Monday, May 2, 2016

The City of If

            The city If lies near the center of the lands of Gull, which comprise much of the Northwest of the Continent of Auros, resting above the Long Sea.  The Pyron Mountains (in which lies the peak of Neera, home to the Ancient Gold Dragon Kenya) rest along Gull’s southeastern edge.  If lies within the Basin of the River Still.  The Island of If lies in the city’s center, within the River Still.  The River Still is the major river of the Northern half of Gull, and empties into the Channel of Alb, which divides Gull from the Island of Albion.
            The City of If has a rather peculiar political organization.  Unlike most of the Lands of Gull, which are kingdoms or lordships, If is organized as a democracy.  Ownership of others is illegal there as well, and thus it is known as a Free State.   Every year, the people of If participate in an election.  The residents of each street meet in a public building, and select a fellow resident to represent them in the City Parliament.  The members of Parliament select a Prime member, to serve as leader of the body and oversee sessions.
            The Parliament of If makes no military decisions, for there is no military.  Instead of a standing army, If relies upon the individuals known as the Twelve Protectors.  These are twelve very powerful beings who have made it their duty to ensure the safety of the city, and to intercede in case of any grave injustices.  The Twelve do not intercede in governing affairs, merely keep the peace and protect the city.  This organization has lasted for about 500 years.  While some of the Twelve have held their position since the founding of the Order, others have, from time to time, given up their position when a candidate of sufficient ability has presented him or herself.  New replacing members of the Twelve are chosen only through unanimous consent of the Twelve, and must submit themselves to a series of tests administered by the Twelve, which are known only to those who have been members.  That said, almost all the members of the Twelve seem functionally immortal, in one way or another. 
            The city is surrounded by a wall about its outer boroughs, with 12 gates to match the Twelve Protectors.  Each of the gates has a large gatehouse, which serves as an abode of one of the Twelve, which they may live in and staff, although many of the Twelve keep abodes elsewhere in the city.  Gates 12, 3, 6, and 9 are orientated to the North, West, South, and East, respectively, with the intermediary gates being equally positioned along the wall.  There are tunnels and bridges within the wall that allow the passage of waterways into and out of the city. 
            The members of the Twelve Protectors at this time are as follows:
            1) Elanara, The Faerie Queen:  Quite possibly the eldest being on the council, although with Lucien the most recent to join, Elanara is a Fey royal visiting from Faerie, and whose 50 years spent as a member of the Twelve counts for her as little more than a holiday. The true extent of her power is unknown, but there are residents among the city, particularly elves, who view her as akin to a god. 
            2) Lucien, The Red Wizard:  Clean shaven, and with bright red hair, Lucien is a slim, tall wizard who dresses in red and appears much younger than his considerable magical abilities imply.  He is the consort of Elanara, and has been since before the pair joined the Twelve over 50 years ago.  It is believed it is her magic that has allowed him to survive this long, although it is possible he has, through arcane rites, managed such a feat on his own.
            3) Neblin, The Wizard of the Tree:  Neblin is a curious, seemingly wizened yet spry gnome wizard, who has lived for a very, very long time, and gone quite mad, although that madness has not seemed to affect his abilities any.  The surest way to win his friendship is with the gift of a rare or unique spoon.  He is obsessed with spoons, and collects them constantly, occasionally disappearing from the city for a period of about a week, whereupon his return he is suddenly bereft of them, only to begin collecting them anew.  These absences are frowned upon by much of the city and the Parliament.  However, as Neblin is better than any at solving any mysterious crimes that occur, these periodic lapses of duty are tolerated.  No one knows why he is called the Wizard of the Tree, other than that is what he calls himself; the reason behind the title has never been given, and when questioned on it Neblin grows irritated and evasive.  He has been on the council for 100 years, and seems to have had a prior friendship with Lucien.  He also appears quite skilled at the Bardic arts.  He plays the flute. 
            4) Shana the Wood Elf Druid:  Shana is a Wood Elf of great age and Druidic power.  Though it would seem strange to have a Druid serving within the bounds of a city, Her Gate lies near a forest, and often she can be found passing through that domain, protecting travelers and warding off dangers before they can even reach the city.  These woods are known as Shana’s Wood.  She has been a member of the Twelve since its founding. 
            5) Hagen, an Adult Copper Dragon:  When appearing in humanoid form, he prefers not to in any way hide his nature, and so always appears in a way not dissimilar from a dragonborn or a half-dragon.   Oddly, this means he is the most often mistaken of the dragons on the Twelve for something other than a dragon, for his is the appearance most like another species of creature, and so he often find himself at the receiving end of disrespect and even violence, a situation that Brent is not actually disturbed by (Although he does show mercy in any such conflicts that arise).  The youngest of the dragons on the Twelve, he is nevertheless still a founding member.  
            6) Ulfgar, The Dwarf Machinist:  A Mountain Dwarf of rare age, yet still of hearty build, Ulfgar is tinkerer and engineer with a variety of skills amassed over the course of his long life.  He is adept at magic and skilled at building things.  He commands a variety of Golems and Shield Guardians who serve If as a practical police force.  He is also responsible, often working with Lucien, in building a variety of technological marvels that greatly benefit the city.  A member of the 12 for 150 years, he is responsible for the introduction of indoor plumbing to much of If. 
            7) Orsina, The Tiefling Sorceress:  A maroon-skinned beauty, with rams horns, like many of the members of the Twelve she appears to be much younger than she is.  She has been a member of the Twelve for 300 years, and her continued presence there has created a large Tiefling community within If, as many Tieflings have sought the city out as a refuge against persecution elsewhere.  With Orsina’s presence, they know they can count on equal treatment there. 
            8)  Karla, Halfling Cleric of the Ancestors:  Perhaps the only member of the Twelve who is a native of If, Karla went out adventuring a little over a century ago.  When she returned 35 years later, she submitted to the gauntlet to replace a previous Halfling on the council.  Like many Halfings of Gull, she holds that there is a special afterlife to which Halfings go, forming a special land beyond this one from which the ancestors look down upon their descendants and seek to aid those who give worship to them.  Karla is of normal height for a Halfling, and mostly keeps to her Gatehouse and the Ancestral Temple built nearby.  While she is getting to be quite old for a Halfling, her Clerical powers are undiminished.  She spends much of her time teaching other Halflings in the worship of the Ancestors.
            9) Silva, an Ancient Silver Dragon: Like many other Silver dragons, Silva appears most often in humanoid form while moving among the city.  She often appears as a very tall woman, with silvery skin and jet-black hair, in a long flowing silver robe.  Occasionally, silver wings sprout from her back, and she flies about the city not unlike a demon or a harpy, where her keen eyesight and hearing allows her to spot any altercations that may be happening below.  Though Silva is not yet an ancient dragon, she has nevertheless spent her time among humanoids learning and mastering arcane magic, both as a wizard and a sorcereress.  She is one of the founding members of the Twelve.
            10)  Carina Aum, Human Paladin of Oomphalos: Oomphalos is a god who represents the center of all things.  In addition to training in the arts of Paladin, Carina has skills as a Monk of Oomphalos as well.  Her Gatehouse is in part a temple to Oomphalos, though people passing through are not required to make donations (though many do).  Carina uses a modest apartment upon the top level of the Gatehouse as her quarters.  Carina is recognizable for her great height and blue woad hair, which she dyes, for blue is the color most sacred to Oomphalos. Carina came to join the Council following the completion of her adventures about a hundred years ago, and was drawn there due to the Island of If reminding her of the World Navel, upon which Oomphalos can be found sitting.  She often can be found patrolling the city, wearing her simple, woad-dyed Monk's attire.   She is the most open and outgoing of the Twelve.
            11)  Grog the Barbarian:  Grog is a great, monstrous Half-Orog Fighter.  Standing nearly 8 feet in height, with skin as tough as armor, and covered in magical adornments won in quests across the continents, he can fight entire armies and emerge victorious.  He has settled into his gate house with his young Half-Orc wife, and is now the father of 12 children, although 6 have already gone off in search of adventure.   He has been among the twelve for 72 years. 
            12) Bruun the Ancient Bronze Dragon:  Like many dragons that choose to live among mortal creatures, Bruun takes the appearance of a humanoid when not alone.  He often appears as an aged old man with a long beard, tall enough to most likely be human, although his features are indistinct between elf and man.  The eldest of the Dragons of the Twelve, he has trained also as a Bard and Wizard.  He often plays the lute, but is also skilled as well at the harp and harpsichord.  He has been a member of the Twelve since its founding.

