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 The Port and its Districts

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PostSubject: The Port and its Districts   Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:35 am

The Port is the largest remaining seaport in the world, and the only place where ships that ply the Aster, including the Black Ships, make landfall. It lies in a delta formed by two rivers; the River Livia and the Ossuary Flow, which originates in the Interior. Strange things sometimes float in on the Ossuary; empty stone boats, giant infants in reed baskets, potential Messiahs.

In a way, the city is every port city of the World Before folded into one; a riot of architectural styles and eras. In some places this is the result of normal building on top of previous construction, in others it’s a parfait of folded, urban space-time, including bits of the future world yet-to-come. In the port you never quite know what you’ll find in someone’s basement…

The port is not only a center for commerce across the Aster. It’s also home to the massive train station that serves the Gog-Magog Line, a single rail line running inland, parallel to the coast. The train is powered by two enormous Stone Golems, Dragonborn relics from the World Before, who ‘live’ in the station. Working to an exacting but inscrutable schedule, they pull a string of cars attached to a heavy chain. When Gog is pulling, Magog lets out the slack of the chain...and vice-versa.

The port is divided into 12 districts, with the Governor’s offices and mansion making an unofficial 13th. The districts include…

Rumcastle gets its name from Lord Rum’s Castle, one the port's most famous buildings, a defensive fortification built right in the middle of the city by Lord Rum, a vain and daring bootlegger who became so powerful that he challenged the Governor himself during a period that became known as Lord Rum's Rebellion. It’s said that the Governor would have lost if he hadn’t been able to trick the God of Temperance into returning from Beyond-the-Sea to kill Lord Rum in a duel. Adventurers still seek Lord Rum’s lost sword, the one he plunged into the god’s liver before dying. The sword is now called Intemperance.

The Sway of Medallion is one of the nicest parts of town, almost a gated community within the confines of the port, with the houses well-kept, the residents prosperous and learned, the streets clean. Jealous neighbors speculate about precisely how high the cost of living there is and what that cost might entail. The neighborhood is named for its most distinctive resident; Medallion, an avuncular man in his later years. No one dares claim they know his real name. He is always seen wearing an enormous jeweled medallion commonly known to be magical. His large estate on the hill commands an excellent view of the port. It is said his house is one of blessed and/or cursed places that contain folded pieces of the World Before. While residents claim to like Medallion that does nothing to prevent the rumors about him; that he is really a demon or homunculus or parasite. That his soul is housed in his medallion. How he was a young man only a few scant years. For such a public figure, these rumors should be easy to dismiss, but as everyone knows, rumors are by far the most stable currency in the port.

The Stagger is home to the city’s greatest concentration of thieves and ne’er-do-wells. Its main thoroughfare is Crook Street, which doubles back so many times the residents say it’s trying to lose itself, which it probably is.

The artists of the Quadrille claim their district is so named because a life in arts is like a lively yet elegant dance. In truth it’s called that because ‘quadrille’ sounds fancy and the district is roughly square. Most call it the Ready-Made, after the port’s first authentic artist movement, which was, in fact, larceny. Artists of this ‘school’ would steal anything halfway interesting looking that wasn’t nailed down, and exhibit them in ‘galleries’ that frequently doubled as pawn shops.

The Breakers is the neighborhood behind a section of the perennially-being-rebuilt Sea Wall where the enormous pieces of flotsam that are deposited by storms into the harbor are brought to be broken up by men with adamantine hammers. Each hammer is worth the cost of 100 men’s lives, and attempts to steal one are punished accordingly. Most of these pieces of ‘flotsam’ are huge chunks of obsidian from Avernus, the outermost of the Infernal Isles. They are broken down and used as morally-suspect building material, as well as in Rituals. Sometimes the pieces contain devils, devil larvae, and demons. Sometimes they’re themselves alive. Either way, the men of the Breakers *try* to put them to the hammer. The glass that’s hammered down in the Breakers is sold in large quantities to shipwrights Across-the-Sea who build the Black Ships. The glass doesn't float; it’s more accurate to say that it is continually being ‘cast out’ by the waters of the Aster Sea, and thus cannot be submerged. Thus the only way to sink a Black Ship is to crack it two.

The district called the Shambles is exactly that.

Five Fathoms Market is the name of both the largest open-air market in the port and the district it’s located in. Many goods from Across-the-Sea are available there. It’s sometimes called Five Phantoms Market, because it is haunted by the ghosts of five historic personages. Ritual Row is a part of Five Fathoms Market. More Rituals, both real and faux, are sold there than in any other place, except for the Port of Dis.

