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Image:Scroll2.png "Ah, Nyka. That bigot madhouse where 'monk' is spelled 't-h-u-g'."
- Aurelius Dootsby
NotabilityCity of mystical experiences and brutal zealots
LeaderThe Celestials
CurrencyLaat, roughly 1:1 with golden Mizas
ImportsWood and metals
ExportsFood, trade and luxury items, religious items

Nyka is a rich, well-sized city in Sylira, known as the Celestial Seat. While several cities in Mizahar are personally ruled by a deity, Nyka is unique in that it is governed by a council of four Alvina (demigods) who call themselves the Celestials: Uphis of the Sharp Blade, Skerr of the Bountiful Wheat, Laat of the Heavy Coffers, and Xannos of the Tempered Anvil. These minor gods banded together to build a niche for themselves on the ruins of ancient cities. In theory, their adepts run the city according to the Celestials' individual spheres of influence (defense, farming, commerce and craft). In practice, the Celestials are constantly quarreling, and their factions of warrior monks, led by their High Priests, fight for control over the city.

While Nyka wants to convey the feeling of a devoted, religious city, it is a dangerous place to be in. The monks, who are basically above the law, are more of street fighters than spiritual guides. Each faction controls one of the four quarters located at the four compass points of the city, with the Celestial Quarter in the center being sacred ground in which all fighting is supposedly outlawed. This rule has not been enforced in fifty years, and foreign visitors usually come armed or accompanied by escorts. Still, the city has a strangely mystical side, and those who possess Gnosis marks are often drawn to it in an attempt to understand the nature of their gift.


City Overview

The Aperture: it all starts and ends here

Nyka is an oddity among cities. It is full of unspoken rules, traditions and a strange honor code that often leaves visitors befuddled or even endangered by their ignorance. It is also considered the most superstitious city in Mizahar. Its people tend to think of the city as a living, breathing entity existing alongside them, supporting them but also demanding things from them and chastising them if such things are not provided. This belief did not come about without reason, as the city was built around a long fissure in the ground, called the Aperture. About three miles long and fifty meters deep, the Aperture runs roughly from West to East, thus splitting the city in two. All four quarters intersect the Aperture, though the Eastern and Western quarters are almost divided in half by its length.

While other cities are crossed by rivers, Nyka has the Aperture. Like a river, the people have built bridges over it. There are twelve bridges in the city, usually where the Aperture is particularly narrow. The bridges hold great significance in Nykan culture, and they always connect two different quarters. This is considered an act of balance as it prevents a quarter, and hence the followers of any one Celestial, from controlling both ends of a bridge. As the bridges are the only points in which people are allowed to climb into and out of the Aperture, the move has great symbolic and political significance.

While it leads to the depths of the underworld and the ancient ruins of Nykalia, the people of Nyka consider the Aperture as the Heart of the World, and their Celestials as the guiding lights who can keep the peace and harmony with its forces. Upon entering Nyka, even a foreigner feels like there is truth to this statement. The atmosphere seems charged with subtle energies, the air feels electrical at first and one's senses bring more vivid imagery to the mind. Unsettling phenomena are common here. Most people, at some point or another, will experience the "Lance": a sudden thought crossing the mind in a voice that is not the person's own, bringing a realization, an epiphany, a dejà vu or simply a warning. Others see things moving past the corners of their eyes, and figures are reported to climb out of the Aperture in the dead of the night. The people of Nyka routinely leave offerings in front of their doors, and only the monks are allowed to walk around the city at nighttime.

The monks are perhaps the symbol of Nyka. They form a unique subculture dominated by a strict honor code, yet also lead a life of violence (against external forces as well as monks of different factions) and are as feared as they are respected. Each monk is utterly devoted to one of the Celestials. They renounce their families, own nothing and are ready to give their lives at any time. They also enjoy many privileges over common people, and many children dream of joining them upon reaching majority. There are many harsh tests involved, however, the last of which consists of spending three days and three nights in the Aperture with only a canteen of water. The monks are skilled fighters who have perfected the martial arts and several melee weapons. Some of them are also respectable wizards, as the Celestial themselves teach magic to some followers talented enough to understand it.


Located in Northern Sylira and close to Taldera, Nyka is a rather cool city, though not excessively cold due to the mitigating presence of the sea. Summers are short and lukewarm, springs and falls are long and quite rainy, with frequent showers several times a day. Winters are cool, with plenty of snow on some years, and the occasional foggy days. Even so, the Nykan farmlands grow two crops a year thanks to Skerr's influence - she is called the One of the Bountiful Wheat for a reason.

