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Vesper (City of Avarice, Den of Intrigue)

“The whole of the world is bought and sold in the streets of Vesper… Sometimes without the original owner.”

Location: Northeast Britannia, on the delta of the Glittering River, south and east of Minoc, west and north of Moonglow.

Virtue: None

Government: Bureaucracy/Syndicracy, with an Autocratic ruler, the Justicar, whom is freely elected by the populace in a Democratic forum.

Imports: Anything, Basic Necessities

Exports: Anything


A silver ship on a sky blue/white checker background.


Vesper is located in northeastern Britannia, at the mouth of the Glittering River. At the river’s mouth are over a dozen islands, formed by silt deposits from upstream. Most of the islands are developed, with stone bridges connecting them and the city of Vesper.

Most of the land around Vesper consists of temperate forest, much of which goes to the shipbuilding industry. The areas to the north and west slowly rise in unnoticeable hills, which the river flows down from Mt. Kendall and Minoc. The north and east areas are flatter, but thick with wild, unexplored forests. The rocky, listless peaks of the Barrier Mountains can be seen far off to the west. Most of northeastern Britannia was known as the Darklands two centuries ago, for they were considered areas of barbarity.


The weather in Vesper tends to be cool and rainy, although they get slightly less rain than Britain does. Snows in the winter tend to be frequent, but often mixed with rain, and because of the coastal location, it never gets cold enough to make large snowdrifts.


The exact origins of the people of Vesper are unknown, studies into the area have suggested that they were immigrants from one of the other continents. They did meet up with survivors from the city of Grey, though, and settled on the mouth of the Glittering River shortly after the Cataclysm. The islands were of limited use, as the delta land was far too low and prone to washing away to be useful, so most of the building took place on the west shore. The IronWood Inn boasts to be the first building of Vesper, built from logs of oak.

The people became quickly divided into two distinctive groups, the land dwellers, and the fishers. Since the land was unsuitable for farming, fish became the primary staple of the people. Those that could not fish foraged in the wilderness, and maintained the village. An explorer from Britain, who came across them in 15 A.C., was amazed to find them there, and aside from sharing much news, told them they were the furthest city to the east, “the twilight of the compass”. From this, the city gained its name “Vesper” in reference to an old word meaning “twilight”.

The shipwrights of Vesper soon tired of simple ships, and began to construct more complex designs, with advanced riggings to allow oversea travel rather than simple coast hugging. The first long-range ship was completed in 17 A.C., with many more to follow. One such ship was sold to a group of refugees from Fawn, who’s home far to the northwest had been destroyed. (See the entry on Magincia and Minoc for further details.)

The captains of the fishing ships often did more than just fish. Expeditions to explore the world were frequent in the early years, and Vesper boasts to have discovered and mapped many of the areas before anyone else. Few can dispute the claim, and even today the best cartographers originate from Vesper.

In 22 A.C., one of the exploring ships discovered Verity isle and two years later the city of Moon. They were quick to inform those in power in Moon that many people still lived and thrived outside of their island, and that there was the possibility of trade. The mages of Moon were solitary, though, and agreed to a trading contract with that merchant house alone. In exchange, they received goods they could not get on their island.

In 30 A.C., the orcs, ogres, and trolls of northeastern Britannia united into a large horde, led by G’kar, a fierce troll chieftain. G’kar claimed that all the lands east of the great wide plain were his. The fledgling city appointed a diplomat to hold consul with the trolls. The diplomat attempted to redirect G’kar’s aggressions towards another city, Britain, driving G’kar almost mad with dreams of wealth that lay in the city of the last king. After slaying the foolish diplomat, G’kar led his horde west. (See the entry on Uulder Malphane for further information.)

The destruction of the horde at the hands of Uulder Malphane did much to secure Vesper’s north and east frontiers for many years, as the various monsters fell to fighting amongst themselves, and staying as far away from Malphane’s Dominion as possible. Luckily as well, none ever discovered the reason for G’kar’s obsession with raiding Britain. Vesper paid lip service to Malphane, who distrusted them, but acted under orders from Lord British to keep diplomatic relations smooth.

In 54 A.C. Vesper re-established contact with the inhabitants of Magincia and setup regular trade, exchanging metal tools and crafted item for Magincian wool. (Today, Magincian rugs and carpets dating from this period are priceless heirlooms.) In 59 A.C., the merchant house in Vesper convinced a circle of mages to leave Moon and relocate to Vesper, forming the mage’s guild there. As a result, the mage’s guild of Vesper shares little in common with the others in the world today, and their goals and practices remain suspicious and enigmatic.

