The material below is designated as Open Game Content.
History and the Present Day
Large City (10,000 citizens)
Ruler: Ramepriscus, great wyrm copper dragon.
Government: The city is run by the council of representatives, whose members are elected by the people of the city. The council has nearly free rein when it comes to running the city, however they are required to keep the patrono drago informed of their decisions. The patrono drago, while not playing a particularly active role in the city’s day to day running, do have the power to veto any motion the council has put forth.
Neighbourhoods: Stonebridge is divided into three terzo, each containing a number of different neighbourhoods whose names are subject to change at the whim of the terzo’s representatives.
Resources: Stonebridge’s chief exports are olives, wine and wool. Very little of the city’s extensive artwork is exported due to the high local demand.
Population: 95% gnome, 2% dwarf, 2% elf, 1% other.
Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven and Gnome.
Religion: Stonebridge’s religious patrons include numerous gods of trickery, knowledge, magic, agriculture, dragons and artistic endeavours, as well as numerous saints. Individual members of the community may worship other gods and goddesses as long as they are not evil.
Blood and Fire
-520: A group of dwarven miners stumble upon an enormous vein of gold on the western wall of what is today known as the Ombo river canyon. They establish a small village of stone buildings near a wide natural bridge that spans the canyon. The remnants of that village today sit at the core of Stonebridge’s old city.
-453: The black dragon QotleQuorazan, drawn by rumours of the dwarves’ great wealth, falls upon their encampment and devours the miners to the last man. Though the area is nothing like the swamplands he prefers, QotleQuorazan settles into the largest mine shaft and occupies his days counting immense piles of raw gold ore and hunting wild goats in the northern hills.
-432: The copper dragon Ramepriscus is born.
-420: A gnoll war party, ignorant of the danger, seeks shelter from a blizzard in the ruins of the dwarven village. Just after midnight, when the storm is at its worst, QotleQuorazan attacks, slaying most of the gnolls in a torrent of acid. The few remaining gnolls beg for mercy, promising eternal loyalty if they are spared. QotleQuorazan takes them as his servants.
-409: While hunting sheep, a group of QotleQuorazan’s gnolls stumble upon a pair of gnome vagabonds foraging for mushrooms in the forests south of their encampment. The gnomes are captured and presented as a gift to QotleQuorazan who, upon devouring the first, discovers he has a taste for their flesh. The second gnome is tortured into revealing the location of his home village, which is several days ride to the south.
A few days later, QotleQuorazan and his gnolls ride south and discover not just one, but eight small gnome villages within a short distance of one another. They descend upon them in the night. Though the gnomes fight to the best of their ability, they are no match for the dragon’s fury. Instead of destroying them all, QotleQuorazan decides to keep them as his herd, commanding his gnolls to turn the villages into prisons and then retires to his lair.
-408 to -80: During the next 400 years, QotleQuorazan returns to the village/prisons once every few months, seizing a few gnomes for his supper each time. For the first few years, small groups of gnomes offer sporadic resistance but they are quickly put down and, in less than a decade, the gnomes spirit of resistance is crushed. During this period, the gnomes begin to refer to their tormentor as Blackblight.
-79: The gnome Donisa is born. Unlike the other gnomes of the villages, Donisa never loses her will to fight and secretly begins training herself using tree branches as makeshift swords.
-45: An adventuring band, the Lords of the Ride, attack the villages. They manage to inflict grievous casualties on the gnoll forces but QotleQuorazan breaks their company. Only one member, the half-elf druidess Mockingleaf, survives. Grievously wounded, she flees into the western hills. During the confusion of the battle, Donisa flees her village. A few days later, she stumbles upon the druidess and nurses her back to health. The two swear an oath of revenge upon the dragon and set out to gather allies.
-44 to -5: During this time Donisa and Mockingleaf survive many adventures together and gather a likeminded group of veteran warriors, among them the dwarf skald Ustilor, the elf sorcerer Austrechild and Sir Merovech Wolkenstein. Collectively, they are known as the Fratellanza di Sette Petalo, the Brotherhood of the Seven Petals. Unknown to his friends, Sir Wolkenstein is a copper dragon named Ramepriscus, who has spent the last 50 years wandering civilised lands developing a great affection for art, intellectual culture and the humanoid races that produce it.
It is also during this time that Donisa answers the call of the gnome pantheon and takes up the mantle of the paladin.
-4: The Fratellanza di Sette Petalo returns to face Blackblight. In a ferocious battle, they decimate QotleQuorazan’s gnoll troops and force the great dragon himself to retreat. As he retreats, however, Blackblight unleashes his full might against one of the prison camps, blasting a rain of acid across the helpless gnomes and fleeing with eight of their children in his clutches. The Fratellanza rushes to help the victims of QotleQuorazan’s final attack but there are no survivors.
The next morning, the Fratellanza di Sette Petalo track Blackblight to his lair and confront him. After several frantic minutes of combat, during which several members of the Fratellanza are killed, they manage to rescue the kidnapped children and begin a fighting withdrawal across the natural bridge above Blackblight’s caverns. However, the ferocious Blackblight cuts them off, weakening the bridge with a ramming attack. The impact of his enormous bulk scatters the heroes and children and sends Sir Wolkenstein hurtling from the bridge. As the surviving heroes struggle to gather the terrified children and protect their own lives, Ramepriscus resumes his true shape and swoops to the attack, catching QotleQuorazan by surprise and pursuing him high into the clouds. While the two dragons battle high above, Donisa finds and gathers all but one of the children. There is no sign of the last child, so the Fratellanza reluctantly abandon the search.
The battle reaches its climax when Ramepriscus tears out QotleQuorazan’s eyes with his claws. Mortally wounded, QotleQuorazan clings to Ramepriscus and both are sent hurtling to the earth. As they plummet down the last kidnapped child appears, running across the bridge towards safety. Before he can reach Donisa’s waiting arms, however, the two dragons slam into the bridge, splintering it upon impact. Both the dragons and the child plunge into the river far below. Ramepriscus is the only survivor.
-3 to -1: During the next three years, the surviving gnomes of QotleQuorazan’s prison villages abandon their former homes and establish a new home in the ruins of the old dwarven mining village, using a small part of the dead dragon’s hoard to re-establish themselves. The rest is given as a reward to the last members of the Fratellanza di Sette Petalo and to the dragon Ramepriscus.
Ramepriscus, wracked with guilt over the death of the last kidnapped child, adopts the gnomes as his own and swears to himself that he will watch over them as a father watches his children.
