City of Glim by John Karatovic
Admittedly this week's theme was an axcuse to introduce you to some work I had from John Karatovic for a few months now. I was and still am working on a world building project that this city will be a part of called Celtris.
Celtris is a land where Orcs rule a large portion of the northern continent and opperate like Imperial Rome, if Rome had skyships and was a little more bloodthirsty. Glim is in the Southern continent hidden in the sands of a vast dessert that also includes various slavers and a clan of wily blue dragons.
When I read this I felt transported back into another tale of wonder similar to the flavor of the Thousand and one Nights, without furth hyperboyle enjoy...
The City of Glim
Hidden in the vast desert sands, the secret city of Glim has existed as a paradise for the imaginative and the bold. Glim is an impossible city, surrounded by sand for weeks, and far from any natural source of water. Yet, the people of Glim not only survive, they thrive and this is due to the unique nature of the city. When the gods died, Glimmera a goddess of dreams and creation fell from the heavens and crashed into the vast desert. Her body decayed, and her bones turned to sand which weft its way across the world.
The sand called to people in their dreams, artists and craftsmen, architects and dreamers, from all races across the great continent. Over time they left their homelands and began a long pilgrimage following their dreams ever towards the harsh desert. The first to arrive were four wizards of immense power Altus the Conjurer, Suleivo the Evoker, Sinna the Illusionist and Shahas the Transmuter. These four sensed the immense power in the sand and inspired by it worked together to create the city. At first they used their own magic, but fearing it would take too long began summoning mighty genie kind to aid in the task. As payment the genie-kind would be treated as partners forevermore in the city of Glim.
As the dreamers arrived they found a sparkling city built of glass and stone, glittering spires and impossible arches. At the centre of it all, four mighty palaces dedicated to the wizards surrounding the well of dreams. It is from this well that Glim draws its power. For within is the sands of Glimmera capable of providing inspiration (or madness) to any who consume it.
In the hundreds of years since Glim’s founding more dreamers have found their way to the city, and those that live there have had children of their own. The original conclave of wizards began bloodlines of their own, whether bred true with humans or mixed with some genie blood matters little there are no bastards in the nobility of Glim. The nobility provide the important resources the people need to live, the vast quantities of magically conjured food and water, the raw materials for building and repair, the magically lit fires for forges and heat at night and the powerful winds to keep back the sandstorms which always threaten to bury Glim, or worse steal away the sands of Glimmera. Now it is rare for a noble of Glim to have formally studied magic, most merely bind themselves to a family genie and use their magical bond to conjure and create.
Those not of the noble houses are usually called dreamers, and their prize for living in Glim is a taste of Glimmera’s Sand. For someone with a powerful ability to dream and imagine Glimmera’s Sand is not only narcotic it is capable of bringing imagination to life. These dreamers are capable of conjuring Eidolons from their deep subconscious. These Eidolons are a reflection of their creator, hideous eidolons are often the result of a broken or twisted mind, while beautiful and elegant eidolons are often a reflection of someone pure of spirit. The Eidolons’ personalities also reflect some part of the summoner, an eidolon built from the summoner’s base and brutish hunger might appear as a hulking juggernaut with a massive gut and all-consuming maw, while an eidolon representing a summoner’s morality might appear as a sweet and cherubic angel who often chides her master for straying from the moral path.
The Wards of Glim
Glim is separated into roughly four wards these wards are divided roughly by their proximity to the Well of Dreams. Those furthest from the well usually have the least access to the sands of the well, while those closer have greater access.
The Outer Ward – Mirage Ward
Glim has no walls to defend itself from attack from greedy and destructive outsiders who live in a world of scarcity and base need. Instead the city’s greatest defences are its isolation in the middle of a vast desert and the grand mirage. The grand mirage causes the city to constantly shift on the horizon, causing those who seek Glim without the aid of dreams and divinations to become hopelessly lost in the desert as they follow their easily deceived eyes. Furthermore 8 white towers exist along the compass points of the city. These are called the wind towers , and they work to divert the all-consuming sandstorms of the desert around the city leaving those inside protected from the harsh skin flensing grit.
Life in the Mirage Ward:
Life in the Mirage Ward is probably hardest for most, as the supply of Glimmera’s Sand here is thinnest. Many new dreamers who come to Glim often camp in the Mirage Ward, living inside the massive tent city that seems to be expanding ever outward even past the wind towers. Nothing is as it seems in the mirage ward, and the constant moving of the tent city makes streets confusing. There are many unscrupulous individuals in the Mirage Ward always trying to make easy money from new dreamers, the petty and small minded will stay a long time in the Mirage Ward chasing their small dreams of profit and power. Those who live in tents outside the range of the wind towers are the unluckiest of all, for when the sandstorms come they are at best buffeted by the powerful winds of the wind towers that protect the city, and at worst flensed and buried alive in the desert sand.
