“Little water, no mercy.”

Common mercenary saying about Zemm



Nestled high up atop the cliff-face known as the Wyrm’s Spine, Zemm is one of the harshest of all the Free Cities. Right in the center of the Plain of Sorrows, there are no natural wellsprings or oasis of any kind to supply it with water. It is the mercenary heart of the cities, and I have lived there for my entire life. The City of Swords, she is called. If Gadrada is the tomb of the plain, then Zemm is its womb. It is here that alliances and hatreds combine, that plots brew, and that mercenary armies are hired.

If you have come to Zemm seeking peace, seeking sanctuary, or seeking shade… Go somewhere else.

-Kohen ban-Tusatri, Water Merchant

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Zemm, and its founding

The city was first founded in X15 as a caravansary to supply food and shelter to those traveling through the mid-desert of the harsh Plain. In those days, it is said that the first Tejar rose to power. He was called Ma’ani ban-Achred, and he built the first cisterns and water-barrels and sold what he caught of the rains to the caravans.

It wasn’t until X88 that Arimachus the Builder transformed the little town into a true settlement. He was as clever as a dwarf (and I believe he was dwarf trained in architecture and engineering). He dug massive cisterns and storage tanks, and sunk deep aqueducts into the earth to draw water up from the water table below the ground. He built his palace over the earliest cisterns and called himself Tejar like his predecessors; but now he was more than a master-merchant, he was Lord of Zemm.

Soon thereafter, in X96 the first wars of the plains began in which the people of Blackport attempted to annex Zemm to their territories. In fear for his new-found possessions, the Builder used his accumulated wealth to hire a hobgoblin company from beyond the Straights of the Moon. In X97 the Blackporters had to retreat to defend their city. This is widely called the First Mercenary War, and many scholars believe it to be the introduction to mercenary fighting in the west.

Since those days, Zemm has served as the mustering grounds for many mercenaries the world over who take contracts in all manner of strange places. Indeed, during the Khewedi War of the Rivers in X202, the Great Priest Tekhmet hired his personal guard in Zemm.

Since those days, our fair City of Swords has grown fat with wealth, but still the commoners bake in the sun with barely enough water to drink and barely enough food to eat. The homes of the wealthy are made from marble or quarried obsidian, but those outside the Palace district are composed of baked mud bricks; so it is, here in the land of no mercy.

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People of Zemm

Like all folk in the Free Cities, the men of Zemm are Murathi; they come from the south, from Ishtria and Khewedi. However, they now share many customs with the Goblin Kingdoms of the Moon as well as with the places they trade by sea: the Essadi and the Dorlish. Slavery is common in Zemm amongst the wealthier classes. Garments tend towards Essadi togas though it is so hot that most people leave their midriff and upper torso bare; this has caused quite a stir in prudish Llyrian and Thyrnessan knights who have never seen a woman bare breasted in public before.

The Essadi custom of oiling the hair and the Dorlish custom of dying it has recently become quite prevalent in Zemm as well. Fantasical colors (even more so than the outlandish green the Dorlish sometimes favor) have become the latest rage.

Wealthy Zemmites are slaves to fashion; poor Zemmites are barely alive. The wealthy in Zemm usually have more than one interest. For example, I, humble Kohen ban-Tusatri, began life as a water merchant selling sweetwater from Llyris to the Tejar’s palace. However, like any good Zemm, once I made enough money I diversified my interests. I own three smithies in the Warmaker’s Quarter and ten fighters for the pits. I have even purchased an interest in the mercenary company known as the Flaming Standard (which I heartily recommend to any reader who needs work of a delicate or fearsome nature accomplished).

Life in Zemm is cheap. There is little law on the streets, save for the retinues the wealthy take with them, and people think little of killing one another for their water-allotments in the slums. Robbery is commonplace for those that walk alone, as is being captured and sold into the fighting pits.

Have a care, and always travel with your guards, fair visitor, lest you find yourself the newest acquisition of a wolf-house.

