The Lost Seas
The Balican merchant dynasties of Wavir, Rees, and Tomblador sponsor this fortified town which sits astride a pass through the Altaruk mountain range that divides the trade route between Tyr (about two hundred miles away by road) and Balic. About two thousand souls call Altaruk home, but its population can swell with silt sailors making use of its fine shallow harbor, delivering goods to be sent on their way to Tyr and beyond. Desperate raiders wait in ambush in the stony barrens and rocky badlands that surround the village, but Altaruk’s well-paid mercenaries and Balican soldiers drive off any bandits they find lurking within half a day’s travel of the town’s gates. For those inside the 15-foot-high walls, Altaruk offers stables, room and board, trade opportunities between merchant houses, and gossip from all corners of the Tablelands. Raiders generally steer clear of Altaruk, but the powerful giant tribes of the Estuary of the Forked Tongue have dared to raid the town in the past (most recently a few years ago, in the Balican Giant War that saw a surge of giant attacks across the Estuary before the Balican military was eventually able to pacify them). The village is governed by a Balican noble named Arisphistaneles. In his role as master of the town, he deals with traders in a stern but fair manner.
Altaruk is separated from the Sea of Silt and its docks by a high wall topped with scorpios, a set of enormous double gates (equal to or larger than those of some city-states) allowing some (but not all) ships to be rolled up into the town itself in times of giant raids, keeping the silt skimmers of the wealthiest safe inside the walls.
A quick overview of some locations in Altaruk
Balicans are widely renowned for their theatrical performances, and Balic itself boasts several gigantic amphitheatres hosting plays, rhetoric, and poetry performances. Even the small town of Altaruk has a sizeable amphitheatre, where performances sponsored by the Balican government are staged several times per week. A livelier and more intimate scene exists in the multitude of tiny basement art spaces throughout Altaruk, where less-well-known artists perform for small crowds nightly. At these performances, plays and poems including veiled criticism of the sorcerer-kings are even tolerated.
The Balican governor of Altaruk, Lord Arisphistaneles, officially lives in this palace; it also serves as the center of government. Lord Arisphistaneles holds regular meetings with the powerful merchant houses of Altaruk, and citizens wishing to petition the government, register property, etc. come here to do so.
The section of the city where the finest townhouses are located (and the only neighborhood not constantly overrun by drunken silt sailors, thanks to private guards), this is where the patrician (or noble) families and wealthier merchants make their homes.
Altaruk’s slave market has never been large and only holds auctions once per week. Its offerings mostly consist of galley slaves and gladiators (or would-be gladiators). The market is run by House Tomblador.
The docks area is home to plenty of seedy taverns catering to silt sailors and businesses selling seagoing supplies, as well as major emporia for merchant houses such as Wavir, Rees, and Tomblador. Though large ships are not built in Altaruk (but rather in the famous shipyards of Balic), there are plenty of large warehouses and “garages” for supplying, repairing, and refitting of existing ships—a business dominated by House Tomblador.
Wavir, Tomblador, and Rees Emporia
Located near the siltfront, these giant emporia have offerings to satisfy any taste, including rare delicacies and trinkets from the islands of the Silt Archipelago.
There are more shardminds in Balic and Altaruk than in the rest of the city-states combined. As such, Altaruk is one of the few places where businesses exist that cater to shardmind tastes. Shardminds are often perfectly happy to hang out in conventional taverns, exhaling zatla smoke through their shard cracks and otherwise going through the motions of relaxing, all the while observing the fleshy races and their alien ways. However, when a shardmind really wants to cut loose, it will head to a colorhouse. Colorhouses provide chemical and magical mixtures that, when activated, emanate a combination of bright, flashing, colored lights and (sometimes) psychic impulse which have an intoxicating effect on shardminds. The layouts, procedures, and product of a colorhouse are usually completely alien to non-shardminds, and therefore they cannot exist in settlements without large numbers of shardminds to support them. Altaruk boasts a single colorhouse, Kasadosbiko, located near the docks.
A small dry goods store on the edge of the Merchant’s Quarter, most notable for hosting The Cracked Globe theatrical company at night.
The Cracked Globe
A small independent theatre troupe (“The Cracked Globe Players”) operates out of the basement of Blink’s dry goods store, calling their underground (literally) theatre “The Cracked Globe”. Charging a half dragon (five suns) for entry, The Cracked Globe hosts theatre, poems, rhetoric, singers, dancers, musicians, Balican wrestlers, and more.
A rowdy broyhouse very near to Bloodsand Arena, Bloody Sands is popular with gladiators. Sometimes even slave gladiators are allowed to drink here as a reward after a particularly good performance.
A seedy sailor’s bar that is more brothel than bar (and not a fancy brothel, either), Iolaus caters to every taste…even those that push the boundaries of taste.