Citadel of Hawks describes the city of Hieropolis. Heart of politics and trade in the region, The Citadel of Hawks is likely to serve as a focus of Player Character attention, and therefore a major feature of any Auran campaign. Each major area of the city is described, including notable NPCs and lists of suggested encounters and incidents.
Situated upon the Osiris Plateau at the start of the Blood River Delta, Hieropolis is a loose blend of Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek cultural influences. Precise details are less important than the overall picture here; the exact interplay is left for PCs to uncover and determine during their interactions with the city's inhabitants.
Life Under The Hawk's Gaze
Approximately 18,000 of the city's 20,000 inhabitants are human, divided into two broad ethnic groups: tawny-skinned Hyskos civilians and dark-skinned Wranak slaves. Of the remaining 10%, roughly half are semi-human (half-elf, lizard man and tiefling), while the remainder are non-human. Ratkin, gnolls and sprites are more numerous than dwarves, elves and wemics. Less than 500 citizens are of adventurer-equivalent status; half of these are 1st level, and the highest level is 9th.
Standard dress is sandals, kilt and light cloak for men, sandals and gown for women. Bracelets, necklaces and headbands of leather, ivory and gold are favoured fashion accessories. A typical household includes a slave or servant. While men were traditionally rulers and leaders, the martial and magical feats of heroines during the Aura Storm levelled the playing field. Large families are encouraged.
Favoured of the gods, cats have the run of the city. A cat is an honoured guest, not a pet; a fellow citizen, not an animal. Auran cats do indeed have nine lives and magical powers; in game terms, cats have Average (8-10) Intelligence and a 1-in-12 chance of a minor cantrip-like power of the DM's choice. Cats sometimes speak with small children or blessed fools, allowing them to learn their names.
The city walls are built in the shape of a cartouche, with gates near the river.
The religious and administrative heart of the city, Isis Garden is an almost labyrinthine complex of towering walls, imposing gates, soaring ziggurats and pleasant courtyards. Isis Garden is located at the northern end of the city, overlooking the Osiris Plateau. Few commoners ever enter here.
The main gate leading into Isis Garden is carved with the images of the ancient deities Osiris, Isis and Horus. Anyone passing through the gate without the permission of the gods -granted in their absence by The Living Ra to all members of the Royal Court - suffers a divine curse of bad luck (no saving throw).
The Horus Guard have their barracks here. The palace is home to The Living Ra, his 50 concubines and 30 children, and the palace staff. Both these structures are dwarfed by the triple-tiered Great Temple; only the priests may enter this holy site, and only at certain times of the year. The Order of Marduk is based in a ziggurat adjoining but enclosed from the palace.
Inns, taverns and specialty shops line the streets to either side of The Road of Kings. A broad avenue lined with alternating statues of crouching winged bulls and high-pedestalled royalty runs down from the main gate of Isis Garden to a large open space. Hermes Square is a bustling marketplace by day and spirited entertainment centre by night At all hours of the day, Shekels and Litras change hands.
The College of Thoth consists of several towers in a compound around a fountain. According to local legend, one of the college's towers is built atop the tomb of an ancient wizard who will rise from the dead to protect the city if ever the royal bloodline dies out. The college boasts one of the finest libraries in the world.
West of Hermes Square and overlooking the Blood River Delta lies Hephaestus Ward. The craftsfolk of Hephaestus Ward are a tight-knit community appreciative of good work when they see it - although the friendly rivalry between the smiths and the potters sometimes leads to altercations. The main streets see a constant flow of traffic between the markets and the city gates. Metalworking and craftsmanship are the order of the day, which is why the city's gnoll population can be found here.
When not hard at work, the craftsfolk like to play Iron Throne, a chess-like board game that mediates combat between pieces by means of die-rolls.
The largest area of the city, Apollo Quarter houses roughly half the population.
The typical Hieropolitan house evolved from a sunken mud brick hut. A kitchen, storeroom and living room are grouped about a small courtyard. A ladder in the courtyard leads up to the roof; if three or four houses are built adjoining each other, an additional house may be built upon their roofs and accessed by an exterior ramp.
Ships from across The Pharos Sea, barges from upriver and delta fishing boats line the stone piers along the waterfront. The Road of Kings ends at a ceremonial gate upon the largest pier. Ratkin sailors and traders are everywhere. Tefnut Dock is controlled by Tyche's Favoured, whose base lies in catacombs beneath the city. Gang warfare is rife between those elves and dwarves who evade the opium slavers.
A myriad of trade goods from across Samuria may be found in the warehouses and cargo holds of Tefnut Dock. Grain is the city's major export, and slaves and ivory the main imports. Pottery and tools bearing the stamp of Hephaestus Ward are recognised for their superior craftsmanship across the land. Luxury goods from unheard of distant realms are much sought after, the most prized being rare perfumes. It is said that, whatever item is required, if the ratkin traders cannot name a price it likely cannot be bought anywhere in the world.
