The Phoenix Covenant
Covenant is a town of approximately 2000 people situated in a chain of large caverns in a mountain in Stayyin Province, the northernmost province of the Empire of Nerath. The location was chosen for its security and secrecy, and because of the deposits of lead and crystal in the mountain, which interfere with divination magic. The Masters brought in the population and supplies, and sealed the Phoenix Gate, the only passage to the surface world.
Since the sealing of the Phoenix Gate, the inhabitants of Covenant have been cut off from the outside world. For five hundred years, the people of Covenant have done their best to prepare for the coming trial: the reclaiming of the surface world in the wake of the Ruler of Ruin. They have worked to preserve the values of the Empire of Nerath and the other nations and cultures of the Light, and to produce the kinds of heroes necessary to explore, evaluate, and bring hope and civilization to the world in the aftermath of destruction.
The Caverns of Covenant
Covenant is comprised of a chain of six large caverns and a warren of smaller tunnels and caves. Each of the larger caverns has been named, and is used for a specific purpose.
- Gateway. This is one of the smaller caverns, and the site of the Phoenix Gate to the outside. It also houses a series of gatehouses and guard posts, and is the where the standing army of Covenant is housed. From it, tunnels lead back to Depot and down to Garden.
- Depot. This long, low cavern was initially used to store the raw materials and supplies used in construction within Covenant. Now, it’s mainly empty, and is used for combat training by the forces of Covenant. A tunnel leads back and up to Council, and forward to Gateway.
- Garden. Down below Gateway, this is the largest of the caverns, and is given over to agriculture. Much of Covenant’s food is provided through magic, but the inhabitants grow many vegetables and fruits down here, in magically produced soil, under a false sun, along the shores of an underground river. Very popular for strolls, camping, and fishing. Tunnels lead up to Gateway, Council, and Recluse.
- Council. Almost a perfect hemisphere, with only a few stalactites to mar the perfection, Council is the seat of business and government in Covenant. The Council of Masters meets here, and the various schools and stores are also situated in this cavern. Tunnels lead forward to Depot, down to Garden, and left to Redoubt.
- Recluse. Most remote, and smallest of the caverns, Recluse is home to the churches and temples of Covenant. The central area is a broad, open expanse, with the floor lovingly inlaid with mosaic tile, while the churches and temples are carved into the walls. A tunnel leads down to Garden.
- Redoubt. This is the main residential area of Covenant, a terraced bowl of a cavern nearly a mile across. Homes are built on the steps of the bowl, and some are even cut back into the walls. A pool of fresh water sits at the bottom, surrounded by trees and benches. A tunnel leads back to Council.
- The Rambles. The generic name for the twisting maze of passages connecting the various caverns. They are sealed here and there with large lead-lined iron doors, to close off access from deeper parts of the cave complex, and keep out raiding monsters.
Food and Drink
Water is plentiful in Covenant, from the free-flowing streams and rivers that run through the complex. Garden provides much fresh produce to liven up meals. Fish from the rivers provide fresh meat. Many families keep a few chickens for eggs and meat, and there are a few goats for milk and cheese, and some bees in the Garden for honey.
However, the main sources of food are the Granaries, magical constructs that replenish themselves daily with wheat, barley, pork, and beef. These four buildings, located in Council, provide free food for anyone who comes to collect it. Some old-timers say that the flavor isn’t as good as “real” food, but most of the inhabitants of Covenant have never tasted anything but the Granary-provided food and the stuff they produce themselves.
A fifth Granary produces wool and cotton cloth; iron, tin, and copper bar stock; oak and pine lumber; and paper. This Granary, which is called the General Store, distributes its goods free only to manufacturers for resale and redistribution. One of the first crops planted in Garden was hops, and there is a thriving small brewery and distillery business. Mead is also made, and some ciders and wines from the fruits of Garden.
Most meals are fairly simple and plain, due to the lack of exotic spices or a wide range of ingredients. That said, there are restaurants in Council that do quite amazing things with limited resources.
The economy of Covenant is based on gold, but coins are rarely used. The Council of Masters keeps a fairly substantial store of gold, silver, and copper in trust for the citizenry, but holds it against the need to deal with the outside world.
Within Covenant, exchange is usually barter, supported by promissory notes, or scrip. Because of the free food from the Granaries, most commerce is centered on luxury items and basic tools. In many cases, these are handled on a simple quid-pro-quo basis between the parties – it’s not like it’s easy to skip out on paying, and one’s reputation in Covenant is a valuable commodity in itself. Sullying it makes it hard to get anyone to trust you again.
When more detailed records need to be kept, most businesses use an account book, signed by the owing party, to track debts. These may be called due or transferred to another party – the trading of debts is fairly common in Covenant, and it’s not unusual for a blacksmith to come to collect a day’s work pumping his bellows in return for a pound of cheese you received from a neighbor.
Any debts owed you can also be exchanged for official Covenant scrip, issued by the Council of Masters. This scrip is marked with a gold piece value, and can theoretically be exchanged for coin of equal value when the Phoenix Gate opens. The Master Auditor keeps track of the scrip in circulation and conducts exchanges to ensure that there will be enough gold in the Covenant coffers to redeem all extant scrip should it be necessary.
The political structure of Covenant has evolved into an oligarchy based on the old Imperial guild structure. The ruling council is made up of those members of the population who have risen to the rank of Master in their chosen vocation. From this pool, the Masters select individuals to serve a two-year term on the Council of Masters.
The Council of Masters usually consists of between eight and a dozen Masters, depending on the decisions of the Masters as a whole. Certain positions are always present: Master of Council, Master of Arms, Master Provisioner, Master Crafter, and Master Auditor. Each of these posts is responsible for dealing with a defined area of Covenant governance. Other posts may be created and eliminated as required by the entire body of Masters, and may or may not have defined duties.
The Master of Arms is responsible for not only overseeing the training and disposition of soldiers within Covenant, but also raising, training, and directing a guard force to enforce the law. Criminals are tried before a triumvirate of Masters, and punishments usually revolve around forced labour, though in cases of murder or attempting to leave Covenant, death is the traditional sentence.