Unchallenged City

Some have called the Unchallenged City the centre of the world, and argued culturally, economically, politically, or even geographically such claims have a ring of truth to them. The capitol of the Haedrasian Empire, seat of the Imperator, home of the Imperatry Temple, and the home of the last of the earthly Divhi, the Haedrasian patron Haederas, it truly is one of Allornus' greatest hubs. And in turn the hub of the city is the Eternal Palace, cornerstone of the Unchallenged City. From it, and through the plaza surrounding the Eternal Palace, run sixteen broad avenues, leading straight through the city to sixteen gates, fanning out to all corners of Haedrasia. And flanking the Eternal Palace at the four points of the compass are the grand Imperator's Palace, the equally ornate High Temple, the fortress of the Imperator's Paladins, and the sinister Lictor's Palace. From these five immense structures the city spreads, in stalwart symmetry, built of golden clay brick like some rare gem when seen during the day, and glowing in the infernal red light of a thousand forges by night.

Region: Haedrasia, Haedrasia
Total Population: 125,300 approx.
Demographics: 92% Haedrasian, 3% Kelorn, 2% Vicighans, 2% Irian, 1% Other.
Government: Totalitarian theocratic dominion administered by the Primate of the Unchallenged City.
Wealth: 10
Tech. Level: 6
Major Industry: Trade with the Empire, weapons and armour, cloth and textiles, horses, relics and books, religious services and paraphernalia.
Major Religions: Imperatry Temple

The Unchallenged City is a marvel of wealth and modernity. Constantly under construction, there is scarcely a street without scaffold or piled paving in place. Buildings are serviced by neat sewers, and districts surround public parks, and deep, cool wells and fountains provide plentiful fresh water to the citizens. Temple operated schools take in the young, and teach them to read and write, as well as the history of Haedrasia, and indoctrinate them in the temple. Hospices take in the elderly, the mad, and the infirm. And poor houses see to the impoverished. Everywhere is the hand of the vast machinations of empire present. Buildings are kept immaculate, either by their proud residents or, in the event that they cannot afford to maintain their homes to the standard of their neighbours, by the empire. Residents are taxed for such works until they have compensated the state, often compounding debt by the year. This drives the poorer classes out of the city, maintaining a wealthy general population.

In the streets of the Unchallenged City, by law commerce illegal, and so there are none of the hawkers, beggars, stalls, or even shops displaying their goods that one might see in other cities. Only bare, perfect austerity faces passers by on every street. Modest shop signs announce the goods within, and the often painfully narrow shops beyond house their goods on towering shelves stretching up the walls, so that the maximum can be glimpsed through the doors. Many shops are no more than three or four paces deep, to accommodate a family home at the rear. Market days are allowed to occur outside the Unchallenged City, and this has led to a small pocket of raucous and impassioned civilization at the exterior of each of the great gates. Here riotous colour, varied people, bellowing merchants and the cries of animals form a shocking contrast to the unrelenting mustard austerity that pervades the rest of the city.

The only deviation from this pristine uniformity are the smithies. The Unchallenged City is said to consume a lake of steel each day in its smelters, which sit at the heart of each and every district, and burn infernal hot day and night. And fanned out around them are a plethora of smithies, where the ring of hammer on anvil blends together into a thunderously pealing battle drum, as the smiths fall into a rhythm, like the march of a thousand-thousand armoured heels. Red light, sweltering heat, and the roar of hammers are the heart of every land, and here works are displayed in the open air, for fear of the fires containing such mighty forges would cause.

The Imperator's Paladins keep all of the temples of the city in good order, while legions take turns returning from their postings in the greater province to patrol the streets. The temples themselves are the hubs of faith, government and wealth, serving (as in all of Haedrasia) as courts of law, places of worship, centres of learning, and even hosting the negotiation of contracts, both financial and marital, bound by an oath at the altar of Haederas. The gates are each held by a mighty barbican, each more of a military marvel than the last, designed by some of the greatest minds of the age in a show of the Haedrasian master of the technology of war. Regularly one is pulled down, to be replaced with another, newer wonder entirely.

