Written by The Mad Professor
understand the nature of Spire City, one must understand its history. Like most of the major cities in Adylheim its history stretches well beyond that of the Empire, it is one event which defines the city more than any other though. During the Mage Wars in 2954 as the Eiderdown Campaign was drawing to a close the city was one of those who suffered through a serious battle. Much of the city was destroyed in the fighting and the fires and a particularly nasty storm took care of what was left. At the close of the Mage Wars Arion II commanded the resurrection of Spire City and sent his best architects to rebuild of the city. It had, up till that point, been used as a stronghold against barbarian invasions and he was looking to return it to using it once more to keep the coast clear of barbarian raiders. The architects which came to Spire City decided to do something more ambitious than just restoring the city to its former glory. The ten of them, all priests of Periap-Thon decided that they would create something fitting of a stronghold. They spent months creating the layout of a city that would, once it was constructed, not be merely another city, but a prayer to the warrior god Therium made in stone and brick. As part of the sacred geometry they used to create the city, the tenth architect gave up his life for the city, and the nine others buried him alive under the foundation of the central building in Spire City. The Nine Unknown Architects as they are known built a city unlike any other, using the most modern construction techniques they created a city where the enemy would break like water on its massive walls. Priests of Therium were sent to bless the walls, priests of Adienna the massive gates. And even back then they created the Book of the City, a lengthy three hundred page tome filled with instructions for how to continue building the city, what could be changed, what could not. The city's powerful prayer and its powerful walls were both said to guard against attackers, and throughout the Great Snake War and the later clashes with Imperial Forces the city was never taken by force. Even the mighty Naga had to bow before the power of the walls of Spire City, where every stone contained a prayer to Therium for strength. Since that time, architects have continued to improve on Spire City from their temple to Periap-Thon in one of the five Spires that surround the city. The architects of Spire City have been noted as being among the more accomplished in Adylheim with a level of artistry and skill rarely seen elsewhere. One unforeseen consequence of their strange architecture is that the Spire City is more plagued by ghosts, shudders and similar strange phenomena than any other city in Adylheim. It should be noted that the satellite town of Rivertown was built somewhat later, almost as an afterthought and lacks the same qualities as the rest of Spire City with the buildings largely consisting of wood and often acts as something of a playground for the more adventurous architects. Rumours even suggest that the architects are behind the fires which plague Rivertown as they inevitably end up being the ones ordained to rebuild it.
Spire City is largely built on top of a shallow topsoil, beneath which lies a solid foundation of granite. This has both served as solid foundation on which to build houses and made creating basements something of a trial. It is located in a natural amphitheatre, with a large hillock surrounding the majority of the city, before it drops off into a cliff that goes almost straight into the ocean. The ocean cliffs have been noted as being extremely treacherous for approaching ships and more than one has broken their hulls on the jagged rocks. All attempts at piloting ships among the many reefs and shoals of the cliffs have ended in disaster for the ships. The one exception is the famed pilot Harald Haldfast who managed to pilot a small cog through the jagged waters one stormy night and come out on the other side alone. There are those in Spire City who make a living climbing down the cliffs at low tide to collect treasures from the grounded ships. A competition is also held annually at the 33rd of Theriumnus, where the strongest swimmers in the city brave their lives swimming from one side of the city to the other, the winner is generally a prize by the Archduke himself. On top of the hillock is what is called the Ridge and the Five Spires of Therium. The Five Spires of Therium are large natural rock formations that rise high into the sky and give the city its name. The five spires have been connected by a massive wall where, according to legend, every stone has been engraved with a prayer to Therium for strength. With the blatant undesirability of the cliffs as a harbour, the city has been forced to create the smaller Rivertown, which serves as a harbour for ships where the Tharen spills out into the Great Sea. Even so, the Guild of Pilots, located in Rivertown do a brisk business in ensuring that ships make it in and out of harbour safely. Rivertown remains a satellite of Spire City though, with little connecting it except a walled road on which carts can travel. Travellers occasionally set up tents on the plains between Rivertown and the city proper.
Spire City is generally split into three obvious districts, the Ridge, the Bowl and Rivertown. Each has its own distinguishing features and serves a unique function within the city.
The Ridge is where the most expensive manors and palaces in Spire City can be found, unlike the rest of the city it contains an expansive collection of small parks. While most of the rich and mighty in Spire City can be found up here, they are far from the only ones who populate this hilltop. Certainly the Ridge has the lowest populace compared to the space used of anywhere in the city, it is also home to its most important temples and the Five Spires of Therium. Connecting the Ridge to the Bowl is a steep hill on which several buildings (against all common sense) have been constructed. The hill is also home to several run offs where the sewers that have been installed among the rich run down into a series of pools in the Bowl as well as a series of staircases and paths which allow access to and from the Ridge from the Bowl.
