“Caelodunia, the eternal city, marvelous in its splendor
The eternal promise of things to come!
Hope for the future, from the ashes of the past!
Caelodunia, of thee I sing.” - The epic of Caelodunia, author unknown
Many have heard of Caelodunia from the poems and songs, a place of promise and opportunity, where ancient treasures and vast fortunes lie ripe for the taking. Over the last hundred and fifty years, the city’s population exploded, with treasure hunters and would-be adventurers flocking to the city upon hearing the songs. After arriving, they realized what remained was buried under a hundred feet of hardened pyroclastic flow. Undeterred, these settlers created a small community, all centered around excavating the ancient city, calling it Caelodunia, in honor of the city they hoped to uncover. Thus the current iteration of Caelodunia came to be.
Caelodunia has existed since the first creatures set foot on Orr. The identity and race of the original builders has been lost to time, but Oreads, Ifrits, halflings, elves, orcs, humans, and others, have all called the city home at one point or another. Building their homes and businesses on top of the old, creating a maze of tunnels, ruins, and even entire city blocks, beneath the current city, stretching down throughout the city’s history.
While Caelodunia’s influence is rarely felt outside of northern Eramar, every would-be conjuror has heard of it, and fears it. As it’s home to the largest Hellknight order in Eramar, the enigmatic Order of the Pyre; an order dedicated to combating extraplanar creatures, hunting down the conjurors that consort with them, and purging both with flame and steel.
Bordered on one side by an active volcano, and on the other by the harsh northern sea, Caelodunia constantly finds itself on the brink of destruction, but like moths to the flame, people continue to pour into Caelodunia. The volcanic ash has transformed the surrounding area into one of the most fertile areas in northern Eramar, attracting farmers from far and wide. Within the city, scavengers roam the upper two levels, picking through remnants of the old world, looking for anything they can sell up above. Travel below the first two levels is a capital crime, but this still fails to dissuade some truly desperate treasure hunters. Those that survive the creatures lurking below, and manage to avoid the Hellknight blockades, return with impossible tales of lost dwarven temples, massive statues of fiery humanoids, and caverns lit by ancient magics.
“I hereby swear allegiance to Yeenam Glent, our lord and protector. I will seek his guidance in all things, for it is only by his will that we may stand against the forces of chaos. I will be unwavering in my duty, I will show no mercy to the guilty. For this is what our lord commands.” - Excerpt from the Oath of the Pyre
Caelodunia is ruled by the Sorcerer-King Yeenam Glent, all bureaucrats and lords are beholden to his whims; backed by legions of Hellknights, none have the courage or man power to oppose his rule. Each district is run by a governor, appointed by Glent, and extensively vetted by the Pyre’s Inquisitors. Within these districts, the governor's’ power is near-absolute, anyone and anything in the district is bound to their authority, and answers directly to them. Hellknights however, are the one exception to this rule, they answer directly to Glent, and are not bound by the laws of the individual districts.
Once per year a general assembly, where the four district governors along with the three leaders of the Order of the Pyre, are called together to report upon the status of their districts, as well as any progress they’ve made in the war against That Which Dwells Below.
Caelodunia is far to the north of Eramar; the ocean keeps the city relatively warm, but it’s still bitterly cold during the winter and tepid during the summer. The sky is constantly overcast, an unbroken sheet of grey clouds, sunny days are a rarity. Light rain is common. Because of this, many farmers opt to grow crops which require little sunlight, and can handle the damp.
By far the largest district in Caelodunia is the trade district in the city-proper, located on the docks. Ruled over by an enigmatic governor, whose name, gender, and even race is unknown to all but Glent and Shokenier. Any who have met the governor report seeing a different person each time, reports range from an attractive elven woman, to an obese human, to, in some rare cases, a devil or other lawful outsider, despite this, the one thing that remains constant is the governor's voice, which people describe as a sharp staccato crackle, like dry wood in a fire. All goods going into and out of Caelodunia must pass through the trade district, and are subject to inspection by the black masked Inquisitors of the Seal, who make up the majority of the district’s law enforcement personnel. The trade district is unsurprisingly one of the wealthiest districts in Caelodunia, due in no small part to the harsh tariffs and heavy docking fees. Heavy-handed intervention by the governor has prevented any kind of official guilds or cabals from forming, but a few criminal syndicates have formed, and make a decent profit smuggling illegal goods and information into and out of the city.
