Arc (Ar-Care: The City of the Dawn)
IntroductionArc is the largest city in Aestis , home to half a million people and is one of the oldest cities on the Greater Arc Sea. It is the centre of world trade and the gateway between the East and the West. Its citizens are known as Arcites and tend to see themselves as culturally superior to their fellow Arclanders by virtue of their city of origin. Arc is a vast sea port built at the feet of three mountains (the Renglaw, the Angau and the Mora) which form a natural coastal basin. The city is accessed by sea from the west and by land from the east, with three vast stairway-bridges descending from the eastern battlements into the heart of the city. These ‘three sisters’ see much of the trade traffic from Ghotharand, Oloris, Veska and the Arching Mountains pass down them to the great market places of the city. The grandeur and apparent might of the city, however conceals it many mounting problems. Arc’s banks, which finance most of the trade of Aestis and underwrite several small wars at a time, have become too powerful and corrupt. This wealth and power has been matched by the city’s criminal underworld, which is increasingly fearless of the law and sees the threat of prison as something that can be bribed away. Word of Arc’s declining power has spread across Aestis and given many of the city’s rivals and enemies encouragement.
HistoryThe name Arc is derived from two Vannic words Ar-Care meaning ‘dawn city’ or ‘city of the sunrise’. It was built by the Vannic people, the first empire in Aestis with the first stones laid in the year -2200 KB (which stands for Kirith Bai, Vannic for ‘The Keeper’s Order’ meaning an eon of stability). The Vannic emperors occupied mountain castles and fortresses high above the low lying cloud of the Arching Mountains, convinced that this brought them close to their god, the Keeper. They viewed those humans and other creatures that lived at sea level to be inferior and most Vannic nobles never considered leaving the mountain tops, instead ruling through loyal generals and stewards who kept order across their vast continental empire. When the empire faced challenges and its critical weaknesses started being exposed in a series of wars across what would later be known as the Arclands, a debate began between the Vannic emperor Lenares and his son Haydis. The heir to the throne believed that the empire needed to be ruled from sea level and his father bitterly disagreed, claiming that the Vannic race had a compact with the Keeper’s messengers, the Graces, that they would stay close to the heavens. Disagreement broke into open feuding, which eventually descended into civil war. After three years of savage fighting, an agreement was made to give Haydis’ ideas a chance and an outpost was built on the site of the city of Arc. Haydis hoped that the outpost would end the feuding by proving itself to be a modest success and a means of policing the seas. Lenares hoped that the city would fail and support for his insular reign would be renewed. Neither of them were prepared for what actually happened. Within a decade (which Lenares lived to see), the outpost had become a thriving metropolis. Within fifty years, long after Lenares death, it had become the centre of wealth and power in Aestis. The new city called Haydisiri, accelerated the decline of the Vannic Empire, leaving the fortresses of the Vannic lords to crumble in the ice cold of the mountain tops.
DynastiesArc became the centre of a successful empire which ruled even more of Aestis than the Vannic peoples had been able to. It stretched beyond the Arclands and into the south and east, conquering what is now Del’Marah, Veska and Ghotharand. Two dynasties, the Ordrish and Starrander, both with deep connections to the lost emperors of the Van dominated for over two hundred and fifty years, but with their decline, the slow fragmentation of the Arc Empire began under the long reign of the Lunar and Twilight Kings. The term ‘Lunar King’ was coined first by the sage Mordei Morhannan as a term of abuse to describe the vanity and folly of Arc’s rulers once the Starrander dynasty had ended. They ruled for 357 years, during which time the wealth of the city and the empire reached its zenith, but instead of the prudence that their ancestors had shown, the generations of Lunar Kings waged pointless wars to hold the empire together, when negotiation and diplomacy were what was required. They built many of Arc and the Arclands most lavish castles, palaces and fortresses, but at an immense cost to the public coffers. Their replacements (who Morhannan had even more contempt for), inherited the problems of the Lunar Era. The Twilight Kings ruled over the gradual collapse of the Arc Empire and not one of them seemed able to resolve the enormous problems they had inherited. The final Twilight King, the ill fated Toun a Dryn, lept from the battlements of the city in despair at the news that the empire had finally broken up in the year -900 KB, and the southern empire of Del’Marah had established its independence. In the days that followed, the generals of Arc seized power and ended the empire and its emperors, establishing the city as a city state under the rule of new masters; the Protectors.
The ProtectorsThe first Protector Anjun Arras, knew that his primary duty was to protect the wealth of Arc. He understood that even a city without an empire could be a mighty and powerful metropolis if it controlled the flow of gold across the world. He was supported by the banking houses of Arc and their gold, which shaped the future development of the city for over a thousand years. The Protectors proved to be far more effective in suppressing dissent, galvanising popular support and defending the city’s interests against its enemies than the emperors who had come before them. Initially, succession was decided by the Azure Chamber, the parliament of financial interests. In later centuries, succession from father to son gradually replaced the voting of the Azure Chamber as the power of the Protectors grew.