History: the Celestials

The Celestials are four Alvina who banded together after the Valterrian, when the environment on the surface was still too harsh for most full mortals to endure. Perhaps attracted to the energies radiating from beneath the crust of Mizahar, they were drawn together by the prospect of founding a new city on the site of the legendary ancient city, Nykalia. A name spoken of in history and myth alike, Nykalia was destroyed thousands of years ago, when Suvan and Alahea were just minor regional powers struggling to expand their influence. The Celestials named the new city, which they began to build with their forces alone, after the ancient one - Nyka. The four of them made unlikely allies, but reached a solid working agreement in time.

In time, people began to emerge from their hiding places in the underground. It was only natural for many to flock to Nyka, a city whose foundations had already been laid by the lonely work of four demigods. Its expansion was much faster from this moment on, and within a decade the Celestials had partitioned Nyka into four quarters.

  • Skerr of the Bountiful Wheat, a daughter of the autumn goddess Bala, took the Southern quarter, near the farmlands
  • Laat of the Heavy Coffers, a son of the money goddess Xyna, chose the Eastern quarter of the docks
  • Uphis of the Sharp Blade, a son of the slain war god Ruros, claimed the Northern quarter
  • Xannos of the Tempered Anvil, a daughter of the earth goddess Semele, took the Western quarter, near the stone quarries

Soon afterwards, when it was seen that it was not practical for the Celestials to reside in their own quarters as it would create too much of a rift between the four factions, a fifth quarter was established in the center of the city. Here stands the tallest building, the Celestial Seat, where the Celestials currently rule and listen to petitioners both local and foreign every fourth day.


Commanding Nyka is no easy task: the demigods must reach consensus on everything, meaning that any of the four has veto power on all matters except those pertaining to each member's sphere of influence. The High Priests, the leaders of their four monk factions, therefore hold a great deal of power in the city's daily workings as the Celestials spend much of their time locked in the newest political impasse.

Ironically (but not surprisingly - in Nyka there are the monks, and then there's everyone else), the road to politics starts with a monk's sandals, living the harsh life of the Nykan defenders, as only they can possibly ascend to the rank of High Priest. These figures are obviously not professional politicians, having spent more years fighting and patrolling the city than reading books, but they have learned the cunning and street smarts of their trade to perfection.


Nykan economy is a peculiar mix of free market and city-regulated distribution. For example, the sale of food is forbidden in the city (though it is possible to get paid for actually preparing and cooking the ingredients; people bring their own food to eateries). The monks distribute food to the people daily in carefully controlled rations, either door-by-door or at heavily guarded stalls; for instance, pregnant women have a right to one and a half portions. As one cannot usually choose what will be delivered by the monks, people trading ingredients with their neighbors and friends are a very common sight. Foreigners have to apply for temporary citizenship in order to acquire the right to food, or bring their own rations - as a "visa" is rarely given for free.

Food is not the only regulated commodity - the working of gold and gems is also restricted to the monks of Xannos, making Nykan craftsmanship expensive but consistently high-quality and prized all over the more civilized parts of Mizahar. Nyka is a primary exporter of these and other luxury goods, its output only rivaled by the artistry of Abura and the Akvatari. It should be noted that Nyka is designed to be entirely self-sufficient, and as such it has little need for imports.


Nykan culture is a complex thing. There is a very tangible sense of belonging that is obvious to any visitor paying even casual attention. The people feel like they are part of a system that works like a living organism; they have a basic respect of each other's roles even when they are fighting their fellow men on the streets. As a result, Nykans tend to be isolationists who are cordial to foreigners, but often a little distant and unwilling to share their secrets. Every once in a while, someone finds acceptance in the community and becomes a full-fledged citizen, often due to some task of importance they have performed for the city.

The people of Nyka thrive on belief, both religious and of other kinds. They tend to respect the gods and are likely to cling to many forms of superstition. Given the environment around them, many of these are justified to a degree. Examples include ritual offerings, keeping small shrines to the ancestors, bowing in the direction of the Aperture, rubbing a monk's worn robe to invoke good fortune and much more.

Living in Nyka is dangerous (though not as dangerous as living outside Nyka, of course). The people work hard, and many of them play hard, too. Risk is always beyond the corner; sometimes people just disappear. No-one ever shows much surprise when that happens; monks periodically perform a count of the citizens in their quarters to check for vanishings. Many say monsters from the Aperture come and claim them; most people agree that the victim had it coming and fully deserved it. The ultimate fate of these people is unknown, but Nykans have developed a "live life to the fullest" kind of attitude that makes them notorious in Mizahar as being bold and outward; some would call them daredevils.

The people

While there is no such thing as a Nykan subrace of humanity, Nykans are a relatively closed group, meaning that their genetic pool undergoes very few changes over the generations. They are pale people, with dark hair that probably comes from Vantha ancestry. They tend to be tall, a testament to the availability of food throughout their lives; they are often mildly allergic to many ingredients found outside their city.

