In low flatlands that used to be a prairie, but is now mostly desert, wanders Kytark. She appears as a giant lizard in the distance, the sun gleams off of her shining scales and flesh. Those who've never beheld a dragon, may at first think her to be one. As she approaches, the differences between Kytark and dragons fade. She has a triangular head and a tail, and she's covered in flesh. But that is all of the resemblance she bears to dragon-kind.
There are a few large groves on Kytark, but the druids struggle with keeping the topsoil as healthy as on Andath or Gaena. The climate doesn't help either, and the groves are filled with hearty plants that can go for extended periods without significant water.
Kytarkians are a rugged people, who have established themselves in a tribal hierarchy more similar to tribes of raiders in the Wastes than to how the other Shamble cities are organized. The people of Kytark, men and women, use their physical prowess to decide matters of import, with the winner's position being "Kytark blessed".
Kytark has the largest remaining population of full blooded orcs, and the lowest population of pure-blooded humans. Elves and dwarves are less numerous here than they are on other Shambles.
Kytark is a flesh golem Shamble; she is covered in the skins and flesh of innumerable creatures. In some places she's a patchwork of dragon and mammalian hides, and in others she's an extended sheet of similar hides bound together.
Warlocks and Acolytes agree that Kytark is the most erratic, and the most protective of those on her back, of any of the Shambles. Over time, any story about a Shamble attacking people gets Kytark's name attached to it, true or not. None dispute the danger in attacking Kytark. Even those who live on her back have a healthy respect for her that borders on fear and reverence. They take care not to try and strike Kytark's flesh, to because it will harm her. But because she may ignore the strike or she may shake the city from her back. Though, to be fair, it has been a generation or two since she has done the latter.
Kytark's magic toughens and strengthens hide. The best hide armor and leather goods come from Kytark, and their leather goods are appreciated throughout the known world. Kytark's presence appears to affect animals, too, making them more pliable to handling, training, and domestication. No where else in Vernlarum can one buy a griffon mount or similar unusual beast.
City of Kytark
The system of government in Kytark is the loosest of the cities. Kytarkians generally do what they want. They consult elders on various matters, and when something affects the city as a whole, any who wishes to have a voice does. When these disputes happen, sides invariably form. When words can no longer sway people from one side to another, a Contest is held, in which the people from the two sides fight until one is declared the victor.
Contests make politics surprisingly important given the Kytarkian distaste for the political. The more and better abled people one can attract to one's side, the better chance one has in a Contest.
Kytark is the most egalitarian of the cities of Vernlarum. Anyone may have a say, and even those who have been crippled and cannot fight might change the minds of those who do. Women are given an equal voice in all affairs, though they must also resort to a physical defense of their beliefs. The position of women is equal, not superior. Visitors occasionally show deference to women, and they are treated with as much scorn as those who treat women as inferiors.
While some fear the "might makes right" style of government will cause Kytarkians to fall under the influence of a mad leader, this fear has played out very rarely. There are just no reigns of leadership to grab for the power-hungry. Someone who wants to raid others is free to, but they aren't welcome back on Kytark, either. Many of the groups of raiders in the Wastes can trace their ancestry back to a charismatic and bloodthirsty Kytarkians who left to pursue a career of raiding.
The back of Kytark is a massive sprawl. Animals roam everywhere. Visitors can be quite disturbed to board Kytark and come face to face with a wolf or boar. These animals are rarely aggressive without provocation, though what constitutes provocation to a wolf, a boar, a griffon, or a hyena might all be considerably different.
Instead of one central city, there are scattered collections of hide huts, leather tents, and tepees. The lack of an organized city or leadership hierarchy is quite disjointing to visitors from other cities; less so to visitors from the Wastes.
Everyone in Kytark wears some form of hide or leather. Kytark's magic makes the armor quite protective, and it is the material Kytarkians have plenty of access to. Even those who possess metal armor wrap the armor in leather coverings to protect from the glare of the sun and to add an extra layer of toughness.
