DescriptionBlackbed is one of the towns that have been founded after the creation of Ashandri. Located at the shores of the Blackriver and close to the great bridge crossing it, this settlement started as a merchant camp. Within months, it became the most important trading town in the area, connecting the two parts of Delvaroth that are split by the stream of ash. The incredible growth from a small camp into a city with tens of thousands of residents within just four years was made possible by three main factors. Many refugees during and after both Laethian invasions ended up in Blackbed, and found their new home here. The use of magic to build many of the city's structures and buildings made it possible to offer them comfortable accomodations. Last but not least, the local city government is known to think in opportunities and resources. Their political decisions and the city's investments turned Blackbed into the place it is today. The locals have close and friendly relations to the people of Bridgepoint at the other side of the great bridge. Blackbed's twin city, as some call it, is the main access to the eastern region of Delvaroth for many merchants here. Still, with an over 70-mile wide river of ash between them, and a very different history and culture, the two cities are allied - but not without differences. The Blackers, as they call themselves, are among the most open-minded people of Delvaroth. As long as you bring money into town, or you are willing to work for the locals, you are welcome. Unfortunately, this mindset also attracted criminals, and there are several so-called shadow markets where you can acquire illegal wares and services: From Chainmetal or items made from this material, to slaves and assassins. The criminal organization Black Devils has established a regular trade with Hag's Rest, a situation that concerns many locals. To keep the criminal activities in town at an acceptable level, the Black Council that rules the city has established a small militia, the Shadowguards. They don't mind the occasional low-level crime, and most of the guards are very open to bribery. Anything that seriously endangers the local population or that might get the attention of people like Marisha Veilbreaker or The Chainguards is fervently prosecuted, though. In the first year of Blackbed, before the Black Council was established, there was no regulation on how and where to build your homes. This means that the inner city estates are mostly large parcels, many of them with luxurious homes. There are also a couple "eyesores" in this area, though, the owners neither willing to sell nor to upvalue their residence. Throughout the entire city, there are stores and marketplaces at every corner and open plaza. Many of them don't even close during night time, and you always hear someone haggling nearby.
City structureVisitors to the city sometimes realize that the way the city is structured doesn't really make sense. There are broad boulevards just ending at city walls, streets twist and turn unexpectedly, and there are several points in the city where traffic jams are a very common occurence during busy days. All this is a result of the battle against the Ravager Elves during the second invasion. As the Blackers slowly gained the upper hand, their oppressors tried to escape or get into more favorable positions. A group of spellcasters spread throughout the city, and used their magic to shift streets and buildings. The elves never knew where to go, their troops were split up against their will, and they often ended up in front of locals outnumbering them by far. This is also the reason for the thin city walls: The Ravager Elves occupied the walls that were originally far thicker. From up there, they posed a great danger to the rebelling locals. The walls were magically shrunk, so the elves would fall off and could be dealt with. After the battles ended, people kind of left the city as it was. It's not ideal, but many consider the new city structure as a testament to the Blackers' creativity and unity during this time. The choking points in the new street arrangements also offer new opportunities to sell things to people waiting there. If the city ever needs thicker walls again, the local spellcasters are ready to provide them. The whole wall was originally built with magic, anyway. But for now, the people of Blackbed feel more comfortable when nobody's walking over these walls. There is also a special group among the Shadowguard equipped with items that allow them to teleport. If any immediate help is needed outside the city walls or at a spot that is hard to reach, the so-called Jumpers appear there within minutes.
ResidentsGood deals and good drinks - that's what the residents say as a friendly farewell, and it says a lot about their way of thinking. After all that people went through, they just want to lead a good life now, and every way of doing it is as good as every other. You'll always feel welcome here, but there are those who only smile to lull you into a false sense of security. In many districts of the city, the most dangerous thing that'll happen is buying an overpriced item or having your coin purse stolen. But if you want to stay safe, keep away from the Raven Market. This is the place where the scum of the city gathers. Walking into the wrong alley here can lead right into an ambush, either to rob you of your belongings or even kidnap and sell you as a slave.
