Mantina

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A great jewel of the Hegemony, youngest of her city-states, perched precariously at the edge of a great waterfall. During the days when the Hegemony was but a series of small human and gnomish city-states, Mantina was originally nothing more than a town of bridge toll collectors under the vassalage of the old Araph of Batu Mac, built to maintain a bridge over the Dancing Serpents River system. The Dancing Serpents, whose tributaries stretched from the Strotzlands to Hwa-Fong, all throughout the lands of the future Hegemony. Unfortunately for the river merchants that plied the Serpents, half the river system was almost impossible to access because of the 3000 ft. tall Umaricci’s Fall, named in commemoration of the human tyrant Umaricci’s execution by being thrown off the falls. The waterfall is on the edge of the Mantinan Cliffs that divide the Southern part of the Hegemony into its Eastern and Western half. Merchants seeking to bring their goods from the Upper Serpent down to the Lower Serpent, used to avoid that particular river altogether and take a far more circuitous river route that avoids the falls, but which adds a great amount of time to the overall journey to the Free States. This all changed, however, with the founding of the Mantinan Circle of Arcanists, by the great Gnomish arcanist Haroun Ghavarra. Ghavarra had been a student of great magical universities in both Batu Mac and Hwa-Fong, and conceived an inventive way of overcoming Umaricci’s Fall. By attaching arcane dirigibles to ships, they could gently float whole ships and cargos down the falls. This innovation saved the river merchants the arduous journey of having to take a longer route to avoid the cliffs. In doing so, Mantina went from a small backwater to a primary center of commerce. Mantina became one of the most prosperous cities in the region. When the Hegemony was formed, Haroun Ghavarra was a favorite to become its first Grand Araph. Ghavarra declined, on the grounds that he would prefer to attend to his beloved city, and was instead named Araph of Mantina. Since then, the Ghavarra Family have been the Araphs of Mantina.

Though Haroun the Greater (as he was later called) was universally beloved by his subjects, his son and heir Haroun the Lesser was a different story. Though a skilled scholar in his own right, Haroun was initially considered to be an unworthy successor. Where Haroun the Greater was a very public, amiable figure who held an open court, Haroun the Lesser was blunt, sarcastic and kept to himself. On top of that, many of the Greater’s old primarily gnomish colleagues from the Circle had become thoroughly enriched when Mantina became prosperous. Furthermore, the guardsmen, arcanists, merchants, and officials were drawn from gnomes and those few wealthy human families. This became a problem when the primarily human working population remained as wretched as they had when the city was a backwater. During this time, a drought led to a rise in bread prices, causing riots throughout the city. The Lesser’s approach to the famine was that of austerity, imposing severe rationing and having his guardsmen attempt to contain the violence. Unfortunately, however, though this approach had merit, it did nothing to add to The Lesser’s reputation. Riots soon turned into outright rebellion, and that rebellion soon marched under the banners of an ambitious Honored Few captain named Nicaritti, who claimed to have descended from the old human tyrant Umaricci. Claiming that the gnomes had stolen Mantina from its rightful occupants, he encouraged his followers to take the city back. Historians disagree on the background of this Nicaritti, as there is some evidence that a few of Umaricci’s descendents joined the Honored Few in their exile, but there can be no true proof that he was of their line. What is undeniable however, is the sudden and deep impact of his involvement.

Riots are a frequent occurrence in the cities of the Hegemony, but Nicaritti’s Uprising was a whole different matter. It was a planned and calculated effort by the Honored Few to take the city. Historians disagree on who hired the Honored Few to take Mantina. Some believe that it was commercial interests in Batu Mac who chafed at the Ghavarra’s control of a chokepoint in the Dancing Serpents and sought to seize for themselves, some say that the scheme was internally conceived by the Honored Few as a way to more efficiently extort the merchants of the Hegemony. Other more cynical accounts claim that Haroun’s brother Sayid, who was in Bersinius when the Uprising took place, hired the Honored Few to wipe out his brother’s line. Whatever the case, Nicaritti was at the heart of a much wider conspiracy to seize Mantina. His co-conspirators in this endeavor were fellow human Honored Few captains, Avalhad Solino and Tibram al-Rada. Solino and his men smuggled mercenaries and weaponry into the city, and was responsible for the positioning and logistics of the operation, while Tibram al-Rada planned the how to take the city. A number of the men Solino smuggled were gnomes from Batu Mac and Botillio recruited into the ranks of the city and palace guard. The Uprising was specifically preceded by al-Rada’s men sinking all ships bearing foodstuffs on the Dancing Serpents headed to the city, and having Nicaritti whip the crowds up into a frenzy. When the guards came to deal with the crowd as they had before, the Honored Few agents exacerbated the situation by killing the human rioters. This caused an uproar, and the humans began to take the weapons Solino had brought into the city and fight the guardsmen. Nicaritti told them that the time had come to massacre the Ghavarras and the Circle. Those Honored Few agents in the guard who had started the conflict, threw down their weapons and ran, leaving the loyal guards to die at the hands of the furious human crowds. It was these traitors who brought word to The Lesser and the Circle that the Uprising had begun, well-armed and looking to end his line. The Lesser’s response was an immediate strike against this would-be tyrant, and mustered his guardsmen and the arcanists of the Circle for battle. He himself would lead the arcanists and rain fire and lightning down upon these ungrateful humans, and he told his son Abbas to lead the women and children out of the city, in case the battle went south.

