Arrax and Zaurrax are twin cliffside cities, occupying opposite walls of the hidden Tarchonis Gorge deep in the Shangari Badlands. Founded by the legendary sorcerer-scientist warlord Narab Uzir, the twin cities were inherited by his sons, who fell out with each other and destroyed Narab Uzir’s short-lived empire in their civil war. Ever since then the populations of Arrax and Zaurrax have been at war, for both claim more of the narrow strip of farmland in the gorge than the other will allow.
Cities in the Cliffs
Both Arrax and Zaurrax are built into the high, near-vertical cliffs. Wonderfully built palaces, galleries, turrets and garden-balconies of marble jut from the rock walls like fantastic coral growths on a reef, but now they are scarred and scorched by war. The populace of both cities have retreated into the tunnels and caves cut deep into the rock, and only watchful spies and snipers armed with crossbows or flintlocks haunt the outerworks. The main gates of both cities at the bottom of the gorge have been permanently sealed, and now the only exits are through hidden sally ports scattered across the length of the valley and atop the cliffs.
The cities are ruled by Warlords, descended from the mercenary generals of Narab Uzir’s sons. The populations are likewise descended from the mercenary army and their slaves. Several dynasties of Warlords have risen and fallen in the centuries since the twin cities were divided, but none of them dare to call an end to the war; it has become their defining purpose in life, their only hope for betterment, and their religion.
The War Eternal
Generations of strife have devastated the once-fertile farms that lined the bottom of Tarchonis Gorge. Irrigation canals have been broken, causing patches of the gorge to become barren, while other patches are verdant oases fed by leakage. No one dares to descend to the gorge by day, lest snipers from the other side pick them off.
By night, however, hunting and raiding parties may descend in search of game and fruit, and to destroy enemy parties doing the same. A savage headhunting culture has developed, as the Warlords took to rewarding warriors who brought back an enemy head. Specially daring raiders sometimes try to climb the enemy’s outworks, hoping to bring back the head of an enemy sniper and his musket. The headhunters’ exploits however have had no effect on the war, for both cities remain as impervious to the other as ever.
Outsiders coming to Arrax or Zaurrax are usually treated with extreme suspicion, for the rulers and warriors of both cities fully expect any stranger to have dealt with their rival city first and are come as spies. At the same time, the Warlords will be very eager for any means to tip the balance.
The Treasures of Narab Uzir
It is believed that Narab Uzir had laboratories and vaults of ancient technology far beneath one or both of the twin cities, but sealed away so that neither of his sons could get at them. If they could be found and opened safely, what treasures might they yield? Neither the Arraxians or Zaurraxians are willing to take the risk, however, as they believe Narab Uzir booby-trapped his vaults with weapons so powerful they could bring the entire mountain crashing down.
Arrax and Zaurrax Adventure Seeds
A tomb robber, swearing he has been inside Arzulis, the capital of Narab Uzir’s kingdom, may have the key to opening Narab Uzir’s vault or vaults beneath the twin cities. But is he right, and where exactly are the vaults?
The PCs, crash-landing in the Shangari Badlands, are captured by the patrols of one or the other of the twin cities. Initially they will be treated as spies, but if they can convince the Warlord they’re not, they’ll be recruited for some mad scheme to infiltrate the enemy city across the gorge.
Aman Zaor, former Jerdun of Dor Amaris, conceives of a plan to unite Arrax and Zaurrax so he can use their combined strength to retake his city. He of course recruits the PCs to aid him. But what will it take to convince the Warlords to make peace?