The Salsham'ai City
Thalsa lies deep in the heart of the salsham'ai forests where many ancient braashak trees grow tall along the banks of the River Labantar. It is the largest of all salsham’ai settlements, yet the atmosphere of the city is almost like that of a village, where everybody knows everybody else and doors are always open for neighbours to drop in for a chat. Although its construction is unusual, the city contains all the things a visitor would expect; taverns, craftsmen, residences, warehouses, traders, bath-houses, shrines and the bustle of beasts of burden and people going to- and fro- on business. At the very centre of the city stands the Great Trunk, the residence of the Great Mother and the heart of salsham’ai culture. Thalsa is loosely divided into six districts: Trunkside (the area around the Great Trunk), the Great Library, the Merchants Quarter, Riverside, Ironwood and Newtown.
At the centre of Thalsa, beside the Great Trunk, the branches of the braashak intertwine to form a solid platform about 400 feet across, standing 50 feet above the Labantar. This plaza is the central hub of Thalsan life, acting as an open-air meeting-place and market, and yet has no name, other than There’ai – ‘The Open Space’.
From There’ai, a doorway in the Great Trunk leads directly to the Great Mother's public chamber, a low roofed, circular room about thirty feet in diameter. A throne is carved into the wall opposite to the door, and ten seats are carved around the sides for the Trunk Mothers Council. The braashak sap has hardened and created a natural varnish on all the surfaces. A decorated stone hearth lies in the centre and two curtained stairs lead to the Great Mother’s living and working quarters. This is the room where the Great Mother holds council, meets ambassadors and conducts other formal occasions. It is also the room where family and friends gather on winter nights to drink shoka, tell stories and sing songs.
Most braashak trunks in Thalsa have such a room at ‘street level’. It might serve as a tavern common-room, a craftsman’s workshop, a trader's showroom, or the communal room of an extended family, often several of these at the same time. The salsham'ai are a very informal race, and have no great regard for pomp and circumstance or material splendour, so there is little decoration inside the Great Trunk apart from some exquisite woodcarving and lots of comfortable looking cushions for those not privileged enough for a seat, some of which look to have been made by beloved grandchildren rather than great artisans. Above the ten seats of the Trunk Mothers are woven family banners. The doorway itself, although guarded, is covered only by a vorl pelt (admittedly a luxurious one) to keep out the draft.
The Great Library
The Great Library is made up of about twenty intertwined braashak trunks and subsidiary branches, to the north of There’ai. About 200 Lorewardens and students have living quarters scattered throughout the Library and use chambers at the level of There’ai for refrectories, classrooms and workshops. The Library is divided into sections along thematic lines: history, theology, magic, science, literature and so on. One of the braashak trunks houses the medical library and Thalsa’s main hospital. The salsham'ai have only recently begun a written tradition and it seems that they are trying all methods of keeping records. Scrolls and books are common, but other styles of record keeping such as clay tablets from Dronistor and even examples of Jiban knot-writing are not unknown. Not all the Lorewardens in Thalsa are located at the Library; many live within the ordinary community serving the people in the traditional way.
The Merchants Quarter is a tall cluster of about fifty braashak trunks with a lot of external construction: proper staircases wind up the outside of the trees, handrails and bridges are solid and comforting to unsure feet and hands. Lifts, powered by the tame matoo apes, raise cages from the forest floor and the banks of the Labantar to elevate goods to store-rooms all the way up in the tree-tops, or to move wary flat-foot foreigners to the higher levels of the city. Here is where most of the non-salsham’ai live, and there is a substantial number of them, mainly humans. The Merchants League has a complex of ten braashak reserved for different Merchant Clans. Foreign embassies can also be found in the Merchant’s Quarter.
It is in the Merchants Quarter that the famous Hanging-By-A-Thread Tavern can be found, a favourite of visitors. The Thread lives up to its name, built upon a free-swinging platform suspended between the branches by vine ropes each wider than a man. The owner, Solith, maintains that the tavern will not be shaken by even a hurricane, but the building does have a slight bounce and sway underfoot that many feel adds to its appeal.
