City on the Borderlands
Nyerdhan is a city on the edge of civilisation, perched between the Wasted Lands and the tlaxu steppe, where the Far Anhoi River passes through the Three Sisters Mountains. It was once an eastern outpost of the Empire of Splendour, who named it the City of Endless Woe and who were responsible for much of its current construction. The Nyerdhani, though, are a stubborn, fiercely independant people, who dislike anyone who seems to be speaking too much and showing too little. As an Imperial officer once stationed there said, "These are a people who must see it to believe it, and even then they will reserve their doubts."
Part of the city stands on a high bluff overlooking the river to the east. This was used as a garrison and supply post during the wars with the tlaxu. However, the soil of the ridge is a yellow clay that is ill-suited to farming. A few orchards and small animal herds are all that the rough land is able to support and few people live there. The bulk of the city lies at the bottom of the ridge, on the broad flood plain of the Far Anhoi. Here the land is well-disposed to farming, and large fields of rice, wheat, and maize are planted every year. It is from this area that the Empire gave the city its name, because every spring and summer they face flooding that could wipe out the crops and the city. Some years the river rises only a few feet, barely lapping at the dikes that the Nyerdhani laboriously maintain; other years, everything below the ridge is under four feet of water. The people acknowledge the danger of the river, but refuse to give up their homes and way of life.
In Lower Nyerdhan, expect to find most homes and barns built on large mounds of earth, surrounded by ditches and accessable by short bridges and stairs. Almost every building has a second story, for storage; none have cellars. Fields are seperated by high, weed-grown dikes with a drainage ditch on either side. Roads are highly crowned and build on similar mounds, with ditches following them. The Granary, a huge communal silo in the center of town, is built on the highest mound of all and contains a curious, loud, unreliable mechanical pump left behind by the Empire for keeping water out.
The Dike Master and his assistants are well-paid individuals who maintain the primary levees, but all able-bodied men and childless women between the ages of 16 and 45 are expected to help him during floods without compensation. Most families or groups of families own a small boat, which they may keep in a barn or attic, until the water gets high enough to need it. The Dike Master is also the de facto militia captain.
Upper Nyerdhan, by contrast, shows the signs of long Imperial habitation. Its buildings have cellars, and it is laid out in the geomantic tradition. It is still part of the same city, however; its citizens are bound to help the Dike Master, and during floods families driven out by the high waters are often boarded in Upper Nyerdhan until the flood is past. Several large breweries are a key feature of the landscape here, which produce both beer and a variety of wines and liquors from the fruit grown on the ridge. There is also small-scale mining, and a distinctive pottery based on the native clay. The city garrison can be found here.
A town square begins in Upper Nyerdhan, where the town hall and a small Merchants League office are located. A steep and winding road connects it the square in Lower Nyerdhan, where the Granary and a popular drinking establishment called the Three Weasels are located. In the center of this part of the square stands a large pole with notches cut into it; others like it are spread around the area, and are used to measure the height of floodwaters. The road between the two halves of town is well-maintained, despite its precarious path.
Because of its proximity to the Ashoyin Protectorate, Nyerdhan has been seeing troubled times lately. Many refugees from the Protectorate are settling in the upper part of the city, creating conflict with the natives in the lower part. Additionally, the Merchant's League has been putting increasing pressure on the breweries and potters of the upper city, whose largest markets and trade routes have been cut off by the war in Ashoyin. In the event of an attack the surrounding dikes (the largest of which are eight feet high) could probably be held against bandits from the Wasted Land, or tlaxu, with some effort. The ridge, meanwhile, is steep and rugged - no one's ever wanted to put the effort into clearing the trees and brush, and except for the road between Upper Nyerdhan and Lower Nyerdhan, there are few reliable paths up and down.
Nyerdhan is a city on the borderland, a frontier town with a veneer of civilisation enough to make it a relatively safe and stable base for adventurers, but with a lax and open attitude to law and order (also making it suitable for adventurers). Here, Merchant League caravans bound to and from the hinterlands of Far Anhoi rub shoulders with tlaxu and Wasted Land bandits who, outside the city limits, would not hesitate to rob them. It can serve as a stepping-off point to adventurers in the lawless lands (not forgetting that the Wasted Lands are full of ruins of the kind beloved of adventurers), but it also contains enough action and intrigue to serve as a backdrop for adventures.
The periodic flooding, for example, would make for an dramatic and dynamic setting; pitting player characters against natural disaster makes for an interesting change of pace from pitting them against monsters and other opponents.
Great Erasho is a local cult figure that lacks an organised priesthood. However, worship of great Erasho is enought to grant spells to loyal followers. Great Erasho grants the domains of Air and Water. Currently its most powerful follower is Cornedhangru, or Coru the Blessed, a strange young woman given to muttering to herself. Coru tends the cliff painting of the Great Erasho fastidiously. She is a 5th level Adept, with the domain spells amongst her spell list but lacking the ability to use the domain powers. She has a wand of control water (38 charges) left by a predecessor, which she uses at times of flood. Coru's capture, or the theft of the wand by unscrupulous individuals, may serve as the basis for an adventure in the vein of Flood Season from the Shackled City Adventure Path.
(c) 2010 The Creative Conclave.
Anhoi River Nations
Bandits of Dailat
Empire of Splendour
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The "official" way of pronouncing Nyerdhan, according to the rules of Imperial grammar, is NYE-er-thahn. The locals, however, elide the first two syllables to give "NYUH-thahn", and take great delight in picking up on the "outsider" way of saying the name. The locals also gleefully refer to the place as Flood City, but take umbrage if an outsider uses the term.
Temples and shrines in both parts of town are dedicated to the Imperial gods, but with special attention paid to the Minister of Thundering Waters and his attendants. There is also a prominent native figure called the Great Erasho that even the Empire dared not meddle with. A sheer, concave cliff-face north-east of town has the figure of the Great Erasho painted on it; it appears as a large, heron-like bird in flight with storm clouds on its wings and a faint rainbow trailing its tail. A yearly festival is held here in the autumn, when harvest is about to commence and the most catastrophic flooding has begun to recede. The natives maintain this painting to the best of their ability, due to a superstition that if it is defaced or destroyed, the Far Anhoi will change course and destroy the town.
The most common tree crop in Nyerdhan is a temperate fruit called the urda. In the spring, urda trees produce fragrant blue and purple blossoms; these eventually develop into a maroon, teardrop-shaped fruit about the diameter of an olive, with a pea-sized pit in the center. Although urdas are sometimes exported whole or as preserves, they are best known in the fermented form, urda brandy (also called fire wine, Red Lighting, pourable headache, Nyerdhan Acid, fist-in-the-gut, one-shot-dropper and torch water). Urda brandy is repeat-distilled by the finest breweries of Nyerdhan, aged carefully, and has an alcohol content higher than any other beverage available. Rumour has it that some distilleries produce variaties so potent they dissolve paint, or can be used in place of lamp oil, or get hardened barflies drunk from their vapors. It has a distinctive deep red colour and is sold in squat, cone-shaped bottles with wax seals on the top guaranteeing they are from Nyerdhan. This is one service provided by the Merchant's League for which the brewers of the city are willing to pay.