are particularly resistant to this oppressive influence; they still experience the urges, thoughts, and visions but rather than giving in to them they tend to become stubborn, obdurate, uncooperative, and self-contained. This means that those with cambion blood are very much in demand to serve as scouts and messengers between isolated settlements not connected by the Heliopticon - but the very quality that makes them so useful also means they tend to be frustratingly intractable and prone to embarking on unrelated side quests that they have decided are more important than the mission given to them by their "superiors".

The Passes

Before the Autumn Equinox 381YE, the Grendel engaged in a program of collapsing the passes through the western and the northern mountains out of Spiral. At this time there are four major passes still open that are large enough to allow a campaign army to pass through them without difficulty.

  • The Onyx Path linking Optarion and Ateri. The western end of the pass is guarded by the Court of the White Fountain, while the eastern end emerges near the ruins of Fort Mezudan.
  • The Crow Road linking Willstone and Cinion. The western end of the pass is watched by the resourceful sentinels of Willstone spire, while the eastern end emerges in the hills above the ruins of Damakan's Forge.
  • The Twilight Gate linking the plains of Proceris and the northern Ossuary. This "pass" is wide enough that it would be extremely difficult to close it without constructing a fortification. The Grendel attempted this with the Ballagadruh but with limited success.
  • The Apulian Way links southern Apulus with northern Mareave. This "pass" runs through the foothill, along the coast of the Bay of Catazar, and has been widened a little of late by Grendel caravans bringing white granite into the territory from the Broken Shore.

These passes are a significant strategic consideration when discussing conflict in the territory. There are several smaller, higher passes still intact of course that can be used by small groups or caravans - but these are not suitable for a campaign army to use. Of particular note, the mountains of southern Apstrus contain no passes through to the Grendel territory of Mareave that are suitable for use by an Imperial army. Without an opportunity it is only possible to enter Mareave through the Apulian Way.

Ballaghadruh

Begun shortly after Merchant Prince Kaliact took control of Spiral, the Ballaghadruh is a fortification built at the southern end of the Twilight Gate in Ossuary. The initial plans apparently intended to close the entire pass with a wall of white granite, but the structure as it currently stands consists of a solidly built keep and several garrison towers across the mouth of the pass. One reason for the less ambitious structure is likely the amount of mithril required to protect the inhabitants from the effects of living and working in Spiral. The fortress itself was completed in only six months thanks to magical assistance from well-paid Jarmish magician-engineers. OOC Note: Ballaghadruh is a rank one fortification.

The Block

Not far from Ossen's Spire in Cinion stands the Block, a vital construction that helps alleviate some of the impact of the Black Plateau. Proposed in Winter 382YE by a group of illuminates, the Block is positioned within a circle of blasted and burnt trees that seems to be a powerful locus of Winter magic.

Following their suggestions, the Imperial Senate approved construction of a carefully shaped block of mithril, aligned with the Oak and the Lock and used to harness the power of the regio that lies at the heart of the blasted grove. The block now emanates waves of magic across the territory following the old heliopticon paths. While it is in no way powerful enough to impact the emanations of the Black Plateau, any spire built in the territory with the correct web of mithril nodes is able to focus that energy and protect the inhabitants of the spire from the worst of the Plateau's influence. The protection offered by the block means that people can live in Spiral despite the curse of the Black Plateau, allowing for a slight increase in the rate of recovery for the territory and its contributions to Imperial coffers.

Unfortunately the power of the block is not sufficient to deal with all the problems encountered by those outside the warded spires or Apulian. The penalties to armies, in particular, and the increased upkeep of the Legacy, are not affected. Likewise, the wilderness outside the spires continues to be extremely dangerous.

The Legacy

This vast mine complex is mostly played out today, but still manages to produce significant quantities of mithril for whoever controls it. According to legend the site was part of a great gift to the Urizen people but who gave it to them, and why, are details lost to time.

The Legacy is a national Bourse position which produces mithril. Control of the Legacy is assigned by open auction at the Autumn Equinox each year. This Bourse position produces 22 Imperial wains of mithril every season.

This Bourse seat has changed hands numerous times. As of the Winter Solstice 385YE it is a national seat of the League auctioned to the highest bidder.

