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Valamantis--Arena 62

Valamantis straddles the mouth of the River Feyranse, looking out over Skybreak Bay, on the shore of the freshwater sea known as the Trier, which is fed by glaciers. The city is surrounded by freshly cleared fields, with its back to the eaves of the Syrinwald Swamp, facing the three wooded islands known as Ashrain (given over to cemeteries and a temple of Ahringol, god of the dead), Tazrain (upon which stands a prison), and Ilwain (the estate of the Silver Mage).

Scholars have long argued over the origin of the name "Valamantis." It means nothing in Kannish, the language of the Delarquan Federation, or in the tongues of the dark elves, the winged elithan, or the swamp-dwelling karragit. Some say it comes from the language of the sea folk who are still seen, though rarely, in the warm delta waters. Tensekai, the Silver Mage of Ilwain, has suggested that the word might come from an ancient magical tongue in which "vala" means star, and "mant" means gate. Positioned as it is at the mouth of the Feyranse, almost in the exact center of the curve of the bay known locally as Skybreak Bay, Valamantis could, indeed, be considered the gateway to Alastari.

Valamantis has been inhabited since time immemorial. Anyone who digs a little way into the rich silt of the delta will discover ruins upon ruins, marble upon sandstone upon monolithic granite, giving mute testimony to the great cities that followed each other into the shadows of history. For the past three centuries, after the disappearance of an elven community on this shore, no one has lived here save a few hundred fishermen and smugglers. Why this should be, when the Feyranse offers such quick and easy passage for the caravans of the Great Eastern Route, and the powerful Mordanti Confederation is so greatly in need of a port, has been something of a mystery to historians and scholars. True, each city of myth that rose upon this ground one day met its doom in some spectacular cataclysm, and true, the ruins are definitely haunted, and true, the bay is treacherous with reefs, pirates, and fell creatures. Still, the glitter of gold has driven less ingenious people than the Mordanti to dare such obstacles. Why they did not build a city here sooner, the kings of Mordant have never said. But now, the raising of great buildings has begun.

The fishermen and mossrunners (smugglers) of the old village of Valamantis are a tightlipped, self-reliant breed. They are known to have close ties, business and family, with the city of Niania--a gathering place for the lawless and the hunted, a training ground for mossrunners, thieves, and assassins. Such are the ties between the two towns that the original arena in Niania (now a burned-out husk used for the Bloodgames) was named Valamantis. Over the centuries, the Valamantians have shaped the harbor to their needs, building traps for unwary navigators. With a Valamantian navigator at the helm, the last mile in to the docks is quite safe, if a bit torturous in its twists and turns. With any other navigator, a ship will most likely founder on the hidden rocks, and have its cargo claimed by the ever-alert scavengers of the village. Other navigators have tried to learn and use this safe route--to their woe, as it is never the same twice. Valamantian navigators charge a high price for their services, but the harbor is safe from pirates, which makes it worth the price.

Whatever held back King Tarall and his forefathers from permitting the building of a city, seems not to hold him back any longer. Some say the objection remains, but the Mordanti Confederation's need for a seaport has grown strong enough to override it. In the year 489, the Mordanti King commissioned the building of a wall here for the city to grow within, a fortress for the city's lord, a temple to honor the sky-god, Ankor, whose wrath is said to have fallen upon the cities that have stood on this ground, and an arena, to draw Valamantis into the notice and the protection of Sheila Greywand, the Lady of the Mists. These buildings are in the heavy Mordanti style, foundations sunk deep into the wet ground, dark step-pyramids rising among the mossy trees, vines growing on the interlocking arches and looming statuary before the construction is even complete. It is said that each of these great constructions is laced through with the protective enchantments of the Silver Mage.

People are moving to Valamantis now--merchants and artisans, shopkeepers, laborers, and farmers--building the city within the high vine-covered walls, cutting down the forest and laying out fields in the rich delta soil above the layered ruins. After some negotiation, a bargain was struck with the navigators, such that their constructions in the harbor will be expanded, a bigger dock is being built to accommodate more trade, and the mossrunners will be tactfully overlooked. Still, there is distrust between the old Valamantians and the new, and it is said that the Navigators' Guild is no friend to Clan Shanmarrik.

Valamantis is governed by Lord Garlor, patriarch of Clan Shanmarrik, an ancient Mordanti bloodline noted for devious brilliance. The Shanmarriks have ruled this region for as long as the Mordanti have been settled here, but their ancestral home stands a few miles north along the coast, and their hand in the affairs of Valamantis has, until now, been all but unfelt. Garlor is an old man, lean and swarthy, with a bushy mane and beard of mixed gray and black, and pit-black eyes under a heavy brow. He is a good ruler in that he lets well enough alone, most of the time. When crossed, however, he holds his grudges for a very long time, a dangerous trait when combined with the wiles of the Shanmarriks. He has five sons, three of them married, three daughters, one of them married, and nineteen grandchildren, eight of them illegitimate. His two wives are said to be his greatest assets, both beautiful, both skilled in the convolutions of Delarquan statecraft. The elder, Shathea, is a witch of no small power, cunning in the use of poisons. The younger, Pirasenthe, is a priestess of Ruvian, goddess of the earth, fertility, and secrets.

The opening of the arena has begun a new age for Valamantis, an age of progress and prosperity that shall never be disrupted by mischance, malice or disaster. Or at least, so King Tarall in his royal wisdom proclaimed. Subsequent to the opening of the arena, Lord Shanmarrik was briefly deposed and exiled, but with customary cunning and ruthlessness regained his seat in the Crown Council shortly thereafter.

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Published on: 2002-07-14 (1473 reads)

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