0: The gnomes begin construction of their new city and lay the first foundations of a new bridge that will span the Ombo river canyon. They name their new home Stonebridge.
Love, Birth and Prosperity
1 to 33: Construction of the city continues nonstop. In the eighth year after the founding, the city’s first cathedral is founded. In the ninth year, the foundation is laid for what would become the enormous Palazzo Drago. In year 11 the new bridge is completed. Ramepriscus dubs it Ponte Sofferenza, or Misery Bridge. During this time, the vein of gold beneath the city runs out and is abandoned.
During the same period, Mockingleaf establishes Stonebridge’s first vineyard and harvests the first clusters of fat red grapes that the city would become famous for. She also helps the gnomes perfect their skills as mushroom growers and shepherds. Meanwhile, Ustilor establishes the city’s first academy of arts, passing on his love of music, philosophy and painting to his students and laying the groundwork for the artistic culture that so dominates the city.
Finally, it is during these years that Ramepriscus and Donisa realise they are slowly building a relationship that goes far beyond friendship. They secretly become lovers.
34: Ambassadors from a distant dwarven city arrive, offering treaties and establishing trade agreements that still stand in the present day. The people of Stonebridge discover there is an enormous market for both their wool and wine. Within a short time, many local shepherds and vintners have become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
76: In the 76th year after the founding of Stonebridge, Mockingleaf finally succumbs to old age. She is buried with great ceremony in a tomb that Ramepriscus creates with powerful sorcery in a meadow south of the city. When the city later engulfs the meadow, it is preserved as a public garden, the Giardino de la Rimembranza, or Garden of Remembrance.
83: Donisa gives birth to her first child. The girl is born with glittering copper skin, soft claws on her fingers and toes and a snakelike tail that is as long as her body. With her first cry, she summons up a chattering swarm of crimson motes that flit about the corners of the room. Donisa and Ramepriscus name her Abrielle and announce her birth in a public ceremony. Much to their surprise, the child’s mixed dragon/gnome heritage is seen as a great blessing and the child is showered with gifts and adoration.
91: The guild of wool merchants, the Arti de Lana, is established.
93: Backed by the Ramepriscus’ enormous treasure hoard, the Arti de Cambiavalute, or guild of moneylenders, is formed.
119: Abrielle, now a young woman, begins to display an astonishing natural affinity for illusion magic. Ustilor, now fast approaching his twilight years, takes her as his final student. He pours all his efforts into her training and she proves a more than worthy student, gifted equally with brush, hammer and chisel, voice and especially illusion magic.
Death and Remembrance
125: Ustilor dies. At his funeral, which is attended by hundreds, Abrielle performs a ballad written in his honour. Her vocal performance is accompanied by several complex illusions that bring Ustilor’s heroic deeds to life. They culminate in a fanciful programmed image that, displayed in the manner of a tapestry brought to life, recounts the entirety of the Fratellanza di Sette Petalo’s battle with Blackblight. Within days of the funeral, dozens of Stonebridge’s richest citizens commission Abrielle to recreate her performance.
127: Donisa gives birth to her second child, a boy she names Egiodeo. Like Abrielle, the child is a halfdragon.
128 to 241: The guilds come to dominate business. In addition to the arti, several lesser guilds rise to prominence. These are dubbed the arti minore. During these years, Abrielle continues to perfect her craft. She accepts a handful of magically-inclined students as her pupils, including her brother Egiodeo, who proves to have the same facility with illusion his sister does. Word of their talent spreads beyond the walls of Stonebridge and wealthy foreigners seek them out, both for study and to commission their talents.
242: The juvenile female copper Valferax arrives in Stonebridge. Distantly related to Ramepriscus, she demands that he allow her to lair within the city. Ramepriscus acquiesces only after she bribes him with both gold and priceless art antiquities. She brings dozens of servants and her own half-dragon artist, Folpertus, with her. Though he has no gift for magic, Folpertus is a sculptor and architect of unmatched ability and he immediately becomes a favourite among the city’s art collectors.
261: Folpertus and Abrielle wed. Neither Donisa nor Valferax approve of the union and Egiodeo, who is Folpertus’ bitter rival, refuses to attend the ceremony.
263: Abrielle gives birth to the twins Livio and Marignano. Though neither is a half-dragon, both carry the legacy of their parentage. They are the first dragon-touched and both inherit their mother’s sorcerous gift.
278: At the beginning of the year, Donisa’s heart begins to fail her and she dies a few months later. Grief stricken, Ramepriscus flees the city.
279: Church elders elevate Donisa to sainthood as the Madre di Drago, the Mother of Dragons. Construction of the temple that bears her name is begun.
284: Ramepriscus returns to the city disguised as an elven merchant. At exactly midnight on the winter solstice, he conducts a secret ritual on a hill overlooking the city using an artefact called the Nero Candela, // or //Black Candle, to increase his power. At the end of the ritual, Ramepriscus casts a seedling wyrm spell over the entire city. He then resumes his true shape and returns to Stonebridge, telling no one what he has done.
The Evolution of Genius
285 to 400: Hundreds of children are born with coppery skin, golden eyes and a dusting of soft scales across their backs and temples. Scores more are born as either half-dragons or dragon-touched. Many of these children have a natural talent for sorcery. It is during this time that the terms sangue di drago and sognotore de la sangue di drago first come into common use.
401: Both Abrielle and Folpertus drown in a boat accident on the river. Six months later, Egiodeo commits suicide, leaving behind a note confessing that he engineered the accident that took their lives.
422: A third copper dragon, Cacavelius, takes up residence in Stonebridge. He establishes a lair in the Palazzo Drago, sharing space with Ramepriscus.
423 to 631: The 200 years after the arrival of Cacavelius are relatively uneventful. The sangue di drago and sognotore de la sangue di drago born immediately after Ramepriscus’ ritual establish the system of apprenticeship and patronage that continues to the present day. Their own children continue to display the characteristics of dragons, though fewer are born as dragon-touched or half-dragons.
During these two centuries, Ramepriscus becomes more and more withdrawn and is only rarely seen outside the Palazzo Drago. Cacavelius and Valferax mate in 587 but the clutch never hatches.
632: A large amphitheatre located a short distance beyond the city wall is destroyed in a massive fire during a dress rehearsal, the day before a new opera is to open. In 641, the theatre is discovered to be haunted by the ghosts of the opera troupe that died there. The theatre is dubbed the Teatro de la Fantasma, the Theatre of the Phantasm.
733: DunDalveron is born to a simple farmer and his wife. His genius is apparent almost from birth.
