The City of Otranto and its Factions

Contents Guide

The City of Fear and the Undercroft Syndicate
The History of Otranto and the Royal Volan Family
Economic Decline and the Mallor Family
Economic War and the Metricious Guild
Control of the City and the Whisper Network
Secrets of the City and the Agaeris Family
Genetics and the Rhaxon Family
Foundations in Belief and the Oraea of Magai
The Truth of the Tears and the College of Sages
Sustaining Life and the Hotaar Family
The Blood of the Goddess and the Ghila

The City of Fear and the Undercroft Syndicate

Ignorance and fear are two well documented and easily exploitable attributes of the human psyche. Myths of monsters of the sewers, people were taken by shadow and the Undercroft syndicate are all things that could strike terror into the heart men women and children on the outer rings of the city. The central tiers, on the other hand, had guards and education. The stupid and wealthy had protection and the learned knew better than to believe folk tales or to be easily intimidated.

The syndicate prayed on the weak or feeble minded. Their tactics were the same regardless of the situation using the threat of force, or the actual use of it. The fear of what crawled beneath the feet of the common folk or the Ghilan outside could be enough in itself to sway the mind. At times syndicate was considered to be less of a threat than the Royal Guard. Passion and greed swayed the minds of the Undercroft leaders whereas the guards followed the cold steel of their tenants. But even under the threat of execution or far worse sentenced to be an Undertaker, the constant fear instilled by the syndicate kept them safe, informed and in control.

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The History of Otranto and the Royal Volan Family

A group of explorers charting unknown seas find a land gilded in rusted metal. It was a blessing at first, arable land, an abundance of materials and magic and devices beyond understanding but no living soul. There were records of a sun demon burning the memories of those that lived here aeons ago and watched their destruction from the sky. Their god Magia wept for them and in her tears, their knowledge became part of them. As she bathed her faithful in her tears all they knew was now in their soul and not their minds. Whatever their god did, they all died regardless and the explorers colonised their new land and in doing so, uncovered the fountain that held the fabled tears.  Soon, those devout enough were blessed with powers to shape the fabric the land and the city prospered under the Church of Magia.

Over the years, religious unity devolved into capitalism. Soon the worthy were being judged on their contribution to the church; faith was measured in coin and luxuries. It wasn’t long before the city split apart by wealth, skill and knowledge. The Volan family managed to capitalise on the fountain, buying the lands it built on and eventually rivalled the king in wealth. It was only logical or perhaps blackmail, that the Volan family married into the royal bloodline and soon the Volan family took over the kingdom. Over time their capitalist mindset has fluxed between King and Queen. The current king Alina has ‘tried’ to fix the problems of his kingdom but the public knows he grows weary of trying. There is talk that he will decide to leave the city to his favoured child but none are deserving. They are sinners beyond redemption in the public eye. But who out of Selina, Vance, Rosette and Lucius are the lesser evil?

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Economic Decline and the Mallor Family

When wealth defined faith, merchants, artisans and gatherers alike were put at risk. Common commodities such as food, clothing and heat were being shunned for trinkets and baubles. Most businesses that relied on the equality from before were struggling to find regular business. Regular customers were soon in debt or with little money left. Those above them struggled for capital, those with enough money to pay the church also had enough money to make use of anyone beneath them to make money, leaving those in the middle, the craftsman and the merchants stuck between two extremes while also being exploited themselves.

The Mallor Family was the only family to really make a name for themselves during this time. The family had long ago been faithful to the church and many of their ancestors had consumed the Tears. They had the ability to shape the very nature of an object. Some could turn a lump of dirt into a shining jewel; others could cover vast swathes of rock with hardened metal. There was apparently no end to their reforming of reality and so a cheap metal cup, soon became a vessel made of rare and valuable material. On the other hand, this ability had engendered an innate laziness. They soon stopped using their heritage to make the world a better place, but exploited the economy, buying businesses, increasing their take and paying others to do their work.

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Economic War and the Metricious Guild

Out of those left in the middle, morale was depleting. Many families lost their livelihoods, hospital wards started to fill with the ill and malnourished. It was impossible to predict the market, who wanted what and where. Traders tried to outdo each other, craftsman competed with their skill. Those still left with the desire to create fled to the art districts to cling onto their dignity while others lost theirs to money and others by a necessity to survive.

The Metricious Guild rose up in defence of the slim glimmer of unity that was once in the heart of the people. Artisans turned their tools from weapons of war to collaboration and preservation. Merchants kept their own wealth protected by a joint venture, a vault and security that not even the Royal family could break into. Their rise was quashed by the Mallor family, who bought up businesses faster than they could join the guild. Fake companies and craftsman were all the Metricious had left to defend against the noble family and so far they have held their ground. Their influence can be felt in every marketplace, every industry and warehouse. They may not have control but with the right acquisitions, it is possible.

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Control of the City and the Whisper Network

Control of the city can be measured in a few obvious ways, force, and wealth and district command. It is a war fought with meritocracy and negotiation and sometimes by threats. The stage and its players know the game well, they play it with whatever skill they have and some do come out on top on occasion but their decisions are sometimes not their own.

The Whisper Network has ties all over the city, threads that bind their targets without their knowledge. They have influenced events from behind the scenes, for how long, nobody knows, and that is the entire point. Their control is subtle but powerful. They trade in secrets, information and on occasion death. If you’ve ever been told to question a situation by a friend, finding yourself coming to a conclusion quicker than you should have, or being in the right place at the right time, could all have been orchestrated by the Network for their own gain.

