Ulakand City of Horses

The information below is a part of my unreleased Ulakand, City of Horses gazetteer. The locations below and the accompanying map to Ulakand were first premiered at Gary Con XI for the special seminar,  Celebrating Greyhawk - A Fandom Renaissance.

You can get the Ulakand Mesa map here.

Ulakand (small city): AL CN; Population 6,000+ (varies seasonally up to 12,000); (Human 95% [mostly Paynim-Baklunish], Halfling 2%, Orc / Half-orc 2%, Other 1%).
Authority Figures: (591 CY) His Illustrious Ferocity, Bruzharag the Misbegotten, the Orakhan of Ull (CE male half-ogre Ftr16). 
Important Figures: Jadrun Khan (CN, male human Ftr10), Ulzai Khan (N male human Rng3), Khurut Khan (CN male human Ftr3), Ulghur Khan (CN male human F3), Khugari Khan (CN, male human Ftr5), Kirghai Khan (CE male human Ftr4).
Resources: Slaves, horses, copper, silver, gems (50 g.p. base)
Languages: Ulagha, Ancient Baklunish, Common.
Allies: Unknown (assumed none).
Enemies: Paynims, hill tribesmen (Yorodhi), generally hostile to outsiders.

Key to Locations on the Ulakand Mesa Map

1. Al-Dham Ophar ‘Blood Ford’
This shallow crossing is the terminating point for both the Wadi Khijar and the Ceshra Trails leading into Ulakand. Though it is not the only fordable point along the Ongar Gesh it is the one most used by nomadic herders, foreign caravans and local warbands. The ford derived its name from the Battle of Ulakand, when the invading Brazen Horde was decisively routed leaving the shallows of the stream tinged red with blood. Scattered on either side of the ford are boulders carved and stained with cruel epitaphs of that historic day.

2. Yurt Settlements
The bulk of Ulakand’s semi-nomadic populace dwells in yurt encampments at the base of the mesa where water and horse corrals are nearby. The size of these settlements fluctuates with the seasons, swelling and diminishing as nomadic clans move on or arrive. Though Uli families are free to set their yurts anywhere, Ulakand’s settlements are typically separated along very old clan alliances. Farthest west from the shadow of the mesa stand the homes of families loyal to the large Jadrun and Khurut khanates (2a). Nestled in the northern region near the Horse Market is families allied to the Ulghur and Khugari khanates to the east of Ulakand (2b). Lastly in the central region of Ulakand are the yurts of those akin to the Kirghai and Ulzai khanates to the south (2c). Hostilities often arise between these zones over grazing, trade and water rights. Further complicating Ulakand’s tenuous settlement patterns are rival warbands who stay in town for extended periods of time before raiding or slaving abroad, as well as inexperienced foreigners who unwittingly end up placing their encampments in one territory or another. 

3. Horse Corrals
Even more impressive than the hundreds of yurts in Ulakand are the bustling horse corrals where dozens of wild herds are driven here from the plains to be trained and sold. There are three distinct corral districts each containing several independently operated stockades. These corral owners tend to service the same clan alliances that their neighboring yurt settlements do, but they also find profit in providing enclosure for merchant caravan animals from the north. Day and night the corrals are zealously guarded from theft though few locals ever try and steal from them. Indeed, horse theft (albeit in town) is punishable by death or dismemberment in Ulakand.

4. The Winch 
This elevator is an engineering oddity in Ulakand. Long ago an enterprising slaver captured a large band of prospecting dwarves from the Crystalmist Mountains. Their lives were spared by the Orakhan when they wisely offered to construct and maintain this device for the Uli capital. The Winch, as it is known by locals is a very tall basket lift pulled up on thick ropes by means of a massive wheel that is turned using manual labor. The whole apparatus is housed in a stout stone building that slightly hangs over the mesa cliff at a point about 500’ from the plains below. The Winch is used primarily for hauling up goods that are either too unwieldy to take up the trails or must be moved quickly in the case of confiscated caravans. In rare instances the lift is used by very important passengers who are in a hurry. While the Winch overall is a sturdy construction, its maintenance is a source of doubt for visitors. Ropes and other vital parts are only replaced after they break. Unlike the ropes, the original dwarven crew who built and operated the Winch are long dead and have never been replaced. Since then the elevator has seen a progression of crude laborers, from sabotaging Yorodhi slaves, to donkey teams led by halflings, and currently, swift if not careless ogre muscle.

