Golden Scales, Golden Apples
Wayford is very nearly a small city. It nestles between the clear waters of the Temly River and the vast expanse of the Twilight Forest. Wayford has been claimed by one king or another for the last seven hundred years, but currently it stands alone. The latest Lord Wayford rules the city as Archon. His autocracy is aided and counseled by bosses from each ward. Wayford began centuries ago as a small mining enclave, where miners high up on Highgold Hill struck it rich. Over the centuries, a tall wall has encircled the town. The upper crust lives uphill where the mine used to be. The majority of the townspeople live on the southern slope.
The town’s oddest feature is the total lack of beasts of burden. No horses pull carts over the town’s cobblestones, no oxen haul plows in the surrounding fields and farms, no mules loaded with ingot-filled sacks pick paths down from the old gold mine’s entrance to the river, no trained dogs serve as mounts to little monkeys in adorable saddles. This is because of what is commonly called the Horse Ban. About a century ago, the town was in the path of a terrifying kobold invasion. Lord Wayford struck a deal with Terapes, the elven king of Twilight Forest. The elven druids, rangers, fighters, mages, and so on would repel the invasion. In exchange for this, no beast of burden could be used in the town, its supporting villages and thorps, or the main road leading east through Twilight Forest. The only exception granted would be if the animal could clearly state in no uncertain terms that it wanted to pull the cart or carry the cargo. Why was the elf adamant over such an odd diplomatic condition? The Horse Ban has been heavily debated over the last century. The dominant theory is that Terapes was attempting to woo an attractive centaur adventurer that had been visiting the royal domicile. Other opinions feature an elven form of economic warfare, or elven madness, or elven graciousness (all things considered). The Ban is due to expire or be renewed in the next few years.
Because of the Ban, the town suffered an economic depression. Many buildings are empty as a significant percentage of the town’s population moved elsewhere. The trade has dropped, but the town is adapting since the Ban’s instatement. Many townspeople have become porters, bearers, or haulers. An extended family of dwarves has been setting up larger versions of mine carts (lever or pedal powered) in some avenues and streets. They have also set up a large lift system for cargo up to High End. The town is becoming known for casting wheels and gears. All the demand for iron and wood, coke and lime has enriched the dwarven settlement upriver. There is also still trade to the large city downriver, trade across the river where horses may be ridden, and even trade through the forest, though carts must be pulled by teams of porters.
Gnomish designers are also working on bicycle and rickshaw technology, but this has not yet replaced the manual wain, dray, or palanquin. Some sort of flexible, yet tough substance is needed for improved wheels for the technology to come into effective use. The gnomish clan is also working on some kind of river barge hauled into the disused hippodrome just outside of the town walls.
POPULATION: currently about 20,000, mostly humans, dwarves, and halflings. This is down from 35,000 a century ago. Elves are not widely respected within the town walls, being tied to the town’s recession. This number includes a number of farmers outside of the town walls. The average alignment used to be Lawful Good, Neutral Good, or Lawful Neutral, but with times being tough, more citizens are sliding towards Chaotic or even Evil. Hestia forgive them.
Exports: The gold mine is mostly played out but still issues forth some small yields. There are plenty of artisans in town, and there are usually some beautiful surpluses to send out into the world. Its most important export is death, in the form of the Golden Myrmidons, who hire themselves out from time to time.
Imports: Fortunately, the town can mostly feed itself from its fields and fish from the river. It takes iron and other metals from Hammerfast upriver, and finer finished goods from Suzil downriver.
CULTURE: Before the Horse Ban, the town was mad for bear-baiting and horse-racing. Some bear pits still exist to this day, though they have been repurposed. The hippodrome just outside of town lay unused for decades before a clan of gnomes purchased it. Currently, the town appreciates bards and poets in its bars, and the upper crust in High End have a small amphitheater for theatrical productions. There is a seasonal festival held under a huge tent every year, where cavorting tumblers dress in exotic costumes to represent ancient struggles against monsters, the founding of the town, and certain religious myths.
RELIGION: Shrines and temples dot the neighborhoods. Most of the major Good or Neutral gods have at least one shrine. The Myrmidons pay respects to Ares and Nike. The farmers worship Demeter. The sages nod towards Apollo and Athena. The artisans and dwarves build edifices to Hephaestus. The elves favor Artemis, when they visit. The down-and-out pray for Tyche to reverse the town’s fortunes again. If the city is beloved by any of the Gods, they would be Hephaestus and Athena.
