Uthmere (Part Eight)
By Ed Greenwood
The High Seat
Lord Andamath Uthlain, sixth Uthlain Lord of Uthmere, is a thoughtful man. His speech is precise and usually calm, but his voice snaps and his black eyes blaze when he (rarely) allows visible anger to show. Servants say he's most to be feared when his voice drops to a soft purr.
Lord Uthlain is a nondescript 5'10" man of slender build. His fair hair is going white, he wears a perpetual look of concern, and he sees his vigor (and time left to him to enact his dreams of making Uthmere a great center of trade) slipping away.
So much is more than most Uth-folk know about "The One Who Sits the High Seat." Most of them think him a kind, just man, but out of touch with his city (and so in danger of making inappropriate judgments in daily court, and even greater blunders in running Uthmere's affairs, future, and diplomacy). "He sits there in his luxuries, behind his walls, and knows nothing of our daily scrabble" is a common sentiment -- but Uth-folk cheer him when they see him, and anyone who gets to speak to him, or -- by the gods! -- touch him, will tell and re-tell the tale of that meeting to their grave.
In short, Uth-folk grumble about how they're governed, but even when Lord Uthlain makes unpopular court rulings or proclaims unpopular decrees (laws), his citizens stand behind him. They see him as trying to be just and fair -- and trust no alternative, however glowingly described.
Lord Uthlain returned to Uthmere to become its lord when his father Ruriphraunce's health failed decades ago. He left Lyrabar behind with some relief, since he'd attracted much scorn marrying for love (and Sembian gold) rather than a sufficiently highborn lady of Impiltur.
Raethra Skurndown remains the tall, slender, dark beauty she was then, mute due to a childhood injury but possessing keen wits, alertness, a passionate nature, and a vast inherited fortune (from textiles trading). Andamath Uthlain guards her like what she is (to him): the most precious thing in all the world.
Most Uth-folk have never even seen Lady Uthlain, since she is quite content to remain cloistered in the royal apartments. The Uthlains have two daughters but no son -- though Andamath keeps trying to father one, in increasing desperation; it's a matter of great importance to him that the lordship of Uthmere pass from him to his son.
The names of the Seven Giants are known only to themselves and to Lord Uthlain, whom they personally serve. Fear of them keeps the Shadowmasters from moving openly to seize control of the city. However, they rarely take part in daily policing. Horns will call them out to deal with riots, barricades, wagons set afire, gate-storming attempts, and vessels trying to slip in or out of the harbor.
The Watchful Arms of the Lord's Justice, better known to all as the Cudgels for their chief weapon, are charged with keeping law and order in the city, training the militia, and "keeping the walls secure." In daily practice, this last duty means turning undesirables (and invading armies; the lord is especially fearful of the Shadowmasters sneaking an army into the city, one armed man at a time) away from the gates.
The exact strength of the Cudgels at any given time is a "Lord's Secret," as is the roster and strength of the militia (though the Shadowmasters have infiltrated it, and know its armories and weaponry). Both are modest; in a real war, Lord Uthlain would have to hire the wizards and mercenary captains (mainly from Impiltur) he has carefully built professional relationships with over the years, and rely on the Seven Giants and the calm competence and unshakable loyalty of Enda Quellinghunter, the Captain of the Cudgels. This fearless fire genasi "sword-she" isn't just a shrewd battle-commander; she has built up hundreds of friendships among women of the city and taken the trouble to really learn the families, feuds, doings, and interests of Uth-folk, so as to be able to swiftly compel untrained Uth-folk in militia-work, and far more importantly, continuously know what the Shadowmasters are up to and be able to foil it.
Almost two hundred courtiers (the lordlain) enact the lord's will, recording his decrees, continuously evaluating them and refining them in light of his court rulings, and overseeing the hundreds of small details (and city contracts) involved in collecting taxes and fines, seeing to the repair and upkeep of the city, and encouraging Uth trade (by moneychanging, at lower and fairer fees than the Shadowmasters do, and by hosting traders from afar at the lord's expense).
1. The count of ruling lords previous to the Uthlains is hazy, but there have been over a dozen. The last three Uthlains, father to son, were Heldelmer ("HELL-dell-mur") [ruled 1319-1336 DR], Srion ("SREE-on") [ruled 1336-1347 DR], and Ruriphraunce ("RURR-ih-frawn-ss") [ruled 1347-1361 DR].
