The Record of the North
Reyen is one of the city-states of Arbellor. It sits on the mouth of the River Deeping, and was once a powerful trading center, although its fortunes have declined in recent years. The current ruler of the city is King Kaera II of House Ogorin.
From the Works of Evard of Cantorhill:
Reyen sits on the northern coast of Arbellor, where the River Deeping pours out into the sea. The city proper is on the top of a tall chalk cliff overlooking the harbor, which is small but deep and sheltered from the sea. Broad avenues of marble, laid down in Floran times, connect the harbor district to the old city. They climb the cliffs in long switchbacks, which are lined on the cliff side by dwellings carved into the soft rock itself.
The most remarkable feature of Reyen is the vast number of tall copper rods that rise up like trees in a forest throughout the old city. They range in size from the height of four men to the height of two-score men, and in thickness from that of a fire poker to that of a man’s leg. They are sunk deep into the rock, and have been there since before the Florans settled this place. Since they grow larger more numerous as one nears the royal palace, which is built from the ruins of a Gigantine fort, some speculate that they were put here by the giants who once lived on this harsh coastline. Others claim that they predate the giants. All that is known of them for certain is that they never show signs of wear, and that when one of the lightning storms common to these parts strikes the city they make beautiful but unearthly patterns with the lightning that flickers back and forth between them. It is accounted bad luck to touch the rods, and in more modern times it has become commonplace to cover their lower parts with wooden slats like those of a barrel to prevent accidental contact.
The people of Reyen are of unmixed Floran blood, since this place was uninhabited by humans before an imperial outpost was established here. They are tall and strong, with glossy black hair and fair skin. Local fashions tend to feature blue sashes, which are thought to bring good fortune, and multiple silver earrings are commonly found among both men and women of wealth. Almost no non-humans live here permanently, with the exception of a small population of tieflings who are kept in a ghetto in the dock district and not permitted to walk in the old city without a small brass badge that bears the seal of the city guards and signifies their name and occupation. Elves, eladrin, and dwarves are uncommonly seen here, but – due in part to the city’s role as a center of trade and in part to a certain regional reserve – not so much as to draw much attention from passerby.
For more than 120 years, the city was ruled by the House of Draenwys, one of a handful of influential noble families in the area. However, in 2137 K, the widower King Laerdis II married Kalinda Din’Mahen, an eladrin noblewoman. She took the name of Queen Melaya IV upon her coronation, but it is as Melaya the Witch-Queen that she is known to history. Laerdis II had two children from a previous wife, boys both, and, as eladrin are barren in this land, clearly expected no more. Concern for the king’s mind, the safety of the city, and the continuation of the Draenwys dynasty spread throughout the city. The rumors and whisperings only grew louder as the two young princes – Laerdis III and Davyen – started acting less and less like boys on the cusp of manhood and more and more like young eladrin princes. Their manners grew strange, and they were given to flights of bizarre logic or behavior more suited to those who had grown up among that alien race. By the time Laerdis III was to be named crown prince, rumors abounded that the boys often conversed in the tongue of the eladrin amongst themselves, and even the common people could see that both princes had unusually bright, tilted eyes and slightly pointed ears.
Popular opinion was divided on what the cause of the change in their princes was – whether they had always been half-breeds, or were possessed by eladrin spirits, or had been replaced by look-alikes from Jandana, none could say – but all agreed in laying the blame at the feet of the Witch-Queen. Discontent grew greater and greater, until at last the House of Draenwys acted to protect its interests. On the night of 1 Hekatombion, 2146 K, men in unmarked armor stormed the palace. Most of the royal guard stood by as the troops rushed through the marble chambers and corridors leading to the royal bedroom. When they arrived, however, they found the king and queen already dead. Some say that they had been struck down by the queen’s kin, others that the gods had sent their servants to end the Witch-Queen’s evil. Some, however, believe the tales that say that the soldiers of House Draenwys found Laerdis III standing over the bodies of his father and step-mother, bloody sword in hand and a musing smile on his face.
Thus, although the Witch-Queen was killed, the princes tainted by her touch remained in power. Ever after, the members of the ruling line of House Draenwys were marked by strange mannerisms, outbursts of madness, and vividly colored eyes that recalled their adoptive eladrin ancestor. The city suffered under the rule of Laerdis III and his son Laerdis IV, as gold and lives were expended on the caprices of fey-touched nobles.
The only exception to the poor quality of his bloodline’s rule was Laerdis V, who reigned from to 2202-2234. Laerdis V was a wise and just ruler, and his occasional rages impressed his followers as righteous anger rather than madness. He repaired the Arborway within the bounds of his rule, made peace with Cantorhill, and sent out fleets of vessels to find trading partners to the north and south. The economy of Reyen prospered, and many splendid buildings of old were repaired. In 2232, Laerdis V married Lady Theclas Ogorin, the daughter of a newly-noble merchant family that had prospered greatly in the thirty years of his rule. When Lady Theclas grew pregnant, Laerdis V ordered that a new wing be built onto the palace to properly house his heirs, and designed a magnificent garden which was to sit in its center. The wing was built, but it was determined that in order to make room for the garden at its center one of the greatest and tallest of the copper rods would have to be felled. Laerdis V ordered it done, and workmen were found who would risk any amount of ill-luck for the purse the king offered. On the night that chisels were first taken to the rod, Theclas entered into early labor, and died giving birth to Laerdis’ stillborn son.
The king ordered the work stopped, and commanded that ground cleared for the garden be paved over with flagstones of black marble. The pole he left alone, now scarred by the chisel-marks of his workmen. In the last year and a half of his reign, Laerdis V was a ghost in his own home, drifting about in mourning black, refusing to speak save at great need, and giving little heed to matters of state. He turned most of his duties over to his brother-in-law Kaera Ogorin, and took to spending much time in the black marble paved courtyard, now known to all as the Garden of Folly. It was to no-one’s great surprise that Laerdis V was found dead in the Garden of Folly on 12 Gamelion, 2234, apparently by his own hand.
In the aftermath of Laerdis V’s death, the elders of House Draenwys woke to find that their power in the palace and the city had been cunningly undermined by House Ogorin. One by one, the members of House Draenwys who could press a claim to the throne died in seeming accidents, all except for Prospon, Laerdis V’s first cousin and third grandson of Laerdis IV, who disappeared along with his retinue while on pilgrimage to the temple of Paella in Cantorhill. Its grip secure, House Ogorin took control of the royal palace. Kaera ascended to the throne, and his son, Kaera II, rules now in Reyen.
It was under Kaera I that the laws controlling the movement of tieflings within the city were instituted and trade with non-human areas slowly ceased. In 2240, Kaera II continued in his father’s footsteps by expelling from the city a small community of Dragonborn who had come to Reyen centuries ago, apparently fleeing political upheaval to the south. These moves did not cause much of a stir among the human populace of the city, which has always kept non-human’s at arm’s length. Kaera II has become unpopular of late, however, as the trade that flourished under Laerdis V has begun to dry up under what some say is House Ogorin’s mis-management and graft.
Indeed, there are those who claim that House Draenwys is not finished. They whisper that Prospon’s son, whom they call “The King in the Shadows,” has returned to the city. Many claim to serve the King in the Shadows, or to have spoken with those who do, and none know for certain if such a person exists or who he may be. All that is certain for now is that unrest is brewing in the streets of Reyen, and the wise traveler had best conclude his business there quickly.