Under Feet of Clay
Portal to the Island of the Dead
Charoni is the harbor-town that serves as the gateway to Chilones. It is the starting point of the Path of Penitence, and serves as the only trading and commercial port for the elven metropolis. With a rocky beach watched by a ghostly white beacon, Charoni holds about 7,000 living souls and the memory of the dead. While not the largest settlement on the island or the center of elven culture, it is often the most visible. Its white-barked willows, birches, and cypress trees and carefully planned city streets of gray cobblestone provide a continually somber tone, cultivating the elven ideal quiet contemplation and eternal memorial. The buildings are made from dark gray stones cut from the cliffs to the east and west, with wooden crossbeams and thatched grass roofs. The wealthy have clay tiles adorning their roofs, usually the pale green-gray of the island’s soil. Sails from every harbor metropolis dominate the sea-side, and the smoke-gray sails of barbarian vessels can even be spotted. In an uneasy truce in honor of the dead, rival factions from Pittacae‘s civil war can be seen under escort of the town’s holy knights.
Places of Note
The Vigilant Star Inn is a place for travelers to stay in relative comfort away from the bustle of the docks. Its sign displays the constellation Serpensis, with its brilliant and glinting eye. It is a popular destination for those who do not want to pay for the vast more expensive inns catering to nobles and aristocrats. The inn is run by the middle-aged half-elf woman Mylene Tirstana, who employs several bouncers. On the night in which we begin, the inn is sold out due to the holiday. One of the Star’s greatest draws is its attached wineroom, so one need not even leave the building to acquire a drink or meal unless they so choose.
Crimson Tide Wineroom bears the distinct honor of being Charoni’s premier drinking establishment, importing wine not only from around Calopius, but also from barbarian traders. With the freshest honey and Chilonian spring water to cut to taste, the Crimson Tide always has a long line of people waiting to get in, while elite customers are welcomed by the bouncers to bypass the line to reserved areas. Located well north of the docks, the Wineroom is tended by an elven wine connoisseur named Hycareon Lorenzius.
The Lazy Hydra is a decidedly lower-key barroom near the docks of Charoni. The owner, an elf named Phrygias Vigilius, stocks what he happily describes as “economical drinks” for the “discerning customer”. A hard negotiator and staunch businessman, Phrygias keeps his prices low and customers happy. Most sailors pulling into port will visit the Hydra for a pot of wine, while locals will frequent the location for celebrations and events. Food selection is very restricted, as Phrygias makes only one type of meal in the kitchen each day, in small batches to minimize waste.
Xenophon’s Armaments is the primary weapon and armor forge in Charoni. While the Knights of Tartarus train their own smiths to maintain and create weapons, Xenophon’s grandson Quintus Maximius treats all bids for his skill equally. A forge handed down three elven generations, no armor or weaponry is more trusted in Charoni than Quintus’s. According to the tale, the same flame has been burning in the forge since Xenophon first lit it centuries ago.
The Bottomless Box is a general goods store run by the gnome Halungalom. With no real limit on what he will buy or sell, Halungalom hopes to turn a profit on whatever he can manage. No set stock keeps the Bottomless Box a treasure trove of new trinkets on every visit. The gnome has a fascination with barbarian lifestyles that many consider unhealthy, and prides himself on a wide selection of eastern goods.
The Arcaneum is a simply named shop with one purpose: the exchange of magical goods. In particular, the small shop collects and sells scrolls, wands, rods, and staves. The owner, an elven wizard named Verodas Blanchet, is known to sculpt her own willow wands and staves with her free time, and has been known to employ adventurers to retrieve potent artifacts for her collection. Socially, Verodas is a bit of a recluse, but she has a standing table at the Crimson Tide where she drinks alone or with an apprentice she might be keeping briefly. No apprentice has yet proven worthy of longer than a two month stay with the wizard. She reluctantly serves as the merchant’s representative on the Council of Seven.
Just before the gates leading to the Path of Penitence, there stands the Gallowsflower, a florist’s shop run by an elven merchant named Eldarian. A gifted weaver who spent a few decades training as a druid in Biasophoros, he creates intricate wreaths of blossoms to be carried up the path before burning on the graves of an honored ancestor. A cheery older elf who enjoys singing or talking while he works, Eldarian keeps an owl from the forests as an animal companion who hoots in rhythm to his improvised tunes.
For those seeking a draught to sooth the body, relax the soul, or stimulate the senses, there is no apothecary like the Gorgon’s Eye Potions. The Halfling alchemist Isaac Benonai filters up his tricks, vials, and potions for fun and profit, often forgetting the part of the business where he is supposed to make money. His love of the craft, however, coupled with the near constant need for his legendary hang-over cures keeps the shop afloat. In addition to the variety of thunderstones, flasked fires, and tindertwigs, Isaac also keeps a truly staggering number of herbs on hand, which he blends with the barbarian tea plant in an attempt to perfect his favorite brews.
Though not a shop, most visitors to Chanori find reason to visit the Scriptora, a collection of buildings near the north wall of the town that house an impressive collection of records and texts. While no rival to the Dikethalean libraries for scholarly books, it in in the Scriptora that records of the buried, visitors, ships registries, and a variety of other accountings from across Calopius find their rest. Those hoping to trace their ancestry often seek out the Lineage Archives, which trace records of the parents of those buried in Chilones or worthy enough to have their names mentioned. Enhanced with divination magics, the names of those living glow in a pale green light, as the spiraling tree-like structures reach for the dome far above.
On the rocky island south of the harbor, the lighthouse known as Orchid’s Point provides illumination for ships coming in by night or storm. Tended by the dwarven priest of Bias named Thrakian Hrodingsson, this light has served as metaphorical and literal guide to the dead seeking their eternal rest. For reasons only guessed at, the lighthouse’s flame does not burn red and orange, but instead a pure and ghostly white, bathing the seascape in an unearthly glow.
Charoni has several temples and altars to ensure the city caters to most gods of Calopius. The first any would see is the altar of Thalattos the Mournful, a temple of the sea-god’s priests who make daily sacrifices for those dead lost at sea, unable to return to a proper grave. They implore the legendary merfolk to offer the corpses burials on the ocean floor. At the entrance to the Scriptora, there is a collection of altars dedicated to each remaining member of the Trisdekatheon. None of the altars have statues, instead the sides bear the visages of their respective deities. This circle of sacrificial stones is known as The Bloodsoaked Ring. Farther in the city, the gate-side temple of Thantadeus looms large, tended by the Ophiops priests. The Death’s Door Temple houses not only the priesthood of Thantadeus and Eleusinia, but additionally houses the militant orders who serve as the guards, as well. The Orchid Knights and Knights of Tartarus keep guard over the portal to the Path of Penitence, the holiest site in Chilones save the grand necropolis itself. This winding path to the proper metropolis of Chilones and the gates of the Necropolis is dotted with statues dedicated to the memory of the honored dead, tended and maintained each night by a vast collection of Fetchling acolytes. The path cuts through the sacred orchid fields planted by Chilon long ago, now known as the White-Gold Hills. The twin knightly orders keep the peace with the aid of a citizen watch, and ensure that sacrifices for the appeasement of the city’s gods are ongoing. Their most sacred duty, however, is the keep watch over the legendary Gates of the Penitent, and individual knights of high enough rank will walk the paths in an ongoing pilgrimage, ready and able to strike down those who would defile their sacred ground. Despite the dominance of Thantadeus on the island, however, the most popular holy house is the Asklepian Incubation, a home of healing where priests monitor the humors of their patients, offer magical and mundane healing, and house those in need of visits from the god himself in a heated, steamed attic. Holy serpents tended by the priests keep watch over the sleeping, and the grateful who are cured keep the house well funded.
The city’s Guard Barracks are located near the harbor, where the priestly knights care not to frequent. Throughout the region, squat towers with square bases rise over the warehouses, giving watchmen a vantage point from which to observe their district. Within the warehouse district, several caves and decrepit buildings left open to squatters have become a makeshift housing development known as Wastrel’s Warf, and so long as you have the respect, muscle, or coin to keep another from taking your piece of dirt, you can maintain a scrap of land to sleep. The Warf is notoriously filled with the city’s lowest dwellers, and is a pressure cooker for crime, disease, and violence. If it gets out of hand, the guard will sweep the area in a purge, driving out of the city walls the homeless vagabonds. Yet given a few weeks’ time, all will inevitably return through cracks in the city defenses.
Charoni Public Figures
Council of Seven
High Priest of Thantadeus Soldiagaes the Stern, a male venerable elven cleric
High Priestess of Eleusinia Orchid-Knight Taediam Luce, a female old elven paladin
Priest of Asklepios Serapadis Gumnastikon, a male middle-aged elven cleric
Merchant Verodas Blanchet, a female old elven wizard
Master Archivist Weselen Troiaia, a male venerable elven scholar
Master of the Port Neieradaph Quodium, a male middle-aged elven sailor
Watch Master Yvandrilos Xigyphon, a male middle-aged elven soldier
Half-Elves in Charoni, like most of Chilones, live a life looked down upon by their full-blooded elven kin. While they can usually find employment, particularly at the docks, they often suffer a subtle racism for being impure pretenders to the elven blessings of the Lord of Death. Many times they are called the Fatherless, or the Port Rats.
By contrast, Tiefling merchants are able to make port to trade goods with relative ease, though always under the watchful eye of war galleys. While the elves of Chilones typically prefer not to take part in slave trading as directly as these merchants do, the richly garbed barbarians gladly pay a tripled docking fee for the inconvenience, and confine the slave auctions to the docks, where slaves of all races can be shuffled directly to the boats that will take them to their new masters.
Ships from Periandropolis are very common in Charoni, often providing a measure of added naval defenses. Those flying the colors of Pittacae are often seen as pitiable, and the increased Pittacan presence has left the watch worried that the hot-blooded factions won’t respect the sacred ground of the Island of the Dead. Those associated with the Liberati or the Royalists find themselves under guard not from the watch, but the gaze of the Knights of Tartarus and the Orchid Knights. Thus far there has not been violence, save a couple drunken bar brawls.
Fresh Elven Mead is the specialty drink of choice for those seeking variety from their cups of wine, and is served in a unique flute of blown glass unlike any other serving glass in Calopius. The sheer abundance of honey and the standing elven agreement to accept gold coin or golden grain in payment for burial means that sweet pastries are ubiquitous across the island, with the Baked Honeycomb a Charonian delicacy. With a pattern of raised ridges like honeycomb pressed into a sweetened bread then covered in berries and fresh honey, the Baked Honeycomb is a traditional breakfast in the spring and summer months, usually served until supplies run out in the weeks following Momento Mori.
Given the prominence of the funeral industry, many are surprised to learn that Charoni has no casket-makers. Instead, this trade is kept cloistered in the metropolis proper. Morticians do play an important role in the transfer of these bodies, however, and a large below-ground repository for bodies awaiting their families is overseen by the priests of Thantadeus.
In general, non-elves are treated as outsiders on the entire island of Chilones, often referred to simply as Main Landers. This is rarely meant as an insult, but contributes to the reputation of elves as smug and aloof. In general, other than this potentially insulting term, an elf will refer to another race as the place they determine to be most likely to be their home.