5. Mesa Trails
These weathered paths lead up the western face of the Ulakand Mesa. Formed from the natural erosion of the cliff face over many centuries, the mesa trails vary in width and elevation but are currently considered safe enough for an entire train of animals to traverse slowly without causing rockslides. On extremely windy days the trails are substantially more dangerous as sudden gusts can blow an unprepared traveler off the roads edge. Halfway along each trail is a guard post consisting of a crumbling stone archway and a tiny attached guard house partially carved into the cliff. At this spot a small detachment of surly warriors harasses all who pass to the heights of Ulakand. Whether or not they extract tolls through their gate is purely by whim and how intimidating travelers appear. It is often remarked by locals that the most life-threatening job in Ulakand is guarding the mesa trails.

6. Orakhan's Palace
This long hall is set apart from the rest of the mesa-top residences of Ulakand on its own rambling grounds. Ample water, well maintained and well-stocked corrals plus numerous out-buildings surround the rustic estate. The palace, humble by noble standards, was one of the first permanent constructions in the early days of Ulakand, surviving many centuries of internal strife and natural disaster. It is the palace where the Orakhan and his royal family traditionally dwell with their attendant cronies, slaves and guards. This is not always the case though, as some Orakhans in the past have held onto their nomadic life, only visiting the palace during official gatherings of the khanates. When the Khanate Council meets here each season, the palace is the busiest building in all of Ulakand as debates, duels and decrees regularly go on for days at a time. The current Orakhan, Bruzharag the Misbegotten lords over the estate with a mighty fist. The presence of former gladiators, tasked-ogres and cut-throat orcs have increased among the leader’s retinue, giving the palace a sense of menace unseen for many decades.

7. Merchant residences 
The first sight upon cresting the top of the mesa trails are clusters of permanent buildings that variously belong to the families of the Khanate Council or well-known foreign merchants residing temporarily in Ulakand. Built originally in the Oeridian architectural style, these stone and wood residences have evolved over the decades as each new owner has made their own repairs and additions. As a result, these tend to be the most imposing if not grotesque structures in all of Ulakand. Nearly every residence includes a stable or corral of some fashion, yet the crudest of occupants without one will house their animals indoors with them if need be.
Foremost among the notable residents of this district is Afzal Haidar, the ‘Shielded Sheik’ (7a). This maverick member of the Mouqollad Consortium enjoys the protection of the Orakhan for his ability to procure weapon shipments from as far away as the City of Greyhawk. He is often cited by his consortium for improper trade practices in this savage land, but so far, he remains safely removed from their punishment. In the same neighborhood is the equally reputable Shahira ibnt Jabr al-Budir who operates as a dealer of gems and pearls, but in truth is an intermediary agent for smugglers from her home city of Beit Castan on the Gulf of Ghayar (7b). Many in Ulakand suspect she may also belong to the clandestine ring of opiate exporters known as the Yellow Cartel
Not far, is the walled compound of the Golden Aba Inn (7c). A minor Baklunish company recently bartered a lease with Jadrun Khan to reside and operate the business in Ulakand. Their generous employment of local halflings is notable, yet despite this diminutive support few locals start trouble here making the Golden Aba a safe haven in Ulakand for foreign travelers. The Inn is actually a front for a small cell of Ceshran assassins; what their purpose is in Ulakand is left to be seen, but few live that cross them. 
Unassuming, but no less dangerous is the small abode of Kizem Kudret who is generally known as a crafter of magic items, a rare enough commodity in Ulakand (7d). Rarely seen outside his home, this stout enchanter is given little grief by anyone including the Protectors of Ulakand. Secretly Kudret is a polymorphed ogre magi spy loyal to the mysterious Lord of the Ogre Magi. Another dirty secret of the Merchant Residences is the so-called ‘Embassy’ (7e). This building owned by the Orakhan is in the worst repair of all those in the district, and historically it has only been used as a place to host visiting dignitaries or missionaries. More than one tale of double-crossings and assassinations has occurred at this troubled embassy.

8. Orakhan's Hold
This permanent building is essentially a guarded warehouse where the hauls from many large raids and randomly confiscated caravans end up after their ascent onto the mesa. The Hold is made of stone and heavy bronzewood timbers from the Ulsprue Range, supporting a lone attached guard tower where lookouts can observe all who arrive upon the mesa. Its portals and shutters are likewise stout enough to provide a redoubt against attack if the nearby Orakhan’s Palace would ever fall to invaders. The Hold is traditionally defended by the loyal Protectors of Ulakand and administered by a cadre of hard-working yet annoyingly precise halflings. Any imaginable trade good is stocked and sorted here until they can be blatantly traded; sometimes back to their original owners. Surprisingly, the small administrators have decent power over what items get moved in the Hold except weapons, food and magical oddities tend to be dispersed at the personal preference of the current Orakhan.

