Wednesday 27 September 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #255: Welcome to Pnokath

Nine hexes northwest, three north of Alakran.


Where does the province of Pnokath start, ask those who tread the northern forking of the road from Mehershal's Caravanserai, or slope across the lonely plain depicted here? Lore has it that you approach Pnokath when you see the great carved statues called the Petitioners of Fate, and you are there when each of them seems the size of a grain of barley againts the horizon -- which happens at the northern and eastern borders of this hex.

The land of Pnokath, in the northeast of Wahattu, was more prosperous and open-minded when the Salt Sea of Ghem was a thoroughfare and not a barrier. Now the mighty ports and sea fortresses along the shore are habited only by the mad and desperate. Commerce runs towards the road Nam'aa and thence to Mu-Asharru, the capital.

Fertile is the watershed of Pnokath's curved and shallow river Kathithi, which rises from the western slopes of the Scarp as the Nahlu-Galal, changes name in the vicinity of Eryptos, and voids into the Salt Sea. The land about is naturally flat and grassy, but not without quirks -- stands of ancestral pine whose gnarled branches weld a veritable architecture, sunken slime swamps where the water steams off too quickly to form a proper lake.

By tradition, Pnokath is the domain of the royal heir. His dwelling is in the ancient town Eryptos, a nexus of trade famous for its congregations of entertainers who seek to satisfy the jaded tastes of Wahattu's second court. The young Prince is become a man of fifteen, known still by his pre-dynastic name Radiant Gemsbok of Autumn. By all accounts a good-natured, righteous, but impulsive ruler in training, his sport is the hunting of the antelope that gave his name and abound in the northern reaches of the gentle Dhuga Hills, south of Eryptos. Fearlessly gregarious, he and his entourage are rarely absent from the night life of the town and its abundance of jesters, tumblers, dancers, harlots, pipers, and dicing tables. And yet he most scrupulously observes every rite of his station. In particular, his revelries are a staunch tradition, demonstrating a marked lack of sour feelings and ulterior designs toward the capital.

Built with ancient stones of its own ruins, clustered about the sprawling maze of the Principal Palace, the historic buildings of Eryptos number still only a fraction of those that once stood there, as bare foundations in the outskirts attest. The town is without walls, a custom dating from bygone eras in which royal heirs regularly schemed and fomented parricidal rebellion. Dried figs, dates, and the wondrous honey of Shuddud are some of the special produce of the Eryptum district. To the east sprawls the dull backwater of the province of Kellu, and to the west the more hopeful habitations of Tilillu, where ambitious men and women are born.

And yet, the greatest marvel lies south of town where the Kathithi gains its name, where that river wends among rows of red and brown sandstone formations carved over millennia into foreboding statues of kings, gods, giants, and dragons-- a miles-long array colloquially known as the Petitioners of Fate. The megalith of Tiamat is notorious as a place of execution, where the guilty are dropped without ceremony into one of the five maws from which there is no return. West of them, another carved formation in the shape of a rearing Bahamut with crystal horns houses the severe wizard Kul-gattur, retired from the cares of the world but with several former students ensconced in the town.

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