Ruins of Fort Mezudan

The fortress Fort Mezudan - also known as the Fist - was under construction at the time the barbarians attack, but workers and guards refused the order to destroy the walls. When the original defences against the barbarians fell, the workers armed themselves and held the semi-completed fortress for two weeks until Imperial reinforcements arrived. For that reason the stone-crafters guild were always considered to have nominal control of this small fortress, and no decade went by without some major renovation or improvement being undertaken.

During Winter 377YE, the Imperial Master of Works arranged for emergency supplies and many wains of white granite collected by Marcus of Endsmeet to reach the stone-crafters guild of Ateri. While Imperial forces occupied the invading orc armies, the final months of work were completed at a feverish rate that burnt out almost the entire ushabti work force. By the middle of Spring 378YE, the Fist was complete, ready to serve its intended purpose as a bastion for Imperial forces against the invaders of Spiral.

Unfortunately, shortly after the Autumn Equinox 379YE, a powerful magical storm struck the fortress, which had already been damaged as part of the renewed Grendel offensive. The Fist was completely destroyed.

Ruins of Ankarien

On the slopes of Ankra stood the Spire of Ankarien. One of the oldest and most prestigious of the Urizen spires, it was home to perhaps the finest library in the Empire. The infamous Emperor Nicovar was born here, and lived much of his early life at Ankarien; this did not spare the library from his destructive wrath as he descended into madness. What Nicovar did not quite achieve, the barbarians almost managed. As they drew near the librarians carried much of the contents to Endsmeet. The Spire of Ankarien now lies in ruins, the remainder of its books and scrolls destroyed or stolen by the barbarian plunderers.

Regions

Ankra

  • Quality: Hills

The mountains of Ankra are the site of some of the oldest spires in Urizen, including the ruins of one of the most prestigious - the library of Ankarien. The most well known settlement is the Spire of Endless Horizen; home to the architect Tiborion who is one of the ring leaders of the secessionist Urizen.

Apstrus

The lower slopes of the Apstrus peaks are covered in rolling woodland, carefully cultivated by ushabti and at one time produced a great bounty of forest materials, especially iridescent gloaming. The dreaming spires of Apstrus (as they were often known) were dedicated to philosophical thought, their forest-bounty providing the inhabitants with lives of comfort despite their location on the very eastern edge of the Empire. One of the most prestigious was Solen's Doubt. Dedicated to experimental philosophy, it was a place for solitary study and thought. Unsurprisingly, it was overrun during the barbarian march to conquer the territory. The Battle of Solen's Doubt shortly before the Spring Equinox 382YE saw Imperial and Grendel forces clash here for the final time during the campaign. Three Grendel armies disbanded due to the actions of the Iron Helms, and the Black Plateau became fully active. Five hundred Imperials died in the very instant the plateau awoke; both forces withdrew in disarray in the wake of the calamity.

Of special interest to the Urizen, the central Heliopticon tower for Spiral stood on the northern slopes of Apstrus, the heart of the communication network. The defenders held the tower for several months against the barbarians, allowing the rest of Spiral additional warning of army movements, and relaying desperate messages for aid to Morrow and Redoubt. Though the tower finally fell, it is still unknown if the barbarians destroyed the specially calibrated mirror and the light-source (a glowing stone infused with the magic of the realm of Day), or stole them away. Some recent rumours suggest these two components might have been hidden by the defenders, and only uncovered recently, but the facts are unclear - and idle speculation has no place in the study of history.

Apulus

  • Quality: Coastal

Before it was taken by the barbarians, Apulus was the gateway to adventure for the people of Urizen and, to a degree, the Empire. Expeditions south into the wilds of Mareave would rest here before undertaking their quests into the unknown wilderness. Ships from across the Bay of Catazar docked at the coastal spires here, with League and Freeborn adventurers in particular being regular visitors.

The jewel on the coast here is the city of Apulian whose fortunes have been extremely mixed in the years since the original Grendel invasion. What started as a minor frontier settlement that was the last resting place for adventurous citizens journeying south has now blossomed into a thriving city on par with Meade and Kalpaheim

Ateri

  • Quality: Hills

Fort Mezudan once stood on the slopes of the mountains here before its destruction by Grendel magic. The Onyx Path is one of the three passes wide enough to allow an Imperial army to move between Spiral and the rest of the Empire. The eastern end of the pass was guarded by Fort Mezudan, while the western end is protected by the Court of the White Fountain.

