In the Chapter 1 of Ashes of Athas, the PCs arrived in the town of Altaruk after escaping a purge of Veiled Alliance members and affiliates in Tyr by a group calling themselves “the True.” In Altaruk, the governor of the town, Lord Arisphistaneles (hereafter called Lord Aris), showed himself to be a Veiled Alliance sympathizer. Unfortunately, Lord Aris was assassinated and the PCs framed for the murder. The PCs were able to clear their names and catch the real assassin. The PCs also foiled a plot of the True to turn an ancient elemental temple into a place that would serve the True’s evil plans.
Three weeks have passed since the assassination, and Lord Aris’ daughter Sartaj has claimed the governorship of Altaruk. While some have happily accepted her leadership, the town of Altaruk exists for the betterment of the merchant houses there, particularly House Wavir, House Tomblador, and House Rees. Without the backing of these houses, no one can hold power in Altaruk for long.
Since the town of Altaruk’s reason for existence is to serve the needs of the merchant houses, anyone hoping to hold the leadership of the town must gain and maintain at least some support from each of the houses; however, each of the houses also has its own agenda and intrigues. Each house wants favor shown to their interests, and the houses are not above bribery, extortion, blackmail, sabotage, and even murder to further their goals.
In fact, as Sartaj takes the reins of the town, each of the houses is using unscrupulous means to position itself to affect the political climate in Altaruk.
House Wavir wants to see Sartaj remain the leader of the town, but one of their members fears a Balican templar is going to be installed as leader. This Wavir agent takes it upon herself to hire a group to assassinate the templar before he arrives in Altaruk.
House Rees is unsure of who might make the best leader for their interests, but they know that Sartaj needs their support. Therefore, they seek to gain as many concessions from her as they can in return for their support. Unfortunately for them, the House Wavir member hired Rees mercenaries to assassinate the
templar, leaving Rees in an awkward position. They are implicated in the assassination attempt, but they also know that a House Wavir member is ultimately behind the plot.
House Tomblador has done the most to undermine Sartaj, but they are clever enough to cover their tracks well. They hope to make Sartaj look incompetent, forcing Balic to seize tighter control of the town. Tomblador feels Balican leadership best serves the house’s interests and hurts the other houses.