Aegina - One of the former seats of commerce in the region, Aegina was the first city to mint its own currency, which was widely adopted throughout the region. They now sit on a vast treasury which the upper class subsists on via loans, investments and money-lending both in Helos and abroad. However, a lack of industry means Aegina relies on keeping other cities in financial bondage to keep a layer of glitter over a crumbling shell of its former glory. Otherwise, the city is known primarily for being a pleasure island for the hedonistic and the wealthy, who often vacation or retire to Aegina to live in peace, comfort, and relative prosperity. Uniquely among the cities, Aegina has a working trade relationship with the southeastern Babylos region - their diplomacy puts strain on Aegina's relationship with the rest of the cities. Home to the Trial of the Reveler.
Argos - Situated in the middle of a vast fertile plain, Argos is the chief source of agriculture and livestock across the region. Beyond wheat, olives, and wine, the city is known for raising the best horses in the region, and Argos-born cavalry are sought after prizes for the other cities. Though once considered a dominant military force, Argos has settled into a less violent and more rustic sensibility. Given their surplus of food, Argonians have feasts and festivals more often (and more extravagantly) than elsewhere. Argos maintains a number of massive theaters which seem to be in constant use, creating an urban area full of performers in contrast to the vast farming communities outside the walls. Being so far west, Argos has the most contact with Roma, and a significant number of Romans live inside the walls in a segregated community. Home to the Trial of the Equinox.
Athens - A shining beacon of intelligence amidst the great darkness of ignorance - at least that's how Athens presents itself. By far the largest of the cities, Athens lies on infertile ground at the foothills of mountains, so feeds itself through a mixture of Argonian crops and its own fishing. Athens is famous for its academics; the city is a center for philosophy, mathematics, medicine, history, and magecraft, and the sheer number of different schools make the whole city seem to be one big campus. In fact, it's Athenian advancements in magecraft that gave birth to the concept of the trainer in Helos, and thus the city maintains a plethora of schools for aspiring trainer-warriors. The people of Athens have a reputation for being puffed up snobs and stuffy bookworms, but their war colleges ensure that Athens is no slouch when it comes to battle, much to the chagrin of its Spartan rivals. Home to the Trial of the Aegis.
Corinth - A city of craftsmen, Corinth's primary contribution to the region is its beautiful pottery, stone, and bronzeware. Corinthian styles are so popular that virtually all artisans from Helos spend at least some time studying at Corinth, or at schools founded by former Corinthians. Surrounded on two sides by the sea, Corinth is also the patron city of Poseidon, and the temple in his honor is the host of a massive horse and chariot race every two years with riders from around the islands. With Poseidon's blessing, Corinth is blessed by bounties from the sea and its sailors are second to none. However, the city has always been second to Athens and Sparta, despite numerous attempts to unseat both of them - Corinth has a long history of embarrassing, devastating military defeats on both land and sea, but continues to pick fights with its neighbors. Home to the Trial of the Whorl.
Knossos - Formerly known as the seat of the Minos region, Knossos was annexed several hundred years ago, but remains ethnically distinct from the cities of Helos. Before their defeat at the hands of the Helonians, the people of Knossos maintained an enormous fleet of ships that gave them control over waterways both within Helos and out to the southwest towards Ptolemos and Kardagos. Now a shadow of its former self, Knossos is kept under careful watch, primarily by Sparta. Knossos has its own religious customs, including the worship of the snake goddess Ophidia over all other deities, and is the home of the bull-dancing sport. The people of Knossos have a particular love of gold and the oldest parts of their city are elaborate stone palaces; the grand architecture in cities like Athens was inspired by ancient buildings in Knossos. The city sits in the shadow of the massive volcano Thera, and its people are said to get their gruff demeanor from living under the haze of smoke and ash. Home to the Trial of the Weary.
Rhodes - Situated comfortably between the western and eastern halves of the region's sea, Rhodes is the self-appointed naval police. Vast fleets scour the waterways for pirates, making the Rhodian colors a godsend for ships in trouble. Its position also means Rhode is a prosperous trade center as goods from each city move through canals to get out into the rest of the region. Merchants flock to Rhodes to hock their wares, even from faraway lands like Ptolemos, and Rhodes is an eclectic place where foreigners are welcomed - as long as they have coin. The city is overlooked by an enormous statue of Rhodes patron, Helios, one of the only cities to continue worshiping a Titan as its favored god. Rhodes is also famous for its metalwork, which was legendarily taught to its first smiths by the Telchines, a race of fish people who have since returned to the sea. Home to the Trial of the Shepherd.
