Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Mountgate


Mountgate has a long and storied history. The city was originally founded by Graytooth dwarves, who used it as a base to delve deep into the mountain itself, mining the rare ores used to make eversteel and adamantine. As they dug down, the dwarves built great halls into the mountains, creating the city that would become known as Galendrade. Galendrade became famous, not just for the quality of the ore produced, but for the beauty of the city itself. Unfortunately, as Galendrade’s fame grew, so did the arrogance of its residence.  The pride and vanity of the dwarves earned them the ire of the gods; a great plague was visited upon the city. Thousands died and the gates to the mountain were closed and sealed with spell and steel by the Graytooth dwarves. 
However, while Galendrade and her people died, the human settlement that had grown up on the slopes of the mountain flourished. Started as a simple trading post, the village of Mountgate had soon grown into a prosperous town, nourished by the trade caravans journeying between Galendrade and the rest of the world.
When the dwarves abandoned Galendrade, many thought Mountgate would die as well.  Surprisingly, Mountgate survived and thrived. Although it had been dependent on the dwarven city in the first few decades of its existence, the residents had quickly established their own industries and trades that operated independently of the dwarves.
Soon enough, Mountgate itself became a primary destination for travelers and traders across the Northlands.  The Merchant-Lords of Mountgate protected their investments by brutally squashing any attempt to establish guildhouses within the city, employing mercenaries and thugs to eliminate anyone attempting to interfere with their trade.  Mountgate’s Grand Market became infamous, as one could purchase almost anything within its confines.  The only items banned for sale within the city were magic objects and weapons.
As time passed, Mountgate’s Merchant-Lords became known as simply the Lords of Mountgate. Titles became hereditary. New titles could be bought, however, for an exorbitant sum, but it was easier for ambitious, wealthy merchants to simply marry into one of the established families.
The Lords of Mountgate sequestered themselves in private estates on the upper slopes of the mount, near the Gates of Galendrade. Eventually, they built a wall to partition themselves further from the rest of the city and this area became known as the Upper City.
The rest of Mountgate became known as the Lower City, and gained a reputation for violence, corruption and criminal behavior unseen anywhere else in the North.  For a time, Mountgate eclipsed Darkwater as the capital of vice and crime in the Northlands.
Unfortunately, Mountgate’s sinister reputation began to impact the city trade.  Trade caravans began to bypass the city, in favor of Swordhold and Darkwater. Guildhouses in other cities refused to purchase materials sourced in Mountgate and several prominent temples spoke out against Mountgate’s continued support of the slave trade.
The Lords of Mountgate scrambled to save the city and themselves. Previously, Mountgate had been governed by a Lords’ Council, long plagued by partisan in-fighting and incompetence. Now, the lords established the position of Lord-Governor of Mountgate. Elected from their ranks, once every three years, the Lord-Governor would have absolute authority.  He would be counseled by a group of advisors known as the Small Council.
The Lord-Governors quickly reestablished Mountgate’s reputation. They banned the sale of slaves within the confines of the city (but not outside the walls), invited guildhouses to establish themselves within the Lower City (under strictly enforced laws and ordinances), funded the establishment of various temples within the city and poured coin into improving the City Watch and the City Guard.
Mountgate’s reputation bounced back and trade flourished. Once again it became one of the dominant financial powers in the Northlands.
Its good fortune, however, was short-lived. One quiet summer evening, the Gates of Galen burst open and all manner of evil creatures poured into the city. It was as if the Underdark had decided to vomit up the worst of its inhabitants. Similar incidents occurred across Nur, and the event became known as the Summernight War.
Mountgate survived but the city was now plagued by all manner of dark and fell creatures. Bounties were set and adventurers flocked to Mountgate to collect them. Some parties, more foolish than sensible, dared to enter the Gates of Galen, hoping to discover the reason for the monstrous onslaught. Few returned. Those that did reported dark and sinister beings inhabiting the ruins of Galendrade and waging a war for control of Nur’s Underdark. Eventually, these creatures would become known as mindflayers.
