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Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 2
Posted on Sat, June 19, 2004 by Farcluun
mortellan writes ""In the first half of this study on the trade town of Kester we saw how the harsh environment and the brutal Uli culture combined to make a risky place for any intrepid traveler to visit. What follows is a look at the even darker underbelly of this extremely raucous society. "

Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 2
By: mortellan
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. By:mortellan

Illicit Trade in Kester:

Thriving Black Market
Kester’s dark alleys and smoky parlors host a burgeoning black market unlike any other in the Baklunish west. Indeed the far-reaching Moquollad Consortium despises Kester for this illicit trade operates without hindrance and sometimes without pretence in the common market. Shipments of newly forged weapons and armor raided by Paynims and fenced in Ull find their way into Kester’s streets on a regular basis. Assassins know Kester very well for its abundance of poisons, particularly several types of rare scorpion venom. Furthermore, strange alchemical items and multitudes of vile components to aid evil spellcasters can easily be discovered in Kester. Without a doubt though, the greatest proportion of the black market trade involves opium-based drugs grown and produced throughout the region. These plentiful, potent drugs in addition to being a staple of Kester recreation are highly sought by decadent users from Ket to Komal.

Slavery and the Auctions
Nowhere is the commodity of slavery more openly practiced than Kester. Aggressive slavers in the north of Ull drive their unwanted captured slaves southward to Kester and those that survive the arduous journey end up at the auction grounds where numerous cages and covered pits await them. Equally fierce slavers in the south make sport of capturing Yorodhi hillmen that wander too far from their lands. Others incite humanoid tribes to raid down from their mountain lairs where they are lured into carefully orchestrated ambushes. Enslavement of the nomads from the Dry Steppes, who already greatly distrust Ull, is less lucrative however since they are what attract many of the rich caravans from the north to Kester.

Coupled with the rampant slave trade also is a growing practice of kidnapping high profile foreigners to hold for ransom. Interestingly, this scheme has proved to be more lethal for the usually inexperienced kidnappers who often make outrageous demands without knowing properly in advance who they are dealing with.

Slave auctions are held once a week on Kester’s second tier adjacent to the infamous fighting Pits. Droves of people flock to the auction grounds to watch the proceedings more out of curiosity than to purchase a slave. Surprisingly the auction is a well-organized event full of tradition with teams of highly respected, sharp-tongued auctioneers running the show. Most slaves sold or traded here end up serving in various households in Kester’s upper tiers or with large caravans looking for extra free labor. Agents of the competitive Pit Masters scout for the best slaves here, especially those already skilled in weaponry in order to become new prospects for their deadly gladiatorial games.

The Pits:

The Pits and Gambling
The Pits of Kester draw blood sport enthusiasts from all around; from feuding Uli khans in the north to visiting merchants from Tusmit, they all venture from far and wide to witness spectacles of combat outlawed in most civilized societies. Built into the second tier of the town, the Pits are a series of three gladiatorial arenas of varying size. Each have limited seating that is erected in a crude stadium fashion to accommodate the throngs of onlookers moving from one pit to the next as the fights progress. The Pits are an additional boon to Kester’s economy, as the locals tend to be more frugal on those days of the week. The haughty Pit Masters share opulent pavilion tents at the edge of each Pit where attended by slaves, they sit on silk cushions and watch their fighters perform. Remembered by few residents is the fact that the origin of these arenas is actually Oeridian as evidenced by underlying architecture built over by the Uli during their long occupation.

Fights are held twice a week. Gambling rings run strong on those nights with the greatest wagers put down between the Pit Masters themselves or with their celebrated guests from out of town. Gambling is a serious pastime in Kester and those who go back on bets often lose a limb. In fact, Kester so fervently believes in misfortune that losing bets have come to mean losing to Ralishaz.

All sorts of gladiatorial combat are on display at the Pits, from simple knife fights to duels with exotic weaponry. Pit teams are sometimes assembled for longer melees while on slow nights vicious wild dogs are thrown in against each other. The sadistic Pit crowds tend to favor torturous battles over quick kills and their admonishment can even spell death for the winner. Once in a while special Pit fights are organized between champion gladiators like the feared Oeridian strongman Al Drak, and exotic captured monsters from the nearby mountains such as the legendary Abular, paragon of minotaurs. These events predictably have the highest turnout, as these fighters invariably are celebrities to the masses of Kester.

Pit Masters and Gladiators
The Pit Masters have the greatest influence over what law exists in Kester since they have the most resources the best weaponry and through collusion they tightly control the slave market and the single biggest source of entertainment in town. Their clique is comprised of several independently wealthy sheiks, self-styled amirs and other tribal chieftains. Each Master owns a compound on the third tier of Kester overlooking Caravan Circle, the Auction Grounds and the petty hovels of Kester. The Pit Masters all live in relative luxury here and jealously defend their wealth and slave-property with war dogs, hired guards and clever pit traps.

