Melankul is an empty husk without her citizens breathing life into her every day. From the dark alleys of the Dry Pit to the soaring buttresses of the Old City, her people flit about their lives, some hoping to increase their power while others want nothing more than to survive for another day. Below are five(ish?) such people your players can encounter while spending time in the city.
Name: Cathis Icewarden
Description: As with all surface elves, Cathis stands approximately 6’4” tall and appears delicately built by human standards. Her glass mask is etched with light geometric patterns that resemble snowflakes and stars simultaneously, and the glass itself appears to be comprised of multiple thin layers of purple and blue that make her appear as if she’s always ensconced in twilight. Cathis is most often seen in the simple white and blue robes her office demands, though she is not above a little vanity now and again. She is never without a few pieces of jewelry, and, though these adornments change frequently, Cathis seems to favor thinks featuring sapphire, amethyst, and rose gold.
About: The title of “Icewarden” has been past down to the spiritual leader of the desert elves of Melankul since the city was founded, and Cathis is the 12th to hold that title. Cathis oversaw the integration of the dwarves after the Frozen Lotus’ wards failed as well as the construction of the outer city which houses Melankul’s human population. Many elves whisper that she has overstepped the limits of her title, and yet her calm guidance and welcoming nature has steered Melankul to unbelievable prosperity. Still, the whispers grow louder as the discontent of her people becomes more palpable every year. Cathis is largely unconcerned, however. After all, she has far too many tangible problems threatening the city to worry about a few malcontents. Her supporters worry this casual disregard will ultimately be her undoing. As an elf, Cathis could easily live another 500 years, though many close to her wonder if she won’t step down from her position to enjoy the final centuries of her life in peace. Such abdication is not unheard of, yet with no clear successor in the wings and a whole city’s future at stake, Cathis’ stepping down would could lead to disaster as the elves struggle to find a spiritual leader with enough political acumen to take the reigns and lead the city.
Name: Mirwo Deepspit
Description: In his prime, Mirwo was a broad-chested, thick shouldered bull of a dwarf who smiled as often as he forgot the face of an enemy, which is to say never. His arms and knuckles were a scarred map of the battles he fought but his face, always framed by an unkempt mane and beard of blonde hair, remained unmarred and youthful despite his hard life as a soldier. Unlike many dwarves, Mirwo eschewed most piercings and jewelry, though not because he viewed them as frivolous or undignified; It was simply a matter of never having enough assets to do anything more than survive. Now he allows himself one piece of jewelry – a black iron torq given to him by his husband, Barlon.
About: In his youth, Mirwo Deepspit was renowned for his temper and his mind; both were impossibly sharp, terribly quick, and deadly to his enemies. Though born to a family with low standing among the clans, he quickly rose to prominence through his use of tactics in the wars against the drow. He used his newfound fame to marry into a more powerful family and, with his husband’s social connections and his ambition, he became an influential figure throughout the dwarven holdings. He could sniff out opportunity just as easily as a xorn sniffs out gems, and when the elves came begging for help in their hour of need, he knew his chance to lead his people had come. Over the next handful of decades, Mirwo’s people thrived under his even-handed rule, though many of the old families did not forget the avaricious lowborn dwarf who usurped power from those who should be rulers by birthright. Mirwo’s recent illness came on aggressively but did not spread to anyone else in his household, making people think that he might have been poisoned. His husband is extremely protective of him as a result and has become his primary caregiver despite a fleet of doctors and nurses at their disposal. It remains to be seen if Mirwo will recover from this or if the illness will do what armies of drow could not.
Name: Sister Ginthe
Description: Whether presiding over council matters or at home enjoying a cup of tea alone, Sister Ginthe is always dressed in undyed linen trousers and tunics as she values the practicality of the clothes above all else. Her curly, black hair has more silver in it every day, it seems, though she does not mind in the least. She wears the signs of her aging and the scars on her face like a crown, hard earned through years of selfless dedication to those that could not care for themselves. Similarly, she does nothing to hide the fact that she is missing a leg, opting to make do with a simple pair of wooden crutches. At one time, a dwarven tinkerer looking to ingratiate himself with her offered to make Sister Ginthe a prosthetic leg that would allow her to walk much as she did before her illness. She accepted the generous offer, however she insisted he build the leg for a young man who lost his leg in a mining accident. Sister Ginthe fully understands and appreciates the power she wields as one of the three councilors; however, it has not changed who she is fundamentally.