The ratkin share a dangerous secret with the Royal Court: with no new mines discovered in Samuria since the Aura Storm, the gold reserve is slowly being whittled away on military expenditure. Times may be good for now, but without a new source of wealth the city may one day soon face economic ruin.
Blood River Delta
The Blood River Delta is a maze of sandbars and shallow waterways.
Fisherfolk of the delta supplement their income by serving as guides for inbound vessels. By local custom, crocodiles are sacred; the souls of those eaten by the river's fearsome inhabitants are said to gather on certain nights at an island shrine.
The city lies at the south-western end of a long, low plateau. The Osiris Plateau is dotted with minor shrines and tomb complexes. Since the Aura Storm, royalty have been buried in hidden catacombs beneath the plateau. Guarded by an empty temple and half-buried statues, The Grand Pyramid lies unfinished. Envisioned as the first in a series of monuments to rival those of Necropolis, The Grand Pyramid has remained 90% constructed for centuries. Deprived of the magical aid of the viziers of old, it would simply take too much time and manpower to complete.
Hieropolis by night is a different city than by day. Revelry and merriment abound, but so too do shadowy agendas and nefarious plots. Entertainers and pleasure-seekers throng Hermes Square, while assassins and the walking dead prowl the alleys.
Sample Citizens of Hieropolis
Arihems the Holy (male lizard man LN C2) speaks to crocodiles. Reclusive, he has devoted himself to the nigh-hopeless task of restoring the worship of an obscure crocodile god. Arihems would be a willing convert to a proven new religion.
Helena the Wise (female tiefling CG T2) is a fortune-teller by day and dancing girl by night. She has so far managed to evade both Tyche's Favoured and the more scandalous taverns. Her knowledge of Heiropolitan street life is impressive. Athena may choose to possess Helena to deliver a prophecy to the PCs.
Kriomar the Appraiser (male ratkin N Appraiser3) is a bespectacled eccentric who specialises in antiquities, specifically items recovered (read: looted) from ancient tombs. His shop is crammed with a profusion of oddities and artworks from a dozen vanished cultures. While Kriomar made his fortune fencing art on the black market, he has become perhaps the region's foremost amateur authority on dead religions.
Linarius Wind-Eye (male sprite LG Cj2) is a self-appointed watchman in a crowded neighbourhood noted for petty theft. He is considered addled yet harmless by locals, as he talks to cats. Linarius has a reliable network of informants across the city.
Minions of Set (DDG): INT 12, NA 1d20, AC -2, MV 12, HP 25, ATK 1 or 3/2, DMG 1d12 (bite) or 2d4, SA polymorph into giant snake, SD save as F10, THAC0 15, LE, SZ M, XPV 500. Minions wear scaly black plate mail, use broadswords and never check morale.
Tiraa the Seeker (male half-elf LN Ench4) has been assigned the task of studying The Grand Pyramid. He can be found in a tent pitched in a ruined worker's hut in the monument's shadow - along with half a dozen of The Horus Guard. Tiraa's private theory is that the pyramid is in some way connected with the Aura Storm. The half-elf does not like to be disturbed in his work, but always welcomes a scholarly debate.
ul'Azra the Metallurgist (female gnoll NG Blacksmith3) was sold into slavery by her husband to pay off a gambling debt. Escaping, she fled to the big city where she has earned a reputation as a skilled armourer. She has a cynical view of men of all races. ul'Azra occasionally allows destitute women to take shelter in her smithy.
Utnash the Scribe (male human LN Scribe3) is an overlooked and overworked member of the Royal Court. He maintains the Archive for the Vizier, and knows his way around Isis Garden like few others alive today. Utnash even knows of a few secret passages. This aging clerk would be a valuable political ally.
Incident and Encounter Menus
Day: Street Sweeper, Acolytes, Laborers, Cats, Courier, Street Trader, Children, Street Entertainer, Patrol, Gossiping Wives, Scribe, Non-Human (Any).
Night: Ghost, Walking Statue, Wizard, Non-Human (Any), Acolytes, Courier, Storyteller, Street Trader, Cats, Street Entertainer, Young Couple, Merry Drunk, Patrol, Brawling Youths, Thief (Tyche or Lone Wolf), Walking Dead (Any), Minions of Set, Vampire.
Street Scenes: Bored Young Princess, Tree-Climbing Child, Disreputable Merchant, Plumbing Crew, Vermin Abatement Team, Water Bearers, Repair/Construction Crew, Religious Procession, Execution of Law and Justice, Art/Antiquities Collector, Gnoll Alchemist, Ratkin Spice Merchant, Retired Soldier, Loose Livestock.
Sewers/Plateau Labyrinth: Vermin Abatement Team, Treasure Seekers, Rats (Giant), Spiders (Large), Centipede (Giant), Walking Dead (Any), Minions of Set, Vampire.