The first century for Vesper was prosperous indeed, as the village grew into a major town. A complex rickety framework of docks soon crisscrossed out into the water and to the islands, giving the fishermen plenty of room for their boats. The log cabins began to be replaced with stone quarried up river and brought downstream in barges. And as profits grew idle hands did as well, and much of the government ended up in the hands of the wealthiest and most successful.

In 98 A.C., the hordes formed again, this time under the ogre Yavituk. An extremely intelligent ogre and a clever tactician, Yavituk split his forces in two, one force going around the Barrier mountains, the other broke into smaller raiding parties, which started attacking Vesper from the north and west. Vesper quickly sent word to Uulder, pleading for help. Uulder dispatched his grandson Beordred with a large force to the area, where he was caught south of the Barrier Mountains between two forces. He and his men fought bravely, but were slaughtered to a man.

Yavituk spent a season gathering his forces again, this time intending to destroy Malphane, now aged and deep in grief for his son, and do what his predecessor could not. Although Malphane sent requests for aid to Vesper the city’s leaders refused, fearing that Yavituk would destroy them on the way back. There are unproven rumors that Yavituk bribed Vesper to ignore Malphane’s requests. During the battle, the Great Earthquake occurred.

Luckily for Vesper, the epicenter was on Dagger Isle, and thus Moon caught the brunt of the damage. However, the aftershocks created minor tidal waves, which came close to drowning the city, forcing most of the population to evacuate into ships and move down the coast. It was also felt in Britain, as the earthquake triggered another in the Serpent’s Spine, which caused extensive damage in the city. (See the entry on Britain for further details.)

Although the city suffered minor damage, the Vesperians were furious with the mages who had caused the destruction, and when three ships of refugees from Verity Isle arrived they were refused sanctuary, and forced to continue to Britain. Vesper came to regret this decision later, as the reestablished city of Moonglow formed stronger bonds with Britain as a result.

Then in 105 A.C., Mt. Kendall erupted, showering northeastern Britannia in ash. It was rumored that the Earthquake three years earlier was responsible for it, causing long dormant forces beneath the ground to awaken. The trolls, ogres, and orcs, however, took it as a sign that Malphane’s Curse was very real, and they retreated far back into the wilderness, and were no further trouble to Vesper for over a century (See entry on Uulder Malphane for further details.) In Vesper, the ash choked the harbor and was a nuisance, but was seen as a blessing later, as the force of the blast reduced the flow of the river, lowering it’s level and exposing more of the delta to development, as well as stabilizing it somewhat.

Following the cataclysmic events of the end of the 1st century, the people of Vesper voted to reorganize the city government. The original intention was to clean up the corruption within the simple democratic system, the growing power of the craft guilds had lead to an enormous amount of bribery and extortion in the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, since the guilds were the ones paying for reconstruction and expansion, the ‘reform’ ended up handing them the power, and in 109 A.C. the Ministry of Merchantiles was formed. Not everyone liked this arrangement, and a sizable contingent left Vesper and traveled west, seeking the old way of life Vesper had known. (See the entry on Cove for further details.)

As part of the new century, the Ministry decided to move as much of the town as possible closer to it’s greatest asset, the sea, and onto more defensible shores. Construction began on the islands themselves, and a complex network of bridges to connect them. By 126 A.C. most of the islands had been settled and connected to one another. The western side on the shore became increasingly destitute as wealth poured into the Customs office and businesses closest to the docks.

Vesper continued to grow in great strides as a maritime power, the flag of Vesper was a common sight in every dock in the realm. As they went abroad the privateers of Vesper became famous for their dedication to wealth, their shrewdness in trading, and the folly of trusting one too much. Although there are as many honest Vesperian merchants as dishonest ones, Vesper in particular began earning a reputation for double-dealing and uneven trades. Even so, too many depended upon their wealth and goods to refuse them.

One of Vesper’s primary imports at the time was gemstones from the city of Magincia. Using precious minerals purchased from Britain or Trinsic, Vesper smiths created fantastic pieces of jewelry that fetched high prices abroad.  Slowly, Vesper raised tariffs on the gem trade, gaining more and more profit from Magincia, which had no one else to gain the luxuries they desired from. Unfortunately, this eventually lead to the Magincian Embargo in 175 A.C. The complete loss of Magincian revenue caused a staggering backlash that affected all markets, as the money that had sustained the city disappeared overnight.

