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Kron - The Raft Cityby Jesper Andersen from Threshold Magazine issue 4
KRON - The Raft City
By Jesper Andersen
“The raft city of Kron is a unique place, forever drifting on the Sea of Dread. Its position changes constantly and few seafarers ever get to visit this extraordinary place except by chance. Some of the Merchant Princes have established formal trade relations with the citizens of Kron and from their ventures bring back exotic corals, rare fish and even lost treasures salvaged from the bottom of the deep oceans.
The people of Kron are rumoured to be wary of outsiders but generally friendly, once trust is established. The city center is built on more than a dozen large rafts, some of them as large as 400 feet across, all held together by massive suspension bridges and walkways. Surrounding the central rafts are almost a hundred smaller rafts, each supporting the house structures of one or more families.
The ruler of Kron, an aged captain with the pretentious title of 'King' One-Eye, oversees the city's daily affairs from his estate on the largest raft in the centre of the city. Here, he sits on the Throne of Kron - a massive, green marble seat shaped like the hand of some forgotten sea god.”
- Thaoldaw Kaseld, chronicler of Clan Corser
The city of Kron
South of the islands of Minrothad Guilds, a mysterious city built of rafts floats on the tides and currents. It never reaches land - perhaps this is another effect created by the artefact known as the Throne of Kron, which stands in the central palace. The throne is what makes Kron un-sinkable, which is ironic, because the throne itself would sink like a rock, if it fell into the ocean.
The city is home to about 1,000 souls - most of them humans. Because the city constantly moves, visitors are rare but not unheard of. Experienced seafarers, including but not limited to the Merchant Princes of Clan Corser, have learned to befriend the dolphins of the Sea of Dread, who somehow always seem to know exactly where Kron is and will gladly guide to it.
Rulers of Kron
The current ruler of Kron is an aged captain named King One-Eye. In his youth, he was a formidable fighter but due to old age he now fights as a level 6 fighter. His first mate (captain of the guard) is named Falcon (F12). There also is a court wizard named Morak (M12), who has five apprentices and an amber golem.
Daily life in Kron
The citizens of Kron survive mainly by fishing and diving. All the people are outstanding swimmers and with the help of water breathing spells, they venture into the deep after pearls, corals and other valuables or necessities. Their diet consists primarily of fish and various types of kelp, supplemented by goods traded for with outsiders. Fresh water is collected from the roofs of the city whenever it rains and stored in large tanks. Spilling drinking water is a punishable offence - usually with a flogging.
Naturally, firewood is lacking but for cooking, Kron’s citizens harvest and dry different types of sea plants that produce a suitable heat. At night and indoors the city is illuminated by luminescent corals that need to be replaced on a weekly basis.
For crafting items that require a more powerful heat source, the city relies on the potent mixes of the local alchemist, who is also responsible for producing alchemy fire for the tower-mounted ballistae used to defend the city against enemy fleets and large sea monsters.
For all-out defence, the city can also muster 24 war catamarans carrying a pilot and two archers each, and against enemy ships the city will deploy a boarding party of 24 divers using water breathing spells.
Notable NPCs and establishments
Garimir, local head alchemist and glue-maker
On a large raft in the northeast corner of the city lies Garimir's workshop and laboratory - Kron's famous 'glue factory'. Garimir and his apprentices use the glands of giant jellyfish along with other ingredients and a secret recipe to produce barrels of waterproof, sticky goo, which the citizens then use for a variety of things. Foreign traders have also come to appreciate its many uses and so Garimir has established a formal connection with Cuthbert Hengel, Master Alchemist of Minrothad Guilds of Clan Corser.
Garimir is probably one of the top alchemists in the Known World when it comes to harvesting and using plants, corals and creatures from the Sea of Dread. Few people have ever heard of him, however, because Minrothad traders are very tight-lipped about their sources, when they sell his goods abroad.
Adventurers visiting Kron could seek him out to get his help before going on aquatic adventures. He has a vast knowledge of undersea animal and plant life and therefore also a number of anti-toxins against some of the more nasty things, you can encounter in the deep. If the price is right, Garamir can supply the PCs with water-breathing items, light sources that do not require fuel or oxygen, salves and ointments to treat wounds underwater where regular bandages are not of much use and even one-time emergency flares (for use on the surface) based on an Ochalean recipe for fireworks, he once got his hands on.
