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“I fear there is only one way to determine if man is inherently good or evil. The observer must create an environment in which man is bound by neither laws nor rulers. This I propose to do here, in Halion, the free city. It shall become the vessel in which humanity's true nature is tested, for better or worse. I suspect that neither the Orator Court nor Thesse herself will interfere. After all, they must be as curious of the experiment's outcome as I...”
- From the Memoirs of Oriane Nicodon
The island that would come to be known as Halion began as a mining colony for argentate in 6C-267, long after its initial discovery by Kassenias Anton during his world journey. Argentate, a silver-toned metallic clay often baked into expensive pottery at the time, was a valuable asset and status symbol amongst the Alor nobility, particularly due to its rarity. Despite opposition against the location due to its proximity to The Daggerlands, the luxury mineral's value outweighed the risk of Golgorai-Asthas' potential expansion. Named C'æniquent, which loosely translates out of Old Alor as “isle of value”, the colony expanded to become one of the largest argentate mines of its time. As the mining town grew in population, it earned a secondary purpose as a midway resting point for the envoys of Eztalpaltl. Aloreh’s uncontested diplomatic relations with the legendary alchemy nation, despite their infrequent communication, helped C'æniquent to flourish from a small mining colony into a developing port city, serving as Aloreh's gateway to the eastern hemisphere. Despite the talk of The Daggerlands to the north, the endeavor upon C'æniquent was deemed an outstanding success, and by end of the sixth cycle had become a pivotal element of Alor society.
Similar to Corvingy and Virion Alesce, C'æniquent avoided political strife after the Second Calling due to its remote proximity from the mainland. As the mining colony was fairly self-sufficient by the time Llyrrh's call rang across the plane, they did not heavily suffer when the scheduled supply shipments failed to arrive from Methes Avonthes. However, when the annual envoy from Eztalpaltl failed to arrive on time, the city governor began to fear potential war with the nation of alchemy. When an Alor supply shipment finally arrived in 7C-32, they found a very different C'æniquent in their midst. Its people had built barricades along the port, and utilized its resident mages to raise craggy stone formations along the currents. With rougher waters, sharp rocks, and mounted wall ballistae to greet them; the Alor captains certainly arrived to a fearful sight. In these first three decades of the seventh cycle, the small mining colony had become a fortress, catering to local soldiers and their families. Everything from blacksmiths’ forges and rudimentary alchemists had sprung up within the marketplace. The local militia which had been intent solely on combating piracy had evolved into a fully functional force, partially thanks to a newly discovered forging process to weaponize the native argentate. By extracting the claylike mineral and adding a certain composition of alchemy reagents, it could be superheated to form a metal-like ceramic; stronger and lighter than steel.
With the Alor nobility divided amongst themselves, the Longweathers seated within the capital of Methes Avonthes deemed it of utmost importance that C'æniquent remain under Alor rule. An agreement was reached in which the city was granted the rights to all the argentate it had mined as its own, exonerating the traditional taxation of the mines’ supplies as a formal apology for the loss of communication and supplies to the city. With a treaty signed in 7C-34, a single set of argentate armor was gifted to patriarch Ludovic Longweather, who intended to use this declaration as a means to win over the other houses. Despite a solid claim over C'æniquent and the newly discovered forging technique, Longweather was unable to sway the other noble houses to their side. In fact, one could say it only increased tensions as the remaining nobility raced to acquire similar mines. Disaster struck entirely in 7C-102 with the appearance of the cunning Calix Moraeos, who intended to unseat Longweather’s hold over the mine. He knew the coastline's dangers and, rather than face them directly, chose a coming storm as cover against the ballistae and to hide his force's strength. Unable to spot Moraeos' men until they were nearly atop of them, the defenders of C'æniquent raised the city's alarms too late, resulting in a swift and bloody battle. The roused defenders attempted to hold Calix and his men at the coastal wall, but the storm's cover allowed his secondary forces to surround and drop fire upon the city. As civilians fled, the Moraeos forces overran the city and burnt a large portion of it to the ground. Among the escapees of the city were a young couple of nobility, Redmund and Madeline Resciodon, the great-grandparents of Erascion Resciodon, who fled to Methes Avonthes into the protection of House Longweather. With the loss of C'æniquent, the Longweathers’ best gambit for political power crumbled, granting the nobility of Aloreh a chance to consolidate their positions – leading to the Tournament of Voices in 7C-104 under the challenge of House Kastellon. Had the city held, it may very well have taken another thirty years before Aloreh was united, and the nation might be a much different place today.