The Ministry may have collapsed at this point, under weight of anarchy and rebellion, but for one man. His name is lost to living and written memory, but he convinced the Ministry that he could restore order to the city. The Ministry quickly drafted a proposal, giving him temporary but far-reaching powers, and created the position of Justicar of Vesper.

The Justicar’s first act was to reorganize the city’s militia. Soon grim foreboding guards, who looked foreign, stood at every corner of the city, guaranteeing order would remain. Food and supplies were mandated property of the state, and rationed out. A riot against the restrictions in 176 A.C. lead to brutal suppression, the Justicar ordered the rioters driven to the west mainland part of the city, where the guards set the buildings aflame. Most of the original buildings were destroyed in the fire, as well as most of the rioters, only the IronWood Inn was rebuilt in 186 A.C., and a guard post, the remainder of the old city was converted into a graveyard.

Seeking to consolidate the gold supply, the Justicar also ordered the minting of silver and copper coinage, with his own personal seal, to make up the loss of revenue. These earned the derogatory nickname “The Justicar’s Promise” in short order, and were used to pay for debts to the other cities. He also began issuing Letters of Marque, which allowed Vesper privateers to commit acts of piracy upon ships of other city-states. These self-serving acts served to drive a wedge between all the city-states, which began to distrust their neighbors. The danger of piracy at sea also kept ships in port, giving the few privateers whom operated a virtual monopoly. Soon the privateers became fully independent and not under even the Justicar’s control. He attempted to pacify the pirates by offering ransoms for safe passage, but the pirate clans each began demanding separate tithes, which soured quickly.

Despite the draconian measures, Vesper held together, barely, and the remainder of the Dark Years were marked with charismatic speeches from the Justicar, searches for new sources of wealth and resources, and a dedication towards future prosperity. When the Embargo ended in 189 A.C., the Ministry set about to disband the position, only to find it had far too much popular support. Although the Justicar’s powers were scaled back, he was there to stay. Shortly before his death in 197 A.C., he also drafted the succession protocols, a free election, hearkening back to the days of old in Vesper, a widely popular move. He also officially recognized Buccaneer’s Den as a sovereign kingdom, which completely rendered Vesper immune to pirate raids.

In the fall of 203 A.C. the leaders of the orc, troll and ogre clans unified and formed a war council. The Justicar sent a diplomatic party to negotiate a peace treaty with them. Two weeks later a horse ran from the forest’s edge to the Banker’s Bridge, a blood-covered body slumped against the horse’s neck. The sentry was able to halt the horse, and found that it was the lead diplomat, both arms and legs broken though repeated blows. Sacks found tied to the saddle were found to contain the heads of the rest of the diplomatic party. After several days with the healers, the man was finally able to speak of the Brou Nath Ka, the name of their enemy, and that there would be no bargain or quarter.

The Justicar was swift in summoning aid, being a military man himself and understanding the threat facing his city. First he sent word to Nesha of Jhelom, and contracted several Jhelom Chiefs and their respective armies, who were more than eager for battle. Then he sent emissaries to Britain, knowing that Britain would wish to protect its northern border, even if it meant aiding Vesper. Britain agreed, reinforcing their garrisons on the Bloody Plains and around the Barrier mountains, and began raising a large expeditionary force. Soon mercenaries of every flag and creed were flocking to Vesper, seeking the glory of battle and the wealth that would follow.

The year passed and ended, however, without only the occasional clash with orc patrols well away from the city borders, without sign of any larger forces. Winter was cold and harsh, and the soldiers began to brawl amongst themselves, the city guard had their hands full keeping order within the city. Winter settled in with harshness and many were the fights and brawls that broke out in the streets of Vesper. With spring however, came more encounters and battles on patrol, which kept the tension between the city guards and the mercenaries from stretching too far. The tension disappeared into a grim, waiting silence.

On the eve of the summer solstice, the army of the Brou Nath Ka appeared at last, their vanguard overwhelming many of the patrols. The few that escaped fled to Vesper, where the bridges were coated with pitch, struck free, and burned. This prevented the Brou, as the horde became known as, from advancing beyond the shore, where archers picked them off if they lingered too long in the open.

Several attempts to use freshly hewn logs to make bridges were beaten back, until the horde drew back, and waited, believing that they could starve the city into defeat. They abandoned this strategy, however, when it became apparent that Vesper had more than enough ships bringing fresh supplies and men to wait them out as long as needed. Winter came, and the Brou retreated into the north again, and both sides waited.