Dock Master Igoa
Igoa and a handful of men run the primitive docking area in the southeast corner of Kron. The enclosed area is only roughly 200 x 400 feet and protected on the two sides facing the sea by a floating wall and a gate mechanism. The docks also include a stables area for sea horses and other aquatic mounts and so can rarely accommodate more than two small sailing ships at any given time1. Dock Master Igoa is in charge of overseeing everything that goes on at the docks - a dull job most of the time.
Ship Builder Yirav
Yirav is in charge of the large ship building yard north of the docking area. Here, he and group of skilled workers produce and repair Kron's fleet of war catamarans and other small boats used for fishing or for loading and unloading vessels that are too large to dock at the city itself. Yirav also has a number of triton customers, for whom he constructs special sea horse-drawn rafts that can operate both underwater and on the surface.
Zalni, innkeeper and owner of The Maiden's Kiss
Zalni is one of the few women to run her own business in Kron - the city's only inn, called The Maiden's Kiss. It is located on one of the large rafts in the western part of the city, just west of the palace and south of the city's stadium. Her inn only has a few rooms for guests that want to spend the night and don't have their own ship, but the ones she have are fairly nice and clean. The food is also reasonable, even if the menu has very little variation.
Much of Kron's economy is based on bartering, where outsiders bring in wares and exchange them in bulk for Kron's goods from the sea, but individuals can also buy goods and services with coin and most nations' mint are accepted. At the Maiden's Kiss there is a limited but satisfactory selection of beer, ale, mead, wine and spirits from Minrothad Guilds, Ierendi and Thyatis but what is on tap can vary from visit to visit.
Since Kron is not under the rule of the Guilds, gambling is legal2 in this city and it is a major pastime with foreign visitors, who engage in a number of games at the Maiden's Kiss. Zalni has employed a burly fighter by the name of Vamar to make sure any cheaters or troublemakers are shown the door (and the ocean right outside it).
Paewyn's Salvage Operations
One of the wealthier individuals in Kron is the merchant Paewyn, owner of a small diving and salvage operation. He has built his business paying Kron divers for bringing up salvageable goods from shipwrecks and undersea ruins they encounter on their dives, and selling it to visiting merchants. Recently, Paewyn has expanded his operations with a sinister crew of 12 Thyatian divers - cutthroats all by the looks of them - under the leadership of one Joshua Stormshadow.
Joshua and his men have expanded Paewyn's operations by roaming far from Kron in an Undersea Boat and bringing back lost treasures. Most of the citizens of Kron are uneasy around Joshua and his men, but they keep to themselves - many suspect that they are on the run from the law somewhere. They would not be the first fugitives to lay low in Kron.
Jolan Tosk / Dominic Haaskinz
Another important but not famous (part-time) resident of Kron is Dominic Haaskinz, son of the noble Harald Haaskinz of Glantri. Dominic is following in his father’s footsteps, including taking an interest in the Elemental Plane of Water and Water Elementalism magic.
When he learned of the existence of Kron about a year ago from a Minrothad merchant he met, Dominic arranged for secret passage on a ship to the enigmatic floating city. He used his magic to slip unnoticed into the city and learn more about it. A few weeks later he returned in disguise on another ship, posing as an old scholar by the name of Jolan Tosk, come to find a quiet place to live out retirement. He was granted permission to stay and rented a small barge on the dull side of town.
To the citizens of Kron, Jolan Tosk is a kind old fellow who lives with a middle-aged manservant named Ulard. Jolan seldom ventures out but has Ulard run errands such as food shopping. Actually, Dominic is gone for long periods at a time - either attending matters back in Glantri or conducting underwater experiments to increase his understanding of Water Elementalism.
He is extremely careful - not least because of the Thyatian Joshua and his crew of cutthroats staging their salvage-operations out of Kron. Dominic owns several powerful water-related magic items, which he is certain the Thyatians would love to get their hands on.
His most useful item however, under the circumstances, is an Amulet of Disguise that allows him to assume any medium-sized humanoid form including basic equipment as often as once per turn. Dominic can appear as Jolan Tosk or some other creature, but if he tries to copy an actual person, creatures he encounter are allowed a chance to see through the illusion3.