Like all great cities, the Unchallenged City could nit have been what it is had it not sat upon the fork of the Rivers Liceas and Umbra. The mighty but sluggish waters of these two broad but shallow rivers both lie outside the gates, and the modest docks that dot the bank mimic the chaos as the outer gates. Vessels plying these waters cannot afford to be deep hulled, for sand bars and frequent low waters in the summer months make travel hazardous. Travellers not familiar to either river are forced to wait some leagues up river for a skilled guide, who knows the hazards of the waters around the fork intimately, and such guides do not come cheap. They can be seen on rafts exploring the riverbed daily, searching for even the minutest change. There is much talk of deepening the Umbra, turning it into a great canal, but most fear the waters too silty, and the undertaking too costly and ineffectual.

Locations of Interest

The Eternal Palace and the Divhi-Imperator's Plaza
At the very heart of the Unchallenged City sits a truly ancient structure - the first built here. A building so historic that its cornerstone forms the basis of the Haedrasian conception of time itself. At the heart of a broad plaza filled with statues, arches and shrines, all bedecked with rich offerings from the furthest corners of the empire, sits a circular building that rears over the rest of the city. Made up of eighteen terraces, each easily as tall as the largest buildings of the city, and each surrounded by a broad, airy colonnade, it gives every appearance of an ornate mountain rising out of the city. The sixteen processional avenues terminate at a great gate, and each gate gives way to an atrium called the Heart of Empire that runs the full height of the structure, where Haederas himself sits, still as stone, in a massive throne. The rest of the palace houses the most senior of priests, whose task it is to sit on the balconies that overlook the Heart, listening and watching for any wisdom or commandment from the might Divhi-Imperator day and night.

The Three Palaces
At the four points of the compass, or near enough to, on the outskirts of the Divhi-Imperator's Plaza, sit four structures almost as prestigious. To the north sits the Palace of the Imperator. The hub of state, it is second in scale and prestige only to the Eternal Palace itself. A square building, with mighty towers and grand columns surrounding a vast courtyard, which in turn opens to the Eternal Palace, it teems with servants bustling to and fro, and dignitaries of all races and nationalities, all packed into airy, opulent salons and quiet gardens. This is the residence of the Imperator and his wife, with all other blood relatives banished instantly to Royal Haedrasia. As a result his favourites hold sway for the most part, and only so much can be achieve without one of their number vouching for a visitor.

To the south, in stark mockery of the Imperator's Palace, squats a building of equal scale, but entirely different mood. With narrow windows, and proving almost barren of activity, the Lictor Supreme's Palace is pitted and blasted - the only building in the entire city allowed to show its age. It wears its scars proudly, as it was once the Imperator's Palace before the purges of the Magocracy, and it was the place from which Aulandor Rage ruled over Haedrasia. Shadowy secrecy, and sinister threat enrobe the building like silk, and in a vast hall, the mirror image of the Imperator's, the throne of Rage, now known as the Lictor Supreme's Throne, looms.

The last of the palaces is the Palace of the Watch, which lies to the west. This is the fortress-temple of the Imperator's Paladins, and the seat of both the King of Swords and the King of the Watch, as well as home to the fabled Paladin's Armoury. Unlike the other structures, it is a castra of imposing design, lacking the niceties of the others, with no statuary, columns, frescoes or cupolas. Raised on a low ziggurat, long peak-roofed buildings in tight rows are walled in by imposing, gently sloped walls, and squat peak-roofed towers. Three great open-air arenas host training displays by the greatest paladins, and extravagant mock battles for the entertainment of the priests, and edification of the garrison.

The High Temple of the Divhi-Imperator
The fourth building, to the east of the Divhi-Imperator's Plaza, is no palace at all, but a series of massive temples, each grander than the last, and many joined by walled gardens, broad verandas, or covered walkways. Domes and spires borrowed from the architecture of a dozen cultures stand alongside the sweeping, columned wings of classical Haedrasian temples, and this entire complex houses the vast array of the High Temple. Both a centre of faith, and also of learning, novices are trained alongside some of the finest historians and philosophers in the world, and vast scriptoriums form the basis of the Imperatry Temple, while buildings full of scribes, under-priests and bureaucrats administer the entire empire, and fill the vast treasuries beneath the complex.

