The Golden Sands of Irukhtir
The History of Blanos
From The Western Isles of Glanacia to the highest peaks of the Cirges mountains, word has circulated that the trackless, blowing sands of Irukhtir, also called the desert Algama, or the waste of Kuga, has divulged a great and ancient secret. The sands are home to countless treasures, artifacts, and wonders, all locked away in the tombs and sand-blasted ruins of an ancient, lost culture.
The story of the Gordon merchant prince
The stories how the ruins of Irukhtir were discovered vary, but here’s a popular one:
Not so many years ago, a merchant prince of Gordony was seeking a place to bury his hoard of riches. He struck out from the coast of the Tursies and sailed south to one of the small raider-ports near Blanos. He negotiated with the local despot and secured safe passage into the hills behind the port and from there, he took his caravan out into the desert, seeking to put his wealth in the ground.
What he found was the entrance to a tomb covered in strange markings. He and his men delved deep, and though they triggered traps and many of them died, they found that the tomb was full of a hoard of its own. The merchant prince left the remainder of his goods in the tomb and reset the traps on the way out.
Naturally, the prince wanted his treasure kept a secret, but one of the guards got drunk and talked about the strange tomb. He told his companions, and they told their friends, and word made its way, as tales often spread, to the ears of the rich and powerful. Dukes of Glanacia, the Stewards of Clausa, even the pirate lords along the Cantirian Sea found out about the story, and though many thought it a fancy, some thought it worthy of investigation.
Expeditions were mounted, and the Blanosian panarch granted his permission to take guides from the Wandering People, and more tombs were unearthed and this time, word spread like wildfire, despite any efforts to prevent it. The lust for lost treasure became overwhelming, and ships began to pour out of every harbor.
Blanos, where all roads begin
That is only one version of one story. What everyone knows for fact is that those ships did begin to converge on Blanos. Soon, the numbers were too big for the city to hold, and the panarch tried to close the harbor. Starvation, riots, and eventually a full rebellion ensued. In the wake of it all, the Thondrian military seized control of the city and installed a new panarch.
Three years passed with Thondria controlling the city and demanding steep fees for use of the harbor, taxes on importing food, seizing inns and stables to gain their profits, and generally terrorizing anyone who tried to seek a fortune in the desert.
Finally, the harsh rule of the Thondrians and their puppet panarch led to mass rioting. The garrison’s grain silos were torched and a wave of violence swept over the city. By the time a semblance of order was restored, most of the ruling Thondrian nobles had been killed and the rest had fled.
In the wake of the Grain Fires, an agreement was reached that formed a council to rule the city. The council was to be composed of one representative from each major nation that could supply the yearly tithe to the city coffers. In addition, the day to day running of the city continues to be handled by a panarch, chosen by the council from among the citizenry.
Rise of the adventuring guilds
Once the council was settled and the city stabilized, a new direction was clearly needed. Rather than charging draconian taxes for every commodity entering the city, the council declared that treasure hunting would be regulated. Anyone who wanted to seek treasure in the desert would have to pay up a very steep price for the right to pass through the hills behind the city.
With this arrangement, the nations which had seats on the council would profit from the adventure-some sort without having to sacrifice their own men and resources in what was often a fruitless search. Conversely, the shopkeepers, merchants and other citizens of Blanos were protected from the exorbitant costs that Thondria had tried to levy upon them.
The challenge, then, was to come up with the money to buy travel-right. Initially, only the sort of frivolous nobility common to Borsetta and Clausa could and would purchase a charter of travel-right. Things in Blanos slowed down, and over the next year and a half, began to become strained as the cost of running the city outpaced the income from the few daring and mad souls who paid to raid tombs.
But Rogard de Mascón, now a famous man, conceived of a way to afford the exorbitant cost. He made deals with other treasure-seekers and pooled all of their funds together. These he presented to the council and demanded that they allow him to buy a charter. Constrained by their own law, the council grudgingly allowed him—a commoner—to buy travel-right.
With this, the first adventuring guild was born. Soon, others were imitating the clever Rogard, and the council had handed out over two score charters in less than a fortnight. The more conservative members of the council quickly sought ways to stem the tide of commoner-run adventuring guilds. However, the number of charter-holders seemed to level off on its own. There were, after all, only so many treasure-seekers to be found in the city.
Visions of fame, glory and riches
After a while, the council stopped impeding others from following suit; the rate had slowed to something approaching an acceptable minimum, and the hustle and bustle of adventurers purchasing the goods and services they needed to strike off into the desert was restoring the economy of the city.
Thus appeased, the council became focused more on its own internecine skirmishes. Adventurers became the folk heroes of their respective nations, and already, the exploits of certain courageous individuals and guilds have been published back in the old lands.
Five more years have passed. The easy pickings on the very edges of the desert have long since been scraped clean, but still people make the perilous voyage across the Melicine Ocean to Blanos, to pay their way into an adventuring guild or form a new one, and strike off into the heat and sand for fortune.