Bael Mora isn’t just a destination; it’s the end of fortune. Travelers never set out with Bael Mora in mind, but they end up here just the same. It’s like a little slice of Hell clinging to the outer crescent of civilization, a forgotten town of stone and brick, blood and dust. But when the sun is slanting low in the west and the wolves are howling, even a place like this can be a welcome sight. After weeks in the wilderness someone might even mistake it for civilization. But they’d be wrong.
The city looks inviting from a distance, less hospitable up close. Two squat towers frame a wide gateway, but the stonework is riddled with crumbling mortar and creeping ivy. “All hail Bael Mora, jewel of the Empire!” proclaims the gateway arch in marble letters a foot tall. Outside the gate three severed heads sit impaled on spikes, flyblown and glassy eyed. Wooden placards advertise their crimes. “Thief,” says one. “Murderer,” says another, and the third, “Blasphemer.” Guards lounge in the shade, playing at dice, stopping only to claim the toll from travelers passing through. One silver a foot, man or beast. One-legged beggars get half price.
The main street is lined with inns and taverns, gambling halls and dens of vice. Street vendors hawk their wares without much enthusiasm, and the prostitutes do likewise. A man lays in the gutter, face down. Is he passed out or dead? No one cares. It doesn’t look like the kind of town where they’d execute a man for blasphemy.
The main thoroughfare is deceptively short, ending in a square with a fountain. In the center stands a statue of a horned man, majestic and imperious. Tall, narrow buildings ring the square, shops of a more reputable sort. Between the shops a half-dozen cobbled streets snake into the neighborhoods of the city. This square is the lowest part of the city, closed in by hills, giving it a claustrophobic air. Crooked buildings climb up into the hills, following roads that meander out of sight. Above everything looms an old keep, frowning down on the city. It sits atop the tallest hill, towers thrusting up through the tangle of an overgrown orchard. Not a friendly looking kind of place. Welcome to Bael Mora.