The Coming Shadow
The third largest city in all Varisia, Riddleport is also the most notorious. Once a secret pirate haven, Riddleport has grown over the last three centuries into a port city in its own right. At first it served as a den of piracy, but over time the city has expanded into a true settlement, the frontier’s frontier, the northernmost outpost on the lonely strip known as the Lost Coast. Yet while Riddleport has grown into a proper city, it remains true to its roots—you can get rich quick in Riddleport if you’ve got skill and a bit of luck. Yet, for every Riddleport success story, there are a dozen nameless bodies buried in potters’ fields or tossed to the hungry denizens of the sea.
In a city where everyone watches for new opportunities to turn a profit, no news remains a secret for long. Here are but a few of the rumors currently making the rounds in Riddleport.
The Shadow in the Sky: A strange, persistent, dark cloud recently appeared in the sky above the City of Cyphers. Some people say it was caused by the Order of Cyphers meddling with the Cyphergate, while others believe it’s a storm being cooked up by Gozreh or some overly moral deity to wipe Riddleport off the map. It’s the big news in town and everybody seems to have their own explanation.
Carnivore Carnage: Several Shadde-Quah wavecutters recently washed up on the rocks near the Riddleport Light, their hulls covered in dozens of gashes from teeth and claws. Sailors fear some new predator in the Varisian Gulf or an unseasonable migration of local bunyips.
The Devil and His Gold: The washed-up crime boss Saul Vancaskerkin recently renovated the Gold Goblin Gambling Hall and has a massive gaming tournament planned called “Cheat the Devil and Take His Gold.” While this might just be a publicity stunt, some say the swindler sold his soul to some fiend and is using the tournament as a way to raise the money to buy it back.
Lost Below: Milon Chath, a cleric of Desna, left to explore several caverns in the nearby Calphiak Mountains more than a week ago and has yet to return. Several Varisians fear the priest has become lost in the labyrinthine caves said to riddle the endless depths below the mountains.
Siren Song: A band of smugglers recently tried to set up a base at Devil’s Elbow, an island just south of Riddleport’s harbor, but they’ve gone missing. Most blame Virashi, the famed siren of the haunted island, for the disappearance.
Riddleport’s blind-eye approach to crime has led to a population largely skewed toward scoundrels, outcasts, and cutthroats who fill its harbor and dockside brothels. Despite the relative danger of the city, scholars and academics are also fairly common in the city, as the mysterious and massive Cyphergate presents a seemingly endless supply of research material for those interested in Thassilonian relics. Riddleport also sports a sizable Tiefling population, the largest in Varisia, and one of the largest in all of Avistan.
Most people see Riddleport as an anarchic abode of pirates and brigands, but the city has actually become quite a bit more stable in recent years. This is in large part due to the work and leadership of the titular head of Riddleport, the Overlord Gaston Cromarcky. Cromarcky has held the title of Overlord for over three decades, having inherited it in the usual way: by murdering the pirate captain who held it before him. At the beginning of his reign, he used what funds were left over from the previous Overlord to hire land-based mercenaries to maintain law within the city. These men were beholden only to him, and allowed Cromarcky to consolidate quite a bit of power in his office. In the past, Overlords had drawn their muscle from various pirate crews who owed numerous allegiances to their captains and rival criminal gangs.
Cromarcky rules over the city with a light touch and with the consent and help of several powerful figures. When the time comes to choose a new Overlord, he will be drawn from this group. They include Avery Slyeg, who directs most of the major smuggling operations within the city, Varnal “Split Face” Knocmar, a master beggar and pickpocket, Boss Croat, an obese half-orc who controls the trade in illicit substances, Clegg Zincher who runs Zincher’s Arena, Elias Tammerhawk, Speaker of the Order of Cyphers, Shorafa Pamodae, the high priestess of the temple of Calistria, and Ziphras, a wererat and gang leader.