Wednesday, 27 June 2012

City Tour: The Temple Quarter

  1. The Church of Divine Flesh
  2. The Temple of Light
  3. The House of Dreams
  4. The Music Hall
  5. Lårs Dig
  6. The Maze
  7. The Ancestors' Tree
  8. The Jewelled Halls
  9. The Crimson Church
  10. House of Cards
  11. Winter-Hold
  12. The Pious Pilgrim (tavern)
  13. The Holy Chalice (tavern)
This is the final part of the tour, through the most diverse of all the quarters and districts of the city. Some call Godsend the City of a Thousand Temples, and this quarter is why. No one knows how many temples, churches, shrines and monasteries are to be found in the TEMPLE QUARTER. The main ones haven't changed or moved in centuries, but smaller ones come and go, with the waxing and waning of faiths.

And it's not just the established, recognised and respected religions; there are numerous cults, hidden in plain sight, worshipping all sorts of demons, devils, and chthonic gods. They're constantly being banished or stamped-out, but new ones replace them, and other sects take over their preaching. It's a turbulent quarter, maybe not as crowded or noisy as the MERCHANT QUARTER, but its currents run deeper and it can be deadlier.

Rest assured, my tour only takes you through the safer streets. I'm going to show you some of the more interesting places of worship, before we visit the CHURCH OF THE DIVINE FLESH to conclude our tour.

Don't mind them. You'll see a lot of preachers like those, on platforms of crates, along avenues, streets and down alleyways; sometimes on the balconies of temples; they're the evangelists of their orders, the touts, faith-merchants, call them what you will; some of them are little better than beggars to be honest. Best to ignore them.

Follow me, and I will show you one of the most delightful temples in the city.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

City Tour: The Green Hill

  1. The House of Mind, Body and Soul (Council Chambers)
  2. Courts
  3. City Prison
  4. City Hall
  5. Tax Office
  6. Academy
  7. Barracks

You can see why it's called GREEN HILL; it's the only expanse of grass for miles. Took them years to cultivate it, and a fair amount of magic too. Trees line the main streets, bushes elsewhere, and every building has its own roof-garden. Only councillors, their assistants and families are allowed to live here; although you will note that none of these buildings, save the Council Chambers, are as richly decorated as those in the NOBLE QUARTER.

The other buildings are council-owned, where are laws are passed, enforced and the breakers of such as tried and sentenced. That grand building at the centre of the hill is the HOUSE OF MIND, BODY AND SOUL, the city's COUNCIL CHAMBERS. That's where the council of priests, nobles, and Guild Masters hold their weekly meetings to discuss the concerns of the city. They're split into three factions, each with their own area of influence and responsibility. The MIND deals with the laws of the city; making, enforcing and protecting them. Nobles make up the majority of that faction. The Guild Masters are the majority in the BODY faction; they're responsible for the health of the city, its maintenance and safety, collection of taxes, and the implementation of many of the city's laws. The SOUL is, as you'd expect, the domain of the clergy and they fill it. They're the cause of most arguments and debates, often just amongst themselves. Due to the numerous religions of the city, the faction's membership is continually changing as they are elected on a rota of seats. They look after all religious matters, and are the most powerful and influential of the councillors.

Surrounding the chambers are the COURTS, where the judges pass sentence on criminals; the PRISON, where the criminals often end up, and which are largely underground within the hill itself. The public CITY HALL is on the opposite side, where public go to moan. The TAX OFFICE is next to the Hall, and if you ever want to to see the sheriff, that's where he is based.

We even have our very own standing army, independent from the kingdom and paid from the council's coffers. Their main barracks and offices are here, although most are billeted in the IRON TOWERS that guard the walls of the city. The soldiers patrol the walls, guard the gates, and protect the outlying farms and mines. They're chiefly responsible for protecting the city from external enemies. The interior is protected, patrolled, and policed by the CITY-WATCH, whose offices are also based on GREEN HILL, under command of the sheriff. They are the guards you see manning the WATCH TOWERS, patrolling the streets, and dealing with any trouble-makers. If there's a tavern brawl, or a burglary, it's their job to to deal with it. They're easy to spot, dressed in their bone-coloured tabards, with their conical helmets and round shields. The foot-guards are known for their heavy-handedness, more than happy to belt you round the head with their maces if you cause any trouble. The tower guards are skilled archers, able to pin a man with an arrow from great distances and with deadly accuracy. The WATCH TOWERS they man are all outfitted with large bells, rung to sound alarm, and have signalling lanterns that allow them to communicate with each other.

