Characterised by ruins. People living out of the glory of the past, shattered by a tepid war to claim the seat of the Autarch. The succession war has carried on in its current state for generations, an amount of time so great that the common people don't think of it as a war, rather just the state of things.
The outside world knows them as mercenaries and adventurers. This blasted land produces them seemingly without end, the weary and the war-hungry, stumbling out of the dust looking for what they cannot find here.
There are more cities than this. The Great City was vast, stretching from horizon to horizon, so old that it's docks now sit far inland as the sea retreats from her. But this is some examples of her remnants.
|The Empire and its neighbours|
They speak a non-gendered language. This is cause for embarrassment when among foreign people, as they default to referring to everyone as women, and have great trouble differentiating gender linguistically. Possibly the source of the belief that Empiric mercenaries refer to everyone as women because of barbarian arrogance and a desire to demean other warriors as weak, but it's merely a matter of linguistic confusion.
There are extensive roads between the cities, but they are closed by order of the last Autarch. In disrepair and patrolled by ulans, who have royal writ to claim any belongings of trespassers). They are dangerous and avoided by all.
|Ulans stalk the highways|
|Great Lady's house|
Ruler: The Mighty Opener, Soul of Darkness,
If it were not redundant to call any city among the empires "ancient" White Ape City would earn that moniker. Temple city to the Great Lady Under Earth and at its highest peak her own residence and, by relation, entrance to the underworld.
Though not the most populous, it is opulent. Even modest citizens can live among the carven arches and endlessly repeating grotesques depicting scenes from the House of the Great Lady.
The city gains its name from the intelligent white gorillas that are allowed to lope around the city. They are considered to be guides to the underworld and contribute to the city's safety. Most people are hesitant to risk harming or angering them.
Ruler: The Carnifex
A cold and blasted hill, honeycombed with tunnels and cells. When the wind blows at the right angle and with enough spite it makes the city-hill moan with a thousand hopeless voices.
The wealthiest citizens live at the bottom of the hill in dark wooden houses, huddled together against the wind and noise. As you travel further and further up the mound they become poorer and poorer. The worst wretches live alongside the prisoners kept in the few functional cells left in the vast tunnels.
At the very top is the house of the carnifex and her apprentices. Masked and silent, she rules from on high. Her sword is the sum of the law, pray her masked agents do not take you in the night for breaking the unspoken law.
Gateway of Gods
Ruler: The Masterful Keeper of Gods
The twin rivers that flow through the Empires are the remit of The Flood-Storm, a god both OF and which IS the river system. The Flood-Storm ensures that the seasonal floods and other equally important river activities remain in place.
You will find the House of the Flood-Storm here, at Gateway of Gods, sitting atop the antiquated system of gates and channels that has the power to withhold and unleash the rivers. It's priesthood has evolved around its arcane operation, with the Keeper of Gods as its high priest, and bodily representative of the Flood-Storm when she is needed. At her command the waters were withheld and mountains flooded, thus both the White Tree Mire and Concourse of Copper was formed.
|Gateway of Gods|
The Gate of the Sun-Child
Ruler: The Yellow Empress, the Power Perverse
The Gate of the Sun-Child is believed to be the closest point to the sun as it crosses the sky on its way to the underworld to determine the fate of the dead. At no other place is the Sun-Child's numinous power more apparent.
A caste of column builders call this city-state home. They mine the fine white stones from their quarries and fashion them into taller and taller pillars, upon which the wealthy clamber in order to be closer to the Sun-Child. Taller and taller columns require more and more advanced and elaborate constructions, all in order to prove the godliness of its owner and to allow them to look down upon others.
The construction of these pillars drives the city to expand and plunder.
City of the Emerald Throne
Ruler: The Amaranthine Vizier
Before the Gate of Gods redirected the Slow River, the Emerald Throne was home to only it's ruler and her staff. The great basalt ziggurat of the Emerald Throne is the seclusium of The Amaranthine Vizier, who some suspect is THE Amaranthine Vizier, who advised the last Autarch and was suspected of being the true power behind the throne.
Since the arrival of the Slow River and its flood waters, others have come, flocking to live in the shadow of the ziggurat. Food is abundant and rival cities are fearful of the Vizier, who for now has seen fit to stay in her seclusium pursuing whatever it is brought him here to begin with.
|Like this, but imagine cranes as well|
Ruler: The Manifold Gatherer
Sat on the edge of the Concourse of Copper, the starved river.