            At about the center of If, there is an island in the River Still, known as the Island of If.  It is on this Island that the major government and religious structures of the city are housed, as well as select houses of the wealthiest residents.  To maintain some separation between the elected parliament and the Power of the Twelve Protectors, a Member of the Twelve may not set foot upon the Island without a formal invitation from the Parliament. 
            On a stone square by the banks of the River Still, near the Island of If, there stands the Tower of If.  This Tower has stood there since well before the Founding of the Twelve Protectors.  It is formed from four separate, square towers, arranged along the corners of a square, curving towards each other until they join together as a single structure, thinning as it rises higher and higher.  There are no visible doors along the bottom, but in the center between the bases there is a circle made from different colored stone.  If a person stands upon there, they may request entrance, and will be teleported to a similar circle on the first layer of the tower directly above them.  There is a great open area inside the tower, with an opening in the middle on all four sides, shortly after the base first joins together, that is several stories in height.  From higher parts of the city, it can be observed that a garden grows upon this level.   
            The Tower of If is inhabited by The Wizard Flem.  Though not a Member of the Twelve Protectors, it is believed he was involved in their formation, so as to insure the protection of the city in which he built his Tower.  He is seen by some as the city’s private benefactor, although he holds no elected post, and whatever activities he pursues are shrouded in secrecy.  His appearance and race are not commonly known, as he tends, if he walks among the city or takes visitors, to alter and disguise his appearance, though he seems to be one of the taller races, with skin the color of aged paper.  He is often bearded, and, if that is not part of a common disguise, it is reasoned he is most likely human, although none know for sure. 
            One of the major draws to the City of If is the Pyramid of Art, a structure built mostly underground, with only the tip of its pyramid structure rising above ground.  Once entering the pyramid, a series of steps takes one down into great architectural spaces, in which some of the finest artworks from all across Auros and beyond are on exhibit.  The Pyramid of Art is run not by the Parliament or the Twelve Protectors, but by an elite counsel of merchants known as the Iffian Traders Guild.