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Life in the City of Swords

Life is hard in the splendid city. The overriding concerns for all are water and shade. Citizens, those born within the city and confirmed by the Tally-Masters, are given clay markers which are distributed once a week. These markers indicate the Tejar’s permission to draw one jug of water from the fountain-plazas that dot the city. These fountains are always guarded, and those who take water without paying a clay marker in return are executed on the spot. Of course, since everyone knows this, it never occurs except when some foolish outsider fails to realize the meaning of the gruff men with voulges that stand by. Non-citizens may draw from the fountains for one silver piece to fill a single (Zemmite) jug.

The buildings of Zemm, particularly in the poorer quarters like the slums, are heaped up one upon the other, making a maze of street levels and walkways. The wealthiest of the middle class and poor live close to the ground, where the shadow of numerous canopies and buildings provides shelter from the sun.

Daily rhythm is kept by the sacrifices at the Temple of Blood, and the week-cycles are marked by the striving of the gladiators in the fighting pits (an estimable tradition adopted from Essad). The streets themselves (save for the fountain-plazas) are lawless and ungoverned. However, once in a while the very poor of the slums will try to raise revolt against an important institution; the temple of blood, perhaps, or the palace itself. When this happens, the palace district throws open its doors and soldiers hand-picked by the Tejar pour out to put down the riots.

In design, the city is simple. The oldest and most renowned area is the Palace District, which represents the original borders of the caravansary. The Palace District is rectangular and surrounded by tall baked brick walls. At its heart is the huge artificial hill (made up of all the past palaces of the Tejar) upon which sits the current ruler’s abode.

The rest of the city is circular with the rear wall of the Palace District joining the winding sinuous design of the outer wall of the city. There are only two gates in the outer wall, set as though a compass was laid down with its central point on the palace and the arms representing where the gates stand. The Palace District stands on the eastern side of the city: the gates southwest and northwest.

The southwest gate opens onto the Market of Swords, where the mercenary companies gather. The northwest gate stands by the Gate District, an extramural settlement that has grown up outside the city. No roads run east, for in that direction is cliff known as the Wyrm’s Spine.

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The Palace District

The oldest of the ancient Zemmite districts is that of the Palace. This square region within the city, surrounded by imposing brick walls, was once the old caravansary. Today, it is the dwelling place of the wealthy merchant-lords of Zemm as well as the site of the Tejar’s fabulous palace. Access is strictly screened by guards at the three district gates (which face west, northwest, and southwest and open into the pits, the markets, and the warmaker’s districts respectively). These guards are men from the palace who are paid for by the Tejar and the important lords of Zemm. They turn away ruffians and sellswords, ensuring that within the walls of the Palace District at least there is some peace.

There are many estates and manors of various designs in the Palace District. Most of these are on their own private grounds, behind high walls, watered extravagantly to produce gardens and fountains; a symbol of their owner’s wealth, for all that water must needs come at great cost from the Tejar. But these gated pleasure-gardens are as nothing compared to the palace of the great Tejar himself. It looms high over the district (and indeed, can be seen just above the tenement-tops even in the lowest darkness of the fighting pits) on an artificial hilltop. The Tejar’s palace is indeed built upon a mound of many other palaces from the past; The hill itself is covered over, but mined like a honeycomb with ancient palace rooms from the far past.

Entering the district is difficult, but once you are in, you can remain unaccosted on the streets. The Palace district alone, out of every other, has sufficient sub-terrain aqueduct work to funnel refuse out of the city so the streets are clean. The Tejars have long made it a habit to authorize squads of men to patrol the district at irregular intervals. These are the watch squads, who make certain that none of the nobles is engaging in feuding or warfare within the city streets.

Inter-merchant feuding is common in Zemm, I fear to say. The burning of warehouses, the destruction of property, and even the waylaying of litters through the city is a frequent occurrence. In X403 the Abasshen family was completely wiped out during a raid on their manor house. Since that date, retinues of armed men have been outlawed in the Palace District, and the Tejar’s watch squads make certain that this rule is enforced.

