The Coming Shadow
Humans dominate the majority of the cities along Varisia’s coast, and Riddleport proves no different. Yet, in this den of outcasts and brigands, races rarely seen among the civilized lands of the south—such as half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings—gather in significantly greater numbers. Dwarf or elf, halfling or human, the residents of Riddleport holds few qualms over whom or what they’re willing to exploit.
As the dominant race in Riddleport, humans can be found occupying almost every occupation in the City of Cyphers, including most of the positions of power and influence. Although Chelaxians and settled Varisians make up the majority of Riddleport’s population, representatives of nearly every ethnicity in Avistan and Garund find their way to the pirate port. Kellishite and Garundi traders sail their sharp-sailed vessels beneath the arch of the Cyphergate, bringing with them the exotic garb, art, and weapons of their people. Proud Ulfen warriors from the Land of the Linnorm Kings regularly make grudging stops in Riddleport, trading the wares of their homeland and the spoils of raids in the city’s markets. Traders, pirates, and privateers of Chelish and Taldan descent compete on the open seas, eager to steal the greatest riches back to the ports of their homeland.
Many of Varisia’s natives also find their way to Riddleport. Among them, wandering Varisians delight in the city’s wild spirit and exotic sites, making the city a favored spot even over Magnimar and Korvosa to the south. The criminal Sczarni—families and gangs of Varisian thieves—particularly relish Riddleport’s anythinggoes, lawless atmosphere, and take every opportunity to bilk foreign travelers of their gold. Even the occasional Shoanti makes his way to the City of Cyphers. While the sea-faring barbarians of the Shadde-Quah occupy the cliffs and sea vales of the nearby Calphiaks, they have few dealings with Riddleport’s unruly populace, seeing them—rightly so—as untrustworthy and dishonorable. Occasionally, members of the Shriikirri-Quah journey to the outskirts of the city to trade their famously wellbred horses, but rarely travel within the city walls. Those Shoanti seen within the city are typically outcasts and dishonored warriors, seeking a new life in their shame and often becoming laborers, brawlers, or pit fighters.
Aside from controlling many of Riddleport’s criminal enterprises, humans make up the majority of the city’s scholars and clergy. The increasingly influential Order of Cyphers and the academics of the Windward District are filled with both native-born and well-traveled intellectuals
seeking to unravel the mysteries of Varisia’s ancient past. The city’s several temples also support primarily human clergy and congregations—although locally several tieflings extol Calistria’s tenents, and Cayden Cailean’s following is particularly diverse.
Many of the dwarves of Janderhoff find Riddleport a lawless place unfit for proper business and devoid of interest in true craftsmanship—and they’re not wrong. The promise of profit often overshadows such scruples, though. Funded wholly by a faceless consortium of investors from Janderhoff, Riddleport’s Gas Forges employ a sizable number of dwarves, either as miners in
the deadly underground carbauxine mines or as smiths in the complex forges above. Aside from those dwarves committed or crazed enough to sacrifice years of their lives working among the poisonous forges, opportunistic dwarves sometimes migrate to the city. These usually adventurous dwarves often hope to make names and fortunes for themselves by bringing a degree of much lacked skilled labor to the city, or simply to turn a profit selling dwarven goods to travelers from afar. Those with no interest or skill in mining or trading find Riddleport’s air of constant change, danger, and wild opportunity a liberating change from stifling dwarven traditions.
With little interest in so uncouth and dangerous a community, especially one so nearby the splendor of the Mierani Forest, elves rarely deign to walk the streets of Riddleport. While on rare occasions a lone Mierani hunter or desperate elven traveler might find himself forced to take shelter among the city’s vagrants and thieves, such visits prove rare. Mierani criminals, outcasts forced to flee their wooded homeland, and those afflicted with dangerous wanderlust, appear slightly more frequently. Similarly, individuals from far-off lands are just as likely to make their way to Riddleport as those of the nearby forests. Thus, although still uncommon, wild elves from the Mwangi Expanse and even the aloof elves of Kyonin are not unknown.
Some daring gnomes eke out a dangerous life for themselves in Riddleport. Freedom-loving folk, typically possessing no notion of humanity’s concepts of morality, many make profitable livings working as alchemists and druggists for any one of the city’s criminal factions. With their love of change and new experiences, gnomes delight in wandering the docks and markets of Riddleport, as foreign ships bring an endless pageant of exotic sights, sounds, and smells to their very doors. Some also make filthy livings plying the muck of the Velashu River, unknowing but always eager to discover what—or whom—they might turn up amid the slime.
Wily gamblers, skilled sailors, and deft thieves, halflings find great opportunity in Riddleport’s pervasive criminal underworld. As in Korvosa to the south, many halflings take work upon the sea, their size and nimbleness making them especially well suited to life on sailing vessels. Yet, for all the short-folks’ skill, thieves of other races typically look down upon their diminutive peers, and slurs regarding “scrawny slips” are bandied about frequently. Many halflings take such prejudices as motivation to excel, and they avenge themselves by outdoing their oversized competition. A few more enlightened or greedy crime bosses care little for the size of those in their employ, especially when it comes to getting a job done.
Many of Varisia’s half-elves naturally migrate to Riddleport, finding few who care about their parentage among the city’s jaded populace. Quick thinkers, deft talkers, and able workers, half-elves find great opportunity among the city’s sailors, gamblers, merchants, and criminals. Yet, aside from more provincial occupations, Riddleport offers half-elves a chance at respectability such as they rarely find in other lands, whether as business managers, ship captains, or, particularly, among the city’s gendarmes. Their keen wits and free spirits also attract many to the Order of Cyphers and the worship of the unruly deities Calistria and Cayden Cailean.
As travelers from all walks of life flock to Riddleport, those of numerous professions and with countless skills flourish in the City of Cyphers. While Varisia’s more civilized south shuns those of more exotic or eccentric vocations, Riddleport’s residents covet and cultivate any skills that might help turn a profit.