9. Ulakand Bazaar
This well-worn yard is the where most of the daily bartering is conducted in the city from dawn till dusk. All manner of goods brought into Ulakand is found here, except for horses which are handled in larger lots to the north of the bazaar. Space is afforded on a first comer basis, yet the yard tends to self-segregate along tribal lines with foreign traders filling in between. The bazaar also includes a common pavilion tent where all tribesmen boisterously share drink and news. 
The brutish Protectors of Ulakand have a strong presence at the bazaar to maintain a climate of fairness through fear. They also are tasked with tailing and reporting the activities of foreign merchants where ever they go in Ulakand. This is not to say fights do not break out in the bazaar. Caravan guards often clash with the Protectors when they get too close, and tempers flare when rival Uli tribesmen vie for the same trade. Habitually, traders in the bazaar will momentarily stop their business to watch any scuffle in the market with delight, but because of the Protectors, few dare to interfere unless their own interests are affected.
The Ulakand Bazaar has no shortage of violent entertainment. Centrally located on the bazaar grounds is an old monolithic piece of the mesa that serves as a chaining spot for people that the Orakhan has sentenced to public humiliation, frequently prior to their execution. Those unfortunate enough to be chained here are jeered and spit on by locals, sometimes even stoned by cruel Uli children or worse. Despite all this abuse the Protectors of Ulakand can and will retaliate against anyone who try to seriously harm or free a prisoner, else they are next to be chained up at the bazaar.

10. Horse Market
This humble corral along the Ongar Gesh is the smallest of its kind in town, but nonetheless serves a very important function as the unquestioned neutral site for the hotly-contested Ulakand horse market. Once a week, corral operators, nomadic herders and foreigners alike, crowd here to judge, barter and haggle over horses of all types. Much like the common bazaar, the Protectors of Ulakand are found roaming all over the yard maintaining a fearsome civility to the proceedings. The horse market is nominally run by the owners of the small corral, a family of horse trainers who have lived in Ulakand since its founding. It is because of this ancestral reputation that their opinions and arbitrations are amazingly respected by most rival tribes. Since an extremely large amount of horses and money change hands at the horse market, the Orakhan has been known to decree a tax on every animal traded here, especially to foreign buyers. Most traders relent to these occasional tributes as they know the Orakhan has the power to seize their herds at his whim.

11. Slavers Stockyard

Unique among Ulakand’s many corrals, this stockade is set far from the center of town used for the expressed purpose to hold slaves. Slaving bands that infrequently pass through town are customarily allowed use of this semi-permanent camp before continuing southward. The Stockyard consists of a few sagging buildings and ill-repaired fences along a near-dry creek bed. There is an air of death here, due to many burial ditches and the presence of carrion birds. Slavers must routinely mass-bury those slaves that die of injuries, disease or from exhaustion on their marches. When not in use, the Stockyard is sometimes a place for discreet meetings by locals.

12. Signal fire posts
These four small strategically placed outposts are 4-5 miles apart and watch over all corners of the large Ulakand mesa. Lightly manned, the signal posts are not meant to be defended, but are instead used for early warning. Each post keeps a fresh stable of swift-mounted messengers who can reach the main town in minutes, while at the same time large signal bonfires are always readied. When lit, the bonfires can be seen for dozens of miles in all directions on the plains. These bonfires are used only in the direst situations for Ulakand and are typically interpreted as a call to muster arms at the town.

13. The Great Catacombs
The remains of Ull’s first ruler Ulaghai Orakhan, were interred in the heart of the mesa by his heir Khuzhan the Builder, as the cornerstone of Ulakand when it was founded in his honor. Since then centuries of tribal khans and Uli war veterans have had their bones placed in the Great Catacombs by their families to anchor their ancestral legacies to Ulakand. The catacombs are a maze of natural caverns and grottoes accessed from the surface of the mesa by a sinkhole entrance. Heavy marker stones engraved with epitaphs ring the site and are often used to secure ropes for descent into the catacombs. The bones and mummified remains of many men lay in state in the dry darkness of the Great Catacombs with seemingly no organization or means of identification. It is not traditional in Ulakand for valuable or magical treasures to be buried with their owners as their families tend to cling to these objects as relics of ancestral power. Despite this fact, it still has not dissuaded foreign tomb robbers from chasing rumors of hidden wealth here. A secondary entrance exists to this place from the Khur Razjin (Path of Shadows) to the south. This way is fraught with danger however and has contributed many more corpses to the Great Catacombs’ count.