Word of advice: don't get on the wrong side of the Watch.

Before we leave GREEN HILL and visit the TEMPLE QUARTER, I just want to show you this building here. You might have heard that the clergy take a dim view of the arcane arts, with many religions considering such magic to be the work of heretics at best, demon-worshippers and devil-dealers at worse. Most magi are barely tolerated, and throwing spells around or blatantly using magic in public is more than likely to get you thrown in jail, exiled, or stone to death; depends on which part of the city you're in. However, there is a type of magi that is licensed to practice arcane magic and conduct research, all legal; and that's by being trained or joining the ACADEMY, which is based here, in this surprisingly plain building. Or maybe that's the point, so they don't attract unwanted attention. It also holds classes for rich noble's children, has a well-stocked library, and several laboratories that they rent out.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

City Tour: The Noble Quarter

  1. Free House of Knowledge
  2. Museum of Oddities
  3. Twin Towers Theatre
You can see the difference gold makes straight away. The streets are maintained, every pathway swept clean, and the buildings almost dazzle with their white-washed walls and coloured shutters. It's always bright here, even at night. See those poles, with the hanging glass bulbs? Lanterns, lit by the Watch every dusk, with enough oil to last until dawn. Locals call this 'Sunny Side', because it's like the sun is always shining.

Only the rich live here. The rest of us pass through to visit the library, museums, or one of the galleries or theatres. There're some top-class restaurants, but unless you're a noble, you can forget about getting a seat, let alone eating there. You'll also note that there are no common taverns or inns to be found. Instead there are exclusive clubs, wine-bars, and coffee-houses, all rather expensive.

You might be wondering what reason these rich people have for living here. After all, the capital is a much larger, affluent and attractive city. There're all sorts of reasons, but it really boils down to this simple fact: they live here because they can. The clergy owns the land, see, and they charge a lot to buy a plot, so that they can keep their temples pretty and the priests can live comfortable lives. It's exclusive, restricted, expensive; in other words, only those that can afford it can live here. Some are actually true-blooded nobles; not only from this kingdom, but outside realms too. Others have merely bought themselves a title; you can buy anything with enough gold. We have Lords and Ladies, Dukes, even a couple of lesser Princes, who have their 'summer houses' here. The heads of the merchant Houses have homes here, as do certain of the more powerful and wealthy councillors, the important clergy, and a few Guild Masters that can afford it.

There are a few who've managed to buy land, or a house, but aren't noble gentlemen; they're the cause of much resentment from from the truer nobles: these are the rich adventurers who have retired to the quarter; a couple of magi that no one wants to try to evict; and those who run the library, museums, and theatres; although in those cases, they tend to live on the premises. Especially the librarians, whose library is just coming into view now.

This magnificent building is actually a semi-converted monastery, and the librarians are the monks who live and pray there; although it is not a church itself. They worship IDRIS, Goddess of Words, Thoughts, and Knowledge. It's the same religion we have to thank for the so-called Common Tongue that we all use, for trade and cross-realm and race communication. It was a language developed and spread by their missionaries and monks on their pilgrimages, hunting and searching for books and tomes of ancient lore.

We call it THE MONKS' LIBRARY, but its full and official title is the FREE HOUSE OF KNOWLEDGE. Anyone can enter, read any book, even copy passages, pages or entire manuscripts, but the original books can never leave the library. Actually, that's one thing that gold can't buy, these books; and believe me, people have tried. The monks guard these books constantly, and would happily kill anyone trying to steal one.

It's the place to come if you need answers, or to do research. There are thousands of books, scrolls, stone tablets, you name it. They have been collected from all over the world, even from across the sea and below the very ground we stand on; from all the known races, and cover a staggering range of topics. Most have been translated into Common, and for a small fee the monks will even assist you in your searching; give them a larger donation and they'll do the work for you.

