Thursday, 31 May 2012

City Tour: the Offal Pits & the Fighting Pits

The Offal Pits

That smell, that's the stench of a city packed full with 13,000 people; and that's just those who live here. Double, even triple that, and you come close to the number of people who pass through the city. All the waste they produce, all the food that's not eaten and thrown away, the corpses of those who can't afford a burial; all of it is hauled across the city, and dumped down the pits.

It's a stony splodge of land, full of natural fissures, pits and sinkholes, which lead down to caverns and tunnels that lead to the gods only know where. There are parts of the catacombs that are said to connect to these caverns, but no one's proved it. It's also rumoured that amongst all that filth is treasure to be found, but you'd have to have the constitution of an ogre to go into those caverns, and no sense of smell. Even then you'd have to deal with the well-fed Otyughs, or Offal-Eaters that live down there, feeding off our waste. Disgusting creatures, but useful, I'm sure you'll agree.

Oh, and if you ever want to buy or rent for cheap, there're a few places available, all on the edge of the pits, if you can stomach it.

The Fighting Pits

Our last stop before a quick visit to the RESIDENTS QUARTER. For sheer bloody entertainment, this is the place to visit. THE BLOODY KNUCKLE, commonly called the FIGHTING PITS, is the city's very own arena.

You can see why it's called the pits: sunken arenas that walkways and those stalls look down upon. The Knuckle is ran by the priests of Aadila, goddess of war, who tend to injuries suffered during matches. Only rarely does anyone die, and that's usually as a result of the rare, but popular, death matches. Sometimes the courts allow a criminal to exercise their right to trail by combat, and this is where they are held.

Ah, look down there. That is a rare sight. Yes, it is a giant spider, but it's no vermin. That, is a LOPPE, that elusive and exotic race of intelligent giant spiders that dwell in the STRANGLEVINE JUNGLE. Somewhere in the city is a nest of them, and they have a temple in the TEMPLE QUARTER. You get a lot of races passing through the City of Bones, some of which you've probably never heard of, let alone seen.

Now, let's pay a brief visit to the RESIDENTS QUARTER.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

City Tour: The Perfumed Privy & other taverns

The Perfumed Privy

Welcome to one of the best kept secrets in the city. The name puts most people off, the stink outside too. That's the smell of the OFFAL PITS; and believe me, it's a breath of fresh air compared to how it smells close up. That stench stays with you for days. This is as close as I'm bringing you, so don't frown so. I'll take you the long way to the RESIDENTS QUARTER. In the meantime, step inside. First drink's always on the house, so choose something good. I can heartily recommend the Bearded Ale, a dwarven brew that'll put hairs on your chest, regardless of your sex. See how quiet it is inside? It'll get busier later in the day, but not as crowded as the other taverns or drinking dens you'll find along CHEAPSIDE or even the GRAND BAZAAR. That large fellow, he's the owner, runs the bar most of the time, and cooks up a lovely stew once a week.

Hey Barney, got another lot. What'll you all be having? We can sit in the back room, through that beaded curtain there. That's one of the great things about the Privy; plenty of private rooms and secluded booths, a bit of privacy and quiet in the chaos of the city.

There are other taverns, of course. Some days it seems that there's a tavern or drinking den on every corner; no two are alike, and there's someplace for everyone. There're even more than a few taverns scattered about the TEMPLE QUARTER; for those priests who enjoy a drink there's the Pious Pilgrim; for those who prefer their drinks with less of a bite, there's a tavern called the Holy Chalice, a sombre place, best avoided to be honest. The district's have their own taverns, specialised for their clientele. In the ARTISANS QUARTER, the most popular place to drink, great if you're looking to meet a craftsman on neutral ground, is the blandly named Hammer & Anvil; the STONE DISTRICT has dwarf-designed and ran taverns especially for dwarf-folk. These are at least partially underground, with low-ceilings, little or no natural light, and frown upon non-dwarven patron; but, if you drink enough of their dwarven ale, or win one of their frequent drinking games, you'll be welcomed. The most tolerant of these 'Ale Pits', as they all them, is the Stone's Throw; the one to avoid, unless you're a dwarf of course, is the Orcs Skull, decorated with hundreds of skulls from slain orcs, goblins, and even ogres. They're a fierce lot who drink there, and are likely to lynch you if you're not a dwarf and try drinking there; if you're an elf, you'll be dead before you cross the threshold.

