|Government||The Merchant Dukes|
|Ruler||Bellas Thanatar, Supreme Scepter of Calaunt|
|Exports||Preserved meats, wool, leather and vellum|
Calaunt is a medium-sized city in The Vast, located where the River Vesper flows into the Dragon Reach in a wide delta. It is a squalid, depressing city of tumble-down buildings and rotting slums, with only a few upper-class merchants and adventurers with manors along the outer wall. The chief business of the city is tanning, and the smell of the largest tannery overwhelms all other scents in the hot summer months. Mariners can teach Calaunt on smell alone.
Calaunt is ruled by Supreme Scepter Bellas Thanarar . His regime is supported by the Merchant Dukes, six former adventuring companions known as "Bellas's Band," who became rich by following Bellas's orders, and richer still by helping him run Calaunt. The dukes are: Iritar "the Dark", a cold and sadistic man known for creative butchery of apprentices who have displeased him; Saleska Mintharl, "Shield of Tempus"; Alascartha Vyperwood; Pirithin Alagost; Halabankh Ormsarr; Haldyn Stormkin (NG hm F10), possessed of a 9-foot stature.
Calaunt is a magical place, but in a fell, fey manner, lacking any of the grace and wonder of other cities with heavy magic in use. Its gate guards are six stone golems, huge hulking brutes intended to cow the population as much as provide protection. The Supreme Scepter and the Merchant Dukes are all assumed to possess a great many personal magical items and are always looking for more, but those items are for personal use, and are rarely wielded in the name of Calaunt.
Calaunt has a standing army, The Teeth of Calaunt, of 6,000 soldiers, led by 20 captains, each with a supporting battlemage. In addition, the free city has a navy of six ships, used mainly to keep pirates at bay.
Two large temples dominate Calauntan life. The House of the Scarlet Hooks is a temple of Loviatar headed by Shaleen "Talonkiss" Oomreen, who is supported by 24 priests. For those of a more beneficent nature, Calaunt is also graced by the Moonsilver House, the temple of Selûne run by High Priestess Wyndra Syrylsrone and 22 of her followers. There are also shrines to Auril, Malar, Tabs, Tempus, and Lliira within the city walls.
Calaunt has a large and active thieves' guild in the form of the Shadowcloaks, a mysterious gathering of low-level thieves under the command of the Night Hood. The wide-ranging activities of the Shadowcloaks are indicative of some form of tight relationship between the guild and the Merchant Dukes.
Calaunt is a large city (the third largest in the Vast, though behind Procampur in wealth) but a forgotten town, filled with twisting back streets and dark doings. It is a refuge for the lawless and the outcast, the forgotten and the forbidden. Local legends of great beasts occupying the sewers and slavers raiding in the middle of the night may be so much nightfog or they may be deadly and true in shadowed Calaunt.
- Redfires Inn, a large, popular place with clientele of many races, where boar-pie cooks, pleasure-girls and wine-vendors from across the city offer room service (good/expensive);
- The Weeping Unicorn inn and tavern, a quiet, cozy dockside spot favored by evil characters who wish to do business. The "no fighting" house rule is strictly observed by all, because transgressors seem to always meet with a cockatrice and end up as cellar ornaments (good/moderate);
- The Mocking Maiden inn and tavern, a jolly, bustling place that specializes in lots of good food and in pleasing adventurers (excellent/moderate);
- The Dracolisk's Head inn, a quiet, shabby, rather snobbish place of faded glories but lots of side-entrances and sewer-passages for handy getaways (poor/cheap).
Important Features in TownEdit
Calaunt is dominated by the wide delta of the River Vesper, which flows through the center of the city to empty into the Dragonreach. In high summer, the stinking mud of this fertile delta is the playground of the city's children, and the treacherous working-ground of clam diggers and worm-catchers.
The rest of the city is a nondescript cluster of gray stone buildings, jammed together without parks or trees to break their gloom. The city's cobbled streets are usually littered with refuse and the stink of the dockside tanneries and the harborwater they pollute hangs over the city.
The buildings belonging to the rich and important lie to the north and east, along the city wall. The merchants and the successful live to the south, leaving the center and the west (the docks) as working and slum areas. This is probably the most squalid city of the Dragonreach.
Visitors will look for landmarks in vain. Perhaps the most memorable structure is the double-spired temple of Loviatar, from which muffled screams can often be heard.
