The Green Arcade
A natural loch existed, long past ancient times, in the center of Tabarka – it used to be a
narrow inlet until it was blocked off. After the Black Wave, the loch, for some reason,
drained away, leaving a steep-sided basin in the heart of the city.
About this time Britar Vintonet returned to Tabarka with his elfin bride Lendara to help
with the reconstructions, and decided to turn the loch into a wooded park where his wife
and their hoped-for children would feel at home. Its creation was the work of his lifetime,
and now Britar is buried beneath a monument at the northwest entrance, not far from the
Unfortunately, his wife never gave birth to an heir. At Britar’s death she dedicated the
park to all the children of Tabarka. It is, during the daytime, one of the truly safe and
beautiful places of the city, open to anyone who wishes to walk its steep paths and deep
When the loch drained, Britar discovered the remnants of what appears to be a giant steel
boat – or at least the framework of a boat made from steel, nearly 80 yards long.
Apparently it was washed into the loch during the Black Wave. It does not rust or tarnish,
but it sinks about an eighth of an inch into the earth every year. There is a lovely flower
garden along where the hold of the ship would be.
Roads flank the arcade on either side, with the northerly lined with shops and eateries,
and the southerly branching off to the various marketplaces.
While perfectly safe (well, as safe as anywhere in Tabarka, that is) during the daytime, at
night it is a favorite spot for young nobles to duel.
The Pit of Despair
If you make your way past wharves and quays, past the loading docks and warehouses
towards the central marketplace, a traveler comes upon a series of squat stone buildings
just off the road. They predate the Great Siege – and some say predate the first cataclysm
as well. They are mostly used as clearing-houses for various grains, hops and malts.
Bakers and brewers use them as storage warehouses, auction houses and trading floors.
There, an ancient, underground grain storage chamber has been changed into a bar. The
entrance is just on the surface, with steps leading down. The only advertising is a sign
with a hole in the middle of it, and the name “The Pit of Despair” above the oaken, iron-
banded doors. It is circular, with smooth, mortarless walls (like those ancient, squat stone
buildings in general).
It is run by Kip, the manager/bartender at the behest of a mysterious Owner, who values
his privacy greatly – but seems to have good reason for owning a bar, perhaps as a source
of information or personnel. It was named deliberately to attract patrons who are in dire
straights. It has some lodging rooms up a spiral staircase to the left of the main bar.
It has one of the more extensive selections of beer and whiskey in all of Tabarka,
including a keg or two of stuff that even the most discriminating dwarf wouldn’t turn up
his nose at. For food, they buy flakey pies from a vendor, with a choice of boar and
mushroom, whitefish or eel. They are best warm, when they’ve just come in, which is
late in the morning.
Kip is an ex-assassin who never leaves the bar. He will not fight, no matter how
threatened. The bar does have a bouncer, however, a flesh-golem named Lumpy, who has
been instructed simply to throw out anyone he sees fighting. This does not necessarily
include arguing or something like arm-wrestling, but Lumpy’s judgment in such cases is
not always the best. The golem follows simple instructions from Kip, but make no
mistake, he is most assuredly the owner’s creature.
This is a gigantic arena and its surrounding/supporting area at the southern end of the
city, less that a half a league from the Ostogi’s keep. The arena itself (built on orders
from the Baron) is made of brick berms, wooden bleachers, canvas tarps, ropes, wire and
metal posts and pylons. It is surrounded by ramshackle stalls that sell meat on sticks,
trinkets, baubles, stolen merchandise, fake magic items and what-all. Jugglers, acrobats,
bear-baiters, fire-eaters and contortionists ply their trades wherever they can find room.
Around the Panopitcon (“the place where you can see everything”) can be found freak
shows (extra freaky), dancing girls, gambling dens, ale by the flagon and plenty of shady
characters hawking Black Lotus. It is a dirty, drunken, violent party almost every night of
the week. Thieves, cutthroats and pickpockets abound.
Low-level fighters in Ostogi livery are nominally in charge – it’s rare for members of the
town guard to venture into the Panopticon when on duty.
The arena proper is used for all manner of gladiatorial combat, races, games and
spectacles. They even have a version of the dreaded Orcish kladrach – a violent quasi-
rugby game that typically uses an iron ring with several radiating lengths of chain as a
ball (back in the day, they used a hill-giant’s head).
The Panopticon serves as both a front for the Ostogi’s many illegal enterprises, but also
as a recruiting center for new talent, particularly the gladiatorial games. In addition, it lets
the Baron play “friend to the commoner” bestowing such benefices as free food, drink
and entertainment to the masses.
The Twisted Quarter
Go north from the Panopticon, and you enter a gigantic slum. Before the Black Wave a
thriving merchant district, it has never been rebuilt. Crumbing masonry, stinking hovels
and rotting wood shacks stretch in a sprawl that is bounded by the Panopticon on the
South, the Ostogi keep on the West and the Red Marketplace to the East.
