Time is recorded in years since the founding of Chanceway and the unification of the tribes of the Erthwylder men 544 years ago by King Geir. Time is measure in “Years Since the Gathering of the Erthwylder” which marks the day when the last Erthwylder kings swore loyalty to Geir. It is thus the year 545 of the Gathering. Between 545 years ago and 890 years ago is called the Ravaging Years, since it was the time after the fall of the Dimasi Imperium and the world of men was plunged into warfare and darkness. 891 years and before is called the Imperial Age, and no record written by Erthwylder man exists before the founding of the Dimasi Imperium, though many legends tell of the Early Days.
Other species keep time differently – the elves have a cyclical calendar that moves in great 110 year circles, while the dwarves are said to have the oldest linear calendar called the Singing Stone, which stretches for more than a mile in their capital. The Singing Stone dates back more than 4000 years. Even in Shadune, the land of men to the far south, there are said to be scrolls that pre-date the founding of the Dimasi Imperium.
The Gathering has allowed man – ever impetuous and bold – to spread quickly in all directions. The vastness of the Gathering and the wealth of mankind has made their capital of Chanceway a crossroads of civilizations. The Elves across the sea, the men of Shadune to the south, the Dwarves from the north, the Skaald from the East and the Halflings and Goblins from the southeast all pass through its gates. Even stranger traffic – some races with no known names – pass up the river Avendel and out to gods-know-where.
The city has ever imaginable amenity, luxury and inequity. Physically, it can be thought of as three sections: the Old City, Newcity and the Parminion Island.
The south part of Chanceway is called the Oldcity.
The Elder Castle:
An ancient fortress believed to built about 1000 years ago by the Dimasi Imperium. In the waning days of the once great Dimasi, the fortress was sacked by barbarians and thrown into ruin. About 600 years ago, with the rise of the Erthwylder (the ethnic majority of Chanceway and the surrounding land), the name Avaald-Aduon (River Watcher) was being used. When King Geir united the Erthwylder under a single flag 544 years ago, he established his court in Avaald-Aduon and renamed it Chanceway. From the Edler Castle he ruled while the city grew and prospered. Today, the Elder Castle hosts the Red Guard, the city-watch and armed forces of Chanceway. The Castle is home to the barracks, training grounds and administrative offices of the Guard, as well as being the main thoroughfare by which land traffic enters the city. This gives it the unique position as secure fortification and primary point of entry. Physically, the Castle is made of smooth, sharp angled walls that come to points where they meet, in the late Dimasi style. It’s walls rise about 12 meters high, with two towers evenly spaced from the entrance that rise about 20 meters. The main portcullis is enormous – spanning 4 meters wide and bisects the entire width of the fort. When one enters through the Elder Gate, one walks 40 meters or more under the ancient stones, scrawled with graffiti and smooth with age, until one emerges into the light of Chanceway.
The Tower of Drennan
Supposedly built on intersecting lay lines of power, the Drennan tower is the oldest structure in Chanceway, older even than the Elder Castle. It is where magic is formally studied in the city, and serves as the offices of the Drennan Theurges, an ancient order of Sorcerers. Currently, they are led by Magus Thinsel, an octogenarian and highly respected wizard. The tower itself is thin, tapering slightly as it rises to a full height of 20 stories, making it among the tallest structures in Chanceway. It is made of dark, almost black stone, worn smooth with age around the base and inlaid with swirling carved patterns that look not unlike vines. There are great bronze sconces outside each window which are lit nightly by the Theurges, creating a glowing double helix up the shaft of the tower. The doors are likewise bronze, set in massive hinges and depict two wyrms locked in combat. Stories from the Dimasi Imperium speak of the tower being home to an order of powerful wizards who allowed them to settle in the area. It is said that when the barbarian hordes sacked and destroyed the city, they left the tower untouched for fear of the men that dwelt inside. Beneath the tower lies the undercroft, reputed to be the greatest collection of books, scrolls and miscellaneous writing in the known world. It is off limits to the public. However, the need for magical goods does not go unaddressed, and the plaza surrounding the Tower hosts a number of shops run by the Order that sell benign potions, items and the like. The plaza surrounding the tower is often called Drennan Square, but is more commonly called the Knightfeather Square for the fountain in its center which bears a depiction of the legendary Knight of Feathers.
