Monday, September 13, 2010

Neighborhoods: The Noble Quarter Pt. 1

The Noble Quarter is the land of the blessed, playground of the oldest, most influential group in Stormhaven: The Great Families. The Great Families are comprised of members of the first dwarves and elves to arrive in Stormhaven: The Stormhaven’s (Rockhammers), Greystones, Seawillows, and their allies. By far the wealthiest groups in Stormhaven, the nobles use their wealth to shield themselves from what they consider the “lesser races”, meaning everyone who is not an elf or dwarf, with the (sometime) exception of the human VanFleet family, who are grudgingly considered “worthy”.

Discrimination based on wealth and social rank runs rampant through the nobility, and though not all suffer from these failings, enough do for the populace to consider it a part and parcel of the noble mindset. The lives of the Great Families proceed at a measured, steady pace, with an abiding respect for tradition and propriety. Passionate displays and open conflict are considered boorish and uncultured. Compared to their more debauched, rough-and-tumble neighbors in the Rat’s Nest, The Great Families appear positively stagnant.

Nothing could be further from the truth, for the life of a noble from The Great Families is constant war. Enemies include the presumptuous upstarts of the Rat’s Nest who scrabble for social position like orphans fighting over table scraps, the guild councilors who claim so much of the city’s wealth for themselves and still hunger for more and, of course, the other nobles of The Great Families, particularly the members of the noble’s own family. Among the nobility, the frequent banquets and balls are approached with all the caution of a general planning a major battle, with strategies laid out sometimes months in advance. With their long lives, members of The Great Families see no need to engage in the frantic jockeying of social position so common among the short-living races. Instead, they play a slow game of innuendo and subtle slight. Nothing pleases a noble more than seeing a hated rival laid low by the culmination of plans that took years, even decades, to come to fruition.

Architecture and Layout

The Seventeen estates of the Noble Quarter are a showcase of wealth, with exquisitely cultivated grounds and impeccably decorated manses tucked away behind high stone walls, but beyond that, they share few features. Since price is never a deterrent for Stormhaven’s nobility and since they have so little to fear from invading armies and marauding beasts, they give architects free reign, resulting in homes that are in turn wonderful, whimsical, and extraordinary.

The Noble Quarter is by far Upside’s largest district, encompassing the entire western half of the World Disk. Unlike the rest of Upside, the lands of the Noble Quarter are not flat, but covered with low, gently rolling hills, which are the location of choice for the nobles’’ mansions. Additionally, the Noble Quarter is graced with an abundance of evergreen and deciduous trees, some of which have reached 100 feet or more in height. At the insistence of the Seawillow family, the wooded areas are considered the communal property of all noble families, and left to grow as they will with only minimal logging for firewood permitted. Wood for repairing or constructing buildings must be imported, usually at considerable expense. This “unnecessary” expenditure is a source of much consternation among the dwarven nobility, but on-one has seen fit to challenge the Seawillows on the matter.

Worthy Gate

A long, 15 feet high rough stone wall topped with spear points runs the length of the noble quarter. The only way through the wall is Worthy Gate, a 10 feet tall and wide archway, guarded by two watchtowers on each side and barred by an iron portcullis that is kept shut at all times. A detachment of the Staircase Guard watch the gate at all times, vigorously inspecting and interrogating anyone not bearing a noble watermark.

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