MAGIC: Not unknown, uncommon. Spells between levels 1 and 2 can be cast by mages for a price. That price might be more than a poor man’s annual income. Generally, the people appreciate magic that comes from druids, clerics, paladins, or bards, but they are leery of the arcane mysteries that spew forth from wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks. They tolerate divination magic.
POLITICS: Lord Wayford is the Archon of the city, and all power flows from him. Wayford is run by organizations in their various wards. The ward bosses meet bimonthly in a “warding” with a Skala family member in Wayford Castle. Lord Wayford may veto or dictate actions though he rarely does so. External affairs are handled through the wardings on a somewhat ad hoc relationship. The city maintains good relations with neighboring city-states through emissaries. Ward politics are often rowdy.
Current members of the warding: Lord Wayford, The Jester ward boss is Ecthin Korridge, a Halfling. The Porterhouse ward boss is Phaul Donces, a middle-aged human. The Rivergate ward boss is Xanthra Stone, a dwarf paladin. The High End ward boss is Zalliope Throun, a wealthy human. The current commander of the Golden Myrmidons, Gletis Hera, and the master of the mint, Dyanoples the Elder, have advisory seats.
• Uppity elves/this Horse Ban is nonsense/what have they done for us lately?
• Jester’s (and Wayford’s) decline. Redevelopment of Jester?
• Is Suzil (downriver) encroaching on us?
• Is the trade with Hammerfast (upriver) good enough for us?
• Should we align ourselves with a greater city-state or kingdom?
• Are we feeding ourselves enough?
• Are the gods happy with us?
• Younger generation’s moral decline (evidenced by fiend worship, necromancy, and indolence).
• Are there kobold raiders, or worse, coming at us from the north?
• Should the Golden Myrmidons be hired out for X conflict? Or Y conflict? And wouldn’t that leave us defenseless?
• Why aren’t those goldbloods up in High End doing more to help us down here?
POINTS OF INTEREST
By Neighborhood/Ward, starting low and going up:
Sewers: At one point, the town’s pride, built to last a century. That was two hundred years ago. They are still used but poorly maintained. Rumor has it that there are occasional monsters, even goblins down there.
Outside the Walls: The countryside is dotted with thorps and little manors for the farms, orchards, and market gardens that feed the town. Not too far from the town is the Hippodrome, now useless with the Horse Ban. A small colony of gnomes has taken up residence there. Their workshops ring out with the sounds of industry.
River wharves and ferry: The Temly is remarkably clean and the fish are good eatin’. Barges, often outfitted with archers or siege equipment, bring wood, iron and minerals from upriver, and sand, glass, fine textiles, and finished goods. After docking at Wayford’s wharves, they’ll carry away fruits, grains, thatching, river-food, textiles, and cogs and gears. There is a high ferry – a rope system is suspended 40’ above the river so the ferry over to Paddock can share the river with these larger barges.
Paddock: The largest village that pays tribute to Wayford. It has grown tremendously since the Horse Ban, as caravans coming from the East, having crossed wasteland and desert, must abandon their horses and other odd beasts should they wish to travel through the Twilight Forest to the west. They cross the river with their goods, hire porters in Porterhouse, and eventually hire new beasts of burden in the next town past the forest, Baygrove. The village is prosperous with travelers seeking mounts to travel East, but woe betide them should nomads ride out of the desert with an urge to rustle the horses.
Jester: This ward has a rambunctious reputation. It lost the most population following the Horse Ban of all the wards, so it has the most abandoned structures. There is still plenty of housing for laborers and artisans. Some land has even be reclaimed as a sheepfold and garden. There are some slums for those who prefer to live in squalor, unmolested by guards or the disdain of their neighbors. The Drum Tower’s entrance and the massive cargo lift system is technically located in Jester, where it butts up against Highhold Hill. The Jester ward boss is Ecthin Korridge, a Halfling.
