Population: ~1,200 citizens, 80 garrison troops.
Leader: Daifu Wen Suyin, District Magistrate. (Wizard 2/Expert 3)
Important Locals: Hralfi Bjornsen, Captain of the Guard (Warrior 3). Tavish Yu, leader of the Brotherhood of Carters (Rogue 2/Warrior 4). Si Meihui, priestess of Fa Chia (Cleric 5).
Military Forces: The 80-man footman garrison (Warrior 1), plus 400 militia when mustered, a quarter of which are archers and the rest spearmen (Commoner 1).

Update 8/01/08: Recent tidespawn attacks have overwhelmed the High Banner District, with one of the loathsome blue crystals known to be buried somewhere in the hills. Only an elite group of adventurers including the priestess Atmeh Tidemarked, Captain Kyralia and Lieutenant Gunnhilde of the Hammers of Righteousness, Radiant Devil Hana and her companion Ivy, and Lin the Whirlwind were able to get into Altburg after the warped tidespawn overwhelmed the district. By dint of heroic effort, they were able to portal out approximately four hundred survivors. The rest of the population appears to have been lost to the Tide, including Wen Suyin and Si Meihui. There is presently no Xianese-recognized authority in the district.


Altburg is crouched around a small stream that runs down from the western hills, locally called the Trace. Wooden houses are clustered near the stream, with the common merchants living closest to the road that parallels it. The wealthier souls live in crude stone houses perched on higher and better-drained ground, while the unfortunate farmers live outside the stone walls of the town, subject to the casual predations of goblinoid raiders. Construction is chiefly unpainted wood, and streets are no more than dirt traces. In the rainy season, the main streets have boardwalks sunk to keep pedestrians out of the knee-deep mud. Sanitation is poor, and the stench of the town is oppressive. The finest house in town is that of the Magistrate, a whitewashed affair of coarsely-squared hillstone that would scarce qualify as a rich peasant's abode in parts farther east.


Altburg was originally founded in 5 AL as a forward supply depot for the advancing Xianese army. The refugees were driving the native goblinoid tribes before them in a relentless push to the mountains, and it was necessary that a forward base be created to coordinate the shipping of weapons and food to the soldiery. The town swiftly attracted a great many of the sort of men and women who make their living off of soldiers, and the conmen and painted women of the young army town had a brief summer of notoriety back in Xian. That summer faded rapidly as the army's advance was suddenly checked in 8 AL. Goblinoid tribes driven back in the initial push west from Xian had taken refuge in the Mantle Peaks and Altgrimmr range, and there had organized themselves into a tribal confederation cohesive enough to push back the invaders. When they poured south and north onto the lowlands, the garrisons left behind were taken by surprise and overwhelmed. The main army body was forced to cut its way back east to save Xian, a blood-drenched journey that remains a subject of numerous epic poems and histories.

Altburg was left behind. The refugee colonists that had come in the wake of the soldiers found themselves abandoned to their own defense. A confused effort was made to coordinate defenses among the young villages in the district, but bad leadership, craven citizenry and chance ill luck combined to keep the villages apart even as the goblin tribes closed back in. The goblinoids of the Godbarrows had been beaten savagely by the Xianese, but they remained scattered and warring tribes. It was perhaps this disunity alone that saved even a remnant of the people of High Banner from utter destruction. As it was, more than half the colonists were killed in the first year alone.

Altburg's isolation continued for the next nineteen years. The goblinoid tribes that infested the lowlands put too much pressure on Xian for any relief column to get through, and even brave scouts working alone risked their lives trying to get in or out of the district. Civilization was almost completely effaced during this period. The countless different and generally self-serving denizens of the town could not unite in a polity, with the goblin raids fierce enough to kill many of them without being quite so pressing as to compel unity or death. Matters rapidly devolved into a series of strongmen laying claim to authority based on nothing more sophisticated than the number of swords they could command. Few of these "Magistrates" or "Commanders" lasted more than a year or two before one of their underlings made an opening at the top.

In 27 AL, the Xianese army was finally able to break through the goblinoids and shatter the confederacy that opposed them. While it cost them the last of their arcanist heroes, the goblin witch-priestesses were slain and the chieftains driven back in disarray. Altburg received its 'saviours' with sentiments ranging from sullenness to outright hatred. As far as the locals were concerned, Xian had abandoned them to their fate. A daifu was installed as a Magistrate over the city and his rule enforced by the blades of the Watch garrison while the town settled down into a low simmer of spite from which it has yet to emerge.