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Secrets of the City and the Agaeris Family

There are some secrets that have never seen the light of day. The control over the Royal army bound to the command of the King or Queen and no one else. Why the dead return as Ghilan, husks of their former selves. What causes the rain to burn and bite at flesh and stone and steel. What truly happened to those who inhabited this island and why their tiered it so and does dry land truly exist?

This information may be kept protected, but the Agaeris family have their ways of finding out. They may not know it individually but somehow the family after drinking the Tears have some genetic memory and communication far beyond earshot. What one member discovers, the others all learn of it, if needed. They have access to the best schools, the best healthcare. Their skills and thirst for knowledge are constantly indulged. They are a proud family, helping those in need for respect and favour. Their selflessness has now brought suspicion upon their true intentions.

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Genetics and the Rhaxon Family

Genetics are a controversial topic for most. To the merchants, artisans and the poor, genetics was about disfigurement, mutation and death. The sewers beneath their feet were supposed to harbour monsters that were once human and disappearances and unexplainable deaths were attributed to the nightmares below. To the nobility, it was about breeding and the right arranged marriages. They traded power and information for their own kin, embedding themselves in the hearts of families they truly wish to ally with and others they wish to control or destroy from within.  

The Rhaxon family straddled this line carefully. They never once seemed to oppose anyone and were at points throughout history, allied with one noble house, or guild or association at one point or another by marriage and birth. Their families were nothing short of genetically perfect in their own eyes. They seemed to always inherit the best of their parents which included a wisdom beyond their years, and prejudices long since dead.

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Foundations in Belief and the Oraea of Magai

Beliefs and those that act upon it were the very foundations of the city. Those that lived here before believed in a self-sustaining life. They believed in Magai and were given her blessing her powers. Their beliefs caused the sun demon to burn their minds and the memory of her and their past from them. And those that believe in a new land and a new way of thinking came upon this island in their exploration.

When belief became measurable and corruption spread through the heart of the church. The Oraea of Magai formed in the defence of the people. The Goddess Magai would return to the world one day and restore the minds of the people and bring them into a new dawn under a new sun, free from the demon. Their holy texts are individual, each claims their own manuscript, made from a single material, contains notes that only they can read. How Magai will return is not known, what she will do is uncertain, but each believes their own version is correct and will seek out more of their own material to finish their tomes and unite the order before her return.

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The Truth of the Tears and the College of Sages

To some Magai’s Tears are more than religious superstition or unknown magic. They have pierced the veil of the past and know more about the city’s history than publicly known. Those that have been ‘blessed’ are mere products of the past. They have been altered somehow, subtle but profound. The old ones that lived here once were masters of science, their understanding of the world far beyond that of the explorers and all their knowledge supposedly destroyed by the wrath of the sun demon.

This is untrue to those that see the threads that connect life and science. The College of Sages is dedicated to furthering the understanding of the past and the technology left behind. In the eyes of both the Royal Church and the Oraea, the goddess’ gifts are divine, beyond understanding and their attempts to do so is heretical. This has left the college with their sights set squarely on the Agaeris family, who for generations have known of this technology and ‘exploited’ it as ‘family knowledge’, free from persecution. It is unknown how much the Agaeris family knows the truth about the Tears but it is obvious to the Sages that their talents and gifts are not just biological.

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Sustaining Life and the Hortaar Family

Biology and diversity are key to any self-sustaining colony. There must be enough genetic stock to prevent any abnormalities down the line. Unfortunately, as the city was colonised, the weather started to change. The rains began to destroy life than nourish it, the sea water used instead only hastened the demise of life. Only the hardiest of plants and animals are able to survive. Although now sheltered, most plants died out before they could be saved. Ironically the dead enriched the soil and those plants that remained flourished, nourishing a dwindling livestock count to support the city, taking the burden off fishing. On the outer ring and those risking their lives were handsomely paid for the dirt they brought back.

The Hotaar family have considered themselves to be akin to that. They have honed the practice of social manipulation to survive. They neither seem to have the wealth to buy themselves power, nor the force to take it. Their words were gifted by the Tears and are either barbed or honeyed, spoken by true masters of conversation. They were once prophets of the Goddess, their words swayed the minds of many before coin or violence did. But they have survived somehow and now have the ear of the most influential people in the city, to what end, nobody knows why.

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The Blood of the Goddess and the Ghila

Although some citizens and families have been blessed or by other interpretations given power by the Goddess through her tears, there is another option. Her blessing is granted for eternity housed in a living or dead vessel. The Tears cannot be extracted but blood can be. To distill enough out of the blood of a person would drain them until they died but a corpse is just an untapped vessel. Known as Blood of the Goddess, this liquid, when injected gives the blessing intended for the deceased with a few important side effects. Addiction, paranoia, hallucination and necrosis of the flesh. Some risk it all to find a corpse bloated with blood, others for the next fix, both lives teetering between life and death.

Those that venture in the deadlands finds themselves up against the creatures that feed on the dead, monsters that have risen from the sea and the Ghila. The gift was given by the goddess never truly leaves the body but the blessed soul can. In death, the body of the blessed is an empty vessel for the sun demon. In the day the dead are shrouded in his toxic blessing and slowly they are filled with his spite and malice. They are no longer what they once were, husks of their former selves to varying degrees but all driven to tear down the walls the protect the city from deadlands.

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