Thursday, September 30, 2010

Neighborhoods: The Government District Pt 1

Here is the heart of Upside, home of the city’s most important guild houses and embassies. Though the Noble Quarter is wealthier, no-one wields as much power as those who live and work here. Though the Staircase Guard patrols the Government District more heavily than they do any other area, crime is rampant here. Thieves and confidence men are drawn by the smell of wealth in the air and the area is beset by inter-guild violence.

Architecture and Layout

The Government District includes some of the oldest and most impressive structures in Stormhaven, including several relics of the city’s original civilization. The majority of the district’s buildings are arrayed in a wide half-circle around Rockhammer Square, generous swathes of open space separating the buildings even in the comparatively crowded area. The rest of the Government District is dominated by clusters of trees and carefully tended lawns, with meandering cobblestone paths connecting the outlying buildings.

Lamps spaced a few paces apart provide illumination in Rockhammer Square after dusk. Although the buildings on the district’s outskirts are similarly lit, the paths between them do not have as much light.

The Government District is bordered to the north and east by the Warehouse District, to the south by the Rat’s Nest and to the west by the Black Crown and the Noble Quarter.

Rockhammer Square and the Reflecting Pools

Bordered on one side by the Hall of Voices and on the other by Firefly Cathedral and the mausoleum, Rockhammer Square is a strikingly beautiful public park. It measures hundreds of feet long and wide, landscaped with elaborate floral arrangements, dotted with bronze statues and lined with perfectly trimmed hedges. The west and east sides of the square are dominated by the Reflecting Pools, identical sets of three shallow, stepped fountains, 30 feet to a side each. The fountains are magically enchanted to overflow eternally with clear, cold water, which is then collected into a latticework of shallow canals that divide Rockhammer Square, collecting in a swirling pool that drains back into the fountains in an endless cycle. The waterways are three feet in depth, but the water level is only two feet. While they are narrow enough to hop over, it is very undignified, so all the officials and walkers use the delicate, high arching marble bridges that cross the canals at several points.

Rockhammer Square is Upside’s most frequented spot, where lovers stroll under the moonlight, children splash in the great pools and flocks of birds fight for handfuls of scattered bread-crumbs. Groups of low-level spellcasters enthrall crowds with impromptu illusions, and aspiring bards and entertainers ply their skills in the square, among them Carnival regulars Busted Skull and Odobo. More serious business is conducted here as well, with councilors, ambassadors and independent merchants hammering out business contracts and peace treaties while they take lunch near the Reflecting Pools. The Square is far from tranquil. Petty criminals plague the area, cutting purses and swindling the young and na├»ve with weighted dice and confidence games. Brawls frequently spill out of the Hall of Voices into the heart of the square and young dissidents from the Driftdowns and the Rat’s Nest hold assemblies that too often deteriorate into violent clashes. Duelists from the Rat’s Nest favor the Square too, testing their mettle on the ornate bridges that span the channels.

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