Updated: Sep 8, 2021
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Scholastic cities can be amazing places to establish campaigns around. They are centres of learning and lore, where obscure secrets, forgotten ideas and buried truths can only be uncovered by wise and dedicated characters. They offer a chance to investigate the past and the present and can direct players towards new quests. In the Arclands setting, the scholastic city of Harenis is the nearest thing Aestians have to our world’s great library of Alexandria. It is a pristine white marble city built offshore on an atoll, battered by frequent monsoons. Fifty miles inland is the great Library of Harenis, which is contained inside a mountain chamber and is itself the size of a city. You can find out more about Harenis from the links in this article, but below is a list of ten items you can find in a Harenian library (feel free to adapt these to your own campaigns too).
Ratheker oil is a pungent substance used in burial rituals across the Arclands. It is normally dripped on the eyelids of the deceased, in order that the tranquility, which is said to be a property of the oil, seeps into the body where the sleeping soul resides. The oil then helps to transport the deceased on their journey to the afterlife, or so it is believed. Ratheker oil can also be used in many other ways, some scholars inhale it in order to plunge themselves into deathlike trances where they have access to knowings that are far beyond anything the conscious mind can understand. A jar of Ratheker oil in the study of a scholar or sage is a powerful clue that its owner has experimented with radical and forbidden ways of acquiring knowledge and might not be all that they seem.
The craftsman Odrean Marlik of the Dures Road in Arc eventually went mad creating works of such extraordinary beauty, and in his life he made twenty seven orbs which collectors seek and will pay a high price for. To the untrained eye, the orb is simply a glass sphere, but inside, Marlik has etched almost indecipherable sigils into the crystal itself. When the orb is held up to the setting sun, the crystal within the orb shimmers as if gold dust were trapped in suspension and the sigil is momentarily visible. It is rumoured that the words have a great power and are in the lost language of Old Vannic. Some collectors seeking all twenty seven orbs have been driven insane by the quest, just as Marlik himself was.
The Solunites are warrior monks who live in deep caves in the depths of the Kheyun Marshes. They are also the makers of extraordinary candles which have a luminescence unmatched by any other type of candle in Aestis. The wax is suffused with the sap of the Agwaera, a tall black tree that grows underground and which gives off a pale blue light from its leaves, feeding all manner of strange creatures in the dark of the caves where the Solunites live.
Del’Marahan silk robes
Del’Marahan silk is unmatched in quality anywhere across the Arclands. The wearer of these robes is a person of immense taste and refinement and one who has probably not been adventuring in many years.
The Firg are the greatest craftsmen in Aestis, a giant folk whose understanding of weapon smithing is unmatched. Whilst they rarely make weapons specifically for humans, when they do, the result is both functional and beautiful. The Firg cane resembles a three foot carved white wooden walking cane, but it conceals a slender, razor sharp blade. Instead of drawing the weapon from a sheath, the blade swings open, similar to a pocket knife. The weapon can be used either as a sword when opened at 180 degrees or a scythe when it is opened at 90 degrees.
If Harenis is the intellect of Aestis, Hothis is its soul. The city is where skalds, poets and minstrels find their deepest inspiration, and a harp from Hothis has often been played by some of the greatest musicians in the world. It is rumoured that Hothian harps are more than simply musical instruments, and instead they are a way of keeping secrets. Some have been known to be enchanted, and if the right strings are plucked in the right order, a message or a vision that is kept within the harp itself is revealed to the harpist.
The Carathene Monks are an order who saw it as their task to map the known world, in order to pay homage to the Keeper, the god they imagined created the world of Hermia. The maps your players might find, however, could bear no resemblance to anywhere in Hermia at all. In fact, they might look like somewhere that could or should not exist at all.
Hostari water skins
Some scholars do leave the confines of their chambers periodically, and whilst travelling overland, few items are as useful as the robust Hostari water skin. The riders of the Hostar Plains drape them over their saddles and the cured leather preserves water for longer than any other receptacle.
do not give up their armour lightly, the breastplate, greaves, shield and hauberk of the warlike city of Dran, known also as the ‘Hammer of the East’, suggest something intriguing about their owner. Some Dranian warriors after many years of conflict have been known to hang up their sword eventually and retire to a scholastic life, finding meaning in knowledge, not conquest.
Harenian scholars are often heavy pipe smokers and will import tobacco from across the continent. Sometimes heavy, aromatic brakkha (cigars) from Del’Marah are found in a Harenian study, but often the cheaper but no less addictive Swithick snout. The blue smoke of the pipe tobacco often combines with the parchment dust to create a thick ‘scriveners smog’ in the libraries of Harenis.