Plots and Intrigue
A wererat recently jumped ship in Kron, having been on the run from Minrothad authorities for some time. He is currently scouting the city in rat form, trying to find the best location to set up a more permanent lair. Since the citizens of Kron have next to no silver weapons, his presence could become a major problem in the longer run.
The greedy High Sorcerer
Morak, magist to the ruler King One-Eye, lusts for power and wealth. Eventually, he will acquire a Ring of Human Control and seize control of the king. By making a deal with the corrupt triton Ulobon and using dark magic, they will force King One-Eye to make a pact with the triton King Lopra of Suthus, in which Kron supplies Suthus' triton warriors with war rafts with which to raid merchant shipping (see X7 - War Rafts of Kron). Morak has no idea what Ulobon wants with the prisoners from the captured ships and he doesn't care.
One of Kron's gifted native citizens by the name of Hallar has recently found employment as a local agent of the Blue Eels (see Gaz 9, p.10). His mission in Kron is to gather information about the city's salvage operations and to monitor the buyers of rare items brought up from the deep. Hallar was recruited, because the Blue Eels suspect that magical items retrieved from wrecks or undersea ruins may be working their way into unknown hands in the Minrothad Guilds. With the recent attempt on Oran Meditor's life, the Blue Eels are investigating any possible leads to who might be building up a secret force in the islands.
So far, Hallar has managed to bribe a shop clerk at Paewyn's to report on the comings and goings of Joshua and his men and clients coming to buy Paewyn's goods but nothing deeply incriminating has been reported so far.
History of the city of Kron
Approximately around the year 600 AC, there lived a powerful pirate lord on the island of Terentias in Thyatis. His name was Kelyr and his greed for treasure knew no limits. One day, Kelyr heard tales of a lush, green land far to the south, where the temples and cities were filled with golden idols and statues. Intrigued by this tale, he ordered his pirate fleet of 20 ships to set sail at once and Kelyr led the fleet himself onboard his flagship, Demon of the Seas.
After weeks of sailing, Kelyr's fleet reached the coast of the Hinterlands and soon found rich, yet poorly defended settlements of native tribes along the coast. Kelyr's men plundered and burned and carried both loot and slaves - including women and children - back to their ships. They also brought along a massive, green stone throne, which Kelyr found in a temple. He liked it and intended to make it his throne at home.
The pirates departed the burning cities, their ships heavy with plunder, slaves and fresh provisions for the journey home. Everyone was ecstatic - the raid had been a major success. But back on the shore, a mortally wounded priest called out to the immortal patron of the now enslaved people - the immortal whose temple Kelyr and his men had sacked and burned and whose "hand" they took - mistaking it for a throne. With his dying breath the priest called out to his deity and the immortal answered by cursing Kelyr and his men. They would never return home. They and their successors would spend an eternity adrift at sea.
Halfway home the weather changed and a powerful storm, which lasted for days, blew the fleet far off course - into the deepest unknown of the Sea of Dread from where ships did not return. Several of the ships sank in the storm and the rest were badly damaged. Horrified, the pirates watched as giant sea monsters emerged from the depths to devour the screaming sailors that were swept overboard by crashing waves.
After 10 days the storm finally settled and the ocean calmed. Only 14 of the 20 ships remained and most of them were unable to manoeuvre or propel themselves, having lost rudders or masts or both. Unwilling to leave his treasure out of his sight, Kelyr ordered a few of his most trusted men to take the last operational ship and go for help. They set off to the north and were never seen or heard from again.
The Pact with the Shark-kin
Weeks went by and food and water onboard the last 13 ships were rapidly being consumed. Some of the pirates started killing off slaves to preserve what little food was left. The slaughter and blood in the ocean attracted an evil tribe of shark-kin, who cautiously approached the smashed fleet, now bundled up together. Through weary negotiations, the evil shark-kin - who realised that the pirates were much too well armed to take on in an assault - proposed a trade: The fleet would give up one human sacrifice a week to the satisfy the hunger of an abominations that the shark-kin both worshipped and feared, and in return the fleet of shipwrecked humans would be given enough fish and sea kelp to survive.
Half-starved and desperate, Kelyr agreed. Even he was not so cold-blooded that he enjoyed human sacrifice to the horrors of the deep, but Kelyr eventually acknowledged that the arrangement had its uses. As such, not strictly prisoners were traded away to the shark-kin - a number of pirates who might have been working up the courage to challenge Kelyr were also dragged screaming to the depths to face the mouth and claws of He Who Devours.
