Uthmere (Part One)
By Ed Greenwood
All Anyone Needs
Visitors from afar who've sailed into this small, isolated Easting Reach port have termed it variously "small, bare, and full of contented emptyheads"and "a glimmering lamp of the hope of future sophistication, on the edge of the howling wilds."
"As much life as a cow pasture," said the traveling dancer Raeraera of Velprintalar, "but at least it has stone walls, and roofs that leak not, and streets that aren't cesspool mud-wallows."
Sailors of Impiltur see Uthmere as a friendly backwater handy for provisioning and repairs, and Theskian merchants see it as a "safe" trading ground of a regrettably small number of folk who understand proper ways and prices.
The rest of the Great Dale tends to regard Uthmere as an unfriendly place of grasping, ambitious folk ("coin-rakers") who want to swallow up the entire Dale as their personal back gardens and ranches, ignoring rightful owners and settled steads as if they didn't exist. This belief has been fostered and encouraged by the druidic Circle of Leth.
Members or close allies of that Circle go farther. They hate all that the stone-walled port stands for and want it swept away or reduced to what it once was: a huddle of fisherfolk cottages and a wharf with a lone warehouse, for trading with visiting outlander ships. They see its lords as beings who want to build a great kingdom by seizing, despoiling, and building over all the Great Dale, stride by ever-quickening stride, as the years pass.
Yet all other Daelen also, paradoxically, see "Uth-port" as a handy supply center, saying of Uth-folk that they have "all anyone needs" in the way of superb tools, lanterns, chains and locks and hinges, fabrics and garments, good boots and kegs and barrels that don't leak, rope and even wire, and so on.
Uthmaar see themselves as having all the benefits of larger places (wealth, sophistication, religious tolerance, laws and public safety without overmuch daily oppression, at least a glimpse of the latest news and fashions, access to all the supplies one needs and luxuries anyone might want -- if an Uth shop doesn't have it, either a trader will visit with it next season, or an Uth dealer will get it for you) without the problems prevalent in larger, grander cities: hovels, widespread crime and lots of "tattercoats," high prices and shortages, and any sort of entrenched class system with decadent, oppressive nobles.
Those who notice that misfortunes seem to befall folk who "get too highnosed" (presume to speak out against Lord Uthlain or request special "rights" because of their wealth and power) merely shrug; they don't want to share their lives with nobles.
Uthmere is overwhelmingly human. Although a few gnomes and halflings have settled in Uthmere (plus no more than a dozen each of dwarves, elves, and half-elves), "wilder" (more exotic) races are neither seen nor welcome. The dockside taverns, inns, lodging houses, and brothels tolerate a wider clientèle in the form of visiting sailors -- but a half-orc "salt" will be closely watched at all times, with the Cudgels close within call. Any nonhuman sailor who tries to "stay behind" (leave the crew and settle in Uthmere) will be "called on" by the Cudgels and firmly ordered to depart the city.
This local racism doesn't extend to crazy tales about "strange critters" having weird habits (eating babies or always intending theft, rape, or murder), or citizens throwing stones or insults at any "not-human" they see; it's more a matter of "they're fine in their place, but their place isn't here."
This attitude doesn't extend to creatures whose looks can pass for human, because Uth-folk consist of such a wide variety of humans, and so many of them bear scars, tattoos, slave-brands or other markings of their previous lives, that a few scales, an extra finger, or the like doesn't brand someone as "not-human."
Some humans who've settled in Uthmere from elsewhere view it as a boring backwater or a refuge little peered at by the wider world (or both), but native Uthmaar see their city as strong, prosperous, and rising to greater things -- and doing so sensibly, cleanly, and decently, without the strife and mess of some other places. The world around is a sometimes savage, often disorderly and dangerous place -- and Uthmere is anything but (for citizens who abide by the laws and refrain from stupidly goading Lord Uthlain, his lordlain, and the Cudgels).
1. Lady Baelma Murove, of the wealthy shipping fleet-owning Moroves of Urmlaspyr, wrote this in 1371 DR, in her chapbook Braving The Cold: Voyages Among the Fallen Stars With My Husband. The tall, slender, long-haired Lady Baelma is a noted "dark beauty" of Sembia, who since the death of her husband has been a much-sought-after heiress. She guards herself with six personal guardian gargoyles (origins unknown) and some mysterious magic items.
2. These words appear in the chapbook Glimmers of Gold/A Prospectus for Traders of Ambition, by the wealthy trader Horth Blasko of Yhaunn (1369 DR). The chapbook paints glowing pictures of opportunities and possibilities that might benefit those who heed them. Blasko is a fat and jovial man who goes nowhere without hired adventurers as bodyguards, and he is said to have made so many enemies that he sorely needs such protection.
3. These comments are from the thirty-sixth in the series of broadsheets (sold widely about the Inner Sea coasts) entitled Kisses From Raeraera. Raeraera of Velprintalar travels tirelessly around Inner Sea ports with a small troupe of dancers, performing at clubs and inns rather than rough taverns. The entertainment is explicit, and Raeraera's Ladies provide more personal entertainments, for high fees, after every public performance. Raeraera is personally notorious for her spectacular natural charms and her drugged "scents of rapture" (said to provide the ultimate in pleasure). She sells love and sleep potions, potions of bear's endurance and endure elements, and poisons.
5. "Uthmaar" is the formal term for "citizens of Uthmere." In daily usage, people dwelling in Uthmere are referred to simply as "Uth" or (by outsiders) "Uth-folk." The formal term is used with precision by the "lordlain" ("servants of the lord," or city officials) to mean just citizens, excluding outlanders dwelling in Uthmere either under false pretenses (for example, without declaring that they've come from Telflamm or elsewhere as an agent of the Shadowmasters, and/or have skills, a profession, and a name other than the one they're using in Uthmere) or not "on the Lord's ledger" (census rolls), and therefore not paying taxes. If a lordlain wants to include such "outlanders" when speaking or writing, the term "people of Uthmere" is used rather than "Uthmaar."
6. The term "tattercoats" means more than merely "homeless people," although all beggars are automatically tattercoats (the original meaning of the word was "beggar or habitual lying-in-the-street drunk"). It refers to all "ne'er-do-wells" or undesirables, and it is also a polite way of referring to what a slightly tipsy, and therefore loose-tongued, person of Uth might call "strange critters." Folk born and bred in Uthmaar tend to mistrust nonhumans, except for halflings, gnomes, and half-elves. They'll be perfectly polite to elves and dwarves (though such folk are "looked at twice," or watched), but will be curt with, and even fearful of, races they view as "more exotic."
7. "Lodging houses" is the local term for rooming houses. Many homeowners in Uthmere rent out one or more floors to lodgers, but the term lodging house is applied only to three- or four-story buildings entirely given over to rooms rented by the month (or by periods of three, four, six, twelve, or fourteen months). Since lodging houses cater to sailors (and caravan merchants and peddlers, who'd accept housing anywhere), they tend to be clustered around the docks. Most offer house guards and secure storage for valuables.
8. The Cudgels are the everyday name (a term used even by the lordlain and the law enforcement folk themselves; it's not considered insulting) for Lord Uthlain's police force, The Watchful Arms of the Lord's Justice. The Cudgels, whose street patrols are a frequent sight in Uthmere, will be detailed in a later column. They're sometimes called "the town guard" by housewives, outland scribes , and other careful folk, and "the City Guard" by lordlain.
The next column will introduce the people of Uthmere and explore their buildings, garments, and habits.
© 2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.