Posha’s Camel Emporium:
Posha is a rotund man who dreamed of being a powerful merchant. So strong were his dreams that he stole 23 of his father’s finest camels and stole off into the desert with them. At night he dreamed of a glittering city that would welcome him with open arms. Eventually he found his way to Glim, where he started a lucrative camel breeding operation. Posha often says: “I understand that a man who can summon beasts has little need of a camel, unless of course he needs a beast to work for more than 10 minutes?” Posha has since expanded to selling tents and lodging to new dreamers, as well as providing guides and mounts for those who wish to ride into the city in style.
The House of Secrets:
Not all creatures in the city believe Glim to be a paradise. The House of Secrets is home to a group of jealous spellcasters who have lost their inspiration. These conjurers believe their dreams have been stolen from them by the sands and they are incapable of creating anything new. They have turned to summoning Divs (anathema to Genie-kind) in an effort to steal the inspiration of the city’s greatest dreamers and nobles and either destroy them or pervert them for their own uses.
The Pool Ward
In the desert water is life, and this is just as true for the secret city of Glim. The pool ward is a ring of water that surrounds the inner circles of the city, dotted with island homes and bristling with sails. Those that live in the pool ward enjoy relaxing in the many bath-houses and taverns. Everyone from the city incapable of creating their own water with magic comes to the pool ward in order to refresh themselves and their water supply. The water is created by Marids and spell-casters in the 4 pump-houses around the city. These casters work in shifts to provide enough water daily for the city. The Pump Houses also send waste in the sewers beneath the city where it is poured into vast empty caverns that are sealed by the Shaitans when filled.
Life in the Pool Ward
A strange mix of bustle and serenity defines the Pool Ward. Those on the shores of the ward are busy getting water to drink, and clean and cleanse themselves, while those on the islands and boats relax and enjoy themselves. Aquatic species that somehow survive the trek across the desert often make their homes in the pool ward and make their voices heard in the city via the breath-taking coral embassy. Those that work in the Pump Houses have long days of spell-casting in order to meet the daily water quotas that always seem to be rising. Controlled by the powerful Shahas House, the Pumps are a place of constant work where shifts are long and seem to get longer. Eidolons capable of creating water via magic use their abilities most of the day and are thankful when their absent-minded owners finally sleep so that they may wink out of existence and rest. Summoners with aquatic eidolons make their homes in the Pool Ward out of necessity, either taking a home on the pool’s shores or living in one of the many house barges.
Places in the Pool Ward
The Fountain of Love
A fine wine bar frequented by lovers and hopefuls. The Fountain of Love is quite popular the Pool Ward for the exquisite wines that are specially shipped in via ring gate. The fountain is leading a quiet revolution in Glim, and that idea is authenticity. Magically conjured foods, drinks and pleasures are but mere shadows compared to the authentic and real thing. Magul Ago, the bar’s owner works to convince people that instant gratification is robbing the city of inspiration and that by removing perspiration from the equation the city is dooming its citizens to die dreamless.
The Ooze Cave
While constructing the vast sewer system the glittering city would require Shaitan stone-shapers uncovered a sealed cave filled with vile and putrescent oozes. The oozes overcame the shaitans through sheer numbers and then slowly began moving into the sewerage system. The teeming and thronging oozes will eventually find their way into the Pool Ward proper at which point they may taint the entire water supply dooming the population of Glim to die of thirst if the spell-casters of the Pumphouses can’t make up the difference.
The Glass Ward
Towers of Glass and Steel in improbable shapes and angles define the Glass Ward, controlled by the Suleivo family, the Glass Ward is the most prestigious location for a dreamer to live outside the Palace Ward itself. Rarely do the denizens of the Glass Ward leave their glittering homes, instead they stay in their glittering tower homes and indulge themselves on narcotic pleasures. Down at the bases of the towers are the glassworks, powered by djinn-fire the glass works turns the sands of the desert into so much of the glittering city. Furthermore the Sands of Glimmera can be worked into powerful magic mirrors, and shard weapons capable of damaging not just a body but a psyche. The djinn are thus the weapon-smiths of Glim working in their blazing forges for the Altus family they are bound to.
Life in the Glass Ward
Indulgent and dangerous are the two words that best describe life in the Glass Ward. Many of the city’s lesser nobility and more powerful dreamers make their homes here and as the middle and upper classes increase in size space is rapidly becoming the scarcest commodity in Glim. The instability of the over-indulged upper class has created an atmosphere conducive to duels of honor. Such duels are not mere physical confrontations but rather contests of psyche, ego and wit. As such while a physical battle takes place between summoner’s eidolons the summoners themselves are in a battle of quips just as important, lives are spent cheaply and the nobility are quick to crawl into any open space like rats in an overclogged pipe. Yet few artificial wonders can compare to the towers abundant artistic beauty. Delicate glass sculptures decorate the corners of the buildings and some have noticed Glass Gargoyles roosting along some of the more ornate towers.