Despite their defensive strategy’s effectiveness, the strain upon the coffers of Vesper was a concern for the Ministry of Mercantile. Over a year of paying for hired troops was coming close to bankrupting the city, or worse, going into debt to Britain. The Ministers voted, against the Justicar’s recommendations, to empty the city of the army and ‘bring the battle to the Brou’ in the spring.

For nearly four years Vesper’s armies fought the Brou on their own ground. Many tales of bravery against insurmountable odds, of heroism in the face of death, came from this era. But every year was a bloody stalemate, with the Vesper armies retreating in winter, only to lose most of the ground they took. The death of the Justicar in battle in 208 A.C. further demoralized the troops, and led many to believe that the war could not be won.

Through careful political maneuvering, the Ministry managed to get the one they wanted elected Justicar shortly before the spring of 209 A.C. They felt that her predecessor had too much ‘ethics’ to end the war, and in private counsel decided upon a different solution. An emissary was dispatched to the Bone Peninsula, where the orcs of the Red Bone clan resided. In return for their aid in the war effort, the clan was promised many trade goods, weapons, and a claim of the land they lived upon and the support of Vesper with it. The clan agreed, and the nefarious plan had begun.

In late 209 A.C. word came to Vesper that the leaders of the ‘Brou’ war council were dead, slain apparently in an accident. The union quickly fell into three warring sides as the monsters battled for control of the Brou. Seizing upon the confusion, the Vesper army struck, easily cutting a swath through the north and sending the disorganized and undisciplined monsters fleeing for their lives. They also destroyed the encampments, putting an end to any further siege of Vesper.

The remnants of the Brou retreated to the northwest, to the headwaters of the Glittering River and the Skull Mountains, and formed a solid force, determined to defend their territory. The Battle of Lost Hope was the bloodiest of the war, as the Vesper forces continually tried to break the Brou lines and suffered enormous casualties. British Reinforcements arrived from the Bloody Plains three days later, and the defeat of the Brou looked certain.

Before the combined armies could strike, however, the ground began to shake, and Mount Kendall, looming above, began to smoke. Both armies retreated in fear as black ash rained down and lava spewed from fissures from the mountainside. The Brou retreated to the north, to the High Wastes, while the Vesper armies went south to the lee of the Barrier Mountains. After two weeks, the mountain quieted, and the Vesper army sent scouts to investigate the region. The Brou, fearful that Malphane’s Curse had returned, had fled high into the Wastes and the Skull Mountains. Jubilant, the two armies went their separate ways, singing songs of victory. Many felt, however, that the fear of Malphane would only keep the hordes in check for so long… (See the entry on Minoc for further details.)

Vesper had been exhausted by the war effort, and as a result stood as little opposition to the founding of Minoc to the north in 212 A.C., and as part of reparations to Britain for their aid in the war they gave financial and economical aid to the artisan’s colony. In addition, the brutal actions of Guy of Buccaneer’s Den lead to the Justicar withdrawing their recognition of them as a nation. They also found a new customer with NuJel’m, which quickly became a popular resting port for privateers and merchants between runs to the port cities.

In 249 A.C., Lord British sent missives to every city-state to send a representative to the quiet village of Paws, where the Kingdom of Britannia would be formed. The Ministry and Justicar debated for several months, before finally deciding to decline. Vesper stood too much to lose from joining the city-state, and the Justicar felt sure part of the deal would be the further scaling back of his political power. In addition, the idea of ‘favorable trade rates for fellow members of the Kingdom’ stuck in the throat of most of the merchants. Later, Vesper formed several trade alliances with NuJel’m and Magincia, which more than made up for the lack of being in the Kingdom in terms of profits.

The boom in Minoc in 285 A.C. caught Vesper completely off-guard, and the Ministry spent many sessions in bitter debate as to what should be done. The more extreme faction, lead by the Justicar, voted to raise an army and take Minoc by force and make it subservient to Vesper alone. The other faction felt that subtler means were called for, strangulation on basic supplies and necessities, high tariffs, and other such incentives to keep the wealth of Minoc flowing into Vesper. Two years later the Justicar was found dead in his office, and those who had supported him fell silent.

As the 3rd century ended, rumors grew of the hordes growing once again, and Vesper fears that without the aid of the Kingdom, they may not survive. Despite their measures in keeping Minoc’s wealth to themselves, the overland caravans get through, and every one is money lost. In addition, the growing economic power of NuJel’m, Britain, and Skara Brae threaten their monopoly of the seas. The chessboard of the new century has many more players, and Vesper may not find it so easy to play them against one another…


The People

Vesperians tend towards lighter complexions, their northern heritage, although olive hues are also common. Dark hair is the norm, although red is known. Men and women alike tend to cut their hair short, either on the head or face, and prefer good grooming.