Solino and al-Rada had planned for this, and shortly after Abbas and the other refugees fled the city, the Honored Few fell upon them and wiped out The Lesser’s line. The Lesser himself, did not go so easily, however, for he chose not to fight the humans on the ground, but in the air, piloting an arcane dirigible filled with Circle arcanists. He commanded the humans to return to their homes, hand over Nicaritti, and be pardoned, or face his arcane fire. Nicaritti’s followers refused, unwilling to have to submit to those people who had caused such misery. The result was arcane destruction rained down upon the city, resulting in thousands of deaths, including that of Avalhad Solino. Nicaritti’s rebellion did not end there, however, as he refused to quit and still had a considerable number of men left in his army. So long as he held the city, there was little that The Lesser could do other than blast his own city into rubble, as the humans went underground into the sewers to hide only to rise again. The death of Solino, however, created a rift between Nicaritti and al-Rada whose failure to plan for fighting against arcane dirigibles resulted in his friend’s death. al-Rada suggested it was time for them to cut their losses and leave the city, to which Nicaritti refused, because he truly wanted to rule the city. Sensing that Nicaritti was becoming unstable, al-Rada surreptitiously contacted the Honored Few. His superiors agreed it was time to cut their losses and that NIcaritti was fighting an unprofitable war, and sent a message to the Ghavarras, offering to kill Nicaritti and end the rebellion for millions in gold pieces, which was twice the cost that the rebellion had been for the Honored Few. The Lesser, full of grief at his son’s death and unaware of the Honored Few’s role, agreed. Tibram al-Rada hired one of his human soldiers, a young archer named Logan to do the deed. While Nicaritti held “court,” Logan shot him from a great distance while the Honored Few soldiers among the crowd massacred his human followers. Thus the Uprising which had begun by the Few, had been ended by the Few. Tibram al-Rada never said who had hired them, claiming later in life that “Uncertainty makes the story tastier.”

Haroun the Lesser got his city back, but became even more melancholy and isolated than before. His brothers Sayid and Rashid returned to support him, and earned the people’s love by being accompanied by a fleet of ships loaded with food, courtesy of the High Cleric of Erathis, to whose faith Sayid and Khalid had been converted. While Sayid’s role in the Uprising was unclear, he very quickly earned the love of the people by providing them with food and clerical care when he returned. Some claim that he did it of the goodness in his heart, but others whisper that Erathian fanatics from Bersinius bought the Araphate’s soul with bread. Haroun, seeing his brother win almost universal acclaim, was advised by his friends in the Circle to name him his heir, as his “eldest male relative.” Haroun, who had grown tired of ruling, left the Araphate of Mantina in Sayid’s hands, dying of illness soon after. Sayid was a popular Araph especially among the human populace, having patched together the city after the Uprising. His introduction of the Erathian religion, gave the humans a new organization to rally around. This was not without its own problems, for Pantheists who worshipped the whole pantheon came into conflict with the “Erathian heretics.” Sayid the Good was almost as loved as his grandfather had been years before, but he left his son Khalid the Lawgiver to enforce his rule.

Khalid was a judge by trade prosecuted his brother’s enemies viciously, using public show trials to execute anyone who might threaten the regime while sating the public’s hunger for revenge against the Gnomish upper class. In particular he targeted Arcanists of the Circle, other churches of the Pantheon, and ambitious Gnomish families. This is not to say that his regime was without upheaval. A Gnomish pretender claiming to be Abbas, the dead Araph’s son and rightful heir tried to seize the city with the help of some adventurers, but was executed along with his companions in a public spectacle. A Paladin of Kord who tried to assassinate Sayid the Good was struck down by Rashid, his brother. When a number of Circle gnomes tried to seize the city and make it a magocracy, Khalid hung scores of them. While Sayid spread wealth among the lower classes, it was Khalid who ripped it from the hands of merchants, arcanists, and priests. It is a testament to the power of Sayid and Khalid’s new Araphate that when a human riot broke out during their reign, so shortly after Nicaritti’s Uprising, Sayid and Khalid were able to deal with it effectively. The key to their regime was the usage of the Erathian Church as a means of integrating human loyalty to Mantina, guaranteeing them some means of rising, either through the Erathian Church, the Paladins, or in Khalid’s civil service. The human riot, led by a veteran of Nicaritti’s rebellion known as Tolavo was put down with the help of the Erathian human community. A strike of human dockworkers, was dispelled by human volunteers encouraged by Erathian priests loyal to the regime.Thus Sayid and Khalid were able in solidifying the regime and reinvigorating the flow of commerce.

