Cold as the Depths
No one knows when the community of Straszanul was founded by the lizardfolk tribe that called it home. It was a small village with a naturally occurring port located along a bay rich with fish and other sea life. It thrived and prospered for many years before the tribe came into conflict with various merchant vessels. The lizardfolk’s warriors took up pirating the passing vessels, escaping into the jungle when pursued.
Finally, after years of these attacks, a crew of pirate hunters, lead by the famous Captain Ilyssa Tide-Rider. Her crew took to the village and routed the pirates after days of savage battle in the swamps. But Ilyssa was no fool, and when the last of the pirates laid dead, she saw the potential in the location. Little time passed before she had used her own personal fortune to turn the lean-tos and thatched huts into a small village, with high walls and a secure port. Her investment was soon returned when the high natural stone wall now known as “The Dragon’s Fangs” proved an even greater storm break then expected. Being the last port before reaching open sea between the communities of Tyreadosa and the other island kingdoms.
Twenty years later, Ilyssa found herself confronted by the knowledge of her own death. Age and an assassin’s blade had seen her weakened and near death. But unable to determined who tried to have her killed, Ilyssa prayed to the gods and goddess to send her a sign, something that would show her who to leave her city to.
It is said that on the night of her death, Ilyssa was visited in her home by a man whom none had ever seen before. He was described later as handsome, with kind and gentle eyes. He spent many hours speaking privately with the former pirate hunter, and when he left, Ilyssa had been given a stone, emerald in color and as heavy as lead. She declared that it was an egg, and that it should be cared for by each of the noble families for one month, then placed in her palace for another. When the egg hatched, it would be discovered who should rule after her. She gave the title of Steward to her companion, Kessil Sea-Wolf, a long time companion of Ilyssa’s to watch over the city until the egg hatched.
Kessil Sea-Wolf ruled peacefully her lover’s name, keeping Ilyssa’s order and carrying out her final wish to see the egg taken from noble to noble. And when the time came, the palace’s main chamber was filled with every noble in the city, and as many more as could fit. The first crack was small, but the sound of it was heard outside the palace walls, echoing off the stone walls. Then the egg split open and what has been best described as “liquid night” poured fourth. As dark as the darkest depths of the evening sky, with the sparkles and flecks that bore a frightening resemblance to the very stars in the night above the city, this liquid took form. It stood nearly nine feet in height, broad as two men, and with eyes that burned like two sun. In truth the eyes seemed the only fixed features of the beast, for it bore no mouth nor ears as a normal person might, and its surface was constantly moving, wavering and shifting. When it spoke a swirling vortex was seen forming in the center of what was its ‘face’, and its voice seemed colder then ice. It spoke of the sins it had seen and sensed in every house that had taken it in. Showing the gathered crowd visions of the multitude of sins the nobles had been guilty of. One by one the guards arrested those had had committed crimes against the city. Until finally there was but one family noble enough, honorable enough to rule. And Kessil Sea-Wolf became Kessil the First, Emperor of the Ilanian Empire, Mistress of the Sea of Sorrow, and Appointed of the Night-Given-Flesh.
Kessil would rule for many years before passing the empire to her third daughter, setting the precedent that the Empire would be inherited by the most capable and competent of the emperor’s children, and not just to the first born.
In the centuries that have passed since the founding of the city it has experienced prosperity and growth, despite its location hundreds of miles from the next nearest large community. The empire claimed vast stretches of land, and was capable of holding most of it. And while it has had vile lords as well as benefactors, it has managed to always find a way to survive.
The city itself is larger then ever, but there is a growing darkness. The buildings are showing their age, and like the people of the city there seems to be cracks forming around the edges, tempers becoming frayed. An elite noble class looks down on the poor, and tensions build between the various races as humans and dwarfs hold themselves above the others. The empire’s standing army is smaller then ever, with fewer and fewer patrols going out to protect the easily over grown roads through the jungle to smaller villages and to the mountains where tradesmen make their way to other cities. Distant nobles and overlords are rumored to be whispering about claiming independence, and the politicians and nobles who actually live in the city struggle with the guilds and each other for power and influence. And the Emperor himself seems silent on all these matters.
To make the situation even more unstable, the city itself suffered a great blow five years ago. When a terrible earthquake shook the very foundation of the city. It was as if the swamp and jungle had tried to devour the city from beneath, with whole sections and even neighborhoods swallowed up by the earth, disappearing beneath the waves, slipping into the muck.
With a city still recovering from the earthquake, secret conspiracies, and rumors of sightings of undead and worst in the jungles and in the bay, Ilyssa’s Landing is entering its most chaotic and dangerous times in generations.