Presently, Altburg is a reluctant outpost of Xianese rule. The locals nurse a traditional sense of grievance towards the Mandarin and his servants, and view them as little better than the goblinoids that infest their hills. The money that Xianese military expenditures brings into the city has made it the wealthiest settlement in the entire district, but this wealth is oftimes viewed as little more than the mere crumbs of the rightful reparations due the affronted and abandoned Altburgers. And while soldiers are tolerated due to their money, and tax collectors are tolerated due to their soldiers, things that are tolerated now might not always be so….


Altburgers are a heterogenous lot, chiefly Imperial but with almost half the population drawing their chief descent from some other ethnic group. Details of lineage are uncommonly vague for a settlement in Xianese lands, and there is small interest in the customs and social habits preserved in other villages. The locals are Altburgers and everyone else is a treacherous stranger who's either here to rob them with taxes or kill them with militia levies. Despite this shared detestation of outsiders, there is little internal unity in Altburg, and each family tends to jockey violently against the others when matters of money or privilege are involved. The town Magistrate, Wen Suyin, keeps order chiefly by playing one family off another. While Xianese law is nominally in force in Altburg, the only law that means anything is that of a sharp edge and a strong arm. The city garrison won't lift a finger to interfere in the killings, robberies, and assaults that make up daily life in Altburg, sharing a view of the locals almost as jaundiced as the locals' own towards them. Should someone offend against them or the Magistrate without the protection of a powerful family, it is customary for them to omit the trial and move directly to the execution phase of the sentencing.

The fair-featured Magistrate herself had a promising career in Xian until a progressive drug addiction resulted in one faux pas too many and a brisk reassignment to Altburg. The thirty-year-old daifu spends most of her hours in a haze fueled by powders and smokes brought north from Tien Lung, her husband and family all but forgotten in her steady stream of paramours. Still, her natural cunning and a wizardly talent otherwise unknown in Altburg have managed to keep her alive and nominally in control. Few of her paramours realize their true political use to her before some convenient accident or random assault closes their case.

The priestess Si Meihui was detailed along with the Magistrate due to a politically unfortunate piece of advice she tendered to a superior. Even her considerable power and personal accomplishment were not sufficient to save her from the consequences, and she spends her days here in close cooperation with the Magistrate. She understands perfectly well that her own life hinges upon the Magistrate's success, and the gray-haired old priestess will do whatever she deems necessary to keep from dying out here in this wretched hill-town. She is perfectly willing to sell her blessings to petitioners.

Daily Life

Altburg is a trading town. The few roads in the district lead to it, and so the isolated villagers of the surrounding hamlets usually bring their goods to the Altburg market, held once every two months in the dry season and once every three in the rainy- weather permitting. The majority of the citizens are affiliated in some way with the Brotherhood of Carters, the coster responsible for moving the foodstuffs and supplies sent by Xian west to Lao's Teeth. Wagoners, leatherworkers, coopers, wainwrights, and other such laborers form the wealthiest and most powerful social bloc in Altburg, though that bloc is united only in stamping on any other local group that rises to threaten them. The rest of the time is spent in casually murderous politicking between the carter families. The current leader of the Brotherhood is Tavish Yu, a squint-eyed man with a limp and a positive zest for murder. He's held the position for the past ten years, and looks likely to hold it for another ten.

Other tradesmen manufacture the goods that the hill villages can't fashion for themselves, selling at usurious prices and earning their share of hatred from the hillfolk in turn. The third primary sector of the local economy is in the bawdy-houses and taverns kept for locals and for soldiers on leave. The least important families are farmers who pick a living out of the rocky hillsides. Their treatment is casually brutal, and their condition rather worse than most field thralls. Every now and then a farm family manages to get revenge on some careless young carter rake, but often as not their crime is discovered and punished in such ways as would make an orc blanch.

Altburg's daily life is bitter and hateful. The locals remain there because they are convinced that the rest of the Xianese betrayed them and they fight because the rewards of rulership are so immediate and clear. The facade of Xianese rule is thin in the town, but the Magistrate remains in control- if only by virtue of the swords of the garrison and the quarreling families of the town.

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