Riverside is an old part of Thalsa, located in the lower reaches along the banks of the Labantar. In places it passes beneath Trunkside, Merchant’s Quarter, Great Library and Ironwood. It is a poor quarter, home to humble fishermen and gatherers, those responsible for feeding Thalsa. Most families inhabit small pods on the braashak trunks, living in the shadow, literally, of the higher levels. It is the most likely place in all the salsham’ai lands to find crime, since life is harsh and it is an easy matter for the Riversiders to steal from their wealthier neighbours above. The Motherhood have established several missions here to provide pastoral care for the poor and needy, but as is always the case, there are too many poor and needy for all to get the help that they require.
The military headquarters are housed in a single braashak to the west of Great Trunk, known as Ironwood because metal, particularly iron, is associated mainly with the army. The salsham’ai army serves as both local police and defensive force. In Thalsa, there are eight barracks located on the periphery of the city that house rank-and-file militia. These militia patrol local zones and acts as a first line of defence for the city. Thalsa has no walls but is very well protected. Clever mechanisms are in place that immediately arm vicious traps, the ropes and ladders providing access to the ground are easily removed and the trees themselves are cleared of all lower branches to hinder climbing. A hostile force has never reached Thalsa; the miles and miles of dense woodland are protection enough but they are supplemented by a network of traps and surprises along the highways.
Ironwood has a small jail but convicted criminals usually pay a fine or work as bonded labourers, staying with the people for whom they are working.
Thalsa is a spreading city, and Newtown is the more recent outward expansion to the south of the Labantar. It is here that the best amber can be found, the so-called Amber Mines. Unfortunately for the ‘amberjacks’, an unusually large number of vorls seem to live on the south side of the river and local patrols are often organised to hunt these creatures to keep their numbers down.
House Feloung Headquarters
The Feloung Headquarters are an example of one of the larger braashak constructions in the Merchants Quarters. House Feloung is a fairly new but powerful merchant clan, headed by the patriarch Toral Feloung. Like many of the Merchant Clans, House Feloung does not focus on one particular commodity although they do tend towards supplying raw materials and primary industry rather than finished items. The head of their division in Thalsa is Grand Master Yemic Feloung, a second cousin of Toral and a ruthless negotiator. Yemic has a headquarters in Thalsa’s Merchant’s Quarter, with a large braashak housing not only the clan’s warehouse but a meeting hall, troop barracks and Yemic’s apartment.
The Merchants League family, House Feloung owns one massive braashak in the Merchant’s Quarter, typical of its type and indicative of the braashak construction as a whole. The main level is at the height of There’ai, opening onto wooden walkways and housing the negotiation halls, meeting rooms and guest quarters all in opulently decorated splendour.
Cargo arrives or leaves by river, winched between ground level and the main level by matoo-powered lifts, the mechanism high above the public level. At the base of the braashak are quarters for the stevedores, separate from the rest of the complex and reached by rope ladder from the ground.
Below the meeting halls are layers and layers of warehouses, hidden deep within the trunk of the braashak. Cargo is moved between these and the public level by another matoo-powered lift, down a dark shaft.
Above the public level are the offices of the House scribes and accountants who not only work here in open scriptoria, but are also quartered in monk-like cells.
Feloung Family Quarters
Immediate family members live in luxurious quarters above the admin level, complete with their own balcony platform.
Above the family quarters are the workings for the major cargo lifts and the matoo pens.
A secondary entrance for House members only, heavily guarded, can be found on an upper highway.
At about the same level as the Feloung family quarters, but slightly less ornate, this level houses members of the Merchant Clan who are not blood relatives but are still valued and important employees, such as Tamark of Tibrafes, the wizard.
Distinguished Guest Quarter
Above the associate member quarters, and accessible via an upper highway, these are expensive quarters for visiting dignitaries from other Houses, valued clients and so forth.
A guarded access to the upper highway, these chambers also hide a secret door that leads, via a long winding stairway, into the neighbouring braashak and emerges through another secret door in the back of Jumo’s General Store, an all-purpose trade outlet owned, ultimately, by the Feloung.
Male Human Ari8: CR 7; Medium Humanoid (human); AL LN
Abilities Str 8 (-1), Dex 9 (-1), Con 10 (+0), Int 12 (+1), Wis 11 (+0), Cha 15 (+2)
Initiative -1; Speed 30 ft.
