State of Mulmaster
They say our motto is ‘Take what you can, when you can, because who knows if you’ll see tomorrow.’ I’d prefer something a bit less grim, but I’m too busy getting what’s mine to think of one. ”
-Zor Andrik Gos
With mountains on three sides and the Moonsea on the fourth, the city of Mulmaster is cold and windswept. With snows frequent, there is little natural greenery except where the rich can afford it. In this bleak landscape rose one of the most powerful cities of the Moonsea. The rich luxuriate in the benefits of their station, while the poor suffer in fear of their betters and the tyranny visited upon the citizenry.
The story of Mulmaster began in 934 DR when a fortress was built on the River Lis at the end of the North Road in order to watch over trade flowing to and from the Moonsea and the Vast. Under the guidance of the sorcerer-king Nesker, Mulmaster grew to an aggressive state until 1317 DR, when Nesker was killed and the first High Blade, Amdrauth Telsnaer, took control of the City. Amdrauth issued the Edict of Arcane Banishment, making arcane magic illegal in the City. After Amdrauth, Mulmaster would see a quick flurry of High Blades, each taking power after assassinations and other mysterious circumstances. It was a time of turmoil, where much of the politics and culture of Mulmaster developed to what it is today.
The Recent Past
In 1348 DR, Selfaril Uomdolphin assumed the position of High Blade. Selfaril was a strong ruler with a firm grip on power and a deadly jealous twin brother. It is not known how, but in 1368 DR, it is rumored that Sefaril was replaced by his brother Rassendyll. Whether it was Rassendyll in the guise of Sefaril, or Sefaril himself, a pact was forged with Fzoul Chembryl to forming an alliance with the Zhentarim in order to strengthen Mulmaster and oppose the Red Wizards of Thay. This would lead to the rise of the church of Bane in Mulmaster and further crack downs upon those who practice arcane magic.
The alliance crumbled in 1383 DR when Zhentil Keep and the Keep of the Raven were destroyed by the Shadovar. Fleeing the powers of Netheril, a large number of refugees arrived on Mulmaster’s docks. Unwilling to aid their allies when the alliance no longer had anything to offer them, the Blades of Mulmaster relegated the refugees to a piece of swampy land outside the southern wall, where the refugees where heavily taxed for the right to the relative safety afforded by proximity to the nearby City. When Zhentil Keep was eventually rebuilt post-Spellpague, many of the refugees tried to return to their ancestral home where they quickly discovered that those who had stayed viewed the migrants as Mulmasterites and ordered them to return to their adopted city of Mulmaster.
During this time, the government of Mulmaster took its current shape. Forty-nine noble families vote on who is nobility and who is not, keeping the number of families to exactly forty-nine. Each family is lead by a Lord (whether male or female), and all other members of the family are referred to as Zor (male) or Zora (female). The Lords elect sixteen of their number to become Blades, and in turn the Blades elect the High Blade who rules the City. The latest High Blade is Jasseen Drakehorn, who struggles to maintain her authority against threats from abroad and within. Jasseen has reaffirmed Bane as the patron of Mulmaster and has built a wall around the Zhent Ghettos, effectively making them a part of the city, if not officially claimed.
The High Blade’s latest problem is the influx of refugees from Phlan. At the advice of the Council of Blades, she has allowed the Phlan refugees access to the Ghettos rather than turn them away. The nobility sees the refugees as a desperate source of cheap labor that are not yet the rabble-rousers the Zhentil Keep refugees has become. For the moment, the Phlan refugees have found a home, but for how long remains to be seen.
The people of Mulmaster are pessimistic about their lot and attempt to overcome their trials with fierce determination. They work hard, always looking for any edge to advance themselves in the corrupt city. When the time comes to break from their hard work, they take pride in their family and enjoy celebrations with wild revels that include sumptuous banquets, strong tavern drinks, hot-blooded duels, flirting or gossiping in dance-houses, gambling at the Gate of Good Fortune and even darker entertainments found in shadowy corners of the City.
