In the Dawning Age, says the knowing sage
The city of Byblos was free
From her high-topped towers to the darkest bowers,
from the streets to the waves of the sea.
While the Pillar claimed its foes in chains,
the Byblians walked free.
But the ocean fell, so did sound the knell
Of Byblos-on-the-sea

A Byblian Children’s Rhyme
Population: 50,000 Governance: Lord Vahl Andrymos Defense: The Scarlet Order


The city of Byblos is one of the ancient wonders of Arunë. It is as old as Miles and, unlike the rest of the Free Cities, it’s population is not Llyrean or Murathan; indeed, it is thought by some scholars that the Llyrans of the east were simple tribesmen when Byblos was a thriving city. It is long past its prime; in the Third Age it was an island in a shallow sea that commanded vast trade fleets as evinced by some of the records that survived translation to the Second Empire.

Before it belonged to men, Byblos was the home of many Storm and Reef Giants. It was the largest of their cities, chief amongst the sea-lands of the eastern kingdom; now it is a shell of what it once was, inherited by the peoples of the modern age. Here, I shall present a guide to this vast ruined city built from ancient coralstone.

Tethlyros, Scholar of Byblos

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The city of Byblos was built in the dawn of time, before men or elves recorded history. It was the center of the kingdom of Thalasos, which was the easternmost of the gigantine kingdoms. The giants of Thalasos lived beneath the shallow sea that must have, at one time, existed where the Plain of Sorrow now lies. The city was fashioned upon a great hill and made from reefs of coral that were tended by the giants of old. It weathered the assaults of trolls from the dark ages of the world but was at last overcome when Thalasos fell in ruin; the survivors fled its streets to the north, where they joined with their brothers in Cloudhame.

For many centuries the city stood empty, the dwelling place of deep things. As time went on, the shallow sea began to drain, leaving Byblos an island. We believe that Aellonians settled the island in this period; we speak Aellon and not Llyric for that reason. In that age, Byblos was reborn, a new city emerged again from the sea. It challenged even Miles in the Third Age; it was one of the greatest powers in the east, but the sea continued to sink. The great Lords of Byblos dug deep trenches and canals towards the ocean to maintain her fleets, but the canals silted and filled with sand and now it lies stranded in the center of the desert.

Yet! Byblos is the original Free City! It was called the Free City of Byblos, when men were being subjugated to the Pillar at Miles. Our fleets brought trade goods to every corner of the world, from Atva-Arunë to Arunë-Oriens! The elves traded with us, and many dwelt in the upper spires, cutting them into fantastic shapes to fit themselves. The dwarves of Harnholme delved beneath her and made quays in her great caverns and all manner of people filled her streets. Even the giants traded there, recognizing it as a former possession of their own. Byblos never conquered, never built colonies, never made men kneel. Byblos was known as Byblos the Free.

The city of Byblos has been sacked many times since those days. The peoples of the city have dwindled. Now, there are more birds than citizens of the great Free City and the birds are everywhere. Drifts of sand fill her unused streets and the stairs we made long ago to reach the pinnacles of the spirewalks have in places fallen away or been eroded to nothing. We are no great city any longer. We are a caravanserie and, were the relics of the giants not left behind, we would have faded from memory all together.

At the close of the 8th Age many elves came to Byblos to escape the Plague. They live here still, up among the spirewalks. There are dwarves in Byblos too, three clans of the ironfolk. Halfling traders and gnomish scholars dwell near the Library and half-mad giants roam our silted plains. We are a city of shadows, a cancer in the heart of the Plain, and our petty Lord rules over us with the aid of his cabal of sorcerers, the Scarlet Order.

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The City of Byblos

In the center of a sandy waste, Byblos is an oasis of life. Surrounded by the long-silted canals of the ancient Byblian people (which we call the Labyrinth), she is a mass of twisting stone spires that shelter the few people who still dwell here. Most of the city is ruin, filled with the detritus of the ancient rule of the Byblian Councils or the roostings of the Red Cormorant, the Storm Petrel, or the Sage Parrot. Other, more unwholesome things sometimes dwell in those ancient spires as well. In the highest and most desolate spires, the mykras (they call themselves aarakocra) dwell in small tightly bound tribes. We leave them to their own devices, and they leave us to ours.

From a distance, Byblos appears to be a mound of utterly massive rock, stretching strange groping fingers to the sky. She sits on a low rise above the Labyrinth (through which there are many safe paths, though only one is marked with stone lamps to guide travelers to the city). Some of the towers are knit together by spirewalks which are bridges of wood, stone, or simple hemp that allow passage from one spiretop to another. In particular, the elvish spires maintain a great many of these walks.

