Nestled in a craggy vale along the eastern coast of Arun, Castanica is the dark heart of Clan Castanic. Smaller and less populous than Velika, the dark city almost crackles with desperate, passionate energy. Good and evil are concepts debated over spiced wine, not matters pertaining to a bargain. Castanics work hard and keep their word, but they’re also the first to tap the kegs and dance their clothes off. Anything can be found in Castanica—for the right price.
Glowing red signs and arcane projections break up the dark gloom that blankets the city, but just barely. Strange glyphs float in the air, crimson domes and spires glimmer over the rooftops, and the sacred Shrouded Rose welcomes visitors through the southern gate. Nearby, a lurid arcanasculpt of a castanic slayer dominates the skyline.
Castanica is not a city for the genteel. Its fierce, dark countenance, much like its inhabitants, can be off-putting, and yet there’s a harsh beauty under the surface. Castanics are cunning, sensual, independent, and resilient, and the city’s design reflects this. Thorny architecture, dark metalworks, and the passion-inflaming crimson lighting mark the unusually fine line between beauty and danger.
Clan Castanic is one of the original clans of devas, famed for their crafting skills. Sickened by the necromantic crimes perpetuated by Zuras, the clan fled Arun and made their way to Shara. There they prospered under the patronage of Lok, the demon god. Their role in the death of Balder generations ago made them outcasts to all but the amani. Outraged priests called for their sacrifice, many paying exorbitant sums of gold to bounty hunters who preyed on the diminutive folk. The castanics fled their old capital, Deva Victrix, and made the long journey back to Arun. Relatively recently, the clan arrived in the sweltering jungles of the eastern coast and began anew.
A slayer named Callida found the perfect valley for their new home. It was easily defended–ensuring the clan would never have to flee again–yet spacious enough that residents had some breathing room, an important consideration for these passionate, fiery people. The clan threw itself into construction work: tunnels were carved through the mountains, great forges smelted metals for construction, and arcanists worked night and day to give the new city the comforting crimson glow castanics so appreciate.
Within a generation, the cold-forged metals and carefully worked stone framed a city of mysterious beauty. Only the exposure overhead bothered the castanics, who preferred to work in secrecy. The arcanists banded together to permanently enshroud the city in a dark, gloomy—yet comforting—mist. Nestled in their new cocoon, the clan prepared to carve out a new future on Arun.
War of the Rose
The new settlers did not go unnoticed. Singular weapons and even more exceptional women lured neighboring slaver syndicates and pirates to the city. The promise of such rich plunder combined with the city’s strategic advantages made it an irresistible target, and the brigands all wanted it for their own. The skirmishes began, and the intruders quickly learned just how defensible the city was. Pirate and slaver deaths mounted swiftly, yet the castanics suffered few casualties, and Castanica stood fast.
Enraged, the pirates enlisted the aid of the demons and abominations of Fyrmount. One particular demon lord, Immoltarus, knew of the castanics and coveted their skills for his own infernal purposes. A deal was struck: the demons would gain ownership of the castanics, while the city would belong to the pirates. Two thousand demons, pirates, and slavers marched on Castanica, opposed only by three hundred castanic soldiers.
Immoltarus led the charge that shattered the first line of defense. The castanics retreated back into their tunnels, inch by bloody inch. The mountains shook with arcane might and echoed the screams of the wounded. With slow determination, the demons forced the castanics back until they rallied beneath the arch of the Shrouded Rose. Blood pooled in the streets, fire and destruction hammered at the arch, but the castanics held the line. For three exhausting days, the castanics battled the invaders until the tide abruptly turned. A trio of sorcerers sundered Immoltarus’s magical defenses, leaving the demon vulnerable. Callida led the charge and slew the fiery archfiend. The remaining demons abandoned their mortal allies as the castanics counterattacked. Callida’s charge routed the slaver assault, and the castanics took a thousand heads. The skulls lined the road to Castanica as a warning for decades afterward.
Present-day Castanica is known as a city where nearly anything goes. The Federation is an integral part of the city and its government, yet remains apart in many matters. Castanics govern themselves while other races use Federation emissaries and officials to conduct business in Castanica. The rule of thumb for visiting traders is, “Make a deal with castanics and lose to castanics. Make a deal with the Federation and they lose to the castanics.” The shrewd traders are well-regarded in all other respects.
With the artisans employed elsewhere, new businesses thrive in Castanica. There are virtually no priests in the city, so mystics do brisk business offering healing services. Castanic information brokers and intelligence networks flourish in these dangerous times and are highly sought after. The Valkyon Federation makes great use of their cunning allies: castanics run nearly half of the Federation’s intelligence operations and make up fully a third of the ranks of Vanguard scouts. This agile race also produces skilled archers and warriors as well as some of the finest weapon masters.
Castanica skulks between the darkness and the light. Untold opportunities await those bold enough to strike out and seize their destinies. Some castanics seek power and glory–for themselves or for the clan as a whole. They ally themselves with anyone convenient . . . or anyone they can use. For those with strength, cunning, and luck, Castanica remains a city of tremendous opportunity, particularly for black market goods and services. Federation merchants sell their goods in Castanica and buy contraband legally from the fiery-skinned traders.
Pirates and slavers, no longer eyeing the city as a prize to be won, provide a prime source of information.
The Shrouded Rose continues to glow, and the proud people of the city take their place on the world stage.