Feb 19, 2012

Municipal Geography of Dwer Tor

Dwer Tor is built onto the north-eastern side of a mountain with a large lake at its base. The mountain, also known as Dwer Tor, is snow-capped in winter, though it is geothermally active in the form of a number of hot springs. It is the northermost mountain in its chains, though foothills continue for miles out until they become the plains of Kadiz proper. The snowmelt and the hot springs form a set of streams around the bottom-third of the mountain that feed into the lake. The Dwer have cut an artificial canal from the northern shore around the mountain to a westerly flowing river called the Little Road that other mountain streams feed into. It has three falls along it, each less than 30m high, and there is a colony around each one to help transport cargo.

The city itself covers the bottom third of the mountain, encompasses the lake, and has numerous roads going off into the mountains that are used to transport stone and metal from various mines.

The Palace Eternal

One third (2500m) of the way up the mountain, on a specially built terrace it shares with no other section of the city, is the Palace Eternal, the home of the Dwer king. Most of the administrative section of the Palace Eternal is deep inside the mountain, accessed by entrances - some secret - hidden in the lower city. The palace itself emerges from the rock, with a curtain wall projecting out from it. Through a series of cleverly-designed chutes and channels, the snowmelt of the mountain comes rushing over the main entrance in a great waterfall before splashing through more channels cut through the rock to emerge as rivers that flow through the city into Quarry Lake. The only entrance is a glass-covered tunnel with a stone floor that goes from the curtain wall to the palace proper.

The Palace Eternal is the greatest fortress in the Dawnlands, even more imposing than the hobgoblin bastions of the north. The parts of it outside the mountain are large enough to be just barely visible from the base of the lower city when the smoke of cookfires clears. Many secrets are hidden in the depths of the mountain, and a handful of men could hold it against an army of raging helots. Specially trained servants of the crown who are capable of dealing with the rarefied air are constantly coming in and going out to the lower city bearing messages. They rely on a series of staircases and pulley elevators, some inside the mountain, and most higher-castes who must come to the palace travel up inside the mountain, where the air is thicker. Helots are not welcome unless they are palace servants.

The only structure higher than the Palace Eternal - by decree of the ancient kings - is the sacred pyre where the bodies of kings and divine heroes are immolated to hasten their journey into the night sky.

The Middle Terraces

The middle terraces are a series of loosely connected terraces. The lowest is only a few hundred metres above the low sections, while the highest is perhaps a kilometre up. There are several series of terraces, each with a varying width, length and number of terraces. Each level forms a "neighbourhood", normally supporting several optimate families and several thaumate ecclesia. This typically mean 3-6 compounds, with multiple residences and subisidary buildings. A small compound might only be four buildings and a wall: A residence for the upper-castes, servant's quarters (always separate), a guardhouse and a storehouse. The largest compounds might be a third of a kilometre long and feature multiple warehouses and training grounds, astronomical observatories, temples, graveyards, schools, barracks, or even a vineyard.

The middle terraces circle the mountain, with the most privileged and important residences underneath the Palace Eternal facing east, and the north face preferred to the south face otherwise (because the canal passes the mountain on its north side).

Broad walkways encircle the mountain from one terrace to another, wide enough to allow carts to pass one another, but without railings. This is perhaps where one is most likely to see slaves in the city, as they grade and recut roads and terraces. A number of slave graveyards have been made out of cracks and small caverns in the mountain, and the spirits of the dead are often blamed for landslides, avalanches and falls.

Lower City

The lower city of Dwer Tor is where most of the city's helot population lives. Most of the lower city is sorted into neighbourhoods of about 20 demes (~15-16,000 people), ruled by a single optimate family that administers it for the king. These families change every generation or so (by Dwarven standards ~100 years). The different neighbourhoods are broken up from one another by internal fortifications, orchards, coliseums, theatres and hippodromes, slave barracks, aqueducts and especially markets. It is customary to punish criminals in these interstitial spaces, to show that they no longer have a deme and are cast out. Much of the lower city is clean and peaceful, though occasional reminders of discontent can be found - one of the main tasks of the slaves each day is to scrub off revolutionary graffiti that went up during the night.

The exception to this clustering is the Stranger's Quarter in the northeast of the city, where the Little Road meets the lake. This is Dwer Tor's port, and home for its foreigners and sailors. It is a wild place, unlike the rest of the city. It is the only part of the city that the Kaddish are allowed into (even the Kadiz are allowed more leeway), and the quarter is jammed with religious fanatics, freebooters, and merchants. All visitors to Dwer Tor are considered part of the "Stranger" deme, though this is a customary title without legal standing. Dwer Tor's criminals congregate here as well, having been banished from the rest of the polis. It is the place in the lower city where slaves are most likely to be seen, since they often work as porters, but it lacks the maintenance of the rest of the city since no particular family or deme is responsible for it. In heavy rains it floods very slightly, perhaps half a foot, (the rest of the city is on higher ground) and this is the only time it is ever cleaned.