For a less troublesome drink, away from preachers, smiths or dwarves, there's the Soldier's Arms, just behind the MERCENARIES GUILD, which I'll point out to you when we finish the tour. They serve decent food, ale, and with the number of mercenaries who drink there, you'll be guaranteed some entertainment with a friendly brawl or two. A few streets on, closer to the East wall, is the Owlbear & Wyvern. It's renowned for its authentic stuffed Owlbear and mounted Wyvern head, both sat proudly on display in the taproom. Every year the City-Watch kidnap the Owlbear and hold it to ransom, for ale and free meals; a friendly game, with the landlord handing out a reward to anyone who can recover it before the end of the day.

Let's finish our drinks, then it's past the pits and on to the next part of the tour.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

City Tour: Artisans & Stone Districts

Artisans District

Separated from the dwarf community, the STONE DISTRICT, by narrow streets, the ARTISANS DISTRICT is where all the craftsmen make their goods. Most are sold elsewhere, and most of the workers actually live in the RESIDENTS QUARTER. This district is made up of workshops, forges, smiths and warehouses. If you want anything made, bespoke or otherwise, this is the place to come.

Stone District

We won't tarry here, as the dwarves like their privacy; but this is where the majority of them live. They have their own workshops and forges, but many of them are miners who work up in the hills beyond the city. They can be gone for days at a time, and rumour has it that they've started digging out a new home for themselves.

We'll move on now, and we'll stop for a drink and maybe a quick bite to eat at what, in my humble opinion, is the best tavern in the city; and thankfully not one of the better known or popular.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

City Tour: The Grand Bazaar

Someone once said that this is a city of markets, and it is true that there are an abundance of markets and travelling traders. We even have the NIGHT MARKETS, which appears in the dead of night, vanishing before sunrise, selling all manner of vices. None, however, compare to the great edifice, the GRAND BAZAAR.

As you can see, it's enclosed in this peaked, towering, arrow-shaped building, several stories high. It's a wide-open space, filled to bursting with stalls, booths, tents and shops along the walls. If you look up, notice the lack of additional floors; instead are three wide balconies, each catering to a particular merchandise. The first balcony is a collection of drinking dens, taverns and stalls selling  everything from the finest golden brandy, to fresh milk and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Above that is the market's best places to eat: restaurants, food stalls, and private dining rooms too. The topmost balcony is dedicated to entertainment. There's a place to gamble away your gold, a place to play games such as chess; there's even a small theatre that showcases a different play each week, three times a day.

It's the ground floor that really deserves your attention, however; indeed, I can see it has already captivated some of you. It's actually quiet now, if you can believe it; it gets busier around noon, and only begins to settle down again around midnight. You can see for yourselves how busy it is; imagine that tenfold, and you'll get a better picture of what it's like at its height.

Colourful, isn't it? That's to attract your attention, draw you in, entice you to buy their wares. You can buy practically anything here, or sell if you can find a buyer. You could even rent your own stall, if you were so inclined; although, it is quite expensive. Prices here vary, from too much, to surprisingly cheap; always a good idea to shop around, and you should always haggle; it's expected, and some consider it rude if you don't.

There's a crude sense of order, with certain types of shops in one area, but stalls contrast and compete against each other, for position and space as much as for their wares. It's not uncommon to find a bakery between a laundry and a taxidermist, for example. The more valuable and expensive goods are normally found in the shops along the walls, enclosed with sturdy doors and their own roof. Armourers can be found towards the rear, but they only sell armour or make minor repairs; the smiths are all based in the ARTISANS DISTRICT.

We'll take a walk through to the other exit. Mind your coin purses as we do. See those children? Most likely members of the BEGGARS' GUILD; they'll pick your pocket if you give them half a chance. Watch out for the elves too; they blend in, lurk in shadows, and are often difficult to spot. There's one over there, chewing on that rat-kebab; see him? No, he is an elf, I assure you. We call them URBAN ELVES, and as I mentioned before, they're true natives. Their ancestors were here at the beginning, and they adapted to life in the city. They're not like your leaf-loving, tree-hugging forest elves; this lot seldom smile, have hearts cold as ice, and their extended families are really little more than criminal gangs. They run, or have their hands in, most of the vices and crimes of the city. Like I said, keep an eye out for them, and avoid them if you can.

Right, over there is a stall that sells tasty sweet-meats for a few coppers; there's a stall that sells authentic elven jewellery, forest elves that is, nor our urbane ones. That colourful stall is Aljadeffa's Silks, some of the best and most affordable silk you'll find this side of the NOBLE QUARTER. Over there is our resident halfling, Porthus Waddle, chef extraordinaire, and the only halfling in the city, I believe. He is a superb cook, always willing to try out some new recipe. If you've slain a beast and fancy eating it, he's the one to see. He makes a mean gelatinous cube stew.