The Watchtower District is named for the structure which rises from its streets, towering over the waterfront. It's a carved representation of humanoid arms, raised high and cupping an enormous eyeball which floats a few inches above the stone. The eye is in constant motion, scanning the Aster, looking for someone or something. Its original purpose is long forgotten, but the luminescent quality of its gaze allows the Tower to function as a sort of lighthouse. While the Watchtower District is its official name, most port residents call it the Gaze. The Watchtower Eye is also called the Panopticon, and it occasionally sheds a sort of tear -- this, upon striking the ground below, splashes about and forms a number of much smaller duplicates of the Eye. These are much in demand as setting for exotic jewelry, and if it is a virtual certainty that the big eye is seeing what the small ones do...well, doubtless that actually appeals to some. Members of the Order of the Watch are festooned with such things, and many take it as their duty to travel as much and as far as possible, to increase the Eye's chance of finding whatever it is that it's looking for.

Technically there’s a University district, but the school is by and large overshadowed by the Dragon Library. Though part of the university, it’s self-governed and a powerful institution in its own right. It gets its name from the two ancient metal dragon statues that flank the front entrance, said to be dormant engines created by the Dragonborn in the World Before. Most residents call this neighborhood as the Hush, though some refer to it as ‘Down in the Dragon”. The library is the home of the Cataloged Mysteries, a collection of possibly untranslatable books from Across and Beyond-the-Sea. The librarians have been acquiring them from the Black Ships for years. The Dragon Librarians all carry arms and know how to use them. They also carry water-soaked cloths with them at all times while on duty. This is because there of a group dedicated to killing the librarians, or better still, burning the library to the ground. This group is called the Illiterati (also the Know-Nothing Brigade) and they believe one of the books in the Cataloged Mysteries is the Doomsday Book, which if it's successfully translated and read it will bring about the end of the world. It’s possible that the Illiterati are simply ignorant of the fact that the world has already ended, or perhaps their motivations are something else entirely. The University/Library district is known as the Hush, though some refer to the area around the library as ‘down in the Dragon.’

The Ethical Circus is home to gladiatorial pits, and the ‘national’ sport is pit-fighting with various exotic animals from the Aster and the Interior. Many citizens are fanatical followers of these matches. Some of the Magistrates disprove, however, and during their tenure over the Ethical Circus the pits are temporarily converted to theaters and churches, except for the ones that continue to operate illegally.

Gog-Magog Station is a district built around the vast rail yard which houses the massive stone golems that pull the train on the Gog-Magog line (it is also rumored to be the terminus of the Apocryphal Line, which runs –sometimes, a few times a year or decade, on moonless nights or during thunderstorms, during famines or unexpected bounties-- into the Interior).. The district also houses a landmark called the Spindle, which is part of the pulley system of adamantine chains that operate the train. Below the Spindle is a giant cistern of liquid mercury that’s part of the system which cools/lubricates the chains.

The Hereafter, also called the Interim, is the neighborhood of the waiting dead.

Politics, Law and Disorder
The port is ruled by a Governor, a deeply paranoid fellow. He in turn claims allegiance to the never-seen Duke Beyond the Sea, who might be immortal, dead, or the product of the Governor’s paranoid delusions. Portraits of the Duke resemble the Horned God in fancy dress.

The governor has appointed Magistrates, one for each district of the city, to keep the Peace and enforce the Law. Unfortunately, he hasn't defined either of those terms, and the Magistrates (each with a private army of bailiffs/cops) are largely free to follow their own whims. Even more unfortunately, every few weeks, entirely at random, the Governor draws lots and reassigns each magistrate to a different district. Ostensibly this is to reduce corruption and graft, and to make it more difficult for them to establish enough of a power-base to be a potential threat, but most folk are convinced that he’s doing this just to fuck with the populace. People are adaptable, however, and have learned to exploit this. It’s not uncommon for fugitives to flee from one district to another; the Magistrates’ men are fiercely territorial, and will often let a runner go free just to give the give their rivals the middle finger. And of course, what’s a crime in the Breakers today might be perfect legal in the Shambles...although it’s entirely possible that this will change with tomorrow’s sunrise.

The Governor himself has a large force of soldiers working for him. Minotaurs, for the most part, they are officially known as the Horned Guard, although the people refer to them as the Cuckolds. The Cuckolds are led by a giant in black armor known only as the Crow, Captain Crow to his face.
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