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Lapur--Arena 29

Lapur is an ancient city. Its brownstone buildings and narrow cobbled streets are built upon the bones of a city older yet. Beneath those streets are miles of black and twisty catacombs where the crumbling remains of Old Lapur beckon the adventurous and the secretive. Some of the catacombs are utilized by the city as a sewer system, others as granaries and public storerooms--but there are many parts that remain an unexplored mystery.

Lapur (in its most recent incarnation) began as a small and unimportant town growing out of the ruins of Old Lapur some fifty years after the last Chaos War. Its inhabitants made their living by wood cutting, charcoal burning, subsistence farming, and harvesting the useful plants from the nearby forest. As the years passed, some enterprising soul began to explore the surface levels of the catacombs and sell the odd and curious items that were found there. These artifacts brought good money and soon the scavengers cleared out the upper levels of the catacombs--even then the lower levels were considered too dangerous by all but the most foolhardy. Unwilling to lose their best source of income, some of the more unscrupulous scavengers began to make "fake artifacts" and sell them to gullible collectors instead of knowledgeable wizards.

Many of the great trading houses of Lapur thus got off to rather shady starts. However, once Lapur gained its foothold in trade, it needed no further assistance from forgeries. Whatever one might say about the morals of the early traders, no one has ever doubted their courage and ingenuity. Other towns and villages were also becoming cities, and cities needed goods and services that villages lacked. Sibikhas might need salt fish, Monuntial might need grain; the fine linen of Chimlevtal might fetch a fortune in Rodeki, and Rodeki copper bring an equal fortune in Jhans. Lapurian merchants dealt in everything and with everyone. Lapurian crafts guilds were also springing up about this time. Along with the usual smiths, carpenters and masons, Lapur boasts such outré establishments as the Clockmaker's Guild, the Worshipful Association of Printers, and the Astrologer's Guild. In the course of their dealings with other cities and their myriad forms of coinage, Lapur's moneychangers have established something closely resembling a modern bank which will hold a depositor's money for safekeeping and make investments. (Sorry, though the bank pays dividends on specific investments, interest hasn't been invented yet...except on loans...).

Lapur at its beginning was governed by an hereditary nobility consisting of eight to ten families, each of which was responsible for a section of the town called a "ward." The head of the family was addressed by the title of Warden; other family members held lesser posts and titles. The Wardens met in council every year to determine city policy, and there were usually at least one or two junior houses scheming to unseat one of the established Wardens. One of these unseated noble families, the House Jarrek, left Lapur and founded the colony of Morya half a day upstream. (The Jarreks were wiped out to a man when the Rirorni tribes conquered Morya and made it their own some hundred years later.)

For many years Lapur feuded with its erstwhile colony, until at last, about fifty years ago, the Wardens hired a huge mercenary army and brought the Moryan Charioteers to defeat at the Battle of Hyorn Forest. Morya was forced into a peace treaty, and in a monumental display of the cunning which made them famous, Lapur conned the Moryan leaders into pledging to defend Lapur and its allies from further incursion by Rirorni or Delarquan forces. A large mural depicting the historic signing of the Charter of Mutual Defense decorates the Guildhall, Lapur's main public building.

Unfortunately for the Wardens, the cost of the mercenary army beggared most of the city's old nobility, and many families were completely ruined when they were unable to pay off the loans they had taken out through the city's moneylenders. Sons and daughters of the great merchant houses quietly married into the impoverished nobility, and though the old noble families retain their titles, it is the guilds and companies which actually rule modern Lapur. The Merchants' Council, where representatives of all the major companies and guilds meet monthly, is where the real governance of the city takes place, though all new laws are still rubber-stamped by the Warden's Council at year's end. As may be imagined, some of the nobles dream of regaining their former power, and political scheming in Lapur is as common as fleas on a dog. For all that, Lapur is considered a pleasant town; its slums are not too wretched and its palaces reasonably modest. The city has no standing army, though the lesser sons and daughters of Moryan nobles are often hired as city guardsmen. Lapur has always preferred to hire someone else to do its fighting for it, and its contribution to the defense of the other Charter Cities is generally in the form of money or supplies, rarely soldiers.

The Wardens of Lapur, at present, are Arvegon Narantos, of Gull's End Ward; Mikala Varing, of Riverwatch Ward; Vlad Taltos, of Shreeve Ward and Dockside Ward (although it is unusual for one Warden to control two wards, it is not unheard of); Kahlimar Rogirin, of Temple Tower Ward; Semiana Elanit, of Market Ward; Gaurden Varing-Galton, of Hyorn Ward; Aspin Tekrit, of Blackkettle Ward; Findin Dalerit-Galton, of Old Eastern Ward; and Torentio Galton of New Eastern Ward.

The major religions in Lapur are those of Ruhor, the river-spirit of the Duskblood River, and Jayan, the god of trade and commerce. Jayan's followers are drawn from the upper classes and from caravaneers, while Ruhor's temple attracts the poorer laborers and the riverboatmen. The moon god(dess) Karn is also widely worshipped in Lapur in his/her aspect as the patron of smugglers and merchants.

Lapur is situated between the Hyorn Forest and the Duskblood River. The river front area has two rough divisions. Upriver is where many of the richer merchants and the old nobility have their estates and water gardens, and the location of the palace of Ruhor, the local river god. Downriver you may find the docks, warehouses, and shipping offices. Downriver is decidedly seedy in parts, and many an unwary stranger has strolled down a dark alley only to wake with an aching head and a new berth on a cotton barge.

Lapur is on good terms politically with Dullens, Morya and Khalani. Its major rivals are Chimlevtal and Rocanis. Relationships with Monuntial might be worse--Lapur needs the port of Monuntial badly, and thus cannot afford to antagonize the city much. It was proposed that both Rocanis and Monuntial be invited to join the Charter. Monuntial did join, but Rocanis remains independent. This benefits Lapur (an allied seaport, and more "buffer territory" between them and the Federation) but it remains to be seen whether or not the citizens can put aside centuries of rivalry, with Monuntial especially.

The Wardens of Lapur still wield a great deal of influence over the city, but the de facto ruler of the town is Ehrvan Torving, the guildmaster of the Shipping Guild. As the ones who have final say on what goods go where and how fast, the Shipping Guild is the most powerful in the city. Those opposing it have sometimes been known to suddenly lose fortunes when a caravan or fleet somehow "failed to arrive" at its destination. Torving is a rather young man (in his early thirties) of average height and build, dark haired and blue-eyed. Good-looking enough to be attractive to women but not enough to be threatening to other men, he has a devastating smile and can charm the sour out of a lemon, as the saying goes. Unlike many of the "merchant princes" he realizes that the old nobility of the city is still very useful, and cultivates them when possible. (He is engaged to the daughter of the Warden of Gull's End.) Utterly ruthless in business and politics, Torving is dedicated to his Guild, his city, and the Charter--in that order. His far-flung business contacts afford him news on almost every part of Alastari. He is ambitious and intelligent, and has far-reaching plans for Lapur's future. Contrary to rumor, he does have scruples, but it's difficult to tell which situations will bring them into play.

The Lapur Arena is a modest building, and the Merchants and Wardens both frankly view it as a nuisance and possibly a dark plot on the part of Sheila Greywand. The Lady of the Isle is not particularly popular in Lapur due to her decision to lump Lapur in with "all those Northern rabble" in the Free Blades Arena.

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Published on: 2002-07-15 (1462 reads)

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