The City-State of Kako'ethes and the Paladin Slayers Guild (theme suggestion) Kako’ethes (pronounced KAY-ko-EE-theez) is the dominant city-state in the lands that lie west of the Spinehold Mountains and south of the Hvetor Desert. The city-state holds considerable influence over an oblong area, mostly open plains and thin forests, some one hundred fifty leagues East-to-West and half that North-to-South. The city itself is nestled in the foothills of the Spineholds, built largely of gleaming, polished sandstone, although the common houses are of half-timber and brick construction. Sophisticated sanitation and sewer systems keep the outbreak of disease far below that experienced by other cities of such size. The city is largely self-supporting, with valuable mines in the mountains, farms on the plains, and fish and water available from the River Hjun, which runs through the city. Kako'ethes is noted for its exquisite architecture, flawless glass, and solid, dependable weaponry and armor; Kako steel is prized for its purity and readiness for enchantment. If anything, the city suffers from a lack of timber, and few people possess bows or the skill to use them. The city is ruled by a strict theocratic council called the Primus, which consists of twenty learned clerics, drawn from the considerable ranks of the priesthood; the Exchequer, who controls the Treasury; and the Magister, commander of the Kako’ethen military. There are two other councils known as the Secunda and Tertia, but they hold no real power and are generally considered to be mere discussion forums. Presiding over the Primus is the nominal ruler Duke Incoghen, an incompetent but affable man who rose to power by stint of his older brother’s untimely death. Those both within and without the city pay much homage to the Duke, and his birthday is a celebrated holiday. The real power in Kako’ethes, however, is the Duke’s daughter, the Lady Lydia, who runs the government on a daily basis and has managed to bring the church and military under her power through sheer force of personality. By birthright, the throne will be hers once her father dies, but she seems content for now to run things from the background and allow him to sit on that uncomfortable chair. Lady Lydia is a small woman, not even topping fifteen hands and weighing at most seven stone, with jet black hair and olive eyes; she nevertheless manages to fill a room when she enters it, and her ringing voice has brought many an obstructive priest to heel. Lady Lydia’s ambitions are unknown. The civil service is filled entirely by priests and military officers, and the only private body of any significance is the Red Ring, a loose alliance of merchants and bankers whose name derives from the scarlet tapestries that festoon their meeting hall. The Red Ring sets prices, settles disputes (other than those settled by ecclesiastical courts), and disciplines members for business infractions. The paramount virtues in Kako’ethes are law and order, and the power structures in place see to it that law and order are maintained at all costs. Crimes committed against a person’s physical being – murder, rape, assault – are punishable by death (usually drowning); property crimes are punishable by indentured servitude, recompense, or mutilation (loss of a hand or eye being favored). Anything resembling sedition, treason, or heresy is also punishable by drowning. This overwhelming dedication to law and order has made the city a force of stability in the surrounding regions, and small towns as far away as fifty leagues have begun paying tribute to Kako’ethes for protection and law enforcement. Although the city-state does not claim the surrounding region as its fiefdom, this is the true state of things in all but name. The Sect of Kakos worships the god of the same name, and their doctrine around law and obedience has set the tone for the dealings of the city for over two hundred years. Kakos is a malevolent god who values law, order, organization, and compliance above all else, and priests of Kakos do not differentiate between ruling through respect or terror, so long as law and order are maintained. The cruelty of the Thygatri (pronounced thee-GAH-tree) of Kakos, the chaste women of the religion who serve as judges of heresy and apostasy, is renowned far and wide. Holy warriors from outside the sphere of Kako’ethen influence have been especially bold as of late, attacking and killing priests, the Thygatri, and Kako’ethen soldiers in outlying villages. Opposed to the cruelty and severity of Kako’ethen laws and punishments, they have introduced an element of unpredictability which the rulers find detestable. An interesting outgrowth of this development is a movement of young men and women in the Sect to seek out and destroy these self-styled paladins before they can maraud the villages that pay fealty to Kako’ethes. With grim humor, some have named the movement the Paladin Slayers Guild.