The Bowl is where most of the common people of the city can be found. The various merchant districts can be found here, with artisans and merchants clumping together, leading to street names such as Tailor Street, Cobbler's Perch, Blacksmith's Alley being common. Most of the guilds in the city can be found here, as well as the majority of the building necessary for the governance of the city. Near the edge of the Ridge only the poorest will generally be found as the open cesspits which collect the waste that is collected in the sewers among the rich will generally stink and (in strong wind) waft down onto those walking nearby. While the Bowl is bordered to the north and east by the Ridge, the Bowl has its back to the Great Sea, with steep cliffs leading to ocean reefs to the west and the tall city walls offering a border to the south.
Rivertown lies south of Spire City proper, forming something of a satellite town. It is connected to the city proper by a short walled road which leads to the southern walls of Spire City. Unlike the rest of the city, Rivertown is primarily built in wood, and is generally considered to be the chink in the armour of Spire City. As such most vital industries are generally kept out of Rivertown, though situated as it is on the banks of the Tharen it serves as the harbour of Spire City and a good deal out of the outgoing and incoming trade goes through Rivertown. Unlike the rest of Spire City, Rivertown enjoys an atmosphere of relative freedom, if not free of, then certainly not as marked by the presence of the Red Guard and the city watch. Rivertown has historically had its own magistrate and slightly more lax policing than the city proper. Of course this has not stopped the Archduke from keeping a tight eye on all goods going in and out. All of which are subject to the Archduke's taxation and a toll is paid on all outgoing and incoming goods. Despite being saddled with the less desirable artisans and crafts, Rivertown is nevertheless home to several famed guilds. Foremost among which is without a doubt the Guild of Pilots, who are responsible for ensuring that ships make the journey to harbour without incident. An occasionally tricky procedure in the treacherous waters around Spire City. The Hammers, whose task it is to keep the harbour free of ice in the winter are another famous guild, although their actual power in the city is miniscule they are generally looked at as brave by the general populace. Of course, Rivertown would not be Rivertown without the Fragrant Quarter, where the tanners have made their home, exiled as they are from the main city they have to ply their smelly trade in Rivertown, creating the Fragrant Quarter where precious few tread voluntarily.
The Five Spires of Therium are without a doubt the most central feature of the city and the feature for which it has been named. The Spires are naturally occurring rock features and have through many hundred years been carefully hollowed out and reinforced to achieve their present state. As one might guess from the name there are five in total, with each one incorporated into the city wall.
Central to the city and the largest fortress in the city is the fortress of the Archduke, it's located at where two of the spires, Power and Skill respectively meet and are is generally considered to be one of the strongest fortresses in Starkwater. It's guarded at all times by the Archduke's most trusted personal guard.
The Magorg SpireEdit
The Magorgs have, with the Archduke's blessing, occupied the spire of Strength. It sits just north of the Archduke's Fortress.
The Church of TheriumEdit
The Church of Therium has always been located in the spire of Belief, it is the northernmost of the Spires and overlooks the majority of the city. The head priest there is generally considered to be the most influential religious figure in Starkwater. From the spire of Belief comes the proud Paladins of Therium, warriorpriests of such skill that they are feared throughout most of Adylheim, they are usually the ones chosen to fight at the Ice Arena every year.
The Church of Periap-ThonEdit
The smallest of the spires is the southernmost of the spires, the spire of Honour. It is the home to the Sacred Architects, a cult of worshippers of Periap-Thon who specialise in architecture and are known across Adylheim for their skill. They are especially known for what is called the architecture of illusion, the implementation of optical illusions to make rooms look different from what they are and to hide what is really there. They are also the keepers of the Book of the City, the tome with which the Nine Unknown Architects described what can and cannot be built in Spire City. They are the ultimate mediators in all things related to construction and it is said that no one keeps as accurate a map of the city as they do.
The City WallsEdit
The City Walls of Spire City are among the tallest and strongest in all of Adylheim, it has weathered assaults by many armies, though most are discouraged by the mere reputation of the city. Each of the individual stone blocks used in its construction has been carefully engraved with a prayer to Therium on the side which faces away from the outside, so exposure to the elements will not wear it down. The wall itself is considered sacred to soldiers and many perform a ritual where they write their prayer on the wall in chalk and then sprinkle chicken blood on the wall before going to war. In addition to its stout construction the wall is built on top of an incline which requires all assailants to jog up a hill to get to the wall. The city wall also integrates the Five Spires of Therium into its make up, the five of them forming secure points along the circumference. On the southern side of the city, the wall is at its weakest, with no connecting spires and having to cross a relatively flat area of land. Despite this, it remains a formidable obstacle for any army. The wall has an even weaker section, which is generally left unguarded, which protects the eastern approach of the road to Rivertown. The wall protecting Rivertown isn't nearly as formidable as the one that protects Spire City proper, it's of medium height and lacks the natural advantages the one in Spire City has as it is located on relatively flat land.