At the base of her hill there yawn vast caverns that were once quays and docking places for her great fleets. Now they conceal the three ironfolk clans of Byblos, scarce though their population may be. It is said that they dug deep in the bedrock of the Plain to find underground reservoirs and secret entrances to their hidden below-ground kingdoms, but this is a lie! The rock beneath the city contains the cisterns, vast and only ever partially full in this Age, that once supplied fresh water to her in her heyday.

Sparsely inhabited, one can walk through much of her without seeing another soul. Merchants, Plainsmen, and travelers alike are free to set up their camps throughout the city and there are frequently a fair number of travelers who do so. Most cling to the few well-inhabited places in the old ruined city; the Library, the House of Knowledge, the Twisting Spires, the Spire of Lords, the Great Dock and the old Agoran Market. Each of these is connected to the others by the thin strands of traversible streets. These are marked with stone lamps so travelers know not to stray into the network of tangled alleys; at least, not without proper protection.

Of course, the uninhabited parts of the city are rarely dangerous. The Order, I would say, is truly the most dangerous threat in Byblos, much more so than any scavengers in the ruins. They serve the Lord as they once served the Councils and as we are told the gigantine Order once served the Titan of Byblos. But they are a secretive clave, always maneuvering to gain ground against the House of Knowledge and its proctorship of the Library.

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Men of Byblos

The settlements of men within the city tend to lie scattered around the Great Library, the Spire of Lords, and the Agoran Market all of which lie within easy reach of one another. These area is networked with small sloping alleyways that go both up towards the high heart of the city and down towards one of its many gates.

As the city is warm year-round, there are as many homes made completely of cloth as there are in the great roots of the coral bed. This lends the area a strange nomadic look, and indeed on the market days (generally on the Haeros days of each week, though in Byblos that day is known as Rayad) the Aogran market floods with extra tent-houses as folk from the desert come in to set up shop.

The roads from the West Gate to the Market are clear and kept so by the locals, who walk them frequently. Those roads are also semi-habited by men, a few goblin folk, and a number of halflings and gnomes that make their homes here.

The men of Byblos generally owe their allegiance to one of four organizations: the Temple of Quilian, the Lord of Byblos, the Scarlet Order, or the College of the Agora. The College, the only group that is not covered elsewhere, is an assembly of free men of Byblos that meets in the Agora once a month to discuss the situation of the city. Citizens are free to come or not as they please, and when the College has discussed something, they will generally send messengers to the Order or the Lord to make their demands known.

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The Dwarves

There are three dwarven tribes, or clans, that live beneath the city of Byblos. The great docks can be reached either through the Labyrinth or from the Agoran Market, where stairs and iron ladders lead below the city to its underbelly. The routes down there are marked with torches and lamps for safety, as some of them stretch off into the darkness and go who-knows how deep. The ancient vaults of Byblos and the Giants before that still stand untouched in the vast subterrene, and it would be a foolish man indeed who thought there were not ancient wards and guards set upon them.

The three dwarven clans form a single hold at the base of the city, near the Western Gate. The old shipping queues and docks of stone peek out from beneath the bluff of Byblos, and the dwarves often traverse the western routes of the Labyrinth to quarry stone. The clans are:

Steinbitr. The Steinbitr are masons and craftsfolk of both coral and stone. They make all manner of beautiful things from the old coral ruins as well as assisting those that seek to build new homes up above.

Vi∂tolr. The Vi∂tolr dwarves tend the few trees that grow in Byblos and it is said that they maintain a small garden of ancient poplar, joshua, and cedar trees for the use of their crafters. They are also excellent carpenters, wainwrites, and barrelmakers. Anything to do with wood falls under the purview of this clan.

Fornhárr. The Princely Clan of the Byblian Hold, the Fornhárr are warriors and rulers, and they have been the foremost amongst the dwarven clans since the founding of the hold here long, long ago.

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Elves of the Spires

The Spire-elves as they are called are a curious group of wind elves that live up amongst the Twisting Spires.

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The Smallfolk of Byblos

Politics in the Spired City

The politics of ancient city of Byblos are now dominated by the four great factions that reside in the city. Lord Vahl claims ownership of the Byblian Markets and, like his uncle before him and the other lords before that, the College of the Agora has agreed to pay him for the right to hold markets in the city. He provides a voice to deal with outsiders, as well as the personal wealth necessary to staff a small platoon of soldiers that he calls the Free Men, of which there are five hundred at any time.

The College of the Agora is led in part by the Great Speaker Khaselus, who ordinates over the gatherings of the free men of Byblos.

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Abridged History of the 10th Age Idabrius