Rise of the Northern Star
Four hundred miles north of Whitewall, some 80,000 people live in the small city of Gethamane. Their subterranean city grants them unmatched protection from the perils of the North. Living in the heart of a mountain, Gethamanians do not fear winter storms or barbarian attacks. Supernatural gardens remove the threat of starvation. Nevertheless, Gethamanians live in fear. The circling tunnels of their city connect to an immeasurably vaster, deeper labyrinth of underways beneath Creation—and from these nighted caverns come horror. As much as anyone else in the North, Gethamanians require constant vigilance to survive
The Great Contagion did not affect the City because nothing lived there. If the invading Fair Folk noticed the empty subterranean city, they did not enter. A century after the Contagion, though, a band of refugees fled North, beset by plague, starvation and
savage Wyld barbarians. Their God-Blooded leader, Bethan Redeye, led them through the Black Crag
Mountains in hopes of finding safety in some whaling village on the White Sea. Instead they found a cave that turned out to be a minor tunnel into the abandoned city. As an alternative to starving, freezing or being eaten by Wyld barbarians, the uncanny city looked pretty good. They
named the city Gethamane— Old Realm for “Sanctuary,” in hopes that naming it thus in the language of Heaven might provide a good omen. The refugees lived off whatever game they could catch in the mountains until they discovered the city’s magical Gardens. Fortunately, the Gardens
are remarkably easy to operate. Within a month, the Gardens produced edible fungi and moss and the refugees became settlers. Not even the discovery of the dangers in the lower tunnels could persuade them to leave. Bethan Redeye worked out a system of allocating daily shares of food from the Gardens and whatever hunters and gatherers found outside. This system eventually became
known as the Dole. Life was still hard, though, for the Gethamanians had little with which to work besides wood, leather, bone and stone.
For many years, the rest of Creation did not know about Gethamane. That changed when the Guild started sending caravans into the North. One caravan met a group of hunters from Gethamane. The caravan’s factor quickly realized that the subterranean city would make an excellent base for trading ventures through the North. He also saw the Gethamanians’ lack of outside sources of food, clothing and other commodities. Bethan Redeye (then in her 70s, and still leading the Gethamanians) traded food supplies and animal pelts for cloth, spices and metal goods, beginning the city’s partnership with the Guild… but she didn’t let the Guild know about the buried Gardens. (The Guild found out eventually, of course.) To keep the Guild from subverting and absorbing Gethamane, Bethan made the Dole contingent on labor for the city. What’s more, she decreed that no one could stay in the city for more than a month unless a Gethamanian family adopted them and they entered the Dole’s labor register. Adopted citizens could pay in jade or goods instead of labor, though. The system discouraged Guildsmen from building strong connections in Gethamane, and the ones who did paid dearly for the privilege of long-term residence. Bethan Redeye died at age 93, survived by two husbands and a dozen children. She trained all her children in administration, but named her second son Gerath as her heir. The office of Master or Mistress of Gethamane has stayed in Bethan’s line ever since.
Gethamane grew slowly but steadily. In time, it formed relationships with other Northern societies, usually with the Guild as go-between. In RY 586, this policy drew Gethamane into a trade war with the nascent Haslanti League. On the whole, though, Gethamane enjoyed a remarkably placid history. Its people have no desire to conquer others—that would mean leaving the mountain. No one else, not even the Empress, ever found an effective way to attack Gethamane. The disappearance of the Empress and the rise of the Bull of the North troubles some Gethamanians. The current Mistress of Gethamane, Katrin Jadehand, and her advisors
draw up contingency plans for situations ranging from an attack by the Bull to a takeover bid by the Guild. Most Gethamanians, however, figure that the city can ride out any crisis the way it always has before: Expel any troublesome outsiders, shut the impregnable doors, live off the Gardens and wait a few years. They don’t like to remember that the greatest threat to Gethamane has always come from the endless dark tunnels underneath.