The Clothing

Both genders tend to dress warmly, tunics and surcoats are highly favored. Vesperians of the higher class like heavy cloaks to protect from the chillier climates on the mainland, but most favor lightweight fabrics for the breezy but warm port weather. Colors tend to be conservative, burgundy and maroon are popular for the well off. Magically enchanted clothing for flashy and innovative effects are popular.

Arts and Entertainment

Vesperians view themselves as great patrons of the arts, the Painter’s Guild was organized in 239 A.C. to support aspiring artists. (Most artists have noted, though, that all Vesperians care about on a whole is getting the most expensive art, not necessarily the best.) A museum is also located in Vesper, where many relics and items from the past can be seen for a price, tourism is a lucrative trade.
Entertainment in particular sells, and it is a rare day that some kind of parade, performance, or flashy demonstration is not taking place somewhere in the city, in order to facilitate a sale. Theatre and music are also widely popular, although Vesperians prefer bawdier and widely popular shows than the solemn tragedies and comedies of the Britain stages.

Crafts and Trades

Vesper is primarily controlled by the guilds, each of whose guildmaster sits upon the Ministry. The Ministry itself is often referred to as the Merchant’s Guild, which has offices in other city-states, and headquarters in the Town Hall. Guild trades on a whole tend to be stable, the stronger guilds stay strong, while weaker ones can come and go. Guild politics are city politics, and can be quite ruthless, Vesperians are veritable masters of faction politics.

The principle guild of Vesper is the Shipwrights, whom are the lifeblood of Vesper. Vesper maintains the largest fleet of any single city-state in the world, only the Royal Navy and the collective ships of the kingdom city-states outnumber it. Most of the ships are privateers, privately owned or cooperative-owned ships by merchants of varying social status, who engage in trade to pay their debts and amass their fortunes. In wartime the Justicar issues Letters of Marque to the privateers, allowing them to act as official military vessels against their enemies, and lay claim to all spoils obtained.


Vesperians view magic as just another service, and do not show much awe in particular of it. The mages of Vesper tend to specialize in pyrotechnics, light, and illusion magics, which makes for interesting advertisements in the streets. There is another, darker side to the mages, however, the one that poisons blades for assassins, and creates false coinage from thin air, that works beneath the gilded façade of the troubadour mages. In Vesper it’s what you don’t see that should warn you.


The people of Vesper are free-spirited and proud, they view themselves as masters of the world, since they sail its waters, which touch every part of it. Wealth is the greatest achievement possible by any individual, to earn a fortune and retire is the dream of every Vesperian. Materialism is seen as the natural state, and nothing to be ashamed of.

This is not to suggest that Vesperians place no value on intangible virtues. The more correct way to describe it is that a virtuous man is admired, but a man with money and business sense is seen as noble.

Government and Politics

Vesper is run by two primary powers: the Ministry of Mercantiles, and the Justicar. The Ministry is made up the major trading guilds of Vesper, each of whose Guildmaster sits on the Council, their title is “Minister” Each guild has it’s own system for determining the position. The Justicar was originally a temporary position created during the Dark Years, but it’s popularity lead to it becoming permanent. The Council isn’t entirely happy about this, but as the position is elected by the populace, it is difficult to retract. The Justicar is officially charged with keeping order within the city, and as a result has direct control of the city militia, guards, and the funding thereof. He also acts as mediator in the Ministry, and has the authority to propose or veto laws and agreements. Most of the Justicars have lived brief and extremely stressful careers, fraught with paranoia and fear of lengthened shadows.

The current Justicar was elected to the position in 287 A.C. He differs from most of the prior Justicars in that he is quite dedicated to his job and the city in general, rather than his own self-interests. This makes most of the guilds distrustful of him, since greed or vice is something that can be understood and exploited. However, to date, his actions have proven satisfactory, his raising of tariffs and tough stance with Minoc has kept Vesper from losing too much, and also made Minoc’s troubles with overland banditry difficult.

The people of Vesper, for the most part, enjoy debating the skills and virtues of the two branches of their government. When the Justicar is popular, the Ministry is portrayed as a bunch of old, tired stagnant buffoons. When the Ministry is on the rise, the Justicar is an arrogant pompus ass, kept in check by their reasonable and needed wisdom.


Last modified: December 30, 2011

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