Sayid, though a popular Araph among the people with his introduction of the Erathian faith, has faced some scrutiny from other cities of the Hegemony for seemingly kowtowing to the Church of the Bersini. Though Pantheist, the rest of the Hegemony saw Erathian fanaticism as a force to be wary of, and put intense pressure on Sayid to tone down his rhetoric. In particular, the Hegemony feared the popularity of Nigelius, an Erathian missionary and confidante of Sayid, who pledged to spread the faith across the Hegemony. In particular, his recruitment of Erathian soldiers among the poorer human population to spread the faith in surrounding towns made many in the Executive Convocation wary. Khalid, long a friend of the Convocation and seen as a force of stability in the region, was asked to discourage his mission. Khalid, acting without his father’s consent, ordered Nigelius to desist. Nigelius claimed he answered to Erathis and the Araph, and told Khalid that he was neither so he would not obey. With that, Nigelius proceeded to massacre a series of towns that worshipped Pelor, causing Khalid to call upon the forces of the Hegemony to intervene. The 51st Hegemony Scouts, a multicity force was sent against Nigelius, and routed his paladins. Nigelius, himself was killed, causing widespread outrage among the Erathian population of Mantina, with many calls for Khalid’s head. As a compromise, Khalid was sent into exile in the Free States, with Sayid’s brother Rashid the Righteous, taking over Khalid’s duties as Sayid’s. Many years later, when Khalid was reported to have fallen in the perpetual fighting that plagues the Free States, Rashid was named as Sayid’s heir. Sayid’s death of illness, resulted in Rashid’s ascension.

Rashid had been a very unassuming figure in Mantinan politics, being more a general than a ruler. He had long served as the Ghavarra’s representative to the Executive Convocation, even for some time during the reign of Haroun the Lesser and had played an integral role in the organization of the united Hegemonic army. As a faithful Erathian and a loyal subject of the Hegemony, Rashid did much to quell the unrest that was brought about by Nigelius’ martyrdom and the Hegemony’s interference. Though very openly devoted to Erathis, he made great strides in rebuilding the Araph’s relationships with other power groups, greatly endowing the Circle of Arcanists and the other faiths of the Pantheon, trying to ensure that Mantina went from being a Bersinian colony to a free city-state. Rashid built a more solid relationship with the Hegemony, including the stationing of a permanent army base in the city, partially to protect himself. An attempt to smuggle Erathian crusaders into the city was uncovered very early in his reign and resulted in the exile of many prominent priests to Bersinius. Ultimately, however, his patronage of many moderate Erathian clerics did a great amount to reconcile the relationship between Erathian and Pantheist worshippers. Rashid was the poultice that healed the wounds of the generation. Unfortunately, however, his reign was brought to an early close by a dirigible accident that caused the death of hundreds of Mantinans along with him and his first son Haroun. His second son Faisal the Faithful (or the Fanatic) was originally undergoing a seminary education in Bersinius, and did not hear of his father’s death until later. Complicating the death of Rashid, was the return of Khalid the Lawgiver from exile. Far from being dead, Khalid claimed to have merely been captured, and sought to claim the title of Araph of Mantina. Unfortunately, his many enemies among the Erathians, the merchants, the Circle, and the Pantheists has made his reign unstable. The Circle of Arcanists have discovered by arcane means that Khalid has been turned into a vampire, leading to a schism amongst the arcanists of whether to use this revelation to control Khalid as a puppet Araph, or to pass the information to the Erathian Faisal. The Hegemony is similarly torn on whether to support Khalid or sit it out, with some groups in Batu Mac hoping that both sides bloody themselves enough so that Mantina may be brought under their vassalage once again. The merchants hate Khalid, but are more concerned with maintaining stable commerce. The Pantheists are not sure whether to fear the unholy abomination or the crusading fanatic more. The humans care only about their wages, and are leaning towards an Erathian ruler but might follow those who would offer them food and fuller rights. Either way, his vampirism got leaked, and Faisal has declared a crusade against Khalid, claiming that he himself was the eldest LIVING heir. A new war of succession is on the rise, and both sides are wooing armies to fight for them.

Mantina

Ison NRadzinski NRadzinski