Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The forbidden country of the Ashen Council

While the surviving elves huddle along the coast, rumors of an inland power grow.  Coastal tribes speak of the fearsome Isquentaga, the people of the Ashen Council.

(Viktor Titov)

Closed kingdoms (like 1800s Tibet or Tokugawa Japan) can make for some great adventures.  They're full of challenges:
  • It's hard to get past the appointed guardians.
  • At strong settlements they try to kill you or throw you out.
  • At weak settlements they close their doors and want nothing to do with you.
But they're also full of opportunities:
  • They have things no one else has ever seen.
  • You have things they've never seen.
  • If it's hard to get goods through, people might pay a lot more for them.
  • If you get the approval of the leaders of a closed country, you can operate in a place your enemies can't easily reach.
In a way, a closed country is something like a giant dungeon, full of treasure and danger.

(Frank Victoria)

They say the Isquentaga are a mighty human confederacy, jealous guardians of their place in the high country.  All trade from the far north passes through their hands.  Copper, silver, and furs come down, iron, cloth, and guns go up.  It is unlikely that they allow guns to go any further inland.  Likewise, the most powerful things of the high country are not likely to come down any further.

All trade with the Isquentaga is done at a few places of meeting, each one controlled by a different clan.  They only trade with a few outside agents, some humans and some giants.  It may be that none of the elves have yet attempted to open trade with the Isquentaga; such an attempt would probably be rebuffed.

Choose three widespread rumors about the people of the Ashen Council.  One is false, but deliberately spread by them.  One is more or less accurate.  One is a heavily-distorted version of the truth.

Rumors (d8)
1They hang their enemies' bodies from trees to mark their territory.
2They eat the flesh of fallen enemies.
3They pay great bounties for elven captives.
4They drive sick animals into enemy territory to infect others.
5They sharpen their teeth into points.
6They kill anyone who strays into their land, with no exceptions.
7Anyone who they allow to trade with them is marked with a sign.
8Those who trade must kowtow as a sign of submission, and never look directly at them.

The Isquentaga are a dangerous adversary to have, but they guard many secrets and treasures.  They have knowledge of the striding behemoths and of the sunken cities.  A word from the ashen council can raise an army or grant a fortune.  But reaching the ashen council will be a most perilous journey.

(George Catlin)

And they're not just sitting around, waiting for you to approach.  The council is doing things.  They've got big plans in the works, and they don't really care what you think of them.  Choose two looming plans from the table below:

Secret Plans (d8)
1They've heard of a new invention or discovery and they'll stop at nothing to get it.
2There's a weakened group nearby; the Isquentaga plan to swiftly overwhelm them and offer a deal: obey and receive aid, or be destroyed.
3They've acquired something of great power or value, and they intend to use it.
4One of their clans has been trading away secrets and treasures that they swore to keep hidden, so the council is planning retribution.
5They've been quietly purchasing cannons and capturing experts in elven fortifications, preparing to build fortresses guarding the mountain passes.
6They're weaker than they let on, afraid of a rising power in the lowlands.  A careful alliance could be to their advantage.
7The clans of the Isquentaga are all ready to turn on each other in a desperate bid to seize power.
8A far greater threat looms on the far side of their lands.  They're considering a migration to get out of the way, taking whatever land they need.

If you don't know who lives nearby, consider rolling up a random human tribe or a giantish rendezvous.

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