Important charactersMasha Vadran is the official speaker of the Black Council that rules the city. The fifty year old Human woman owns an exclusive store, the Beguiling Crow, where she sells strange and weird objects from all over the world, even including a small collection of magical items. Most members of the Black Council keep out of the public, but Masha willingly took on the role as speaker, and everyone in the city knows who she is. This, of course, helped a lot in boosting sales in her shop. Cro Rabadan is the leader of the local militia, the Shadowguards. The orc lived in Sharloc's Trade in the Ember Wastelands until about a year ago, but decided he wanted to see more of the world. His journey brought him to Blackbed by chance, but he felt so much at home here that he decided to stay. He quickly made important friends, and just a few weeks later, he was offered his current position. Jarryn Flusterwind is a seasoned adventurer that many consider a nuisance - or worse. The Half-Elf passionately fights against crime in the city, and tries to get rid of organizations like the Black Devils. Officially, the Black Council supports his cause, but there have been several assassination attempts against him, and rumours say the council was involved. Finn the Friendly is an Ashfolk wizard who has become an unofficial advocate for his race. He cares deeply about his fellow Ashfolk, and he's blessed with political talent. While he doesn't care about people's past or the jobs they do, he draws the line when it comes to things like slavery, hard drugs and murder. Aside from that, any Ashfolk who's in trouble can rely on his support. Maeve the Blind is an elven merchant that was around in the very beginning of the city, when there were little more than some merchants' tents. She owns one of the largest and most luxurious homes in the inner city, as well as a chain of inns and taverns. Maeve went blind about a year ago due to a disease, and no healer or cleric was able to restore her eyesight for more than a few days. She regularly invests in such healers, but sometimes she's seen with milky white eyes. She is desperately looking for a permanent cure to her condition.
Blackriver BridgeThe most important landmark in the area is, of course, the Blackriver Bridge. Blackbed is located at the foot of the Blackriver Bridge, which spans over the entire ashen river. The massive structure is about twenty miles wide itself, and over 70 miles long. It serves as the main trade route between the eastern and the western parts of Delvaroth. Construction of the bridge started in Bridgepoint, but when the Blackers heard about it, they joined the efforts without hesitation. There's constant travel in both directions on the bridge, alongside camps and even some primitive settlements. The locals of Blackbed and Bridgepoint worked together, using both magic and manual labor, to create the pathway between the two cities. Curiously, about a month after it was finished, any damages in the bridge began to repair themselves. No one has found an explanation for this yet, but people are happy they don't have to work to maintain the structure.
The Inner CityThe Inner City is the wealthiest part of town. Most of the people living here have made their fortune in the first one or two years of the city's history. After the first invasion of Va'Laeth, they hired workers to build a high wall around the district, effectively creating a gated community of the rich and powerful. Aside from luxurious homes and beautiful parks, there are some exclusive shops here that tend to the needs and desires of particularly wealthy people. Whether you want to hire mercenaries as personal guards, acquire expensive art or extravagant drinks imported from the Bleeding Jungles, this is the place where you can find a seller.
The Raven MarketBlack cobblestones. Narrow alleys. More tents than actual buildings, and a giant skull in the center. And in the middle of all that, shady merchants, bloodstains on the ground and the smell of a hundred different drugs. The Raven Market is the darkest quarter in town, both literally and figuratively. If you are looking for illegal wares or services, things you don't even find in the shadow markets, you've found the right spot. But make sure you appear strong, because the scum living here is always looking for someone vulnerable. The Shadowguards steer clear of this place, unless they have no other choice. If there's a troublemaker here, the locals take care of it on their own. Of course, from their point of view, this includes anyone trying to disrupt the local subculture or any business deals. Residents of the other quarters pressure the city government to build a wall between the Raven Quarter and the rest of the city. The Black Council officially stated that, after all that happened, they aren't willing to exclude any resident of Blackbed from the rest of the city. Most people think they have some other reasons to deny such a wall, most probably related to some kind of profitable business. The only loyalty in this place is bound to coins, and backstabbing is a part of daily life here. Many residents of the Raven Market are addicted to drugs, trying to numb themselves and escape to hallucinogenic dreams. The skull, which is as large as one of the luxurious houses in the Inner City, belonged to a monstrous beast the Ravager Elves brought along. Not a Laeth-Beast, but still a horrifying terror. When they started massacring the people during the second invasion, hundreds of people were fed to this creature. People now just call it Fat Skull, but back then they whispered a different name: The Devourer. It was slain by a group of adventurers that later fell in the battle against the Ravager Elves.