The clothing

Most Nykans wear colorful clothes and dresses that are seemingly too light for the season; this creates a sharp contrast with the stark look of the monks' thick brown hooded robes, often stained with blood and not replaced until absolutely necessary. Monks are instantly recognizable among the populace, with the insignia of their order embroidered upon their chest, and common citizens will immediately make way, crowds parting to let them pass. The monks' robes, woven in robust patterns, double as a basic form of protection, and are often strengthened with iron wire or small bars on the inside to absorb some impact power from incoming blows.

When a monk pulls up the hood of their robe, it means they are fighting to the death, which cannot given out lightly and hence must be delivered with one's head covered. Thus, it is possible to tell a simple street fight "just for fun" from a deadly showdown at a glance; the latter type is quite rare, often takes place at night, and is usually the result of a long-standing feud between two individuals or groups. Some monks even wear elaborate masks in such encounters.

The architecture

All buildings in the city are made from the same type of stone found in the local quarries, giving Nyka a rather uniform look. This stone is a pearly grey with rosy undertones, and is a valuable export for the city. The architecture itself is beautiful in its simplicity. Most buildings are two or three stories high, and the Celestial Seat is twice as tall as the second tallest building. Most structures follow a basic box pattern, with the occasional rows of columns thrown in for variety.

The way buildings are decorated is perhaps more interesting than the buildings themselves. Murals and paintings are common and depict the symbols of the Celestial to whom the quarter is dedicated. A visitor will know which quarter they are in just by looking at the walls and seeing painted hammers or coins or blades. To further reinforce the feeling of attribution, the same symbols are featured on flags and drapes hanging from many windows.

There are also other symbols drawn on the walls, of a more unsettling variety. These are protective wards, periodically painted over by the monks. They are believed to keep evil away from the house, meaning evil coming from the Aperture as well as the rest of the world. Such wards are often accompanied by skulls, blood and other symbolic (but real) imagery.

The Monks

Their lives are no longer their own

The Celestials never officially founded any monastic orders; in fact, they never demanded any official worship from the people who flocked to Nyka. However, their guidance came at such a desperate time, and was coupled with such incredible charisma, that the Nykans began to speak of them as full gods, even though they were not. Those who were more zealous than the rest gave organization to the fledgling religions, and the Celestials did not see it fit to go against their wishes after all the hard work that had gone into constructing the city. Thus were the monks born, and they did not grow lax over the generations; on the contrary, every High Priest was more strict than the one who came before.

Joining the monks

There are 200 monks for each of the four Celestials at any given time. Should their numbers dwindle due to losses or retirement (monks retire when they become too weak to fight effectively), the city organizes selection tests for new applicants in the next season. The monks' dangerous lifestyle means that such tests take place almost every season. Citizens or assimilated foreigners (being a Nykan by birth is not a requirement anymore) of either sex and having attained the age of majority for their race are allowed to enter the trial. There is a physical test, usually a round of unarmed combat, to halve the number of participants, followed by an interview with a senior monk. Citizens of a quarter will almost always wish to join their quarter's monks, however there are exceptions motivated by slights and offenses received in the past. Of course, someone wishing to join a different Celestial will have to move to that quarter regardless of the outcome of the test, and will no longer be welcome in their old quarter, to use an understatement.

The final test involves spending three days and three nights in the depths of the Aperture. The monk is dressed in white robes, given a canteen of water, and allowed to climb down a rope ladder hanging from a bridge at dusk. The ladder is immediately retracted as the would-be monk fades into the darkness. Those found cheating their way out are summarily executed. About one third of those taking the test end up succeeding. The rest either climb back up during the daily extensions of the rope ladders or simply renounce their intention of becoming a monk upon their return. A few are even driven insane by their stay in the Aperture, and some do not return at all. While failing the previous tests do not disqualify someone from trying again, an applicant not passing the final trial in the Aperture will never be allowed to take the test again.

The successful applicants will swear in during a joint ceremony in the main square, with the Celestials attending. Such ceremonies are pretty much the only times when monks of different demigods get together without any chance of violence breaking out. The monk is then handed down their thick brown robes with the insignia of their order (a sword for Uphis, a coin for Laat, a hammer for Xannos and wheat for Skerr) and officially joins the order.

The honor code

  • I am a monk of Nyka. My body has strength and my mind has purpose. I know not the weaknesses of the flesh. I may be killed, but I shall not die. (VOW OF STRENGTH)
  • I serve the city that gave me life by giving her my life. Should I renounce my duties, forever I shall be banished. (VOW OF DEDICATION)
  • I am always prepared. I shall never turn down a challenge that my opponent has the right or opportunity to issue. (VOW OF COURAGE)
  • At war, I am relentless. At peace, I am industrious. I know no rest in battle, or luxury in my house. I shall own nothing but be thankful for what the city gives unto me. (VOW OF HARDSHIP)
  • My gratitude to Nyka and her founders has no bounds. I shall not worship the immortals who plot against Nyka or those who have wronged the Celestials. (VOW OF FAITH)

The duties

A monk of Nyka is a fierce defender of the city and its Celestials, though they are by far most dedicated to their own patron. The four factions fight among themselves all the time, but will cooperate against any common enemy for the greater good of the city.