To your left is Omar's Second-Hand Goods; he buys used or no longer wanted equipment from adventuring parties, then sells them on at a discount. If you don't mind used goods, he's the man to buy from. To your right, the Pavilion, a tavern made of tents, serving a modest selection of ales and wine, for a fraction of the cost of the more expensive taverns on the balcony above.

Now we come to the back of the market, which exits out close to the ARTISANS DISTRICT, our next stop on the tour. The corners hold the forges and stalls of the smiths. If you're looking for armour, or need some repairs, check out Hammerfist's Forge; a dwarf-ran forge that is always of exceptional quality. You can see why he's called Hammerfist, that steel fist of his; he uses it to hammer the hot steel and iron. That figure behind him, that's his assistant, an automaton built by his own hands. You'll see a few of them around, especially nearer the dwarf district. For weapons, look no further than the opposite corner. That's Creed's Steel Emporium, and sells swords, axes, daggers and knives, anything made of steel. All top quality, all reasonably priced.

We'll take this exit. Next stop, the ARTISANS DISTRICT.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

City Tour: Merchants Quarter

  1. Pilgrim's Inn
  2. Torch-Bearers' Guild
  3. Grand Bazar
  4. Traders' Guild
  5. The Perfumed Privy
  6. Hammer & Anvil
  7. Stone's Throw
  8. Orcs Skull
  9. Soldiers' Arms
  10. Owl Bear & Wyvern
  11. The Fighting Pits
The MERCHANT QUARTER lines one side this street, TEMPLE AVENUE, and occupies most of the South half of the city. It's by far the largest quarter, housing businesses of every kind, numerous taverns, inns, brothels and markets. Further in are the ARTISANS DISTRICT, where the craftsmen work their trade, and the STONE DISTRICT, where the majority of the dwarves live.

It's the liveliest part of the city, bustling with trade and revelries, busy night and day. This quarter never sleeps.

As you can see, the avenue is lined with numerous shops, eateries, and drinking dens; it caters to travellers and tourists. Let me fill you in on a little secret: we locals call this CHEAPSIDE. Not that their goods aren't expensive– because they are– but because the quality is poor, rushed work and mass-produced rubbish. If you ever want to shop in the city, you want to go deeper into the quarter, ideally to the markets. We'll visit the best of those shortly.

We're turning South now, onto TRADE STREET. That building to your right is one of the oldest Guild Halls in the city: the TORCH-BEARERS' GUILD. It is the place to go to hire torch-bearers, lantern-holders, baggage handlers, guides and the like. They cater to adventuring parties mostly, delving into the catacombs or chasm, and, as their slogan says, you can hire them for "A Silver a Day, to Light Your Way". Although, to be honest, that's just the cost of their most basic services; they normally cost more.

Now we're going to leave the road and head East down his narrow street and onto this avenue. Most of these streets have no official names, only the paved roads are labelled, but the locals call this the GRAND AVENUE, as it leads to the GRAND BAZAR, which you can just see rising above the adjacent buildings, with its peaked rather than flat roof. You may have noticed that the majority of the city's rooftops are flat, influenced by the architecture of the kingdom a few centuries back, which we've adopted and continued with.

That busy building there? That's the TRADERS' GUILD, where disputes are settled, licences applied for, fees levied. It also serves as a bank, for a fee, and has well-guarded vaults flowing with gold, silver, and gems; or so it is said. It's the most powerful guild in the city, and its Guild Masters sit on the council, ruling as much as the clergy, possible more-so. And beyond that is our destination, the GRAND BAZAR.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The City of Bones: Introduction to the Tour

The City of Bones

Welcome, welcome, come closer, don't be shy. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Hamesh, and this morning I shall be your guide.

Our tour begins here, at the start of TEMPLE AVENUE, the main thoroughfare of Godsend; or, as it is better known, The City of Bones. To the North is the TEMPLE QUARTER, crammed full of temples, churches, shrines, and the homes of the clergy. Any god you care to mention, well-known or obscure, has someplace of worship in that quarter; and below lies the extensive network of catacombs and crypts that attract many a treasure hunter. Not that I'd advise you to have a go yourself; aside from the disapproving clergy, there're things down there that'd rip your face off, before you even realised you where in danger.

Why so many temples? Well that you ask, for the answer to that also explains the name of the city, its reason for being, and why the WEEPING CHASM– which we'll get to later– exists.