It is home to the lowest of the low: beggars, outcasts, the plague-ridden, outlaws and the
insane. There is no law and order to speak of. At times, armed parties will be sent in with
the specific task of apprehending a dangerous criminal. Priestesses of Pelor have a
charitable mission on the Northern edge of the Twisted Quarter and do what little they
are able to relive the terrible suffering and misery of the place.
The only institution of note that operates out of the Twisted Quarter is the beggars’ guild.
They have their guildhall there, along with the grandmasters of their guild and numerous
“apprentices” – lost or abandoned children whose bodies are “trained” with restrictive
devices to make them cripples so inspire pity. Those in charge of such training are called
Fleshtenders, and late-night tales of their cruelty has scared many a child in Tabarka
All beggars in Tabarka eventually make their way to the guildhall to pay dues and share
knowledge of people and events. And of course, those who would like to share in that
knowledge eventually make their way there as well.
Among the monsters stalking the Twisted Quarter are wererats, ghosts, packs of feral
dogs and the occasional giant spider.
The Grand Marketplace
This takes up much of the central area of the city. It is essentially a large, open plaza,
ringed by guildhouses, warehouses, inns, shops and temples – the most notable temple
being the one to Boccob on the Western side.
In the daytime it is dominated by various stalls set up for merchants to hawk their wares,
by caravans assembling for travel outside the city, and by public auctions that are held in
the four corners of the marketplace. While there are places in the marketplace to get food,
drink, and even a bit of entertainment, the atmosphere here is much less festive than the
Panopticon, and much more business-like. After sunset, most of the merchants take down
their stalls and most of the shopkeepers shutter their doors and windows, leaving it a
strangely empty, deserted-feeling place.
At the very center of the marketplace is a large fountain, with sluices off to a series of
troughs for watering various beasts of burden both newly-arrived from the caravan routes
or about to embark.
Along the Northern end of the Marketplace is the guildhall of the moneychangers. The
hall does not appear to have any doors on the ground floor, only tall, narrow windows on
the third floor. Long baskets on ropes go up and down to where clerks make out contracts
and compile legers at their public desks. A number of large, burly guards are present at
any time. Vast stores of money are said to be held in the moneychangers hall, but most
transactions are accomplished by marking sums in ledger books.
On the Eastern side of the marketplace, just off the large main road that leads from down
by the wharves to all the way out of the city, can be found a medium-sized statue of
Morgan-Kahn, saint of mercenaries. It is typically covered in graffiti and in offerings of
small coins, flasks of drink, dice, cards and the occasional twist of black lotus. Rare is the
sword-for-hire passing out of Tabarka by the great main road that doesn’t take a moment
to pay his respects with an offering at the statue.
On the first day after the new moon the whores of Tabarka, carrying rags and buckets of
water, process through the marketplace – much to the scandal of the more pious members
of the populace – to divvy up the offerings among themselves and give the statue a
thorough, (and rather lewd) cleaning. Almost everyone comes out to watch. Most males
for obvious reasons, the higher-priced courtesans of the city to scout new talent, and the
merchant wives to scowl and see if any of the fallen women call out obviously to their
men or vice-versa.
No one is sure of the origins of the ritual, except that before the statue of Morgan Kahn
there was a statue of someone else, and of someone else before him, going back to the
earliest days of the city.
The Red Marketplace
Located somewhat North of the Twisted Quarter but West of the Grand Marketplace, the
Red Marketplace is home to specialty dealers in exotic items, be they weapons, material
components, specialty tools or what-have-you.
The Red Marketplace is laid out in nine concentric rings. At the center is a small circle of
red sand, bounded by red stone benches. Rising up out of the very middle is a large blade
or fin of black stone, about 25 ft. high. It gives the effect of making the entire market
look something like a sundial. And, indeed, directions to different stalls and locations in
the marketplace are given on the order of, “Oh, that’s in the third ring, at about four-o’-
In the very first ring, facing the black blade, are the small and unassuming stalls of the
Dream Merchants. People rarely remember these stalls the first time they visit the Red
Marketplace. The potions they sell can endow the users with various skills and abilities;
rage like a 5th level Barbarian, pick locks like a 4th level thief, that sort of thing. But one
can also buy memories of pleasures, of power or of thrills untold. The merchants also buy
unpleasant memories off of those who would be rid of them; old pains, lost loves,
crushed dreams. And of course, there is always a price for such things – a price beyond
whatever money may change hands -- in both the buying and the selling and the using…
Stalls tend to be more permanent affairs than in the Grand Marketplace, with many
vendors using them as sleeping quarters during the night. They seem to have arranged for
their own security in some unobtrusive fashion.
The Arcadian Academy and the Cortian Academy
The two centers of learning and magic in Tabarka are both in the Northern section, taking
up much of the space between the Vintonet holdfast and the Necropolis. If you need an
expert, want to brush up on history, or need the appraisal of an obscure magic item, these
are the places to go. The Arcadians subscribe to a quasi-epicurean philosophy, the
Cortians to something quasi-stoic, with some Gnostic elements.