When Licitis the Tyrant was overthrown in the 164th Year of the Gathering, the symbol chosen by the revolutionaries was the Ruunsgar, a bird of prey which has two sets of wings (the primary wings of any bird and also feathered feet), chosen for it’s stalwart nature: it has the ability to hunt in gales and snow storms and flies in the most horrendous weather conditions. When Licitis was overthrown, the largest plaza in Chanceway (which is in the Dimasi Quarter) was renamed Ruunsgar Square. Meanwhile Licitis’ ceremonial armor was considered by many to be the central symbol for the revolt’s justification: in a time of famine and poverty, Licitis had instructed for a suit of gilded armor, inlaid with gems and careful scrollwork to be made. When he was overthrown and his young sister put on the crown, she order his armor forged into a large weather vane (most say this decision came from the revolutionaries themselves and not the young queen, but there you have it). The armor was formed into great loops upon which was fixed Licitis’ shield, sword, dagger and spear (the spear forms the main horizontal thrust of the vane). Atop the vane was made a Ruunsgar. Called Tyrnat’s Vane, it sits atop a tall fountain in Ruunsgar Square, where it stands forever as a reminder of the revolution. It is said that when Hylus Hall was built, the architect made certain to point the Regent’s Suite’s balcony directly at the square so that when the sun caught the golden vane “The Regent might remember who placed the crown upon its head.”
The southeastern part of the Old City is a winding collection of very small streets and very old buildings. This was the old city-center back when the Dimasi were still inhabiting Chanceway. As the oldest part of the city (besides the Tower of Drennan), it enjoys a storied past. Many old buildings still stand and there are numerous stories – some true, others unfounded – about a vast under city that lies below the surface. Gnomes prefer the Dimasi quarter since the buildings tend to be smaller, the streets narrower and the difficult to remember street layouts resemble so many of their puzzles and bar games.
Named for the local Ospreys which perch around the city between fishing trips, Pandion Square is a landmark that sits in the Dimasi Quarter. There are about a dozen great houses which face the square, each owned by a wealthy merchant. The surrounding neighborhood is considered one of the best – charming winding streets, many small but old and prestigious houses, a number of quality shops and free from the chaos of the city center and the river traffic. This part of the city is rarely visited by sailors, wanderers or travelers, but hosts many of the cities prominent merchants, knights and low-nobility. It is a favorite haunt of the high-end criminal and confidence artist, both for its wealthy clientele and the safety of the labyrinthine streets. A “Pandion Maze” is a common name for a confusing problem or difficult to follow plot.
The Twin Roads – Alden & Olwen
There are two roads which run North-South in the northern part of Oldcity. While the New Castle is glorious, the Drennan Tower impressive and the Vinters where you’ll probably lay your head, the Twin Roads are the center of Chanceway. “The Whole World Lies Between Alden & Olwen” is a popular saying, and it’s not far from true. Every race, every shop, ever frivolity and all the latest (of the very best) things are found there. Things on the two roads are so crowded that a general practice is to use Alden (the western road) for traffic headed north and Olwen (on the east) to travel south. To do otherwise isn’t uncommon by any stretch, but you’ll probably be glared at by locals (side note: “Going the Wrong Way Down Alden” is also a popular phrase meaning someone who is crazy). This is center of trade and commerce in the city for everything flashy and state of the art. Many of the most respected craftspersons and trade families, however, take pride in being located away from the high street in the Cartwrights.
The Cartwrights is a working-class part of town: not a lot of ends and amenities catering to travelers, but many Public Houses, family homes and above all Shops. The Cartwrights is so called because it houses a disproportionate amount of craftspeople’s shops in it’s wide, lazy lanes. The Cartwrights can, in many ways, be thought of as “the Burbs” of Chanceway – boring but comfortable, safe but unexciting. Still, you’ll probably spend a good amount of coin here.
The Glass District
So named for the many tall buildings with multi-colored windows, this is the district best known for its concentration of temples. There are many large (competing) temples as well as smaller ones. The Glass is also notable for being a favorite place for beggars and the poor to gather, hoping for hand outs from patrons of the temples. Finally, most of the best apothecaries and book dealers in the town make shops here in the small, square buildings that are crammed between the temples. They both buy from and sell to the various religious orders, while enjoying the safety and quiet brought by the religiosity of the area. It’s proximity to the river makes this a fertile district. Paired with the religious orders’ gardens and need to beautify, the Glass District is lovely: lined with great-bowed oaks, bending willows by the waterside and explosions of color from the various flowering trees and shrubs.