The Ashfolk QuartersWhen the Ashfolk first appeared in Delvaroth, they encountered prejudice and mistrust. The open-minded society of Blackbed was a welcome change for them, but even here, they are often treated differently. Because of that, members of the young race banded together. Many of them acquired homes in the same area of the town, and after a while, people called this district the Ashfolk Quarters. Members of other races are welcome here, but Ashfolk are clearly treated better. Due to their natural abilities to swim in and breathe ash, the locals provide many of the boatmen and treasure divers of the Blackriver.
BridgemarketDuring the warmer months of the year, the space between the city and the bridge - about 500 yards in length - is constantly populated by traveling merchants. The Bridgemarket is a mixture between a massive camp and a vivid bazaar, and merchants are happy to sell here to avoid guild taxes in the city. Blackbed's powerful merchant guild isn't very happy about that, of course, and regularly sends thugs and rogues to harass them. While they do use blunt violence occasionally, they prefer to resort to subtler methods - buying products with fool's gold, or finding (or even creating) some sort of leverage that can be used for blackmail.
Black ShoreThe river banks of the ashen stream are dark and murky over the entire course of the Blackriver. As the piceous masses are pushed through the land, ash dust swirls into the air and falls onto the surrounding landscape. There are plants growing at the edge of the river, but for some reason, they don't grow as well as elsewhere at the area called the Black Shore. This leaves the river banks here particularly black. But the color alone is not the only thing that gave this place its name. A few hundred yards north of the Blackriver Bridge lives a spirit - or whatever it is - that emerges from the ash whenever someone gets closer than thirty feet. The creature's body is nothing but ash, a roughly humanoid shape with only traces of what could be interpreted as a face, and a crown floating above its head that is as dark as its body. The Shorespirit, as the locals call it, appeared for the first time a month after the end of the first Laethian invasion. It offers strange deals, fulfilling wishes in exchange for completing certain tasks. These assignments can be pretty much anything: Some people brought rocks from the edge of the world to the spirit, others killed a politically important person in a far-away city. No one managed to find out the goals and motivations of The Shorespirit, and people are as fascinated as they are frightened by the entity. Some thugs and adventurers tried to kill the spirit, but when it takes any kind of damage, it simply dissolves - and reforms seconds later. Aside from the strange and sometimes deadly quests, The Shorespirit poses a threat to anyone traveling over the river in this area: It has been seen to hunt down people and pull them down into the black masses, where they disappear forever.
ServicesBlackbed offers pretty much everything you can acquire legally. It's a city of trade with an important location connecting the two parts of Delvaroth. Traveling merchants from all around the land pass through Blackbed, and most of them are happy to sell. Acquiring illegal services and goods is also possible in Blackbed. As long as what you are looking for isn't too dangerous or upsets people too heavily, just make sure the guards don't notice it (they do have a reputation to lose). Most of them agree to look elsewhere for a few coins, just tell them beforehand. Highly illegal purchases, like Chainmetal or slaves, are a different thing. There are still sources for these items, but they might have to acquire them for you first. The Shadowguards know little mercy when they notice such deals, and judgment is swift in Blackbed.