The largest building in Calaunt is the Fortress of the Five Vultures, an old and massive baronial castle that preceded Calaunt's growth into a city, and bears its name as a relic of long-dead robber barons. It now serves as a barracks and jail, as well as holding the rooms of state used by the Supreme Scepter and the dukes. It is a purely local joke to refer to the place as "the Sevensroost."
Each of the dukes has a palatial residence near the fortress, which is attached by a flying bridge of weathered stone to the Keep of the Scepter, where Bellas lives.
Rivaling the fortress in size is the largest of Calaunt's tanneries, located where the northern run of the city wall reaches the water. It is another local joke that no guard tower is needed there, because "the smell of the tannery alone guards our backs."
Formerly the village of Vespermouth, Calaunt is the third-largest city in the Vast, behind Tantras and Ravens Bluff.
To adventurers, Calaunt is both an interesting and forbidding place. Always awash in intrigue and rumors, it is frequently the scene of screams and the clash of steel in the streets after dark, and huddled bodies on the cobbles in the morning.
Evil magic slumbers here, Dragonreach lore holds, hidden away but not all that deeply asleep. "Calaunt's a fey place; always has been," is a common opinion. It has been a free city from the first, but rather lawless - a refuge for the lawless.
A persistent city legend is that someone in the city keeps a huge meat-eating lizard, bigger than two oxen, hidden away in a cellar or cesspool, and lets it loose on moonless nights to roam the streets, feasting on all it finds.
Certainly Calaunt has few beggars for so squalid a city, but some say that slavers quietly operate in the city, dealing with the dukes. Those who vanish in the night, they say, end up in crammed slave ships wallowing across the Inner Sea to Westgate or the Vilhon Reach, not in the stomach of some fanciful monster.
This is almost certainly true - and yet it doesn't entirely explain the huge teethmarks on odd, equine forelegs found lying in gutters on some gray mornings, or the strange, sharklike (bulette-like) fins sometimes seen moving through the muck of the Vespermouth delta.
Yet another legend tells of rich dwarven treasures, from when all the Vast was a great dwarven kingdom. These lie hidden, the tale goes, somewhere in the city, their whereabouts forgotten.
is a grim stone city of high walls that surrounds the silty mouth of the River Vesper in the shape of a gigantic bowl: its grandest, tallest houses line the inside of the city walls, and the lowest, most ramshackle structures lean crazily from prop to improvised prop, nearest the river (ancient warehouses and one-storey shanties).
The stink of river-mud wrestles with the reek of the tanneries for olfactory supremacy, in a constant, throat-tightening battle made worse throughout the warmer months by thick dusk-to-dawn fogs.
The tanneries stand on the north bank of the River Vesper, near the two rows-of-carved-gargoyle-surmounted bridges that link the two halves of the city. Except during violent storms over the Reach (which often blow out of the northwest, but bring fresh, damp air to the entire city), the prevailing local breezes blow down the Vesper and then veer southwest, carrying the tannery smells to the harbor and the riverbank slums.
Most streets in Calaunt are cobbled, mosses and clinging vines are the most prevalent greenery (trees are almost unknown, except as indoor luxuries in the tall, narrow mansions of the richest merchants), and buildings tend to be shutter-windowed, unlovely fortress-like boxes. Older buildings sometimes sport small balconies, but these are often crumbling and unsafe, and used mainly as a way to hang washed smallclothes for drying. Damp is an everpresent problem in Calaunt, and keeping clean is often a problem, so those who can afford it bathe in herb-scented oils and then scrape their skins clean. Many of the poorest labourers have skin rashes and molds, and hair that's home to many lice -- or is hacked off short and kept well-oiled. Open-web hammocks are popular sleeping-places, especially in the crowded homes of the poor.
At night, the Shadowcloaks make the streets murderously unsafe for small parties or lone travellers -- and sometimes even bursts into private homes to stab and rape and steal. Many thieves make "good honest coin" by selling strong drink and tasty cheeses, sweet boiled candies (usually sugar-coated fruit segments) and "softmeats" (spiced pates made of crushed fowl liver) nightly to wealthy merchants and to members of the Teeth.