C'æniquent remained a ghost town for years, its civilians having mostly fled; and the restructuring of the government left little time to focus on repairs. The chaos of the House Wars had taken their toll on C'æniquent, albeit at a delay from the rest of the nation. In addition, smugglers and privateers utilized the port on a regular basis; often looting what they could find and sending the ghost town further into disrepair. Settlement attempts were made on three occasions over the course of the next century, each leaving stragglers in their wake. Adapting to the chaos, these men and women went about what business they could with little or no leadership. Trading what they could to ships that passed by, they saw the last of the argentate drained from the city's mines in 7C-231, leaving C'æniquent on the verge of abandonment at the Eventide War.
It was the Eventide's conclusion, when war hero Oriane Nicodon was injured in the battle of the Crescent Run, that marked a turning point for C'æniquent. Hospitalized in the aftermath of the war, many feared the horrors unleashed in Calastore may have broken him – the sight of his men being slaughtered like animals as airships melted in the sky above. Leaving the hospital of Methes Avonthes on the 6th of Wind's Renewal, 7C-264, Oriane made his way to the Orator Court to petition for a barony. Respected among the court for his heroics, particularly by House Whistwallow, they passed his petition. When the court asked him which territory he sought, he smiled bitterly as he replied, “All the land I can see from the Cathedral of Thesse atop C'æniquent.”
When the locals heard a new lord would be taking control, they rejoiced – hoping to see the city restored to its glory. But when they heard what Nicodon had planned, their joy soon turned to fear. He desired a 'free city', a place where no questions were asked of those seeking to do business, where any could come and go as they pleased, and where a man was only limited by his ingenuity and cunning. Beyond requisitioning restoration to the Cathedral of Thesse, new city gates, and repairs to C'æniquent port, he had few plans to change the running of the city. The chaos, it seemed, had attracted the eye of Oriane Nicodon– and at the completion of the city hall on the 14th of Reckoning, 7C-264, C'æniquent was rechristened to Halion, removing the traces of the Old Alor name which clung to it, and declared it open to trade. He then retired to his manor, uncorked a bottle of wine, and watched to see what would happen...
In the three years since C'æniquent's rechristening, the city had grown more quickly than anyone could imagine. The War of Eventide drove a number of people to seek new beginnings: particularly black marketeers and merchant traders. Halion's policy of no taxation proved extremely lucrative to these entrepreneurs, and many became rich after just a few months in the city. Of course, this came at a price. Without taxation to support its civil services, Halion could not outright guarantee the safety of its citizens. Men who had made a small fortune on her markets sometimes found themselves robbed of everything they owned in a few short minutes. Thus those who lived and worked within the city soon learned to travel well-armed.
With no governing council, and only the barest hints of civic organization, the result has been a chaotic free-wheeling mess where no one has been able to establish real control, even Nicodon himself. As earlier noted, Halion does not tax its citizens, and has very little money to pay for the civic services that citizens of other cities often take for granted. Oriane Nicodon rarely intervenes with the government, content to watch his experiment, write his books, and drink his days away. While a city guard has been founded by some of the citizenry, it is able to keep peace in only a few areas, and lacks the manpower to prosecute anything other than overt criminal activities. The one department truly founded by Nicodon is the Hall of Records, run by Isemeine Castano and the Free-City Chroniclers. A clever way for Nicodon to keep tabs on his city, it exists to record every aspect of city life: births, deaths, immigration, business transactions, and most importantly – property ownership. All land within Halion, and transactions of it, must be registered with the Hall of Records, who have graciously put most of the registration fees towards the upkeep of both their archives and towards keeping the city guard in existence. Their extensive record-keeping and libraries not only serve as a hub of information, but also present the illusion that the government has more control over the city than it actually does.
Beyond the city guard and the Hall of Records, Halion exercises no direct control over its populace, allowing the citizens to conduct whatever business they wish without fear of reprisal. Many residents have learned to fend for themselves, rather than trust the city guard. They form vigilante groups, organize volunteer fire brigades, and pay for basic services out of their own pockets. In many neighborhoods, this has worked out well – yet for some unlucky ones, this has led to a “might makes right” standard, where powerful gangs lead through intimidation. Even more dangerous, however, are the 'big six'; a local nickname given to the six most powerful people and companies who reside on the island. Feared by most for the incredible wealth and power that they have accrued since the island's opening, few dare to oppose, and even fewer survive opposing, them. They are Oriane Nicodon, Ventus Bevinatore, the East Halion Mining Company, Steele & Grim, Valbert Moscriefe, and the Winnow & Sons Research Firm.