The Years of Horror
Two years went by. The colony of shipwrecked were barely surviving on what they were being given by the shark-kin. Kelyr sank into deep melancholy, realizing that despite his wealth and power, he was going to die out there on the ocean. The colony was close to anarchy, with pirates regularly killing each other over food, water, treasure – or most of all – the female prisoners.
There was little the slaves could do to prevent the abuse, but the men of the Hinterlands had valiantly tried to spare their wives and children the horrible death of being sacrificed to He Who Devours. And so, they had drawn lots each week to determine whose turn it was to be sacrificed.
One day, a young man named Lerisar drew the shortest straw, meaning that he was to be sacrificed the next day. That evening before he went to sleep, Lerisar prayed to the immortals and much to his surprise the triton immortal Polonius spoke to him in his dreams, telling Lerisar to rebel against his jailers and the evil shark-kin – worshippers of Polonius’ enemy, the evil immortal Sasskass the Destroyer.
The next day, as the evil shark-kin came to collect Lerisar on the semi-submerged sacrificial platform, he turned to Kelyr and the pirates and called out to them. He chastised them for their lack of courage and for not giving him a fighting chance. Impressed with his courage, his pride wounded by Lerisar's words, Kelyr threw Lerisar a sword and a shield. On the stands around the platform, the crowd went wild, as Lerisar cut down the two shark-kin when they tried to grab him and drag him under the water. The blood flowed in the ocean, and for a moment all went silent...
He Who Devours is revealed
Suddenly, the whole rotten fleet shook, as with a thunderous shriek He Who Devours emerged from the sea in a spray of water!! The stench of rotting flesh between his teeth was overwhelming, but Lerisar stood his ground. He Who Devours lunged forward, huge pincers clicking and cutting. Lerisar dodged but disappeared beneath the shallow water of the submerged platform. The crowd gasped and many screamed in terror, as He Who Devours climbed further up onto the fleet. Panic spread. A few pirates tried to engage the horror of the deep but they died gruesome deaths.
Suddenly, Lerisar emerged again from the water, right next to the beast. He dodged a pincer, deflected another with his shield, and then with a mighty thrust buried his sword to the hilt in He Who Devours' eye. The horror was slain.
The End of Kelyr
Everyone on board the fleet of lashed wrecks were stunned by Lerisar's sudden defeat of He Who Devours. As the panic died down, Lerisar called out a challenge to Kelyr. The pirate lord appeared on his balcony above the submerged platform. He could easily have ordered Lerisar killed where he stood, but Kelyr did not become pirate lord by backing down from a challenge - even one from a slave.
Lerisar and Kelyr met each other in single combat and after a fierce duel the old pirate lay dead as well. Lerisar ordered the slaves to be freed at once and none of the nine remaining pirate captains dared to challenge the man, who had just killed both He Who Devours and Kelyr himself.
The slaves were freed and quickly armed themselves with whatever improvised weapons they could get their hands on - certain that the pirates would eventually go back on their word and try to enslave them again. Lerisar sensed the coming bloodshed and ordered both sides to stand down. An uneasy truce settled over the fleet as the pirates withdrew to one half and the former slaves to the other half of the wrecked fleet.
Lerisar then called for a council of the 10 captains (himself included). The main topic right now was survival - what to do without the food supply from the evil shark-kin, and how to defend the fleet against the reprisal attack that would surely follow just as soon as the shark-kin had gotten over the shock of the death of their monstrous overlord. The former slaves knew many crafts that were vital to the survival of the fleet in the long run and the pirates were too few and too weak to defend the entire fleet. For now, the two sides agreed to put their differences aside and work together for mutual survival. That meant arming the slaves with whatever weapons could be found.
The shark-kin attack
Three days after the defeat of He Who Devours came the attack, which the fleet had been waiting and preparing for. Hundreds of shark-kin swarmed the fleet at night and in a horrible, bloody battle tried to overrun the combined force of pirates and slaves but were defeated - though the victory was costly. A third of the pirates and half the slaves including many women and children had been killed. Losses among the shark-kin were even greater, however, and they did not return.
