Savage Sun of Athas
The wealthiest of the Seven Cities, Balic is a mercantile power on the shores of the Estuary of the Forked Tongue and known for its democratic systems. Despite the democratic leanings, Balic is under control of the Dictator Andropinis, a sorcerer-king who claims to have been elected to his throne over seven hundred years ago. Despite the dictator’s grip, Balic is perhaps the most affluent city-state in the Tyr Region and is home to powerful merchant houses. They bring great wealth to Balic citizens that are fortunate enough to share in the prosperity. The business of Balic is business, and for the most part, Andropinis does not interfere in routine affairs of nobles or merchant emporiums.
Population: Roughly 24,000 people live in Balic, with more in the nearby countryside. About half the population is human. Dwarves, muls, elves, and half-elves are present in large numbers.
Water: A system of five public wells and extensive subterranean cisterns supplies Balic with water. Most noble villas have their own cisterns. The city-state depends on the intermittent rainfall over a brief few months to replenish its water stores.
Supplies: Balic’s exports include grain, salt, olives, wine, livestock, leather, marble, and a small amount of copper.
Defense: Balic faces few threats from other city-states, but giants and desert raiders are drawn to the fields and manors outside the city walls. Five thousand soldiered legions are garrisoned the city and surrounding fields. Most able-bodied free citizens are also conscripted into the legions as young adults for three years of service.
Culture: Balic enjoys a cultural heritage dating back thousands of years, which finds expression in a public appreciation for poetry and drama. The civic mythology still lives in the form of powerful arcane vestiges as Andropinis and his templars are masters of manipulation. The cultural heritage is evident in the dozens of theaters throughout the city-state. These range from small, roughshod stage houses in poor slums, to magnificent amphitheaters in the noble districts. In Balic, talented playwrights and orators can win acclaim equal to that held by the greatest gladiators (as long as they steer clear of subject matter that the dictator’s templars might find offensive).
Aside from the love of the arts, many pride themselves in more democratic practices that what is seen on other citystates, regularly voting in elections for praetors. However the true nature of Balic is trade and business. The great silt estuary to the east of the city brings regular trade in and the sailing guilds of Balic have some prominence in the power structure of the Balic merchants.
Politics: Balic is renowned for its democratic traditions and its nobles are seated in a Chamber of Patricians that creates and maintains the code of laws. The templar praetors are elected for 10-year terms. The various professional guilds conduct their business by taking votes and electing officers. Even Dictator Andropinis is, in theory, elected. However much of this democracy is little more than an illusion.
Dictator Andropinis has endured in his position now for over 700 years. Public debate and discourse is allowed, but up to a point. Any direct criticism of the dictator or his templars is dealt with harshly, and the patricians learned long ago to only pass laws that meet with the dictator’s approval.
Most Balicans regard Andropinis as a necessary evil, and resign themselves to the fact that he wields supreme power and isn’t likely to surrender it. Andropinis routinely arranges the elections of templars he favors and directs the Chamber of Patricians to pass the laws he drafts. From time to time, he indulges idealists and reformers, allowing corrupt nobles or unsatisfactory templars to be indicted or voted out. However, the dictator retains absolute control over the city’s legions and does not tolerate defiance of his personal authority.
There are two positions of greater political power for the citizens of Balic, Patricians and Praetors.
The patrician class is of Balic’s nobles and comprise of leading landowning families. Each of these families owns a slave-worked estate of grain fields, vineyards, olive groves, and pastures west of the city. Many of Balic’s most prestigious public offices, such as military command and important templar positions, can be filled only by candidates of the patrician class, so the families amass a great deal of influence by placing their sons and daughters in public service.
The dictator theoretically governs with the consent of the Chamber of Patricians (a legislative body made up of representatives from each family), but in practice, the patricians rarely challenge Andropinis. A charge of treason,justified or not, is all the excuse the dictator needs to strip a patrician family of its lands and offices and redistribute them elsewhere.
Praetors are the templars of Balic. By popular vote, they are elected to their offices for 10-year terms. Once they have won their positions, Andropinis invests them with the magical power necessary to perform their duties. The dictator’s minions carefully screen candidates and arrange voting districts and slates to produce the results that Andropinis desires. On occasion, an unwanted praetor is elected despite the dictator’s arrangements; unfortunate accidents often befall such people shortly after they take office.
Praetors whose terms end without re election or who are elevated in anticipation of offices they might one day hold serve at the discretion ofAndropinis. The most important praetors in Balic, the high praetors, hold no particular office but stand high in the dictator’s confidences.