From: "Wayne S. Rossi"
Subject: Thornward (Long)
Thornward, Occupied Neutral City of
Ruler: Various diplomats and appointees
The Lirtlemark of Bissel was long the border state of the Flanaess, at the edge of the Baklunish West. During the Greyhawk Wars, when it fell to its Baklunish compliment Ket, there was a change in the face of the rulers, a bit more proselytization than usual, and a good deal more taxes. Life went on. When Veluna and Gran March negotiated a withdrawal of the Ketite forces, Beygraf Nadaid was most resistant about giving up Thornward, a major source of income for his coffers. The ultimate settlement was that Bissel would be returned to autonomous rule, and Thornward would be ruled by delegated officials from each of the four nations. The citizens of Thornward breathed a sigh of relief. That would not last long. It turned out that Bissel, Gran March, Ket, and Veluna had all had the same idea: use Thornward as a place to rid themselves of corrupt officials. Over the course of a rocky first year (which included more than one open clash of drunken Bisselite and Ketite soldiers), a vague pattern developed. If a map of the city were held so that the Fals River were at top (meaning a Northeast-Southwest orientation instead of a North-South one), the division would look like a large "X." The Northeast quarter is mostly patrolled by Velunese, who are notorious for fleecing the merchants who enter and leave the city by river. Ket has taken up the Northwest quarter, thus giving it control over the major trade gate coming from the Baklunish West. As a protective measure, so the Ketites and Bisselites have no common border within the city, Gran March occupied the Southwest quarter, and Bissel has control over the Southeast. Each of these quarters is now referred to by the nation that holds it at present.
Thornward is a trade city, and now intrigue and bribery are all but a way of life. Each quarter is rife with spies from the other governments, and tavern brawls over political issues are now common (and a well-known quick and easy form of assassination).
Velunese (Northeast) Quarter
A red sash with the seal of Veluna as a pin marks the bureaucracy that rules the Velunese quarter. A demanding, inefficient machine, the docks are run with a clockwork slowness that involves countless cargo searches, endless paperwork, and exorbitant tariffs. Naturally, the more the palms of the bureaucrats are greased, the faster their work will go. The Velunese quarter sees a lot of the trade from the Fals River, and consequently there is a decent-sized market here (though not as great as the large market currently in the Ketite quarter). The law is fairly in tact, and certainly the guards come at a higher price than in the rest of the city (though in Thornward, everyone has a price). Still, it is fairly well-kept, although there is still the stink of corruption and the political brawls that so often erupt in Thornward.
Ketite (Northwest) Quarter
In the Ketite quarter, a degree of racism uncommon in the Flanaess at large takes place: the more Baklunish one looks, the better treatment he will receive. Caravans to and from Ket come through here, and Baklunish merchants are treated significantly better than those who are not. This is where the large open-air marketplace of Thornward is located, and it has taken on a particularly Baklunish air with the years of Ketite rule. The faint smell of spice can be smelled, and there are vendors of all kinds here. Taxes extracted are quite severe, though the exact degree depends upon the race of the merchant in question. As always in Thornward, a little bribe goes a long way. Ketite officials are probably more for sale than most others in the city.
They are easy to bribe, and after a disturbance, there is a relatively small fee in exchange for the guards to ignore the obvious guilty parties and round up the usual suspects. Everything runs fairly smoothly in the Ketite quarter, regardless of the corruption beneath.
Gran March (Southwest) Quarter
If not Veluna, one would have hoped that the traditionally militaristic Gran March would furnish a government free of corruption for Thornward. Unfortunately, it is exactly the opposite; instead of sending its cream off to rule a city that is being occupied to keep away from all-out war, the nobility of Gran March instead used it as a post for the more cowardly and craven. It is run laxly, kept full of arrests and tariffs and the like to ensure that, when anyone of real standing from the Gran March comes, their section of Thornward will seem orderly.
Bissel (Southeast) Quarter
All of the other quarters are utterly corrupt, and unfortunately, the Margrave of Bissel decided that he needed his best and brightest working in Pellak, and sent his worst to Thornward. More than any of the other sections, this one is a mess; uncaring bureaucrats are notorious for tying up caravans and merchants having anything to do with Ket for days for no reason, and they do little better for the rest of the would-be traders. Indeed, the Bisselites are unfriendly to any who were not from Thornward before Bissel fell, which is problematic, since the population beforehand was considerably smaller than it is now. Their price is much higher for non-Bisselites.
The Rulers of Thornward
Reldath of Bissel: Reldath was a minor official in Thornward before the wars, and kept his position through the Ketite occupation. He hates the Ketites, and works to keep the Bisselite quarter relatively free of the Baklunish influence that has prevailed in the rest of the city. His efforts are rather futile, though, and the others would like to see him outed.
Orwen of Veluna: A weaselly bureaucrat who had, through intrigue, worked his way up the Velunese chain of command, Orwen was a man that the Velunese government was glad to see out of Mitrik. He has wormed himself into most of Thornward's better places, and holds the most influence of the four rulers of Thornward. He is a fairly impartial man, and will take a bribe from anyone, provided it is large enough.
Verin of Ket: The most charming of the four leaders in Thornward, Verin is a snake of a man with good grooming, as a noteworthy Velunese priest said upon meeting him. Verin is ambitious, and was probably given the position in Thornward to prevent him from upsetting things in Ket during Nadaid's crucial early years as the Beygraf. Verin is very accomodating to anyone who has the money to pad his purse, but he has a vengeful streak.
Arlas of Gran March: Before Thornward, this portly, snivelling man was just an irritating toady who was capable enough that the military of the Gran March got him out of its hair. There is little that Arlas will not do to make sure that his superiors feel he is doing a good job (regardless of how he is really doing).
Some Personalities of Note in Thornward
Jereth: The proprietor of the Gryphon's Feather, a tavern of considerable note just in the Velunese quarter, is among the most able men in Thornward.
He has a strict policy: no one gets into a political fight while in the Feather. Those who do are quickly escorted to the street, and asked not to come back. However, if someone needs a favor, he can make sure that it's done. It should go without saying that there are great amounts of gambling in every tavern and inn in Thornward.
Erenal: This beautiful courtesan is a master of intrigue, and knows more about Thornward than most criminal masterminds and officials combined. She is the single best source of information on anything that has been talked about in Thornward for three days or more, and is perfectly willing to sell knowledge, if the right price is found.
Tagrent: A noteworthy member of organized crime, Tagrent is probably the most accessible figure in Thornward's underworld (which is not always so "under"). He has an ear for the winds of the less reputable nature, and prospects for the up-and-coming.
Drenil: A Ketite captain of the guard, Drenil is among the best known officers of the law in terms of getting things accomplished in Thornward, be it a false arrest or an unexpected loophole, a prison break, or whatever the imagination can conceive. Additionally, his price is fairly reasonable.
Notes on using this material
The first thing I'd have to say is, watch Casablanca. This was my primary inspiration in my view of Thornward, and the Gryphon's Feather is pretty much like Rick's CafE Americain, down to Jereth, who is a lot like Rick. You'll find tons of inspiration, in setting, theme, and perhaps even plot, in Casablanca. Because this is an overview, I didn't insert any direct intrigues in there; if one is worth mentioning, then a hundred other ones are. The wind blows and there's a new intrigue in Thornward. Things get settled brutally here. Make sure that people remember bribery when they're thinking of Thornward. It's more or less a way of life.
Other than that, have fun.