Situated in the drier, warmer southeastern tip of the continent, Ostia, the city by the sea. It has been both a major port for trade across the endless sea in times-gone-by to primarily a fishing town. Most of the trade ships now are from other parts of Xi trying to avoid tax or bandits to get goods onto the markets along the River Thefarie.
Passenger ships and fancier goods (silk and spices) primarily use the western docks on the rich-side of the river. The heavy fishing industry and less valuable goods operate out of the eastern-docks.
East of the river, behind the docks, everything grows progressively more poverty-stricken and disease-ridden as you travel away from the water. Shanty towns, street urchins, cut-throats, brothels and taverns where if the drink doesn’t kill you the clientele will.
West of the river you’ll find moneylenders, merchants, courtesans and bistros’ that charge more for a bottle of wine than most people in the city earn in a year. Not to mention a market-place with some of the rarest goods in all of Xi.
The question of who runs the city has two answers depending on your point of view. Some would say it was run by the Maeb syndicate, a criminal organisation that has a hand in just about everything that goes on in the underworld of the city. Others would say it was the duly elected Governor Mattia Russo.
You can hear rumours from across the world in the city by the sea, but the greatest secrets whispered in the dark alleys of Ostia concern the practically mythical organisation of assassins known only as the Shadow.
The standard setting for a game of Deneb is the titular city itself. However, a scenario like "Cargo Search" is a perfect fit for Ostia. It could be an opportunity for some narrative play in a different setting (and different scenery) than a typical battle in the tactical miniatures game.
Key dates in the history of Ostia
Mid 3rd era – A small fishing settlement is founded in what is now known as Ostia.
Late 3rd era – Human towns were starting to grow into the first true cities, though a great many rural communities continued to thrive. The largest settlement in the eastern region of the continent of Xi was the city of Lyria. A trade city on the river Thefarie which runs from the mountains near Harridan to the port city of Ostia. Lyria grows bolder as its wealth builds from trade. Lyrias’ seventh King Janus started to organise a more militaristic approach to controlling those neighbours who could not be controlled by economics. By the end of this period, either by trade or force the Lyrian Kingdom had grown to encompass most of what would become modern-day Lyra.
2 P.D. - A scorching hot summer leads to drought in many parts of Xi, and a consequential loss of crops. The resulting famine causes many to die and put the Lyrian Kingdom under great strain. Normally a net exporter of produce, the Lyrians were forced to spend huge sums of money importing from the less affected northern cities. Still, it would not be enough. In the end, no amount of money could secure the food needed to stabilise the Kingdom. So much had been spent in the attempt that an economic crisis loomed on the back of the food crisis. King Janus chose to feed his people first and his army second, but with little food or money to show for their efforts, the military started to fall apart.
4 P.D. - Sensing the weakness in the largest kingdom in Xi, The self-declared Count Valois, ruler of Thérouanne ( a city just east of the Thessal Woods), decided to start launching raids across the border. Stealing that little they had and effectively destroying the westernmost settlements of the Lyrian Kingdom. It had simply become impossible to live so far from the centre. The Lyrians saw their attackers as little more than thieves without honour, ruthless and cruel. King Janus had been well-liked for much of his rule, but questions were now being raised about mistakes that had led the people of the kingdom to such dire circumstances.
6 P.D. - Reduced military power in Lyria also affects the defence of trade across the endless sea, piracy is at an all-time high, with some pirates gaining enough wealth and power to build fleets and rule their own small kingdoms at sea. Ostia starts to rely more heavily on its fishing industry.
7 P.D. - King Janus of Lyria falls ill, and his wife effectively takes over as a Queen regent. Various forces begin mustering in different parts of the kingdom ready for the inevitable war of succession.
8 P.D. - Virtually all diplomatic and trade ties from the Kingdom of Lyria beyond Xi are ended as internal political and economic struggles dominate policy.
11 P.D. - King Janus of Lyria dies, his wife and three children end up on three different sides in a civil war that decimates the remaining financial and military reserves of the Kingdom, as well as leaving the populous very much unhappy with the idea of being ruled by a monarchy.
