City of Towers, City of Knives
Sharn, the largest city on the continent of Khorvaire and one of the defining locations of the nation of Breland, looms atop an inhospitable outcropping of rock near the mouth of the Dagger River. The City of Towers rises high into the cloud-filled sky, growing upward within the limited space available on a plateau bounded on the west and south by the Dagger River and its eastern tributary, the Hilt. To the north and east, steep cliffs define the city’s boundaries, while deep chasms formed by volcanic action cut the plateau into five distinct regions: Dura on the west, Tavick’s Landing on the east, Northedge to the north, and the Central Plateau and Menthis Plateau in the center. Along the Dagger River at the western edge of the city, the neighborhood of Cliffside is built upon and into the steep riverside cliffs. Above the highest towers, the neighborhood of Skyway floats over the city. The city also extends underground, into sewers and long-forgotten ruins, and deeper to the furnaces and foundries of the Cogs.
Sharn sits within a manifest zone linked to Syrania, the Azure Sky. This manifest zone enhances magic related to flying and levitation, which makes many of Sharn’s magical wonders possible. The vast majority of the magic items used within the city to facilitate flight only function because of the manifest zone, and work less well or not at all beyond its boundaries.
Most of Sharn’s neighborhoods are vertically stratified. For example, while Menthis Plateau is known as a center of entertainment, the type and quality of entertainment available varies among the different levels of the towers. The upper levels (usually referred to as “Upper Menthis”) offer high art in the forms of opera, theater, and symphony, as well as housing Morgrave University and a thriving community of writers and other artists. The middle levels (“Middle Menthis”) house a thriving theater district with more affordable shows, a large number of professional minstrels, acrobats, and similar entertainers, and a year-round circus complete with animals. The lower levels (“Lower Menthis”) contain a very different sort of theater district marked by burlesque shows, a red light district, and a great number of taverns for cheap and bawdy entertainment.
A long wall rings the Central Plateau at its lowest level, interrupted by towers along its entire length. Inside the wall, structures rise higher and higher toward the tallest towers near the middle, creating a great artificial mountain at the heart of the city. Mostly populated by the upper and middle classes, the Central Plateau houses the seat of the city’s government, its wealthiest citizens, and its finest businesses. Embassies from other nations, important representatives of the dragonmarked houses, and banks are found here as well.
Menthis Plateau serves as the entertainment hub of the city, and is home to Morgrave University and a variegated quilt of different races. Certainly the most trendy of Sharn’s quarters, Menthis is a popular tourist destination. No walls surround Menthis, though its tallest towers are spread along its outer rim. The enormous dome of Morgrave University, ringed by five tall, slender towers, stands near the center of the plateau.
Northedge, the most residential of Sharn’s quarters, contains everything from towertop penthouses in the heights to tightly packed apartments on the lower levels. Aside from a marketplace district near the bottom of the towers, Northedge is a quiet neighborhood with little commerce and relatively little crime. Northedge also contains the neighborhood of Oakbridge, the party’s home district.
Dura, the largest quarter in Sharn, covers the great expanse of the western plateau from the cliffs overlooking the Dagger River to the crevasse of the Western Cog. It is also the poorest, excepting the Cogs, with even its topmost levels solidly middle class. Dura mixes various businesses and housing, never approaching a true residential district but holding a number of apartments, tenements, and (near the bottom) slums. The lower levels of Dura include a large population of immigrants from Darguun and Droaam, forming a neighborhood of goblinoids and other monstrous residents.
Cliffside is a neighborhood perched precariously on the side of the cliffs above the Dagger River and Sharn’s waterfront. It includes the waterfront businesses far below Dura, as well as towers built up from the cliff face and a shantytown of caves dug into the sides of the southern cliffs overlooking the Hilt. The businesses of Cliffside are either directly related to shipping or cater to boat crews, adventurers, and other transients.
Tavick’s Landing, at the eastern edge of the city, is in some ways defined by being the terminus of the House Orien lightning rail line and trade road. The lower levels cater to travelers and traders entering Sharn by rail, and include an entire city district that has been converted to provide housing for refugees from the Last War. The middle and upper levels are broader in their purposes, including a variety of trades, services, and residential districts.
Skyway is magically suspended above the city on solidified clouds. These clouds are among the many magical effects in the city that work only because of the presence of the manifest zone linked to Syrania. Not a cloud palace but an actual extension of the city, Skyway includes some of Sharn’s finest inns and restaurants, exotic and upscale trades, and a number of mansions belonging to the very richest citizens.
The Depths is the generic name for everything that lies beneath the city’s main plateau,
excepting Cliffside and the Cogs far below. The upper levels give way to active and inactive sewers, some of which have their own inhabitants, as well as the mostly forgotten ruins of earlier settlements built long before the towers started to rise. Far below and accessed by well-maintained tunnels and shafts, the Cogs sit at the very base of Sharn and serve as an actively populated center of industry. In fact, the roots of modern Sharn’s towers lie underground in some places, buried by the passing of centuries.
The Cogs are the churning heart of the city, full of forges and foundries powered by steaming geysers, molten lava, and bound fire elementals. Extending far below the foundations of Sharn’s towers and built along the banks of the great chasms that divide the city, the Cogs incorporate elements of ancient ruins and natural caverns.