Urchins: Setting Details
A Fantasy RPG for Cortex Prime
We watch. We see. Your secrets are ours to sell.
Bar Kesh: City of Swords
The action of Urchins takes place in, around, and under the famed city of the Swordmanir, swordsmiths of great renown, dutybound priests, forging blades for the world that the end of the Mortal Realm might be seeded with the blood of the Nations.
The Gold Quarter
The Gold Quarter is home to some of the wealthiest members of Bar Kesh and a wonder of beauty, parklands, and growing things. Temple Row In the center of the quarter stand five somber structures of dark grey stone. Each is dedicated to one of the five main deities recognized by the Swordmanir.
- Temple of the Wanderer: Tall and grey, the Wanderer is depicted as a lanky male figure in traveling clothes burdened under a pack with a gnarled staff to lean on. The wolves and bears and ravens and other creatures of the wild are known to approach him and whisper secrets and news from afar.
- The Wanderer's temple is covered completely in green vines.
- Temple of the Lady: Lithe and young, the Lady is depicted as a young woman clad in a dark cloak with her long hair flowing free behind her and deep, dark eyes. If one looks closely, it is said the twinkling stars can be seen in the depths of her cloak and her eyes.
- In every image the Lady bears a pair of bone daggers, stained a deep red along the blades.
- The Lady's temple is surrounded and draped in wild oleander.
- Temple of the Smith: Stout and solid, the Smith is a figure in bronze and iron, faceless and massive. The smith is always depicted at his forge and always has a great hammer in his fist.
- Most important to the Swordmanir, the Smith's temple stands taller than the others and starkly in the center with no growing things adorning its stone walls.
- Temple of the Never: Depicted as a young lad in cloak and slippers of mist and fog, the Never exists both within and without the bounds of time. The Never bears no weapon or scepter, but his hands are said to be colder than the ice in the depths of the Lost Sea and able to reach through flesh and take hold of the heart within a man.
- Black raventhorn vines grow up the face of this temple.
- Temple of the Three: As implied by their title, the three have three distinct forms. The first that of a young girl clad in flowers and laughter. The second a stately matron heavy with child clad in the green growth of the forest. And finally the last form that of an withered crone clad in bark and moss.
- Year round the temple is lush with spring flowers, harvest fruits, and hibernating greens.
Garden Tiers The majesty of the garden tiers are part of the city's notoriety. Fully a third of the Gold quarter's land is given over to fruit trees in neat orchards, then going up levels the rooves of the quarter are dedicated to fruiting and flowering plants and vegetation and herbs.
The Keep of Five High Houses
The city of swords is traditionally governed by the five high houses of the Swordmanir and despite the implications of its name, the "keep" is nearly half the size of the gold quarter.
- House d'Amasku is charged with the supply of iron to the city
- House d'Jaala is charged with the shipping of wares in and out of the city
- House d'Katayev is charged with building and maintenance of the city and its roads
- House d'Ruvyen is charged with the defense of the city and its people
- House d'Sceva is charged with the city's treasuries, granaries, and gardens
The Jade Tower of Immortal Wisdom
The Jerrid of the Swordmanir, a mad scion of one of the Houses, searches the forbidden secrets of the sorceries of Crispin the Seer in a tower of warded green stone that rises at once above the highest points of the city and drops below the Undercity, a vein that pierces the city's very heart.
The Iron Quarter
The Iron quarter is the near exclusive domain of the soldiers and smiths of the Swordmanir.
- The Iron Barracks: Along the northern wall are the barracks that house the standing army of mercenary squads that acts as the city watch. Only the Catspaw, the watch of rattown and the wharves, are not barracked here.
- Blood Field: In the midst of the quarter is a great open square known as Blood field where the soldiers of the barracks train and break new recruits.
St. Michael's Bazaar
On the east side of the city is a bazaar nearly as large as the great keep. Much of the city's commerce flows through here.
The largest quarter of the city, the Labyrinth is home to most of Bar Kesh's population. Long ago built to capacity, the Labyrinth boasts no open spaces and no room to grow outwards. So it grows upward. Whole streets will disappear almost overnight to make way for a new building, while small buildings will come down to make passage. The Labyrinth is a nightmare to navigate and very little of it is open to the sky.
- Orphan's Tower is a decrepit spire near the center of the Labyrinth that stands nearly a dozen stories above ground and at least three underground. To urchins it is neutral ground and home to the city's unhomed children. The truce is an uneasy one, but it tends to hold or be quickly enforced when it slips.