Gladiators are considered more valuable than typical slaves but because they are more dangerous and likely to rebel, all fighters are kept in deep grave-like pits covered with barred grates. These numerous pits dot the third tier of Kester where they tend to collect rainfall and runoff from the foothills, an equally refreshing and hazardous situation for the caged gladiators. Training for the Pits goes on at all times as older retired gladiators continuously teach bands of new slave warriors the basics. As a reward to ogre and orc fighters that excel in the pits, they are often matched with enslaved women of both human and orcish blood to breed the half-ogre, half-orc and orog races that are highly prized by all Pit Masters. It is this selective breeding in part that has contributed to the abundance of mixed-bloodlines throughout Ull.

Denizens of Kester:

Mahdi of the Steppes
The dervishes of the Dry Steppes are nomadic religious zealots that fearlessly defend their lands from Ull by martial fanaticism and cooperative magic. Their leader is the Mahdi of the Steppes, an enigmatic prophet hailed by the dervishes as the one chosen in the Prophecy of the Phoenix. The Mahdi has raised brows from Kester to Zeif for he is successfully uniting most of the tribes of the Dry Steppes, and apparently seeks to do the same with the contentious Paynim tribes of the northern plains. The Mahdi himself wisely never comes to Kester, but his dervishes always stir up plenty of gossip when they arrive in town to trade.

Moquollad Consortium
Headquartered in Zeif, this organization of Baklunish merchant clans is led by clerics of Moquol whose agents monitor interests in all Baklunish cities to ensure fair trade. While Ull in general is viewed as a hostile territory for their members to work in, Kester with its enviable position as a trade nexus is concentrated on more than their northern kin. Of greatest concern to the Worthy Elders of the Moquollad are Kester’s out of control black market, their appalling currency and the need for someone to undisputedly take the title of khan to bring more order and stability to the town. Mere mention of the Consortium to commoners in Kester draws scorn and suspicion. Due to this antipathy the Consortium’s efforts for the time being have been discreet.

The Yorodhi
The Yorodhi who populate the jagged mountains and desert hills to the south are Kester’s traditional enemies. All caravans departing south from Kester, unless they are slavers, are well advised to go out of their way to avoid the Yorodhi territories. The pure Oeridian Yorodhi have an inborn hatred of Kester because historically the town was once theirs before the Invoked Devastation brought on droves of Baklunish nomads that raided and eventually occupied their settlements. For their own benefit the displaced Oeridians haven’t made a significant organized attempt to retake Kester since their opportunistic attack during the incursion of the Brazen Horde. Since a northward exodus of many lesser Oeridian tribes soon followed Ull’s repulsion of the Brazen Horde, the stubborn Yorodhi are now unorganized and dwindling in numbers each decade.

Abi Dalzim
This outcast dervish is both a skilled earth elementalist and a powerful necromancer. Abi Dalzim, whose name means ‘Father of Droughts” was apprenticed under an elementalist banished from the Zhasassar magic college in Ekbir then later studied under an Incabulite necromancer from the Ulsprues. Dalzim developed many infamous items and spells in his service to the Black Rider, most notably the spell Horrid Wilting and the wicked Scarf of the Dry Steppes. For almost half a century his villainous exploits have earned him the enmity of not just Kester but also Alhamazad of the Circle of Eight, the Beygraf of Ket and clerics of several faiths including Geshtai.

Abi Dalzim within the last decade has resurfaced to use his powers and accumulated resources to reopen a ruined ancient Oeridian keep in the Ulsprue Range, grimly overlooking the town of Kester. From there he works covertly through an agent, the ruthlessly ambitious Nura bint Ramil who is the only female Pit Master Kester has ever known. It is rumored Dalzim seeks relics like the Cup and Talisman of Al Akbar as well as the Chalice Everlasting to sacrifice to Incabulous in order to gain greater powers. Intriguingly, folk in Kester go about their daily life despite his ominous presence, but anytime zombies aptly named the Dry Ones or equally ravenous ghouls stalk the edges of town at night, they curse the name Abi Dalzim.


Sources:
Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, The World of Greyhawk Folio, Living Greyhawk Journal #0, #5 and #10, Greyhawk Adventures, Book of Vile Darkness, Tome of Magic.


Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 1"
 
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Re: Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 2 (Score: 1)
by Tedra (tedra@cableone.net) on Sun, June 20, 2004
(User Info | Send a Message | Journal) http://myweb.cableone.net/tedra
Fabulous job, mort! I was waiting for this one. ^.^



Re: Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 2 (Score: 1)
by Valkaun_Dain on Tue, June 22, 2004
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Nice work Mort. I can't wait to visit Kester and spread the good word of my Eastern gods.



Re: Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 2 (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Thu, July 08, 2004
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Nice article, I especialy like the way you worked Abi Dalzim into the mix (although if I am not mistaken wasn't he originaly supposed to be a darksun peronality?).




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