The Lord-Governor ordered the Gates of Galen resealed and fortified with a garrison that included powerful arcanists. Eventually, this garrison became known as the Gatewatch, and they would defend Mountgate from all manner of threats creeping out of the mountain.
Over the next century, Mountgate’s fortunes would remain steady. The city would grow and prosper. Eventually, it came into conflict with its neighbors to the east and west, sparking the War of the Three Cities.  The conflict ended when Darkwater and Swordhold allied and laid siege to Mountgate for three years, starving the city into surrender.
The Treaty of Silverwater ended the war, but the terms for Mountgate were harsh. The city never quite recovered from them and began to slowly decline in influence and wealth.  As Mountgate attempted recovery, a new problem arose within the city itself.
For centuries, Mountgate had been ruled by the Lord-Governor and the nobility. In the aftermath of the war, the common people grew dissatisfied with this arrangement and began to demand a voice in the city’s governance. The lords refused to cede any power and the next summer the city exploded into riots.  The Lord-Governor responded with callous brutality, dispatching the Watch and the Guard to quash the riots and then hang the rioters in the Grand Market. Harsh new laws were enacted, limiting the movement of common folk within the city, and new taxes were imposed to repair the damage from the riots.
As a result of these actions a thriving black market sprang up in the Lower City. This brought criminal organizations like the Black Glove and the Veil into Mountgate, as well as encouraging the growth of local gangs.  In addition, the ranks of the insurrectionists grew enormously, thanks to the common folk’s hatred of the lords.
Mountgate was balanced on the edge of a knife when the Draconic Invasion occurred. Initially far from the invading forces, Mountgate’s peoples took little notice of this new threat, until it was on their doorstep. The Draconic legions laid siege to Mountgate. The City Guard, under the authority of General Noan Fulcrys, managed to keep the city secure. Unbeknownst to General Fulcrys, or the Lords of Mountgate, the Draconic Empire had sent agents into the city weeks ago to make contact with the insurrectionists. As a result, Mountgate’s defenders were betrayed from within, leading to the fall of the city.
With the invasion spread thin, their forces overextended in the North, the Draconic Empire realized they could not hold Mountgate. Those forces could be better used laying siege to Darkwater. Therefor, the Draconic Empire chose to make an example of Mountgate. The city was raised with fire and steel. Almost every able-bodied male who survived the conquest of Mountgate was placed in chains and marched away, to be used as slave labor in the Empire. General Fulcrys and a disarmed City Guard were left behind, to try and bring order to a city thrown into chaos.
To his credit, General Fulcrys did bring order to Mountgate. He rearmed his people as quickly as possible and placed Mountgate under martial law. Eventually, he declared himself Governor-General of the city, much to the ire of the few surviving nobles.  He imposed a strict sunset to sunrise curfew within the city and began hanging anyone who broke the law.
However, even as Fulcrys secured Mountgate, many of the surviving citizens began to leave the city. They fled to the surrounding communities or headed to Swordhold or Darkwater. Fulcrys considered closing the city gates to stop this outflow, but was counseled against it by his advisors. Some of these same advisors protested when the general began sending parties to the surrounding communities, seizing property and pressganging individuals into the service of Mountgate.  So far, though, the general has been unmoved by this advice.  General Fulcrys is determined that Mountgate will survive and he knows that a city cannot survive without citizens.
Unfortunately, Fulcrys’s actions have led the surrounding communities to ban together and form a ragtag militia. Trained by mercenaries, backed by various factions throughout the region, this Free Militia plans to march on Mountgate and finish what the Draconic Empire started.
They may, however, arrive too late.  There are factions within General Fulcrys’s own circle that realize the man is leading them to folly.  One of his closest advisors, Vasta Ramanon, has begun to gather allies about her, intent on replacing Fulcrys.
And unknown to everyone in the city, beyond the Gates of Galen, the mindflayers have plans of their own for Mountgate.

No comments:

Post a Comment