Menhir, City of the Dead
Also known as the Old City, the Menhir and the Shipyards is said to be where Bar Kesh had its beginnings, but though the shipyard still stands, the menhir had crumbled into a swath of mausoleums and standing stones.
- The Pit is the name given to the swath of the Undercity directly beneath the Menhir. Stories on stories of stone vaults and sarcophagi stacked atop one another and accessible from a maze of mausoleums on the surface.
In a curved arc across the seaward side of the town is the thick towering edifice that is the Hammerwall, a massive break wall to keep the city from flooding during the spring storms.
- The Forges of the Swordmanir: Along the landward side of the hammerwall are the forges of the city of swords. Those within the Labyrinth are for everyday items of cast and hammered metal. Those within the Iron Quarter were reserved for bladecraft. The few within the bazaar are dedicated to fine smithing and repair work.
- Merchants Rim: Along the seaward side of the wall is a massive warehouse district known as Merchant's Rim. Here is where everything brought in from sea or going out by ship is stacked and stocked. As ideal a target for robbery as it might seem, the rim is vigorously patrolled by the Grey Watch, known better along the wharf as the Catspaw.
The great stoneships of the Swordmanir are made here by craftsman still adept in the nearly lost art of shaping elemental earth.
- Lesser Lighttower
- The smaller of the two towers on the horns of the Hammerwall, the Lighttower keeps ships from running aground.
Few folk actually live on the wharf, but there are many an alehouse, tavern, and business. It isn't much to look at, but rattown is always the newest part of the city, given that it has to be rebuilt every year after the floods.
- Greater Light Tower
- Like it's cousin on the other end of the hammerwall, the lighttower keeps ships from running aground.
- The Floating Market
- On the south end of the wharves, a flotilla of skiffs and rafts are tied together so a person might step from one to another and shop the sea wares of its vendors.
- The Char
- On a sandbar on the north side of the wharves three warships lay tangled, grounded, and burnt. This is where the Catspaw barrack.
The 17 Gates
There are 17 gates in and around Bar Kesh. Some lead from quarter to quarter. Some lead out to the roads and the rest of the world.
- A. The Beast Gate leads from the Labyrinth to the southern coastal road on the southwest side of the city.
- B. The Sand Gate leads from the Labyrinth to the northern trade road to the mountains on the northwest side of the city.
- C. The Trade Gate leads from the Bazaar to the northern coastal road on the northeast side of the city.
- D. The Shipyard Gate connects the shipyard to Rattown.
- E. The Old Gate connects the Labyrinth with Rattown to the south.
- F. Rattown Gate connects the Labyrinth with Rattown to the north.
- G. Merchants Gate connects the Iron Quarter to Rattown.
- H. Shanty Gate connects the Menhir to the Shanty Field.
- I. High House Gate connects the Labyrinth to the Gold Quarter.
- J. The Iron Gate connects the Labyrinth to the Iron Quarter to the north.
- K. The Guard's Gate connects the Labyrinth to the Iron Quarter to the south.
- L. The Common Gate connects the Iron Quarter to the Bazaar to the north.
- M. The Low Gate connects the Iron Quarter to the Bazaar to the south.
- N. Pauper's Gate connects the Labyrinth to the Menhir.
- O. Death Gate leads from the Menhir to the southern coastal road on the southeast side of the city.
- P. Sailwright Gate connects the Menhir to the Shipyard.
- Q. The Forbidden Gate connects the Gold Quarter to the Keep.
Below the City of Swords lies the undercity, the crumbling remains of an ancient city that thrived before the fall of the great magics. Urchins delve the undercity in hopes of finding some small magics to give them an edge. Or that greatest treasure, a grundle that might bind with them and protect them in the deeps.
Beyond the Walls
Outside the walls are the businesses and guilds that are considered unclean but necessary.
- The Beastholds are both outside the walls, one to the east and one to the northwest.
- The Beast Market is on the west side of the city.
- The Shanty Field is a tent city of criminals and folk with plague and other diseases.
- The Lepers Legion is a makeshift force of diseased individuals who have taken up arms and vowed to protect the city.
- Potter's Rim is a small arch of seaside land devoted to the potter's, dyer's, and tanner's guilds. Collectively these guilds control most of the organized crime of Bar Kesh.
- Hammerwall Harbour is the city's main port of entrance.