Porterhouse: where many bearers live and work, and many warehouses for the caravans crossing the river or goods traveling the Temly. Near Southgate is Porterhouse Square, one of the busiest, noisiest parts of the city, where bearers are hired. The smellier industries such as the tanners are located here. While its inhabitants are generally poorer than parts of Jester, Porterhouse is said to be safer. The Porterhouse Ward Boss is Phaul Donces, a middle-aged human.
Rivergate: Middle class neighborhoods making a living off of river traffic. Besides a number of tradesmen and guilds of all stripes, there are also shops, halls, restaurants, and parks. The inhabitants may not have true blue blood but certainly have pretensions of standing. Rivergate also features a semi-permanent tent capable of hosting 3000 people, used for seasonal observances, called the Krone or the “Big Tent”. The Krone is located at the wide avenues where Porterhouse, Rivergate, and Jester intersect. The Rivergate ward boss is Xanthra Stone, a dwarf paladin.
· Paladin Hill: No discussion of Rivergate is complete without mentioning Paladin Hill, dwarfed by Highgold Hill to the north. Paladin Hill has the greatest concentration of shrines, temples, and even churches in the city. It also has the most graveyards and cemeteries, and acolytes of Hades and others do a decent job of keeping them undead-free. It also has a number of clerk-houses and private libraries. Paladin Hill also features a temple complex for the order of paladins (sometimes waggishly called the Apollodins) that live there. The grand temple has been in the early stages of development for the last 150 years. Construction is expected to last another century (unless someone started bequeathing astral diamonds to the Order of Apollo).
Around the Hill: Highgold Hill is too steep to build much on the east, west, and north facings. At one point three hundred years ago, a member of one of the wealthiest dwarven mining families struck out to have his image carved out of the north face. His sculpting crews got as far as rendering his eyes and bushy eyebrows before the dwarf passed away in a tragic fall. The Eyes of Limestone Patros remain, an unnerving sight to anyone approaching the town from the north. The town walls make a complete circle around the hill, ensuring that no enemy can sneak in via mountaineering.
High End: Good luck getting up there without being an accepted member of high society or a registered servant or vendor, or a special guest chaperoned by a native blueblood. There are a number of estates peopled with the descendants of the original gold miner and settlers protecting the settlement high up on the Hill 700 years ago. Some of their unlucky descendants late in the birth order had to descend to Rivergate or worse. Access to High End is gained mainly through two ways—the steep sloping road from Rivergate through an impressive gate house at the top, or the massive lift system based in Jester’s extreme north end. A Diagonal Impelled Cable-Gripping Cart apparatus is being tested by one of the dwarven families on the steep hill. It is controversial by the High End inhabitants that refuse to think that ascending should be made any easier. High End features fine homes, clubs, shrines, chapels, parks, promenades, agoras, theaters and amphitheaters. There is still a functioning gold mine and mint. It is reported that production has slackened but even following the Horse Ban, the rich still seem to be flush with coin. The ward boss is Zalliope Throun, a wealthy human.
High End is dominated by Wayford Castle, the family seat of Lord Wayford. The castle was built nearly 500 years ago, and it has been occupied by the Skala family all of that time (Their family insignia: gold nugget on an orange field). It is beautiful but functional in case of siege. Painted pillars front against higher stone walls and towers. The mint is located within its walls, and the town’s council meets there. It can be seen by nearly every point in the town below.
The Golden Dragon Amphitheater, looking down over the town, hosts local and occasional famous troupes and performers.
The Arkmedian Sculpture Garden overlooks the Temly. Masterwork marble and stone sculptures of beasts, monsters, and humanoids cavort in a pleasingly arranged garden, all over 150 years old.
The Sematite Manse is an unusual looking mansion. It is shaped like a reeded toroid topped by a pyramid and has no windows. The Manse quivers and glows with different colors, even though its resident, Archmage Panmerclos, has not been seen in nearly three years. The notorious scalawag is believed to be planeswalking in his retirement.
Auspix Tower is located near the summit of Highgold Hill. A series of columns enclose the tower structure itself. At the top of the tower, a number of rocks are carved in interesting configurations for the purposes of astrological research. Powerful divination magic can be worked at the town counsel’s request, or with a hefty sacrifice.
By Classy Hangouts:
Fighters: The Drum Tower – 400-500 fighters, the Golden Myrmidons, train and garrison there. They fight as phalanxes. They man the town’s towers and walls when they aren’t hiring themselves out as mercenaries, or aiding allies.
