City-States of the North Cascades Combine, Part 2: The Barony of New Bizantium
CITY-STATES OF THE NORTH CASCADES COMBINE Being a Series Outlining the Members of the Post-Apocalyptic Pacific Northwest's Preeminent Political Power, Part the Second: The Barony of New Bizantium. (Population: 80,000.) A large walled city built from the ruins of both the pre-Rifts city of Bend and another settlement called Fulcrum (a border town originally located on the edge of the Palladium Fantasy RPG world's Old Kingdom and the Western Empire), which was dimensionally shifted on top of / into Bend during the apocalypse. A sporadically active rift is located roughly 20 miles east of the city, which when open seems "fixed" to the Palladium world. As a result, over half of the Barony's populace is descended from extradimensional refugees from the Palladium world, many of whom are non-humans. A large percentage of those citizens that do not trace their origins back to Palladium are human mutoids, psychics, practitioners of magic, or other D-Bees. Though a far cry from the oppressive, segregated arcologies and "Burbs" of the Coalition States, old prejudices die hard, and some social stratification exists. The Barony's large so-called "subhuman" community, comprised primarily of goblins and orcs, inhabits the Undercity, a cramped, dangerous, yet lively collection of subterranean hovels constructed in the labyrinthine lava tube network that runs beneath what once was Bend. The upper rungs of the Barony's societal ladder, on the other hand, are largely occupied by human families of extradimensional (specifically, Western Empire) descent, who live in the city's pristine Imperial Quarter, better known as Hightown. The most prominent of Hightown's families, the Serris clan, claim a kinship to the Imperial throne and invariably possess psionic abilities; perhaps because of their prestige, psychics have traditionally been held in higher regard than other citizens. The early history of the Barony, like much of what happened in the dark ages immediately following the apocalypse, is vague. It was apparently founded by a human of noble origins -- a Palladin or Cyber-Knight, according to some stories -- who hailed from the isles of Bizantium on Palladium; hence the Barony's name. This human's identity is lost to the ages, erased by the legacy of the Baron Chulgrem Shran, a ruthless and paranoid kobold who deposed the city's founder, instituted the worship of a Palladium death goddess named Tolmet as the state religion, and, with the aid of a police force that included evil Priests and pact-bound Witches in its ranks, ruled with an iron fist for more than a century. Shran died slightly over one year ago with no heir. His former right-hand man and bodyguard, a Mind Melter named Park Dae-sung, has ascended to the position of Baron. (Unbeknownst to the general citizenry of the Barony, Shran was in fact assassinated by Park.) Park, formerly one of the Coalition State of Iron Heart's most wanted criminals, escaped his native land, made his way to the Barony, and married a Serris clan woman roughly twenty-five years ago. Since assuming his title, the new Baron has joined his city-state to the North Cascades Combine, outlawed the Church Tolmeti, and created a specially equipped task force called ADWAT (Anti-Demon Weapons And Tactics), ostensibly to round up and combat remaining Tolmetian elements. (In reality, the ADWAT operatives seek out and destroy anyone and anything the new Baron sees as a potential threat -- especially practitioners of magic, who are usually "exposed" as Tolmet-worshippers before being executed.) Baron Parkinson is seen as a harsh but comparatively reasonable and fair ruler by his counterparts in the NCC, though many Bizantines, the Imperial Quarter's families among them, resent his purge of the Church Tolmeti. The Serris clan, in particular, have little love for the new Baron, finding the sudden "disappearance" of Parkinson's wife, Artha Serris, shortly before his ascent to power deeply troubling. The Barony of New Bizantium's small but relatively powerful military force doubles as law enforcement, and includes well-trained infantry and pilots. The Barony maintains an assortment of weapons, vehicles and power armor acquired from various North American manufacturers -- Northern Gun and Bandito Arms foremost among them, with shipments of Mount Hood armaments beginning to arrive. Citizens with psionic powers are encouraged to join the military police. Baron Park regards most spellcasters with mistrust, seeing little distinction between them and the Priests and Witches his operatives hunt down, but is willing to allow the use of magic weapons as long as their wielders are loyal to him. Leaders of elite units, especially ADWAT operatives, are therefore often equipped with magical items crafted by alchemists in the Palladium tradition (rather than products of Techno-Wizardry).