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Mordant--Arena 1

Mordant is dank, moody city, located in the chill northern reaches of the Syrinwald Swamp. It was founded four hundred years ago by the Mordanti, a sub-tribe of the Rirorni led by Azran Rithwar the Hammerhanded, who had come out the losers in a battle with the ruling Hastok tribe. Traveling northward along the Selwin Trace, the Mordanti crossed the Shagornan Desert and camped for awhile along the banks of the River Selnaga, where the city of Jhans stands today. However, these lands were already occupied by the Osksi, another displaced horse-tribe, who were of no mind to take in poor relatives. The Mordanti were driven north yet again.

North of the Langrani Highlands, the range of hills which marks the Osksi's northernmost borders, the land slopes downward into the shallow basin of the Syrinwald. Though outsiders call it a swamp, the Syrinwald is more accurately a bayou. Such territory was alien beyond belief to the horse nomads, who at first intended to bypass it and head for the forests of Ardivent. The Ardiventi elves resisted the invaders fiercely though, and in the end, the trail-weary Mordanti were forced back into the Syrinwald.

The Syrinwald had long held a reputation for being cursed land. At the mouth of the sluggish River Feyranse, which drains the Syrinwald into Skybreak Bay to the west, lay the ruins of Valamantis, a city doomed to destruction each time it was built anew. In the southern reaches of the swamp was the fey, moss-draped city of Nerithsila, abandoned by the elves ages past and now inhabited by the Kelari, a clan of the karragit. Hemmed in by the elves to the north, the Osksi to the south, the ocean to the west and the Daggerspine Mountains to the east, the spirits of the Mordanti grew as dark and bitter as the waters of the Syrinwald. Unused to the new land and the harsher northern climate, their first winters were cruel ones, and many of them died. Their horses sickened in the swamp and one by one were slaughtered to feed the starving tribesfolk.

Azran Rithwar ate his pride and sent messengers to the Kelari during the second autumn, pleading for sanctuary. The Kelari denied them entrance to their city (for they were a dwindling tribe, and feared that so great an influx of humans would be the end of them) but sent representatives to teach the Mordanti the ways of the swamp. Thus the Mordanti survived, and in time their encampment grew into a city, which they called after themselves. The Kelari continued to dwindle in numbers, and within thirty years the ancient city of Nerithsila was ruled by Nian Rithwar, the son of Azran, and renamed Niania.

So Mordant grew, and grew prosperous after a fashion. Corn would not grow in the Syrinwald, but rice would, and cranberries and other plants were planted and harvested. Those less inclined for honest labor could harvest the moss which grew in the heart of the swamp, from which the drug kughas was made, or even more obscure and deadly plants which were sought by mages and apothecaries from far beyond Alastari. The Mordanti founded other cities as well: Sibikhas on the shores of Lake Kymarris, and Rodeki in the foothills of the Daggerspines, from whose mines the blood-red iron and copper were drawn. Even lost Valamantis was in time repopulated and restored, a challenge flung up to fate.

Yet life in the Mordanti Confederation was hard and remains so. The cities of the Confederation often feud bitterly among themselves; the blood spilled between Niania and Mordant alone would make the Feyranse run red for a year. In fact, on several occasions the Confederation has expanded its borders as far east as Dullens, only to have its newfound conquests slip away due to internal strife. Often the only thing which unites them is their mutual hatred for the Ardiventi, who have barred their passage into the fertile Andorian lands over the course of two or three wars, and of the Osksi, whom they have never forgiven for refusing to help them during their years of wandering. Farmland is scarce and poor and the specter of famine is never far away. The character of Mordant today was shaped by those harsh early years. Those who call the Mordanti a cold, cruel people are not wrong, but the Mordanti count these as compliments; it is what has allowed them to survive under the worst of conditions. Life is not held cheaply in Mordant, but the prize of survival must be earned, and those who fail are scorned and cast aside.

In the year 430 by the Frafrejan calendar, the Mordanti and the Osksi and some of the independent southern cities made an uneasy alliance in order to press an attack on the rich kingdoms to the north. They built a citadel on the escarpment of Delarq Tor, proclaiming it the capitol of the Delarquan Federation. In 460 the Confederation and the Osksi attacked the Andorian League. They were beaten back, the Mordanti faring far worse than the Osksi.

Mordanti politics is dominated by several influential families. The Rithwars have long since fallen from power, and it is believed that the last of them was assassinated several years ago, but it is possible that a few of them still survive. The current ruling family is the Grentrasks, who succeeded to the throne in 155. Other influential names are the Shanmarriks and the Anvoreks. Today Mordant is in upheaval. Some five years ago the aging king, Tarall Azran Grentrask IV, married for the second time. His first wife had died giving birth to their only child, a daughter. The new Queen, Zavreya, was ambitious. She pushed through an arrangement to marry the young Princess Talissen off to King Samir of Trocar, a distant and insignificant city newly allied with the Federation. Zavreya set about poisoning her husband, intending to set her lover up as the next king. Her plans were interrupted by an outbreak of violence in Niania, the latest chapter in the Nianian struggle for independence. Talissen returned from her Trocaran exile at the news of her father's illness. Displaying true Mordanti cunning and ruthlessness, Talissen discovered the poisoning and who was responsible; deciding that her father was a weak and ineffective king, she allowed Zavreya to continue her plot until Tarall died. The she exposed the Queen and had both Zavreya and her lover executed.

Talissen is, at present, the Queen of Mordant. Several of the old nobility have expressed doubts about the amount of influence Samir of Trocar will have in her court, but so far Talissen has given every indication of becoming a strong and clever ruler.

Mordant claims to have originated the arena games of Alastari. In actuality, there have been several cities which have held gladiatorial contests of one kind or another over the centuries, but Mordant is indeed the first of the "modern" arenas. The current games were begun about fifteen years ago, when a priest of the Temple of Ankor by the name of Oltactal the Other-Sighted called for a contest of combat and ordered an arena built to house the event. Two hundred warriors were organized into forty fighting stables and the games of Mordant began. Originally only free men of ages 16 to 20 were allowed to enter the games. They trained with the most skilled teachers of martial arts to be found in the Confederation.

The games, although intended as a religious ceremony/sacrifice, were an instant success with the jaded population of Mordant. A few years later, when Oltactal attempted to end the games, he was driven from the city by an angry mob led by Trell Archdon, the current Duelmaster. It was this riot that brought the matter to Sheila Greywand's attention: the gladiatorial arenas fit in neatly with plans she herself had in mind, and she endorsed them and encouraged their spread to other cities. Some Mordanti claim that it was she who was behind the assassination of the then-King, Alirun Grentrask, (uncle of Tarall Grentrask) because he objected too strongly to the great expense and waste involved in running fortnightly arena games. Others, however, believe that this was a completely unrelated event.

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Published on: 2002-07-14 (1476 reads)

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