Riztab stands at the junction of what used to be two major trade routes, one
going east and west, the other north and south. The site is sandwiched between
the Sarriz Forest (a branch of the Shewish Forest) and Kessel Dhan Urt Lake.
(The name `Mighty Bunny Lake' was given to this sheet of dark water by a drunken
gladiator in the early days of Riztab's arena and is not an official
name...partly because the cartographers flatly refuse to place such a name on
the map.) The east-west route follows the Urt River and the north shore of the
lake from Zukal and the coast of the Storm Sea in the east to the Isle of the
Eye and Khalhums Pass through the Daggerspines into the west. It is locally
known as the River Road. The north-south route comes up through the forest from
Khalani and points south, continuing to Murska and points north. In Riztab it is
referred to as the Forest Road.
The original settlement was built by Shewish Giants, and it is rumored that
the name of the town is the ancient Shewish word for adventure. (This has given
rise to more than a few `Giant' jokes as to what a giant considers adventurous.
Life in Riztab can be hard and rough, but it doesn't seem to meet the common
definition of `adventurous'.) The massive stone buildings of the Giants, their
dark walls pitted with age, occupy the highest hill in the area. This oldest
walled quarter of the town is called the Citadel and is occupied by the merchant
families of Riztab. In the last century or so, when business was at its best and
the traffic along the two roads heavy, the town expanded into a more spacious
quarter between the Citadel and the lake, which is now called the Old Town. It
had no formal wall, although many buildings were located so that they could form
a defensive perimeter by barring passageways between them. When the arena
opened, a third area, the New Town, grew up to the east of the Old Town. It is
surrounded by a simple wooden palisade.
Some years ago (the reported dates conflict), an earthquake of serious
magnitude struck the area. The original arena (an elaborate stone structure
which was not yet completely paid for) was badly damaged, as were many of the
buildings in the Old Town. The New Town, being built mostly of wood (it still is
mostly wooden), suffered extensively from fires. Only the cyclopean architecture
of the Citadel was unaffected. Either the shoreline subsided, or the lake rose,
and Old Town and the first arena have been partly flooded to a depth of up to
six feet; they have been abandoned. A new arena was built outside the palisade
of the New town, to the east along the road toward Zukal. New Town itself was
rebuilt rapidly (and I fear that some of the buildings are flimsy, besides being
flammable). Attempts to reclaim the unflooded portion of Old Town have so far
been unsuccessful, and rumors says that it is haunted.
At the time, the earthquake was attributed to hostile magic, probably
initiated by rival merchants in Zukal. This has never been proven or disproven.
At about the same time, there began an increase in banditry in the area, and
more and more of the traders' caravans that were the life-blood of Riztab are
taking alternate routes.
Now most of the population of Riztab (and it isn't large) lives directly or
indirectly off the forest around them. Lumbering is the main industry, and the
life of Riztab is centered in the New Town, an informal place with a frontier
feel to it and no real government. The merchants who hang onto their fading
fortunes in the Citadel would like to see the trade routes bustling once again,
and so they may--if the bandits can be defeated. The town is loosely run by the
leading merchants, who finance the Bounders and a seven-man constabulary. (The
constables, by the way, are tough men, not necessarily totally honest, but brave
and reasonably intelligent.)
The town's spokesman is generally considered to be Tokken Macrock. Although
he is not from one of the `Old Families' of Riztab, he is a resident of fairly
long standing, and because he is the richest man in town, owns half the
buildings in the New Town (including part of the arena), is the man to go to if
you need to borrow money, and is proprietor of Macrock's Pre-Owned Equestrian
Emporium. A very sharp businessman, Macrock is opposed to the formation of any
official government in Riztab (doesn't want to pay taxes and tariffs and doesn't
want an independent police force looking too closely into where he gets his
"pre-owned" horses), and will pull in favors and use his influence to keep one
from being established. He is rumored to have contacts with the infamous caravan
robber, Gjorril the Grim, whose hideout is in the Shewish Forest, perhaps not
too far from Riztab. He also sponsors many of the concessions at gladiatorial
tournaments, since the tourney grounds are relatively close to Riztab.
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