Local rumours and news
- There has been a series of child abductions that worries people. Rumours are there's a nasty hag in town, possibly a guest of the Black Devils, and she's using the chance to hunt for her favorite food. The criminals deny any involvement in the disappearances, and they are convinced there's a serial killer around.
- Recently, there has been some tension between the Black Council and the Shadowguards. While Cro Rabadan appears loyal to the council, not all of his soldiers are. Being the only real military force in town, some of the warriors dream of gaining power by overthrowing the current government. The Black Council has publicly promised a rich reward for any hard proof of soldiers involved in this conspiracy.
- Jarryn Flusterwind is looking for someone who can help him explore the depths of the Blackriver. He has spoken to several Ashfolk, but after explaining the risks of his mission, they all refused to work for him. Some of the criminal bosses in town have "questioned" the Ashfolk, and now they've started their own search for whatever it is that Jarryn looks for. The Half-Elf is under pressure to find someone quickly to help him - especially since the scoundrels and villains of the city usually don't care to ask politely if they want a task to be done.
- A group of young merchants is shaking things up recently. They support each other's businesses, and understand extremely well how to advertise their products and services. Their profits are rising fast, and they might get into the exclusive circle of those asked to join the Black Council soon. Others try to sabotage their rising success to protect their own power and status. A few days ago, the wife of one of the aspiring merchants has been assassinated, and the residents of the inner city are unusually anxious since this incident.
- Masha Vadran recently stocked up the supply of her shop, the Beguiling Crow. One of the items was a totem statue from the Bleeding Jungles, which was allegedly stolen the very same night it arrived. The next day, a young woman was found dead in the streets. Since then, once a week, someone dies in the vicinity of Masha's store, and the few witnesses that have seen anything described a figure that reminded them of the totem statue.
- Santrin, a kobold merchant from the Ember Wastelands, has recently arrived at the Bridgemarket. He's very unhappy about the regular visits from thugs, most probably sent by the merchant's guild, and now tries to rally supporters to organize their own Bridgemarket Guild, along with their own militia to protect the merchants outside of the city. He's not very successful, though, and most people believe it won't be long before Santrin will be found dead somewhere.
- Humans: 35%
- Elves: 20%
- Ashfolk: 15%
- Gnomes: 10%
- Halflings: 10%
- Dwarves: 5%
- Other races: 5%
The Black Council consists of the twelve most successful merchants in town. Once per year, the local tax office makes an evaluation of the annual income of all merchants. Those on top of the list get invited to the Black Council. If one of them rejects the position, the next one on the list gets the invitation. The council has full governmental power in Blackbed, but they know very well not to overstep. Over the years, there have been incidents of blackmail, kidnapping and even murder. This is also the main reason why some people prefer to refuse becoming a part of the Black Council.
As one of the newly founded cities of Ashandri, the settlement's history is pretty short. During the first invasion, Blackbed - which was little more than a trading outpost back then - was completely under the control of the Laethian armies. The Blackers adapted quickly, doing what they had to do to survive, and turned into helpful and willing servants of the invaders. In return, they were treated at least slightly better than most other people. Even the Black Council was allowed to continue their work during the occupation - only as puppets under the control of the new rulers, of course. As the armies of Va'Laeth returned during the second invasion almost two years later, the Blackbed residents tried to subdue to the soldiers once more. But this time, the ravager elves only came to kill. After confiscating most weapons, the invaders started brutally slaughtering people. Several thousands died before the city's population realized they had to fight. During this battle, which lasted for about seven days, thousands more were killed. Overall, the city of Blackbed lost over ten thousand people during what they call the Days of Blood. To many of them, it's not just a memory of loss and pain, but also of shame and guilt. Which is why many of the local residents prefer not to talk about it. The reason why there are still so many people living here is that many refugees during and after the two invasions ended up in Blackbed. It is a flourishing city despite all of its problems, and the number of people living here is now higher than before the Days of Blood.
2nd Pumpkin Moon of Year 1
City of Ash
25.000, plus about several thousand visitors at any time