The city of Damanara of the Azure Banners is mentioned in passing in The Compass of Terrestrial Directions, Vol. 5—The North. After fleshing out the city for a game I was running at the time, I began writing it out for publication in the Ink Monkeys blog. The blog closed up shop before I finished, so the writeup remains incomplete. More recently, during Exalted 3e development, I cannibalized the city for setting elements that I incorporated into the Western city-state of Randan. This makes Damanara supernumerary for 3e publication, so I’m presenting it here (minus certain of those cannibalized elements) instead.
Damanara of the Azure Banners
Damanara’s most notable peculiarities—her demon-repelling banners, her cloistered princes, and even her fall to the armies of the Bull of the North—can be laid at the feet of one Anathema who died 200 years ago. And he never even entered the city.
Damanara is a new city for a new Age. During the Fair Folk invasion that followed the Contagion, one of the Amber River’s tributaries, the River Maliskancha, shifted in its bed so that the two rivers met several miles south of their previous confluence. This new juncture proved a good spot for businesses serving the river trade. As the town grew, it also became the focal point for the local wool trade—a lucrative industry, given the rich pasturage of the nearby hill country.
Roughly 200 years ago, the Anathema Jochim began his rampage through the satrapies of the North. The Realm’s forces were overextended in dealing with the demon prince and his forces. Jochim himself could not be everywhere, of course, but he had called up demon lieutenants to command his battalions and packs of lesser demons to serve as shock troops.
The city of Damanara lay in the path of his forces. Though rich, it had only a small standing army and no support from the Realm. Even with military backing from such of its neighbors as remained independent, the city would surely fall when Jochim’s troops arrived.
But one of the city’s savants, one gifted in the thaumaturgical arts, concocted a plan. He knew from his studies that the inhabitants of Hell were forbidden to look upon a certain shade of blue—the “sacred azure.” So he prevailed upon the city leaders to seize all the undyed fabric in the city, and the dyers were set to work day and night.
On the day when Damanara’s forces sallied forth to meet the invaders, just before the two lines clashed, the ashigaru unfurled war-banners of the sacred azure, while the archers on the battlements hung vast sheets of blue from the city walls. Some demons reeled in shock; others fled. Most, of course, remained unfazed; but the defenders won the field that day, and mortals are all too eager to credit miracles for their salvation.
Thaumaturges and sorcerers flocked to the city, as did charlatans of all stripes, for Damanara garnered an unearned reputation for sorcery that day. Several of the city guilds—fullers, weavers, dyers, alchemists—leveraged the prestige earned from the victory to win concessions from the city that would make Damanara the heart of the Northern cloth trade. And the city leaders themselves negotiated better terms from the Realm in exchange for not raising a fuss about being abandoned by the Realm to whom they had paid tribute for centuries. The Immaculate Order’s influence was minimized; the people worshiped their old gods openly instead of in secret.
Now, of course, the city has fallen to the Bull of the North, its gates having been opened to his forces by the very priesthoods that gained power in the wake of Jochim’s aggression. Such is the turnabout of history.
Set in a marshy area at the juncture of two rivers, nestled in a valley among rolling hills whose woods are slowly being denuded by mortal industry, Damanara is a rich nexus for the northern wool trade. Sheep and goats live in great numbers here. The city itself is surrounded by a many-towered wall. Its banners are a featureless blue.
Several major guilds control Damanara—these include fullers, weavers, dyers and mercers, as well as some guilds unrelated to the wool trade, such as masons, blacksmiths and thaumaturges. The city’s titular ruler, Princess Dove White Sky, has little real authority.
She is a figurehead for the guilds, whose guildmasters choose a First Master Elect from among their number. The First Master Elect serves as regent to the royal line and holds a great deal of political power.
The city goddess is named Yava-Chernya. She appears as a proud and refined woman who is not quite young anymore, clad in blue robes adorned with lapis and sapphires. She rides a black ram draped with cloth-of-gold in honor of the city’s old coat of arms, a black ram on a golden field. She lives in an Air-aspected manse, the House of a Thousand Pennants, which lies at the heart of the city. The manse’s hearthstone is a Stone of Mending Flaws (Oadenol’s Codex, p. 99).
Other gods worshiped in Damanara include Akana, Matriarch of the Ivory Robe (a regional goddess of winter); Saula-Nieida, the Lady of the Shining Loom (a regional goddess of weaving); and Grand Kinnaku, the Raven Avatar (a god of corvids who has been a friend to mortals since the Time of Glory). Each has its own temple.
Four outcaste households live in Damanara, having been given wealth and respect for their aid against Jochim two centuries ago. Foremost among these households is that of Naviga Baral, who traveled to the Blessed Isle to negotiate new terms for the satrapy after Jochim’s defeat. She still lives here, as do her sons and daughters. Her home, an elegant wooden manor encircled by a hedge of chokecherry, is a one-dot Wood manse that produces a Stone of Healing.
Damanara fell by surprise to the forces of the Bull in the middle of the night last month, when forces affiliated with the city’s temples seized and opened some of the city gates just as Samea brought in half a legion’s worth of icewalkers via Stormwind Rider. The defenders fought well, but the icewalkers were led by Lunar Exalted and backed by powerful beastmen. By morning, the First Master Elect, Ladim Sesla, had ordered the guild troops to stand down, leaving the city in the hands of the Bull.