The architects of Spire City have continuously tweaked the city's many buildings to make sure that they are as modern and useful as possible. They have always made use of the sloped roofs, however, as dictated by the weather. The majority of the city is built so with pointed arches, ribbed vaulting and elaborate sculptures, while this is not true everywhere, the city is constantly being built and rebuilt piece by piece as new and interesting architectural techniques are discovered and utilised. The architects of Spire City are known especially for their architecture of illusion, however, and there no other cities in Adylheim where there can be found so many hidden or secret passages and alleyways which are not visible except to the trained eye. The many strange architectural quirks of Spire City has lead it to be one of the more dangerous places to travel.
Situated as it is on granite, it is difficult for there to be much underground construction in Spire City. Despite this, there has been a temple to Maadrth beneath Spire City since time immemorial, the Nine Unknown Architects were said to have made a deal with them, fashioning their tunnels into an architectural prayer to the God of the Deep Earth. In return the priests that lived beneath the city allowed the construction of a sewer system, as well as the many wells and fountains that feed the city’s need for water. Over the years many of those who wanted to have their movements go unnoticed have noted that the structure of the underground tunnels which are part of the temple of Maadrth change. The constantly shifting tunnels of the underground of Spire City are said to be impossible to map. Whatever strange influence the Priests of Maadrth have over the tunnels beneath the city seems to confuse more than just those few who dare to step into them.
The Sea of OrmundEdit
Located deep beneath the city is the a giant cavern with the city's water supply. A large freshwater lake which is jealously guarded by the priests of Maadrth. It is said that the priests of Periap-Thon have created a vast machinery which allows the spread of the water to all the various locations in Spire City and a large statue to honour the god and his role in creating the city can be found in the middle of the sea. Apart from the Tharen, which feeds the fresh water needs of Rivertown, Spire City relies on this underground lake for their drinking water.
Club Noir is the definition of an underground establishment. It's not illegal by any means but its location beneath the city has a tendency to make it something of a hotspot for strange magical happenings and conspiracies. Most wizards know well enough to avoid it and its occupants.
The Temple of MaadrthEdit
The majority of the tunnels beneath Spire City are said to be directly connected to the Temple of Maadrth. They stretch and tangle with other tunnels beneath the city, theoretically one could walk from one side of the city to another through the underground tunnels, but the temple is said to shift and change, no map has ever been created of the underground tunnels and no guides exist, according to those who have travelled there, the mere act of trying to map the underground tunnels is futile and bad luck to boot.
The Throne of AfterlifeEdit
The denizens of Spire City have two ways of dealing with their dead, the first and cheapest is the Throne of Afterlife, it consists of a large stone slab in a vault beneath the city itself. Bodies are left on this stone slab by and a priest of Maia generally says a few words before they leave. Once the ceremony is done the mourners leave the vault and close the door behind themselves. Those few who have dared to stay behind after the doors close returned gibbering madly and covered in scratches, never daring to tell the tale of what happened. When the doors are opened again though, any bodies left behind are gone, leaving little but small pools of blood to suggest they had ever been there in the first place. Small collections of skulls and bones from people can be found strewn throughout the tunnels beneath Spire City, even incorporated into the stonework.
The Five GuardiansEdit
There are five statues which can be seen throughout the tunnels in Spire City, though they are never found in the same place twice. They are known collectively as the Five Guardians and seeing all of them together is supposed to be a very good omen. The Five are, the Piper, the Knight, the Lady, the Pillar and the Philosopher. Each of the five serve different functions, with the Piper, a woman playing a set of pipes, generally being a sign that you’re on the right path, whereas the Lady, a statue of a woman without a face, can be bad luck although according to the legends she can be placated with gifts of jewellery. The Knight, a statue of a man in full armour and holding a sword, is considered to be a warning of bad things to come. The Pillar is the most ambiguous being a standing stone covered in strange, cryptic messages that no one understands, and which change between each time it’s encountered, the Pillar’s presence can be both good luck and bad, but generally shows great changes coming. The final statue, the Philosopher, is the least seen of the five and consist of a man with three heads, according to the legends, leaving him with a question will cause you to have it answered by the time you leave the city.
The Bull’s ChainEdit
The Bull’s Chain is a giant link in a chain which can be found in one of the caves beneath Spire City. Many believe it is sacred to Maadrth and part of the chain which ties him beneath the ground. Those who stumble across it often leave small offerings at the point where the chain touches the ground. Some even dare to try to cut the chain, but while many have tried to cut the chain, nothing that has been tried has left so much as a scratch on the surface.
Ghost And Paranormal SitesEdit
Perhaps as a result of its construction, Spire City is home to more ghost activity and powerful paranormal phenomena than any other large city.
