Version 0.1c 3/3/99 Jhelom (City of Mercenaries) “The paladins of Trinsic know when not to fight… but the Jhelom mercenaries know that there’s always a time to fight.” Location: Valerian Isles, southwestern Britannia, off the mainland. Occupies all three islands. Virtue: Valor Government: Ruled by the Tribunal, three elected officials each from one of the islands. All are veteran soldiers from the Militia that guards Jhelom. Imports: Food, textiles, rare minerals Exports: Mercenaries, horses Heraldry Crossed silver swords on a red background. Geography The Valerian Isles were formed during the Cataclysm, a large mass created by lava flows from the Fire Mountains that were ripped from the main continent during the turbulent era and pulled southwest. As it shifted the mass broke apart into the three isles known today. (There’s an old tale that there was a fourth island, an even larger mass than all three, that mysteriously sank a short period before the first colonists arrived.) The northernmost isle was the site where the first colonists of the isles found wild herds of horses, in the southern portion of the isle. It is the most undeveloped island, although the Jhelomites have constructed corrals to keep the horse herds safe. The island remains, perhaps because of their reluctance to disturb the horses, mostly wild and undeveloped, except for a few supporting buildings and a dock. The center isle is the home of the city proper, and the Arena. At one time, it was low and slightly hilly, but it has become heavily developed. The only wilderness left is at the far edges. During the expansion periods of the 3rd century A.C. the Jhelomites became dependent on imports for food and basic necessities, and as a result the island suffered, as the construction spread out to every corner. The southernmost isle was mostly jungle, and was left undeveloped until the reign of Nesha. It is home to several supporting crafts and industries, notably the mage shop. The theatre is also located here, along with a tailor and jewelers to support it, as the Jhelomites have little love for the gentle arts, but the mages do. Climate The Valerian Isles are tropical islands, they enjoy warm weather and abundant rainfall year round. History The history of Jhelom starts roughly two years after the Cataclysm, in the ruins of Montor. The city, damaged and under constant attack from monsters, were also locked in civil dispute over how to handle matters. In the end, one large group, consisting of the more craft and trade oriented and lead by the conservative faction, set out towards the coast to find a better place to settle. (See the entry on Trinsic for further details.) The other, the survivalists and those who swore never to abandon their home stayed behind. In the end they were forced to abandon the city as well a few years later, and flee west towards the opposite coast. The remnants built small villages and foraged and hunted in the jungle to survive, and adapted well to their environment. The jungle tribes (as they became known) survived throughout the first century through a combination of far spread communities and making relative peace with the monsters that also inhabited the area. Most information on this era is sketchy, as only spoken tales exist now, but one notable event was the Battle of the Marsh in 67 A.C., where the tribes claimed victory against the lizardmen tribes there, and prevented them from moving beyond their peninsula. The peace would not last long, however, as Trinsic expeditions into the region to quarry stone roused many of the monsters in the area against humans, of any kind. The most horrific of these occurred in 72 A.C. when the Trinsicans inadvertently inflamed the wrath of the dragons of Destard, who swept south and east bringing destruction. Although brief, the destruction was great, and many of the tribes feared for their existence. In 75 A.C., a single man came to power on the southern coastline, by the name of Valeris. He united the numerous tribes under him, who sought strong leadership. He built single-masted ships, capable of limited travel across the ocean, to seek a new place to live. The islands were located in 80 A.C, and Valeris proposed colonizing them, where they would be safe from their enemies. Most of the tribal heads agreed, and by 83 A.C. the southern coastline was devoid of any human presence, and the islands, named the Valerians in honor of their leader, were settled. Unfortunately, Valeris’s peaceful system of rule did not last beyond his death in 118 A.C. The center island, after being settled, was carved into several feudal/tribal fiefs by the strongest in the groups, echoing their heritage as Montorians. The isles proved to be adequate at growing food, but not enough, wars were fought constantly over the scarce resources. Steel in particular was rare, and frequent trips to the mainland were made to gather ore to continue their battles. In addition raids upon the coast were common as well, to test their mettle against the monster tribes of the swamps and jungles. In 155 A.C., after a particularly brutal war, the feudal chiefs gathered on the central island and built the Arena, so that they could fight battles without causing so much harm and damage to one another. All swore an oath to follow the Code, which was established after several meetings between the most prominent leaders. This Code became the foundation of the dueling rules that Jhelom uses today. This was a dark time in Jhelom’s history, however, as they became known for their acts of piracy. Always lacking in basic resources, many of the chiefs staged raids on the coastal towns and ships to gain what they needed, mirroring the enemies their ancestors had fought over a century earlier. In 175 A.C., a new leader rose to power, by the name of Jhel. Unlike past leaders, Jhel was well-educated, his father Nys an enchanter. Jhel was also known by the surname “Wyrmbane”, as he had slain a drake when