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Worth the Candle: A Brief Description of Aerb

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Lensen

Caledwich was the home of the First Empire, and Lankwon (later Manifest) was the home of the Second Empire. When the Articles of Empire were being written, it was acknowledged that imperial governance would greatly benefit from a centralized location. After a great deal of debate between interested parties, it was finally agreed that Lensen, a moveable floating island, would be made into an imperial polity, controlled and administered by the empire itself, and transferring locations at set intervals so that it wouldn’t favor any particular member polity more than others just because of geographical proximity. The plan was that the floating island of Lensen would move every four years to a newly prepared location where various services could be reconnected, and the city itself would serve as a monument to the unity of the new empire.

Unfortunately, the reality of moving an entire city, even through known means and a large amount of magic, has logistical challenges that are difficult and costly to overcome. Lensen was originally set down twenty miles from Hershford, but took nine years before it was moved for the first time, rather than the original four years that were planned, largely due to cost overruns at the recipient site in Parrungal. Additionally, while the plan had been for Lensen to be a self-contained city-state, this didn’t bear out in reality, as disconnection from its first site caused considerable strain on the polity.

Following Lensen’s landing in the kingdom of Parrungal, there was some skepticism that the floating island would ever fly again, skepticism that has been borne out until the present day, though a reception site has been prepared in Anglecynn, and motions will occasionally be brought in the legislature to move the city once more. At this point, such a move seems incredibly unlikely, as Lensen has been deeply embedded into Parrungal, and Parrungal itself has poured significant amounts of money into infrastructure support for Lensen’s continued location in their kingdom.

Lensen is a city-state and imperial polity, governed in part by the legislature and overseen by a mayor who is chosen by a legislative sub-committee. Formally, the city of Lensen’s authority stops at the edge of the floating island, but in practice, the mayor has broad authority over the surrounding areas, which include a number of businesses and buildings that are of vital function to the surrounding area, as well as housing for many of the people who live and work in Lensen. The arrangement with Parrungal is a complex thing, and colors much of how citizens of the city view themselves and their city, with a sharp divide between Parrungal and Lensen.

Architecturally, every building in Lensen must be designed with movement in consideration, which increases building costs somewhat and results in fewer of the tall buildings that are found in other major cities. Because Lensen can move as a whole, there is less risk of structural damage than might be assumed, but there are still practical matters like the effects of acceleration to consider. In the taller buildings, magical materials are often used, which is sometimes reflected in their outward appearance. When people think of Lensen, it’s typically of the government buildings, which dominate the available space, and around which everything else is built.

The largest of these buildings spans three city blocks, an entad building called the Myriad Halls, which predates the EoCC and was one of the reasons for choosing Lensen. The building is hyper-adaptive, altering rooms and adding extradimensional space as needed by its occupants. The main chamber can expand, adding desks, for the entirety of the legislature, and every meeting room will have exactly as many chairs as needed, with more popping into existence as people join. As with most entad buildings, it’s not without its quirks, and the many staff the place requires are largely there to correct the building’s attempts at ‘helpfulness’ (though the building cannot communicate and is arguably sub-sentient). The Myriad Halls have offices for every member of the legislature, as well as meeting rooms for every committee and sub-committee. As the internal space expands, bathrooms are added at regular intervals.

Cidium

The continent of Widders is notable for being tilted, with its eastern edge three miles in the air, and its western edge gently descending down into the ocean. The Cidium Cliffs on that eastern edge present an enormous sheer drop, and it is within a crook of this cliff that the city of Cidium is located, spanning three vertical miles.

Aside from its verticality, Cidium’s claim to fame is being not just a city, but a City, a population center that has existed for either millions or billions of years, or, possibly, since before the dawn of time. Within Cidium, this is taken as a bare fact, but elsewhere it is regarded as simply being myth. There are, however, a number of ways in which this has been partially corroborated, namely through postcognition entads, a survey of local flora and fauna, and archeology. It is difficult to determine whether these amount to anything, and many of the postcognition entads seem to be affected by power-of-two limits with regards to items from Cidium, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Cidium’s extreme age is not simply a matter of local folklore.

The other claim that citizens of Cidium often make is much more contentious: they believe that Cidium is possessed of a magic which is the secret to its continued existence, one which ensures that a city will always exist at that location, no matter what might happen in the wider world or what calamity might befall the regions around them. There is no firm evidence for this claim, nor could there be short of a complete apocalypse that left only Cidium standing, but it is commonly believed by the citizens of Cidium, and informs at least some of their institutional recklessness.

Cidium has different policing for its various levels, but the most effective and widely feared are the Vespers, police that are inducted at a young age, then trained at stationed at the top of Cidium, just above the cliff edge. Vespers have a special entad-made armor that allows them to ‘air dash’, moving horizontally through the air in a short burst which completely and safely kills downward speed. When there is a call to action, the Vespers will step out on their sky dock and jump off, dropping down to the desired location and then air dashing onto buildings or walkways to avoid death or serious injury. Vespers are noted as one of the most effective police forces in the world, though attempts at copying their model have proven unsuccessful in other cities. Lower down in Cidium, more mundane police are used, with the Vespers being called in only for serious matters.