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The Market District

The markets spread out in the northwestern section of Zemm, a vast rambling region of tenement buildings in the Milean style and many small market-squares. The markets run against the outer wall and the northwestern gate into the city. The greatest markets of course are the Food Market and the Grand Bazaar, both of which are located in fountain-plazas relatively close to the Palace District.

The identifying feature of the market district is, of course, the various marketplaces, many of which wind between narrow alleys. Many of Zemm’s permanent residents live within this district; the middle merchants of the city generally take residence there as well. This leads the district to pretensions to wealth, without actually being as well-protected or wealthy as the Palace. Only the weapon markets cannot be found here; travelers can purchase holy relics in one lane only to move to the next and find a wolf-house, a flesh market, and a fabric market as well.

The market district is also home to the warehouses owned by both petty merchants and the great Merchanter Lords who dwell within the inner walls. These warehouses sometimes take up entire blocks, and are generally well-guarded by smaller mercenary companies hired out of the Market of Swords.

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The Slums

The slums are crushed up against the western wall of the city and surround the temple district on three sides. The streets run with filth, and the buildings pile one atop the other, towering into the sky. However, they do not come close to achieving the height of the Palace Hill simply because the slums are the lowest portions of the city; the Temple and Slum districts are sunken down in a shallow bowl, with the Temple of Blood alone standing out from them.

Murder, theft, rape; all are common in the slums. There are short, safe, wide routes that lead through them and to the Temple or the Fighting Pits, but any venture off of these well-traveled paths is certain to bring trouble. Men who prey upon the weaknesses of others dwell there, as do goblins from beyond the Straights who will gladly trade a man into slavery or worse, into the pits.

The fighting pits themselves are technically part of the slums as well; directly west of the western gate into the palace district, these many sunken pits are walled in a circular manner, and many of the Zemmites (including myself!) often attend the various fights that take place within them. Unlike the Essadi gladiatorial games, these are not run by the Tejar or any arm of the government. Rather, each pit is owned by a single man or group of merchants, and each has its own rules. The Pit of Bloody Sand, for instance, does not allow weapons within it and forces its combatants to fight hand to hand (whether against each other, or against exotic monsters such as wild Drakes from Zesh). The Pit of Whirling Blades is run by a dwarven fighting-master who designed ingenious traps that are hidden throughout the field of battle and often re-arranged secretly by various mechanisms between combats.

The slums are a good place to make quick coin, for under-merchants who lurk in the shadows on the lowest levels of the towering building-structures always have need of hired hands. It is rumored that the merchants of the Palace District have many contacts in the slums, though to me this seems little more than a slavers fiction.

I have below listed the fighting pits for you, and their specialties, so that you, dear reader, might visit those that interest you and avoid those that do not while you are in our fair city:

Pit of Bloody Sand – owned by the powerful underlord, Samnoch of Bex, this fighting pit provides only bare-handed bouts. No weapons are allowed within, whether the fighters are doing battle against beasts or other men of their kind. Fighter-on-fighter battles are rarely fatal in this pit, but fighter-on-beast battles usually result in a beastly victory.

Pit of Murderous Magic – the pitlord Mandor the Unbound, a powerful wizard and underlord of the slums, owns and runs this pit. It is a rare day indeed when one can see a fight here, for in the arena (specially protected by magical pylons built by Mandor himself) captive mages or other magical monstrosities square off. Mandor himself has been known to enter the ring; he loves to fight against regular pit-fighters, showing off his horrendously powerful magics by destroying them utterly. Fighting here is sometimes lethal, but sometimes not.

Pit of Public Penance – this pit is owned by the Water Merchant Thyon (Tallial curse him for a rival!) and is often used by the Tejar as a disciplinary measure. Prisoners and rebellious slaves frequently do battle in the Pit of Public Penance for the amusement of the crowds. One of the largest pits, admission is often free (or rather, paid for by the Tejar as a public service). These fights are always fatal, for no criminal who enters the pits is allowed to roam free unless he defeat and kills all things sent before him for a period of five years.

