Skull and Shackles
Before Earthfall, the lands that now compose western Garund extended much farther into the Arcadian Ocean, and the islands of the Shackles were once a sprawling mountain range that connected to Mediogalti Island and Rahadoum. Sumitha was a noteworthy port, and as a result served as the first taste many travelers got of Ghol Gani culture and hospitality. Here, Azlanti traders and diplomats lived among giants. And it was here that the Ghol Gani and the Azlanti worked together to wage a war against the serpent folk. For all the bounty the sea brought, however, the water also threatened to destroy all that the city represents.
Powerful tides had swept in from the north, flooding several neighborhoods that are now disused. The harbinger of these waves was an immense black shark that arrived every year, thrashing violently until appeased with offerings of gold, livestock, incense, and other valuables. The populace dared not resist, having failed once to save the city-state’s sister city from the monster a century ago.
But the City of Light still faces other threats. The sahuagin have since occupied the lost sister city’s ruins, using them as a launching point for raids against the coast. Refugees have crowded the city of Sumitha ever since, fleeing from Liachora, whose ruins have since been claimed by sahuagin, or the fallout of other tragedies.
The aquatic elves have recently ascended to the continental shelf and waterlogged portions of Sumitha, helping to defend it against the sahuagin. The citizens also consider it their duty to train and exercise, knowing that one day they may have to take up arms to fend off the aquatic menace that grows stronger every year. In the meantime, the leaders hope that prophecy will direct them to a decisive victory and lasting peace.
The highest authority is the wise cyclops Phimater, the chief Mythspeaker. A council of guild, religious, military, and community leaders meets regularly to discuss and legislate significant issues, and although the council’s votes are nonbinding, the Mythspeaker often honor their decisions. Several times a year, the Mythspeaker holds public court to hear cases and settle grievances, leaving day-to-day operations to the city’s magistrates, notaries, and other public figures. The populace accepts the Mythspeaker’s rule, for he is a divine figure beloved by all.
A rising minority among cyclops zealots in the city have turned away from the tamer sky-gods in favor of more brutal, violent alien deities. These strange entities reward their one-eyed worshipers for their indiscriminate bloodlust.
Many of the local Azlanti humans have adopted the Ghol Gani worship of nature spirits, the Wendo. Chief among these nature gods is Gozreh, but there is also the worship of Besmara, Tumatenga, Tohoraha, Papahu, and Pele.
The Mythspeaker’s minimalist approach is as much a product of Ghol Gani culture as it is wise governance, for over the course of numerous regime changes, the Ghol Gani have learned that there is no one right way to accomplish a task – be it government, farming, or just eating a meal. The typical Ghol Gani maintains well-intentioned rivalries – both those of her ancestors and those she devises on her own – as an extension of her drive for excellence and potential to someday seize mythic power and help shape the islands’ destiny.
But Sumitha’s society reflects a doomed people all too conscious of their end and seeking escape not by soft decadence or introversion, but through the perversion of all restraint.
Relations between the city’s land-dwelling majority and the aquatic minority are relatively warm, supported by a lively trade in marine goods for bronze tools, glass, and spices. By the Mythspeaker’s decree, the aquatic elves and their kin have the run of the flooded sections of the city when the water rises, ensuring that even abandoned buildings see regular use.
Beyond its borders, Sumitha maintains strong trade ties to the Azlanti city-state of Ankeshel, whose resources allows Sumitha to survive famine. The seventh and youngest wife of priest-king Thalassos IV, Athyra Cassadega, makes her home in Pantheon Hill and acts as an ambassador on behalf of Ankeshel.
Ten major districts make up Sumitha.
Floodmarket: Due to its proximity to the docks, the district now called Floodmarket originally served as the city’s principle bazaar, surrounded on nearly all sides by long warehouses and permanent storefronts. It suffers the brunt of the tidal fluctuation, staying flooded for most of the day and hosting brief market days when the waters recede. Its warehouses still stand open, inhabited now by mussels and crabs that feast on what the waves deliver.
Hadaz: With the loss of warehouse real estate along the south harbor, the shipping companies of Sumitha expanded the piers to the east and constructed storage facilities outside the city walls.
Houses have since sprung up nearby, catering both to those working the waterfront as well as to the many refugee immigrants fleeing from Liachora and other areas hit hard by the black shark. Many permanent structures have appeared over the decades, but the city has been slow to provide the community essential infrastructure, leading to some resentment of those living within the city’s walls.
Hodmonos: Despite the effective loss of the Floodmarket, Sumitha still maintains many protected warehouses for more valuable goods. These have gradually taken over much of the grazing commons once reserved for livestock brought to market or ready for transit, including many of the cattle driven up from the north. The city also manufactures finished goods to fill out merchants’ holds and use locally, and the workshops of Hodmonos that hug the eastern wall are abuzz with the sounds of coppersmiths, weavers, carpenters, and jewelers.
Kamsiodos: The gentle slope of this middle-class neighborhood extends into the ocean, creating a mass of sandbars that protect homes from dangerous waves while making the coast entirely unsuitable for shipping.
Pantheon Hill: This low hill is populated with the marble administrative buildings and residences belonging to influential citizens. The southern end of the hill ascends steeply, and its shrines to hero-gods past and present are visible from nearly every part of the city.
The Old Sewers: During simpler times, the gravity-fed sewers were more than adequate to keep the streets clean and urban smells to a minimum. When the tides swelled to unnatural heights, it was hard to tell which distressed citizens more – the rampant flooding or the sudden reverse flushing of untreated sewage as waves swept up the pipelines.
Since then, workers have plugged most of the street-level entrances to the old sewer and diverted the flow elsewhere, yet this has simply created an underground warren for aquatic beasts.
The Pearls: Once prized as the most expensive part of town, the neighborhood’s name has taken on a new meaning now that approximately half of it is flooded except during low tide. During these short hours, laborers maintain the waterlogged foundations and gradually expand the estates to tower over even the flood zone – much to the chagrin of the aquatic elves.
Seer Heights: Composed of an especially dense mass of metamorphic rock, this steep-sided acropolis is crowned with low retaining walls that create a relatively flat foundation for a dozen residences and a handful of truly ancient, columned temples of pitted marble.
The Shallows: The sloping topography of Sumitha helps the water drain back into the ocean during low tide, but one sunken stretch remains perpetually inundated by at least three feet of salt water. Several squat apartments that extend into the pond serve as improvised docks for recreational boating, though some residents also like to snatch up trapped fish here.
Southgate: In their push to beautify Sumitha, the city council has not limited themselves to creating parks and enriching farmland, but has also spearheaded major renovations and construction to make more efficient use of space and improve living conditions.
The Southgate district is the first completed project in this initiative, yet to the council’s dismay, it has become a neighborhood dominated by recent immigrants and malcontents against cyclops’s rule.