A monk is first and foremost a fighter. Their lifestyle is harsh and often violent. Outsiders consider them thugs who don’t waste any opportunity for a street fight with monks of another Celestial. This happens frequently, and normal citizens are sometimes caught in the heat of battle, though deaths are somewhat uncommon. Foreigners often bring in guards of their own, as monks are not formally required to protect strangers in Nyka. Some will even assault strong-looking foreigners looking for a good fight.

By and large, however, monks are committed to defending the population from threats both seen and unseen. They have a series of ritual duties, among which the periodical carving of intricate protective wards on the walls of every house in their quarters. This is believed to provide protection from any negative forces coming out of the Aperture.

The monks also have specialized duties depending on their order. For example, Skerr's monks distribute food to the people (or, more often, deliver it to their fellow monks as wandering other quarters door-by-door might incite too much violence); Xannos' monks oversee the arts and crafts; Uphis' monks check the status of city defenses, and Laat's monks supervise any and all import/export taking place in Nyka.


The monks always get the first share of the food. Should there be a famine, the monks would be fed first, and the rest of the population later. They are, in general, above the law of common citizens. As long as they don't bring shame upon their order and Celestial, monks can do as they please in Nyka. Property damage is usually overlooked, as is the occasional rape and murder. Theft is, however, ill-tolerated as the monks are supposed to own nothing. Monks enforce the law, and they do so swiftly and without a formal code of laws. When a monk is guilty of a serious crime, it is implicitly known that their death is a matter of time but no official action is taken. Suicide is a popular way out for monks who have shamed themselves.

Nyka enforces an informal night curfew on its population and foreigners. While people are not entirely forbidden to go out at night, only the monks are expected to walk the streets at that time, and the city belongs to them while they do. All sorts of legends surround the monks and their nighttime deeds. A citizen caught in the open would have to hope in the monks' benevolence, for people wander out at their own risk.

In addition, each order of monks has unique privileges.

  • No food can be eaten if it's not been approved by a monk of Skerr. In addition, these monks carry ritual 'wheatwhips' that are their status symbol, in addition to being deadly variations on the cat-o-nine-tails.
  • Laat's monks are the only monks who can touch the city's currency, also called Laat (though other monks may just call them 'coins' or 'discs'). They do business with foreigners, though they may not keep the money they make. Angering a monk of Laat can make a foreigner's life in Nyka very miserable, as they can forbid the population from making any kind of deal with them. They employ razor-sharp coin-like discs as throwing weapons, as well.
  • Uphis' monks are the only ones who can use bladed weapons in combat. Swords are tools for the senior monks only, however; most will enjoy more brutal weapons such as axes and poled blades or halberds. Of course, they do not look down on the weapons used by all monks, like maces and morning stars, though they are the least likely to use wooden weapons like staves. In general, the monks of Uphis are walking armories and, unlike the other orders, may sometimes wear armor in battle.
  • Xannos' monks are the only recognized practitioners of world magic in Nyka. Other professions, such as jewelcrafting are only open to their members. Their favorite weapon is the hammer, which they employ in virtually any size and shape. While bows are rare in Nyka, the monks of Xannos wield them from time to time.


Hierarchy is rather informal and identical across the four orders. There are four ranks: Novices, Acolytes, Priors and the High Priest. A monk is promoted when three monks of the higher order, or one of the next higher order, vouch for them. For example, it takes three Acolytes to vouch for a Novice's promotion, or a single Prior. Monks do not offer these endorsements lightly, as their reputation is affected by the actions of those they recommend; vouching comes with impressive displays of skill and dedication. When a High Priest dies or retires, their Celestial chooses a replacement among the Priors.

Higher-ranked monks can order their lower-ranked brethren around at will, or they will suffer the consequences. They also get the lion's share of the weapons and equipment the city can donate. Generally, an Acolyte will take several Novices under his wing and show them the ropes until they are ready to join the Acolytes, though Novices often die before that time comes. Among Nykan monks, being a Novice is a most dangerous place to be.

Places of interest

The Celestial Seat

The Bridge of the Beginning

The Palace of Supplicants

The Bountiful Wheat headquarters

The Sharp Blade headquarters

The Tempered Anvil headquarters

The Heavy Coffers headquarters

The Safehaven Hostel

The Farmlands

The Nykshela quarry

The Docks

The Warfields

The Great Infirmary

The Halls of the Robes

The Cursed Bridge

The Fourth Day Market

The people of Nyka