In the months that followed, Lerisar established a more formal rule over the fleet. The pirates acknowledged his role as leader but many were afraid that Lerisar and the former slaves would seek vengeance on them for past deeds. One of Lerisar's first actions, therefore, was to declare a general amnesty to anyone in the fleet. This greatly upset his fellow country-men who have suffered not only kidnapping from their homes but also two years of abuse and seeing their friends sacrificed to the sea monsters. Wise leaders on both sides recognized the necessity of the amnesty, however, and helped Lerisar enforce it.
Secondly, Lerisar introduced a strict work regime with responsibilities for everyone - some were made fishermen, some guards, some craftsmen, cooks, healers etc. Hard work kept the minds occupied. Anyone who violated the law was severely punished and Lerisar measured out justice equally against the pirates and his fellow countrymen.
The Rule of Lerisar
In the years that followed, life on the fleet was harsh. Of the original fleet of more than 2,000 pirates and 800 slaves, only 500 pirates and 300 slaves remained. Yet, this number was sustainable and through fishing and diving and collecting rain water the fleet managed to survive. Gradually the lashed fleet of wrecks evolved into a floating city, as giant rafts were constructed from the hulls and better accommodations were built.
A conspiracy by a group of Hinterlanders to poison Lerisar and then surprise and kill the pirates for revenge was exposed and the traitors hung. 30 pirates later disappeared on a homemade raft, trying to escape the fleet. After nearly three years at sea, however, both pirates and Hinterlanders started to get philosophical about their existence and the realization that they would likely never see land again. Children were brought up hearing tales of "Dry Land".
The worship of Polonius and other immortals gradually grew as the fleet’s citizens adapted to their new life at sea and within a decade of Kelyr’s death, several small cults of worship had established themselves in Kron.
A unique society
In the decades following Lerisar's ascent to the throne of the floating city, the pirates and the Hinterlanders gradually formed a unified society. Children were born who had never seen "dry land" and gradually as the original members of the fleet grew old or died of malnutrition and the general harshness of the life on the fleet, a new population of mixed pirate/hinterlander heritage took over.
In the early years, the gender mix was far from equal - 2/3 men and 1/3 women - but because of the influence of the rulers and the churches, women were no longer treated as objects to be stolen or bargained for. Rather, they were elevated to something special and the men of the fleet competed for their affections.
Although the gender mix is a lot more 50/50 today – 350 years later – these traditions still affect life in Kron strongly. Four times a year, tournaments are held to decide who is the best swimmer, fisher, craftsman, warrior, and climber and so on. The women don't have to choose a mate from among the winners only, but the tournament is considered a good opportunity to display one's prowess and impress the ladies. A large stadium is built next to the High Captain's Hall, where many of the competitions take place.
It is not unusual for a woman in the floating city to take a new partner every five years or so. Once the woman takes a new partner, any male children leave the household with their father to go live by themselves (until, perhaps, the man secures a new mate), while female children stay with their mothers until they come of age and choose their own first partner. From the age of five, boys are raised by their fathers to take over whatever profession or craft they know.
During the first century of the floating city's existence, a few shipwrecked sailors joined the floating colony but other than that things remained uneventful. Around 700 AC, however, the floating city of Kron, as it has begun naming itself, establishes a regular contact with friendly races of the sea and initiate trade. This creates a great deal of prosperity in the city, because the sea folk bring tools and items long lost or forgotten among the fleet dwellers. A great deal of the ancient treasure is gradually traded away over the following decades, as tritons and merfolk patiently teach the fleet dwellers about the deep and how to cast water-based magic such as Water Breathing.
When a ship finally encountered Kron in 776 AC, the fleet dwellers were so set in their world that they categorically refused to leave their raft city - even just for brief trip to "dry land" and back. As Minrothad Guild ships started regularly paying visits to Kron, the fear of the outsiders gradually subsided and a few daring citizens of the raft city did go away and came back with fantastic tales of dry land. Not many felt inclined to leave the raft city, however, to take on such an enormous outside world filled with so many dangers.
During the 900's, Kron prospered further from trade with "dry landers", increasing the raft-dwellers’ knowledge of medicine, alchemy and other aspects of science and trading with the dry landers for much-needed metal tools and other items in exchange for what little remained of the original treasure and what they could salvage from or hunt in the deep ocean.
2 GAZ9 Players' Booklet page 3 : "Travelers are often surprised to learn that most gambling is illegal among the Minrothad Guilds..."
3 Source: Joshuan's Almanac & Book of Facts, page 144