The sweat district gained its gruesome moniker from the near-constant gladiatorial games and contests taking place in the many arenas and circuses dotted throughout the district. Despite the staggering number of venues, the main draw of the district is the grand arena at the center, which all the roads lead to, like the spokes of a giant wheel. By far the most widely known district outside of Caelodunia, the sweat district draws gladiators from all over Eramar, with the promise of fame, fortune, and competition against the best fighters in the world. The Order of the Pyre regularly makes use of the arena for training exercises, often pitting a squad of recruits against a conjured devil, or criminals bound for execution. Ruled over by a reedy, bookish and oddly pale Elf named Trent Derwen, who gained his position as governor after shaping the grand arena out of the living rock, with the help of a small cadre of Druids. By Derwen’s decree, all events within the grand arena are free to any citizen of Caelodunia, resulting in a near-constant crowd. Among the gladiators, fights to the death are a rarity, when they do happen (generally on festival days) the massive arena is packed. When enough blood has been spilt, some claim to see the faint glow of arcane sigils beneath the sand, but anyone with any sense dismisses these claims as baseless rumors.
The smallest, but by far the most important district is the forbidden district, directly overseen by Paravicar Rahn, and inaccessible to all without direct invitation from the king or the paravicar. Within this district lies the main Hellknight barracks within the city proper, and several other buildings, constantly spewing dark-smoke, guarded around the clock by fully armored Hellknights. The few that know this information have the good sense not to question it, but some believe these are massive arcane laboratories where captured mages are put to work, producing gear for the Pyre, and researching the various heretical artifacts dredged up from below.
The comfort district is home to Caelodunia’s upper and upper middle class. Travel into the comfort district is heavily regulated, purely for the safety of its residents, and in the interest of keeping the number of Hellknights within the district down. For outsiders, the comfort district is the part of Caelodunia which feels the most like home. Active Hellknight patrols are rare, the hot spring which the district is built over nourishes the many gardens and parks, making the district stand in stark contrast to the cold grey stone of the rest of the city. In the recent years, the district has begun to thrive after Larin Sim was appointed governor. In contrast with the rest of the governors, Sim takes no pains to isolate himself from his people. Any who wish to speak with him are free to walk into his office and speak with the governor. A jovial, middle aged human, Sim enjoys talking with his subjects about whatever concerns they have, and many leave his office feeling like their concerns have been taken into consideration, and their fears quelled. Rumors of rebellious teenagers, and social agitators, being dragged off in the night by masked men, are just that, rumors. Sim’s office refuses to comment on the matter and all the families whose children were supposedly victims of these kidnappings deny any knowledge of such an event.
The first under-district is home to the majority of Caelodunia’s citizens. The first under-district primarily consists of the ruins of the previous incarnation of Caelodunia, a human dominant settlement which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Unlike the current city, this previous district was largely built in a half-timber style, resulting in many of the buildings collapsing as the supports rotted away. Undeterred, Glent has commissioned a massive public works project, to excavate the remains on the previous city, and rebuild the under-district. The project is nearing its fourth decade, and is currently less than half completed, with many buildings still collapsed, and artifacts still lurking in the rubble. The current governor, Rogrit Steelsoul a gruff dwarven architect, who was originally hired to oversee the initial excavation, and proved himself a capable and, most importantly, loyal leader. By far the largest district, this district is also the most heavily patrolled by the Hellknights, who actively inspect current excavation sites for any signs of dangerous artifacts. In addition, the under-district is home to many inquisitors, Hellknights specially trained to hunt down any which display magical talent, and either send them above for training, or dispose of them. For unknown reason, the population this district has a far higher number of Sorcerers, Summoners, and other strange talents, unlike any known form of magic, than any other city in Orr. Parents are encouraged to keep a close eye on their children, and report to their neighborhood paralichtor if their children or any of their children’s friends discuss having strange dreams, seeing an “imaginary” friend, or show any kind of unusual ability.
The second under-district is a buffer between the dangers which lurk below, and Caelodunia; it’s home to the poor, the outcasts, and the criminals. Consisting primarily of an elven city built around a petrified forest, the city was secured during the Third Under-Crusade, nearly two decades ago, but has yet to be formally brought into the city. Thus, it has no formal governor, and is still under the control of Lictor Shokenier. The residents of this district are those that are unwelcome above, or unable to afford lodgings in the upper districts. This is where many of the city’s mages, criminals, and scavengers live; constantly picking through the ruins of the elven city looking for artifacts to sell above, and prolong their lives by a few days. This level is also home to the Chasm, a massive hole leading down into the level below, which is under constant guard by a battalion of Hellknights. Through this chasm, creatures from below attempt to enter the city proper, and the Hellknights can enter the lower levels.
