The History of New Elysium

There are records of ancient settlements here dating back centuries. It is easy to see why, with its rich ore and mineral deposits, access to the sea and great plains of fertile land all around.

A recognisable town has stood on the site of New Elysium for near the last three hundred of those years, and the inner district now known as Old Elysium is the earliest built part of the town. It expanded over time, but was only fortified six score years ago during the war with the north, when it was home to a garrison of the nation's finest warriors. Largely thanks to its fifteen foot high stone walls and watchtowers the town stood firm for a century, but much of the infrastructure beyond its walls was sacked, razed, or sacrificed for the greater good. It was a time of great hardship, with most of the farmsteads abandoned and only the bravest merchant ships bringing fresh produce and provisions, leaving the place almost besieged.

Thankfully there has been a peace, albeit an uneasy one, for a generation and once again the town is growing in prosperity. This largely came about as the northern hordes made a tactical error twenty years ago in ransacking an Elven temple on the edge of the forest, thereby bringing the elite forces of the previously neutral Pelbarad into the war. These glade dwelling warriors wiped out near to twenty five percent of the enemy army in a single afternoon then retreated once more to their occluded city. The hordes never again besieged New Elysium in such numbers, though unescorted caravans are prone to attack on the mountain roads. 

The river is busier than ever and as trade routes have reopened most of the businesses in and around the town square are thriving. Not everyone welcomes the opening up of trade however, and some craft businesses have taken a hit from the influx of more exotic items that arrive each week at the Elysium Harbour.

 

Topography


New Elysium is situated on a tidal river, 50 miles north of the busier cities that sit either side of the estuary.

It is nestled in a dip less than a mile from the foothills of the Six Sentinels, the local name for the ridge of mountains just north of the town and between which the river meanders on its way to the sea. It is from around these mountains that the stone for the town's construction industry has been quarried; beneath them much of the town's resource is mined, largely deep underground by their resident dwarves.

Just east of the town is the large thousand year old forest near twenty miles across, which envelops Pelbarad, home of a large elven enclave. To its south is mostly arable, with acres of farmland reclaimed since the war and once again providing much of New Elysium's food.

 

Populace


The majority of the population come from a human or halfling heritage, though dwarves and elves dwell in good numbers, with a smattering of gnomes and half orcs. Other races may be seen around the town in very small numbers, but the renaissance for the town has brought increased numbers of races from far and wide.

Overt racism and xenophobia are uncommon in New Elysium these days, above ground at least, although full orcs and goblins are likely to be treated with suspicion and may have difficulty building trust. It is not though unheard of and one goblin in particular, Mazzgot, is very popular among the residents of the Old Elysium district.

Other races, drow for example, are unlikely to settle in the town.

 

Economy


The town has a number of districts, but the part that has been core to the revival of fortunes is the town centre, bringing people from far kingdoms to shop, sightsee, ply their trade or to otherwise share in the new prosperity. A small fenced garden and its three verdant trees sits at what most consider to be the spiritual if not geographical centre of the town, and this is officially Graffam Square, though that has come to be the nominal descriptor for the whole town square, including the market stalls and shops that skirt it.

The town is busy most days, but on the thrice weekly market days the square is particularly bustling with tradesmen and merchants, and the shoppers who descend upon it.

There are a smattering of low key businesses in the Old Elysium district, a thriving black market in and around the harbour area outside the town walls, and like many towns there is rumoured to be a sizeable ratfolk underhive beneath the ground.

Some businesses have taken a bit of a hit since the recent closure of the mines to the north, but the damage is localised to specific industries like the Old Elysium Brewery.

 

Guilds


The guild system helps maintain the town's fortune.

All tradesmen are obliged to tithe ten percent of all income to the guild for master craftsmen, and five percent is taken from the wages of all junior, apprentice or employed staff. The tradesmen can then be called upon by the town council to undertake building or refurbishment projects around New Elysium, and claim their wages from the central fund. This was instrumental in the quick rebuilding of New Elysium after the war, its renaissance as a thriving market town, and its growth towards city status.

There are guilds for builders, merchants, craftsmen, artisans and wizards among others. These guilds are often divided into chapters or lodges loosely based around product type.

Each year, every guild may nominate one of their members to sit on the town council, though not all nominations are successful.

 

Law and Order


The town within the wall is generally considered to be law abiding, and serious street level criminality is uncommon and unwelcome. Visitors to the town's markets and less savoury hostelries may well find themselves victims of petty theft such as pickpocketing, but a percentage of those light fingered types seem to travel into the town to perpetrate their larcenies. There is a holding cell at each of the town gates in which to detain those undesirables that are caught attempting to pass through, and most evenings there will be the odd crook held overnight, but there is no prison of which to speak. After a few violent criminals were exiled beyond the North Gate during the war, the deterrent was sufficiently etched as a reminder of the cost of lawlessness.