The strength of Mulmaster is in its control of trade. It sits at the end of the major land and sea routes north to the Moonsea. It controls no farms and very little land beyond its valuable sea frontage. Recently, the High Blade has expanded her influence and reclaimed the iron mines at Point Iron by constructing of a fort there. However, this city of 50,000 rests in is careful balance of the different power groups, a balance the refugees of Phlan and the Factions seek to tip in their favor.
The noble Lords and the Blades have control of the law and by extension are immune to most of it. Their word is iron and no one, not even the clergy of Bane, can cross them. Bribery, intimidation, tyranny, and outright murder are the tools of their trade and they wield them without pause. Given that position among the nobility is fluid, many of the wealthiest middle class families are constantly on the lookout to supplant a noble family past its prime. Otherwise, the Blades maintain their control of the populace through the threat of the Cloaks, Hawks and Soldiery.
From the Tower of Arcane Might, the Brotherhood of the Cloak watches for arcane threats to the rule of the High Blade. Formed as part of the Edict of Arcane Banishment, all practitioners of magic in the City who are not emissaries of a foreign power (such as those in the embassy of Thay) are watched closely, and those that use their magic are punished severely, unless they have joined the Cloaks and sworn to protect the rule of the High Blade from all threats. Cloaks are frequently detailed to lend magical assistance to the Watch and the Soldiery. The Harpers have been seeding their operatives into the Cloaks, but how they have avoided the magical tests of loyalty remains unknown.
The Hawks are the secret police; the terrifying bogeyman that watches all that happens and carries out nighttime raids against those who harbor seditious thoughts, commit acts of sabotage, or otherwise threaten the stability of the regime. The Hawks are the best of the Mulman forces and execute the Blades’ secret plots without ever being seen. The Lords’ Alliance seeks a pact with the Hawks.
The Soldiery is Mulmaster’s army and navy, a proud force that is richly rewarded. Military service is highly valued among the middle and upper classes and seen as a way out of poverty for the lower classes. Members of the Soldiery take an oath of loyalty and service that is the foundation of their honorable brotherhood, and this group may be the only one where corruption is extremely rare. The fairness of the Soldiery is why its members are frequently called on to judge duels between those of noble birth. The Order of the Gauntlet seeks to work closely with the Soldiery.
The City Watch is made-up of those who were unsuited for a career in the Soldiery due to their stupidity, laziness, or a volatile nature. Members of the Watch are corrupt bullies who prefer brutal beatings and bribes to seeing any justice done. They are more dangerous to the average citizen than most criminals, and they are often overlooked as unimportant when considering city politics.
The masses living in the Zhent Ghettos are natural allies of the Zhentarim. Heavily taxed by the nobility and abused by the Watch, they have nowhere else to turn but the Zhentarim, who control much of the crime in the area. The Zhents have started organizing the workers and rhetoric favoring the Zhentarim over the Blades is becoming more commonplace. While not individually powerful or wealthy, there is a significant strength in the poor’s numbers that could threaten the power of the Blades if the Zhentarim decide to turn their wrath against the rest of the City.
Religion in Mulmaster
Religion is not a major factor in the life of the average Mulmasterite. Most are too self-centered too worry about the plight of others and too corrupt or greedy to consider donating to a temple. Nevertheless, there are several temples and shrines in the City of Danger. The shrines of Mulmaster are generally not tended and do not offer spellcasting services unless a cleric is specifically mentioned in a particular adventure.
With the return of Bane, The Black Lord’s Altar has been rededicated and Bane has been made the official religion of the City. The High Blade herself is a paladin of Bane and was raised from a young age by the High Imperceptor, Jorrul Missen. There is no clergy more powerful in the City, and those seeking to get ahead in the complicated social circles of Mulmaster frequently worship here.