754: At the age of only 21, DunDalveron sculpts his first illusory masterpiece, the Afflitto Sovrano, or Stricken King. He leaves his master and opens his own studio.
807: Calderus is born to one of the guildmasters of the Arti de Cambiavalute.
880: The Week of Dreamer’s Tears. Lingering resentment between two important families with strong government ties spills over into a week of open warfare in the city’s streets. During the last day of the fighting, three sognotore de la sangue di drago under the patronage of one of the warring families are murdered in their studios.
Ramepriscus himself puts an end to the fighting, crushing the palazzo of the warring families beneath his feet and tearing the murderers to pieces with his claws. The survivors of the two families are banished from the city. In the months after the Week of Dreamer’s Tears, both DunDalveron and Calderus leave Stonebridge. Cacavelius and Valferax leave as well, flying north. Disillusioned, Ramepriscus disappears into the caverns below the Palazzo Drago and is not seen for nearly a decade.
909: Calderus returns to Stonebridge.
911: DunDalveron returns to Stonebridge.
916: Cacavelius and Valferax return.
1077: Valferax lays a clutch of five eggs. Three of the eggs hatch and the wyrmlings Bencavenax, Issabeld and Lantalzanax are born. The other two eggs never hatch.
1115: The present day.
Citizens of Stonebridge
The majority of Stonebridge’s citizens are gnomes descended from the survivors of Blackblight’s herd villages, who fled their prisons to live under the protection and guidance of Ramepriscus and the Fratellanza di Sette Petalo. Fearful and isolationist during the first centuries after the founding, the gnomes interbred only within their own limited population and with Ramepriscus and his kin, so they share many common traits. Stonebridge gnomes are larger and more muscular than other gnomes, a legacy of both Blackblight’s forced breeding programs and the touch of draconic heritage they all share. That shared legacy shows itself in other ways such as sparkling metallic skin, naturally spiky reddish blonde hair and wide green eyes with pupils slitted like a cat’s, are ubiquitous, and most citizens have naturally sharp nails and slightly pointed teeth. In addition, Stonebridge gnomes live longer than their fellows, rarely dying of natural causes before the age of 450 and potentially living centuries more than that.
Though they are outnumbered more than ten to one by gnomes, members of other races do consider Stonebridge home. Dwarves, who traditionally share a strong kinship with gnomes due to their shared love of gadgets and precious stones, are relatively common. Elves too, who consider Stonebridge, haven for art and philosophy that it is, to be the highest achievement of non-elven culture, are relatively common. There are few humans in the city, both because the city was not built with their comparatively large stature in mind and because Stonebridge gnomes consider all but the brightest and most artistically gifted humans to be the equivalent of inquisitive children, treating them accordingly. Half-orcs are almost never seen in the city – considered to be oafish simpletons at best and openly scorned, few can stand to stay in Stonebridge for long.
Though there are exceptions, particularly among the farmhands and shepherds who live in the hills around the city, the average citizen of Stonebridge is better educated than his contemporaries in other cities, with an understanding and appreciation of history, philosophy, science and art. Discussions and often heated debates about one or more of these subjects are common in both the public rooms of the city’s inns and the private salons of the wealthy. Even streetsweepers spending a few idle moments lounging in the shade can be overheard arguing the merits of stone versus bronze as an artistic medium. Likewise, though they have the love of humour that all gnomes share, Stonebridge gnomes prefer well-written satire and friendly but competitive games to puns and tricks.
The Gnomes of Stonebridge
The gnomes of Stonebridge, as mentioned above, are larger and more long-lived than their typical cousins. A Stonebridge gnome follows all of the racial guidelines presented in Core Rulebook I, except as noted in the tables below. The first listing in each column is for males, the second listing is for females.
Random Height and Weight
Base Height Height Modifier Base Weight Weight Modifier 3 ft. 5 in. +2d4 45 lb. x3 lb. 3 ft. 3 in. +2d4 40 lb. x3 lb.
Adjusted Age Categories
Adulthood Middle Age Old Venerable **Max. ** 40 150 260 370 +4d%
The Sangue di Drago and Sognotore de la Sangue di Drago
All Stonebridge gnomes have at least a touch of draconic blood. For most, this manifests only as cosmetic changes and a longer life, but a precious few inherit at least a portion of their ancestor’s might, gaining strength, wisdom and, most importantly, an intrinsic understanding and control of the natural flow of magic. These few are the sangue di drago and the sognotore de la sangue di drago.
The sangue di drago, or dragon’s blood, are the social and political elite of Stonebridge. The birth of a sangue di drago is greeted with great excitement, with the newborn and his parents showered with gifts from well wishers of all social stations. Soon after the birth, he is officially adopted by one of the patrono drago, who ensures that the child never wants for comfort and is given a thorough education in politics, religion, art and science. This ‘adoption’ is more a formality than a true assumption of parental duty, as the child continues to live with his natural parents, is still considered a member of their family and has only intermittent contact with his adopted parent. Over the centuries there have been a few exceptions, most often when a child is born to extremely poor or neglectful parents. In such cases, the child is raised in fosterage, either in the Palazzo Drago or as a ward of an older sangue di drago’s family.
When a sangue di drago reaches the age of majority, he is gifted with a small palazzo and a considerable sum of money and is encouraged to go into business for himself. As a result, all but the most incompetent sangue di drago quickly take their place among the wealthiest and most influential members of the city. The upper echelons of both the Arti de Cambiavalute and the Arti de Lana are occupied by sangue di drago and they hold prominent positions in the arti minore as well. A bit of resentment does simmer between the sangue di drago and both Stonebridge’s poorest residents and the wealthy of the city who earned their wealth via more traditional means, but it is minor.
Above the sangue di drago stand those citizens blessed with the innate ability to control the forces of magic, specifically illusions. To most of the world they are known as sorcerers but to the citizens of Stonebridge they are the sognotore de la sangue di drago, the dreamers of the dragon’s blood. When a child with sorcerous potential is discovered, he is immediately adopted by one of the patrono drago, in much the same way that the sangue di drago are, and is also given as an apprentice to an older, established sognotore de la sangue di drago. Since so few children have the gift (even among the sangue di drago), they are doted over by their patrons and their masters, who both take as much of an active role in moulding the child as his natural parents do. Unlike the sangue di drago, when a sognotore de la sangue di drago reaches the age of majority, he is not given gifts of gold or property. Instead, it is expected that he will use his skills with illusion to make his own prosperity and fame.
