THE CIRCLE OF LIGHT
Iopos lies some 38 days’ walk and 23 days’ ride from Throal. Crouched on the northern edge of the province, Iopos presents the greatest internal threat to the power of Throal (the Theran Empire is, of course, the greatest external threat). The city is ruled by a family of magicians Named the Denairastas, an ancient bloodline whose members governed the city through the Scourge. Their success in keeping the city safe bound the loyalty of the city’s people to their magically gifted overlords. To this day, the Denairastas can do whatever they please with nary a word of complaint from the populace.
Those few who dare protest are quickly crushed by the Holders of Trust, retainers loyal to the Denairastas who serve as both guards and informers. The guards of the Holders of Trust wear silver armor and carry large swords, presenting a visible and constant reminder of the family’s power and authority. These guards will punish any accused dissenters brought to them by their spies. Charged with seeking out dissent, these spies are not formally identified as Holders of Trust, but walk as ordinary citizens among the people, ever alert for signs of complaint or dissatisfaction with the rule of the Denairastas. At a word from the informants, the guards move swiftly to arrest or kill all known or suspected dissidents.
The Holders of Trust have few occasions to punish offenders, however. Most citizens of Iopos feel loyalty to the point of fanaticism for their rulers; people commonly compare members of the Denairastas family to the Passions. When outsiders question this exaggeration, the citizens simply smile, as if they alone know the answer to a deep and important secret. I advise visitors to the city to keep any questions or criticisms of Denairastas family politics to themselves.
The Denairastas willfully abuse the worship of their subjects. Whereas cruel Theran masters whip their slaves to death, the people of Iopos work themselves to death of their own free will. Whatever the Denairastas family asks, the people will give, and the Denairastas demand a great deal. Scores of men and women die while mining magical elements, and the city’s army is nearly suicidal in its valor. Parents compete to offer their own children for the blood magic rites the Denairastas sometimes practice.
The Denairastas have sworn to defeat both Throal and Thera, to take their power for themselves. Throal had long considered the Denairastas as a minor power, but the exposure of the real culprits behind King Varulus III’s assassination transformed them into the kingdom’s most immediate and dangerous enemy virtually overnight. Because Iopos lies so far from Theran influence, the city has turned its attention to disrupting the trade and state negotiations that King Neden’s agents are conducting in his effort to unite Barsaive. The Holders of Trust form Iopos’ front line in this effort, going into communities across Barsaive and sowing discontent through murder and destruction. They are skilled at disguising their work to look like the random violence of ork scorchers or crystal raiders, and choose their victims carefully.
The Denairastas’ special interest in magic leads some Throalic scholars to speculate that certain living legend cults may be fronts for the family’s goals, by which the Denairastas draw unwary people into their scheme of acquiring lost artifacts and knowledge. Iopos possesses a rich reserve of magical elements, collected by airships sent across Barsaive to mine elemental fire from Death’s Sea and elemental air from the skies. The city’s supply of elemental earth and wood hints at secret expeditions into the Blood Wood, though I dared not seek proof for fear of arrest for asking the wrong questions.
More than 100,000 people live in Iopos. The city’s fleet of airships consists of three galleys and six drakkars. Three shipping companies also do business within the city, giving Denairastas another additional six drakkars should he require their services.