he was only 16, with a sword given to him from his father, and wore a suit of enchanted dragonskin leather, making him nearly invulnerable to the hereditary enemies of the Valerians. Jhel immediately united all the islands under him, by defeating each of the leaders in single combat. Then he set forth on a bold plan of colonization rather than piracy. Lord Jhel did not survive long, however, to see his city prosper. After defeating a more powerful dragon in 195 A.C., the father of the one he slew in his youth, the father of that Dragon found and slew him two years later, although it suffered a horrific wound in the process. Jhel’s son Nesha had his father buried in a hidden tomb, with both sword and armor, and renamed the central island of the Valerian isles Jhel-om, “The spirit of Jhel”, which eventually became the name for the entire city and culture. He also tried to continue his father’s plans of expanding beyond the islands. Lord Nesha is often referred to as “the last chief”, since after him there were no more single rulers in Jhelom. He was regarded as an educated man like his father Jhel, and a master of horses, but lacking in resolve. Jhel had been ruthless in taking control of the islands, and in preserving his power, he had been very much the “warrior king”. Nesha lacked his father’s iron fist, and although he was systematic in purging his enemies from the island, he did not pursue them beyond, leading indirectly to the creation of Buccaneer’s Den and NuJel’m. Nesha’s first plan was to establish a trading colony on the desert island between Vesper and Moonglow. Unfortunately, the plan was flawed from the start, as many of the Jhelomites who lived on piracy decided to move to New Jhelom when it was founded in 198 A.C., where their activities could be practiced with less restriction. Nesha also received little support from Britain and Trinsic in this matter, as they saw Jhelomites as little more than pirates. After five years, with little or no support, Jhelom was forced to abandon the colony. The NuJel’mites who stayed, though, quickly found new life through a trade treaty with Vesper. (See the entry for NuJel’m for more details.) Despite his setbacks, Nesha persisted with his colonization plans. Over the next two decades Jhelom ships were a frequent site, as they mapped, established trade routes and partnerships, and explored the unknown areas of Britannia. As the trade routes were established Jhelom warriors also found themselves hunting the numerous pirates that plagued the oceans, which raised the mainland’s impression of these savage but noble explorers. They joined a naval alliance with Trinsic, Britain, and Serpent’s Hold in 221 A.C. to defeat the pirate threat, which with their aid came to an end two years later at the Battle of Ocllo. (See entry on Buccaneer’s Den for more details.) Many Jhelomites also found themselves in great demand as mercenaries. Their battle skills, honed from centuries of dueling, made them natural warriors. Nearly overnight mercenary companies formed, culminating in the formation of the Mercenary Guild in 237 A.C., making Jhelom the sellsword capital of the world. (Formed with investment capital and aid from Serpent’s Hold.) In 242 A.C. the mage’s guild of Moonglow requested permission to build a shop upon the island to support their brethren whom often found work in the mercenary companies. Nesha, sharing the typical Jhelomite distain for magic, ordered the mages to build on the southern island only, in order to get rid of them. The mages got around this restriction, though, by constructing the magical pads that allow transport between the main and southern island. As a courtesy, they constructed one for the northern isle as well. Nesha died in 251 A.C., a wealthy man from the numerous trade contracts he had established, but without an heir. Fearing that a civil war would destroy the island’s prosperity, the remaining leaders decided instead to form a Council to rule. In 262 A.C. they voted to join the Kingdom as well, deciding that the kingdom of Britannia was better for the islands in the long run, as it would end their isolation, and also open their doors to even greater trade contracts than as an independent city-state would. This Council later was renamed the Tribunal, as there was one leader from each island, and it reflected the military nature well. The last major conflict the Jhelomites were involved in was when the Hordes of Akaz ravaged the mainland and Britain and Trinsic called upon Jhelom for aid. The Jhleomite companies sailed to the southern coast, their old homeland, and built camps in the jungles, making narrow but damaging strikes upon Akaz’s left flank, and drove the hordes north and east two years later to be defeated at the Shrine of Spirituality, although at the cost of Paws. (See the entry on Paws for further details.) Most veterans claim to have seen service in this war. The Jhelom of today remains a wild, haphazard place, a city of soldiers and war. And in the absence of conflict the mercenary companies consistently find themselves short of work. Even though they remain part of the Kingdom, dependent upon imports from the other city-states for survival, it would not be entirely surprising if were conflict to come if they would play upon all sides… Culture The People Jhelomites tend to darker complexions, because of their long years in the southern climates. Hair and eye colors range widely, because most marry foreigners when abroad. Skin tone tends to be craggy and wrinkles come early, from much exposure to the elements. Jhelomites prefer the idea of brief, but exciting lives. The Clothing In terms of fashion, they tend to wear an odd clashing of different types and styles of clothing, in any mix of colors, as they reuse materials often. Typical decoration is flashy and garish, a Jhelomite is more proud to be the owner of it than to have it look suitable for the setting. Armor and arms tend to be mixed as