Armour Class 10 (-1 Dex, +1 armour) touch 9, flat-footed 10
Saves Fortitude +2, Reflex +1, Will +8
Hit Dice 8d8; hit points 36
Base Attack/Grapple +6/+5
Melee Masterwork longsword +6/+1 (1d8-1, crit. 19-20)
Melee Masterwork dagger +6/+1 (1d4-1, crit. 19-20)
Special Attacks None
Special Qualities None
Skills Appraise +12, Bluff +13, Diplomacy +15, Gather Information +10, Intimidate +13, Knowledge (local) +12, Sense Motive +11
Feats Iron Will*, Leadership, Negotiator, Quick Draw
Languages High Imperial, Low Imperial, Themnassic
Possessions Silent sword (masterwork longsword), masterwork dagger, pentesh (padded armour), masterwork chainmail, resources of House Feloung in Thalsa.
Yemic has a suit of masterwork chainmail that he dons in times of crisis to give AC 15 (touch 10, flat-footed 15), reduce movement to 20 ft.
Yemic is a sturdy man in his forties with greying temples, clean-shaven and hair cut short in the Llazan fashion. As a Grand Master of a Merchant Clan he is used to being obeyed but is not so pig-headed that he will not listen to good advice if it is presented respectfully. Although he prefers negotiation and manipulation to combat he has been trained in the longsword by a master of the Kingfisher style and is accomplished at getting in the first attack. He normally wears a pentesh – a quilted jacket that is both a high fashion item and serves as padded armour, but he has a suit of chainmail available if he needs to prepare for a fight. Yemic is loyal to House Feloung first and foremost, but also takes responsibility for anything that the House does, even if he claims ignorance. He is hard-hearted when it comes to business and is not averse to ruining or bankrupting an opponent but he does feel remorse, even if he doesn't show it.
Male Human Ftr8: CR 8; Medium Humanoid (human); AL LN
Abilities Str 15 (+2), Dex 14 (+2), Con 15 (+2), Int 10 (+0), Wis 8 (-1), Cha 12 (+1)
Initiative +6; Speed 30 ft.
Armour Class 18 (+2 Dex, +6 armour) touch 12, flat-footed 16
Saves Fortitude +8, Reflex +4, Will +1
Hit Dice 8d10+20; hit points 64
Base Attack/Grapple +8/+10
Melee +1 keen bastard sword +12/+7 (1d8+6, crit. 17-20)
Melee Masterwork dagger +11/+6 (1d4+3, crit. 19-20)
Ranged Heavy crossbow +10 (1d10, crit. 19-20, 120 ft.)
Special Attacks None
Special Qualities None
Skills (armour -1) Climb +12, Jump +12, Ride +7 Survival +2
Feats Diehard, Endurance*, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (bastard sword), Improved Initiative, Improved Sunder*, Power Attack*, Quick Draw*, Weapon Focus (bastard sword)*, Weapon Specialisation (bastard sword)*
Languages High Imperial, Low Imperial, Themnassic
Possessions +1 keen bastard sword, masterwork dagger, heavy crossbow, 20 bolts, resources of House Feloung in Thalsa.
Yemouss is Yemic’s second son (the eldest, Darfan, is posted elsewhere in the Feloung holdings). He is a strapping young man in his early twenties with a marked family resemblance to his father. Yemouss is in charge of security in the Feloung activities in Thalsa, and can be found at the headquarters or out in the forest, wherever the action is likely to be. He likes to lead from the front and has been trained in a mixture of combat styles. As well as learning some of the first-strike principles of Kingfisher Style from his father, Yemouss has been taught by tutors from the Llaza College of War in the tough Three Mountains Style that emphasises striking hard and resisting hard.
Yemouss carries a silent sword from Fnoi Province, which despite its name has no particularly stealth-like powers but is from a region famed for quality steel and weaponsmithing. His martial training has little focus on missile weaponry and although he is happy to use a crossbow on distant foes he prefers to test his melee skills. He is a quiet, focussed man, constantly trying to prove himself worthy to his father through deeds, but he lacks understanding of the subtleties of trade and the need for compromises. As a result, he is a bit over-zealous in pursuing what he sees as the goals of House Feloung.
(c) 2012 The Creative Conclave.