Only those born with a natural affinity for illusion magic join the ranks of the sognotore de la sangue di drago. Those whose talents run to other forms of sorcery are given the same respect and opportunities accorded the sangue di drago, as the citizens of Stonebridge believe wholeheartedly that dragon’s blood flows in the veins of all sorcerers.
At no point in history has there ever been more than two-dozen sognotore de la sangue di drago living and working in the city at any one time. Currently there are 14 of various levels of power and accomplishment living in the city, including the ‘failed’ artist Sforza and the great rivals, DunDalveron and Calderus, perhaps the greatest artists who have ever lived.
The Patrono Drago
The patrono drago, or dragon patrons, are copper dragons descended from or distantly related to the great wyrm Ramepriscus, who serve as the true rulers of Stonebridge. The patrono drago influence the city’s government, back its merchants and provide reward and inspiration to its finest artists and thinkers.
As a group, the patrono drago hold themselves aloof from the day to day workings of the city. Concerned most with matters of art and wealth, they have little contact with most of Stonebridge’s citizens, secreting themselves away behind the doors of their colossal palazzo or sunning themselves on rooftops and the dozens of sun chambers built into the walls of the canyon. Even when they walk the city streets, they take only cursory notice of the gnomes scurrying out of their way. Though it may appear otherwise, the patrono drago do not despise the gnomes, they simply do not know how to relate to them. For their part, the common citizens are both fascinated and fearful of their mighty neighbours, even after generations of living side by side with them. In many ways, the patrono drago are treated much as kings and queens are – they are gossiped about and envied for their beauty and wisdom, but few citizens wish to draw their attention.
Conversely, the patrono drago are extremely interested in Stonebridge’s sangue di drago and sognotore de la sangue di drago. The dragon patrons have whiled away the long centuries since the city’s founding cultivating these artists and thinkers, inspiring them to reach ever greater heights of creativity. These artists are the patrono drago’s greatest treasures and they vie constantly with one another for their loyalties.
All half-dragons are sangue di drago but not all sangue di drago are half-dragons. Those who fall into this group are the dragon-touched. Unlike a half-dragon, whose mother or father must be a dragon, a dragontouched can be dozens of generations removed from his draconic ancestor – so long as even a drop of dragon blood remains in the bloodline, there is potential for a dragon-touched to be born.
Creating a Dragon-Touched
‘Dragon-touched’ is a template that can be added to any living creature (referred to hereafter as the ‘base creature’). The creature’s type does not change. It uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
AC: The natural armour of the base creature improves by +2 and they have a light scattering of reptilian scales running up their back, stomach and neck.
Damage: Dragon-touched of Large size or larger have a 75% chance of possessing claws and the same chance of possessing fangs, allowing them to make claw and bite attacks respectively. Creature of Medium-size or smaller have a 50% chance of possessing fangs but only a 25% chance of having claws capable of making a viable claw attack. If the base creature does not normally have these attack forms, use the damage listed below. Otherwise, use the creature’s base damage, or the damage listed below, whichever is greater.
|Size||Bite Damage||Claw Damage|
Special Attacks: A dragon-touched retains the special attacks of its base form and gains a weak breath weapon based on its dragon ancestor’s species. The breath weapon is usable once a day and follows the normal rules for breath weapons, except as specified.
|Dragon Variety||Breath Weapon||Damage (DC)|
|Black||Line* of Acid||2d4 (16)|
|Blue||Line of Lightning||2d8 (17)|
|Brass||Line of Fire||1d6 (16)|
|Bronze||Line of Lightning||2d6 (17)|
|Copper||Line of Acid||2d4 (16)|
|Gold||Cone** of Fire||2d10 (19)|
|Green||Cone of Gas||2d6 (16)|
|Red||Cone of Fire||2d10 (18)|
|Silver||Cone of Cold||2d8 (17)|
|White||Cone of Cold||1d6 (15)|
|* A line is always five-feet high by five-feet wide by 30-feet long.|
|** A cone is always 15 feet long.|
Special Qualities: Dragon-touched possess all the special qualities of their base form and gain low-light vision and darkvision to a range of 30 feet. In addition, they gain a +4 bonus to all saves against sleep and paralysis effects and have energy resistance 10 versus a specific type of energy, based on their dragon species.
|Dragon Variety||Energy Resistance|
Attributes: Modified from the base creature as follows: Str +4, Dex +0, Con +2, Int +2, Wis +0, Cha +2.
Feats: A dragon-touched has access to all dragon feats.
CR: Same as the base creature +1.
Apprentice, Master and the Pursuit of Genius
The romantic ideal of the artist as reclusive genius, working his magic in complete isolation, is simply popular myth, at least so far as the artists of Stonebridge are concerned. With the exception of the works of a few perfectionists, most notably the finicky sognotore de la sangue di dragos Calderus and DunDalveron, the creation of art is a collaborative process, involving a master artist and all his apprentices. Further, the idea that an artist restricts himself to one form of artistic expression, be it sculpture, architecture, composition or illusion craft, is another myth. Though certainly each artist has a preferred medium, they dabble in many, both to keep their inspiration fresh and to serve the needs of their patrons.
It is common practice for accomplished artists to establish their own studio in the city, hiring assistants and accepting promising young talents as apprentices. An artist’s studio is a workshop in much the same way that a blacksmith’s is. Open to the public, the studio buzzes with activity all hours of the day, apprentices and assistants preparing canvases, mixing clay or stoking kiln fires while the master negotiates commissions or conferences with his peers. Even when it comes time to actually create the artistic work, the apprentices and assistants play their part – while the master concentrates his efforts on the central figures of the composition, his assistants are responsible for painting, carving or enchanting the background and secondary elements.
Regardless of this cooperative effort, it is the master’s style and vision that dominates the work and it is his name alone that is associated with the finished piece. Though they often chafe under the forced anonymity, a young hopeful’s best chance for establishing himself in the insular world of Stonebridge’s elite patrons and artists is to be accepted as an apprentice. Most apprentices are accepted when they are children, after they have shown the spark of creativity but before they have had time to become set in their ways. Though a master may have any number of apprentices, most have less than a dozen.
An apprentice’s life is consumed with study and repetitious practice. He must have a great understanding of perspective, the play of light and shadow on figures and a commanding grasp of myriad artistic techniques. Apprentices can expect to spend entire days practising the same brush stroke again and again, stoking and then cooling the kiln fires for hours on end or perfecting a single phrase of an incantation. In addition to his studies, an apprentice is responsible for keeping the studio clean and mixing and preserving pigments, spell components and other materials.