It's a beautiful building, but if you look to the North and West, you'll see even grander houses. They're the really wealthy ones, with stained-glass windows, coloured-tiled roofs, peaked of course, and even their own gardens. They're taller than the city walls, most on level with the towers of GREEN HILL, some even taller. Most of the buildings here have several floors; the richer the owner, the more stories their homes have.

On the corner here, where GOLD STREET meets THE PROCESSIONAL, is another attraction, one that the nobles often wish was elsewhere. This is the, rightly famous, MUSEUM OF ODDITIES; another beautiful building, I'm sure you'll agree. It's owned by an eccentric mage and collector, NOD, or 'Odd Nod' as the nobles call him. It's not as elegant or as ordered on the inside, more of a sprawl of rooms, corridors and galleries. There's a lot crammed inside, not only oddities, but genuine art: paintings, sculptures, things like that. I'm not one for art, it's the other museum pieces that interest me. There's a whole wing devoted to monsters, from all over the world; stuffed chimera, dragon heads mounted on walls, various body parts pickled in jars; illuminated manuscripts documenting monsters living and dead, all donated or sold to the museum, usually by adventurers. There's a room with faeries in iron cages, an authentic 'imp' trapped in a magic circle, animated dead, and even a small library. You have to pay to get in, but it's well worth the few gold pieces you have to part with.

This collection of buildings ahead, by far the most colourful, is what we unofficially call THEATRE LAND. There are half-a-dozen theatres of note, but the largest and most popular, and not without good reason, is that impressive building at the end of this avenue. That's the TWIN TOWERS THEATRE, and yes, the domes capping the two towers are indeed made of golden tiles. The stone is all marble, the windows are coloured crystal, and the doors are painted with gold leaf. The inside is just as extravagant. Normally only the nobles can afford seats, and there's a strict dress code; but if you can manage it, you'll never forget the experience. The plays they put on are like nothing you'll have ever seen. Not even the capitals of the kingdoms have something as good as this.

Now, if you come with me, we'll follow THE PROCESSIONAL, and make our way to the GREEN HILL.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

City Tour: Interlude, the Gates

The Gates

Sorry about this, but everyone going into or out of the quarter is searched, unless you're rich enough to live there, of course. They don't even search you going into GREEN HILL. Gold and religion run this city, remember that.

A quick word about the gates while we queue. They're open dawn to dusk, but as soon as night settles in, the gates are shut. You can still pass through, between quarters, but the Watch have to let you through and everyone passes through the smaller gates cut into the main oak doors. There are other ways to cross; secret tunnels, passages through the catacombs, but you'd have to ask someone else about them. The only gate that refuses to open at night, unless there is some dire emergency, is the gate we've just passed through, WATCHERS GATE. The risk of some monster slipping through is just too great.

All right, our turn now. Best behaviour everyone, we're about to enter the NOBLE QUARTER.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

City Tour: The Weeping Chasm

  1. Delvers' Guild
  2. White Wizard's Tower
  3. Monastery of the Silence
  4. Hospital of the Guiding Light
I can see you're impressed. Hard not to be. I've had visitors stand in awe when they've seen the chasm for the first time, and still be here after the tour's finished and their friends come looking for them. Formed during the battle all those centuries ago, THE WEEPING CHASM stretches due West for roughly twenty-seven miles. It's about a mile deep, and at its widest point, about midway, it's easily five miles across.

Smell that? Blood, that is. It's the reason its called THE WEEPING CHASM: look closely at the edges. That darkness is the blood, oozing out of the torn stone. It drips down into the depths of the chasm; there're rivers of blood down there, so I'm told. You talk to the clerics, priests and monks, and they'll tell you it's the blood of all the gods that died here; the magi will tell you it's the blood of the Wounded World. I don't know what it is, but it's impressive, yes?

At the bottom of the chasm are the remains of that ancient city I mentioned, the one that predates even the battle. There are ruins down there, surprisingly intact, whole buildings in some cases; some have been explored, others have become lairs to dangerous monsters, while some are still to excavated. It is our main attraction, because there is vast wealth trapped and buried below; not only treasure from those ruins, but also the arms, jewels and devices of those Avatars that fell, their followers too. Men have come out rich as kings, albeit scarred from their experiences. Many don't come back out at all.

