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Niania--Arena 2

Niania Then--by Markos Lexen, head sage of the Library at Kaltos. Compiled at the request of Baby Humu, Mayor of Niania

Of the origins of Niania, few now speak, for rumor and myth cloud the history of the dark city even as the cool mists of the Syrinwald blanket its shadowed streets. Yet the wise know of the Great Book of the Mordanti in the treasured vaults of Koltac, and there, in its yellowed pages, are written not a few passages about the dark twin of Mordant; for the two cities are interwoven and each has been as a brother to the other--at times a stout friend; at times a mortal foe. Always bound by blood.

The Book tells of the elder days when Azran Rithwar the Hammerhanded led his tribe north to escape the marauding tribes of Osksi nomads, and there in the Syrinwald he founded a stronghold wrought of iron and stone, and named it Mordant ("strength" in the ancient Kannari tongue). His people dwelt in peace with the races of the southern Syrinwald for many years.

[This is a reference to the Kelari, a race of aborigines, as well as scattered elven and orcish tribes. The southern swamps were more heavily populated by the Kelari. This may have been a reason the Mordanti settled in the north. Popular theory states that they were related to the karragits which populate the area around North Fork. Possibly the Kelari represent the karragits at the height of their power. Or perhaps they were a stray tribe which had achieved a higher level of civilization.]

Upon reaching the age of seventy-six, Azran, feeling life ebb, called his twin sons, Tarall and Nian, and bade them to share rulership of the city. Tarall consented, but Nian, filled with the restless blood of his father, took leave of his brother, and with two hundred warriors, delved into the darkness of the southern swamp.

[The twins were sired when Azran was sixty years of age, and were but sixteen when they came into power. They were born to a concubine captured in a raid to the north. Many such slaves had been taken, which may account for the occasional fair-haired Mordanti.]

There, among horrible perils, Nian and his followers encountered profound sights and visions, and they wished no longer to return to their kindred in the north. After wandering for a year and a day, Nian stumbled upon Nerithsila, the city of the Kelari, which lay at the mouth of the Brakanu Valley.

[Some sources say Nerithsila was originally elven; certainly the design of the city suggests some elven input. The hypothesis most widely accepted is that originally a large population of both orcs and elves inhabited the swamp, and the Kelari were a minor race. Around the time of the Chaos Wars, the elves and orcs destroyed each other in a great war, leaving the door open for the Kelari to become the dominant race in the Syrinwald. In any case, at Nian's time the Kelari had good relations with the remaining elves, and tolerated most orc tribes.]

After proving themselves worthy according to the laws of the Kelari, Nian and his band--now but three score--were accepted. And upon entering, they were accepted as equals by all who dwelt there, and in time all vestiges of their Mordanti origins were put aside and forgotten.

[It is believed this was a traditional test of manhood by the Kelari, of which combat (often lethal) was a part. Some scholars go so far as to link this test with the current Bloodgames.]

In time, Nian's influence grew. On the eve of his twenty-fifth year, he took to wife Tillvia Mistweaver, an elven orphan adopted by Kerac, the chief shaman of the Kelari. Shortly thereafter, the old chief died, and Nian wrested power from the tribe. After a year, Nian discarded the title of chief and took instead the title of Thane over all peoples in the southern Syrinwald, and all were pleased, as he was a kind ruler and well-loved.

[The events surrounding Nian's ascension to rulership are clouded. Most believe his father-in-law had something to do with it. A popular theory, proposed by Mage Vislivian of Iaye, states that the Kelari shamans sensed an end to their time of power, and rather than violently opposing it, turned control over to Nian.]

Thus began the line of Rithwar in Nerithsila. During Nian's reign, ties with Mordant were forged, and the city grew. The Mordanti called the city Niania, and many migrated south in search of new lands. A wandering clan, calling themselves Zuikaku, entered Niania and pledged loyalty to Nian. Grim were their faces and fell their hands, for they had traveled far, fleeing unknown horrors. They were given the Brakanu Valley in which to settle, and they renamed it after their clan and dwelt in peace for many years. Shapechangers of Ratan, fleeing from persecution in the south, were given refuge in Niania. While many continued north, a few stayed, and Niania grew.

Eventually, Nian grew old and passed rulership to his son. His body was buried in the center of the city, and on his grave a silver cypress tree, symbol of his house, was planted. In Niania his line would continue for generations. But in Mordant, the line of Rithwar would soon come to an end.