Pit of the Shrieking Beasts – beasts fight beasts in this pit; owned by the merchant lord Zamzon and supplied by his supposedly endless menagerie, this pit caters to those with exotic tastes. It has the widest range of animals and fell creatures from the earth over; often these beasts will be pitted against one another, but it is not uncommon for a fighter to face off against a brood of basilisks, for example. Fights are more certainly deadly here.

Pit of the Spinning Sword – owned by pit-master Vega, the specialty of this fighting ring is in well trained soldiers. The fighters are generally more skilled than the average pitfighters, and perform feats of dazzling wonder with their weapons. Fights in this pit are less often deadly, as the fighters required must be trained for many years.

Pit of Whirling Blades – owned by the dwarf Hrolfr the Poleaxe, this fighting pit is cunningly designed with many deathtraps. The floor is covered in a thick layer of sand, but underneath tha is an insanely complex series of mechanisms. These devices shift between matches (and sometimes during them!) positioning traps such as pitfalls and scything blades randomly across the field. Sometimes Hrolfr configures the traps into a certain shape for some purpose (such as ringing the outer edge with spring-loaded spears to keep the fighters in the center) but often, it is completely random. Fights here are usually to the death.

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The Underlords of Zemm

There are several potent underlords that control the slums and the illicit markets of Zemm; these cunning men (many of whom are not human at all!) avoid the merchant taxes of selling in the market district and also to engage in other illegal trades, such as the sabotaging of merchant trains, the stealing of wares, or attacking and killing rivals on the streets. The underlords are fairly well known throughout the scum of the slums, though not, perhaps, where to find them.

Andren the Scarred – one of the weakest of the underlords, Andren made a name for himself in 493 when he raided a water caravan coming up from Llyris. Luckily it was not one owned by myself, but rather a competitor. This daring daylight assault on a guarded merchants caravan and the gold the scarred thief must have made off of it have lent him a reputation as a young up-and-coming power within the slums. His men are generally the green type that are attracted to the glamor of a new underlord.

Mander the Unbound – Mander was once a battlemage in a powerful mercenary company, though which is up for debate. His magical prowess is undeniable, and he is the most feared and respected of the underlords in Zemm, not because of his contacts but because of his magical potency. Strangely, Mander has never utilized these powers in the pursuit of his aims. I fear that were he to, half the Palace District would be burning before the Tejar and his pet wizards could counter him.

Ix – the most mysterious of the underlords, Ix was once a member of a mercenary company as well. Rumors say that he rose to the position of captaincy before retiring with some of the eldest members to Zemm. His agents are said to be cautious and soft, planted in places before one ever knows they are there. I have heard rumors that Ix the Kobold was behind the fall of the Merchant Lord Haabor in X498; whether he was hired by an outside source or not is unknown. It is also rumored that the pitlord Vega knows how to get in touch with Ix, for no footpads do.

Samnoch of Bex – a hobgoblin from the Moon City of Bex, Samnoch is a brutal and cunning underlord who arrived in Zemm in X485. I have heard it said that Bex was one of the first places sacked by the great ogre chief Vasarj, so I suppose he might be an exile. He is one of the more violent underlords, frequently protecting his territory with bloody street fights that often leave some dead.

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Gate District

The Gate District is located outside of the western gate. It is a place where those too poor even to live in the slums may scratch out a living on the sand. They are not true citizens, nor are they mercenaries, and so they can neither afford (nor are they accounted) water from the cisterns. This leaves them constantly on the edge of death, and it would be more appropriate to call this area a colony of the diseased.

Worship of Hasht is widespread in the gate district, which is composed of tents and poorly built mud huts. Small secret temples to the god of pain are secreted throughout this mass of seething misery. The only reason the district has not been wiped out is that the Tejar finds it convenient to draft cheap labor from among its thieves and starving families in order to work on public projects; and indeed, those who come to the Market of Swords often find themselves filling out their mercenary forces with poor levees from the Gate.