Port Fang, so called because of the large Fangs from various beasts that point downward like a pike hedgehog against massed raiders, circles Kytark's back. Gears and pulleys await those who need up or down along the sides of Kytark.
The Talons are people who are both dockworkers and guardians. While there are few jobs in Kytark, trade is too important to allow the Port to go unstaffed. Because of the import of working the dock, a position in the Talons is highly contested and sought. Kytarkians who visit other Shambles are often confused by how citizens elsewhere consider dockworkers to be lowly. Treating a Talon as lowly is a quick way to lose a tooth. The only way to hold a position in the Talons is to not lose it to someone else who wants it. Sometimes a position will trade hands two or three times in a day.
Stoth has a secret. He fought his way to his position in the Talons through may of the best fighters and warriors in Kytark. He has bested every challenger so far, and few challenge him anymore. Most are choosing to challenge easier marks in the Talons. What Stoth hasn't told anyone is he feels ill. A tiredness has come upon his limbs. He has been having trouble pulling the ropes to draw people up to the top, and he worries what will happen when someone realizes his weakness. There are elders he could ask, but he's afraid if he's seen talking to them others will guess at his troubles. His only hope now is to find a group of outsiders who will be interested in helping him and who won't prey upon his shameful weakness.
In the middle of Kytark, there is a large circle of shoulder high wooden poles. From the poles hang tanned hides that sway in the wind. This is the Contest Grounds. Minor disputes can be handled wherever those disputes arise. But major disputes between groups of people are held here, in the Contest Grounds.
The Grounds are sacred to Kytarkians, and those who spill blood here, while not in a Contest, are ostracized and become pariah. Some kill the pariah in their sleep out of mercy, but no one ever speaks of the deed. Spilling blood during a Contest, however, is expected. Contests can be held to first blood, to unconsciousness, or to the death, though Contests to the death only happen every few years.
When a challenge is issued for the Contest Grounds, a day is given for both parties to summon those who are to take their sides. That time is also used to gather as many people as possible to witness the event. Once everyone is assembled, the two Contestants make their cases to their people. It is not uncommon for a warrior summoned by one person to join the other person's side, and each Contestant is aware of that danger. Some Contestants want only a small group of their closest people summoned, while others try to summon as many as possible, hoping to overwhelm with numbers. Whatever the tactics used, once the cases have been made and sides are chose, the Contestants and their allies step into the Grounds and fight. Deaths sometimes happen as a part of a Contest, but as long as the witnesses judge there to be no intent to kill, the responsible person faces no consequence. Some use this as a chance for surreptitious murder, but that is not the way of most on Kytark.
Rayr is an orc elder of Kytark. He spent time as a Talon, though he claims more time than some remember. He fought off raiders, though some question his exact recall of heroic deeds. He sometimes cheats at dice, but the few who catch him at it are willing to challenge him. Rayr spends most of his time these days near the Contest Grounds to watch a Contest. He also trains warriors in various weapons, though he makes the trainee pay with some curio or interesting item from afar. He is widely considered the best trainer on Kytark, and some consider him the best in the known world.
Lately, Rayr has been thinking of Draphina, a human woman he met years ago on Andath. Or was it Mandith? He forgets. But she was beautiful. She loved him, and he loved her. And her sister, but he's pretty sure she's forgotten about that little mistake. After all, it was years ago. Rayr has been half thinking about turning down all requests for training until someone agrees to go find Draph and see if their relationship can be rekindled. The loss of him as a trainer would be a blow to the martial prowess of Kytark, he knows, but he needs to find out how Draph is after all of these years.
Toward the aft section of Kytark are a large number of fenced in and gated areas. The Pens is where untrained and untamed animals are kept until they can be brought to heel. The best animal handlers in the known world live and work here, training all manner of beasts to be hunting companions, mounts, herding animals, or scouts. If a creature can be trained for a task, someone here has probably trained one before. People looking for well-bred, well-trained animals know to come here first.