The Mhulak Embassy
Near the north-eastern gate, mere yards from the Castra Solomus that keeps that gate, sits the squat and unremarkable building that is the Mhulak Embassy. Many are misled by the name - led to believe that the building is home to fabled Mhulak, here to conduct politics with the Imperator's agents. In truth, no Mhulak has entered the embassy in generations, but so crucial were the Mhulak in the restoration of Marius and the fall of the Magocracy that Haedrasia keeps a permanent residence for any Mhulak who might care to visit the city. The embassy has few windows, and provides cavernous cellar chambers where the Mhulak would be comfortable. Membership in that noble race is enough to afford a generous welcome in the embassy for as long as the visitor might care to stay.

The Unchallenged City Irino
The irino of the Unchallenged City might be said to break the mould of irinos everywhere, in that it is certainly not the wealthiest portion of the city. Indeed one might even call it impoverished, at least by the standards of the Unchallenged City. It is the Irians themselves, with their tattooed faces, stiff robes and shaved heads, rather than the architecture that marks the irino. But undoubtedly the mere presence of an irino in the Unchallenged City itself is a testament to Irian influence and wealth. The irino is unwalled, but its residents are more willing to decorate the exteriors of their homes with colour or swirling designs in coloured plaster, and goods are neatly displayed outside shops, which the Haedrasians seem willing to tolerate in small amount.

Notable Groups and Individuals

Haedrian XCI, Imperator of Haedrasia and his Court
The Imperator's Court, and the High Temple are undoubtedly the most influential body in the city. In fact, it is thought that almost half of the Unchallenged City's permanent population is directly employed in the theocracy of Haedrasia. Vast and detailed bureaucracy, as well as varied and eclectic scholarship are central to the empire's unity and power, and this necessitates truly vast manpower. The Imperator himself is charged with appointing people to the most important offices, and is empowered to overrule the rulings of any of these individuals, as well as spend a certain amount of time communing with Haederas himself, and of course command the movements and conquests of the legions. Hundreds of councils sit daily to discuss the allocation of resources and aspiration to conquest, and the intrigues and politicking of those seeking to sit on as many such councils as possible is heated and many-layered.

The Four Kings
Each of the four branches of Haedrasian government are based in the Unchallenged City. The temple, which rules over Haedrasia, keeps its laws, ministers to its people, is represented by the King of Souls, Lex Osgayne, from under the Dome of Marmennes in the great temple. Celebrated as a diplomat and reformist, those who agree with his progressive agenda are few. From the Palace of the Watch Kailas Pianus Lasaar and Cadius Kanas Valadun keep the Unchallenged City whole, and command the legions out in the world respectively. Youthful and noble meets mature and politically astute in this pairing, and undoubtedly Valadun holds the balance of their collective influence. Finally Philip of Borast, the plainly spoken man known in whispered-tones as 'Imperator-Killer' sits upon (or more literally beside) the trone of the Lictor Supreme in that order's shadowy fastness.

The Assembly
Elected democratically from amongst the various schisms and schools within the Imperatry Temple, the Assembly exists to advise the King of Souls. In a complex relationship, the King can put forward no proposition, nor enact any command that was not suggested to him by the Assembly; but the Assembly may not enact even the smallest ordinance nor without the approval of Osgayne. Given his lack of supporters this has led to favouritism and derision. Only the Keepers may participate within the Assembly, though Sitters, and the vast mass of the Assembled make the bulk of its numbers. Harmenes Jeptoomasi Valarius and his conservative, expansionist faction form the core of the opposition at present.

The Imperator's Paladins
Only the best of the best, the finest the legions can turn out, are invited to join the Imperator's Paladins. The personal guard of the Imperator, charged with protecting him from all danger. They hold the Imperator's Palace and the Eternal Palace, as well as their own compound. And each sits upon the The Tacticium - a body of commanders who advise the King of Swords - when it is summoned. Though each is technically equal in esteem, they task an Overseer from amongst their number, to organize their duties and speak on their behalf. Currently the hard veteran Barras Pallantides Nameeni Lauridinas has that honour.