Several centuries ago, so history tells us, a great battle was fought here; the likes of which were never seen before or since, and hopefully never again. It was a battle between the gods, or to be exact, their Avatars: physical manifestations of their divinity, more powerful than the greatest cleric or magi; and there were hundreds. Some were allies, but for the most part it was every god for themselves, with thousands of their followers, clergy and soldiers, magi, monsters and constructs.

There was a city here long ago, the heart of which was but a few miles west of here, where the chasm is at its widest. No one knows who lived there, for it was lain to ruin during the battle. Such was the might, majesty, and wrath of the gods, that the very land was devastated; thousands of mortals died, their blood staining the land for miles around; which is why the stone here has a reddish cast. Not only mortals died, the Avatars too were slain in their hundreds; laid down by mystical fire, divine might, and powerful magic. At the height of the battle the death of several Avatars, all at once, split the very earth, ripping the ground apart; a great fissure opened, right beneath that ancient city, plummeting it, its inhabitants, and more than a few gods to their death and destruction. The WEEPING CHASM is the result.

When the battle ended, with no clear victor, only handfuls of clergy survived. All of the Avatars had been slain, their corpses scattered across the vast battlefield. To this day no one knows why the gods fought, although many suspect that it was over some artefact kept in the ancient city that once stood here.

The usual carrion-feeders, scavengers and looters soon swarmed to the battlefield, to profit from all that death and destruction. Word spread, attracting others, together with worshippers who came on a pilgrimage to the graveyard of the gods. These faithful quickly laid claim to the land, fought off the looters, and reclaimed the bones and rotting carcasses of their fallen gods. Over time a settlement formed, which was soon absorbed by the expanding kingdom.

Today, this city officially called Godsend, this City of Bones, has become the most holy city in all the realms. It might not be the largest, but it is certainly one of the busiest. We get all sorts here: pilgrims and mercenaries; merchants, artisans; adventurers and tomb-robbers; historians, explorers, archaeologists; rich men and poor. Most end up in either the TEMPLE or MERCHANT QUARTERs; those that live and work here, and can afford it, call the RESIDENTS QUARTER home; we even have a quarter that has been claimed by those with the gold to spare and spend: the NOBLE QUARTER; although it's not just full of nobles– it's also home to the library, the museums and art galleries, and the most expensive restaurants and coffee-houses to be found in the city. Then there's the GREEN HILL– you can see it from here, peeking above the buildings to the West, that fortified, walled hill– that's where the rulers of our city run the place, some even making their homes there. It's also where the council chambers, courts, prison and barracks can be found. The last section of the city, enclosed and walled off from the rest, is where the WEEPING CHASM begins. We'll pay a visit there, when we take a stroll to see the DELVERS' GUILD.

Every quarter is busy, even at night. They say the city never sleeps, and although it is quieter in the dead of the night, its true that there is always something to do, someplace to see, places to eat, drink, fuck, and spend whatever gold and silver lines your pockets. There's something for everyone.

We'll start our tour here, and I'll guide you through each section of the city, ending back here before the end of the day. If we're lucky, we might even finish before midday, just in time for a bite to eat. If not, rest assured, there're are plenty of places to refresh yourselves between now and the end.

I'll take you through the TRADE or MERCHANT QUARTER first, show you the GRAND BAZAAR, and the taverns that sell the best ale; you'll briefly visit the ARTISANS DISTRICT and the STONE DISTRICT, where the dwarves make their home away from home; we'll pass within sight of, but not smell of, the infamous OFFAL PITS, and you might even catch a glimpse of an URBAN ELF, naives of Godsend since the city was founded.

Next we'll take a quick detour through the RESIDENTS QUARTER, but only a brief visit as there's not a lot to see there, it being mainly homes and 'local' shops for the residents of the city. I'll show you the legendary WEEPING CHASM, as well as the DELVERS' GUILD who allow adventurers and the like to enter the ruins and tunnels below. Then we'll take a walk through the NOBLES QUARTER, with its wide tree-lined avenues, fancy houses and restaurants. You'll see the MONKS' LIBRARY, the MUSEUM of ODDITIES, and the TWIN TOWERS THEATRE.

Finally, we'll make our way through the TEMPLE QUARTER, past some of the most beautiful temples and old churches, including the CHURCH OF THE DIVINE FLESH, which I know some of you are curious about. And then we'll end our tour back here, outside the PILGRIM'S INN, where you can dine if you so desire; tell them Hamesh sent you, and they may even give you a discount.

Right, if there are no questions, let's make a start.