A Visitor’s Guide to Mohkba, capital of the Klavek Kingdom (Empire)
The Bridge That Is There And Not There
Grigorij Rivalnov was the greatest Illusionist Mohkba has known in its long history, living in the days of the Sinner Tsars. It is told that once, at the 25th birthday of Tsar Anatol V., he changed the whole capital so that it looked like covered in molted gold, sparkling in the sunrise. Another story is not that beautiful, telling a tale where the Illusionist came to the Tsarina in the night disguised by foul magic to resemble the Tsar. Whether that tale is true or not, it was used against the Tsarevitch during the civil war after the death of Anatol V., claiming the young prince to be a wizard’s bastard. It was one of the many reasons while magic is so distrusted in Klavek up to the present time.
Be the stories true or false, most of Rivalnov’s illusion have been banned or timed out over the long years since his death, save for the famous Bridge That Is There And Not There, or Rivalnov’s Bridge. It looks like a sturdy stone bridge, including small statues of famous citizens of Mohkba from the time where it was cast, most prominent among them the tsar and tsarina (but not the tsarevitch) in the middle of it. The bridge is famous enough that most people of Klavek know its an illusion, but nonetheless whoever attemps to cross it for the first time has to make a will save. If she fails, she is able to cross it for the rest of her life, even inside a carriage if every other passenger and the horses failed also. If she succeeds, she falls straight through the illusion and most likely takes a cold bath in the river. Most citizens of Mohkba are able to cross the bridge freely, having failed their save as children when they still believed in wonders.
Of course its a common prank among teenagers to guide foreigners over the bridge, telling them about the illusion while doing so and laughing the moment the strangers take a bath.
The Unprotected Ruby
On a plaza in the midst of Carpenter’s Quarter is an ebony pedestal with a flawless fist-sized red ruby on it. It is not protected by any means, and in fact has been stolen four times already, but always was returned in a week at most. It is obviously worth a fortune, should someone find a buyer for it, but doing that is the difficult part. Tied to the ruby is bad luck of the gravest sort, so most who did ever handle it for more than a few hours died horribly, and no one has managed to break that curse, if it is a curse at all. If the gem is returned to the pedestal all is well again, save for some scars, wounds or broken bones from the time of possessing the gem, but no unusual bad luck happens again. Sages have wondered about the properties of the Unprotected Ruby for long, and examined it – usually from afar – but no one knows its secret. Legend claims one tsar or another, the details vary, paid tribute to the vikmordere with this specially prepared gem, to weaken the enemy by cursing their leaders, but the gem had been returned after some time or never delivered at all after killing its maker in a weird accident which centered around a goose, a flower and a nail.
In the Street of the Eye, where once the royal treasury was located, is one of the few magical features of Mohkba of the divine nature. Dating back to the years of Pjotr the Pius in ancient times the Grand Robbery of the treasury shook Mohkba to the core. Pjotr did pray to the Guardian God for help against further occurences of this kind, and some claim that he could do not much else but pray after being poor like a goblin thanks to the thieves. Be this as it may, the street once leading to the treasury has magical torches to this day. They catch fire the moment an intelligent creature comes in 40 feet of them, and they sputter out with no one in the vicinity any longer. It was a very efficient warning system until the Second Great Robbery of the treasury which was committed with the help of golems. After the vikmordere plundered the treasury twice, each time illuminated by torchlight, it was relocated to a more secure location, and today wonderworkers, con artists and charlatans have their shops in the torchlit street, to the chargrin of many clerics. They sell everything, from splinters of the true bowl that graced the Empty Pedestal once, enough of them to build a glass dome over Mohkba as the critics claim, to bones of the Sinner Tsars or the head of the vikmordere chieftain Angus the Old from the days when he was still a child. Sometimes true magic can be found here, so its a place visited by many for its sense of wonder and promises.