Cinion

The wide valleys of Cinion are lush and covered in rolling woodland. Until Winter 380YE the region was littered with ruined spires, most long since looted by the barbarians. Several of these spires stood over plentiful mines and there were many rich veins of tempest jade and weltsilver. The mines remain, but almost all the ruined spires are now gone. Those that survived the supernatural fires that raged across the mountains in Spring 380YE were consumed by trees and vegetation invoked with powerful Spring magic designed to rejuvenate the area.

One small area proved resistant to the magic released to heal the wounded hills. A grove of blasted and burnt trees, no more than twenty-feet across, remains devoid of greenery to this day. Magicians who have visited the area suggest that it is infused with the power of Winter magic and that it forms the locus of a regio tied to the Thrice-cursed Court. A small group of illuminates have committed to keeping an eye on the place; their suggestion in Winter 382YE lead to the creation of the Block that now occupies the blasted grove and provides magical protection to the spires of Spiral against the influence of the Black Plateau.

The Crow Road is one of the three passes that connect Spiral to the Empire, linking Cinion with Willstone in Redoubt. The eastern end of the pass is watched by the resourceful sentinels of Willstone spire, while the eastern end emerges in the hills above the area that was once home to Damakan's Forge.

Ossuary

Ossuary takes its name from the large number of giant bones regularly unearthed in the mines here. Scholars are at a loss to explain them - some claim they may be the bones of great drakes or perhaps even dragons. Many of these bones have been exported to other parts of the Empire where they are studied or presented as curiosities.

The Legacy is in Ossuary; a vital resource that once provided mithril to the people of Urizen, and now serves to support the ambitions of the League. It was lost to the Grendel in Summer 379YE, and traded hands between them, the Empire, and the Druj for many years before being allocated to the League in Autumn 385YE

From northern Ossuary, the Twilight Gate connects Spiral to Proceris in Zenith. This "pass" is wide enough that it would be extremely difficult to close it without constructing a fortification at one end or the other.

Screed

  • Quality: Accursèd

The Black Plateau occupies most of Screed. Even when the territory was held by Urizen, Screed was largely deserted apart from temporary camps of scholars studying the plateau and its artefacts. When the region was held by the Druj they used scavenging teams - some supplemented with human slaves - here to source new instruments of cruelty. Now, small encampments of daring Leagueish adventurers are dotted across Screed, but likewise have avoided creating any permanent settlements.

SummitElected
Autumn Equinox 385YEGenoveva Barossa d'Apulian
Spring Equinox 383YEMaximillian Ankarien
Autumn Equinox 382YEMaximillian Ankarien
Spring Equinox 382YETanwyn Ankarien
Summer Solstice 380YETanwyn Ankarien

Recent Senate Elections

As an Imperial territory, Spiral is represented by a senator elected in the Summer. This title is currently held by Genoveva Barossa d'Apulian; it will be reelected at Summer Solstice 386YE. The table to the right shows the citizens who have been elected to hold this title in the years since Empress Britta died.

Strategic Considerations

The Black Plateau has major strategic implications for any conflict in the territory. As well as the effects mentioned above, whenever armies have clashed in Spiral the influence of the Black Plateau has made everything worse in an unpredictable fashion. Any extended campaign in Spiral will need to take that into account.

The mountains that surround Spiral have a direct impact on how armies can move into and out of the territory. The only easily accessible routes are via the passes. Entering or leaving Spiral is only possible between Optarion and Ateri (the Onyx Path); Willstone and Cinion (the Crow Road); Proceris and the northern Ossuary (the Twilight Gate); and Apulus to Mareave on the Broken Shore (the Apulian Way).

Economic Considerations

Following the Summer Solstice 385YE, the Urizen National Assembly sent Lepidina to enact a mandate urging Urizen residents of Spiral to avoid cooperating with the new inhabitants. This included refusing to share the secrets of the Block with them. As a consequence:

  • Any construction in the territory will cost an addition 25% in labour costs
  • Any commission must include additional mithril equal to one fifth of the total cost in wains.

Further details can be found in the Fate of the many wind of fortune.

OOC Notes

  • As of the Autumn Equinox 385YE, the Urizen rebels control Ankra and Cinion. The League, and by extension the Empire, controls the rest of the territory.
  • Shortly before Spring 382YE, the Black Plateau awoke to full malignancy. Its influence is felt across the entire territory.
  • The Palace of Apulian is a rank one fortification
  • Ballaghadruh is a rank one fortification