With the passing of Tarall, Grithav the Cruel ascended the throne, and he made war with his cousin in Niania. Soon the whole of the Syrinwald was awash in fire and fell deeds. The north quickly fell under Grithav's hand. In this time, the Kelari suffered much. They were cruelly enslaved, and branded. Those who could escape fled to their kindred in the south, but most, unable to live captive, died. Niania became the last hope of the Kelari. Krin the Half-Elven now led his forces, armed mostly with staves and mauls, north. There he fought a long war of skirmishes, which left the Mordanti dismayed and bloodied. Ghosts, the Nianians seemed: fey apparitions which slipped quietly through the night, leaving only death in their wake. The battle magics of the Mordanti mages were no match for the clever concealment and movement spells of the Nianian shamans. Over the next score of years, the Nianians became masters of their craft, and the south was well protected by the swift feet and hard staves of its residents. Mordant remained, however, unassailable, and the numbers of Mordanti grew, even as the Nianians held firm. At last, pinned between the main force of the Mordanti and the dark waters of the Shadowed Lake, Krin was forced into open battle.

[About one third of the Mordanti army was held back in Mordant. It was commanded by General Morkan Grentrask. It is unclear how the Mordanti army was able to trap Krin's forces.]

The battle was joined for a day and a night, and as dawn rose, both sides had been destroyed, save for Grithav and Krin, who stood facing each other over the fallen, which lay in mounds on the battlefield and floated ominously in the dark waters of the lake. With a roar, the two fell upon each other, and the clash of their weapons echoed throughout the black shadows of the forest. In the end, each slew the other, but to Niania the hardest blow fell.

In Mordant, the house of Rithwar ended, and the house of Grentrask took the throne. The iron gates of Mordant were opened, and the last forces of Mordant issued forth towards Niania.

[The surviving Mordanti soldiers, sickened by the battle, never returned. Instead they founded the city of Sibikhas upon the battlefield. The dead of both sides were taken to a small island on the southern shore of the lake, and a great mound was raised. To this day, fishermen avoid the island, claiming the sounds of battle can be heard rolling over the waters. Even in the city, people sometimes claim to see warriors in ancient battle dress walking the shoreline through the mists of early morning.]

In Niania, Sandavar Rithwar assumed the throne at the age of twenty. As he sat in the tower of the guard, awaiting the onslaught of Mordant, an ancient Kelari shaman spoke. "Hear me, blood of Nian. Rule wisely, for all of the southern Syrinwald is now yours. The days of the Kelari are drawing to a close. Soon we will be but a memory of our former selves. Yet even with our passing, the city of Niania shall survive. Take this stone, for so long as it exists, so shall the tree of your house live; and so long as the stone is within the city, the city shall not fall." And with that, the shaman handed him a green stone, and it pulsed as if with an inner light. And together, they sat and spoke of many things.

[Some believe this shaman was the stepfather of Nian, Sandavar's great grandfather. Upon Nian's ascension to power, he had wandered into the swamp with five other Kelari elders and disappeared.]

Finally Sandavar awoke as if from a dream, and the shaman was gone. But the stone remained, and the city did not fall. The power of the stone cloaked the land, and the enemies of Nian could find no trace that the city had ever been.

[The Kelari Stone has been the subject of much speculation. While some claim the item was capable of moving the entire city, or even shifting it to another plane, the more accepted view is that the stone caused the city to become hidden in some ultra-powerful illusion.]

Wielding the Kelari Stone, Sandavar Rithwar caused the city to disappear, and it became a place of mystery and refuge. As the Kelari died out, others found their way to Niania. Outlaws, bandits, thieves, escaped criminals, banished nobles, pirates, persecuted cults, and renegade mages all begged admittance to the city.

[Some traces of the Kelari remain in Niania today. Also, the quarterstaff and maul, well known arena weapons, are both of karragit origin, and therefore Kelari origin.]

[Citizenship was granted to outsiders only after they had proven themselves worthy (usually through combat). Once a citizen, the individual was free to live life as he pleased, so long as he did not infringe upon the rights of a fellow Nianian. This led to much of the population becoming freelance thieves, assassins, and spies, who operated elsewhere in Alastari. Also, smuggling was a large occupation, as high-cost goods were funneled through the swamps to Cliffhome, and thence to Jhelum, to avoid the high Osksian tariffs.]

In time, Niania again became allied with Mordant, and began to assist them in the kughas trade. Unlike Mordant, the Nianians preferred to specialize in smuggling and transporting the drug, rather than harvesting and selling it.

