Rise and Fall of Arela
Kharlin is one of the more powerful city-states of Arela and is situated to the south west of the port city Shivar. It is connected to Shivar by one of the Great Causeways, ancient roads that are found around Arela and typically connect the ancient great cities to one another. Kharlin, like almost all of the cites of Arela, is founded on the ruin of an ancient Arelan city, resting at the base of a great tall mountain. The city itself is massive, consisting of mostly new construction over old ruins, and a labyrinth of subterranean structures. The city has massive siege walls around its center, and a citadel built in right against the mountain Kharlus. The mountain and surrounding region is riddled with caves and ancient mines which still yield iron, silver, and to some extent rarer metals. Iron is Kharlin’s top export, with regular caravans going down the great causeway to Shivar, or down the river ways to some of the smaller port towns and shipped off to the nations of Mareata.
The mines are mostly worked by slaves, slavery being a prime institution in Kharlin life. Slavery in Kharlin, and other places in Arela, is a legal status that can be acquired or bestowed onto a person in many different ways, the most common being voluntary sale, or punishment for crimes. Legally no one is ‘born’ a slave, but what is law and what is reality do not typically coexist in Kharlin. A person may sell themselves into slavery for a term agreed upon with the purchaser (individuals, investors, businesses, or even the city of Kharlin itself) to pay off a debt, as reconciliation for an offense, as a way to avoid compulsive military service(typically this is with the agreement that the slave will not be used for the military or in a martial capacity, as is not uncommon) or as an opportunity to work for a wealthy or noble family, or a well known tradesman. Slavery is also a typical punishment for criminals, the use and term of the slavery dependent on the type of offense. A murderer of a peasant may find himself a slave in the mines for a year or two, stealing from a merchant may find yourself a slave worker in a fighting pit for several months, where as rape of a citizen of a higher class would see you a slave in the deepest mine for the rest of your (not very long) life, or fighting in the pits as fodder.
Slaves in Kharlin are identified by collars worn around the neck. Typically, someone who sold themselves into slavery would have a simple leather collar with a tag or symbol that identifies their master, and a date stamp that identifies when the term of slavery is over. A well valued slave of a wealthy family, such as a nobleman’s valet, might wear a fine collar of silk. Criminals universally wear iron collars, sometimes magically enhanced.
The head Mage of the royal family of Kharlin, known only as Oraltow, is rumored to make particularly effective slave collars learned from ancient Arelan artifacts. Though these rumors may stem from the fact that he appears to wear one himself.
There is a common phrase in Kharlin: “there are no jails in Kharlin” which, while not true strictly speaking, comes from the fact that slavery and corporal punishment are the preferred methods of dealing with crime. A wealthy merchant found evading taxes for example would not be made a slave, but would instead be set a hefty fine, and have one of his/her eyes put out. Some one caught in petty theft may lose a digit, etc…
The land around Kharlin is a mild to warm climate. Outside the city walls are small towns and rural fields known as “Fortified farms”. The fortified farms are areas of extremely fertile land with forts and garrisons sprinkled about for protection against goblins, undead, and other such creatures. Despite the farms producing extraordinary crop yields, family owned farms are not very well off due to the bribes and taxes that come with the protection required by the Kharlin army. Wealthier land owners are actually further from the city, as they can afford their own guards and slaves and avoid the higher taxes.
The government of Kharlin is a hereditary dictatorship run by the Kharlus family, who have been in power since the city’s founding, and are descendants of general Kharlus, who lead the expedition down the great causeway from Shivar and took the city from the dead and goblin infestation that had rooted there. The royal family is both respected and feared, and rumors abound of their exploits and prowess in battle. They have a reputation for being ruthless, ambitious and prideful.
Kharlin has compulsory service in its military for all residents which must be taken in the form of 18 months service between the ages of 17 and 21. In recent history Kharlin has fought wars against Shivar (prior to it being an open city), in which they took the city only to then lose it to a northern nation of Ceres, their prime rival. The resulting war defined the generation and ended in stalemate, with most of the fighting taking place in small settlements in the rough country between the two, and the area in and around Shivar itself. The war was hard on the economies of just about all of settled Arela, as it interrupted trade with Mareata, and it lead to the Shivar compromise in which Shivar lost its sovereignty.
This war was settled almost a generation ago, since then the Kharlin military has mostly gone back to its role of protecting the city and settlements, enforcing the rule of the Kharlus family, clearing the mines of the constant infestation of undead and waging the constant mini wars against goblinoid, orc and kobold tribes in the region. Kharlin has a small army of goblinoid slaves working its most dangerous mines. Even without an official war being on in the past 30 years, few get through their service in the military without seeing any fighting.
The dominant gods of worship in Kharlin are: