In the Shadow of Griffin Mountain
The Three Citadels
Much of the activity in Balazar comes from the tribal fortresses of Trilus, Elkoi, and Dykene. These cities house the kings, priests, taverns, and information sources of the region.
Each of the three tribes surrounds a famous, ancient citadel, named for one of the children of Balazar, their legendary founder. Most legends agree that Balazar built at least two of the citadels. In design, the fortresses are quite similar, differing only in detail.
These are not shining castles covering miles of countryside, nor do they have ivory towers reaching for the sky. In general, they are small and squalid with narrow and mud-choked streets providing perfect wallows for pigs. Which, coincidentally, is one of the primary reasons for the existence of the citadels—the Balazaring kings have a monopoly on domestic pigs. These supply the population of the fortresses with its basic diet. It is not surprising that visitors commonly bring foodstuffs as greeting-gifts to the kings.
Each citadel consists of a small enclosure or lower bailey and an upper palace area, both surrounded by massive walls of cyclopean stone. The walls are made of stones so massive that surely only a giant could have built them. Within the palace area is the king’s dwelling place, complete with family, retainers, other selected individuals, and some luxury. The major temple of the city may be in the palace compound. The lower bailey was originally constructed as a refuge for the citizenry who live outside the citadel walls in huts, and come inside the walls only in times of peril, putting up temporary shacks. As time has passed, the influx of foreigners and their ideas has filled the lower enclosures with more permanent stone structures. Balazaring traditionalists claim that the adoption of such foreign customs will surely result in the downfall of the Balazaring peoples and they regularly seek to expel or eliminate the foreign presence from the citadels.
Each of the three citadels houses a temple that leads and serves the minor religions of the region. The temples are small and commonly have alcoves, shrines, and niches devoted to various deities. The temples are named for their predominant god. Dykene hosts the temple of the founder god, Balazar Lightson. Trilus has an edifice dedicated to the worship of Foundchild the Hunter. Elkoi houses the beehive temple of Yelmalio, son of the Sun. A temple to the Lunar deities, the Seven Mothers, is under construction at Elkoi in the Lunar compound outside the citadel. At Trilus, a worship hall has recently been consecrated to the Lightbringer pantheon. Also, each citadel will have a hero shrine dedicated to that city’s Balazar scion founder.
The actual power of the kings of the citadels depends entirely upon their personal power and political skill. The clan chieftains have only voluntary obligations to keep them loyal to the citadel lords. In Balazar, might-of-arms rather than right-of-birth is the rule, heavily modified by practical wisdom, foresight, and luck.
The citadel kings exploit their market control and give exotic or special gifts and favors to followers and clan chieftains which maintain their support and friendship. They also provide a trained and experienced band of professional warriors who aid favored clans against their foes. If a situation gets too rough, the allied clans can send to their king for help.
There is well known subterfuge in the statement that all kings descend from the ancient dynasties. The blood of the kings is widespread, and whatever chieftain can hold the citadel and can gain the support of the clans will be able to find a bloodline. Even the lowliest pig tender can claim descent from the Founder god by right of their ancestral inheritance or by citizenship in one of the citadel communities.