The farthest West of the boroughs, Nearcove is best known for it’s large houses, wide lanes and enormous plants. The district is home to the finest mansions outside the Noble Quarter. It has several smaller homes, still nice, and because of the prevalence of plant life, public parks and enormous gardens (as well as the isolation bringing peace and quiet), the neighborhood is favored by the Elves. Of the few sleepy shops that do set up in Nearcove, many favor fine goods and foods, while the rest cater to Elven tastes.
Along the south bank of the Avenel is sits a busy district called the Strand. While many ships dock here, most of the river traffic is the King’s Fleet, the royal Navy. The Strand is primarily known as a cosmopolitan hub being very near to Ruunsgar Sqaure, The Glass District and Nearcove. It is along the Strand that the Royal Academy sits, the half-barracks half-university where officers are trained. The Cartographer’s Guild has their office here (the chief mapmakers, explorers and pathfinders) and the famous House of Marvels has a vast facade facing the river. The House is the storage for all the wonders and artifacts the Gathering has acquired in its conquest, as well as art, oddities and other cultural ephemera.
The island that sits in the Avenel River in the center of Chanceway, it is the main commercial hub for import and export business in the city. The island can easily be thought of as three boroughs:
On the Western edge of the island lay the Docklands, a ring of wharfs, jetties and docks where ships large and small park. While the North and South banks of the Avenel around the island similarly host water craft and their crew, the Island itself is considered the choicest place to unload cargo and take shore leave. Aside from the numerous warehouses, there are a number of bars, brothels and hostels catering to the less-than-deserning sailing clientele. This is rough neighborhood where fist-fights are not only expected, they are instigated and betted on. The most notorious such bar is Muldoon’s.
The middle section of Parminion Island is host to breweries, taverns and inns, hence its name. Not as rowdy as the Docklands, the Vinters is where the man of means will lay his head during his journey through Chanceway. The beds are reasonably clean, the drink is reasonably priced and the prostitutes are reasonably discrete. A favorite district for the traveling adventurer, it’s most famous establishments are The Orchard (beer garden, mostly outdoors), the Moon & Sword (a tavern and inn, your fantasy standard) and the Heather-in-Winter (very old, wide-board wooden floors, fireplaces, class)
On the eastern edge of the island is a mess of smallish buildings. Although the entire island features brick lane streets, this district is the oldest and formerly the site of a great foundry which produced the material for the rest of the streets, hence it holds the name. There are many brick buildings here as well. The land slopes slightly upward on the Eastern edge of Parminion, and so residents of the Bricks get a nice view of the island all the way to the Docklands. Dark, winding and quiet, this is a neighborhood favored, not by thieves and killers per say, but of civilized criminals. Many deals are made here and most of the cities organized crime begins or operates out of the Bricks. In particular are gangs the Green Flame and the Dark Waves, and the infamous Grechiel crime family.
The part of Chanceway North of the river is called the New City. An expansion constructed entirely after the Gathering, the New City boasts the most modern buildings. To the north of Chanceway, the Bracklin Hills rise. Though not especially tall or majestic, they are craggy and provide natural protection to the city.
The New Castle:
Construction began on Hylus Hall (which most everyone just calls the New Castle) in the 315th Year of the Gathering, 230 years ago. It was begun under Queen Hylus, but not completed until the 376th Year, under the reign of her grandson King Garrow the Unrepentant. Named in her honor, the Castle sits on a steep rise which places it high above the rest of the city. It’s massive towers and thin, majestic architecture make it an imposing site. It dominates the skyline of the city.
The Halls of Order
When King Geir unified the Erthwylder 545 years ago, he set himself up as the sole regent of the land. But in the 164th Year of the Gathering, the crown had become quite corrupt and a strange hold over the city was held by Geir’s direct descendant, Licitis the Tyrant. A revolt of the nobility and common folk overturned the King, famously making his ceremonial arms (a symbol of corruption and power) into Tyrant’s Vane. While the crown remained intact, its power diminished somewhat with the establishment of the Halls of Order. Within these massive halls the Council of Families meet. Each “family” is a noble house, holding some land or title either from ancient times or granted by the crown. The main body is made up of Lords, who vote on various taxes and matters of state. Above them is the ruling and administrative body, the Barons (Lords hold Shires which are divided into Fiefs administrated by Vassals. Barons hold Tracts, which may or may not be further subdivided into Shires, with Lords sworn to their service). All Lords and Barons swear loyalty to the crown, but not obedience – they are empowered by the Ruunsgard Accord to act according to the best interest of their people. The careful power plays between the crown, the Barons, the Lords and the common folk they represent form the basis of political life in Chanceway.