You descend into the chasm by that lift over there, the one on that jutting finger of rock. The lift is managed by the DELVERS' GUILD, which has amongst its members numerous adventurers, historians and scholars, explorers and magi. They charge a small fee to use the lift, enough to keep it maintained, but nothing extortionist. It's a good guild to belong to, both friendly and supportive, if delving is something you're interested in.

Notice how all the other buildings here are built? Strong stone, fortifications, barred windows and sturdy doors. They need them here. Sometimes, mostly at night, monsters will creep out of the chasm. The Watch deals with most of them, but it pays to be safe, to have well-defended buildings. No one in their right mind lives here, but then not everyone in this city is as sane as you or I. That squat tower over there, the one nestled against that IRON TOWER? The WHITE WIZARD lives there, as he calls himself. The Watch call him Greybeard; no one knows his real name. He's mad, lives alone, often accompanies adventuring parties into the chasm, or buying monster parts off them. They say he 'builds' things in his tower, experiments too; I've also heard that he's looking for something specific in the deep, but no one knows for sure.

Way over there, near where the wall stops, is the only church not within the TEMPLE QUARTER. Actually, it's more of a monastery than a church, because the clergy are definitely some type of monk. They name themselves THE SILENCE, and have all taken a vow of silence. More of a philosophical sect than a religious one, but they pay homage to several deities; mostly those associated with knowledge, enlightenment, and self-improvement. They're an odd sort, spending a lot of their time down the chasm, or in the catacombs. Ultimately, they seem to believe that only through silence can the truth be known; although what exactly this 'truth' is, they're obviously not saying.

The other buildings belong to the guilds, or the City-Watch, warehouses for the most part. A lot of valuable goods are stored here, safe and secure thanks to the presence of the Watch, the fortified buildings, and the chasm itself.

Right then, on to the NOBLE QUARTER next.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

City Tour: The Residents Quarter

  1. Camel's Hump
  2. The Friendly Cockatrice
  3. Travellers' Rest
  4. The Aquarium

The smallest and quietest of the quarters, the RESIDENTS QUARTER is where the people of the city have their homes. Some of the traders, merchants, workers and artisans live above their shops, the rest living here. Although, many of the people who live here, actually work outside the city, in the outlying farms or the mines in the hills. It's safer, more comfortable, to live within the walls than outside. Expensive though. There's no space to build on the ground anymore, and the council have refused to expand the city for the time being– they made a start on the East side, but stopped when funds for construction ran out– so new builds are built atop older ones, and that costs gold. You can rent, however, and there are plenty of blocks with single room homes in the shadows of the walls. Thy're not particularly cheap either, but if you ever want to settle down in the city, it's the cheapest option.

HOME STREET divides this quarter in two. The East side is where all the local shops and taverns are, as well as a couple of inns catering to visitors who come through the south gate– that's Black Gate, so-called due to the scorched stone, after a dragon took exception to the soldiers' arrows; but that's another story, for another time. The locals don't mind strangers joining them for a drink, so long as they behave themselves. Two taverns of note are the Camel's Hump, known for its imported elven wines; and the Friendly Cockatrice, which does indeed boast a cockatrice that is friendly. It's actually the runt of a litter, with none of the expected petrification powers. The locals consider it lucky if it pecks you.

If you fancy staying a few nights here, the best inn is the Travellers' Rest, one of a chain owned by an enterprising baron of the kingdom. It's nothing fancy, but the sheets are clean, the rooms a good size, and the service both friendly and efficient. They serve pretty decent meals too, but if you want to dine out, I say you should dine at the Aquarium, a fish restaurant that imports its fish at great expense, in bulk and alive, storing them in glass tanks that line the walls. You pick the fish you want to eat.

The West side of the quarter is where all the homes are located, mostly flat-roofed, two or three storey houses or blocks of apartments, four, even five stories high. The more elaborate and expensive houses are closest to the main street, with the cheapest under the West wall. No slums though; these houses are all owned by or rented to employed men, women and their families. The actual SLUMS are outside the city, spreading out from the meagre protection of the lower East wall. You would have seen it as you approached the city along the PILGRIMS ROAD; a dark mess, with smoke wafting above the hovels. That's not part of our tour, I'm happy to say.

Now, if you'll all follow me, we'll go back through the gate and I'll show you the WEEPING CHASM in all its glory.