To the south of Muetar is the free city of Sephir, which is defended by the infamous Black Knight from his stronghold known as Stubstaff Keep.
Sephir is the largest settlement in the Banished Lands. The soil in this region is poor and too dry to support extensive farming. Ranching is possible along the border with Muetar, however, and Sephir itself is built upon a massive underground aquifer which provides ample clean water.
The Legend of the Black Knight
It is said that infamous Black Knight was originally an important General in the Imperial Army before the fall of the Bright Empire. The most common tale of his origin is that he led the Orcish Ninth Legion against the Emperor, and that he died during the Sinking of Porros but was cursed for his crimes and emerged transformed from the waters as an undead monster.
Whatever the truth of these stories, the Black Knight arrived in the Banished Lands almost 100 years ago at the head of a mercenary army. At that time, Sephir was the domain of a outcast wizard – a necromancer known as Velis. The Black Knight led his troops against the undead hordes of Velis and toppled the necromancer’s rule. He also toppled the wizard’s tall, black tower; leaving behind a “stub” in the middle of the Keep. For whatever reason, the Black Knight has never rebuilt or demolished this “Stubstaff”, which still dominates the Keep today.
The Black Knight does not actually “rule” Sephir – in fact, he doesn’t really interact with the city at all. On occasion, he will unexpectedly ride forth at the head of his elite Cavalry – the Stubstaff Guard – to defeat threats to Sephir or campaign across Minaria. At other times, he will not be seen in public for months or even years.
Those in Sephir view him as their dark and mysterious “protector”. Although his forces help defend the city’s independence, his overall motives and purpose are unknown.
Map of the Banished Lands, with Stubstaff Keep (and the Free City of Sephir) at center
The Free City of Sephir
Domain Population: 2500 urban families (Sephir), 5000 peasant families; Domain Alignment: Neutral; Domain Rulers: Council of Landowners & the Black Knight; Domain Income: ~11,500gp per month; Stronghold Value: 105,000gp; Urban Investment: 200,000gp; Market Class: III; Liege: None; Vassals: Various “Cattle Barons”.
Travellers crossing the Banished Lands are often suprised when they spot Sephir on the horizon. Dominated by the distinctive sihouette of the Black Keep and its broken tower, Sephir is a densely-populated walled city in the midst of semi-arid grassland. Near Sephir, ranchers manage massive herds of cattle which graze on the thorny prairie, but otherwise the territory is open and sparsely populated.
Day-to-day activities in Sephir are governed by a ruling council dominated by the “Big Five” land-owning ranchers. Sephir is also a centre for trade and a stopping point for overland caravans between the realms of the Wizard-Kings and the barbarian territory of Shucassam.
For the past several years, the Warlock of the Wind-Swept Downs has been consolidating his territory in nearby Muetar and has claimed lands that were previously used by Sephir for cattle grazing. The ruling council fears that a conflict between their city and Muetar is inevitable, but so far the Black Knight has done nothing to intervene.