In brief: A crumbling spire of iron found within the run-down centre of the Imperial capital. Its outer reaches are inhabited by sundry wicked folk, its inner reaches are a mystery.
Rising from the heart of the old city of Reflected Glory is the Talazan, meaning "Iron Spire" in High Imperial, referred to in the vernacular as the "Citadel of Rust".
The Talazan is older than memory, dating back to the earliest days of the Empire. It is said to have been built by Banarjahab himself from the last joint of the little finger of the Cosanq. Certainly there must be some powerful magic in its creation for it to have lasted as long as it has without rusting away completely.
Physically, the Talazan is a tower rising 300m in several cylindrical stages, with a variety of side turrets. The base of the tower is 100m diameter, but six radial arms spread out another 400m giving the whole complex a base diameter of of 900m.
Curtain walls span the gaps between the radial arms at the ends, and a second stage about half-way between the outer circumference and the tower wall. The curtain walls and radial arms are about 10m tall with the radial arms rising to 20m tall where they meet the tower. At each junction between the radial arms and curtain walls there is a tower, rising a total of 40m.
The Talazan is made entirely out of iron, but is now slowly rusting away. Although the main structure is sound, parts of the curtain walls have rusted through and many doors have become permanently closed. The air is dank with a strong metallic smell and the walls look like they are bleeding. The whole area is redolant with a miasma of decay. No-one knows what its original purpose was - fortress, temple, mausoleum, palace or monument.
The Talazan is inhabited, however. It makes an excellent landmark and seems to draw people in. The radial arms form six courtyards and some are home to various groups.
The North courtyard is home to a bandit gang calling themselves the Slaughterhouse Gang. There are 2-300 of them in total but they are poorly organised, divided into "clans" who spend as much time fighting each other as raiding. They survive by raiding the surrounding slums, taking what they need from others. Since the slums are a poor area, these bandits are pretty poor too. Their only concession to regulated activity is in control of the meat market to the southeast.
The Northeast courtyard is known locally as Blood Court. Many of the slum dwellers raise pigs for meat. Most have an animal or two per family, but some have gone into business rearing them, and they come to the Blood Court to sell them and to slaughter them. Every week, a general market is held here as well as the meat market. The Slaughterhouse gang have learned that it is easiest to take "taxes" from traders selling their wares here than to rob them outright. The traders object but have no recourse to law, and the market is the only place they can guarantee customers so they are stuck with it. The slaughterhouse is an horrific place, where the rust and blood form pools of iron and the squeals of the pigs echo eerily through the iron corridors of the Talazan.
The Southern courtyard is home to another gang - the Weavers. The Weavers are smaller than the Slaughterhouse gang - numbering around 70 members - but they are better armed and better organised. Rumour says that their leader is an ex-military man. The Weavers are rivals of the Slaughterhouse Gang but prefer to profit from this rivalry by providing "protection" to the locals from the Slaughterhouser's depradations. Due to their small numbers their range is small and they are unwilling to remove the Slaughterhousers permanently (which they could probably do with concerted effort) since it would remove the need for "protection".
Also within the Southern Quarter can be found the Garden of Midnight, the most fertile spot of the Talazan. Strange plants grow here, red coloured from the heavy iron content in their leaves. Some are edible, some poisonous. The Weavers make a profit selling the edible plants to others.
Next to the Garden is Alchod's House of Dark Dreams. Alchod is a herbalist who uses the plants of the Garden to formulate poisons and drugs, again used to great profit by the Weavers.
The Southwest courtyard is home to a small group called the Cult of the Elephant. These 20 or so individuals are Banarjahab fanatics who believe that the fall of the Empire is because people have forgotten the Elephant god in their prayers. They live here as penitents for the neglect of others. The Weavers tolerate them with amusement, considering them to be harmless cranks. The Cult has an elephant that they devote most of their time to caring for and feeding. Nevertheless it is a sorry looking specimen. Its ritual garments are old and moth-eaten, its eyes are rheumy and it seems pitifully thin. Occasionally the cult take their sacred elephant around the city, exhorting others to repent to Banarjahab and asking for donations.
The second in command of the Elephant Cult is more ambitious that the leader. He seeks to join forces with the Weavers and use force to persuade people to take up the cause.
The inner tower on the radial wall between the Southeast and Northeast courtyards is known as Mologo's Tower. Mologo is a mysterious and powerful individual with a small group of bizarre servants (including some Vug and perhaps a Tlaxu). Rumour says he is a sorcerer of great power. Some young Slaughterhousers who tried to break into his tower never returned. His aims are a mystery.
The main tower of the Talazan is avoided by the inhabitants of the courtyard. Mostly, they can't get in anyway since the doors have rusted shut. Sometimes strange lights and sounds come from the tower. People whisper of the Talazanthir - the Dwellers of the Iron Spire - as some supernatural entities.
There are catacombs beneath the Talazan, and within the radial walls. Within the courtyards are iron building, shored up with wood and stone in the inhabited parts. Floors may be rusted to paper thinness, sound is distorted, echoes and can continue for ages, the whole place stinks.
But there is plenty of scope for adventure....
The Talazan is meant as a little micro-cosm within the Imperial Capital, where the players could set up camp and become involved with the locals in many different ways. Suggestions include:
- Joining forces with the Slaughterhouse Gang or the Weavers
- Helping the locals against the bandit gangs
- Buying a particular ingredient from Alchod
- Finding a particular ingredient from Alchod
- Breaking into Mologo's Tower
- Attempting to contact Mologo to learn a rare spell
- Internal politics of the Elephant Cult
- Exploring the Talazan itself to learn ancient secrets.
The Empire is rife with locations like the Talazan - ancient monuments now fallen into rack and ruin and home to new inhabitants. The GM is encouraged to create new Talazan inhabitants, and new locations along similar lines.