By day, the well-armed Teeth patrol outside the city walls against "greedy Tantrans" and marauding monsters (and check all incoming and outgoing merchants' wagons), conduct VERY thorough cargo inspections in the harbour (there's no smuggling in or out of Calaunt, locals say, that isn't approved by one of the Merchant Dukes), and keep the peace in the streets. Uniformed, heavily-armored soldiers are everywhere in Calaunt, seldom in groups of less than a dozen, and will challenge anyone who looks suspicious.
This oppression has led to Calauntans doing most things (such as going to work, or to shop, or to taverns or worship) in large groups of neighbours, often with hired "shields." More Calauntans work as members of the Teeth than anything else, but the next most numerous occupation (before dockloader and tanner) is as a shield, or armed guard. Shields make up the musters of the city Lances, in times of war, but on a daily basis hire out privately as bodyguards and building guards. Many shops have frowning, bristling-with-blades warriors standing in their doorways and back corners -- and many of these men are skilled with throwing lassoes and using slings to bring down fleeing targets.
Shields seeking hire can be found at all city inns, taverns, temple gates, large and important shops, and just inside all city gates.
They're rarest in the streets of the wealthy, who usually have their own hired bodyguards. No Shadowcloak can work as a shield or work with a shield (upon pain of death for both), and any shield who betrays a client will be harshly sentenced (depending on the facts of the matter, this can mean death, sold to a slaver and taken away on a ship, or a public stripping, flogging, and tossing in the river, to try to survive however they can sans shield-license, clothes, and weapons. Typical shield fees are four gp up front for an evening or half-day hire, plus 1 gp per wound taken or opponent defeated or felled. (This increases somewhat with the apparent ability of the client to pay, and the proclaimed skills and equipment of the shield.)
Shields must be licensed by the Dukes, and wear a steel gray "diagonal-crossed-gauntlets-making-fists, knuckles-uppermost" badge that denotes this fact (a badge related to the arms of Calaunt, which display the two crossed gauntlets on a brown field inside a circle of gold coins, which is encircled by an unbroken loop of steel chain).
The coins on the arms of Calaunt look the same as the coins recently minted by the Scepter: rough stamped-out circles of gold, silver, and copper that have the Scepter's sigil on one side, and a key on the other. The sigil is a vertical human right hand clenched in a fist around a horizontal scepter, knuckles uppermost and fingers towards the viewer, with a scepter being a plain metal bar ending in a four-pointed star at each end. The key is a long-barreled device etched on the diagonal, with a two-flange-end at the viewer's lower left, and a three-loop-leaf handles at the viewer's upper right. Behind it are three parallel wavy horizontal lines, representing waves (and Calauntan shipping).
The typical Calauntan manner is a truculent, wary, self-first cynicism, with most folk working doggedly and determinedly to support themselves and to get their fun despite the dangers and the tyranny.
Calauntans love to dance, and love to bake in warmth around fires, often on cushions laid atop rocks heated by the fires. Most of them also love to drink and to engage in lovemaking (as fun and not with any feelings of love involved, so that a happy couple will go to a club and separate to seek pleasure with various partners, often telling each other their experiences afterwards, when they're home again and falling asleep in bed together). Music (beyond a low, undulating dance-beat, often led by hand-drums, a lone, low-voiced "wordless wailing" singer, and a low-pitched shawm or gloon) and other noisemaking isn't appreciated or valued in Calaunt, and talk against the Dukes or their magic is frowned upon, because "you never know when one o' them sharpears might be listening -- with a spell, see?"
It's common for dockworkers to work as long as necessary when ships arrive, but many other folk work "four days on and then two days off," leaving most of one day off for laundry, food-shopping, and other errands, and the rest of the time for pursuing pleasures and sleeping it all off. A typical shop will be owned and run by a family, and employ two to three other persons, so as to keep the shop open the usual hours (late morning to dusk) every day, and yet permit individuals to keep to this "time on, time off" cycle. The lowest-ranking employees, of course, must come in whenever needed, and so can't keep such a regular cycle, snatching both work and pleasure time when they can.
Calauntans who don't enjoy drinking or "lauthlar" (swinging) often gather in little private groups or clubs centered around a common interest (from playing particular gambling games or sculpting little curios to collecting tapestries; only dabbling in magic is outlawed among such interests, though much of this defiantly goes on). These groups usually meet at the home of one of their members.
The wealthiest Calauntans, of course, avidly follow fashions from elsewhere, often paying retainers to adventurers, minstrels, or merchants to bring them regular news from the wider world.
