History of Marchion
The city’s calendar numbers its years from the year that Pharran established the city on a firm basis. The Marchion year starts on the winter solstice.
The site of Marchion was settled in the distant past, but no one knows by whom. Sometimes strange artifacts are unearthed by people digging foundations for houses, and many think that Mage Hill isn’t a natural feature. However, these inhabitants, whoever they were, were long gone before the first recorded attempts to settle the site. Local folk tales tell of the buried complexes they left behind, but no one knows whether these stories have any substance.
FOUNDING THE CITY
The first recorded attempt to settle on the site of Marchion was made in the year –76 by the knight Guiscard. He brought his followers there, and fortified Mage Hill. Unfortunately, while Guiscard was a great warrior, he was a terrible administrator. He drove off the raiding monsters threatening his castle, but failed to provide food and justice for the other inhabitants. Circumstances forced him to abandon his castle and return to the civilized lands.
The second attempt, organized by the merchant Isabelle Longfur, was rather more successful. She accompanied a group of settlers to the site in spring –45, and led a supply caravan back to the village the following winter. Her concern for logistics, and for making the settlement self-supporting, resulted in a thriving village by –40. At this stage, the settlement was large enough to serve as a trading base, as Isabelle had always intended, and she moved her operations there.
A small village had not been very attractive to the savage tribes that roamed the area. A trading post was a different matter, and in –38 Isabelle’s village was attacked, and the merchant herself was killed. Although the inhabitants were scattered, they did return to their homes. In –35, a large tribe of orcs sacked the village, massacred the inhabitants, and took over the site.
Pharran came to drive the orcs away in –1, and he had done so by 0, when he arranged for settlers to come and live under his protection. He demolished the remains of Guiscard’s castle, and created his own tower on Mage Hill. Isabelle’s logistical arrangements were reinstated, and by year 5 March Town was a small by thriving town.
Pharran and his associates retained all authority in the town. People unable to cast arcane spells were denied any role in city governance, but the mages tried to rule for the good of all. Which is not to say that they were motivated by pure altruism. Pharran’s vision was of a city where mages could freely pursue their research and spellcasting, without having to worry about interference from the authorities. He understood that an important part of that vision was a populace that was willing to have magical rulers.
The mages encouraged immigrants of all races to settle in the town, while the wizards and sorcerers built their towers on Mage Hill. Some trade was encouraged, but the main function of the town was to support the mages, so its growth was limited. Mage Hill itself was rapidly covered with towers, most raised by magic, and a support community grew up between the hill and the river. The mages had the Upper Bridge built, and a small settlement grew up on the left bank of the river. The Marchion Festival (then known as the Marchton Festival), which marks the new year with spectacular displays of magic, dates from this period.
The magocracy came to an end in early spring 78. The day was clear and bright, and shortly after dawn thick green smoke began to pour from the ground on Mage Hill. It flowed out to fill the city, but also wrapped itself around the towers of the mages. Those trapped within the smoke were unable to see anything, but soon discovered that they could breathe the smoke without any trouble. As sunset approached, the smoke cleared. It didn’t take long for people to discover that all the mages – bards, wizards, and sorcerers alike – had vanished, and that their towers stood empty on Mage Hill. The Day of Green Smoke had silently stolen the city’s rulers.
That night, the other leaders of the community, mainly merchants and priests, gathered to decide what to do. Many wanted to abandon the city, claiming that it was obviously cursed. Others were reluctant to leave their possessions, but shared the general fear. The assembled worthies had just about decided to abandon the town when an exhausted and bloodied adventurer staggered into their midst.
Kuanlo, a ranger who had performed many services for the town, described her experiences during the day, claiming to have fought a strange creature from another plane. It had, she said, taken her spellcasting companions and swallowed them, but finally she, with the aid of her remaining friends, defeated it. Unfortunately, she was the only survivor of the battle.
The town saluted Kuanlo’s courage, gave her a large reward, and resolved that, since the threat had obviously been defeated, they might as well stay where they were. They created a city Council, with seats for merchants, priests, and citizens, as well as for those mages who had been out of the city on that day. This Council elected a mayor to look after the daily business of the community, the first being a human merchant, Roderick Larson.
Kuanlo left the following morning, claiming she needed to go on a pilgrimage. Within a month, people realized that none of her friends seemed to be missing, and remembered that she had never been the most honest of citizens; courageous, yes, but not honest. Doubts were cast on her story, but since nothing had happened for a month, and no one wanted to leave the city. People did, however, avoid living on Mage Hill, and Kuanlo was never seen again.
The Council was more interested in increasing the wealth of the city than in supporting the power of the remaining mages, and the resulting shift of energy to mercantile pursuits was a great success. Marchion was able to establish itself as the gateway to the civilized lands beyond the mountains. As the amount of trade passing through the city increased, more people, of all races, immigrated. In a booming economy, all were accepted and integrated. The result was a substantial city, with an unusually even balance of demihuman races. Half-orcs from the surrounding lands came to the city in search of a better life, and the need for cheap labor meant that the town welcomed even them with open arms.
Now, Marchion is a small city with about 10,000 inhabitants, and almost equal numbers of each demihuman race. It is also a wealthy center of trade, exchanging goods throughout the civilized and uncivilized world. Its border location means that it produces an unusual number of adventurers, and attracts those from elsewhere. However, it is a safe place to live, regarded by many groups as an ideal home base.