Once a vast port stretching for miles along its bank, now its inhabited area is largely confined to still operable loading cranes and the buttresses that once formed the solid walls of the river bank.
They maintain fields in the rich, damp soil of the riverbed, producing a vast surplus of food. In addition, they are the largest producer of Yellow Sun-Child, a thick, sometimes viscous, tea enjoyed by all levels of society. It numbs the senses and mouth, to which can be attributed the characteristic drawl and slow speech that foreigners associate so closely with the Empires.
The Impregnable City
Its name refers to the metaphorical nature of the city, rather than a measure of its assailability. Indeed, it has been taken and sacked many times since the beginning of the succession. Rather it is a statement regarding its origin as the necropolis of the Great City, which of course lies splintered every which way can be imagined.
Death can not be overcome, of which the residents are grimly aware. Their livelihoods are found in the acceptance and proper treatment of corpses. From all corners of the world people send their dead here. Great caravans arrive carrying dead kings from lands most people have never even heard of, all to be interred, burned, dismembered, preserved or otherwise attended by the citizens of the necropolis. Their knowledge of burial rites is immense and eerily up to date.
You can often spot the tell-tale rheumy eyes* of a member of the polis under foreign garb, just as they slip off the caravans and melt into the crypts and laboratories to report what they have learned. Ostensibly adding to their professional knowledge, but those ears can't help what else they may learn.
*Dark Water Corpse Dust, another source of wealth, is not good for the sinuses
Seven Orchard City
Ruler: The Green Lion
Seven orchards for seven families. Not long ago it was simply Orchard City, and for miles at its approach you would be met with the sweet smell of pear blossoms, date palms row by row, tended by the armies of fieldhands.
Now there is little land left, the rows of trees are drowned in the White Tree Mire, a gift from the Gateway of Gods. As they give, they take away, or give so much you can take no more.
The Bear Tower
Ruler: The Unconquerable Monster, the Hidden Guest of the Bear Tower
The bear tower is a crumbling spire at the terminus of a meandering and shattered wall, at places scores of metres thick, clad in metal.
The Bear Tower itself takes in young children and raises them to become animal tamers. More than mere tricks, they can break any animal and produce extraordinary feats. At some point in life each tamer takes a lion or bear in marriage, after which they shun human lovers.
Under a member of the Bear Tower an animal will be tested and either broken or moulded into a focused machine, bent to whatever end it was intended for. Many die or are too wounded to continue and are thrown from the tower to be collected by the people living in the shacks and shanties below.
|The Ven visit the House Absolute with diplomatic gifts of laser guns|
The House Absolute
The seat of governance. Its palatial gardens are of such arcane and perfect design that those searching for it uninvited are unlikely to stumble across it.
Since the succession crisis the halls of the House Absolute have been a petty game of intrigue and jockeying for position. The rulers of the cities come in and out of favour among the courtiers, find themselves invited to the garden parties and dances less and less often.
Somewhere in it's halls is kept the Iron Sceptre of governance, left carelessly on the throne. No one would think to take it by force, only a man who believes he is Autarch, and with the will to make others believe it, can even find it. None so far have done so, regardless of their bombastic claims otherwise.
A vibrant port city, teeming with humanity. Famous for its judicial system (fairest in all the lands) and being the place to stop for any respectable trade ship darting along the Friendly coast between it's grim storms and spasmodic squalls. Its enormous fortified harbour is a joyous sight, and the last one they will see in a good while for those headed north. No major ports exist in the Empires, where the coast has retreated from the ancient cities and been left to rough border towns to handle. And further, Calipyg's ports are strictly regulated by their mushroom overlords, each barrel and hold inspected and logged on entry and exit. Such a burden of time has meant that most skip it's once bustling waters and continue onto the frozen spires of Vornheim beyond the mountains.
Trade has made it rich, but it's cavalry has made it safe. The city sits in the corridor between the Yellow Kingdoms and the Empires, a plain occupied by nomadic Grass tribes (a rough and violent people), kept in check by decree of the governor and the court of directors. Dragoons are sent out regularly to pillage and burn the roving villages to keep them fearful and to ensure they never grow numerous enough to threaten the Fairest City.