"Every Calauntan knows" that the Scepter is a figurehead controlled by the Merchant Dukes, and that "there's something odd" about the Barons of Calaunt. It's widely known that the Dukes use fell magic to spy on everyone, and permit no mage of any power to tarry or dwell in Calaunt (or any magic item brought inside the walls to remain outside of their possession for long). What Calauntans disagree heatedly over -- and engage in ongoing lively gossip and even wagering about -- is what the Dukes are REALLY up to, who they're allied with (from neighbouring rulers to dragons or beholders or even the drow of the Deep Realms), and what their future plans are.
Whatever truth there might be among all the speculations, it's generally understood that the mage Iritar the Dark is truly evil, and that most of his fellow Dukes are more fun-loving, increasingly-corrupt retired adventurers than anything else, who delight in wallowing in the pleasures and riches of having "made it," and like to think of themselves as folk of importance in the world -- folk whose reputations allow them to participate in the intrigues of the high and mighty.
As I told Lashan in an earlier post, I kept things mysterious so you can ally the Dukes with agents from Zhentil Keep or anywhere else you'd like to pick, from unscrupulous Sembian slavers to drug-runners and pirates serving masters in Westgate -- or with no one at all. What is certain is that they prevent new temples from being founded because they don't want priests challenging their authority and 'influence through silent threat,' that their aggressive defenses of the city have forced Tantras into a wary truce, and that they poisoned and murdered their way into power by downing the merchant lords of Calaunt until the survivors cowered and let them have their way.
Less certain is how they prevented the Red Wizards from establishing a trading enclave in the city -- unless the Thayans merely took stock of the situation, decided Calauntans weren't worth the trouble as a market for magic items (local wealth is paltry, overthrowing the Dukes would be necessary to allow untrammeled trade in magic items, and such an upheaval might well goad other Dragonreach cities into mustering armies against Calaunt) and fighting Iritar and his servitors and allies was just too much trouble. There are rumours that Iritar reached a private agreement with a lone Red Wizard (some even say he's having a secret love affair with a female Red Wizard) to win a special status for Calaunt -- although just what that status might be is yet another mystery.
After the sinister Iritar, Alascartha Vyperwood is the most interesting duke. Flame-haired and strong-spirited, but possessed of iron self-control and a glib tongue, she has apparently carried on affairs with all of her fellow Dukes at various times during their adventuring careers, and although they are all wary of her now, she remains the confidant of all but Iritar, and the firm business-partner of the halfling Pirithin Alagost, himself a tireless (if shady) mercantile entrepreneur. Alascartha dreams of being accepted into the ranks of nobles in Cormyr or perhaps even Waterdeep, but failing that would settle for the nobility of Sembia, and is known to have paid handsomely for knowledge of neareby portals leading to upland Sembia and to Marsember, and have paid even more for 'inside' information about Cormyr's noble families (little customs and points of etiquette, who hates whom and why, and so on). On rare occasions she sneaks out of Calaunt for a night to attend a revel somewhere in Cormyr, seeking to be accepted as a noble and just hang out with REAL nobles. This of course makes her ripe for participation in the various conspiracies, and the War Wizards have identified her and are now watching for her visits, though they've no intention of stopping her (they want someone to approach her to join a conspiracy, and thereby reveal to them more about that particular conspiracy).
The Dukes dwell in palatial, balcony-and-carving-festooned fortresses at the eastern end of the southern half of the city, near the Fortress of Five Vultures (the government buildings) and the adjacent Keep of the Scepter (abode of the figurehead ruler, and where important guests and envoys are housed). Most of the houses are actually "south, across the road" from those two state buildings, the road being Shardouk Street, which runs through the heart of the southern half of the city before curving north to cross the Vesper at the easternmost or upstream bridge, Klauntspires, and run along the inside of the city wall for most of the length of the north half of the city (the other bridge, Amundurspires, carries the street known as Malvesker's Run across the river; it also runs through the north half of the city, but exits the south half of the city through Ontrar's Gate; in both cases, the "spires" part of the bridge name refers to the fang-like upswept stone points of the bridge walls, carved into writhing masses of gargoyles that are rumored to be mainly carvings but also to include real gargoyles that go hunting [people on the streets] when Iritar calls them forth -- or when the night-fogs are thickest).