Hello and welcome into my dive into the most famous city in the Bandit Kingdoms, Rookroost. The work that you will see here is some of the work I did for my Stream Return to the Bandit Kingdoms, and what I kept elaborating on. Originally I intended to release this as a separate stand alone setting called Ravensrook, but I've changed my mind. I would prefer to release it all for general consumption and enjoyment. There will be a map coming for the city as I had envisioned it as well. Enjoy.
The History of Rookroost
The history of Rookroost goes back several hundred years to 329 CY, a time when the region was beginning to get its notorious reputation as the home of bandits and brigands. One of these bandits, Latavius, founded a camp where bandits could meet, barter, and sell goods they had plunder. The camp was an instant success, and Latavius soon found that he could make more gold through his camp than he ever did raiding. The camp quickly grew into a small town, and it took its name from a large congress of ravens that nested on a nearby rock outcropping. The descendants of those same ravens live in Rookroost till this day. A legend surrounding the ravens of Rookroost has grown as the city has, stating that so long as the ravens roost there, the city will never be conquered. This association with ravens has also given rise to legends of the race of magical beings that can take on either a raven or a birdlike humanoid form. It is considered bad luck to kill one of the Rookroost ravens because of the legends, and fear of reprisals from the bird people. Latavius never got to see Rookroost grow into a city having died only a few years after its founding under dubious circumstances.
Over the next couple of centuries, Ravensrook changed and evolved as did the lands around it. Soon petty bandit leaders and warlords were staking out their own claims and territories. At the same time, collectively, the region was referred to as the Lands of the Free Lords. Some areas grew into small kingdoms. In contrast, others remained lawless regions. During this time, Rookroost turned into a proper city with more residents living off the trade of banditry than actual raiding.
Until the Great Old One's invasion, the lands of the Free Lords enjoyed an unspoken alliance between each other. They would band together and help defend each other against hostile aggression from their neighbors when needed. While many united to fight the Great Old One, others afraid of his demonic power, allied with him. The Free Lords only stood a chance against Iuz united but fractured as they were the whole region soon fell. Fortunately, Rookroost avoided being sacked as the ruling factions decided to ally with the evil overlord to spare the city and themselves.
Once the fighting was over, life under the heel of an overlord began, something the Free Lords were unaccustomed to. Rookroost was forced to pay a quarterly tribute of coins and fight men or slaves to bolster Iuz's war machine. In addition to tribute, the city was occupied by forces of the Great Old One. Also, Rookroost was turned into a provincial capital, and Lord Marshall Arus Mortoth arrived with a garrison of Iuzian troops to watch over the city.
The final blow to Rookroost's authority came when General Pernevi was assassinated along with several members of the Council of Lords, the ruling elite of the city, during the Night of the Silent Death. The vacant seats on the Council were quickly filled, but the time-honored tradition of electing a new General was turned into a sham. Lord Marshall Mortoth ran for the Generalship of Rookroost unopposed. He won in the smallest margin of victory in Rookroost history.
With his new authority, Mortoth moved his personal troops into the city and disbanded the Rookroost army. His actions went unquestioned as the Council knew to do so was futile. Those foolish enough to speak out against Toth disappeared or turned up dead. The Rookroost thieves guild, called the Congress, watched quietly calculating their options. Alara Mornstar, the head of The Congress, had not the men, or the weapons to oppose Mortoth or the horde of evil humanoids bivouacked outside the city. Which lead to rumors of Mortoth and Mornstar possibly having come to an understanding. Overnight Rookroost became wholly under the control of the minions of The Great Old One.
While life has not returned to normal in Rookroost, it has fallen into a new pattern. Trade and smuggling have resumed in earnest with a cut of the profits being funneled back to Iuz. The raiding and marauding into neighboring lands have continued, but only on a smaller scale not to break the treaty that ended the Greyhawk Wars. The kingdoms of the Free Lords that were wiped out have been settled by humanoids and Iuz's allies to ensure that a military presence remains in the Bandit Kingdoms.
The current State of Rookroost
Lord marshall Mortoth has settled in comfortably as the new General of Rookroost and started mending fences with the locals. While he kept the city guard, known as Talons, intact, his own Red Guard took over the Army's role. Resistance towards Mortoth rule from the Council of Lords eroded as it became apparent, he wanted to keep the city's structures intact. Mortoth is shrewd and calculating and shows surprising restraint for a cambion.
The popular belief is that Mortoth plans to break away from Iuz and set himself up as the ruler of Rookroost and its surrounding lands. The Red Guard is made up exclusively of humans and half-orcs and is well trained. While many of Rookroost's army were released into the general public, a substantial amount was folded into the Red guard, helping to swell its numbers. The Red Guard is stationed inside of Rookroost while the horde Mortoth lead from the north is located several miles outside of the city.
