Dark Days in Sion
Size: Large City
Population: 20,643 on the surface, 9,345 in the Undercity of Masaeus
Racial Demographics: 70% Humans, 20% Demihumans, 8% Humanoids, 2% Vul
Class Demographics: 10% Military, 5% Clergy, 5% Upper Class, 20% Middle Class 30% Lower Class, 20% Slaves
Allegiance: Kingdom of Vulkh
Government: City Council ruled by Baron Zomok
Power Center Alignment: LE
Technology Base: Crusades
Wealth: 43,680,000 GP
Law Rank: 6
Transitions: 100+ Years of Order
Legal Code: Laws of Vulkh
Law Enforcement: Moderate
Social Standing: Usually Matters
Nestled between low mountains and positioned beside the broad Arosis River, Masaeus is the largest city in Vulkh, ruled by Baron Zomok, the most powerful merchant-lord in the kingdom. Known as the gateway to the east Masaeus is ideally located as a trade hub along the Kingdoms eastern border.
Beside the busy docks are natural cliffs that hold the city above the bay and form a natural defense as good as any wall. The cliffs are riddled with caves, several of which have been tunneled out into mines. Rumor is the whole city sits atop a massive underground network of caverns. Rumor also says these caverns are far more dangerous than the city streets above. The truth is the rumors are true and these caverns are called the Undercity of Masaeus.
Atop the cliffs are the homes and businesses of over twenty thousand souls, neatly set up along arrow-straight streets and beautifully flag stoned squares. Rumor has it the dwarves built this city for the Vul during the second age after the Summaran king was overthrown. It took a decade to plan its layout to exacting Vul specifications and prepare its foundations, with an inner district of towering palaces at its center from which the Vul can fly to any part of the city in the shortest amount of time possible.
No time was spared laying out its streets and drainage system either, so while it took nearly fifty years to build, the city has held up in such remarkably good condition it seems recently constructed even today. One reason this is so however, are the Laws of Vulkh, with their harsh penalties for arson and vandalism. These laws are engraved in a massive stone tablet before each gate.
These gates shut at sundown and open at dawn, but there are smaller sally-doors within the gates that can be used by late night visitors. Vulkyrie watch traffic entering and leaving the city from towers beside the gates. A toll has to be paid for admittance into the city. The Vul charge three times more than the dwarves do to use Torgrimms DwarfBridge.
30gp per ladden cart
15gp per unladden cart
3gp per ladden pack animal
3sp per horse or unladden pack animal
3cp per person. (Children are free)
No cost for small pets. (Larger pets at city watch discretion)
A wonder of engineering spanning across the river Torgrimms DwarfBridge is wide enough for three lines of wagons to pass abreast of each other, and high enough above the river for a masted ship to pass beneath. Constructed with blocks of stone so massive giants couldn’t conceivably fit and carry them, it is a wonder how dwarves managed it.
The bridge offers a breathtaking view of Arosis bay, with its many flat-bottomed river barges and ships busy with morning commerce along with a veritable flotilla of fishing boats. The water in the bay is deep crystal blue, constantly moving in a current pulled by the river, which makes it much cleaner and fresher than you might expect beside a huge city. Rumor has it there are dangerous creatures beneath these glassy waters that feed on fishermen as much as the fishermen feed on fish.
Every morning, Torgrimms Dwarfbridge is crowded with every manner of merchant and traveler trying to cross the Arosis River coming into or leaving from the great city of Masaeus. The bridge is guarded laxly on the eastern side by dwarven sentries operating out of a stout tower-and-guardhouse. The tower is fit for a dozen or so sentries, with room for stores and shelter for their hardy war ponies. There is no actual gate at this side of the bridge, but there is a very heavy iron chain pulled across the way at sundown. Each dawn, the dwarves remove the chain opening the way for merchant traffic and begin collecting toll. There is a sign posted with the toll costs in dwarven and common.
10gp per ladden cart
5gp per unladden cart
1gp per ladden pack animal
1sp per horse or unladden pack animal
1cp per person. (Children are free)
No cost for small pets. (Larger pets at sentries discretion)
The dwarves seem less concerned with foot traffic as they are cart traffic. There are six sentries out on watch at sunup regulating bridge traffic. Two pairs stand at either side of the bridge entrance, and another two attend the toll booth off to one side. The toll booth is of sturdy make, designed to handle foul weather and keep the toll collectors in the shade but is otherwise very plain.
The toll collectors focus on speaking with and collecting toll from the merchants while the other pairs of sentries handle horse and foot traffic. They don’t bother to speak to the travelers unless they are asked a question and do not personally take the toll either. Instead they stand by three metal buckets with a slot in the top held up by a metal stand. One for copper, one for silver, and one for gold.
The buckets appear quite plain, but they are actually magically enchanted. If someone drops in a false coin, or the wrong type of coin, the bucket will glow and sound an alarm. That is why the sentries appear so lax because the biggest part of their job is handled by the magic buckets.
At the other side of the bridge an impressive stone keep rises from the rocky outcropping of the western shore beside the bridge, with two gatehouses extending from it across the bridge. From its lofty rampart heights, beneath the fluttering flags of Vulkh, there are usually two Vulkyrie scanning the crowd with eagle-like eyes. The portcullis’ in these gatehouses can easily be dropped, trapping foes between them like rats in a trap.
Masaeus has stood for nearly 300 years, rising in population density and prosperity ever since. It is already considered cramped, but possibly could sustain up too 25,000 souls during a siege or perhaps even permanently if most of its warehouse space was converted into living space. However that is not likely as warehouse space is important in a trade city. Living costs here are constantly rising as the merchant lords try to force out more of the poor in order to make more room for wealthier citizens who can afford higher taxes.
While the Vul no doubt rule the land, a city council of merchant lords rule Masaeus. Merchant lords oversee tax revenue and slave labor, controlling trade and local business through lesser officials. Some rich citizens also have a measure of political influence. Namely guild leaders, foreign merchants, powerful wizards, high clerics, famous sages, explorers, adventurers or mercenaries.
The city of Masaeus wasn’t just designed to accommodate trade, but to control it. Several huge open-air markets cater to every variety of goods available, each of which connected to a different city gate. Because the markets are so specialized and spread out, the flow of trade in and out of the city can be closely monitored and controlled. In this way, each city gate serves like a faucet, controlling the flow of wealth.