A typical apprenticeship lasts about 20 years, ending when the apprentice reaches the age of majority and leaves to establish his own studio. Particularly gifted students often leave well before this – DunDalveron, for example, abandoned his apprenticeship before he was 30 years old, having years before eclipsed his master in both talent and ambition. Likewise, a poor student may spend the rest of his days as an assistant to his master, though it is more likely that his master will simply wish him well and show him to the door.
Often, an apprentice stays on at his former master’s studio, working as a junior partner until he gains enough of a reputation that he can open his own studio. There is no stigma attached to this practice, though most artists strive to establish their own studio as quickly as possible.
Rivalries and Friendships between Studios
Artists are a passionate, contentious lot given to intense rivalries, feuds, friendships and love affairs that boil for months or (in the case of the long-lived dragonblooded) centuries, before abruptly ending as quickly as they began. The fierce competition for patronage makes these sorts of conflicts inevitable, and common and upper class citizens alike have come to view the antics of the master artists and their allies as a kind of grand theatre, a cycle of petty dramas as entertaining as the masterpieces they produce.
For the most part, masters and their former apprentices maintain good relations, as do those artists who apprenticed together under the same master. This general sense of good feeling is due more to common artistic sensibilities than it is to loyalty – feuds between masters and former apprentices are especially vicious, creating rifts that are rarely, if ever, healed.
The Apprenticeship of a Sognotore de la Sangue di Drago
If and when a dragon blooded child shows an aptitude for illusion sorcery, he is immediately given over as an apprentice to one of the city’s sognotore de la sangue di drago. The competition over these children is very intense, with established masters and their patrons bribing, blackmailing, sabotaging or outright coming to blows with one another over the right to tutor them.
Science in Service to Dream
In Stonebridge, science and art are intertwined and it is believed that an understanding of one is necessary for the mastery of the other. In fact, the greatest artists of Stonebridge are also its premiere intellectuals and scientists. They learn mathematics, particularly geometry, and have a mastery of perspective no other artist can match. They pore over medical texts and perform autopsies on corpses, gaining an intrinsic understanding of anatomy that gives their paintings, sculptures and illusions the weight of realism; even studying astronomy charts and nature treatises so that even the backdrops of their masterpieces are faultlessly authentic.
Likewise, academic studies in Stonebridge are coloured and shaped by artistic concerns. Architects push the boundaries of conventional design, while those who study botany or animal husbandry are as concerned with crossbreeding species for pleasing colour and scent as they are with enhancing robustness and crop yield.
Finally, Stonebridge’s intellectual elite considers the study of philosophy and religion to be of paramount importance. In addition to their other accomplishments, many of the city’s premiere artists, particularly among the sognotore de la sangue de drago, are also ordained priests – to their way of thinking, to understand the will of the gods is to ultimately unlock the secrets of creation.
Clockwork Bulls, Hot Air Balloons and Iron Birds
As a race, gnomes are famed for their aptitude for engineering and building technological devices and this is doubly true for the artistically inclined Stonebridge gnomes. As the study of science and art are so intrinsically linked, it is only to be expected that Stonebridge has been the birthplace of many of the world’s most magnificent inventions, particularly in the 400 years since the birth of DunDalveron. Born with both a peerless intellect and almost unequalled artistic genius, he has created dozens of ingenious mechanical devices, both practical and fantastic. However, DunDalveron rarely accepts commissions for his inventions, as the inspiration for their creation comes in fits and starts. His latest invention, a flying machine powered by science and dubbed the air screw, has captured the imagination of the city.
Though Stonebridge’s artists are its most celebrated citizens, it is the city’s merchants that keep the coffers of the patrono drago overflowing, thus ensuring that the artistic genius of the sognotore de la sangue di drago never suffers for lack of money and materials.
Guilds in Stonebridge are separated into two informal groups: the arti, or arts, which are the greater guilds and the arti minore, or lesser arts. There are two recognised arti in Stonebridge – the Arti de Cambiavalute, the guild of moneylenders, which is backed by Ramepriscus and his kin, and the Arti de Lana, the guild of wool merchants, which manages the enormous sheep flocks and sells bulk wool worldwide. The Arti de Lana is far and away the larger guild, with between 500 and 1,000 members at any given time, but the Arti de Cambiavalute is the richer, with a membership composed of Stonebridge’s most successful citizens. Eight smaller guilds comprise the arti minore: the shoemakers, bakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, grocers, innkeepers, olive farmers and grape growers. Individually, none have the clout to match the arti, so the members of the arti minore have, by necessity, fostered strong ties with one another, lobbying as one large block in the face of the arti.
In many ways Stonebridge’s guilds, particularly the arti, resemble secret societies, with clandestine meetings, private religious ceremonies and masked processions through the streets of the city. For all of their secrecy, the arti and arti minore are benevolent organisations at heart, carefully regulating their business practices, sponsoring artists and intellectuals and seeing to the welfare of the thousands of labourers under their employ.
Faith and dragon’s blood course in equal measure through the veins of the citizens of Stonebridge. Deeply, unabashedly religious, the average citizen attends official services twice a week and prays privately for at least an hour each day. There are eight major churches scattered throughout the city proper and the nearby countryside and almost every house has a family shrine or prayer alcove – the larger urban palazzo and country villas have private churches that rival the major temples for beauty and size.
Several faiths have a strong presence in Stonebridge, with gods whose portfolios include trickery, knowledge, magic, the harvest, dragons and artistic endeavours most favoured. In fact, Stonebridge’s largest church is dedicated solely to the worship of the god of artistic endeavours and it is to this church that the majority of patrono drago and sognotore de la sangue di drago give their allegiance. Other faiths are tolerated, so long as they do not involve the worship of evil gods or lower planar beings, but they are not permitted to build permanent public temples.
When an especially pious or talented member of one of Stonebridge’s many faiths dies, they are sometimes elevated to sainthood. Saints serve as intermediaries between worshipper and god, but only in matters that concern those attributes or concerns the saint was known for in life. By donating or sacrificing important objects and invoking the name of the saint during prayers, the worshiper hopes the saint will intercede with the gods on his behalf. According to Stonebridge religious custom, saints are always associated with a particular god and may only intercede with that deity. Further, saints never directly interact with the living – a worshiper who appeals to a saint never receives any indication that his prayers were heard and although Stonebridge clerics often adopt a saint as their patron, they still gain all their spells from the deity.
