Phylactery of the Bleeding Heart
Small City, Pop. 11,000
Estlewild is a once-booming city-state situated at the foot of the White Mountains and the edge of the White Sea. Its rule, until recently, was a complex combination of three influences:
- a human Monarchy within the city taxed and protected the city and surrounding lands. It was the Royal City of the beloved King Herman II, whose soul now resides among the gods.
- Ancestral non-human Tribes carry strong political influence over various jurisdictions outside the city. (“Tribe” is a general term for any nonhuman settlement in the region.) They also have Consulates within Estlewild which advised the King and settled disputes.
- Merchant Guilds heavily influenced port trade, and were responsible for much of the city’s fiscal planning, distribution of wealth to its districts, and using its wealth and power to keep the King’s militia in check.
All of these factions kept each other in check until the Emperor arrived. Now many of the tribal leaders have fled the city, and the merchants are doing what they can to seek help from the outside world, while attempting to bypass the draconian controls over their livelihoods.
Founded centuries ago as a fishing village, Estlewild gradually grew into a hub of trade, a peaceful destination where the races and tribes set aside their differences for the marketplace. It was natural that Estlewild should become a city — opportunities for trade abounded in all directions. To the east sprawled the ancestral farms and grazing lands of the semi-nomadic White Plains Halflings. Beyond those plains to the east and north were the rocky caverns of Dwarves, Orcs and — on the eastern side — Gnomes. Various Elven tribes and kingdoms inhabit every patch of forest, and the forested islands of the White Sea. Half-elves found acceptance in the sea, and to this day are often renowned sailors and captains — whether by birth or virtue — of the wealthier merchant guilds. The ubiquitous Humans of course, since their arrival on this land, have taken up residence in every direction; their villages teeter precariously alongside another race’s ancestral home or, as in the case of Estlewild, supersede the land and culture around it.
After King Herman’s recent death, under questionable circumstances, a mysterious stranger took over, a human calling himself Emperor Rashka the Immortal. His soldiers patrol the streets day and night.
The Emperor has subdued the Guilds, and has managed to blockade most incoming ships. The city has lost contact with the Tribes outside its gates. Farmers no longer line up with their carts at the city gates. The Estlewild Marketplace, once renowned for its variety of mundane and exotic goods, now carries only the commonest inventory.
Furthermore, under the Emperor’s new regime, all food — fish, farms, livestock — are heavily controlled and taxed. Soldiers escort food in from the docks and outlands. Most of it goes to the Castle, the rest is rationed. The middle class are hungry. The poor are starving.
The city of Estlewild is highly integrated (roughly 40% human, 20% halfling, 15% elf, 10% half-elf, 7% dwarf, 5% gnome, 3% half-orc), with humans spread throughout the city, most elves and half-elves concentrated around the docks, most of the halflings in the farms surrounding the city walls, and the other nonhuman races in small blocks or neighborhood communities. There are also many transients, seasonal workers, traders building the funds to repair their ships or caravans, fortune-seekers, and so on.