Home to many of the most talented and skilled artists and artisans in Pharanathia, if not Kestria, Rolo is a city steeped in high culture. In some parts of the city there is a theatre house on just about every street corner, and even if you can’t find a theatre, every tavern has a performing stage. Carpentry workshops produce the finest in ornate furniture, and master-craftsmen make musical instruments that are sought after throughout the realm. Minstrels and poets perform on street corners, bards mesmerise with fantastic tales, and acrobats wow crowds on outdoor stages. There are sprawling markets of colour and noise where craftsmen spruik their works, and the wealthy search for the latest novelties to impress their peers. Discovery of a new talent holds much prestige.
Much of the wealthier parts of the city are under the control of the powerful competing arts guilds and companies. The wealthiest citizens of Rolo either own these companies, or are patrons of them. The competition between them is fierce and not always civilised; rumours of popular actors being assassinated, and theatre houses burnt to the ground, are rife.
The opulent sophistication of the wealthy theatre districts is matched by the gritty poverty of the slums. Many from around the realm come to Rolo seeking fame and fortune, but places within the guilds are limited, and are often bought by the rich, or attained through treachery. People who fail to gain a placing frequently end up busking for coin, or working in brothels, or joining criminal gangs, living on the streets, or in shanties if they are talented enough to scrape together a living amongst the throngs of others in the same situation.
Rolo is ruled by Duke Tarquil, who is relatively young for a duke at 37. His father, Henrique, is not dead, but rather was laid low by a mysterious affliction that turned him into a vegetable mentally. Tarquil was ordained duke of Rolo by the king after approval from the church of Menon through the Archprelate.
Rumour has it that Henrique was in fact poisoned by an assassin hired by one of the more powerful performing arts guilds, The Black Drake Theatre Company after the venerable duke threatened to close down their theatres. According to one version of the rumour the duke was deeply offended by a satirical play the guild was performing in its theatres at the time, which was critical of his leadership, and dogmatic adherence to the tenets of Menon. In the play the Duke was depicted as a little, rotund mule that walked backwards across the stage, and talked through its rear.
In some circles it is felt that the real power in Rolo rests not with the duke, but with his sister, Harletta. They are rarely seen apart, and at all his public appearances she flanks him, always in his ear as if giving instructions. She is the patron of The Riverside Dramatic Arts Society, one of the oldest and most influential of the guilds. Another version of the rumour about her father’s death was that she talked him into closing the theatres of The Black Drake Theatre Company.
Although Menon is the traditional deity, temples and churches dedicated to others are scattered about Rolo. Indeed many, if not most, of Rolo’s denizens openly worship an “imposter” god. This is especially true of the arts guilds, who look to tap into the divine powers on offer to enhance their craft.
Some of the major guilds in Rolo:
- The Riverside Dramatic Arts Society
- The Black Drake Theatre Company
- Red Cloak Troupe
- The Mad Poets of Prudence
- Bards of Brayern
Some of the major illicit organisations:
- Rider Clan
Paelant hails from Rolo and is well known in all the taverns, though for his singing not his drinking.
Kantalar Rider is from Rolo and the Rider clan is known throughout the underclasses and they are greatly feared. It seems Kantalar’s side family have some kind of infection for goodness, maybe it comes from his mother’s side. It was thought that Antir, Kantalar’s younger brother, was the only oddity after he was taken away to the magic schools somewhere in the West. But after Anthea was killed, Kantalar changed and the Clan grew very suspicious of that part of the family. This does not mean they do not respect Kantalar for they know what he is capable of when properly motivated.