Conflict in Cantha
Part Three: Crime and Corruption
Just as the Canthan wilderness is honesty in its brutality, the empire’s largest cities are plagued by dishonest criminals. While the emperor is diplomatic enough to gather heroes around him, the commerce in his empire is at the mercy of a vast and villainous criminal underworld. In the very heart of the Canthan empire, the capital city of Kaineng, two rival gangs prey upon the populace . . . and each other. The Am Fah control a network of assassins, criminals so bold that they have no qualms about launching ambushes in broad daylight. Representatives of the Jade Brotherhood, by contrast, are at least polite enough to walk up to their rivals face-to-face before demanding extortion money or bribes.
Even in the idyllic countryside, criminal cartels prey upon the populace. The corsairs and cutthroats of the Crimson Skull raid along the Canthan coast, demanding taxes and supplies in exchange for their “protection” . . . and killing those who refuse. Their strength lies in numbers. A hero who confidently dispatches three or four should be ready for the day when an army of them gather to defend their operations.
Some suspect the unthinkable: that Shiro’s malevolent influence is still at work in Cantha. Fearful witnesses speak of a mysterious plague infecting the innocent—a force of corruption that transforms natural creatures into unnatural abominations. Sages and learned masters of lore describe these tortured creatures as “the Afflicted,” hateful mutations that exploit the powers of the people and creatures they infect. Groups of adventurers are rushing across the land to look for a cure, but by many accounts, the only release from this corrupting plague is death itself.
As this malefic force spreads across the countryside, rarer reports tell of demons manifesting in the land of the living. The origins of these “oni” remain a mystery—some say they enter the human realm from the otherworldly Mists, while others whisper tales concerning stranger, more distant realms. Hateful of all living things, the oni appear in the human realm to slaughter the innocent and the unprepared, acting as avatars of evil.
Wardens and Outcasts
Farther from the guarded walls of Shing Jea, the lands of the Kurzicks have fallen prey to darkness. Before the treachery of Tagachi, devout Wardens protected the Echovald Forest, using their druidic teachings to safeguard the land. Centuries later, the descendents of their once-noble order have become embittered by failure. They blame the Canthans and all humanity for allowing evil to spread across their domain . . . without recognizing or comprehending that the same corruption has infected them as well. Driven to madness, they have developed an elaborate cult with their own cryptic methods of reversing the effects of corruption. They violently oppose all others who get in their way.
The frozen waters of the Jade Sea have their own share of dark cults. Tribes of Outcasts wander the now-still seas. These Luxons were once reavers who made their living mining for precious jadeite. Greedy, and in search of far bigger payoffs, they dug too deep beneath the frozen waves and unleashed a monstrous horror. Now, driven to madness by their discovery, they wander the Jade Sea, killing anyone and anything unlucky enough to cross their path.
A Call to Adventure
The Empire of Cantha is in turmoil, but a new generation of heroes is liberating the land. Some have armed themselves for the endless conflict of the Luxons and Kurzicks, eager for battle against other adventurers. Others have trained in Shing Jea Monastery, leaving its walls to travel through the lands of Tengu, Yeti, Naga, and other treacherous races. Whether a hero prefers to contest against other adventurers, face ravening hordes of nonhuman rivals, war with organized criminals, or purify the corrupted countryside, one thing is certain—there’s no shortage of conflict in Cantha.