Despite Mortoth's efforts, Rookroost is still a powder keg waiting to blow. The flood of refugees now living in there includes troublemakers and rebels from many different factions. Fortunately, for Mortoth, old rivalries still run deep between Rookroost's old guard, keeping them from banding together to challenge him.
While in charge of Rookroost, Lord Marshall Mortoth is not in charge of the Bandit Kingdoms, that command falls to Cranzer with resides in the fortress of Riftcrag at the lip of the Rift Canyon. The Lesser Boneheart wizard has his hands full with rebels in the Rift Cayon, The Tangels Forest, and the Fellreev Forest, giving him little time to be worried about other portions of the Bandit Kingdoms. Mortoth has taken full advantage of this and has even gone as far as to completely ignore Cranzer. While it infuriates the wizard, Cranzer can do little about it.
Night of Silent Death
On the night of the 12th of Sunsebb, many citizens of Rookroost were assassinated. Nearly all, save a handful, were assassinated with poison. All of those slain were also high-ranking members of well-established chartered guilds and even a few Lords from the Council of Lords. The most prominent of the murders was General Pernevi, the Lord of Arms, and the Lord of Letters. While no one took credit for the assassinations, the blame was laid squarely at the feet of Lord Marshall Mortoth. Mortoth quickly and publicly addressed the remaining Council of Lords and the heads of the chartered guilds stating that he, nor any of his men, had a role in the killings. Of course, this was ignored as little more than talk, but those remaining Lords and heads of the respective chartered guilds couldn't help but notice that none of those killed were from The Congress, Ravensrook's thieves guild. Elara Mornstar has never denied or confirmed any of these rumors. Instead, uses the uncertainty of it to her advantage. The truth is that the Congress was paid, and paid well, for committing the murders for Mortoth.
The importance and long-lasting effects of this night cannot be understated. Before the Night of Silent Deaths, Mortoth and his occupying force, while not opposed openly, were opposed by every other means the leading citizens of Rookroost had. After the Night of Silent Deaths, that opposition evaporated, and all those that remained sought to win his favor. Even when he dismantled the army and reformed the city guard into an organization not under the direct control of the Council of Lords, it drew little more than grumblings.
The Power Structure of Rookroost
As the lands of the Bandit Kingdoms evolved, so did Rookroost. The power structure within the city initially was focused around Latavius and his men, until he was overthrown and replaced by another strong-armed brigand. This became the blueprint of the succession of power for the next hundred years. Still, eventually, the city became a more complicated place. It could not support such a drastic shake-up of its power structure every handful of years. The Guilds and the strongest of the marauding gangs worked out a compromise that saw the birth of the Council of Lords and the formation of the first city guard.
After the Council and the city guard's creation, an election system was designed to elect a new Generals for the city and its surrounding lands. Those that sought the position would petition the Council of Lords for approval. Those that were approved could then run for the Generalship. The General was given authority over all matters of the state outside of Rookroost. The General oversaw the cities defense and became the primary diplomat for the city toward all other organizations and kingdoms. The day to day workings of the city itself was transferred over to the new Council of Lords and Rookroost as we know it today was born.
When the General's position becomes vacant, the Council of Lords declares a time for Making of Announcements has begun. All those wishing to run for the position have one week to appear before the Council and say so. The next phase lasts for thirty days and is called The Rally. The Rally is for those who have officially entered consideration to be the new General to rally their support. Nothing is off the table during this 30 days except open violence on the streets. All attempts to influence those on the Council for their votes and efforts to eliminate their rivals are encouraged. After the Rally Period has ended, the Council of Lords elects the next General of the city.
Currently, the ruling elite that makes up the Council of Lords is wondering what might come next. Since the purge of the Council of Lords, and the city's army, Rookroost has fallen into its old ways once more, but for how long? The current structure will only remain intact so long as Mortoth is in command. Iuz is notorious for having truly evil and chaotic people working for him, which makes Mortoth an anomaly. The Lord Marshall, who is far from chaotic and needlessly evil, could get replaced by a bloodthirsty tyrant without warning. Any new overlord appointed by Iuz might strip everything away from guilded members of Rookroost, which are what the city's real citizens are called. This uncertianty has forced the ruling elite of Rookroost to rally around Mortoth, including Elara Mornstar and The Congress.
