Northhaven and the Istalai

The settlement of Northhaven, half in half out of the icy sea, stands on the south coast of the frozen land to the northwest of the heartlands of old. Narrow ships, trade and fishing vessels, ply the cold waters, avoiding the floating slivers of sea-ice. To the north lies nothing but rock, inhospitable tundra, and glaciers. Northhaven is little more than dock district and a small hearth-hall, known chiefly for its fishing, whaling, and fur industries. It has only one prince, one Teller, and one Officiator. What distinguishes the settlement is a small house down by the waterfront, marked with the symbol of the Istalai. This is the house of one of the Sect's two Consuls.

Beginning with its founding father, Lord Yadashi, the Sect has chosen to live in isolation, in the bleak and deserted wastes to the north of Northhaven. They do not welcome outsiders, and cannot be found unless they choose to be found. They believe the world and the company of people serve to distract them from their spiritual search for the Mother Goddess, and they will live only with those who truly share their aim.

The few outsiders who seek the solitary life the Istalai offers, or who seek the Sect for some other reason, must first find the Consul in Northhaven. It is the Consul’s duty to evaluate all those who come to him or her to contact the Sect. If these travelers are deemed worthy by the Consul, guides will convey them to the House of Passing somewhere on the edge of the wastes. There they will be given instruction, a taste of the life of the Sect. They must remain in the House of Passing for a year, after which time they must make a choice. Either they must choose to accept the hard path the Sect offers, or they must choose to go back. Those who choose the former disappear into the wastes, never to see the outside world again except on pilgrimage; those who choose to go back are returned to Northhaven by the guides.

Northhaven itself exists for several reasons. One is to maintain a relationship with the Istalai, who are represented in the matters of the world by the Consuls (the other Consul lives in the City on the Lake, where the Sect began); the ruling princes consider the Sect in many ways to be a separate people, the rights of whom must be protected. The other reasons for Northhaven's existence are more utilitarian. It is the only place on the trade route between the Capital and Northlands where ships can take on more drinking water and supplies, and change crews. It is also a major source of fur trade, as the Sect conducts commerce with the Trade Guild - rare furs the Sect's hunters bring in in exchange for supplies such as grain, salt, and tools.