The Floating Tower
When Klavek was young and mostly build of wood two rival families had a feud with each other that slowly escalated. One night the tower of one of the families was put to the torch by its rival, and the ground burned to ashes – but the ground only. The tower is still there to this day, the only wooden tower of this height in the town, but it has no first floor. Indeed it floats from the second floor up, but it stays in place no matter the wind. It was even inhabitat a while afterwards, but with the distrust in magic growing the family that owned it later moved away and now is rumoured to have left no inheritors. There have been some attempts in the past to remove or destroy the floating tower, but none did succeed so far. Today the floating tower is protected by the military, mostly to prevent hotheads from another attempt to burn it – along with the rest of the town while trying.
The Hundred Candle Steps
When Yevgeni VI. married the elven lady Arianna Greenleaf in 692 his bride did make a grand entrance into Mohkba. The last hundred steps of hers before she kissed the Tsar for the first time left footprints on the street, and immediatly after her delicate feet left the street a single cobblestone in each footprint went into tiny flames. Those flames still burn, a small but bright yellow light, unless Klavek is at war with the elves, when the flames change colour to blue.
The flames may be extinguished easily, but they reflame on their own after a few minutes. They are unaffected by normal wind. The street were they are located is the street of the candlemakers and other trades who can use the handy open flames for their trade. It is one of the few tolerated displays of magic in the town since a rampaging troll could be stopped with help of these flames many years ago.
The Grand Scales
The Trade-yard has seen its share of good trades and bad trades, but also of frauds and con artists. Tsar Ironhand has had enough of that one day after his custom officers were cheated on a stormy night with a wooden block coated in gold and he commissioned the building of the Grand Scale, which is the height of a small building and able to weigh up to two tons of raw material. Its difficult and time consuming to handle, but very accurate and gives a +2 to appraise checks for raw materials. Rumours say that both the con artist and the custom officers are all part of the scale now, having been turned into the construction by magic or melted together with the iron from which is was built. In stormy nights they are rumoured to still wail for the tsars mercy.
The Emerald Casket
Once only known to a selected few trusted advisors of the Tsar, The Bridge That Is There And Not There is supposed to be not the only legacy of Grigory Rivalnov. During the Time of Troubles a group of mercenaries took hold of the King’s Fortress for a short time, and from these originated what is now a common legend. Deep under the King’s Fortress there’s an emerald casket, presumably holding the last of the Sinner Tsars in suspension, until a time where the lineage of Tsars is broken. There are some facts contradicting this tale, as the lineage of Tsars has been broken a few times in the past (most famoulsly after the death of Tsarina Anna in 1143) and suspension doesn’t sound like illusionist magic, but still the legend persists. The Casket itself is rumored to be a huge emerald, hence the name, with a vague ageless male human shape enclosed in it. While nobody reliable has set her eyes on the casket in recent decades and talked about it, there are nonetheless many works of art depicting it in the city, even one monument in Mariner’s Quarter. Those works vary in many details from each other though, and there are ongoing and somewhat heated discussions which one looks more like the famous original.
Armour of Frozen Tears
When the Vikmordere attacked Mohkba in the old days, legend says that the face of Tsar Alexei VI was awash in tears of wrath, and that it was so cold during that attack that his tears freeze before hitting the ground. Those frozen tears were collected by a dwarven cleric and with the aid of an unknown smith forged into an armour of sparkling brilliance. Tsar Alexei himself wore the armour in the counterattack, when he charged the enemy at the front of his soldiers, and the vile Vikmordere magic dissipated into waterdrops while hitting the tsar, unable to harm him. While most of this tale seems to be a legend, the armour indeed does exist, and the tsars do wear it on the days of their coronation since the days of Tsar Gregory VI, twin brother and successor of Alexei. The armour is clearly magical, since it adjusts to the size of the monarch and even fitted Tsarina Anna’s very womanly body when her coronation came.
The Armour of Frozen Tears is sky blue in colour, and in form unlike any other armour, though it somewhat resembles a flowing plate mail. The is no crest on the armour, nor any other sign, and, contradicting a then common legend, it can be worn by anyone, as was obvious after Mikhael the jester put it on during a festival. The armour also doesn’t prevent its wearer from being beheaded, which was also proven by said jester and the bodyguard of the enraged tsar. ‘To put on the frozen tears’ is now a common proverb for a daunting deed that went horribly wrong.
