In the early winter of 661 N.Y., Penumbra was attacked by Phlogiston, Shard of the First Flame an avatar of the primordials. Much of the port and its docks were burned, and all of its halfing slaves fled to Sanctuary.
Penumbra is an annex of Paravahl – a port city that specializes in importing exotic goods to sate the Kayal appetite for the unique. It stands apart from it’s floating master; the shadows that shroud Penumbra are of a different sort.
The trade hub is populated by the wayang – strange creatures native to the world of shadow with odd habits and mannerisms. The wayang are short creatures with warped figures and perspectives; they fill the city on stilts with their odd chatter and fastidious attention to detail. They seem perfectly content to serve the Kayal unquestioningly in all things from negotiating trade deals to overseeing the halfling slaves in the rice flats.
The city boasts a simple government structure, standing in stark contrast to the complex bureaucracy that once churned in Paravahl. Much of the systems in place are to facilitate trade between parties who dock at the port. Since Paravahl had little interest in material wealth until recently, Penumbra gains most of its goods for Paravahl in the form of a small tax on all transactions.
Nominally, a group of Kayal stands at the head of Penumbra’s government. For quite some time now, this has been whoever happens to be staying at the towering vacation manor at the center of the city. These ‘Kayal on expedition’ are not expected to make any decisions whatsoever, as the city largely runs itself.
As an annex of Paravahl, Penumbra shares in the benefits of the city’s enchantments for defense. In fact, the Wayang seem vastly more comfortable working with the Praetorian Guard than the Kayal. The guard are never present in the city unless there is trouble; but any Wayang of any station can summon a guard in case of emergency.
On the rare occasions that Prenumbra has been attacked, the invaders found it to be a costly affair with little to no benefit. Stories of such invasions speak of an orderly and well-rehearsed evacuation. Trade ships sail deeper into the harbor and inevitably get shrouded in a convenient fog while the city itself empties completely, the wayang slipping into the shadows with valuables or halfings in tow. Few invaders survive actually docking at the city – those that do speak of Wayang emerging from any shadow with Praetorian Guard in tow, executing vicious sneak attacks before slipping back into the darkness.
Penumbra exists to provide a service to those trading between the Free Cities Peninsula and the south – a safe and fair trading port. Docking services, ship maintenance, warehousing, trading and entertainment halls; all this exists to encourage outlanders to visit and pay a trade tax. The Wayang themselves generally work for free – valuing the spiritual benefits of serving Paravahl over material wealth.
Magic items of all sorts can be found in Penumbra’s trading halls as the city allows the Wizard orders of Paravahl to sell their crafted goods duty-free. In exchange, the towers make it a common punishment for their apprentices to visit the city and ply their magics at repairing infrastructure.
Theft is uncommon, but it is also subject to a much more hefty tax than traditional trade (to discourage the behavior). Failure to pay any tax is punishable by 7 years indentured servitude. To prevent unauthorized trading, a wayang facilitator appears from the shadows on each ship as it enters the harbor, advising the captain on the various rules of the port.
The Wayang of the Harbor Guard act as liaisons to ships entering Penumbra’s Harbor. Using a crystal ball for scrying and several observation towers, the Guard monitors the activities within the harbor and sends representatives of the port to visiting ships.
Bureau of Trade and Taxation
Most of the Wayang within the city staff the Bureau of Trade and Taxation, a surprisingly efficient branch of the Cathedral of Bureaucracy in Paravahl. The organization exists to maintain the vast trade halls in the port and facilitate fast and fair exchanges between parties. Many have noted how the Wayang approach their duties with an almost religious fanaticism, where ledgers have replaced prayer books and the trade chalkboards are updated in a ritualistic fashion.
Taxation is enforced by investigators, who randomly monitor trades in secret using the Wayang’s gift for stealth. Illicit trades are always allowed to occur, and nothing more than the standard tax is extracted from the illegal deal. Additionally, only the parties directly involved in the negotiations are bound to indentured servitude. The rest of the crew is encouraged to come to the city again, and to make sure to pay the tax on future trades.