Friday, August 10, 2012

B is for Baal Ngirsu

Baal Ngirsu is a major city-state with cultural and historic ties to the ancient Baal Hamazi empire.  In that regard, it was always an isolated outpost of sorts, a marchland city build in the furthest southwest corner of the empire nestled among the peaks of the large and free-standing massif known as Shatur Rock, at the headwaters of the Nikash River, which flows eastwards through often very deep and steep chasms towards the Kindattu Mountains, where it dives underground to disappear beneath the roots of the mountains altogether.  The Nikash is not navigable, so Baal Ngirsu is cut off from its more easterly "brethren"; fellow successor states to Baal Hamazi such as Ishkur and Simashki on the eastern side of the range.

Shatur Rock
Although separated by distance, the terrain between Baal Ngirsu and the more northerly lands of the Baal Hamazi heartland are not terribly difficult to cross--assuming one makes accomodations for finding water while crossing the dry and fairly flat Hallashu basin.  And south of Baal Ngirsu are the lands of the Haltash tribes--more wooded, and covered in their timber hill-forts.  It is no great distance from Baal Ngirsu to the Vajol Downs, and from there to the "lost province" of Calça, yet contact between the far-flung hamazins and equally far-flung Terrasans has been intermittent and light.  In many ways, except for their relationship with the Haltash, the Ngirsans have been more on their own than not.

As such, their resemblance to classic hamazin culture is somewhat distant.  They've always had a much more symbiotic relationship between the hellkin and humans who inhabit the area, especially given the relative strength of the Haltash "barbarians" who have been interbreeding both culturally and genetically for many generations now.  As such, the Ngirsans have always seen themselves as more "enlightened" than their brethren, who didn't throw of the shackles of oppressive tyranny under their hamazin overlords without violent revolution; at Baal Ngirsu, the tyranny was never all that oppressive and the way forward was established collaboratively.

Besides the lure of isolation in a beautiful wilderness setting, the risk of the Haltash, who are often territorial and aggressive, and relatively easy access from the north to the lands of Calça beyond, there are a few other draws to Baal Ngirsu.
  • While Shatur Rock is itself not known for harboring any mineral wealth in the form of mines, there are fortunes to be made panning in the streams and creeks that feed the Nikash river for gold.  Baal Ngirsu went through a period of growth not unlike a boomtown economy in the past.  This has since slowed, but enough people still make a good enough living panning that the draw isn't gone completely.  This of course means that outside of the city itself (and even inside, in its rougher parts of town) there is a very real danger to be faced by bandits, robbers, and other toughs who would rather shoot first, search for body for gold dust second.
  • The area around Baal Ngirsu is one of the best sources for adamantine, or starmetal as it's commonly known, in the entire Land of the Three Empires.  This is also not mined, however--the source is a gigantic ball of rotting and rusting metal, as large as a palace, that floats above the ground, at least a thousand feet in the sky.  It makes a curious and often unpredictable "orbit" of sorts through the area.  While its height makes it inaccessible to most, it appears honeycombed with holes, either as an artifact of its construction, or because of decay.  This honecombed structure means that from time to time chunks break off and fall to the earth, to be found by enterprising folks who wish to harvest the ore.  This gigantic ball of skymetal is called the Skysphere.  It is obvious from the pieces that fall that it is artificial--strange glyphs or letters or markings of some kind are carved on many of the pieces, though no one has deciphered them.  It has been in the sky as long as anyone knows--the Haltash have no legends of its arrival, merely that its always been there, and the hamazin discovered it as it is.  Nobody has any idea who could have constructed it, who could have caused it to float and wander over the area, or why.  It's known only that the skymetal ore is the same as that occasionally found at meteor impact sites. 
  • Refugees fleeing the hamazin cities to the north have entered Baal Ngirsu in great numbers recently, creating a great deal of tension and strain on resources and space.  Rumors of Hutran Khutir's rebirth might be garbled and incoherent, and exactly who is leading it is still anyone's guess until reliable reports come down from the north, but it is clear that some kind of great militaristic crusade is going on, and the only options are to join with it or flee to the lands southward.

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