The Armour of Frozen Tears is kept in the Sophianeum and on display there, constantly guarded by a watch of honour.
The Tombstone of Bojar Pjotr
The Tombstone of Bojar Pjotr, build from marble and engraved with silver letters, describes the birth- and death-days of the Bojar Pjotr, who was known for his racial tolerance, and his bride, an unnamed othyugh, who ate him at their wedding ceremony before being killed by the guests. Since that day the tombstone is used to promote racial purism, to be an outstanding example of foolish behaviour, to always come armed to a wedding and for lots of other more or less sensible things. But over the years the jokes gradually went sour, for even as Pjotr didn’t left any relatives, the tombstone is always polished, and fresh flowers do appear next to it on the day of his birth, the day of both deaths and on a third day, which is supposed to be the birthing day of the proud bride. In later years a small fence was build around the tombstone, and now lovers faced with huge obstacles throw a flower inside the fenced area, where they lie fresh long after that should be possible, only to vanish without trace when another flower is thrown inside. It is known that the burden of the lovers is eased in some minor way as long as their flower is inside the fence, and that each pair of lovers may only throw one flower for this boon. Should there be no major obstacle to the love, or a second flower be thrown, then their flower withers away immediatly, without replacing the last one, and bad luck is guaranteed for a month and a day. It also seems to matter what flower is chosen, a rose having other effects than a lily for instance, but that may be coincidence. Nonetheless there have been desperate lovers who went searching for a Winterflower, a rare wildflower supposed to grow in the northern mountains near the outpost of Rybalka, to better their chances for success.
Cold Iron Gate
The Cold Iron Gate is the impressive relict of a great effort to to defeat the elves and their fey allies once and for all. There is much disagreement about the details of the plan, but most sages agree that all walls and gates of Mohkba were planned to be coated in cold iron. There are many different opinions about details though, if every town of the realm was to be coated in cold iron, and if the cold iron was meant to hold the fey outside or trap them inside instead. There is even a discussion if the elves themselves were hampered by cold iron in those ancient days, since they clearly aren’t in modern times. Whatever it is, after one gate was ready the whole plan was stopped due to lack of money. In modern days the Gate is infamous on the one hand, leading to the proverb of ‘he even has a cold iron toilet’ for someone with too much money, but oddly something of pride also, for it was a very ambitious project to say the least, and even unfinished its a symbol for Mohkba aiming very high. The Cold Iron Gate itself is somewhat barren, there are no gravels, signs or whatever in it, and has a dull blue colour that has appeared over time, since old texts describe the gate as being the colour of a grey stormcloud. Watchmen tell that the Cold Iron Gate is easier to close and to open then other gates of equal size. No invader has ever tried to break this gate down, so the ultimate test for the defensive attributes has not happened yet.
The Empty Pedestal
In the Harbour area stands the famous Empty Pedestal, by itself a rather blank structure with no artistic value whatsoever, but in ancient time Leo II, The Tsar in the Bowl, had his crystal home on this pedestal overlooking the harbour and looking for outside help to break his curse. Its not clear who cursed him or why, and tales blame everyone from the vikmordere, the clerics, the magicians to his own relatives for the vile deed. His grandson did break the bowl in 173, not wanting to be a mere regent as his father has been, thereby killing the tsar or what was left of him and provoking a short civil war known as the days of the Cleared Succession or the days of the Murdering Tsar by his enemies. The infamous victory speech by Tsar Leo IV was held standing on the very pedestal that held his grandfather for so many decades, and it was one of the longest and most winding speeches in the history of Mohkba, rumoured to have crashed the last resistance to his rule by boring all dissidents to death. Leo IV was known as the chattering tsar or the shattering tsar for many decades until Tsar Anatol VIII decided the matter almost 150 years later by naming Leo IV the Tsar who Broke the Bowl. Until today the people of Mohkba express their feelings toward the government by placing various fishes on the empty pedestal, each of them with a different meaning. Knowing which fish means what is a science in itself and a riddle to even many people of Mohkba, let alone foreign guests. Most governments see any fish in any position and any state of decay as an insult to them nowadays, which lets the pedestal been guarded most of the time and certainly when government is cutting public spendings or raising taxes.