Though Stonebridge has a history that spans millennia, few citizens have been elevated to sainthood, as only the most pious religious figures or prodigiously talented master artists are ever considered for that exalted status. The process of elevating a person to sainthood is long and arduous. First, a high-ranking member of the clergy or one of the patrono drago must sponsor the candidate. Next, the potential saint must undergo an exacting review and evaluation. During this period, every aspect of the saint’s life and accomplishments are pored over and debated ad nauseam – this aspect of the canonisation process is rife with infighting, as old friends and enemies of the candidate clash, bringing all their political power to bear. Should the saint’s reputation survive this period intact, he is considered worthy and requires only the approval of the highest ranking clergyman of the appropriate church to achieve sainthood.
The canonisation of a new saint is a momentous event and cause for weeks of celebration and religious ceremony but there has not been such an occasion in centuries. In fact, only one living being can claim to remember when the last saint was canonised, Valferax, who was the driving-force behind the canonisation of Donisa.
A Saint’s Remains
The mortal shell of a saint is a much coveted, priceless religious artefact and worshipers attribute all manner of holy powers to it, everything from restoring sight to the blind, to raising the dead. Unscrupulous conmen have long capitalised on this belief, selling locks of hair, teeth, fingernails and even desiccated fingers that they swear are taken directly from the body of whatever saint the gullible buyer favours. Both the legal and religious authorities of Stonebridge do their utmost to quash the practice but for each duplicitous merchant they imprison, two others take their place.
Each saint’s actual remains are carefully preserved in a beautifully decorated tomb in a church that bears their name, most often in a place of honour near or in front of the main altar. Each tomb is well protected by both layers of concrete and marble and potent, eminently lethal, magical wards. Should thieves actually penetrate the tomb’s mystic and mundane defences and abscond with the remains, no effort will be spared in hunting them down.
Government and the Law
‘The foolish man believes that a good king must, by his nature, be just. The wise man knows that a good king must, instead, appear to be just. Only then can he do what is best for fools and wise men alike.’
Stonebridge is nominally a republic, with a ruling council of 12representatives (four from each terzo), directly elected by Stonebridge’s citizens. In practice, Stonebridge’s government has more in common with a benevolent oligarchy, as the power of the elected representatives is wholly dependant on the whims of the patrono drago, particularly the ancient worm Ramepriscus. Fundamentally Chaotic and Good in nature, the patrono drago have a strong aversion to restrictive government, so Stonebridge’s laws are most concerned with safeguarding the personal freedoms of its citizens. The rights of Stonebridge’s citizens include but are not limited to:
- The Right to Property: A citizen, and only a citizen, of Stonebridge has the right to purchase and sell property within the boundaries of his terzo. This law applies only to existing buildings – a citizen who wishes to construct a new structure within his terzo, or who wishes to sell or purchase property outside that boundary, must obtain a permit from one or more representatives of each affected terzo. A non-resident who wishes to purchase property must first obtain citizenship, a somewhat daunting prospect.
- The Right to Representation: The head of each household, whether male or female and regardless of race, has the right to vote when it comes time to elect new representatives for his terzo. In most cases, status as head of the household is equated to property ownership, so servants (even those with large families) have no voting rights. Nor do those citizens renting property from one of the city’s many wealthy landlords, though some effort is being made to change this. Normally, representatives are elected every three years but in the case of death or other extenuating circumstances a new election can usually be held within a month.
- The Right to Trial: Every citizen is entitled to a fair trial for any crime committed within Stonebridge’s acknowledged borders. Citizens are not entitled to legal representation though, if they can afford to hire legal council, that councillor may speak on their behalf. Non-citizens have no such rights, though the inherent benevolence of Stonebridge’s rulers protects them from the sort of abuses that are common in other city-states.
The Terzo: The city of Stonebridge is divided into three terzo, or thirds – artificial boundaries established centuries ago by the government to aid in the administration of the city. Every citizen is a member of one of the three terzo, determining what representatives he can vote for and to which citizen’s battalion he reports in the unlikely event of invasion. For the most part, residents are intensely loyal to their terzo, considering themselves citizens of the terzo first and the city second. During festival games, teams are organised by terzo as often as by guild or familial ties. Historically, rivalries between the terzo have been intense but friendly, though the riots known as the Week of Dreamer’s Tears were sparked, in part, by longstanding hatreds between the representatives of two of the terzo.
Citizenship: Becoming a citizen of Stonebridge is a simple process, at least in theory. All property owners within the city are considered citizens, as are any who own property within a single day’s ride of the city’s walls. Further, the direct descendants of property owners are automatically given citizenship upon reaching the age of majority (the gnomes of Stonebridge consider the age of majority to be 40 years, regardless of racial considerations). Finally, an outsider may be accorded citizenship if he performs a deed of great service to the city. What exactly constitutes such a deed is undefined, though the whimsical patrono drago frequently bestow citizenship on skilled artists and bards as incentive to remain in the city.
Weapons and Magic: Visitors and citizens of Stonebridge have the right to openly carry arms, though they are restricted from using certain weapons. Ranged weapons, such as bows, crossbows and javelins, are expressly forbidden within the city’s walls, though small melee weapons which can be thrown as a secondary function, such as daggers and hand axes, are exempt from this restriction. Pole or two handed weapons, except quarterstaves, are also forbidden, though the personal guards of the patrono drago, sognotore de la sangue di drago and wealthiest citizens are not bound by this restriction. Finally, weapons must be carried in a sheath, or the equivalent, at all times – a weapon that cannot be so sheathed is not permitted. Visitors wishing to enter the city are required to sign any forbidden weaponry over to the care of the gate guard for the duration for their stay.
The use of magic is permitted within Stonebridge, though the arcane and divine arts are bound by tight restrictions. Lethal spells, such as disintegrate or finger of death, as well as any sort of damaging spell, are absolutely forbidden. The use of spells is not otherwise restricted, though the government will punish those casters who use their spells to commit crimes or bring undue harm to others.
Crime and Punishment: Stonebridge has a very enlightened legal system by most standards, guaranteeing the accused a fair trial and laying the burden of proof on the accuser. Stiff fines are the preferred punishment for lesser crimes, which include minor fraud, public fighting, slander, vandalism and public drunkenness (outside festival season). More serious crimes, such as theft, assault (with weapons or magic) or kidnapping, earn correspondingly harsher punishments, ranging from a day in the stocks to a decade in prison. The worst crimes, such as murder, sedition, major theft, rape, blasphemy and major fraud (tax avoidance, deliberately shoddy construction, etc.) can be punished with prison time of ten years or more, exile or public execution. Convicted criminals sentenced to prison terms, as well as accused awaiting trial, serve their time in the Prigione Municipale. One other crime and its punishment must be described in any discussion of Stonebridge’s law – plagiarism, the copying of another artist’s writings or art for the purposes of selling it as your own. Stonebridge’s citizens and rulers alike take a very dim view of plagiarism and, whether the plagiarist intended to commit the crime or not, the punishment is automatic and irrevocable exile from the city.