The Noble Quarter
While residents are adamant that it is called “Gracewell Township,” absolutely everyone else calls this section of town the Noble’s Quarter. It sits on the hills just below the Halls of Order and it is where the largest most ostentatious homes are kept. There are no shops and little traffic – just the coming and going of servants and carriages. The “township” pays a heavy property tax to the throne, which provides a personal cadre of the Red Guard, pejoratively referred to as the Boot Polishers.
A thin portion of land East of the Noble Quarter and West of Brakendower, the Spine is a clashing of worlds. Much of the river traffic and travelers from Parmenion find their way to the Newcity, and pass through The Spine, bringing noisy traders, adventurers and the business that cater to them. Meanwhile, proximity to both the Noble Quarter and the financial district (Brackendower) means that many upper crust citizens come through, brining business with them. Finally, many blacksmiths and armorers call this place home, and while the buildings tend to be squat, the neighborhood has loads of character. It is the neighborhood of choice for artists and hosts many festivals throughout the year celebrating Dance, Painting, Sculpture and Bardic Performance. It also features many hilly roads and jutting rocks: features that the Dwarves that favor this borough take great comfort in.
The Guild Hall
Enormous and daunting, the huge drum-shaped building called the Guild Hall dominates the skyline of Brackendower. It is only four-stories tall but it’s footprint spans the equivalent of several city blocks. Within its walls are the offices of all the major trades guilds, but the main draw is the Guild Market. It’s a kind of clearing house for the halls – for while the greater market surrounds the Twin Roads, the Guild Market is where the guilds unload goods at a discount or give first-buy for discerning shoppers. In addition to being straight-to-market and moderated by the guilds, it also has the benefit of being indoors, making it the market of choice during the freezing winter months. (Out of Character – I imagine this as a cross between the trading floor of the new york stock exchange and a factory outlet sale.)
Finance, business, coin coating and ledgers: Brackendower is the cities’ financial district. As the political power of Chanceway rose for many centuries after the Gathering, more and more trade came through the city. As the coffers of the throne were filled, many powerful merchant families also emerged to fill in gaps in the King’s Fleet. Able to move more conspicuously and take chances more readily, several such families have risen to prominence in the last few hundred years. As a class, merchants have tended to settle and work in Brackendower which features buildings exclusively built in the Erthwylder style: pitched roofs, wood-paneled walls, cob covered walls and wood-shuttered windows (think cliche German / Dutch / English renaissance). The streets here are simple dirt, however, and get quite muddy in wet weather. For this reason, those who work (largely in finance) in Brackendower are colloquially referred to as Trudgers.
A very large borough that forms the Eastern edge of the Newcity, it’s sometimes called “The Village Within the Walls.” Structures here tend to be wood or cob and it is host to most of the animal traffic, veterinary services, and butchers in the city. It is dirty, muddy and noisy during the day, but farmers are nothing if not carousers and dances and feasts are very welcome here. As such, many halflings choose to settle in this borough. It is homey, relatively uncrowded (excepting all the beast) and very blue collar. There is a large gate built for animal traffic called Groomer’s Gate nearby. Besides the Elder Castle, it is the most frequently used of the city’s entrances.
The Wall in Chanceway has a name, though who gave it to the wall is unknown. She is called Umbris, or “Standing Stone” in the old tongue. While the parts extending from the Elder Castle are Dimasi, there are remnants of an early cobble wall and of course many newer editions. The latest of these surround the cliffs atop which the New Castle sits. In the south of Chanceway, the wall protects the city from the expansive plains that roll out beyond it. The only army that has ever seized Chanceway were the dwarves, who only broke off their attack when both sides had to go deal with the Skaal Insurrection. Still, the wall held, though it bears many wounds and burns from that battle still. In the New City, the wall exists only where the Bracklin Hills do not provide a natural wall.