It is generally considered to be a very bad idea to walk across Charnel Street at night, as on occasion ghost hands come out of the pavement, trying vainly to pull whoever is walking down. While there are no recorded instances of anyone being pulled down through the pavement, those who have fallen have spoken of seconds turning into years as they relive their worst nightmares on the hard pavement of Spire City.
The Grey LadyEdit
The Grey Lady is one of the more famous ghosts in Spire City, every Spirit's Night she walks out to the cliffs of the city. According to the legends surrounding her, she's looking for her lover to return from the sea. Some say she is the ghost of a noblewoman, some say she is a rich merchant's widow. Regardless of the truth of the matter, she is there every Spirit's Night, watching the sea for her lover to return. Brave divers occasionally foray into the waters below Spire City and bring back precious grey pearls which are said to be the tears of the Grey Lady and are said to enhance the beauty of those who wear them.
The Risen GamblerEdit
The Risen Gambler is said to be the ghost of a man who loved gambling a little too much, one day when the plague visited Spire City he found himself gambling with the recently dead and when he lost they took his life. He is said to frequent card and dice games throughout the city, and often joins games that start at midnight. Losing against the Gambler means forfeiting one's life, but the potential reward is said to be just as great as the Gambler knows the secrets of where a great many forgotten treasures in the city are hidden.
The Sanitorium is said to be the last resting place of the Nine Unknown Architects, and also where they left many of their secrets for those who would dare to find them. It is also where they did some of their most controversial work and no one has dared change this house since then. Something about the way the architecture has been applied to the house makes the whole place subtly wrong to the naked eye. Wizards, sensitives and others attuned to the stranger senses get excruciating headaches just by going near it. The architecture seems to defy any kind of organisation, the lines do not meet where they’re supposed to, the angles go wider than one might think possible. Ghost activity is stronger near the Sanitorium than anywhere else, and few choose to live close to it if they can avoid it.
The Statues of TharenEdit
Standing silent vigil over the Tharen are a series of statues, some buried in the river's silt, others standing proudly on the river banks. Each statue is of a man who stands and looks into the running water of the Tharen. According to legends, the statues have been there longer than the city itself, and it is believed that leaving small offerings to the statues will keep your boat from being lost in the river currents. As such, the statues are often adorned with small necklaces and surrounded by offerings of various kinds. No one admits to sculpting new statues, though new ones do occasionally appear. They are said to be the souls of people who have drowned in the river and on the first of Maius, they move from their silent vigil and those who dare can even ask them for advice. One thing is for sure, bad luck has befallen all who have dared to move or destroy any of the statues.
The Tenth ArchitectEdit
One of the most famous ghosts of Spire City is that of one of its founding fathers. The tenth architect is said to haunt the many buildings of the city, writing copious notes on the walls for improvements and alterations that need to be made. While seeing the tenth architect is said to be good luck, the buildings he haunts tend to need to be altered according to his wishes as soon as possible or bad luck will befall the house and anyone living there.
The Cliffside PyreEdit
There is, in Spire City, one way in which the rich dispose of their dead, and that way is the Cliffside Pyre. It’s a pagoda overhanging the seaside cliffs. Here the bodies are turned to ash in a blazing fire, the ashes of which are dumped into the sea. It is tended by a small cult of priests of Maia who charge a pretty penny for the use of their services.
Sanctuary of ErinaEdit
At the bottom of the sea cliffs lies a temple cut out of the very stone itself. When the weather gets bad it frequently gets flooded and lashed by the waves, but the priests of Erina who preach there retain the sanctuary regardless. It is a place of solemn worship where the priests meditate and listen to the messages parlayed by the crashing waves. The only way to get to the sanctuary is to climb down a treacherous stairway which has claimed more than one life. Inside the sanctuary though, the only justice which is accepted is that of Erina. Despite this, criminals and the wrongly accused rarely choose to make a dash for the Sanctuary, as throwing oneself at Erina’s mercy rarely ends well. Most who claim the sanctuary of Erina for more than a few hours have ended up drowned.
The Whispering WellEdit
Located roughly in the middle of Spire City the Whispering Well is a deep, brickfaced well, filled with small holes. It gets its name from the sound one can hear when stuck in the well. From the many small holes in the well’s sides can be heard a susurrus of voices from all across the city. Trying to single out any one conversation is near impossible, but there have been many who have tried. The Whispering Well has a tendency to flood during rainstorms, and fill up in winter, which makes it treacherous for most who would try to listen in on conversations.
Townbridge is a massive bridge which runs from the eastern gates of the city and down into the bowl. It’s constructed entirely out of stone and many homes and buildings have been built into and under the massive bridge. It serves the function of working as a cart path between the Bowl and the Ridge. While there are a couple of others, most of these are much more time consuming and difficult to traverse than Townbridge, making it one of the most traffic congested places in the city.