Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The City of Miir

There is a darkness here, my friend. It is a darkness that does not sleep. It is not banished by light--merely hidden. When the light is gone, the shadows will rush back, thicker and darker than before. The City of Shadows was aptly named.

Miir broods, nestled against the northern arm of the Western Ivthian Mountains. It is the very gateway to Ivthia for those from Arden or Garamond, squatting at the end of the only reliable pass through the treacherous range of jagged volcanic peaks between Ivthia and the rest of Demurra.

The city is shaped like a wheel, inside a pair of concentric walls that separate and isolate the citizens. In the center of the city is The Bastion, where monolithic Noble Houses extend like claws into the sky, all surrounding the castle known as The Tower of Miir, which stands a full two hundred feet high and can be seen from any point in the city limits. The great Bastion Wall cuts this area off from the rest of the city, and the gates are well manned, well barred, and (most important of all) well lit after sunset and long into the night.

Once past The Bastion Wall you enter The Pen, the most populous section of the city. Successful merchants, minor nobles, and the halls of the Trade Guilds that control almost all aspects of Miirian life are all found here. Surrounding this section is The Pen Wall, which is neither as well built nor as well kept as The Bastion is. At night, after the curfew settles, the brazers that light the streets are allowed to burn out, leaving this section of the city at the mercy of The Shadows.

Once through the Pen, you enter a labyrinthine spiderweb of hovels and crude huts called The Cobweb, where the poorest of the poor live. This part of the city is often ignored by the watch and the poor citizens left to rot until the next press gang for the mines is needed.

Miir lies on the only navigable route through the Western Ivthian Mountains to Arden and Garamond, and control of this important trade route is the city's life blood. It depends heavily on outside trade for food, since most of the plateau on which it rests is rocky, barren, and choked with gray volcanic ash from nearby Mount Morrine. Miir is blessed with an abundance of mineral wealth, and much of the population makes its living mining iron, gold, and other metals from the rich seams that open up after the earthquakes that rock this land, or else in the foundries that smelt the iron using volcanic heat. Volcanic tunnels snake under much of Miir, and have been converted into a reservoir and sewer system that fills the wells and fountains.

The city of Miir is ruled by an aristocracy of six extended families known collectively as The Six Noble Houses of Miir. Each of the Houses has control of at least one of the major trade guilds that allow the city to function. Each House is comprised not only of the families themselves but various members of Miir's gentry, guild inductees, and private mercenaries, and various rivalries and power struggles between interests are a common aspect of Miirian politics. Armed conflict between the Houses is not uncommon, though most such skirmishes fall far short of full-scale civil war.

This place is known as "The City of Shadows" for a reason: legend has it that the shadows are alive, and they are the true power of the city and surrounding area. When the Shadows descend on a person, they say, he might suddenly become lost in a part of the city he's lived in all his life and wander for hours, even days...if he's lucky. If he's unlucky, there are all manner of monsters said to live in the Shadows, and sometimes the Shadows themselves supposedly drain people of their life, or making folk just vanish into thin air.

What, exactly, the Shadows are remains a mystery, but their effect on the lives of average citizens is keenly felt. Many Mirrians are terrified of the dark, and try to keep a candle or other light source on around them at all times, and purposely eliminating a person's flame is an intolerable insult, usually met with violence. Every resident of Miir knows a tale of a person misled of vanished due to the shadows, and no resident of this city will open its doors to anyone after midnight, and will try to repel anyone who tries to force their way inside.

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