Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hlatl, City of the Black Crater

The campaign centerpiece for my Xhuul setting is Hlatl, City of the Black Crater. Hlatl is one of the first and oldest cities to be built after the Great Cataclysm. Over time, the city has been built up over previous ruins.

The city is at the bottom of a large crater, which was built upon a rocky tor that rises up from the crater bottom. The crater consists of basalt and onyx, which has been quarried to build the many structures of the city. Hlatl is one of the first and oldest cities to be built after the Great Cataclysm. Over time, the city has been built up over previous ruins.

The land surrounding the crater is a vast dry, rocky desert of black sand dunes and rocks of basalt and onyx.

Originally, the base of the crater was dry and was dotted with old ruins. About 30 years ago, the crater began to fill with water after a series of earthquakes. The tremors created a fissure to some underground source of water that began to rise to the surface. The newly formed lake submerged many of the old ruins at the crater bottom. A few ancient towers remain above the lake surface. Along the shores of the lake, there are still some remains of the old ruins not claimed by the waters. A fetid swamp has taken root along the shores made of purple reeds and fungi and iridescent mosses. This new source of water has attracted creatures of all types that lurk in the swamps and stalk the black sandy shores.

The rising waters around Hlatl was cause for the construction of four massive bridges of black basalt and onyx to connect to each of the city's main gates. Also, to keep the water level within the crater at a steady level, a pumping station was constructed with pipes running up along the crater wall and over the rim, sending the excess water away into the black sandy desert. This run-off water over time has created an artificial river.

Hlatl is built primarily of basalt stone. All other materials such as wood have been transported by trade caravans. The city is ringed by a great outer wall. Inside the city there are various wards, which are separated by inner walls. The city's topography is on a gentle incline which rises from west to east. At the highest apex is the Black Ziggurat, an immense multi-tiered structure of Ancient construction. The Black Ziggurat is made of a black stone and crystal material that resists all harm from conventional means. It is home to the city's ruler, Kigloth the Mad.

Kigloth is reclusive and the day-to-day administration of the city's affairs is conducted by the Hands of Hlatl, a zealous order of fanatics devoted to the will of Kigloth. Public order and laws are enforced by the Kigloth's vat-grown homonculi, the Grey Men.

Since the city of Hlatl was built up over previous ruins, there are a myriad of old tunnels and catacombs beneath the city. These places are ripe with danger, but also ripe with rewards for those willing to brave the depths. There are several levels beneath that make up this underworld. The upper regions are generally storage areas, fungi farms, sewage treatment and pumping machinery for the city's water supply. These regions are usually patrolled and maintained by the city's labor force of mutant spiders known as the Xycil. The Xycil are the most adept since they can climb and scurry along the tunnels with ease, gaining access to areas normally difficult for humanoids. The Xycil are intelligent, but they do not speak any language known to most humans. They seem to communicate with each other by vibrations they make with their legs and also body movements. They can use tools as they have a set of manipulative hands on their thorax. They are not aggressive to humans and if confronted by violence, they will usually flee.

The lower regions is where greater dangers live. One such is Ramoskeph. A powerful sorceror, he sees the region as his "living" laboratory. He has access to alchemical vats that he uses to create all kinds of mutant and necromantic horrors to roam the dark halls, as guards and pets. Ramoskeph is not entirely sane, while his lucid moments are rare, he usually only has enough focus to complete his latest "creation" before he moves onto something else. Ramoskeph is a thin man of dark complexion. He wears silk robes that hang loosely from his wiry frame. His head his distorted into an elongated shape. He wears fine jewelry and gold rings and he has a long beard which is tightly woven with gold braids into a point. He has oversized ears and his eyes are pupiless dark orbs. He has many servants and slaves.

However, his creations have been a nuissance and a danger to the Xycil and have occasionally found their way into the streets of Hlatl.

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