The High House of Hurting and the faith of Loviatar are extremely popular among the decadent nobility and the youth. Two decades ago, the High Blade ordered the debauched and depraved Palace of Revels to be bricked up beneath the Tower of the Wyrm. The priests of the Maiden of Pain have been only too happy to take the Palace’s place by offering some of its more morally questionable services.
The High Hall of Swords serves those who pray in Tempus’ name. It is popular with the Watch and those members of the army in the Soldiery. Those guilty of cowardice while fighting in the City’s name will find their rotting heads impaled on the spikes that decorate the battlements of the temple.
As a temple devoted to the gods of magic, it is no surprise that the Tower of Mysteries forms a sprawling complex with the Tower of Arcane Might. The Tower of Mysteries includes small temples to Leira, Velsharoon, and Savras, as well as a shrine to Mystra (whose worship is illegal within the City). Since only Cloaks and visiting dignitaries are allowed to practice magic in the City, anyone entering the Tower of Mysteries can expect to be confronted by one or more Cloaks demanding to see the worshipper’s papers. Only those who have officially sworn to not cast arcane magic in the City, are acknowledged dignitaries, or are members of the Cloaks may pass. Everyone else will suffer further, intense scrutiny.
The Gate of Good Fortune is both a temple and a casino. Lord Priest Wylan Burral (the jovial brother of taciturn Aleyd Burral, a Knight of the Black Fist from Phlan) maintains a small congregation. However, the casino is one of the most popular destinations for the wealthy and the desperate. Risk taking appeals to Mulman sensibilities, and thus Tymora is the only Good-aligned deity with a temple in the City.
The House Built on Gold has only recently been rebuilt and rededicated at the direction to the iron merchants of Mulmaster, chief among them Lord Ninyon Gos. The work to fully restore this temple of Waukeen is ongoing. Backed by the rich nobility and the craftsmen’s guilds, it is likely to see completion within the year. In addition to religious services, the temple has also opened a bank that offers less usurious loans than the nobility, and with less likelihood of bodily harm than those available in the Ghettos.
A shrine to Lathander rests atop a hill near the south side of Southroad Keep where the rays of the sun first rise over the shadowed walls of the City. This untended shrine is frequented by the poor asking for the blessings of Lathander to shine upon them, as well as those leaving the City and traveling south.
Opposite Lathander’s shrine, on the northern side of Southroad Keep, is a dismal fly-ridden shack with the claws of predators and the wings of birds of prey nailed to its walls. Those who hunt in the mountains stop here to honor Malar, the Beastlord. Other than the occasional hunter, this shrine is often empty.
The shrine to Mask stands openly in the street, not hidden away as one might expect. Mulmasterites venerate Mask as the King of Guile, who gets ahead by his wits and skill rather than just accepting his lot. The shrine takes the form of a changing chamber built to look like a cloaked and masked two-faced figure of 12 feet tall. One face is a man, the other a woman. Worshippers enter on one side by pulling the corresponding “arm” of the figure of one side, passing through, and exiting the other side. Custom dictates that worshippers must be masked and costumed when entering and must exchange mask and costume for another when exiting. Thus, in theory, no one knows who is worshiping at the shrine. There are always over a dozen costumes inside the shrine and traditional favorites rotate in and out as individuals take it upon themselves to repair or replace them.
The shrine to Talos is on the rocky, storm-battered shore outside the walls. Those who would offer the Stormlord praise gift him with a piece of driftwood, adding to a precarious towering pile that is set aflame at the end of every month. Climbing the precarious tower before the flames or dancing closely around the teetering mass as flaming logs fall are common ways to show one’s faith.
The shrine to Umberlee is on a bridge whose balustrade bears the sculpted furious face of a woman through whose gaping mouth the River Lis drains into the waters below. The shrine is called the Last Drop as it is customary for Mulmasterites attempting suicide to sacrifice themselves to the Bitch Queen by plunging over the side. This shrine is tended by Rydah the Storm Smoother and is popular with common sailors and the naval members of the Soldiery. Its congregation is the largest of any of the shrines, and may soon achieve the status of a temple.