[Kughas is a moss that is still a main "underground" source of income for most of the Syrinwald. A drug can be extracted from it, which acts as a heavy stimulant. It is very addictive and very hard on the body. It is illegal in most of Alastari, but is sold on the open market elsewhere.]

With the power of the Kelari Stone, the Rithwars build Niania into a wealthy city. Niania's "middleman" position in the Mordanti kughas trade led to the formation of a massive intelligence network, which was known and feared throughout Alastari. Niania became the city of shadows, and rumors abounded that Nianians could move on the wind and disappear with the morning sun, leaving only a cold corpse as a calling card. Of Nianians people spoke in whispers, lest a cold knife greet them in a dark alley.

[It is strange that although they engaged in "illegal" activities, crime in Niania was very low. This was due to the strict law (almost a personal code) that protected Nianians from each other and encouraged aggression against other cities. Offenders often found themselves forced to fight to the death, usually for the amusement of the population. This combat took place in a makeshift arena. However, it lacked most of the facilities and all of the rules in today's modern arena combat. It is believed that this practice was the origin of the present Bloodgames.

Some evidence suggests that at one time, Niania would accept criminals from other lands (for a fee) to fight in the arena. This was a popular way to get rid of political prisoners, as execution at home often martyred the victim. There was, however, some risk involved, in that if the prisoner won, he often became a Nianian and began plotting his revenge.]

Even Niania in all its might could not foretell the doom encased in the very object that protected it. At the height of its power, Niania was conquered by the budding empire of Osksi. Having taken Cliffhome some twenty years earlier, the Osksi learned of the Kelari Stone and enlisted the aid of a darkelven thief to recover the item. The thief was successful, but was lost in the Syrinwald as he made his escape. Without the stone, Niania lay open to its attackers, and fell to the Osksi.

[Before its capture by the Osksi, Cliffhome was home to a raced of winged people called the elithan, and was allied with the darkelven city of Faehrso. Although a staunch foe of Mordant, Cliffhome was on amiable terms with Niania, and a major stop for smugglers and mossrunners. The secret entrance to Cliffhome is believed to have been betrayed to the Osksi by a dark elf, possibly the same elf that stole the stone from Niania. In any case, the stone was never recovered, though many a Nianian hero has died in the quest. Its whereabouts are unknown. Though the Osksi claim to have possession of it, Nianian thieves have stated otherwise.]

In Mordant, a new king, taking the name of Tarall Azran Grentrask I, ascended the throne. His son, Tarall II, succeeded in retaking Niania and restoring the Rithwars to power. The glory of Niania was not to rise again. Much of the populace had fled, and without the Kelari Stone, Niania became subject to frequent raids by the Osksi city of Cliffhome. Control of the city swayed back and forth between the two powers. Some seventy years later, Niania was destroyed by a massive battle between the Osksi Empire and the Mordanti Confederation. The Scarlet Rangers of Cliffhome, aided by fire demons summoned by Osksian wizards, burned the city to the ground. Those who were not killed, fled. The line of Rithwar ended, as Kihraven the Ironhanded and his two sons were slain on the steps of the palace, buying time for the women and children to escape through the sewers. His wife, heavy with child, was lost in the swamps and disappeared, never to be seen again.

[Niania never again regained its former glory. Under Osksian occupation, most of the original Nianians, sometimes called "old Nianians" left and settled elsewhere in Alastari. Those involved in questionable occupations were the ones who disappeared first. Many of the peasants and local farmers stayed. One example is the Clan Zuikaku, who refused to leave their valley, even though they were hunted ruthlessly by the Osksi. An influx of first Osksian, then Mordanti immigrants caused the city to lose much of its former character. The harvesting of kughas was begun by the Osksi on a large scale. It is believed that kughas may have been one of the main reasons the Osksi still wanted control of Niania.

The city, up until its most recent destruction, had been used as an agricultural center for first Osksi, then Mordant--growing mainly koa (a starchy tuber much like a potato) and, in the Zuikaku Valley, rice. They also harvested various rare plants (other than kughas) and animals from the surrounding swamp. The Mordanti built the first "modern" arena in Niania, which led to the rise of a gladiatorial caste in the city. This is not to say that smuggling rings, thieving guilds, and assassin networks didn't exist. They just were not as prominent as before.]

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Published on: 2002-07-14 (1528 reads)

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