Lastly, the Gate provides a good source for new slaves and gladiators for the pits; every month or so slavers will scour the Gate for strong men or women willing to sell themselves into slavery to provide water for their families.

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Temple District

The fighting pits form part of the Temple District, which is found some ways west of the west gate of the palace. However, its defining feature is the Temple of Blood and the somewhat less slovenly abodes that are directly around it.

The Temple of Blood is a massive iron dome supported by wickedly barbed pillars of similar black iron that stands upon an escarpment of sandstone, giving it a view over the slums and even over the top of the Palace District wall. The Temple is dedicated to Tallial, and many who hire mercenaries (and many of the mercenaries themselves) attend the temple to pray. The Tallian clerics there make several animal sacrifices a day, and once a month make a human sacrifice of a slave.

The temple is said to be awash in blood, and the Tallians frequently fund free fighting games by paying off the pitmasters to allow the public in. This is said to be a “gift of blood.” The temple is always wreathed in stinks and smokes, for the clerics burn incense constantly and the stench of the rotting sacrifices is often very great.

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The Warmaker’s Quarter

This portion of the city is hotter even than the rest, and constantly ringing with the sound of hammers. The Warmaker’s Quarter was originally a small dwarven district, founded by dwarves from the Arinnfal who made repairs to caravan carts and helped design ships for Blackport and White Harbor. These dwarves have since become more and more like the Zemmites and other Murathas peoples on the Plain, assimilating into our culture (though they keep their mining-gods). Today, the Warmaker’s Quarter is full of smiths of all kinds as well as merchants who bring weapons from afar.

The Warmaker’s Quarter is the only district in which weapons may be legally sold, and the Tejar taxes weapons not created in the City at a rate of 5% of the total price. Very frequently the Tejar will authorize watch squads to patrol the War District (and randomly, so they cannot be counted on to arrive OR to stay away); it is dangerous have that much raw steel available, and fights often break out between mercenary captains bidding on fine merchandise. Of course, the War Quarter also sells armors as well.

Of interest to the discriminating purchaser is the House of Fire. A dwarf smith named Molloch Brightbeard runs this large smithing operation, and is said to be able to provide magical weapons and armor to the wealthiest and most well-connected of customers. The House of Fire can be located on the main road leading to the Gate of Swords – a five story building which houses both his massive furnaces and his apprentices sleeping quarters.

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The Cisterns

Beneath the palace of the Tejar is a vast underground realm known as the Cisterns. It is here where the original architecture of Zemm draws water into the city. The tunnels and chambers that service them have slowly expanded over the centuries, making a vast uncharted warren beneath the city. The Tejars have been known to periodically hire mercenaries or adventurers to keep them clear of the strange beasts that grow in the dark, for every so often a repair crew will go missing.

It is rumored that there are entrances to the Cisterns throughout the city, tunnels that lead to that dark place of endless night. I certainly would not wish to get lost down there, even if they did eventually open up to the ruined underpalaces of the past Tejars.

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The Market of Swords

Oh! The Market of Swords! TO look upon those many colored tents stretching far out from the city gate, to see the glory that gives the Fair City her Name! The Market of Swords is where the mercenary armies gather and sell themselves out to the Free Cities, or other buyers. While fighting may erupt here, it is always between companies; the mercenaries are not fool enough to hurt a citizen of the City and risk their reputations and permission to be hosted before the walls.

The Tejars saw fit to raise a tower in the midst of the Market of Swords, which is called the Harrowing Tower. It is there that captains meet with those seeking to hire them, in private and attended by the Tejar’s finest servants. The Harrowing Tower is the coolest location in Zemm, for water runs through its walls at all times to keep its occupants comfortable, and ice is stored in its basements.

Once every three months, unless there is a war currently raging which prevents it, is the Festival of Swords, which brings men from all over the Free Cities. During the Festival, every company which can arrives at Zemm to sell its services for the upcoming seasons of war!

