The Pirates Of Atlantis
“Dark Kaphtor, where shadows lie/Even when Helios rides the crest of sky,” wrote the poet Domikos, neatly summarizing most Atlanteans’ opinion of the land to the far south. Despite their low opinion of the land, its people, and its customs, the Atlanteans and other kingdoms trade extensively with Kaphtor because of its unique and highly-desired goods.
The early history of Kaphtor is not well-known; the Kaphtorans themselves aren’t very forthcoming with other peoples, and few scholars have cared to venture into Kaphtor to learn more for themselves. What is known (or at least surmised) is that Kaphtor’s early history was marked by struggles between various tribes and petty kingdoms. One day, without warning, a gigantic purple crystal, now known as the Noctis Shard, appeared in midair over the castle of one of the petty kings, Nirblis. He interpreted this as a divine revelation and sign of favor from one of the gods — the god the Kaphtorans worship today, and whom they do not name. Abandoning the worship of all other gods, he recruited to his side both priests and warriors, and a crusade began.
A thousand years later, the petty kingdoms were no more, and Kaphtor and Kalla’har as they exist today had come into being. United under the rule of Priest-King Nirblis, and watched over by its unnamed dark god, the land became more powerful and prosperous than ever. In time Nirblis’s descendants abandoned his seat and built a new capital, Regethon, on the coast to make trade easier. But the Noctis Shard remains, watching over the Kaphtorans and giving power to their wizards. Some say as long as it stays there, Kaphtor cannot fall… but if it ever disappears, or is destroyed, Kaphtor will soon follow suit.
Located well beneath the equator, Kaphtor is a temperate land with warm springs and summers, and cool autumns and winters. Snowfall tends to be heavy during the winter months; many Kaphtoran wagons are built so that wheels can easily be replaced with runners to turn them into sleighs if necessary.
Most of Kaphtor is lightly-forested grasslands ideal for both farming and raising herd animals; water (in the form of small rivers and lakes) is plentiful and the soil fertile. To the west are the Antalya Mountains where the Kaphtorans mine valuable ore and quarry stone; to the northeast is the vast Red Forest, full of quality timber and game animals… and more than a few monsters for Kaphtoran heroes to slay.
Kalla’har, to the north of Kaphtor, is nominally a separate kingdom ruled by King Gerenshar. In truth it’s really just a province of Kaphtor, providing the Priest-King and his followers with foodstuffs and other goods in the form of tribute. King Gerenshar does nothing important until he consults with the Priest-King, and always does as the Priest-King instructs. Aside from his own personal guard he has few soldiers; instead “military advisors” from Kaphtor provide him with any fighting men he happens to need.
The royal seat of Kaphtor is a city of dark grandeur. Perhaps in an attempt to emulate the Atlanteans, the builders of Regethon favored large structures, tall towers, and open plazas. Of particular note is the great temple at the very heart of the city, where the noble and wealthy come to worship the Kaphtoran god at weekly ceremonies. Lower-class folk must stay in the plaza outside and worship from afar. This pattern repeats throughout Regethon again and again, with the lower classes barred from many places.
Kaphtoran society is rigid and oppressive. The Priest-King and his priests are the greatest power in the land, with spies and influence everywhere. Anyone who does not comply with their wishes — which include devout worship of the unnamed god and attendance at all scheduled worship services — soon finds himself dragged inside the inner recesses of a temple… and no one ever hears from or sees him again.
Ranked below the priesthood is the nobility, which includes possessors of hereditary titles, wealthy men who’ve bought their way into power, and heroes who’ve performed services for the Priest-King and been awarded noble rank. Typically a noble is in charge of some place or project assigned to him by the Priest-King.
One might rule over all the people in a particular district or city of the kingdom, another might lead part of the army, while a third is in charge of all trade expeditions to Tel’Ramas. A noble who can’t perform his duties satisfactorily will soon find himself replaced (and few displaced nobles survive for long).
Below the nobles are a middle class of valued craftsmen and other professionals. After them comes the vast mass of the Kaphtoran people, the lower classes. Doomed to a life of poverty and oppression, they have little to look forward to and often live a worse life than the slaves who serve the nobility. Slaves, who are common and often horribly abused, are the lowest rung on the Kaphtoran social ladder. By law any nobleman or craftsman can kill a slave for any reason, and the only penalty he has to pay is recompense to the slave’s owner.
