Bringing you a taste from the dark pages of Warlock…
While some areas in the Dragon Empire grow restive, others carry on as they have done for a century, all the while remaining shrouded in secrecy. One such place, the mountaintop city called Mistras-Marea holds secrets even from the dragons it continues to serve faithfully.
The steep mountain road which winds upward to the walled city of Mistras-Marea begins its climb at a fork in the road near a village of mostly human farmers governed by a small fort garrisoned by dragonkin officers and kobolds troops. Almost all of the traffic up the mountain consists of kobolds driving cattle to spare their dragonkin superiors the indignity. No non-scaled creatures ever ascend unless bound as captives and escorted by soldiers from the garrison. What comes down the mountain does so with less regularity due to restrictions on trade. No silk goods leave the Mistras-Marea except in the hands of scaled imperial citizens of akinji rank or higher, or those bearing a writ from a creature of equal prestige. Provided those qualifications are met, dragonkin or other scaled citizens may purchase the finest silk in quantities of nearly any size; spools as large as a horse sometimes make their way in wagons down the mountain road.
Mistras-Marea’s sole trade commodity is silk of the finest quality. Great spools of silk thread and rope, silk clothing, and other items, such as barding of any size, can be purchased at the barbican from the human thralls there, or constructed to order while the client waits in the small inn just down the road a short distance.
The weavers of the city also produce a steady supply of quilted silk for use in padding for armor, which provides additional protection against arrows (resistance to piercing damage from nonmagical weapons). Expensive even for Mharoti of some standing, such pieces are most often given as rewards by the ruling classes of the empire to faithful servants, primarily as an inner layer to a hauberk or suit of scale mail.
The steady trade notwithstanding, few visitors who come to trade go any further than the barbican, supposedly in the interest of protecting well-kept trade secrets. The interior of the city remains a mystery to all but the morza who governs the province and a few others.
The city’s size is deceptive; much of the surface area within the walls skirts around the edges of massive caverns which descend deep into the mountain. Indeed, these caverns and their occupants give the city its reason for existence. Thick, rope-like webs crisscross much of the caves’ interiors for at least 100 feet below the surface, and their inner walls bear large, pockmarked holes. Within the holes, the web’s spinners, all specimens of a fecund breed of angler worm (see The Tome of Beasts), wait for cattle to be dropped into their lines.
Known to only a few of the ruling morza of the Empire, Mistras-Marea operates entirely under the guidance of a cartel of Denizens of Leng (see The Tome of Beasts). Some of the humanoid prisoners brought to the city spend the rest of their lives as weavers of silk, leading hard, frightening lives of forced labor at the hands of monsters. Those captives not chosen for the work of weavers vanish down the enormous caverns. The weak and infirm become food for the angler worms, but the majority march in chains through a portal leading to the Plateau of Leng and an unknown fate.
The vast wealth which has made its way up the mountain for many years is thought to sit buried in chambers deep in caves, far below the webs of the worms. What dangers might await beneath the webs, none can say, but for all the worms’ size, on occasion they are found half-eaten, slowly spinning in their own webbing. Whatever creatures feed on them do so infrequently, however, and have yet to come all the way to the surface.
Here are a few of the goods available to those with the privilege or luck to attain them.
Marean Silk Cloak
These full, hooded cloaks exist in a wide variety of vivid colors, though most serve as rewards for faithful service, reflecting the scales of the giver. Marean silk cloaks grants the wearer resistance to piercing damage from nonmagical weapons. Cost: 120 gp. Weight: 3 lbs.
Read more on the Dragon Empire—and read other great articles—in the upcoming Warlock, only on Patreon!