The illustrative parable that often gets told is this one: give both a Cortian and an
Arcadian two cords tied in a complicated knot, and ask them to separate them. The
Cortian will spend hours or days puzzling over how exactly the knot was tied in an
attempt to unlock the mystery, while an Arcadian will simply cut the cord. If, however,
the next day you bring them two lengths of cord and ask for them to be joined into one,
the Arcadian will call you foolish and say, “You should have brought a longer cord in the
first place.” The Cortian, on the other hand, will be able to tie you a decent knot.
The Arcadians, naturally, have a single, self-contained tower of basalt and granite, with
lower levels accessible by stairs, mid levels accessible by flight or teleport spells, and
upper levels accessible only by knowing the right words of power. It is lit and warmed by
magical spells. There is an aerie on the roof where from time to time a Gynosphinx
makes her liar. Some very brave scholars and magical adepts have been known to venture
up to visit her. Sometimes she’s amused by their conversation – sometimes she just eats
The Cortians have a more modest, diverse campus of several buildings around central
quadrangle. The quadrangle is laid out in a labyrinth – not a maze to get lost in, but a path
for contemplation. When a Cortian has a very difficult problem to solve, they will walk
the labyrinth, sometimes pondering, sometimes whispering bits and pieces of the problem
to passers-by, sometimes listening as others whisper to them.
At the center of the labyrinth is a bronze statue of Abraxas, with the head of a lion, the
upper body of a man and the lower body of a snake, a round shield on his left arm and a
scourge in his right hand. At the base of the statue is an inscription:
“Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the
same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness in
the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible.”
Notable Cortians include Doctor Talos, who met an unhappy end, and Doctor
Hyronimus, who keeps the observatory.
Many powerful merchant families send their young people to the academies to receive an
education, or at least learn enough math and finance to keep the family business going.
Some study to become Advocates, or to learn another specialized trade. Those who have
an aptitude for magic are sometimes taken as apprentices by the wizards-in-residence, but
one can’t simply sign up for magic classes a la Hogwarts.
The noble families much prefer private tutors for their young, but for advanced research,
nothing beats the extensive libraries and well-stocked alchemical laboratories of the
academies, meaning Coprolith, Ostogi and Vintonet livery is to be seen in the halls and
The differing viewpoints of the academies, as well as their close proximity have led to an
ongoing rivalry that is at times friendly and at times pointed. They hold an annual debate
on some obscure magical or philosophical concept, taking turns hosting.
Numerous bookshops, alchemical supply shops, taverns, as well as private residences and
dormitories surround the academies, lending much of the area a university town feel.
In the sweeping expanse between the Northern Quarter and the foothills where the great
rambling Manse of the Coproliths begins, there is a gigantic cemetery, the largest known
on the Western Continent.
There are grave markers and tombs in the great Necropolis of Tabarka going all the way
back to before the first cataclysm, in sizes ranging from simple standing stones to
gigantic mausoleums and sepulchers. Almost all the stone used in the Necropolis is either
marble or polished limestone, meaning nothing but varying shades of white and gray
stretching on for acres.
Here you will find the Sepulcher of the Sapphire Guard, where the paladins of the order
lie in glory. Here also is the Cenotaph of the Dolorous Shore, the ship that sank during
the evacuation at the end of the Great Siege. Many an Ostogi noble has a large and
There is, however, not a Coprolith marker to be found in the Necropolis. Since the
earliest days of Osan Copor, all of the clan has been buried somewhere within the Manse.
One would think that, with so large a cemetery within the city walls, the undead would be
a constant, menacing problem. One would also think that, the city having such a large and
well-organized Thieves Guild, grave robbing would be endemic. But such is not the case.
Ages ago, before the Great Cataclysm that first destroyed the city, there was a powerful
mage who had a beautiful wife. She died and for whatever reason, nothing he could do
would resurrect her. She was buried in the Necropolis and, after, he returned to his keep
to mourn his loss. He returned to her graveside the next day, only to discover the grave
looted and defiled.
In a mad rage he summoned a terrible creature from the Negative Material plane to seek
out and destroy the thieves. It has stuck around ever since. At nightfall the creature – a
vague thing of wind and rage and tentacles of icy cold, nearly invisible in the fading light
– reappears. It considers anything that roves the Necropolis after sundown, living or
unliving, to be its rightful prey.
However, the creature is bound to respect certain rules and boundaries. It is limited
strictly to the Necropolis, meaning it will not pursue creatures beyond its limits (those
limits being the city wall on the North-west, the foothills of the Coprolith Manse to the
North, and the Northern Road to the West).
Also, it seems that there are areas within the Necropolis that are not technically of the
Necropolis. One of these is the guild-hall of the Torturers Guild. From the outside, the
hall appears as nothing more than a large, circular gateway bounded by white stone.
Within, it sinks hundreds of feet into the earth.
There the Torturers go about their grim business. It has living quarters, kitchens,
individual rooms for special clients, and a long, dank oubliette, in which a great many of
their hopeless cases lie shackled, bewailing their fate.
Once a year they have a feast – complete with a sort of pageant – to honor St. Catherine,
their patron. They offer an open invite to the various guilds of the city… but very seldom
does anyone take them up on the offer.