Once during the many wars with the Vikmordere a regiment of Klavekian archers managed to surprise a ritual by the vikmordere. Suspecting a vile purpose of this ritual the archers peppered everyone attending in the grove, slaying everyone – almost. When the storm of arrows ceased, only the leading shaman was still on his feet and dancing, amidst a sea of dead. The next volley of arrows hit him exclusively, but, even being obviously dead, the dance continued. The Klavekian were scared, but took the shaman captive, without getting any response from him. Even bound he twitched in his dance moved with vacant, dead eyes. Back in Mohkba the shaman was showered with positive energy to no avail and ultimately thrown in a pool of acid, where his flesh receded, but his skeleton still danced. It was bound again and put away in a deep cell.
An unknown number of decades later Tsar Alexei V., later called the ‘Mad Tsar’, decided to bolster morale of the citizens by putting the shaman on display. So the skeleton dances on a pedestal, at first closely watched by clerics and guards, but these days only by an honour guard of veterans of klavekian skirmishes or battles with the vikmordere. Oddly enough the few vikmordere ambassadors that have visited Mohkba and seen the shaman have been reported to not be offended by the sight, but smiling knowingly, which unsettled more than one of the veterans guarding the Dancing Skeleton. But since the skeleton is dancing for more than 250 years by now and nothing visibly bad has come out of it yet, the citizens of Mohkba see the Dancing Skeleton as nothing more than a celebrated oddity, a trophy of war and a symbol of the weirdness of their vikmordere neighbors.
At the harbour of Mockba is the statue of Dimitrij Denisonovitch, most honoured advisor to Tsar Pjotr the Diplomat and, for a very short time, of his successor Alexei the Twin. Denisonovitch is portrait as an especially ugly man, with an evil looking face, a long hook-like nose and a hunchback. It is well known that he featured none of this in his life, having been a rather handsome and charismatic man, but he counceled his Tsars toward accepting surrender and tribute to the Vikmordere, like Mohkba paid to the Saatman Empire before. His statue was erected to remember the people of the price of betrayal, for Denisonovitch was beheaded on the very first day of the reign of Alexei the Twin in 1096 for this craven council, and until this day passerbys spit on the statue as their sign of national pride. There are rumours though that before 1096 there had been another statue of Denisonovitch, built by Pjotr the Diplomat for former successes of his councellor, showing the real self with a concerned face, and some people did cut themselves in front of this statue of Denisonovitch to let a drop of blood or two spill at his feet, for in the first battles of the Twin’s war the vikmordere claimed much blood of Mohkba and won most of them. Denisonovitchs council seemed wiser those days, but with the shifting tides of war and victory increasingly favouring Mohkba the old statue was toppled and later replaced by the new and ugly one, and today a different body fluid is offered to the advisor that failed from grace.
Statue of the Shamans
In the vikmordere wars Mohkba was frequently plundered, at least in parts, but at one time the vikmordere tried to stay to conquer the town of their enemies once and for all. Chieftain Angus the Old died shortly after this decision, many claiming being struck down by the gods for his decision, and the vikmordere went away to being splintered tribes as before. But a relic from those days is the statue of ice, vaguely build like a sea snake, was left behind by the vikmordere. It still is in the Mariner’s Quarter as a warning from the vikmordere threat, an oddity from times long past, and a part of the city defences. The serpent statue has a faint glimmer of conjuration magic. If touched and used as a focus component during the casting of summon swarm, summon monster or summon nature’s ally, and the spell is used to summon a serpent swarm or giant serpent, the spell lasts for an additional round, and, in the case of a summoned swarm, the swarm does not attack the caster, so long as he retains hold of the statue, allowing him to stand freely in the area of the swarm. The statue provides no such protection against serpent swarms conjured by others or encountered normally.