A fine city to visit, as long as you don't count the people running the show.
Also known as the City of Serpents, Thawke is a city situated in a cavernous valley and the surrounding cliffs above it. It is a city of lively, passionate people and five rival clans of nobles that rule over them. It is these nobles that give the city its less than flattering moniker, though it is never wise to say so within earshot of one of them.
Thawke is located in a vast open cavern valley with enough distance to the ceiling to hold several levels to the city. Cliffs and balconies with their own branching tunnels look down upon the central valley. The valley itself spans a great distance with intermittent pools and small lakes before the snaking tunnels that lead away from the city. The poor live and work in the valley while the wealthy claim the cliffs and balconies for their estate, sometimes possessing entire branches of caves that start from those overhangs.
While some of these estates have their own farms and ranches, much of the agriculture in Thawke is done in the valley. Fertile land is more valuable than those who work it, so the poor are forced to make their homes along the edges and on whatever parts of the valley that can't be used to grow crop. It is not uncommon for villages the lay as much as a day away from the central valley with workers travelling there to work for a few days before returning home again with the rewards of their labor.
With so many paths into and out of Thawke, it is difficult to defend from all directions. Those who rule have chosen a simple solution: they don't. So long as their estates are left untouched and the harvest comes in on time, they don't care too much.
Den of Vipers
How do you know of a merchant from Thawke is about to trick you? He is breathing.
Thawke is a city of intrigue and deceit. Its rulers speak of inviolable codes of conduct that bind them to serve their families and the people of Thawke, but most outsiders liken them more to robber barons. The noble houses of Thawke consider themselves better; noble blood flows through their veins, the best of a people already superior to those of other, lesser city-states and cultures.
In the houses, Patriarchs rarely end their lives in retirement. Betrayals make mockery out of oaths they make, with the taciturn approval of the other Houses when a patriarch has grown too greedy, too mad or too much of an inconvenience on the fives grip on power. It is a world of shifting power and personal relations, where allies and enemies trade places with every generation. Violence is not uncommon, both between houses and inside of then - but none will ever admit to being the hand holding the dagger.
The End of a Line
When a Patriarch dies and another takes his place, the House is renamed to carry the banner of the new Patriarch. Some patriarchs honor the past names of their house, while others do their best to bury them.
The people of Thawke are loud, energetic and passionate - and on occasion suspicious. They are quick to anger and unless the offense is severe enough, equally quick to forgive. When they do not, these feuds can run for generations before being settled by their descendants. When feuds are put to rest, it is usually done over food and drink, one Thawke's preeminent passions. A citizen of Thawke can be said to put her family first and a good meal second, with everything else a distant third.
The older generations of even common and poor folk have some of the same attitude as their noble rules: that they belong to a better breed than most. At their worst, they can be suspicious and distrustful of outsiders for no reason other than that they are not of Thawke blood. As generations change and the young replace the old however, this attitude has diminished. It is still present and earn many from Thawke a reputation as snobs or outright racists.
Rare for Araea, Thawke's noble families are patriarchies. Women are allowed to see to matters of household, but are barred from holding positions of power or influence. The rest of Araea look at this practice with confusion or disgust and when women of talent leave Thawke for other places, they find a world where they are welcomed. While less severe among common folk, who have neither the wealth or manpower to make such discrimination, some of the wealthy lower class attempt to emulate the noble houses in attempt to make themselves important.
Yet another striking piece of proof that wealth is no substitute for intelligence.
The noble clans of Thawke have their own world of conduct, etiquette and rank that they enforce with lethal discipline. There is an order to things and every man must follow them.
Read more about the Traditions of Thawke
Thawke is ruled by a council of patriarchs from the five ruling clans, with this ruling council called the Conclave. They meet at a regular basis at great feasts to settle matters between each other and on occasion start arguments. Great emphasis is put upon the rank of the patriarch and the proclamations of the Conclave. While the houses of Thawke do not agree on much, the credibility of the Conclave is one thing they do.
These meetings are usually begin or end with a feast, with plenty of drink. The votes are simple majority but patriarchs who attempt to force their way into anothers sphere of influence will often be met by less official resistance. Bloody battles are common occurrences when disagreements cannot be reached and in more than one occasion obstinate patriarch have their reigns ended by traitors from within their own ranks. Doing the Conclave's bidding see these traitors assume the title and the house, and life goes on in Thawke.
Thawke draws much of its wealth from trade. They have a smattering of industries from agriculture and ranching to mining and manufacturing though none really stand out in either quality or quantity. Thawke has proven themselves experts at following trends and exploiting deficiencies and crisis - even if they have to create those. Thawke's noble families trade in everything: they are one of the largest exports of narcotics that many other city-states have outlawed and have organized some of the most sophisticated smuggling operations in Araea to get them to market.
As opportunistic traders, Thawke are the sort that are happy to sell arms to both sides in a conflict. When times are peaceful, they are not adverse to supplement their trade with raids and pillaging.
Although not an industry, it is often said that some of the most imaginative men to ever walk Araea are the tax-men of Thawke. The ways with which they can squeeze another coin from a struggling worker or visiting merchant are near infinite.
The five noble House that make up the Conclave and rule Thawke are the most important factions of the city. They are currently called:
- The wealthiest of the five, Mahatvanum has the ego to match. They consider themselves the statesmen and deal-makers of Thawke's Five, while the other consider them in less flattering terms.
- Smaller and less important than the other, House Jajuri nonetheless control substantial interests and have made important work for the Conclave in the past.
- The Patriarch of House Ikala is forced to rule his domain from afar, stricken with Desolation
after an hunting "accident" saw him stranded far from the city for months. Even as his health deteriorates, House Ikala must decide if they will support their Patriarch.. Or replace him.
- A fractured house, troubled with internal strife and with no patriarch to lead them. The fight for the throne has been bloody and vicious... And more than likely encouraged by the other houses. With no Patriarch, Hasavum is the only house to currently lack a vote on the Conclave.
- Some of the most prolific and skilled smugglers come from House Astara and they charge accordingly.
Read more about the Five Houses of Thawke
Each noble house keep their own contingent of warriors and these tend to double as a peacekeeping force, breaking up riots and keeping workers under control. These forces are bolstered at different times by mercenaries and at times of war can more than outnumber the standing forces of Thawke. In the most dire of circumstance, the working and poor are drafted into a poorly trained and poorly equipped levy, usually given little more than a week of training with a shield and short pole-arm.
The warriors of Thawke vary in arms and armament depending on which house they are from and the current fortunes of that house. In general, they use weapons and armor of iron and steel, favoring short stabbing swords and round shields. Javelin-throwing is a popular past time and the warriors from Thawke tend to be very skilled at that. As such, they favor fighting in larger caves where they can pepper their foes from afar before closing ranks.
Thawke was once six villages, spread around the vast valley. As these villages grew and began to come into contact with one another, they would trade and war with equal frequency. There wasn't so much one event as gradual expansion that saw the villages begin to merge. The closest at first, followed by another seeking protection from a greater foe, until five had formed into a single city-state. The sixth, unable or unwilling to join this new confederation, was destroyed and its people put into chains. The descendants of that sixth village, its name burned out of memory, now form the caste of untouchables at the bottom of Thawke's social hierarchy.
Since then, Thawke has seen uneven growth. Houses have changed names, patriarchs have been murdered in audacious manners and the talk of honor and courage continue without skipping a beat.