Sparta - Sparta excels at exactly one thing: war. But within the sphere of war, Sparta is unrivaled, and its intense traditional of martial training has been instrumental in repelling invasion after invasion, and in putting an end to disputes between Helonian cities. Children are gender segregated at an early age with the boys sent off to train as soldiers. This leaves the city itself run by an overwhelming number of women, who maintain an efficient, highly structured society build on the backs of indentured servants. Spartan culture breeds independence, fortitude, honor, and valor, but places little value on tact, guile, or charm - outside their home, Spartans are usually (rightly) treated as thugs, ruffians, and all around brutes. Beyond military might, Sparta is known for its excellent hunters and athletes, as well as its utilitarian schools of philosophy and its libraries of history, the source of envy in its Athenian rivals. Home to the Trial of the Ravager.
Syracuse - A jack of many trades, Syracuse remains the master of none. The city seems poised to upset Athens as the de facto capitol, but for now it's merely growing, getting larger and more cosmopolitan with every day. Syracuse is the home of artists and their patrons, including poets, sculptors, and painters. It's also been a seat for technological innovation, famous for the invention of the siege weapons that helped bring down Troy. Perhaps Syracuse's greatest claim to fame is its location; to the north is the vast forest of Arcadia that slowly recedes into plains and valleys. Arcadia's natural beauty inspires wonder, but it's also the home of semi-divine nymphs, satyrs, and centaurs. Syracuse serves as a base of operations for explorers venturing into Atlas, so it's an attractive place for mercenaries, healers, and mages looking for work. Home to the Trial of the Contriver.
Thebes - While Argos produces raw materials, Thebes is responsible for processing. Every aspect of industry happens within the confines of the ancient walls. Wool is spun into thread, dyed, and woven into cloth. Gold, silver, and bronze are all worked into jewelry. Aetherite is cute, engraved, and set for mages to harness. Wood is cut into lumber, olives pressed into oil, and grapes fermented into wine. Anyone looking for honest work can find it in Thebes, and the city is a constant bustle of activity as goods are ferried from workhouses to the docks. With a reputation for being docile domestics, Thebes has a history of conflict, particularly with Sparta, but also with other cities attempting to take control of its industry - these attempts are usually thwarted by a combination of third cities intervening and by Thebes' Sacred Band, a small, curious military protected not by Ares or Athena, but by Aphrodite. Home to the Trial of the Forge.
Themiscyra - The Themiscyrans do not consider themselves Helonian, but have maintained an alliance with the region after generations of intermittent warfare. Nestled on an island full of sacred groves, Themiscyra is unusual for its matriarchal culture which reveres Hera as the true ruler of the gods, though they consider Artemis to be their patron. Themiscyra's military is composed entirely of women, and the city is famed for its archery and hunters. Given that Themiscyra is situated on a fertile island and their culture is xenophobic and insular, born Themiscyrans rarely leave their island unless called to as mercenaries or diplomats. However, Themiscyra continues to have some ties to the East, and travelers from as far as Zong and Johto often stop there before continuing on to other regions, so traders from elsewhere in Helos are begrudgingly allowed around certain port areas. The rest of Helos often jokes that Themiscyra is the softer, gentler side of Sparta, but the two cities have cultivated an intense rivalry that often turns explosive at Panhelonian Games. Home to the Trial of the Matriarch.
Aeaea - Once been the home of Witch Circe during her exile, Aeaea is now overrun with monsters supposedly kept as part of her menagerie. The set of islands are all considered quite dangerous, full of wild beasts as they are, but adventurers and heroes sometimes venture there looking for treasure or rare creatures to train. It's rumored that on the largest island, nestled in the middle of a grove, Witch Circe's former mansion still stands, full of her collected relics and artifacts. Stories continue to assert that the palace is real, but that it's guarded by her fiercest pets and magical sentries.
Atlas - This set of islands contain the obvious ruins of what must have been another city-state at some point in the distant past. Legend suggests that the tiny islands are actually the tops of hills and that the rest of a once proud city has sunk beneath the waves. The myth appears to be true, as certain entry points have been discovered on the surface ruins that lead underground into a vast necropolis. Treasure hunters are eager to explore this lost city, but excavating it has proven impossible, and expeditions are fraught with danger and death.
Delos - A band of sacred islands said to be the birthplace of the twins Apollo and Artemis. Now, each individual island seems to hold a temple to one god or another, making Delos an attraction for priests, pilgrims, and heroes looking to make a lot of offerings all at once. A small community lives on the various islands and operate as a single city, but they are technically beholden to Corinth. Importantly, Delos has the only true temple to the goddess Hestia and also the host of the minor Trial of the Matron.
