Sands of Destiny
A wealthy mercantile city-state on the shores of the Estuary of the Forked Tongue, Balic is under the control of Dictator Andropinis, a sorcerer-king who claims to have been elected to his throne over seven hundred years ago. Despite the dictator’s grip, Balic is perhaps the most affluent city-state in the Tyr Region and is home to powerful merchant houses that bring great wealth to Balicans fortunate enough to share in the prosperity. The business of Balic is business, and for the most part, Andropinis does not interfere in routine affairs of nobles or merchant emporiums. The city is renowned for its democratic traditions. Balic’s nobles are seated in a Chamber of Patricians that creates and maintains the code of laws, and its templars must stand for election to 10-year terms. The various professional guilds (and Balic’s chapter of the Veiled Alliance, for that matter) conduct their business by taking votes and electing officers; even the dictator is, in theory, elected. Much of this democracy, however, is little more than an illusion. The office of dictator is held for life, and Andropi nis has endured in his position now for centuries. Public debate and discourse is allowed, but only up to a point. Any direct criticism of the dictator or his templars is dealt with harshly, and the patricians learned long ago to pass only those laws that meet with the dictator’s approval. Balic enjoys a cultural heritage and a civic mythology dating back thousands ofyears, which finds expression in a public appreciation for poetry and drama. The mythology still lives in the form of powerful arcane vestiges; Andropinis and his templars are masters of manipulation. The cultural heritage is evident in the dozens of theaters through out the city-state, which run the gamut from crowded, ramshackle stagehouses in the poorer quarters to magnificent amphitheaters in the noble districts. In Balic, talented playwrights and orators can win acclaim equal to that held by the greatest gladiators as long as they steer clear of subject matter that the dictator’s templars might find offensive.
BALIC AT A GLANCE
The wealthiest of the Seven Cities, Balic is a mercantile power known for its democratic systems, although Dicta tor Andropinis is the true authority in the city-state. Population: Roughly 24,000 people live in Balic, with more in the nearby countryside. About half the popula tion is human. Dwarves, muls, elves, and half-elves are present in large numbers. Balic is also home to small numbers of minotaurs and half-giants. Water~ A system of five public wells and extensive sub terranean cisterns supplies Balic with water. Most noble villas have their own cisterns. The city-state depends on the intermittent rainfall of the months of Sun Descend ing to replenish its water stores. In dry years, the praetors enforce strict water rationing. Supplies: Balic’s exports include grain, salt, olives wine, livestock, leather, marble, and a small amount of copper. Defense: Balic faces few threats from other city-states, but giants and desert raiders are drawn to the fields and manors outside the city walls. Five legions of one thou sand soldiers each garrison the city and its fields. Most able-bodied free citizens are conscripted into the legions as young adults for three years of service. Inns and Taverns: The Olive Tree, just off the Road of Legions in the Arena Precinct, offers cheap but secure lodgings for travelers. The Furled Sail is a rough, danger ous place that caters to the crew and passengers of silt skimmers moored in the harbor. The Thespian House in the Market Precinct, known for its bawdy productions, secretly serves as a meeting place for the Veiled Alliance
BALIC’S POWER STRUCTURE
Most Balicans regard Andropinis as a necessary evil, resigning themselves to the fact that the dictator wields supreme power and isn’t likely to surrender it. Andropinis routinely arranges the elections of tern plars he favors and directs the Chamber of Patricians to pass the laws he drafts. From time to time, he indulges idealists and reformers, allowing corrupt nobles or unsatisfactory templars to be indicted or voted out. However, the dictator retains absolute con trol over the city’s legions and brooks no defiance of his personal authority.