14. Khur Razjin 'Path of Shadows'
This narrow, indented section of the cliff has eroded to the point where it now carves deeply into the mesa, eventually connecting to the underground tunnels and caverns that serve as catacombs for Ulakand’s ruling elite. While the Path of Shadows is a shortcut to the Great Catacombs, it is so steeped in superstition that few dare to tread its craggy depths. Indeed, in Ulakand it is considered the most extreme test of one’s bravery to walk the Khur Razjin. Natural sources of light are known to fail, and it is said that the shadows of those who venture there rise to sap the strength from men’s bodies. Worse yet are the demon-possessed cadavers of Uli warriors not properly put in the ground, that stalk the lightless branches of the path for those who would stray or become lost.

15. Payasprue ‘Horses Peak’
This craggy formation is a flat-topped butte, gradually climbing from the greater mesa shelf to its top, then towering in a sheer cliff hundreds of feet to the plains below. Much of the Payasprue is a lightly wooded wilderness and a source for ample water runoff. The most noted region among the rugged highlands of the Payasprue is a signal fire post built on top of the summit. This most remote of all Ulakand’s watch posts is handled by the hardiest Uli trackers and survivalists. They alone know the safest and fastest trails throughout the mesa, preferring the quiet heights of the Payasprue over the commotion of everyday life in Ulakand. The southern side of the Payasprue is marked with caves and is known to be dangerous woodland not only because of predatory animals such as mountain lions and giant nocturnal bats, but also for the carefully laid traps and snares scattered by Uli hunters who live on the summit above. Beyond the surface, deep beneath the Payasprue are more cunning, yet sinister creatures such as Pesties and Jermaline who are rumored to live in a cavern system that once belonged to a dragon. No evidence of this monster has been found thus far so it remains to be discovered what truly lurked here in the ages before Ulakand was settled.

16. Khur Kuyag 'Secret Path'
Most of the Ulakand Mesa has eroded slowly over the last several centuries, resulting in few negotiable paths except on the western side where Ulakand is largely settled. Fortunately, this fact has been a boon to the defense of Ulakand. However, one path is cleverly concealed from all but the most expert trackers and learned guides in Ulakand. On the eastern side of the mesa is a curved section of the cliff-face used as shelter by local herders against bad weather. It is here where Khur Kuyag, the secret path was discovered a few decades after Ulakand’s founding by Buhul the Warlike. When the fabled Orakhan and his retinue first found the trail, they were confronted by a horrible Dao. Rather than concede a bribe for safe passage, the Orakhan instead beheaded the evil genie. Yet the Dao still exacted his revenge before passing and in a great tumult of rock the trail vanished. To this day the Khur Kuyag simply does not exist unless, during the setting sun, one curses the name Buhul thus temporarily creating the trail anew.   

17. Gol Usan 'Haunted Lake'
Another popular superstition of Ulakand, the Haunted Lake lies in the central wilderness of the mesa. This lightly wooded region is often chosen by parties traveling between Ulakand on the western cliffs and the Payasprue heights to the east. Every generation or so for longer than most can remember, entire encampments would vanish or flee bloodied after encountering an inhuman phantasmal being. Accounts of this ghostly killer’s appearance vary but most agree that it rises from the murk of the lake to relentlessly track down its victims wielding a polearm of some sort. The haunt apparently defends the lake, never leaving its vicinity and always rising from it again years later if slain.   

18. Kirgh Kadzur “Lightning Rock” 
This shunned region of the eastern Payasprue wilderness is a jagged scrubland where accounts of lightning strikes far out-number anywhere else on the mesa. Locals strongly avoid Kirgh Kadzur as do most wary animals for even on the least overcast day the threat of electrocution is possible. Sages propose this is due to a highly conductive mineral content in the area rock, but eye-witnesses report more fantastic tales of monsters bathed in lightning and electrical arches between boulders, suggesting Kirgh Kadzur might hold a portal to the Quasi-Elemental Pane of Lightning. Despite the danger, the potential wealth trapped within Kirgh Kadzur still lures foolish prospectors from afar though none have succeeded.

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