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Politics of Zemm

The fair city of swords is ruled by the Tejar, but the powerful merchant lords temper the mighty master of waters and provide balance. For while there is no formal council, the Tejar would be unwise to move without a majority of the powerful factions giving him backing. The first and largest of these factions is that of the merchant lords of this fair city.

The Merchant Lords are those men and women who, by their own cunning, have risen to power. Few are inherited, for the Tejar often takes into his own possession many of the properties of a deceased merchanter lord and then auctions these off in small parcels; this ensures that no families may retain dominance in the city and that petty merchants always have a goal to strive towards.

The Tejar in this day and age is Alkal ban Amza, son of Amzar ban Khalid. He took the throne in X478 and for over twenty years has ruled the city. His father, Amzar, aspired to be ruler before him, but could only amount to a Merchant Lordship. When he died, Alkal enacted a swift and brutal assault on the old Tejar’s palace to prevent his goods from being sold off. Since that day, he has ruled the city. Whether Tejar Enok survived to escape into exile is a matter of frequent debate.

The Tejar rules the city through the Tally-Masters (who register citizens and take toll of taxes), the Patrols (who keep him safe), and his own circle of sycophantic wizards and sellswords (in case he loses support of the merchanters). He also relies on the general support of the merchanter lords, though if truth be told the Palace could hold out against concerted assault for many years, and the Tejar’s private wizards could do a number on the merchanters.

The current Merchanter Lords are:

Akiva ban Azar – Master of the ore trade and current High Merchant of the Guild of Metals, Akiva ban Azar is a ruthless man who has systematically driven his opponents out of business with his tactics. I have heard it told that when the water merchant Haabor made designs on selling ores outside of the jurisdiction of the Guild, ban Azar had him silenced and his warehouses sold off, the proceeds distributed to the poor.

He is a rotund man who wears his facial hair in a chin-beard with connecting mustaches much in the style of Dorlan or the west. His manor house is plated in gold and silver, and it is said that any man who seeks precious metals should go to him. Akiva ban Azar has attempted to convince the current Tejar to switch to golden currency for five years to no avail.

Asach Empesato – This merchanter is the son of a Dorlish mother and a White Harbor father who came to Zemm to make his fortune. He has since risen to the High Merchant of the Guild of the Flesh, master of slaves and wolf-houses throughout the city. For a man whose trade is pleasure, he is quite severe in appearance. Thin as a rail, he has a sharp and incisive personality and, on the few times I’ve had the displeasure of meeting him, he has always left me feeling outwitted.

Dotai bar Yanna – Master of the Guild of Fire, Dotai’s people supply the coke for the furnaces of the Warmaker’s Quarter. A lucrative position indeed, Dotai and Akiva ban Azar work in close concert together, and whatever one supports you can be certain without a doubt that the other will as well. The smiths love Dotai and Akiva and call the two men Hammer and Anvil; it is clear that though he is immense, Akiva is the Anvil. Dotai is by far the more blunt of the two and has the low brutish brow and close-cropped hair to prove it.

Elazer ban Arach – Elazer is the master merchant of the Guild of Minters, which provides the ceramic coins with iron filings that make up the monetary exchange of the city. He is a reclusive man with a small manor, but I have a feeling his influence is cast wider than he would like others to believe. He is rarely seen in public, and then he wears a full toga and a hood (quite strange) obscuring him from the eye of the people.

Mardon Hadar – A dwarf master merchant(predictably of the Guild of Masons) Mardon Hadar has lived longer than all his other peers and has run the Mason’s for over a hundred years. They have prospered mightily under him, for he has made many deals with us water merchants for the creation of mud and also with the men of Llyris for stone. Mardon, a sour old Zemmite Green Dwarf with a simple chin-beard and red hair, has repaired the Tejar’s palace times beyond number, as well as the homes of the Lords. His guild has also done the maintenance and expansion of the cisterns for as long as anyone can remember. It is rumored that the Masons can spy on any they please, for they know the tunnels so well.