Clerics and Paladins: minor temples to all Good and Neutral deities in every ward. Bigger temples to Apollo near Paladin Hill, including temple complex that is scheduled to be completed in the next eighty to one hundred years. 30-40 Paladins live up there, when they are not leaving on religious missions or pilgrimages.
Magic-Users: almost none. There is an observation tower dedicated to the Zodiac high up on Highgold Hill. That is run by two elderly mages, with 3-4 apprentices at any time. There is also an archmage’s manse in High End, but he is believed to be planeswalking in his retirement…or dead. Generally, the people appreciate magic that comes from druids, clerics, paladins, or bards, but they are leery of the arcane mysteries that spew forth from wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks. They tolerate divination magic.
Barbarians: fighting club in Porterhouse. 1st Rule – Tap out means fight’s done. 2nd Rule – you pay for property damage and raise dead spells.
Monks, Druids, Rangers, Clerics of Artemis: small garden parks and shrines, otherwise they need to go to certain groves in the Twilight Forest.
Thieves: Why, there are no thieves in Wayford! Any criminals can be found rotting in the City Watch prison in Porterhouse. Although several people in Jester and Porterhouse might know people that know how to obtain things in this wintry economic climate. Certain inns, pawnshops, and theaters in Porterhouse and Jester are considered to be dodgy, especially in abandoned areas. Rumor has it that there is a small guild of bored rich adolescents that are thinking about trying to set up an overland/undertable trading company.
Bards: Sundry Taverns, Inns, impromptu street performances, and of course the Golden Dragon Amphitheater in High End.
Twilight Forest to the West: Its “capital” is Nione. Elves pronounce it “Nigh-oh-nay”, humans pronounce it “knee-o-knee”. King Terapes makes his home there on a plateau ringed with cleverly worked stone and trees. Sparsely settled with wood elves and other fey, but strong enough to never be conquered. Rumors and fairy-tales abound about vanishings deep in the wood by ignorant roamers. There may be one portal or several portals to the Feywild under its leafy ceilings. The Road through the forest is relatively safe. There are Bearer Bond way stations scattered along the road to offer rotations of porters. Beloved of Artemis and Pan.
Baygrove to the Further West: A lake town on the other side of the forest, surrounded by miles of gently rolling hills and fields. Another link to the loose trade routes that dot the land. More halflings than Wayford. Beloved of Demeter.
Suzil, the Grand City downriver: Suzil, the jewel of the Green Glass Sea. Suzil, the city of towering hills and hills full of towers. Suzil, where the poor beg for bread and the rich beg for magic bread of healing. Suzil, where a family can rise to prominence and fall to ruin within anywhere from ten generations or a bad month. Beloved of Zeus and Tyche.
The Green Glass Sea: salty and clear even when it rages. The wonder of Poseidon.
Dynil, the cliff-clinging town: Dynil clutches to a series of ridges above another river mouth emptying into the GG Sea. Beloved of Dionysius and other rogues.
Hammerfast, upriver: a town peopled with an un/holy alliance between orcs and dwarves, and occasional ghosts. Beloved of Hephaestus and whatever the orcs worship.
The Titan’s Cup, the headwaters of the Temly: A friggin’ giant goblet constantly overflowing with water, at least that’s what the legends say. Populated by fearsome creatures, so tourism is down.
Other locations: to the north of Wayford, there are swamps and hills and giant mountains. To the east, there are plains and deserts and wastelands and stranger things beyond. To the west, a great empire uneasily wheezes along. To the south, plains, a forest, the cities of Suzil and Dynil, the Great Glass Sea, and then, it is unknown.
Quotes: “Wayford? Sure, it’s comfortable if your ancestors got their hands dirty.”
“My uncle used to say he was so hungry he could eat a horse. He eventually tried smuggling a few horses in the city for horsemeat. The magistrate didn’t buy it. Lousy elves and their horse ban.”
“There’s nothing more beautiful that watching the rising sun light up all them columns and such up in High End.”
“Sure, we don’t have mules, but we have modern technology. Why, one of those gnomes sold my brother little wheels that strap to his boots. If he’s on flagstones, he’s as fast as lightning. Pity about the cobblestones. They aren’t so much on plowed fields neither, but the gnomes say they’re working on that.”