2. Lord Uthlain yearns to be loved but is shrewd enough that he knows he can't please everyone. He'll settle for personally knowing he has made the lives of Uthmaar better and easier, ere he dies. He'd become used to knowing the Circle of Leth were his foes, dedicated to preventing Uthmere's expansion into the Great Dale -- but he knows now that the Shadowmasters are his true foe, and far deadlier. If he could only hit upon how to crush them and drive them forth. Perhaps if he could hire or manipulate various adventuring bands into fighting them . . .
3. Where Raethra Uthlain (a NG female human Ari6/Ftr3) spends her days reading, sewing, and listening to lordlain and sages -- when she isn't taking her lord to their bed, or practicing with longsword or hand crossbow. She knows more about unfolding events in Faerûn than many a wise courtier and is her husband's most trusted -- and best -- advisor.
4. Rurelda (14 summers, the image of her mother, and an impish flirt) and Athlarune (11 summers, solemn, plain, and blonde, possessed of no sense of humor at all but wits keener than anyone else in all Uthmere). They've only been outside the palace walls once or twice a year, and never unsupervised -- though frustration over this is building swiftly to rebellion in Rurelda.
5. Master Tintel's impatient predecessor, Eeiritar Skelvel, tried to do so -- and two of the Stone Giants smashed him and three of his "blackblades" to bloody pulp, and then flattened the building the Shadowmasters were using as a stronghold. That lesson remains vivid in the minds of all senior Shadowmasters in Uthmere.
6. All Cudgels carry not just cudgels, but knives "at belt and boot," and a pouch of long leather thongs for binding (which they'll spit upon to wet and so tighten them, when binding troublesome prisoners). They'll be issued spears, short swords, and crossbows if real trouble is expected. Some officers carry "whirlchains:" long chains with knobs at each end that they whirl around their heads to clear space when desired (treat as whip-daggers, which are detailed in the Arms and Equipment Guide).
7. There's no barrier at the mouth of the harbor, but where the Dalestream enters Uthmere, "Streamgate" stands. Like the other city gates (Northgate, Dalegate, and Southgate), it's closed from dusk until the sea mists clear after dawn. Streamgate is actually several heavy spans of chain from which a "curtain" of spiked chains hang vertically, barring passage to all except fish and eels, that lies on the silty river bottom by day (so Uth-folk can move about, digging clams and crayfish), but is pulled from high up in the towers at both ends every evening, to rise up into place as a barrier. If an attack is expected, harmful spells are often cast on the chains, to be visited on anyone disturbing them.
At all city gates (including Streamgate), Cudgel-barracks (with lockup cells beneath and armories above) are located in the flanking wall-towers.
8. They'd love to slaughter her, but the lord has made it clear that if any harm comes to her or to any of his family members, the Seven Giants and every wizard he may have to hire, from Waterdeep to Calimport, will be sent against them to eradicate them -- and they know he's not bluffing.
9. Daily (open public) court is held in the palace, with the lord or his senior lordlain presiding (and one of the Seven, a strong Cudgel guard, and usually an undercover hired wizard attending). Most sentences involve fines (plus imprisonment and exile only for murder, rape, maimings, treason, fire-setting, and "malicious magic use"). The mornings are for "called" cases (set or held over from earlier days), and the afternoons for disputes arising during the day.
The senior lordlain is the Clerk of the City, the mincingly precise, cold-eyed, neat-black-bearded, apparently humorless, arrogant Thaulmer Truce (LN male human Exp10).
Taxes are levied for buildings owned (5 gp annually), ships owned (10 gp annually), riding or draft animals owned (1 gp annually), and entries into the harbor (2 gp each), varying sp levies for a variety of minor business licenses -- and a flat 1 cp on every business transaction of 1 sp or more conducted in Uthmere.
10. Uthmere accepts all "true metal" coinage (apply standard Player's Handbook values). The palace is the only legal source of moneychanging, and it offers fair exchange on gems and certain unique currencies and debt-notes of other Inner Sea cities. Outland traders often grumble that just what they accept, and what rate they offer, seems to vary with the lordlain behind the desk.
Our last column about Uthmere will explore the shady side of life in the city.
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