Marwa Mu’sa – Master Merchant of the Guild of Swordsmen and Pitfighters, Marwa is a young lord who succeeded the previous Master, Jufuda, by popular acclaim, which has never before occurred amongst the merchanter lords. He was a former gladiator himself, and has been a refreshing breeze of naivety in the upper city. He has been manipulated by all the factions before, and I am certain he will be manipulated again.

Thyel ban Sa’id – By all rights this man is my superior in the Guild of Water Merchants. However, Thyel is a lier, a cheat, and will soon be deprived of office. His family gained its reputation through the theft of merchandise, and I myself will be happy to see him fall. The Tejar himself is growing suspicious of Thyel’s actions, and it can only be a matter of time before he is found floating face down in a fountain.

Zamzon Bilal – Master Merchant of the Guild of Carters, Zamzon is not very influential within the city as he tends to keep to himself. He does, however, have a vast menagerie in his home and own one of the fighting pits; he makes use of both by having his beasts fight one another. The Carters are of dear importance to the city; they transport all gods throughout all of Zemm. It is a surprise than Bilal has yet to show his full might, but to all appearances the barrel-shouldered man simply has no interest in politics.

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Religion in Zemm

Religion in the city of Zemm is focused solely around two cults: that of Fortuna, the goddess of wealth and luck, and that of Tallial, the War Herald. The major cult is, of course, that of Tallial which is manifest in the Temple of Blood. The Temple is a powerful institution and its archpriest, Herald Salaman Xa’bi, is an influential man. The cult of Fortuna is widespread across the city in the form of small public shrines, but there seems to be a dearth of clerics; not all shrines are attended by them.

The Temple of Blood sacrifices animals daily and keeps the time by beating a massive gong as the hours pass. They generally support the Tejar, but can only truly be relied on to foment violence; if there are no great wars outside the city, you can be certain they are frothing the underclasses into a riot in order to spread the chaos and flames of Tallial. For this reason, the Tejar keeps them well-funded and well-appeased. The archpriest himself has ridden out to war on occasion with a choice mercenary company or two.

Most people within Zemm are dedicated to the cult of Tallial or the cult of Fortuna; there are those strange few who insist on maintaining private shrines (the dwarves are amongst these, worshiping Eirun the Earthfather in the privacy of their own homes). Frequently, those attempting some warlike venture will first visit the Temple of Blood and make an offering by purchasing an animal to be sacrificed on the altar.

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The Zemmite Economy

The Fair City has little access to naturally occurring gold. This has led to an institution founded by the first Tejars, back in the dawn of the tenth age. Rather than minting golden coins, the Fair City uses a secret process by which iron filings and clay can be combined to make ceramic coins of differing sizes. Gold is still accepted, of course, but the majority of currency within the city are these special tokens (which are also worthless elsewhere). Their presence means there is a flourishing trade of coin exchange which operates from the dwarvish clans in the Warmaker’s District for those who seek to leave the city and turn their Zemmite wealth into simple dross.

The largest and most valuable Zemmite coin is called an Iron Merchant, and is about the size of a trader’s palm, almost completely made of iron, and stamped with the face of the Tejar. This coin, within Zemm, is worth twenty or so platinum pieces of the outside world and used only for trade.

The second largest coin is the Sun Piece, which depicts the sun upon it. This coin is worth one platinum piece. The third is the Market, in which the degree of iron and ceramic is mostly in balance; this is worth one gold piece. The fourth is the Water Jug, which contains more ceramic than iron and is worth one silver piece. The last is the Common, which is fully ceramic and worth one copper piece.

The forging of these coins is punishable by death. Only the Minters Guild maintains the secret formula to produce them and this is an inherited membership.