The majority of Cidium fits within the Grand Crevasse, a natural V-shaped section of the Cliffs of Cidium. The city covers both walls of the Crevasse, with bridges connecting the two sides close to the crook of the Crevasse. Transportation up and down Cidium is accomplished through several enormous elevators which run continuously, and whose sounds are one of the primary background noises of the city.

Cidium is divided into loose "tiers", which number either five or three depending on who you ask. In the narrow scheme, there are three tiers: Uptown is the top level, where Vespers are more common and faster to respond, where buildings tend to be in better repair because there's no risk of things falling, and where the best views of the Grand Crevasse can be had; below that are the Midlands, where cliffside caverns are much more common, where tradesmen and lower-class merchants make their business, and where everything is much more modest, though still mostly protected from the winds and ocean; at the bottom are the Tidelines, home to the worst elements of Cidium and the highest crime rates, where policing is mostly done by corrupt guards and Vespers are infrequently called down, where sailors proliferate, where trash from above gathers. Cidium is large though, and each of these areas has its own neighborhoods with their own flavors, cultures, local legends, and businesses. The two tiers that are sometimes not counted are Cliffside, the upper part of Cidium where the city creeps out onto flat ground, and the Undertide, a place where buildings have been built below the tideline.

Cidium is beset by a carefree attitude, and one of the highest accidental death rates among the imperial cities, owing in part to the dangerous heights of the city and a lackadaisical attitude toward building standards, especially in the city’s lower half. Some of this can be attributed to successive waves of weak government, because while Cidium has seemingly existed for a very long time, the last five hundred years have been particularly turbulent in terms of changes of power. This has left the city far behind on many metrics that other great imperial cities take for granted, especially with regards to standardization and order. The current city government consists of a nine-member city council, which is generally ineffective outside the top third of the city.

In terms of demographics, Cidium has relatively more amphibious and aquatic species than elsewhere, even more than other port cities. Similarly, the few mortal species capable of flight are disproportionately represented in Cidium, often used as couriers.

Caledwich

The city of Caledwich was one of the largest in the time of Uther Penndraig, and has only grown since then. Caledwich was the seat of the First Empire during Uther Penndraig’s time, though he was careful never to place his home country in a place of prominence above the others. During the Second Empire, Caledwich was a stable and stalwart ally of imperial interests, and despite that, at the fall of the Second Empire, it was able to swiftly recover as many other places did not. There is a common saying, less true in the days of the EoCC, that ‘as Anglecynn goes, so goes the Empire’, and Caledwich, the largest city in Anglecynn by far, is often seen as synonymous with the country as a whole.

The layout of Caledwich was designed by Uther himself following major destruction during the time of the Apocalypse Demon, and put into place once the Wandering Blight had been defeated. It was considered the first and greatest feat of urban planning, with a foresight that was utterly unrivaled, though critics will often point out that this redesign was essentially only possible because of the enormous political capital that Uther wielded, and even then might not have happened without half the city being razed to the ground. Of the major structures left from before the Dark King’s only Caledwich castle remains, with numerous additions that dwarf the original structure. Rather than being built around the castle, Caledwich is built around its port, with radial avenues coming out from that section of town, making the city look, from above, like a sunrise.

Much of what was done to Caledwich by Uther was practically prescient, with a great deal of work and care put into the underground, specifically in terms of places for pipes, wires, and the subway system that was nothing more than a drawing when it was planned. Uther strongly believed in designing for the future and looking at every angle of that design, especially as it related to keeping a city happy, healthy, and clean. To that end, many of the neighborhoods of Caledwich were rigorously planned, and a large focus was put on combining tall, densely packed structures with wide green spaces, which Caledwich has more than in almost any other city. Over time, several structures have aged poorly, especially those not made by Uther, and have been torn down and replaced at great expense, usually with a different design. Many of the planned green spaces have also been carved out in favor of using the land for more fruitful purposes, which was especially true during the Second Empire. Nevertheless, the core of Uther’s vision remains, and many of the changes he anticipated were able to slot directly into the city with very little cost to retrofit.

Caledwich is home to the Lost King’s Court, the fractious governmental organization that exists as the result of many generations of familial infighting in the wake of Uther’s disappearance. After the fall of the Second Empire and the brief civil war that passed over Anglecynn, the political capital of the country was briefly moved, but it returned to Caledwich fifty years later. The political situation of Anglecynn is complicated, but the princes and princesses (as they are styled) congregate in Caledwich, and generally keep to either a cluster of several buildings downtown, or to their estates on the edges of the city.

For everyone else, Caledwich can be a bit of a backward place in some respects. Uther’s focus on humans might be understandable given the demographics of Anglecynn during his reign, but combined with the impact he had on the city’s design, some aspects of the city can seem inhospitable or antagonistic toward non-humans. The much vaunted subway, for example, was built on a scale that makes it difficult for the taller or wider species to use, and the cost to expand is so high that it will almost certainly never get done. The same things are true for dozens of other aspects of the city’s design, making it appear old-fashioned to imperial citizens, and not in an endearing way.