The City of Cowls
History of Indiss
Indiss is a riverside seaport near the mouth of the Ironrock River, about 60 miles southwest of Pelaurios in The Sunlands. One of the busiest seaports in the western kingdoms, Indiss is also one of the youngest of the great cities of the world, having been officially founded 444 years ago, in the 30th Year of the Sun, when Irongild was renamed Pelaurios.
As part of the reconsecration of the city, Pelaurios was declared a sacred place, and sinful activities were banned. Among the forbidden activities were prostitution, gambling, moneychanging, and public drunkenness, and Tieflings, Dragonborn, and all “Folk of the Darkness” (a vague term, probably meant to include the Unseelie, goblinoids, orcs, etc.) were forbidden from even entering the city. Realizing what a terrible impact these new laws would have on the city’s ability to conduct international trade, the King mandated that a new port be founded. A likely spot was searched out, at a bend in the Ironrock near the edge of the delta, where a deep and wide harbor was to be found. This village of fishermen was renamed Indiss, after the mythical Lost City of Yndas somewhere in the swampy delta.
The city grew quickly; wharves and quays were constructed and warehouses and taverns built to house goods and sailors. Fleets of river barges and great caravans of horse drawn wains carried the goods to Pelaurios, while in Indiss, the gamblers and whores that had been turned out of the capital found themselves a veritable paradise. Soon, the nobles of Pelaurios began to construct manors and townhouses on the low ridge to the north of the docks, to indulge the vices they could not enjoy in the capital, and Indiss became known as a playground for the idle rich.
For almost a century, Indiss grew and prospered, and in YS 120, a company of bold young nobles set out to map the swamp. They never returned, but rumors that they discovered the Lost City of Yndas abound, and every few years, somebody claims to have seen silver towers through the mist, or to spot a group of silent men on horseback who disappear into a bank of fog. Even today, expeditions to search out Yndas leave the city on a regular basis.
By 150, Indiss was as large as the capital, and far richer (despite the widespread squalor.) It was in that year that Pelaurios relaxed the restrictions that had allowed Indiss to grow so quickly. This act did nothing to curb the decadent port’s power and influence, and the docks of Pelaurios remained empty. But in 158, a tremendous tidal wave slammed into the southwestern coast of Sylua; a huge tidal surge swept over the delta and flooded Indiss, killing thousands of people and severely damaging the docks. They would be rebuilt, but in the meantime, a great deal of commerce flowed to Pelaurios, and Indiss never fully recovered its total domination of maritime trade.
In the following decades, although its influence had declined, Indiss still boasted a reputation as a playground for the rich and powerful, and its decadence grew more pervasive. The year 236 is noteworthy as the year of 3 Lords Mayor; the first died in a drunken stupor as his palace burned around him, the second was stabbed to death in a squabble over a whore, and the third was remarkable mainly for the size and diversity of his veritable army of concubines.
By 340, the decadence had ebbed somewhat as a wave of piety overwhelmed the populace. The Demonwars were raging in the east, and many young men and women were off fighting. A dry summer, coupled with demonic raiding, resulted in a terrible famine that led to a plague in the city; the efforts of many priests of a dozen Gods turned the tide, but just barely. Faced with the prospect of Armageddon, Indiss fled from piety to indulgence, and while Pelaurios prayed, Indiss drank and whored itself into forgetfulness. The decadence became so pervasive that even the priesthood was not immune to its lure. In 361, the Canon of the Cathedral of St. Regwald the Mariner, the highest priest of Pelor in Indiss, was found dead in his chambers, surrounded by empty wine bottles and prostitutes. The Kingdom felt compelled to crack down on the decadence, but only managed to drive it underground again.
As the enmity between the Sunlands and Brye waxed, privateers out of Indiss and Faesdall began to raid the ships of their enemies. In YS 389, raiders from Faesdall led by the Unseelie pirate captain Tiralie assaulted Indiss one summer night, burning half of the quays in the harbor before escaping untouched. The war of piracy grew more heated, and Tiralie was eventually captured and hanged in 398; after her death, the raids by both sides slowed and eventually stopped.
It was in YS 399 that the modern age is held to have begun in Indiss. In that year, the bosses of the Guild of Assassins and the three competing Thieves’ Guilds were murdered and their organizations gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. The new guild, known as the Seven Cowls, would dominate crime in Indiss, and indeed, the entire kingdom, for almost 75 years. By 409, they had removed the King’s influence in the city by getting a puppet of the Ebon Cowl appointed to the post of Lord Mayor. When King Angrohans announced his betrothal to Lady Katerine of Indiss in 422, the Cowls tried their hardest to replace her with a doppelganger. They would have succeeded if the King’s agents had not saved the noble Lady’s life in the nick of time. Still, by 427, the Cowls controlled the Lord Mayor, the Harbormaster, and the Lord Captain of the Indiss Guard. Under their control, trade boomed, and the Cowls grew ever richer and more powerful.
Around this time, the seasonal storms that always struck Indiss in the autumn grew more powerful, and in 430, a massive storm battered the city. It is said that it was during the height of this storm that Queen Ashar was born.
The influence of the Cowls was challenged in YS 444, when a cult worshiping the Demon Prince Fraz-Urbluu attempted to take over the city’s criminal underbelly. The Cowls were hard pressed, but by 450, they had ousted the last of the cultists from the city; surprisingly, they actually asked for (and received) assistance from the churches of Pelor, Kord, and Athena. The Cowls, and the city, weathered the demonic assault well and came out strong; by 458, the city’s wealth and prosperity was unrivaled. For the Cowls, it was the end of the good times, though they did not know it yet.
In 464, an unknown guild began a concerted assault on the Seven Cowls. Their leader was rumored to be a faceless entity of great power, and the Cowls that fought them began calling them the Faceless Legion. That year, they killed four of the Seven, and in each of the following years they killed another, until in 467, only the Ebon was left. But he was tenacious, and when the Faceless Lady personally led the final assault on his hideout, he managed to escape, killing many of her Legion in the process. He went into deep hiding and has never been found, though the Legion searched for him for years.
Two years ago, in 472 YS, a great Blight spread throughout the fields around Pelaurios. It devastated the wheat crop, and the resulting famine killed around 1 in 10 citizens of the capital. Indiss, which had always been more reliant on the rice and bloodfruit grown in the swamp, and the catfish pulled from the river, was spared, and Lord Mayor Fronc sent many shipments of food to the capital, saving many lives. The wheat crop has still not recovered, and prospects look grim for the city of Pelaurios if the Blight is not stopped somehow.
It is now 474. The streets of Indiss are a chaotic mess of rival gangs, all fighting and myrdering and plotting for supremacy, and somewhere, the Ebon Cowl watches it all and waits. It is a city on the edge of a knife. It is a city in need of heroes.