It had been a proposal to turn the former army garrison into a prison after the war, an idea which gained much popular support, but in the end it became the Monastery.

Outside the town walls is not a hive of lawlessness as some would claim, but its adherence to order is a lot less stringent and a level of black marketeering is not only common, it is bordering on blatant as the canny observer would doubtless note. Again, there is a holding cell within the Harbourmaster's Tower, but this one is used less frequently than one might expect.

Violent crime beyond post alcohol dust-ups isn't often seen in the streets of New Elysium, and that that is witnessed doesn't go unpunished.

Like in most large conurbations there is tell of a lawless ratfolk underhive thriving and multiplying beneath those streets, but few would testify to having been there and seen it for themselves. Whether it exists or not, it is regarded as a fiction by many, used as a racial scapegoat by the more disingenuous, and by some a mythological threat to keep wayward children in check by parents across the town. Despite the stories, there has never been an incidence of a swarming ratfolk enclave engulfing the surface streets of any town in the known world, but that's unlikely to silence the propagandists.

The general honesty of the majority of the townsfolk doesn't always appear to be held in a similar high regard by the ruling body, and many of the dealings at council level appear short on integrity from the external observer's perspective, a situation exacerbated by the disappearance of Chancellor Gregory and his armed escort some months ago.

 

Politics


The peoples of New Elysium are fairly divided when it comes to opinions on the Gregory and the Magister dynasties, and heated discussions over community versus progress can be overheard in every bar, tearoom and guild hall in the town. These two families have controlled the governance of the town for forty years, but until ten years ago never together. Then, in order to bring a sense of cooperation to New Elysium, Chancellor Gregory invited rival family patriarch Magister to become his Vice Chancellor, and an uneasy entente has prevailed for almost a decade.

Some argue that Gregory is an altruist and idealist, and is, with his reputation as an honourable man, the only man to oversee the town's fortunes. Others will cite those values as obvious reasons why he shouldn't be in charge, rendering him unwilling and unable to make the unpopular decisions necessary to facilitate New Elysium's continued renaissance. To these, the obvious leader is Magister, but he remains unpopular among the masses and has failed to unseat Gregory in the twenty years he's been in opposition.

Six months ago, Chancellor Gregory left to go north on unspoken business and did not return two weeks later as expected. A number of scouts have been dispatched in the intervening period, but have either not returned, or come back with scant information. In the six months since his absence concern has continued to grow in the hearts and minds of the good peoples of New Elysium, and it appears to many that Vice Chancellor Magister may have been manoeuvring to seize control all along.

 

Education


In this renaissance period, there is a purpose built schoolhouse within the town, thanks primarily to the tireless work and campaigning of renowned scholar Francis Pancetta. Prior to its inauguration education was available to but a few, and it was largely monastic. The mission of the school is much that of Pancetta himself- the reconciliation of the religions of old and the new knowledge that comes with every ship that berths in Elysium Harbour.

Education is meant to be available and free for all children in New Elysium, and almost every resident speaks common and fluent Halfling at an early age, and the majority can communicate in Elven too. Children are able to get a very general education until they reach their thirteenth birthday, at which point they split into areas for which they have shown an aptitude. Under rule of the council, each guild must commit to one hundred hours of tuition per annum. This can be provided by one or more individuals, whose salaries are paid by their guild.

On reaching thirteen the school decides if a student will go on to broader study or take up a particular focus. This may occur in the schoolhouse, though some will be be taught privately in any of the disciplines deemed worthy of the extended curriculum. These include mathematics and geometry, language and rhetoric, and science and philosophy. 

The practically minded will apply their learning to an apprenticeship with local trades or craftspeople according to guild regulations, sometimes within their own family, but often they will go and live and learn a trade with the other households.

 

Religion


Most inhabitants of New Elysium have an adherence to a god, some more than one, and the majority worship benign deities.

Temples and churches are not as abundant as one might expect in such a large conurbation, but with such a diversity of religions followed small and often private shrines are commonplace.

Worshippers of less compassionate gods no doubt do live within the town, but except for in the harbour district few are overt about their cosmic allegiances.

There is a growing movement of those who don't worship gods blindly, and the weekly meetings of The Society for Literary and Philosophical Advancement can get quite lively.

 

Magic


As the technological advancements continue apace, numbers of those following the old ways are waning. There is still a School of Magic within the town, though generally those obvious wizards and sorcerers of decades past are less evident. Some think that with each successive generation it has slowly been replaced with the new sciences, while others suggest that it's as prevalent as ever but it's been driven underground.

It is as it once was a major trading port, so magic items are in abundance. Most households will have a ring, amulet or grandfather's blessed longsword within their family heirlooms. There is a legitimate trade in such things, with emporia taking up real estate around the square. There is an equally large underground trade in items, often smuggled in and out of Elysium Harbour.