Stonebridge maintains a small but powerful city watch composed of equal parts professional mercenaries and elite warriors reassigned from the personal guards of the patrono drago. Details of a typical guard patrol can be found on page 50.
Stonebridge’s standing military is negligible in size, even by the standards of comparably small city-states simply because few intelligent beings would dare tempt the wrath of the patrono drago. In peacetime, the city watch doubles as the standing army and also maintains the three riverboats that make infrequent patrols up and down the Ombo. In the unlikely event that a large or powerful force threatens the city, Stonebridge’s ruling council of representatives can call up the levy. Every city resident, regardless of considerations of sex, old age or infirmity, can be called upon to temporarily serve, with each terzo expected to field a minimum of 500 soldiers in a battaglione, or battalion. Those residents who live beyond the city’s walls but are still within Stonebridge’s acknowledged territory are also expected to serve, composing a fourth, rag-tag battalion.
Mettersi la Dentiera
Of course, there are those for whom, whether because of age, infirmity, philosophical belief or innate cowardice, military service is tantamount to a death sentence. For those unfortunates, there is recourse – if they have the money, they can pay a mercenary to serve in their stead. A resident who hires a professional soldier in this fashion is said to be mettersi la dentiera, or putting in his false teeth.
Cycle of the Seasons
Stonebridge is a vibrant community all year round and each season has its own particular character. What follows is a brief description of a typical year in Stonebridge, including weather patterns, day to day activities of the citizens and examples of seasonal festivals and ceremonies.
The warmest of winter days in Stonebridge are crisply chilled, the coldest nights of deep winter so frigid that rodents and stray pets freeze in the streets and the patrono drago huddle together like kittens in the deepest chambers of the Palazzo Drago, surrounded by roaring bonfires. Despite the uncomfortable temperatures, foreign artists and nobility flock to Stonebridge during the winter months, as the skies are often a cloudless crystal blue, the ground and rooftops blanketed in boot-deep, sparkling snow and the trees draped in long fingers of ice.
During the winter, the sangue di drago and patrono drago prefer the comfort of their palazzo, sleeping much of the day and venturing out only in carriages. Even then, they protect themselves with layers of thick clothing and heavy fox and ermine fur-lined cloaks. The common citizens of Stonebridge are more comfortable with the chill temperatures, though they too, of course, favour bulky winter clothing. During the midday hours, the snow-covered streets still bustle with traffic and bakeries and street corner vendors do brisk business selling hot spiced wines, ciders, thick breads and roasted chestnuts.
Festivals and Celebrations: As would be expected, most of Stonebridge’s winter festivals are indoor affairs, usually taking the form of lavish banquets or sombre religious festivals.
- Riaccendersi Memoria: Riaccendersi Memoria, or Rekindling Memory, is an ancient draconic rite that has all but disappeared from the larger world. The ritual begins exactly at midnight on winter’s longest night and is held in the Piazza de la Sangue di Drago. Though the ceremony may be viewed by any who wish to attend, only the sangue di drago and patrono drago actually participate, clustering together in the centre of the square after a grand moonlight processional through the city streets. Awaiting them there is an enormous, jumbled stack of torches and a large ring of stones, the inside of which is carefully swept clean of snow. One by one, each of the patrono drago and sangue di drago steps forward and, picking up a torch from the stack, recites a litany of the accomplishments of a famous dragon patron or dragon blooded long gone. They then toss the torch inside the circle of stones. When each participant has spoken, Ramepriscus steps forward and ignites the bonfire with a simple spell. When the bonfire has burned down to embers, usually just before the first fingers of sunlight stretch over the horizon, the ceremony ends and the patrono drago and sangue di drago file out silently, retracing the steps of the grand processional.
In the first weeks of spring, as the temperatures rise and the sun creeps out from the behind the clouds, Stonebridge is renewed. Lush grass and wild flowers in a myriad hues run riot across the fields and trees grow thick and vibrant in the orchards and forest groves. In the city proper, window boxes and hanging baskets full of irises and wild flowers are hung from every eve and perched on every balcony. The early weeks of spring are among the wettest of the year, with short, torrential rains coming almost daily. Later in the season the showers are lessened but they never completely cease, frequently appearing without warning during otherwise clear days.
In springtime, the citizens of Stonebridge take to the streets in great numbers, strolling up and down the main thoroughfares, lounging in outdoor cafes or public gardens and generally using any excuse to stay outdoors as long as possible. Though spring sunshine does much to quicken the pulse of the city, a sense of drowsiness still hangs in the air.
Festivals and Celebrations: Festivals are common during in the springtime, with the city’s two most important, the Danza Nascosto Bambino and the famous Mostra de la Artigianato, being celebrated during this season. In addition to these important occasions, there are other, lesser celebrations, many commemorating the birthdays of important citizens or marking the groundbreaking of historic landmarks.
- Danza Nascosto Bambino: The Dance of the Hidden Children, held on the first day of spring each year, commemorates the liberation of the Blackblight orphans and the founding of Stonebridge. Just before sunrise, on the morning of the Danza Nascosto Bambino, all the children of the city who are under the age of 12, including those from outlying farms and nearby villages, gather in the Piazza de la Sangue di Drago. Waiting there are six respected citizens of Stonebridge, including Padre Tinucci, all dressed in colourful, stylised outfits representative of those worn by the Fratellanza di Sette Petalo. One by one, the gathered children draw strips of cloth from a large basket placed in the centre of the plaza. Most of the strips are blank, but two-dozen are marked with a red circle. The children who draw marked strips are the ‘Blackblight orphans’ and are brought forward to receive a mass blessing from the padre. After the blessing, the children race off through the dark morning streets, hiding themselves anywhere in the city, including the homes of perfect strangers, with no restriction save that they stay within Stonebridge’s outer walls. One hour later the ‘Fratellanza di Sette Petalo’ leave the piazza and begin the search for the hidden orphans.