12 P.D. - The year-long siege of the city of Lyria itself is brutal and unforgiving on what was at the time the densest population centre in the entire Lyrian Kingdom. Corpses pile up as supplies run low. The remaining military forces having to fight and kill civilians desperate for food trying to steal from the royal warehouses. Disease and death are rampant in the besieged city by the end of the year.
13 P.D. - An assassin hired by the Lyrian Queen succeeded in killing her eldest son and his general who had been orchestrating the siege. Their claim it seemed had mostly been backed by foreign interests in amongst the Nakbeast tribes (in what would be modern-day Pegasus) who hoped to profit from the civil war. Without an heir though, and having already invested considerable funds to try and take the Kingdom, they decided to cut their losses and quit. The mercenary companies that had made up the bulk of the eldest sons forces left within weeks of his death.
14 P.D. - A peasant uprising led by a former farmer, simply known as Vincenzo the farmer, spread like wildfire across the Lyrian Kingdom. They hunted down and publicly executed the surviving members of the Janus line, who were blamed for bringing the country to such ruin. The Queen was burned alive when the revolutionaries razed the palace at the centre of Lyria to the ground. The city, already much depleted in population after the siege, and other vagaries of war, is more or less abandoned as a settlement at this point in time.
17 P.D. - The Pirate Queen Maeb decides to settle in the port town of Ostia on the coast of Lyra. With Ostia now more focussed on fishing than trade, there was little in the way of pirating to be had. Maeb found other business endeavours to her interest and suited to her organised and ruthless skill, as effective on land as at sea. She also kept her hand in what little remained of the spice trade from beyond the endless sea.
19. P.D. - Ostia, Berlingozzo, Luni, Sybaris and several other settlements in the former Lyrian Kingdom declare themselves to be independent city-states, each with differing governmental systems. Ostia agrees to have a system where each major guild in the city gets a vote to elect a city Governor, initially this is a lifetime appointment but is later reduced to a limited term.
21 P.D. - The restoration of trade along the river Thefarie, bringing spices from beyond Xi via Ostia and across the continent starts to heal the economic woes of the region.
23 P.D. - Much of the farmlands in the warmest parts of the former Lyrian Kingdom are turned into Vineyards. Wine was always produced in the southern parts of the Kingdom, but it has started to grow in popularity outside of Lyra. Local legend has it that the original grapevine seeds actually arrived in Xi by way of a spice ship docking at Ostia. It was one of the few products of farming land that still had valuable, saleable stock after the drought.
30 P.D. - The economic recovery of the Lyrian city-states is somewhat undermined by the wealthy merchants, money lenders and ship patrons syphoning money out of the system. Keeping the wealth and power within a few well-connected syndicates within each city. Afraid of being perceived as a new monarchy, the syndicates are secretive organisations. They might have started as simple merchant guilds or business arrangements, but in reality were growing into a new kind of governing body for much of what would become known as Lyra.
65 P.D. - The northernmost Lyrian city Sybaris is close to the border of the expanding Harridan territory and fears it will not be able to withstand the growing military might to the North alone. Sybaris was a key trade partner with the border towns, which gave them some comfort, but they were still afraid. The syndicates in Sybaris send representatives to syndicates in the other Lyrian city-states and propose a co-operative defensive strategy to northern aggression. Several are assassinated or otherwise troubled by suspicious neighbours, and eventually, the Syndicates agree to send all their respective bosses to a sit-down meeting in Deneb where the safety of all is guaranteed. This also leads to the syndicate agreement that any true member of a syndicate is in effect “untouchable” and cannot be killed by another syndicate member. Any such death would likely spark a war between the syndicates themselves, which is bad business and generally something none of the Syndicates wanted.
66 P.D. - The syndicates agree that they need to have a better defence of the city-state territories, but they know creating a new nation would be unpopular with the people after the revolution, and the syndicates themselves are quite happy with their own power-bases in each city. They eventually agree to co-operate on defensive matters that threaten them as a whole but to continue to operate as independent, “enterprises”, who controls what trade is for neighbouring syndicates to work-out with each other.
