Luskan, also known as the City of Sails, is a port city on the northernmost point of the Sword Coast. It is considered by most to be the furthest reach of civilization. The Spine of the World Mountains, which mark what most believe to be the end of the known world (in spite of the presence of Ten Towns in Icewind Dale), are just a few miles north of the city.
The city is ruled by a governor, assisted by the military expertise of a guard captain and the counsel of a vizier, usually a cleric. Currently these positions are held by Governess Neelani, Guard Captain Oliver, and Brethana Mineshadow of Mirabar. Brethana’s appointment is temporary, as she is there at the behest of Ren Deepmace to help until a new vizier can be appointed.
Built on the ruins of the ancient and magical orcish city of Illusk, Luskan is a port town frequented by pirates, thieves and other disreputable folk interested in money. Although life within its walls was dangerous, Luskan was a very lucrative city. Pirates brought in their goods to be sold to the black market, northern traders frequented the place as a rest stop on their way to the Ten Towns during the warmer months, ready to buy exotic scrimshander ornaments, several taverns traded in ale and other spirits, the drugs and slave trades were rife (although obviously sublimated) and information brokers and prostitutes plyed their trade during the night-time.
The city was officially ruled by the five High Captains: Taerl, Baram, Kurth, Suljack and Rethnor (who was succeeded by his second son Kensidan), all former pirate lords. The true power in the city resided with the Arcane Brotherhood, headquartered in the Host Tower of the Arcane. The 130 loosely affiliated mages used the High Captains as puppet rulers, mostly keeping to themselves and working on their own magical experiments.
They encouraged the harassment of the trading routes of small cities such as Longsaddle, Mirabar, and Neverwinter, although they kept well clear of Waterdeep’s and Amn’s routes. They also encouraged local traders to treat travelers with disdain and suspicion, due to the possibility that they may be spies for their enemies, often sending agents to follow strangers personally.
In the years after the Spellplague, Luskan fell into ruin. Over the next century, the rulership of the city changed from hand to claw to hand so many times that it would be nigh-impossible to document them in any kind of detail. The result was a mockery of a true city. Most buildings were ruined, murderers and demon-worshipers roamed the streets freely, plying their trade in broad daylight. Wretched tribes of goblins and kobolds skulked in the shadows and the fetid bog that was once the estuary of the River Mirar became infested with aquatic horrors. The city became a haven for escaped criminals who, while escaping punishment for their crimes were likely to die on the end of a psycopath’s blade or a monster’s claw.
Recently, a strong leader named Governess Neelani rose to power by defeating many of the most powerful criminals in the city. She turned the former Host Tower into a prison and court, and began summarily trying anyone caught committing a crime, however small. She began to gain the respect of the city, and soon recruited reformed criminals into her city watch and city guard. With the help of her vizier, Avonathemon, she was able to convince them that honest work could create a refuge from the fear and uncertainty of the street.