The Guilds that comprise the Zemmite economy are:

  • The Guild of Brewers; the least of the Zemmite guilds, the Brewers do not do any brewing at all. Rather, they import Anarean and Llyrian wines into the city to supply the many winesinks. As it is the smallest guild, it’s High Merchant, Elareus the Elf, is not a Lord of the city.
  • The Guild of Carters
  • The Guild of Flesh
  • The Guild of Fire
  • The Guild of Masons
  • The Guild of Metals
  • The Guild of Minters
  • The Guild of Swordsmen and Pitfighters
  • The Guild of Water Merchants

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Characters from the City of Zemm

Those who come from the City of Swords may have several benefits over other player characters. The first is, of course, that they have been counted by the Tally-Masters and, when in the city, may receive the clay tokens that allow one to draw water from the fountains. However, there is also specialized equipment and a few spells unique to Zemm which may be available.


Black Glass Dagger (50-80gp): These dirks are made of obsidian mined from the nearby desert. While more prone to breakage than any iron or steel dagger, these tokens are often worn by the servants of an underlord to show their allegiance. On an attack roll of 1, these daggers will shatter.

Flyssa sword: These are single-sided blades distinctive to Zemm. (see here). They may be as short as knives or as long as true blades. The Tejars men are all armed with them, and many of the Merchanter Lords army their men with them as well. Their statistics are as follows:

x Cost Weight (lb.) Size Type Speed Factor S-M L
Short Flyssa (dagger) 85gp 1 S P 3 1d4+1 1d3+1
Long Flyssa (sword) 180gp 3 S S 4 1d6+1 1d8+1

Zemmite War-horn (25-125gp): These horns are given to the Tejar’s personal guard and often included as a gift to the mercenary companies who are hired beneath the city walls. Zemmite war horns are made of the horn of an aurochs and produce a distinctive deep-throated blast when winded. Some war-horns are simple and others ornate, reflected in the price of the item.


Wizard, Level One

Ban Avram’s Horrifying Desiccation
Range: 0
Components: V,S
Duration: Instantaneous
Casting Time: 1
Area of Effect: 5′ × 120degree cone
Saving Throw: Neg

This spell causes water to evaporate at a horrible and surprising rate; it will even be drawn forth from things which normally retain their water and is not stopped by any form of protection; thus, jugs will empty, plants will wither, and living beings will lose water alarmingly quickly. When cast, a brownish light erupts from the casters hands and all things that it touches are drained of their water in this manner. It can cause a total volume of 10 cubic feet of water to evaporate per level of the caster up to 100 cubic feet at level 10. IN addition, those living beings affected by the spell sustain 2d4+1 points of damage as water leaves their system.

IT should be noted that magical items (potions, etc.) make a saving throw with a +3 bonus against this effect and any creature with more levels or HD than the caster makes their saving throw with a +1 bonus. Successfully saving negates the effect.

Wizard Level 3

Underlord’s Mark
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M
Duration: Permanent
Casting Time: 2 minutes
Area of Effect: One creature
Saving Throw: Neg. (none)

This spell was designed by the underlords of Zemm to identify the allegiance of their servants. It works in all respects like a wizard’s mark; however, it is permanent when applied to skin and will only be visible when the affected area (normally the target’s left hand) is placed into water. The inks used in this spell must be made from ground gold and iron, and cost 250 gp per application.

Wizard Level 5

Pitfighter’s Strength
Range: 10 yds/level
Components: V,S,M
Duration: Permanent
Casting Time: 5
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Saving Throw: Neg.

This spell is often used to cheat at the pitfighting games when it is available; rumor holds that this is why the spell was designed. It permanently reduces the strength of a single target to that of a feeble sickly infant (STR 4). The subject remains in this state until a heal or wish spell is used to cancel the effects. However, the stronger the target is the more difficult it is to enact this draining of strength;

Target Strength Saving Throw Adjustment
11-14 +1
15-16 +2
17-19 +3
20-25 +4
26+ +5

The material component of this spell is a specially prepared glass effigy, which is destroyed by the casting. This effigy may never cost less than 2,000 gp.

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Abridged History of the 10th Age Idabrius