This week Michael Vail-Steele takes us to Belvarie, the City of Song, where you can, quite literally, live or die, by how well you play. Remember, it’s time to pay the piper!
“If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On.” These words are carved into the marble archway above the entrance to Belvarie in most of the known languages of the world. The City of Song was founded over four hundred years ago by two Elven bards who met by chance, but whose love for each other became just as strong as their love of music. They built a small community of musicians among The Golden Hills in a naturally formed amphitheater where all of the music they played was acoustically perfected. The community began to attract attention from surrounding kingdoms and slowly grew into a city filled with taverns, concert halls, and other musical venues.
Not all the attention was good however and some watched the growing city with jealous eyes. Orcs of the nearby Blood Bear Tribe along with some ogre allies laid siege to Belvarie hoping to steal its wealth for themselves. The peace-loving musicians were unprepared for such a brutal assault and many lives were lost including Belvarie’s founders. However, The City of Song was not silenced that day. It was Melanori, daughter of the city’s founders, who rallied the people and drove out the invaders. She was crowned queen of the city and built up a grand army known as The Choir in order to protect the city and surrounding lands from future attacks.
The return of peace allowed the citizens of Belvarie to return their focus to music and the city prospered once again. The new musical strains even caught the ears of otherworldly admirers. A troupe of fey took up residence in Belvarie’s public park where today they serve as patrons to many aspiring bards. In addition to defending the city from attack, The Choir has been called upon to keep the whimsically-minded fey from causing too much mischief.
Belvarie is filled to the brim with bards, some very talented and others not. Many of them are either enrolled in or have dropped out of Hamelin Academy, the most prestigious bardic college in the entire city. It’s easy to recognize a Hamelin bard from the academy pin they all wear. Newly enrolled students receive a pin depicting a blank musical scale and for each lesson, they master they receive a musical note to add to it. Those found to be wearing counterfeit mastery pins are swiftly expelled and some receive harsher punishments. Even when they try to blend in the swagger and sense of self-importance of a Hamelin bard tends to give them away
In addition to institutions that focus on creating music Belvarie also boasts several that study music in order to unlock a deeper understanding of the world. The Monastery of the Endless Dance teaches its students to always move to the primal beat of life itself. Monks of the Endless Dance rarely stand still, and if forced to will usually still be tapping their toes. They believe that by tapping into the natural rhythms around them they can gain a greater understanding of other beings. They often move or contort their bodies in interesting ways to improve the flow of their ki.
A mysterious hooded figure has been plaguing the streets of Belvarie in recent weeks. Dressed in a ragged cloak, they will approach passersby and ask them if they’re willing to make a friendly wager. Those who inquire further find out the stranger is willing to bet they can out-play anyone when it comes to stringed instruments. At this point most sense a scam is in the works and depart, but a handful of prideful harpists or fiddlers do take up the stranger’s challenge to their own detriment. When they ask about the stakes of the wager the stranger laughs and allows the challenger to decide. Most of the challengers put up whatever gold they have on them, hoping to make some quick money at the very least. Tales have spread however of some who, in bursts of anger, have wagered vast fortunes or even their own hands or eyes hoping to show the stranger how serious they are. Once the playing begins, it’s immediately obvious the stranger’s skill far exceeds expectations and anyone who plays against him is quickly shamed. Upon his victory, he vanishes in a puff of smoke whispering that he will return to collect his prize soon leaving some challengers fearing for their lives.
The annual Battle of the Bands has arrived and musical groups from all across the region are flocking to Belvarie to compete. There are prizes awarded in specific categories such as best lyrics or best effects, but most people come out to the performances to see who will be crowned as the Band of Champions for the year. Any band who wishes to become the new champions must challenge the previous winners to a musical duel. The current champions Unbridled Stallyns, have kept the title for over five years fending off numerous would be usurpers. Word on the street though is that the Dwarven band Bearded Stones might be able to finally dethrone them.
Drag & Drop Encounter (CR 6)
Trebelis & Trabula are two harpy (CR 4) sisters that have lived in and around The Golden Hills for many years. They recently discovered how much easier it is to hunt within the more populated Belvarie than in the surrounding countryside. They will disguise themselves in flowing robes to hide their inhuman characteristics and choose a lightly trafficked area to lure in their prey without drawing too much attention. One of them will hide, while the other will use their voice to draw passersby into an ambush. In a fight the sisters both ten to focus their efforts on a single target, hoping to quickly wear them down before moving on to another. If a target manages to break free of their song Trebelis & Trabula quickly flee to live and hunt another day.