Once the capital of the ancient Westmark Empire, Thentis still prides itself as a city of art, learning and gracious living. The Great River flows through the centre of the city and feeds the canals that act as internal roads and distribute goods from what is, in effect, an inland port. The river boats tend to be galleys – rowed rather than wind-driven – but boats of all shapes and sizes carry trade and people the length of the Great River.
The city is famous for its stone and marble architecture. Quarries accessible by river, or located short distances away from the city, have supplied building materials from the date of its founding. The quality of local artisans is second to none and many famous sculptors and artists were born, or trained in, Thentis.
As a trading city, the canals of Thentis are used to transport goods from warehouses to workshops to docks. The canals are also used for human transportation. It is more costly to buy and maintain a canal boat than it is to hire one of the many entrepreneurs who ply the canals. However, it is a sign of status to maintain your own boat (or fleet).
With the exception of late summer, when the heat and smell make it almost unendurable, it is pleasant to be polled around the canals. Most of the great temples, palaces, squares and public places border, or can be seen from, the canals.
There is a definite hierarchy to travel on the canals. Nobles, magnates and guilds have right-of-way, followed by commercial freight and, at the bottom, the for-hire boats.
The canals are also connected to the sewer system, which has its own challenges as a refuge for the beggars, thieves and homeless rabble of the city. There are many rumours and stories that indicate that the sewers are a common entrance way for a vast underground labyrinth known as the Undercity. It is stated that this underground network is home to vast catacombs, lairs and a diverse population of humanoids, fantastic creatures and occult lords. It is said that the Undercity has its own economy and ecology. Wits often remark that Thentis is the only city that keeps its unsightly rabble underground.
While the Westmark Empire has had a lasting impact on Thentis, no one is truly sure where they came from or why they left. Although they were human, and count as only a brief flash in the eternal cycle of time familiar to Elves and Dwarves, the rulers of this ancient epoch are viewed as demigods ruling during a great “golden age” of human civilization. Many contradictory myths and fanciful tales are associated with this time and more than one individual lays claim to a legacy that has its origins in that time period.
The “old city”, encompassed within the ancient citadel walls, still shows the marks of the city’s founding culture. The major canals, public spaces and the citadel walls may have been modified or repaired by successive generations, but they still show the impressive architectural prowess of that now-departed time.
Of course, the city has grown much since those earlier days and is encompassed by a newer set of walls. Other than by river, there are four gates that control traffic traversing these walls. Each gate is an imposing edifice and is under the patronage of a specific noble.
The Circle of Thentis, a college of sages, is also a remnant of those ancient times. In their parlance, we are living in the Fallen Age. Elsewhere, and especially in Cinnabar, the current epoch is referred to as “the Age of Wizards.” Although the city is not a glorious as it once was, or as wealthy as the upstart cities of the League, it still remains an important population and cultural centre.
Thentis has a significant population of Elves, Half-Elves and Halflings. These non-humans comprise about one-third of the total population, the largest portion by far of any other city. This contributes to the remarkably cosmopolitan and tolerant atmosphere found here. A Gnome community lives in the hills southwest of Thentis.
Thentis sits within an area of well-maintained farms, villages and minor towns. The Arne Valley, which is several days travel the east of the city, is a popular and picturesque resort area for the wealthy and cultured. Towns, like Pelham to the north and Cair Arcad to the west, extend the influence of Thentis. The connection between Thentis and its hinterland is strong.
A highly cultured city, Thentis has two main festival periods that occur at the time of the solstice. The Winter Solstice festival is sponsored by the various temples and provides an opportunity for the display of the wealth, power and faith of the various institutions. The Summer Solstice festival is sponsored by the various guilds and merchant houses. As expected, this latter festival is more opulent and ostentatious in terms of celebrations, feasts and games than its more religiously-driven winter counterpart. Both festivals draw many visitors to the city during the week or ten days that the festivals last.
Although the nominal ruler of Thentis is drawn from a member of the royal Lamartine clan, their power is largely ceremonial and restricted by convention. Thentis is ruled by an oligarchy of seven clans, who continually jostle for power among themselves. Each clan is careful to make sure that no one clan controls all the power and political life in Thentis is intricate and ever shifting.
The names of the seven clans are:
Given their ancient legacy, most clans are divided into senior and junior branches. Each clan is concerned about the status and prestige of its members and jealously guard their perquisites and privileges.
Like all oligarchies, power is concentrated in the hands of a few senior clan leaders. However, these leaders must work assiduously to maintain the support of their clan elders, deal with emerging rivals within the clan and, of course, maintain a vigilant eye on the on their peers in the other clans.
Each clan is wary of the others. Although there are alliances and enmities that cross clan lines, these are often personal rather than clan based. Inter-marriage between clans is relatively common, but is a matter that requires permission by senior leaders on both sides.