Locations in the Glass Ward
This beautiful octagonal structure made of glass and steel has a mighty claw atop it reaching for the sky. Inside the claw is a vast arena wherein the greatest of the Glass Ward’s duellists carry out their summoner’s battles. The battles are heavily wagered on within the city, and its said some of the greatest treasures change hands during the Spire Finals. During the season those participating in the Spire tournament must battle opponents in djinn crafted arenas. Only winners have the right to live in the apartments in the Champion’s Spire.
The Shattered Tower
The greatest tragedy to befall Glim was the shattering of Benjazi Tower. Few know what exactly happened that fateful night, but reports claim that some manner of fire and ice magic was used in some manner of battle before the tower suddenly cracked and shattered sending shards all over the city and injuring hundreds. Those inside the tower were all killed in a combination of magical energy and glass related trauma. Now the shattered tower is a haunted place, and few dare enter that cracked and broken tower that juts from the city like a broken bone. Rumors say that stained glass golems wander the ruins, and swarms of razor sharp glass bats bleed out any who attempt to enter, but still others believe the great treasure of the Benjazi Summoners still lies in their vault still somewhere in the Shattered Tower.
Four mighty palaces with designs obviously inspired by the elements of the four genie-kind surround the Well of Dreams. Here the four houses of the founders make their homes, conduct their business and attend the affairs of the city. At the well itself begins a line that wends and winds its way all the way to the edges of the city, for those who came to Glim for the merest taste of Glimmera’s Sand. For even just a small taste is said to make even the wildest dreams come true. The line is enforced by the founders genies and eidolons and it is through the understanding that only patience will allow a pilgrim to taste of the sands that keeps those in the line from rioting. It can take a matter of weeks for a petitioner to get a taste of the sand after joining the line. Petitioners are fed, and watered via minor magics it is considered one of the greatest traditions of the city to care for petitioners who take the role that traditional beggars would in lesser cities.
Life in the Well-Ward
For the four ruling houses, life is political. Each of the houses seeks to manoeuvre around the other and gain ascendancy, but when one house does seem to get the upper hand over another house, two more seem to be ready with a reaction. The most powerful in the ruling houses bind or make deals with genie-kind in order to retain services or magic. Otherwise the nobility create elemental themed eidolons to help them with their duties. While a life of public service is an important part of Glim’s nobility, so is the right to partake of the well more regularly than the standard petitioner. For the nobles there are no lines. For the petitioners, the Well-Ward is the last stop on a long pilgrimage to be free of the dreams and nightmares that call them across all lands. Once a pilgrim has tasted of the Sand their perception is forever changed and the concept of the real or the authentic becomes sophistry. To one who has tasted the sands what is imagined is what is real, and thus the boundaries of the real are bent just slightly every time another tastes the sand.
Locations in the Well Ward
The Well of Sand
The well itself is an impressive sinkhole, adorned by an elegant set of shaitan carved stairs. Petitioners follow these stairs to the bottom of a massive carefully carved cave at the bottom of which is a layer of what at first appears to be quicksand. Though as a mortal mind approaches the quicksand begins to take a different shape often reflecting someone a petitioner has lost. The well speaks to the petitioner and determines the pilgrim’s worthiness. Those that taste of the sands are usually granted a single wish, although others become permanently altered by the sand and become summoners able to summon forth their subconscious to the world. Like a dream the questions the well asks are forgotten soon after, and it is very rare for any petitioner to be allowed a second taste by either the nobility or the sand.
The Hanging Gardens of Altus
These mighty gardens hang in massive stone bowls which are suspended by impossibly large thick chains. The Altus family makes their homes in the Hanging Gardens, within each of which miniature ecosystems flourish around the Altus homes. The Altus family have an enclave of druids that tend the hanging gardens called the gardeners of Glim, protecting these precious ecosystems and keeping them balanced around the masterfully constructed homes and palaces. Lately Haltore, the smallest of the gardens has become stricken with a tree blight. The other gardens might follow, which is a major problem for the city as the hanging gardens are the greatest food-bowl in Glim.
Secrets of Glim
Here are some possible Secrets for a GM to use if he is running a game set in Glim.
The Genies who serve the nobility of Glim were all once servants of Glimmera and seek to manipulate the mortals into raising their lost goddess who once employed the djinn as crafters of mighty dreams indeed.
Shard weapons are capable of temporarily damaging the bond between summoner and eidolon, but rumours tell of a mad eidolon who has a shard of such potency that it can permanently cut a mortal off from the dreaming entirely, turning such an individual into a horrid automaton. This eidolon seeks to free others of his kind and band against their creators for wasting their potential.
Divs have started infiltrating Glim, they seek a way of transforming all that has been built to dust in the wind. Their opening gambit is to sabotage the wind towers, so that when the next sandstorm hits complete chaos breaks loose as the petitioners desperately attempt to seek shelter in the glass towers.