Background: The Freeing of Tyr
For generations unto generations, every city of Athas has been dominated by powerful sorcerer-kings – fierce tyrants who rule unchallenged the scattered great oases. Unchallenged, that is, until now, for at last, one city has overthrown its oppressive lord and freed itself from the shackles of blind tradition. Tyr, once known as a decadent sprawl of slavery and vice, has roused itself with terrifying energy.
It was a storm long brewing. For two decades, the slaves, citizens, and nobles of Tyr suffered under the increasing madness of King Kalak, struggling at his command to build a massive ziggurat in the heart of the city. Its purpose cloaked in mystery, the people only knew that it was destroying them.
First, there were extra taxes to pay for materials, then more and more slaves were pressed into its construction. Output from Tyr’s greatest resource, its fabulous iron mines, slowly dwindled as Kalak concentrated all the city’s efforts on his ziggurat. The citizens, then the nobles, began to suffer as trade with other city states languished. Although they were worried, the fear of Kalak’s ire was sufficient to keep the nobility cowed.
It was only in the last few months that the oppression grew too great. With the ziggurat nearly complete, Kalak’s obsession reached new extremes. The host of High Templar Tithian, Master of Games and Public Works, formed press gangs to scour the streets, enslaving the poor and indigent. The templars commandeered almost every slave in the city, from the meanest bricklayer’s apprentice to the wealthiest nobles’ last few field-hands. With the plantation workers depleted, nobles’ fortunes teetered on the brink of ruin and the city faced eventual starvation. Yet to this all, Kalak turned a deaf ear. The little concern he once had for his people seemed to vanish like smoke.
The situation could not last. Kalak had pushed his people too far. A small group of rebels –—a strange mix of nobles, templars, gladiators, and slaves – realized they had to strike. After many mishaps and near discoveries (which would have certainly resulted in terrible deaths through Kalak’s psionic and sorcerous powers), the desperate group felt ready. The date was set – the day of Kalak’s great games.
Ostensibly, the games were meant to celebrate the completion of Kalak’s rainbow-colored ziggurat and they were to be the greatest spectacle ever staged in Tyr. Everyone, even the lowest slaves, was expected to attend. Most came by choice, for the contest was free and promised to be at least a small spark of relief from Kalak’s strangling reign. Stragglers and slaves were herded to the great arena by the sorcerer-king’s templars. With the stone tiers filled to near overflowing, the stadium thundered as the crowds screamed for their favorite warriors on the sands below. So it went for near all the day, until the final spectacle – the grand melee – was begun.
Just what happened next, and why, is unclear. It is generally agreed that the gladiator Rikus threw his Swd at King Kalak at the same instant that a huge explosion burst over the king’s balcony. Some say Kalak died instantly; others maintain he escaped to his palace. Whatever the result, the people tried to flee, but they discovered that the stadium gates had been sealed. The people, panicked and acting on some instinctual urge, turned on the templars, symbols of Kalak’s oppression. Suddenly, hundreds of people, then thousands, died where they stood. Golden streams of powerful magic flowed from the dying toward Kalak’s ziggurat. From there, sinister greasy smoke rose over the city.
In hindsight, some survivors claim the dragon had come, its terrible magic bringing death to all. Others blamed the rebels who had angered King Kalak. In truth, Kalak, still alive, was absorbing the life force of thousands as he tried to transform himself into a dragon. While the citizens rioted in blind panic, Kalak’s slaves (some of you included) seized the opportunity to break to freedom. At the same time, unknown to everyone, the small group of rebels hunted down and slew the wounded, but still powerful, King Kalak. With the sorcerer-king’s death, his deadly magic ended.
Only after the gates to the stadium were forced open did the panic begin to subside. High Templar Tithian’s appearance in the King’s Balcony finally caught the crowd’s attention. Holding aloft Kalak’s crown, Tithian proclaimed himself King of Tyr and in a single stroke freed all of Kalak’s slaves.
Now Tyr is something new on the face of Athas: a free city-state. The transition has not been easy. Following Kalak’s assassination, riots flared throughout the city. The templars, suddenly lacking their spells, were the targets of much revenge. Mobs of newly freed slaves attacked the townhouses of their former masters, only to be driven back by squads of half-giant soldiers. Roving gangs of homeless were quickly and sometimes brutally suppressed. But the new king of Tyr was not about to let the city fall into chaos.
In the months following, the new ruler of Tyr has struggled to solidify his control over the city. Democracy and freedom are strange and foreign concepts to people so long oppressed. Slowly end with trial and error, the free state of Tyr has edged its way forward.
Recently, new complications arise for Tyr – a potent end dangerous threat from the outside. King Hamanu, King of the World, King of the Mountains and the Plains, King of Urik, has demanded that Tyr once again supply him with precious iron from its mines. Rebuffed by King Tithian and the Council, the lord of Urik decides to solve the matter by direct action: marching his army on Tyr.
Hamanu’s actions will be a test for Tyr – of both the city’s newfound democracy, as well as the strength of its leaders. Tyr assembled an army – of both traditional troops and newly freed gladiators – with Rikus, the arena champion who was critical to the overthrow of Kalak, leading the charge. Agis of Asticles, an infamous and popular nobleman and senator (and Amun’s cousin) who was the mastermind behind the plan to overthrow Kalak, is serving as Rikus’s advisor. The army left 8 days ago, heading east on the road out of Tyr. Shortly after passing Fort Iron, the Crimson Legion is to depart from the road and head east-northeast in a straight line to Urik through the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes. Your understanding is that Tyr mobilized faster than did Urik and should be able to head off Urik’s army before it has reached the road will be in a prone position.