67 P.D. - The Syndicates send anonymous threats to several prominent members of the Harridan government involved in border controls and even send assassins to kill low-ranking members of the respective offices. They choose their targets carefully, they pick disliked individuals with minimal family and influence. They have no wish to start a war, just flex their muscle. They make little in the way of demands and offer significant cash incentives to ministers who will acquiesce to future requests. They are able to exert a lot of influence over Harridan foreign policy via these means.
68 P.D. - A conflict over tax on spice shipments between Sybaris and their nearest Harridan controlled trading settlement, Damasia, escalates into a brief violent conflict between tax officials, importers in Damasia and Sybaris bargemen. Harridan sends in Dragon riders, and a brief display of military superiority, killing a small number of citizens of Sybaris quickly ends the conflict. The military superiority of Harridan is clear, and reluctantly the Sybaris traders comply. There is growing discontent amongst the city-states that a stronger response is needed to continued Harridan “overbearing” influence.
69 P.D. - The syndicates’ bosses from the Lyrian city-states meet once again in Deneb, they fear an uprising of the people if they don’t make a more public display of defence. They feel their more subtle tactics of persuasion are working to protect the majority of the city-states, but that the incident in Sybaris was a very public failure that needs some sort of response that is more public. They agree to push for a collective “People’s democratic administration of Lyra”, intended to be a weak puppet government that can be a public face for the Syndicates across the city-states. Effectively a PR machine. It will take some careful pressure on the right individuals to make them think it is their idea and to ensure it is popular with the populous. They agree to put the plan in motion. Mostly because they believe it will never hold any real power.
73 P.D. - Representatives of regular businesses and labourers of the City-states meet outside the ruins of the old city of Lyra and draft the constitution for the newly formed “People’s democratic administration of Lyra”. A body intended to act as a co-operative governing group to decide how to share resources and coordinate defence and support during emergencies between the different city-states. Each member of the group will be elected by the people in each city-state and hold offices in their respective states. They agree to use the old Palatine estate outside of the ruins of Lyra as the centre for the administration where they can meet once a year to discuss ongoing matters, or in-case of emergencies more frequently. The area is little populated, and most people are superstitious about the ruins of Lyra itself, so most of the functionaries needed to support such a setup must either move to the area or travel in and out with each yearly meeting. The furthest states are several weeks away by horse and carriage, so meeting more frequently is deeply impractical.
74 P.D. - The syndicates in Lyra apply pressure via bribes, murder, kidnapping, whatever it might take to get concessions from the Harridan regime that are publicly popular with the people of Lyra and show them that the “Peoples Administration of Lyra” is working.
78 P.D. - Carnivals of celebration are held in each of the Lyran city-states to celebrate 5 years since the founding of Lyra as a modern state, and the successes its administration had achieved. This is also the first year that elections are held to select new representatives. For the most part, these go as expected for the syndicates, but a candidate not backed by the syndicates wins the election in the city-state of Luni, which marks the beginning of the long and subtle power struggle between the syndicates and the nascent government.
450 P.D. - There are rumours that the Sibling ruler of Deneb, Sul, is seen in Ostia. Apparently not on a state-visit to meet Ostia’s Governor.
500 P.D. - Around this time the first rumours of “The Shadow”, a mysterious organisation of assassins, started to spread across Lyra.
1432 P.D. - Mae Calcagno is born in a quiet Lyran village north of Ostia.
1436 P.D. - Mae Calcagno’s entire family are killed by a fire. At four years old she is the only survivor. She runs from the village and ends up living on the streets of Ostia.
1440 P.D. - Sul goes missing from Deneb. Mae Calcagno and Jorn Tavini meet for the first time in Ostia (aged 8 and 7 respectively).
1448 P.D. - Street urchins Mae and Jorn join up with what they think is a syndicate… (see the story “Steep Lessons” in the core book)