The Dead Lands of Athas
Celik is an ancient city that was one of the jewels in the crown of Green Age domains. Now mostly a jumble of ruins, it nevertheless continues to function as a city thanks to those who live there. The citizens of Celik are a mixture of retired adventurers, outcasts from other societies, ex-slaves, and humanoids from the wastes who have gathered in the city for the protection, resources, and wealth the location promises.
Korsun, the patriarch of the merchant house of Mareneth, controls the city. All of its assets and citizens belong to him. Mareneth was the primary merchant house of the city-state of Kalidnay. When that city was destroyed, the members of the house who were away at the time decided to set up their own community in order to survive. After a little bit of searching, the house’s agents found the ruins of Celik. The call went out for brave warriors to help clear out all vermin and dangerous creatures, and within a year a small portion of the ruins were made habitable. Today, nearly half of the city is occupied by the merchant house and its retainers. The rest of the ruins remain wild and dangerous, sealed behind walls and fences thrown up to keep whatever resides there from emerging into the living city.
In Celik, the merchant house holds the same position as the sorcerer-kings of the cities to the north. Patriarch Korsun rules like a king, with his family, agents, and caravan troops serving as the city’s nobility. Everyone else in the city is considered to be free citizens, though they’re actually indentured servants who must earn their freedom by laboring for the house. Any intelligent, healthy being is welcome in Celik, provided he or she agrees to the terms of servitude. As long as the terms are being met, the citizens receive food, water, a place to live, and small amounts of spending money to use in the taverns and gaming halls run by the elf tribes who occupy a district within the living city.
The city is divided into two portions: the living city and the ruins. The living city is where all of the merchants and citizens live. Like other cities, this portion has markets and other amenities. The ruins remain untamed. Foul humanoids and even undead creatures roam within the ruins, though every year Korsun’s troops absorb more of the ruins into the living city. Adventurers can make good money taking on hunting contracts for the merchant house, provided they can survive what waits within the ruins. Of course, they have to be careful about the terms of their employment. Many adventurers wind up as indentured servants of House Mareneth.