When a child is found, the strip of cloth is tied about his right arm and he is escorted back to the piazza, with the child who manages to remain hidden the longest being proclaimed non salvato, or unsaved – representing the child the heroes of old were unable to save. The lucky child who becomes the non salvato is paraded through the streets of the city, where he is showered with copper coins and expensive baubles by Stonebridge’s citizens. He is then carried underground to the Piazza Memoria where, in a sombre ceremony, he is adopted by Ramepriscus. For the next year, the non salvato lives in the Palazzo Drago, where he is educated in art, language and science. At the end of the year, if he shows an aptitude for any of the subjects he studied, he becomes an apprentice to a respected master in the city. If he lacks the inclination for the higher studies, he is sent home to his parents with a tidy sum of gold.
- Mostra de la Artigianato: The Mostra de la Artigianato, or Exhibition of Handicraft, is a celebration of artistry that begins on the first day of the last month of spring and concludes at midnight on the last day of spring. During the Mostra de la Artigianato, which attracts artists from many nations, there are exhibitions of sculpting and painting, as well as theatrical and musical performances. By far the most popular displays of artistry, however, are the masterfully choreographed displays of illusion and enchantment put on by the sognotore de la sangue di drago. The Mostra de la Artigianato concludes with a great contest of illusion, held in the Teatro di Illusione, where the illusionists gather to see who can create the most spectacular and convincing illusion.
In the summer months, Stonebridge swelters, the heat rising in waves as the sun streams down for more than half of every day. Summer is the driest season, with grass crackling beneath feet and small ponds at their lowest ebb. Locals do their best to avoid the merciless heat, staying indoors when possible and conducting most of their business in the early morning or late evening hours, when the sun is still overhead but has lost much of its fury. Still, there is much work to be done in the summer time, with farmers tending grapes and olive fields and guarding the enormous flocks of sheep that graze the low hills to the northeast of the city.
Wildlife, particularly insects, is plentiful in the summer, with entire fields given over to clusters of chicory and red poppy and countless grasshoppers and crickets singing day and night. Butterflies, in colours ranging from drab browns to extraordinary shades not normally found in nature, are also extremely common in mid and late summer, particularly after Festa de Farfalla – when Ferruccio opens the dome of the Gabbia Dorato.
Festivals and Celebrations: Summer is festival season in Stonebridge and the frequent celebrations are charged with a feeling of unrestricted joy and playful whimsy. Colourful costumes are the rule, the wine flows in rivers and it is not uncommon to find overly indulgent revellers sleeping off their drunkenness in a shady doorway.
- Gioco del Ponte: The Gioco del Ponte, or Game of the Bridge, is a celebration of the effortless power that is the birthright of Stonebridge’s copper dragons. In the Game of the Bridge, a tremendous copper ball is placed in the centre of the Ponte Sofferenza, with teams facing off and attempting to push it across one side of the bridge or the other. The winning team gains no prize other than bragging rights, so the contest is intense but light-hearted. The copper ball, which is nearly the size of a house and weighs several tons, is made of shed copper dragon scales collected over millennia. When not in use, the copper ball occupies a place of honour in the Piazza de la Sangue di Drago.
- Compleanno de Santa Donisa: A day-long festival held on the 20th day of summer, Compleanno de Santa Donisa is a day-long celebration of Donisa’s birthday and later elevation to sainthood. Declared by Ramepriscus to be a day of being with one’s family, all businesses are closed and no citizen discusses the labours of their profession. The wealthier families typically hold grand parties that last the entire day, and frequently run well into the night, resplendent with expensive wines and foods.
- Festa de Farfalla: The Festival of Butterflies, held on midsummer day, is a modern adaptation of an ancient fertility rite. During the Festa de Farfalla, also known as the Day of Dancing Blossoms and the Day of Rainbow Winds, young children capture butterflies, meant to represent luck, beauty and crop fertility, in small wicker cages and sell them on street corners, where they are snapped up by eager adults. At the hour of sunset, adults and children alike gather in a field just to the south-west of the city, where they release the butterflies as the sun dips below the horizon.
- Other Celebrations: There are literally dozens of other, smaller celebrations during the summer months, many of which commemorate minor events of religious importance or are of importance to only a single family or closely tied group of families. Most of these celebrations are held outdoors and are open to all who wish to participate.
As the last days of summer fade into autumn, the air takes on an unmistakable crispness and chill rain and winds begin to pour through the valley, swirling through the streets and forcing the citizens to turn their collars up against the cold. The first weeks of autumn is the time of the vendemmia, or grape gathering, when the peasants of the outlying vineyards pluck mountains of sun-fattened red grapes and crush them into sweet wine. The vendemmia is also a time for the citizens of Stonebridge to cut loose in an endless succession of wine-soaked celebrations, nobility and common folk united as one hedonistic mass. Even the sognotore de la sangue di drago and patrono drago indulge in the revelry, particularly the younger ones, and it is during this time that most of the city’s illegitimate dragonblooded children are conceived.
After the vendemmia, the pace of daily life slows dramatically. The first frosts arrive late in the autumn, by which time the fields and forests around Stonebridge are awash in glorious reds and golds. The last weeks of autumn are the wettest of the year, with furious rainstorms that last days at a time.
Festivals and Celebrations: Of all the seasons, autumn is the quietest, a time for contemplation and reflection on the year’s events. As Sforza once said, ‘A man must take the measure of his own deeds, considering his successes and, equally, his failures. If he does not, his life will be nothing but empty striving.’ Still, there are a few noteworthy celebrations for characters to participate in.
- Guerra de la D’uva: The Guerra de la D’uva, or War of the Grapes, is a seven-day festival held annually in commemoration of an ancient feud between two competing families of winemakers. Held during the second week of autumn, the War of the Grapes is a competition between all the local winemakers to see who made the best wine from the previous year’s harvest. The ‘war’ is settled by popular vote, with the champion winery gaining prestige and an enormous boost in profits for the next year.
- Sagra de la Candela Funebre: The Sagra de la Candela Funebre, or Festival of the Grave Light, begins just after sunset on the last day of autumn – historically a frigid, heavily overcast evening. Sagra de la Candela Funebre is not really a festival; rather, it is a solemn vigil that requires Stonebridge’s citizens to honour a period of stillness and silence that lasts as long as it takes a tall candle to burn through completely (roughly from dusk to dawn). During the silence, each citizen is expected to contemplate some failure, prejudice or hatred that has occupied his mind during the previous year. At the end of the vigil, he must attempt to ‘bury’ it and no longer allow it to burden his thoughts. During the time of the festival, the city is absolutely still and quiet, save for the spatter of rain and the sounds of restless animals, a somewhat eerie experience for newcomers to the city.