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    Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 1
    Posted on Sat, May 29, 2004 by Farcluun
    mortellan writes ""Standing upon the windswept escarpment of southern Ull is the trade town of Kester. Situated between the imposing Crystalmist Mountains and the foothills of the Ulsprue Range, Kester serves as the hub of a dangerous trade route connecting the inhospitable Dry Steppes with the equally perilous northern plains of Ull and richer Baklunish lands beyond."

    By: mortellan Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Geography of Kester:

    Harsh Landscape
    Kester sits at a point between the Dry Steppes and Southern Ull called the Kester Escarpment. The escarpment is a sheer cliff literally dividing Ull's sparse landscape from the bordering steppe. This would naturally be an impediment to caravans if not for the Dust Road, a well-worn trail that cuts into the escarpment near the edge of town. Kester is built on a terraced area of the Ulsprue foothills and much of its construction is made of the local stone, giving most buildings a beige or reddish-brown coloration. These bordering hills are dotted with many deep cave systems and rocky ravines that are every bit as inhabited as the town itself.

    Earthquake tremors, a legacy of the Invoked Devastation some say, hit the escarpment every few years causing substantial damage to Kester and rockslides in the foothills. Long time residents can point out the various stages where the city has been rebuilt on top of itself. Less disastrous than quakes, but more a daily concern to locals is the wind. Throughout the summer high winds and violent dust storms blast across the escarpment contributing to what is an increasingly arid climate.

    Drought and Famine
    Kester, like much of the Dry Steppes is caught within a continuous series of droughts. Desertification is set in from many factors like soil degradation, overgrazing and limited rainfall. Kester’s position at the foothills of the Ulsprues gives it the luxury of being the best and last watering spot for most travelers or their animals before they enter the steppes. Camels begin to replace the vaunted Paynim horses in usefulness when one lives in Kester.

    Famine is a fact of life in Kester. What little arable land exists on the escarpment is mainly used for goat and sheep grazing or the increasingly popular cultivation of opiates. Most of Kester’s food stores are imported from the north, even from as far away as Zeif. Given the difficulty in taking the Ull trade route, this does little to assuage the famine gripping Kester.

    Existence in Kester:

    Peoples of the Fringe
    Kester is remarkably large for the region where it was founded. The population fluctuates seasonally from 6000 in the unbearable summer to 10,000 in the winter, averaging out to 8600 the rest of the year. Kester is ethnically diverse only in that it is a meeting place for various tribes and clans of many races. Various Baklunish Uli tribes comprise the majority here as expected with Dry Steppe nomads and other Baklunish travelers not that uncommon. Oeridian hillmen and proud Paynims can be found here in great numbers by way of rampant slavery practiced by the Uli. Blended among the rabble of humankind are small groups of halflings and orcs who form an unlikely minority. These hobniz and euroz share more customs and beliefs with the Uli than those typical of their race elsewhere. This patchwork of races is further complimented with scatterings of ogres down from the Ulsprue Mountains, their half-ogre kin and other rarities of humanoid-kind brought in for Kester's peculiar taste in entertainment.

    Despite all this racial diversity, locals almost exclusively use the Ulagha dialect of Baklunish, likely out of spite and to make life more difficult for visiting traders and newly acquired slaves. Most citizens in Kester live in poverty and under the constant strain of slavery or violence. Life expectancy here is very short, about 45 years old for humans and the mortality rate of infants is indeed grim given the conditions.

    Edge of Civilization
    Kester is technically a khanate under the rule of Ulakand’s royal family, but little fealty is actually shown to the Orakhan. Like everywhere in Ull, the ruling tribe in Kester changes frequently through sporadic outbreaks of violence to the point that no one can agree who is really khan of the town. This violence is only suppressed through distraction in Kester’s favorite bloodsports and the proliferation of weapons amongst the populace. Indeed, every free person from young boy to family elder has a weapon in his or her possession. The fiercest of Ull warriors are known for great bows that rely on power more than accuracy. There are also a wide variety of exotic polearms in Kester, finding use in both war and sport. The favorite weapon in Kester however is the mace. Every shape and size of mace can be found here, to suit the Uli lust for drawn out, bone-breaking kills. A general lawlessness is felt here when outsiders come to trade and these travelers soon pay for protection with certain Kester tribes or slavers.

    Religion here is maligned and self-serving. No temples exist in Kester. Of all the Baklunish deities, only Geshtai, Daughter of the Oasis finds praise here for her continual struggle against Incabulous’ droughts and famines. At the same time people in Kester thank Geshtai for life giving water, they invoke Incabulous’ ill name to curse their enemies with diseases and nightmares. These two conflicting deities are the personification of life in Kester. Only Ralishaz finds more homage in Kester. The venal folk of Kester casually throw his name to the wind to explain their misfortunes and excuse their behaviors. Others pay token bribes to Ralishaz to improve their gambling stakes at the gladiatorial pits. Foreign clerics of Al Akbar sometimes stay in Kester aiding the poor and hoping to win converts, among other pursuits, but all eventually outlast their welcome and leave before they end up in chains.

    Trade in Kester:

    Caravan Circle
    As the nexus of trade in the region, Kester sees a daily influx of caravans from all directions. At the lowest level in town is the Caravan Circle. The Circle is a wide yard, centrally located in the shadow of Kester's terraces. It is in this sandy roundabout that visiting caravans stop their animal trains and gather for mutual protection. Many roads and alleys radiate outward from the Circle and each street in turn is lined with trading stands and weatherworn tents that get progressively smaller and poorer in quality the farther they get from the Circle. In the center of this bustling yard is an old but well maintained fountain built by clerics of Geshtai. Popular superstition is that if the fountain of Geshtai goes dry the city will fall into ruin forever. Also facing this Circle is Kester's only inn, the Blind Billy Goat, a haven for merchants and pilgrims who seek a safe, quiet place indoors.

    Commerce in Kester
    Most residents of Kester with money use their local currency, the silver okka and the copper kurush. The okka's value is substandard to most foreign traders in that Ull doesn't make them, but rather they are mutilated and clipped silvers from Zeif, Tusmit or elsewhere. The kurush are also minted poorly in comparison to more civilized nations. Their size varies so much that merchants in Kester never forget their weighing scales. Higher denominations like gold and gems are traded discreetly in Kester and usually only between the most powerful slavemasters or merchants.

    Not surprisingly, barter finds more use in everyday trade than coinage. Everything from sheep to water to weapons are exchanged back and forth here. Within this subculture of trade in Kester is a simplistic bartering language made of hand signals and head gestures that are invaluable to foreign merchants who find Kester folk hard to understand.

    In part 2 we will examine the darker side of trade in Kester and enter the Pits where fame and fortune can be gained. To finish it off is a study of Kester's enemies including the horrid Abi Dalzim.

    Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 2

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    Re: Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 1 (Score: 1)
    by cwslyclgh on Tue, June 01, 2004
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    very interesting, a worth while read, good job Mort

    Re: Ull Gazetteer: Trade Town of Kester, Part 1 (Score: 1)
    by Tedra ( on Tue, June 01, 2004
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    Excellent mortellan. Incredible timing! My DM had me searching for info on CF for him dealing with Ull. Very nicely written and am eagerly awaiting part 2.

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