Delphi - Delphi is primarily a single large temple dedicated to Apollo, as well as the port city that serves it. The temple is known across the region and well into the rest of the world for its powerful oracle called the Pythia. Blessed, chosen priestesses of Apollo, the Pythia delivers prophecies in a frenzied state brought upon by the sweet smelling vapors rising up from under the temple, supposedly caused by the rotting body of the monstrous Python over which the temple is built. Pythia prophecies are often delivered in tongues and must be interpreted by temple priests, but are among the most accurate of divinations. Home to the Trial of the Twins.
Olympia - This massive mountain stretches up to the clouds, where the Twelve Olympian gods meet at their palace. As such, the mountain itself is a sacred site, particularly to Zeus, and large temples are built into the base. Wild olives grow all around the foothills of Olympia, but these are considered holy and reserved for the gods themselves. Olympia is also the site of the Panhelonian Games, a competition between athletes, warriors, and trainers held every four years in which all the city states compete against one another. Home to the Trial of the Patriarch.
Thermae - Previously the location of a small Helonian settlement, the city was sacked and overrun by Romans. Its existence remains a sore spot for most in Helos, but the current period of peace between Helos and Roma means taking the city back risks another war. Thermae is built on a network of natural hot springs, which the Romans have harnessed to create the elaborate public baths that they are famous for. Though the ruling class in Thermae is Roman, most of the people living there are still Helonian, and travelers are allowed in and out of the city with proper documentation.
Troy - Once a proud, powerful stronghold set into high cliffs, Troy lays in ruins, even hundreds of years after the war that saw it burned to the ground. Now, the crumbling stone of its palace-fortress serves as a reminder of the power of a united Helos. The islands of Troy are largely abandoned with its people having fled back to the West or into Themiscyra as refugees generations ago - to Helos, all true Trojans have been eradicated. The ruins are haunted by the ghosts of the war, making resettling the islands all but impossible.
Babylos - The current major power of the Middle East. Babylos has waged numerous invasions on Helos over the years, all of which have been thwarted by the collective cities, though not without immense damage. Helonians consider the people of Babylos to be marked by their greed and their brutality, with their most admirable trait being their stubborn persistence, no matter how foolish or short-sighted. Though few in Helos have seen them, Babylos is said to be home to the largest libraries on the planet, with an enviable repository of magical tomes, scrolls, and grimoires. They have a particular skill in working gold, but Babylish jewelry is typical smelted out of spite.
Zong - The Middle Kingdom resides at the furthest reaches of the Far East, so distant that it's virtually unknown in Helos. Zong is a valuable source of silk and exotic spices, along with various alchemical reagents attractive to certain mages. Compared to the mix of democracies, oligarchies, and popular tyrants in Helos, Zong appears to be under the control of noble warlords and occasionally singular divinely mandated emperors.
Kardagos - Previously a major rival of Helos, Kardagos has fallen on hard times. While Knossos controlled the seas in Helos, they were major trade partners with Kardagos, which kept control of its own local seas. Shortly after the collapse of Knossos, Kardagos suffered a loss to Babylos, and has since been rebuilt at a new site further west. Now surrounded by enemies on all sides, including the Romans, Kardagos appears to be in its final death throes. As a long time foreign oppressor, Helonians have no love for Kardagos or its people, providing only limited refuge to the mass droves fleeing the collapsing state.
Ptolemos - Nestled all along the temperamental River Nile, Ptolemos is a region in slow, steady decline, but still an epicenter of wealth, knowledge, and power. Cross-culture contact with Helos is common, and Ptolemos has often been an ally against outside threats. The gods of Ptolemos are known in Helos, particularly at Rhode where a small temple serves the Ptolemosian pantheon. Jewelry, pottery, and writings from Ptolemos are all considered valuable - chiefly among mages, who consider copies of texts like Book of the Dead to be dangerous and, thus, desirable.
Roma - Western barbarians who seem to ruin everything they get their dirty hands on. Once little more than a handful of grimy shepherds, the remnants of Troy landed on the Roman shore and integrated with the natives, creating a new culture. Roma doesn't seem to produce anything of its own, but instead moves in on neighboring tribes, conquers them, and makes them build aqueducts, bathhouses, and gladiatorial arenas, because Romans aren't happy unless they're wet, naked, and fighting to the death. The speed at which the Romans conquer is distressing, and their presence at Thermae and Argos is only barely tolerated.
Helos Region Map
page revision: 4, last edited: 18 Dec 2016 09:25