“That place… I’ve seen the Vale, I’ve been to Hell itself, but that place scares me. Down in those tunnels everything falls apart. They call it a soft spot, a place where the walls between worlds is thin and weak. They’re wrong. It’s a tear, and where it leads… I try not to think about” - Michael Schwartz, former Hellknight, Order of the Pyre.
The third under-district is a battlefield between the forces of chaos, and the Order of the Pyre. Not much is known about this level, civilians are forbidden to enter on penalty of death, and the Hellknights that enter are sworn to secrecy. However, the few rumors that have leaked out say that this level was once a Dwarven necropolis, and the entire area is honeycombed with tight tunnels, and antechambers. The green stone covers much of this level, and has dropped the temperature well below freezing in most areas. The one thing known for certain is that the Signifiers have yet to map the entire area, and there may still be treasure caches or priceless artifacts awaiting discovery in those long forgotten halls.
Rumors exist of a fourth level, bloodstained altars dedicated to long forgotten deities, statues of fiery humanoids, rivers of lava, all guarded by creatures of living flame. These are just rumors of course, and any reasonable person is advised to ignore them.
Citadel Krane –
Home to the Order of the Pyre, this massive spire sits on a cliff overlooking the harbor, just outside the city. The elevated location ensuring that even if the volcano erupts again, the citadel will be spared from the worst of the destruction. Atop the citadel lies a massive beacon, which the Hellknights dutifully attend, and use to guide vessels into the harbor. Initiates of the Pyre typically spend the first three years of their training entirely within the ground floor of the citadel, under direct supervision of their instructors. The upper floors are offices and quarters for the officers, along with a massive illusionary map of Caelodunia and the cities beneath, precisely marking the location of every Hellknight in the city, information which is updated in real time thanks to powerful divination magic. The basements are home to the so called “Godless Gallery” a collection of artifacts, writings, and corpses brought up from below. Here the Pyre’s specially trained Signifiers work tirelessly to decipher the ancient writings, and attempt to find any advantage they can leverage against their enemy.
The Palace –
Sitting on the opposite side of the harbor from Citadel Krane, lies Glent’s palace. This squat, ugly building looks more like a bunker than a palace. Within the walls, behind legions of fanatically loyal Hellknights, and warded by powerful magics, Glent oversees the city, and conducts the rituals necessary to keep That Which Dwells Below from breaking free. The palace is entirely self-sufficient, meaning none enter or leave, barring the yearly convocation. Other than Glent and his bodyguards, none know what goes on behind those walls, but whispers tell of Glent’s search for immortality, and some go further and say he’s already transformed himself into a Lich.
The Grand Arena –
A massive coliseum, dwarfing any other in Orr; an ingenious series of tunnels, elevators, floodgates, and other mechanical contraptions allow the arena to mold itself into nearly any form. Pitched naval battles, cliff top duels, and chariot races are all common place. A few gladiators tell tales of a breathtakingly complex series of channels and troughs which catch the blood from the surface and funnel it to places unknown. When asked about this, Derwen insists that it’s merely a way to keep the arena clean, and gives an unnerving smile.
Order of the Pyre –
The Hellknight order which oversees Caelodunia’s law enforcement and military needs.
Inquisitors of the Seal –
A sub-sect of the order of the Pyre, dedicated to disseminating disinformation, destroying heretical writings, hunting down and silencing witnesses, recovering artifacts, and covering up any direct manifestations of That Which Dwells Below. Can be distinguished from other Hellknights by their finely made black clothing, and face concealing masks. This branch employs a larger than average number of Bards and Investigators, and actively attempts to recruit any that manifest Bardic abilities, or the gift of inspiration.
The Faithful –
A tiny branch of the Pyre, created with the express purpose of rooting out corruption amongst the Hellknights and their allies. The identity of the members of The Faithful, or even how many belong to this group, is known only to Shokenier. Some have even suggested that The Faithful don’t actually exist, the mere threat is enough to keep people in line. However, the recent disappearances of several of the Pyre’s high ranking officers, seems to suggest The Faithful may not be a myth.
The Syndicate –
The name given to a loose coalition of thieves, scavengers, smugglers, anarchists, and other rabble rousers, led by an unknown individual. In the last two decades, an unknown individual started an aggressive campaign to unite Caelodunia’s squabbling criminal factions, promising them protection from the Hellknights and, more importantly, protection from the creatures in the tunnels below. Bolstered by an unprecedented windfall of goods from the tunnels below, the fledgling Syndicate assimilated or wiped out all competing factions in less than two years. While they rarely see eye to eye, every member recognizes they share a common enemy in the Hellknights, and that there’s safety in numbers