Ira is a good trainer. She's one of the best with fowl, and her hunting birds are a highly sought commodity. She only sells to those who she believes will care for the birds and not treat them poorly. She judges this by requiring all but the most regular customers to spend a week learning the bird from her. At the end of the week, she will either agree to the purchase, or she won't. She makes no apologies for her high standards, and those who complain about them are often turned back before the week can even begin.
Ira is also struggling with a recent affliction. A year ago, Ira started speaking prophecy. She didn't believe that was what was happening at first, but in the middle of dealing with a merchant from Mandith, the unbidden words "you will fall from a great height in a storm" left her lips. A week later, after the merchant had completed his purchase of a hawk, a storm hit Kytark. During the storm, it was discovered that the merchant wasn't a merchant, but a scout for raiders who had hoped to use his knowledge of Kytark to better take possession of the Shamble. Once the people of Kytark discovered what he was about, Talons tossed him unceremoniously overboard. Ira was stunned. She doesn't know why the words come to her, and she often doesn't understand what they mean. But they alway seem to come true in one way or another. The people of Kytark are beginning to learn about her prophecizing. She has faced a few challenges who say she is using magic, and so far she has won. She fears she won't always. She doesn't even know if she's right, maybe she is using magic. She just doesn't know. She wants to be done with the prophecy, but they seem to be happening more and more frequently.
Near the Contest Grounds is another important area of Kytark, the Oasis. The Oasis is the one regular water source on Kytark. It is a large pool tended by druids, who keep it full and fresh, though this can be difficult in the arid climate Kytark wanders.
Grakthar, a full blooded orc, spends much of his time near the Oasis. He has heard the tales of orcs and orc-bloods from the previous Age, and he looks at the world around him and sees that the orcs have lost. Orc blood is everywhere, but orc traditions are gone. They have been assimilated into the mass of human civilization. This state of affairs makes Grakthar ill, and he plans to do something about it.
Grakthar recently discovered a series of tomes written by an ancient scholar who was attempting to commit orcish thought and culture to paper. This was written at the time of the Shambling, when orcs were still feared but beloved for the aid they had given. In these stories, Grakthar sees a nation of warriors who will not submit to humans or any other race. He sees a people who have their own culture, their own gods, and their own ways of life. And he believes humans took those things from orcs intentionally. The orc is quietly gathering other orcs around him. He is letting them read selections from the tomes, so they can understand what they have lost. And he is planning to return an orc kingdom to an unsuspecting world.
Despite the gruffness of the people of Kytark, they get along reasonably well with everyone. Kytarkians think Gaena's forests make her people soft, the Thonkians are too obsessed with using metal to hide their weakness, and Andathians are too concerned with trade than strength. But they know each of these places has a strength of its own, as well. As long as people form other Shambles do not interfere with them, they see no reason to interfere with the other Shambles.
Lulix is the ambassador from Mandith. He is starting to worry for his sanity and his life. His mission was to come and ingratiate himself with the leadership on Kytark and to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. So far as he can tell there is no leadership on Kytark, and their defenses look laughable. Yet they seem able to respond swiftly to threats form raiders and relatively impervious to discord from amongst themselves. Lulix can't sense any weaknesses, so he doesn't know what to report. If he tells the Suzerain exactly what he sees, he worries he will be recalled. If he lies, well, that won't go any better in the long run. For now, he is stalling, by sending raw numbers of troop counts, animals counts, and estimates on how long food would last. Still, he is increasingly sensing impatience in the missives he receives back. They are expecting a real assessment from him, and he doesn't have one. He is beginning to get desperate.
Arcane magic is taboo on Kytark. No magic use is acceptable. Druids and clerics are watched with suspicion, but accepted because the of the need for people to tend the groves, the Oasis, and for healing. If someone is accused of being a magic-user, he is taken to the Contest Grounds where he must stand trial for his supposed magic use. If he wins the Contest, then he is no magic-user in the eyes of the people. Unless he uses magic to win, of course. The crowd has been know to tear such magic-users apart.