About: Much like her counterparts on the council, Sister Ginthe was never meant to lead a sprawling city. She wasn’t a brilliant tactician, a political savant, or an established head of a religious order. Sister Ginthe was merely a kind, young woman who constantly put the wellbeing of others before herself. When the withering plague struck the shantytown in the Pit, Sister Ginthe broke the quarantine to administer healing and last rights as best she could. Her compassion was admirable, though it cost her dearly. She caught the plague and the disease spread aggressively, ultimately taking her leg and horribly scarring much of her face. Once she was recovered, Sister Ginthe grabbed a pair of crutches and headed right back into the hardest struck places to comfort people as best she could. The humans of the city came to regard her as a living saint, and when it came time to choose a leader, Sister Ginthe was elected as a representation of the best humanity had to offer. Over the years, both her fellow councilmembers came to not only accept her as an equal but to rely on her judgement. Sister Ginthe is a woman use to dealing with hardship and is not someone who seeks comfort for herself despite the lavish lifestyle her power could provide. Though her age and the plague’s effects have not been easy to deal with, she knows the city needs a steady hand to guide it, especially with Mirwo’s recent illness.
Name: The Phantom King
Description: The Phantom King is a gaunt, gray-skinned half-orc with gold-capped tusks and a flair for the dramatic. Actually, he’s the half-elf son of Cathis Icewarden and a well-off merchant who chose a life of crime to get back at the mother who abandoned him. Truth be told, the Phantom King is not a he at all, nor is it an individual; it’s just what the cabal of halflings that controls the city’s criminal element call themselves. Or perhaps none of these things are in any way accurate. No one knows who or what this “Phantom King” truly is, however everyone in Melankul understands that one thing: as powerful as the three councilmembers are, the Phantom King holds absolute power as the kingpin of Melankul’s underworld.
About: Though the identity of the Phantom King is unknown, his power and influence are felt everywhere, especially in the city’s poorest districts. Among the downtrodden, many view the Phantom King as a benevolent dictator protecting them from the predations of the upper class. After all, everyone knows the city’s guards are only interested in protecting the wealthy and not the most vulnerable citizens. The Phantom King, on the other hand, has done a lot for the impoverished. Schools, soup kitchens, employment opportunities, all of these good things flow from his benevolence. And when so much is given, isn’t it only fair that certain…loyalties are expected? For example, if you see one of the Phantom King’s blades performing a job, maybe look the other way and don’t tell the rare guard that shows up later asking inopportune questions. Beyond the bare necessities of life, the Phantom King also can provide other favors. Really, he’s happy to give anything in his power…for the right price. OF course, you would never be able to state your request directly to the Phantom King. At most, you would talk to a street level associate who would run it up the chain if they thought it worthwhile. The closest you could hope to get to the Phantom King would be an audience with one of his four generals. In no particular order, they are:
- Glasscrack, a kenku who handles the network of thieves across the city
- Gerof Vinojet, a human mage who oversees the King’s information network
- Siduna Steel, a half-elf bard/master of disguise who can charm her way in anywhere
- Castex Falaren, a human tough and former sellsword who oversees the King’s blades.
Description: Tuila is short for her age and rail thin, likely due to the poor nutrition available to her in the orphanage where she spent the first ten years of her life. She now lives with the Sisters of the Violet Eye, a human temple that adopted her because she showed a natural inclination to divine magic. Despite spending the past few years studying under and living with the Sisters, Tuila has not adapted to the strict discipline of the temple. This individualism is on full display in the way Tuila wears her hair. Though the other Sisters wear their hair under a violet headscarf, Tuila allows her auburn locks to flow in a wild, free tangle like a mane that frames her narrow face. Oddly enough, the Sisters allow this without complaint. After all, it’s hard to argue with the reincarnation of one’s goddess.
About: Tuila arrived alone at the orphanage as a gaunt, sickly two-year-old wrapped in an oversized leather cloak. The only possession aside from the cloak was a small silver ring on a bit of twine around her neck. From a young age, Tuila displayed a talent for healing magic, and the orphanage was quick to take advantage of this. They would sell Tuila’s healing to whoever needed it, no questions asked. This would often put her in contact with the criminal element, who began to call her the Little Saint. Over time, this nickname and reputation spread to the point where people of all social strata had heard of the young miracle worker. It was her resurrection of a young boy killed in a cart accident that brought her to the attention of the Sisters of the Violet Eye. They adopted her and, in short order, became convinced she was the prophesied incarnation of their goddess. And Tuila was happy to let them believe this. For the first time in her life she was someone important. She had food, a warm bed, and people seemed to respect her. Also, the voice in her head that whispered to her constantly, that told her who and how to heal, told her to do it. And she learned long ago to not argue with that voice. It always got its way in the end, after all.