Kaphtoran women generally occupy a position not much better than that of slaves. In Kaphtor women are subservient to men of equal social rank. A woman cannot marry without her father’s consent, cannot leave the house without her husband’s consent, cannot own property, and has no real say in society. Particularly among the lower classes women basically exist to serve the whims of their men, leading to short, miserable lives. Men can have multiple wives and can divorce a wife at will with no penalty; women cannot initiate divorce. Among the upper classes, favor-currying, influence-peddling, intrigue, and assassination are commonplace.
In Kaphtor two people having a serious difference tend to hire assassins to settle the matter. Sometimes all that’s required is for an assassin to show the target that he can get to him; the smart target then backs away from the situation. In other cases the dispute ends only with the death of one of the parties. When someone is assassinated, all his assassination contracts immediately expire, thus sparing his enemy (assuming word of this reaches the other assassin in time). By the “code of honour” Kaphtoran assassins follow, an assassination has to be obvious; there’s no such thing as “making it look like an accident”… though that doesn’t necessarily mean the identity of the assassin or his employer will be obvious.
Ordinarily Kaphtor would find itself in difficult economic straits because few people like to visit it. However, Kaphtor possesses several unique trade-goods desired by the folk of other lands. Typically the Kaphtorans still have to mount trade expeditions to go to other lands; it’s a brave or greedy merchant who’ll come to Regethon to trade. Besides typical items like foodstuffs and furs, Kaphtor has three trade items that are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else.
First, miners in the Antalya Mountains occasionally find lupek stones. Lupek is a high-quality gemstone that ranges in color from a sort of teal to a rich blue-purple; it’s unlike anything else in the world, and prized for its beauty and value.
Second, other miners quarry shertaf stone from the mountains. Shertaf is a marble-like stone that comes in a variety of colors and is desired for interior flooring, decor, and artworks.
Lastly, in parts of the Red Forest grow the trees that give it its name: the Kaphtoran cedar, treasured for its pleasant odor, rich luster, and carvability. Items made of Kaphtoran cedar, from small decorative boxes to large pieces of furniture, grace many an Atlantean home.
The ruler of Kaphtor is Priest-King Modaroc III, who’s the head of the priesthood as well as the secular government. His chief advisor is High Priest Yogen, who oversees most day-to-day temple business and commands the priesthood. Modaroc’s other assistants include nobles who serve as court functionaries, various courtiers who curry favor and create a social life for Regethon, and so forth. The Priest-King’s word is law, enforced as needed as needed by the priesthood or his soldiery.
The laws in Kaphtor are strict and harsh, as many a visitor has learned to his regret. Evildoers, people who incite trouble, blasphemers, and those who openly worship other gods are usually put to death after being captured. Those who are spared the headsman’s axe end up with a lifetime of slavery to look forward to.
The Priest-King maintains a large and well-trained army, despite the current lack of external threats to his kingdom. For the most part they serve as guards in his cities, patrol the roads to prevent banditry, collect taxes, and see to it that the people remain docile.
The typical Kaphtoran soldier wears a chainmail hauberk and gauntlets plus boots and a helmet, and also carries a shield. Most soldiers favor the sword, but battle-axes, maces, and other weapons aren’t unknown. Additionally most soldiers carry a spear that can be thrown or used as a melee weapon. Cavalry wears a lighter hauberk and has a longer, heavier spear. Archers wear studded leather armour and stay as far back from the main fighting as they can, since they only have a short sword or dagger in addition to their compound bows.
It’s said the Priest-King has an enormous corps of spies who keep a close eye on his people and on other lands. Some of these spies come from the ranks of Kaphtor’s vaunted assassins and can do more than just gather information. Others are masters of disguise, possibly even students of Dushaanian shapechanging magic.
Kaphtoran magic is similar to Atlantean in most respects, but with some important differences in terms of which spells Kaphtoran mages can cast and how they cast them. There are two primary differences. First, Kaphtoran mages have easier access to Shadow and Chaos spells. Second, they depend on enchanted staffs to help them cast their spells; deprived of his staff, a Kaphtoran mage is significantly less powerful.
|Everyman Skill Addition||Rating|
|AK: Kaphtor (or AK: Kalla’har)||8 -|
|L: Kaphtoran (No Literacy)||Rank 4|
|L: Atlantean (No Literacy)||Rank 3|
|PS: (Farmer, Miner, Shepherd, Woodcarver, Blacksmith, Jeweller – Pick one)||11 -|