Traditionally the figurehead of the city, The General, was nearly always one of the high-ranking members of a guild or one of the power groups of Rookroost. With the position having become an actual job with responsibilities, the marauding gang' leaders had stopped vying for it long ago. These days, who will become the next General, is usually decided upon long before the Rally Period's spectacle begins. Those elected to the position are often nothing more than yes men, people who will not get in the way of business. All the Council od Lords wants from a General is a figurehead that the common rabble will listen to. Over the years, there have been plenty of men and women to sit in the General's palace, and not all of them were simple yes men, even if they started out that way. Despite usually coming from one of the factions within the city, the General gives up all property and rights to any guild memberships when accepting the position. This was done to give the impression of being unaffiliated, even if that was not the case.
Pernavi, the last General, was a competent man that had come up through the Merchants Guild before being voted into the General's office. Men of his caliber were usually given respect for the influence their coin afforded. Still, Pernavi was ruthless, and he outspent everyone when it came to eliminating his opponents. The Congress was more than happy to take his coin in exchange for removing serious competitors.
Ravensrook prospered under Pernavi, but despite the prosperity, no one saw the invasion coming. In the early stages of the Greyhawk Wars, the Free Lords began devising plans of how best they could benefit from it. Still, those plans quickly changed to ones of defense and how to survive the hoard that swept down upon them. The Council of Lords, with the urging from the General, accepted an offer of alliance from the Iuz, a decision that Pernavi would later come to regret.
Two weeks after the troops of the Great Old One camped outside of Rookroost, in a show of force, Pernevi died at the hands of assassins. The following week the notices for the coming election were posted seeking those interested in the position to come forward and announce their intention. Only Mortoth proclaimed his intention to run. The response from the city was unanimous and silent. They could not deny Mortoth the right to run as it would delegitimize their whole structure of government. No one wanted to run against him because they knew they would get no support from the city's traditional power players. That was the day that the citizens of Rookroost knew they had been conquered. The reins of power had been handed to the Great Old One's minions, and not one battle for the defense of Rookroost had been fought.
Despite being a half-fiend, Mortoth is not like most officers under the command of Iuz. Standing six and a half feet tall, he is massively built, and his skin is a deep crimson. Large ram-like horns curl out from the side of his head, and he has a mane of jet-black hair. Mortoth also has a pronounced under-bite with jutting tusks similar to a half-orc. He always dresses in pristine armor and suits almost entirely in shades of red. Mortoth hates humanoids, and demons even more, but tolerates them enough to work with them. While his voice is deep and resounding, he does not raise it without reason. While he seems a fair and even-minded man, he has been known to fly into fits of rage, rages that he sometimes regrets after he has calmed down. Mortoth fights with magic as well as melee prowess and prefers to use a short spear in combat.
Mortoth didn't wait long to begin exercising his authority as the new General. His first act was to disband the Rookroost army, putting many trained soldiers out of work. Then he marched his own personal troops, the Red Guard, into the city to enforce the disbandment. The Hilltop Keep, the traditional home of the officers of the army of Rookroost, now became the headquarters of the Red Guard. It was feared that the unemployed soldiers presented a serious threat to the stability of Rookroost, but Mortoth began hiring on the best of these candidates into the Red Guard to swell its ranks. Seemingly overnight, a large portion of men that had been dressed in the black uniforms of the Rookroost army now wore the red uniforms of the Red Guard.
Kostana, Mortoth's second in command of the horde he led to Rookroost for Iuz, began sending weekly reports of his activities to his superiors Dorakaa. Despite this, Mortoth still remains in power. Kostana has heard nothing from Dorakaa, or the Supreme Commander of the conquered Bandit Kingdoms, Cranzer. Despite his fiendish side, Mortoth hates chaos and despises the Iuz's empire. This leads to many questions of why he was chosen as a field commander. It's a well-known fact that The Great Old One's armies suffer nearly as many casualties from fighting amongst themselves as they do fighting the enemy. Many point to this as the reason Mortoth was given this command. The Wealth of Rookroost and the lands of the Free Lords are valuable to Iuz's long term goals. The resources that he pulls from these lands help to fuel his war machine on other fronts.
Seeking to strengthen his position, Mortoth has been in secret negotiations with Chief Ulgun, formerly of the Horned Society. Ulgun leads one of the largest and fiercest Hobgoblin tribes in the Horned Society's now-defunct lands. Using the confusion of the coup that overthrew the Hierarchs, Ulgun attacked rival Hobgoblin tribes catching them unaware. When the dust settled, Iuz was in control of the lands of the Horned Society, but Ulgun was the supreme commander of its hobgoblin armies. Not ready to take on the Great Old One's hordes, Ulgun made an alliance with him, an alliance he intends to break one day. Mortoth is close to convincing the orderly and efficient hobgoblins to move into his lands and become the backbone of his new kingdom. Until Mortoth has Ulgun's backing, however, the new General of Rookroost waits and bides his time.