The Night Shade of Greyhawk and the Hallowed Revenant Amphoras
The Free City of Melkot
The City of Melkot is a walled town with a population of approximately 4,000 people. Melkot is the only town for 50 miles and is at the end of a perilous road through bandit and monster occupied mountains. The road leads from the Yeomanry through Melkot Pass, which separates the Tor Hills from the last spur of the Crystalmist Mountains. To the south lie the vast Hool Marshes. All in all, Melkot is not exactly located in the safest place in the world. Despite this very isolated location, it is a very important trade center for one reason: Gems – and lots of them.
Gems were first discovered in the streams of the nearby mountains 1000 years ago by Suel migrants escaping from the savage Baklunish- Suloise war, and eventually, the Rain of Colorless Fire (5094 SD) which finally ended both the war and the two mighty empires that had started it. A small mining town sprang up around the original keep built on a nearby mountain slope by the wealthiest of the mine owners (and original discoverer of the first and largest gem deposit), a man named Kartok Melkotia. His descendants later built the present Melkot Keep around the year 5450 SD on the site of Kartok's original keep (which now serves as the home of the Mayor, offices for city administrators, the courts, and the headquarters of the city guard), and much later, built Melkotia Castle (oldest portion built around 5550 SD) on the summit of a nearby dormant volcano. The family essentially governed the area like their own small kingdom (as mostly benevolent rulers), and eventually took on the title of "Lord" when it was discovered that Kartok Melkotia was actually a Suel noble keeping a low profile. An underground city water supply system was constructed after the Years of Pestilence (a major plague of suspicious origin which killed a major portion of the population between 5710 and 5719 SD). The city was reconstructed almost completely in stone after the Great Fire destroyed 3/4 of the city (5888 SD). There are now very strict building codes, among which one proscribes the building of all-wood structures). Lord Arabis Melkotia I (5922-5987 SD) and Lord Arabis Melkotia II (5957-6026 SD) both built large additions to Melkotia Castle.
Just over 100 years ago (5991 SD), and within the memory of many of the resident dwarves, a large army of the Sea Princes made the long and perilous march around the Hool Marshes towards Melkot Pass. It was an early period in that country's history and their sea-war with Keoland was not going particularly well. The plan was to march through Melkot Pass, quickly take the weaker Yeomanry (who had been providing resources to Keoland) and then circle eastward and crush Keoland in a massive surprise attack. They expected to easily take the small mining town on the way. The siege lasted 2 years (the longest continuous siege ever of any city in the known world), and many died, but the city never fell. Rather than attempt to bypass Melkot, the siege became an obsession for the Sea Prince generals. Supplies stretched thin, the armies eventually had to retreat in total failure, never having even stepped onto Yeomanry soil. Two things contributed to this miraculous feat. The first was the self-contained water supply system built 250 years before. The second was the brilliant planning of Lord Arabis II. After watching the increasingly militaristic activities of the Sea Princes, he somehow predicted their possible plans years before the Princes' had even formulated them and spent an immense amount of wealth on turning Melkot into an important center of magical research. The highest per capita concentration of wizards in any city proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to the invading army. To this day, no one knows how the Lord arrived at this great insight or even the details of his great Master Plan. Unfortunately, the mysterious death of Lord Arabis II was more than the end of an era. His son, Marchanter, became Lord and so began the Years of Dark Terror (6026 to 6063 SD).
The second largest castle complex in the Flanaess still standing and containing over 600 rooms, Melkotia Castle stands perched on the summit of an extinct volcano, looming ominously over the town far below.
Lord Marchanter Melkotia became a very powerful and very evil mage, ruling his subjects with an iron fist. As an addition to the already immense Melkotia Castle he somehow constructed two great 600 ft. towers like the world had never seen, made of black, seamless stone (with great magic it is assumed). Unspeakable evils were committed within Melkotia Castle and the entire city lived in fear. Many people disappeared from the streets of Melkot, and screams could be heard from the castle, even though it was almost 7 miles away! A group of powerful paladins and priests from the rather large Temple of Heironeous, with the help of several powerful mages from the prestigious Academy of Arcane Arts, made an attempt to kill Marchanter in a secret raid on the castle. They managed to surprise him in his personal quarters. He not only overcame them all somehow, but in his rage returned to the city and destroyed the Temple of Heironeous, killing all the occupants single-handedly and leaving the razed building behind as a reminder to the populace of his power. The terror continued until 6063 SD when Marchanter disappeared mysteriously (there are many conflicting rumors about it) and the castle was abandoned. It has remained so until the present. No one dares go within several miles of the site.
Since that time no one has stepped forward to claim the title of Lord Melkotia. This may be partly because of the legacy left by Marchanter (no one would dare profess a kinship with him, whether real or imagined) but more probably because many secretly believe Marchanter is still alive and may someday return to wreak vengeance. The mayor and city council have kept the government going since that time and more or less control the city (during the day at least) with a large, well-funded city guard. The man who presently holds the unenviable job of Mayor is Jahan Wiebhix. A member of a wealthy family which owns one of the gem mines, he started out many years ago in the city guard and eventually worked his way up through the government thanks to his great skill as a diplomat.