well, A typical mercenary company is such a mish-mash of styles and types that a Trinsic armsmen would go mad at the sight. Arts and Entertainment Jhelomites don’t tend to favor the finer arts, such as theatre, dancing, and music. They like music and bards, but their typical faire is loud and bawdy, or battle music, with heavy emphasis on percussion, to simulate the beating heart or stomping boot or hoof. The average Jhelomite loves the simple pleasures of life, and is perplexed and uneasy with the more “civilized” entertainments. Dancing may sometimes be utilized in the development of a new combat style. Crafts and Trades Trade skills are welcome in Jhelom, there is a large market for both carpenters and blacksmiths. Buildings in Jhelom tend to be thrown up haphazardly, though, and often need much repair, due to both a shortage of wood on the islands, and low budgets. Blacksmiths tend to either offer the finest quality weapons and repairs, or sell cheap junk to the more foolish. The area where Jhelom excels is in combat, they are unparalleled masters of every known fighting art, and usually invent the new styles. Unlike the warriors of Trinsic, who spend their time fighting creatures, Jhelomites are often fighting other humans, as a result, their fighting styles are superb. It’s often said that a Jhelomite can fight anything, given time to analyze it’s style. (An addition is that they can also fight with anything, there’s an old tavern tale of a unit fighting a gang of orcs with shovels and winning.) A down side of this is that Jhelomites tend to value any form of tactics that work. Survival and victory are paramount in conflict. All else is secondary. This can result in some slight in fighting, although they are quick to abandon feuds in the face of a common enemy. A common saying is “For every man willing to fight you honorably, there’s a hundred who won’t.” To a Jhelomite, fair play is something the other guy believes in, and they will be astonished and amused if someone accuses them of fighting incorrectly or without honor. Magic Magic is viewed with disdain by native Jhelomites, their ancestors often waged war with the dragons of the Fire Mountains, and they have both a natural resistance and aversion to it. Jhel himself was reputed to be able to shake off the mightiest spells through sheer force of will. They accept it grudgingly because of its uses, and they admire enchanted weapons, but given the choice they would go without. The mage shop on the isle does good business, however, many mages come to Jhelom to join mercenary units, and every good unit commander recognizes the vital need of magic in combat. That doesn’t mean a mage may not get ridiculed in the local tavern, but those that defend themselves well and don’t allow insults to slide past can become respected comrades. Ethics Dueling is an integral part of Jhelom culture. Jhelomites tend to be quick to anger, but just as quick to cool down, luckily. They channel their aggression and disagreements into their dueling. No one can be taken seriously in Jhelom without being skilled enough to defend himself in a duel, even if he or she loses. Jhelom considers dueling to be the one true form of law, and as such, there is little law enforcement outside the individual. Most Jhelomites only take one ethic to heart “Watch your own and your comrade’s back”. And pick your comrade’s well, of course. Courage is highly valued, but not stupidity. A warrior who throws himself into a battle he cannot possibly win is not brave, he’s a fool. There is no shame in retreating from impossible odds. Valor is seen as facing your enemy and defeating him through both skill, style, and wit, whatever means possible. In the end, it’s results that determine the virtuous. Government and Politics Jhelom today is a militocracy, a government run by the military. Three veteran warriors from the Militia, Jhelom and Britannia’s official army, are elected to the position for life after the previous dies or retires. Each one technically represents each isle of Jhelom. The government of Jhelom is very lax in everyday matters, this explains the current state of the isle. Jhelom’s political allies are Trinsic, Britain, Serpent’s Hold, and Skara Brae. Trinsic and Serpent’s Hold are fellow cities of warriors. In Trinsic’s case they share a common heritage. Britain is the seat of the King, and also has a fair compliment of warriors of their own. Skara Brae and its pirate problem are a lucrative source of revenue for Jhelom’s mercenaries. Jhelom has no permanent standing enemies, as the mercenaries are well known to fight under any banner. They dislike Ocllo, though, for their disdain for combat and warriors in particular, but since Ocllo would never hire them anyway, it never reaches a national level of ire. Of late, because of an increasing thief population emigrating from other cities, the Tribunal has reluctantly adopted Lord British’s City Guard policies, in order to keep the city from degenerating into anarchy. Holidays Some Jhelomite holidays include: The Fall of Jhel, the day upon which Jhel was slain by the Ancient Wyrm, which coincides with the beginning of spring. Visitors are often curious as to why they would celebrate his death, but to Jhelomites, he was the culmination of their personal ethos, a valiant death in the face of great adversity. Typically there is a large festival, and at the end of the day a great reenactment of the final battle, following the script of The Fall of Jhel, a recently written play. The Exodus, a day celebrating the colonization of the Valerian isles, it occurs at the height of summer. It bears an artificial resemblance to Thanksgiving, except that the early years weren’t quite as harsh for the ancestors of Jhelom. Typically there is a great feast in every household, and a grand banquet, which is held in the Arena. This means it is somewhat a rowdy and crude ceremony by other city’s standards, but the Jhelomites don’t mind.