Around the destroyed Temple of Heironeous sprang up the "Dark City". It is a dark, dismal, maze-like, lawless, slum area with few entrances, filled with thugs, assassins and evil priests, and run essentially as an entirely separate city – no city guard patrol would dare venture within – and may be one of the most dangerous `thieves quarters' in the Flanaess. Several years ago (the date is unknown) a cult emerged from the heart of the "Dark City". This cult calls itself the "Sons of Marchanter".
Spoken of only in hushed tones, most of the population know several things (rumors) about them. The leaders apparently claim that they are all truly Marchanter's offspring (it is unknown if it is true, most would like to believe it is a lie designed to spread fear), their membership has supposedly grown to over 100, most cult members are supposedly double-classed as wizards (a lot of magical power if true), they may have partial control of Melkotia Castle, and they have spies all over the city and surrounding region.
One fact that is known for sure: their fighting unit, always fully armored in black plate mail, is known as the "Black Guard" (originally the name of Marchanter's terror-invoking castle guard). They control the seamier areas of the city by night. Although rarely seen outside of the Dark City, they are never interfered with. The Sons apparently worship Marchanter, perhaps even as a god, working towards his ultimate return. Some claim that Marchanter's spirit still roams the Castle. Scores of other related rumors abound concerning his demise and/or whereabouts. Marchanter, if he is a god now, may even be granting spells to priests within his cult. In any event, many citizens fear that the growing strength of this cult may result in a return to the "Years of Dark Terror".
The truth behind the Sons of Marchanter is known to no one outside the cult. Asking questions attracts their attention. Persist, and you forfeit your life.
The Melkot economy runs on gems. There are a handful of relatively large mines operated by several merchant families, one run as a guild/co-op arrangement, and a score of smaller operations run by individuals or families. There is also some independent prospecting and panning going on in the surrounding mountains. The largest mine (actually, one of three separate mines originally owned and operated by the Melkotia family) is now operated by the City itself (though the other two were abandoned decades ago). The most sought-after gems are ruby, sapphire and emerald, though aquamarine, alexandrite, garnet, beryl and tourmaline occur here also. There is a local legend of a lost diamond mine, however most believe there is no truth to the rumor. Every drunken prospector has a tale of his own to tell about lost mines and fabled riches.
The mines here have also attracted some of the most skilled gemcutters and jewelers in the Flanaess. Melkot is not just a source of raw gems, but of fine finished works also. Many royal treasuries across the continent have items created within these city limits.
After the Great Fire of 5888 SD, the city was rebuilt almost exclusively in a local grey stone quarried in the nearby Tors. A few rare buildings (such as several temples and estates) are constructed from imported stone. Most of these buildings (because they were designed by a handful of architects within a short time) tend to have a similar blocky, robust design. Some of the temples break this pattern. By law, all new construction must be in stone. Because space is limited within the city walls, there is generally no space between buildings, and almost all buildings are at least 2 stories high, with some reaching 3 or more stories.
The city's water comes from underground springs within the mountain cliff that rests along the entire western margin of Melkot. The springs flow directly into a huge storage chamber beneath Melkot Keep, without ever coming to the surface. From here, it flows through several tunnels to each of the city's public wells, eventually meeting at another underground chamber beneath Guardpost 7a, and from there flows south underground several miles before coming to the surface as a spring near the river. Though the water has a moderate mineral flavor, its self-contained delivery system was invaluable to the city when it came under seige by the Sea Princes.
One might notice that there are an unusual number of temples in Melkot. Before 5987 SD, Melkot didn't particularly have any greater number of temples than most cities of its size. Only those faiths with large numbers of worshippers had temples. However, about that time, Lord Arabis Melkotia II actively began encouraging the establishment of temples for any gods that had any sort of noticable following within the city. He even went so far as to provide generous funds for the construction of buildings that the parishioners would have never been able to afford. The resulting high concentration of priests proved invaluable during the siege by the Sea Princes' army. Since that time the total number of priests in many of these temples have dropped, but most of the temples are still operating to some degree. Because of the strong Suel history, many of the temples represent gods from the Suel pantheon.
Within the Dark City there are several temples to evil gods. The presence of these temples are completely unknown to most of the citizens of Melkot. However, within the Dark City, their presence is known by a fair number of the quarter's inhabitants.
Melkot has the same basic laws that most cities have concerning general crime (though there is no enforcement within the Dark City). Non-standard laws that have been enacted generally are there because of Melkot's reason for existence…. Gems. Because most of the city's income comes from the production and export of gems, there are very strict laws concerning the smuggling and theft of gems. Also for this reason, invisibility and flying are forbidden within or near the city (to help prevent smuggling). Any given guardpost or patrol has a 30% probability (to be checked once every shift) that at least one occupant has the ability (either by spell or magic item) to detect invisibility, and they always keep an eye on the skies. All patrols are accompanied by a wizard. The priests of Phaulkon are the only citizens with "flying permits" and are entrusted with the policing of the skies and capture of any transgressors.
Guards are permanently stationed at 9 major locations through the city. The Barracks and Melkot Keep complex, the four city gates, and four City Guard offices distributed within the city proper. The duties at each of these locations are detailed on the City Locations page. Roving patrols operate from those bases of operation. Under no circumstances, short of a major multi-building fire, will the city guard enter the Dark City.