SocietyWhen at last the emperors of Arc were replaced by the Protectors, Arcish society changed forever. The bankers and money lenders knew that the Protectors were really there to protect their wealth, not the population at large. For this reason, they financed the new protectorate and ensured that their voice was heard loudest at the Azure Chamber. The nobles of Arc who had traditionally supported the emperor felt usurped by this newly ascendent social class and resented their loss of status deeply. After several abortive plots to remove the protectorate and restore imperial Arc, the nobility was purged from the city. Many fled to other city states across the Arclands and others established themselves as either minor nobles east of the Arching Mountains or married into the royal families of Veska and Ghotharand. The result was a city that considered itself to be meritocratic, where in theory social rank had nothing to do with the accumulation of wealth and power. The reality was that a new ruling class of money lenders and Protectors worked together to dominate the city, while a former nobility seethed with resentment and for centuries has vowed to seize the city back.
MerchantsJust below the financiers as a social class come the merchants who own the trade ships, warehouses, market places and emporiums. They resent the position that the money lenders have secured for themselves in Arc but in turn ruthlessly exploit the city’s craft guilds who they see as a source of cheap, skilled labour.
MercenariesArc is home to some of the most powerful and well known mercenary companies in Aestis. They sell their military power to the highest bidders and have gradually begun to replace key parts of Arc’s own military defences. Along Arc’s prestigious Starrander Road, the largest companies operate from ornate villas, demonstrating their wealth and power.
The ObolineAs the power of the bankers and moneylenders rose during the era of the Protectors, so too did a new idea of citizenship. To enjoy the full benefits of citizenship Arcites were obliged to pay an indemnity, a large sum in gold to the city which for some was affordable, and for others meant having to become indebted. The fate of all those who defaulted on such debts was to be consigned to the debtor’s district, at the heart of which was an old fortress converted into a debtor’s prison known as the Oboline. Arcites who are sent to the Oboline for falling into unpayable debt are stripped of their citizenship publicly and dressed in rags before being marched to the prison for a lifetime of forced labour. The Oboline is feared by the poor and middling types of Arc and ignored by the wealthy, who do not like to be reminded of the suffering that it is built upon. There are many opportunists who prey upon the slaves of the Oboline, buying them from corrupt guards for prostitution, or as live bodies to experiment on or to offer as sacrifices to the many dark powers that are gradually seeping into the world.
The Protector and his CounselPolitical life in Arc centres around the Trophym, the vast square at the centre of the city where the Azure Chamber and the Red Hall, along with most of the embassies and legations of other nations can be found. The most powerful figure in Arc is either the current reigning Protector or the Protector’s Lord Counsel, the chief bureaucrat in the city who manages the competing interests of the Protector, the Red Hall, the Azure Chamber and the power hungry banks. In the year 295, Protector Droskun Arand has not been seen for several months and rumours circulate around the city that he is ill and even dying. His Lord Counsel, Drexe, rules in his place and looks to the Protector’s two sons, Mortymyr and Simon to take up their father’s role. This uncertainty has led to concern among the city’s wealthiest that their interests might not be protected in the future.
The Red HallThe Red Hall (or Rulderhal) was one of the first buildings created in Arc and was the first seat of government in Arc when the Vannic Empire established the city as an outpost at sea level. The Rulderhal was initially the governing council of the city, long before the Azure Chamber (see below) replaced it. It was not simply the means by which the Vannic and then Arcish emperors ruled the city, but it was also the link between the city and its Vannic past. The rulers of Deauss Kaa and other Vannic strongholds above the low clouds of the Arching Mountains allowed the ministers and sages of the Rulderhal to take with them some of the Arcane secrets of the Vannic empire, and the Rulderhal, as well as being a seat of government became a repository of the arcane after the Vannic Empire collapsed. Since the political rise of the Azure Chamber, the relative power of the Rulderhal has declined, but it still has an important role in the functioning of Arc. The Rulderhal is comprised of the Protector's ministers whose job is to advise and to assist, but never to act. The settlement devised by the first Protectors was precisely this, that the Rulderhal be a useful source of information and expertise, but never a source of power in its own right. The Azure Chamber was more representative of the interests of Arcish merchants and the Rulderhal a bastion of the Protector's interests.
The Azure ChamberThe Azure Chamber is Arc's parliament, where representatives of Arc's merchant and financial classes meet to debate, negotiate, cajole and bribe one another. Arc is by no means a democratic society and those who sit in the Azure Chamber are not representatives of the people. It was decided by the Emperor Dures II that in a trading city the only voices that realistically needed to be heard were those of the traders themselves and the elite ruling classes. Each of the great guild houses of Arc send dozens of delegates to represent their interests. Typically, the deeper one guild's pockets, the greater representation it can afford. The real decisions are made by the Protector's Council at the Rulderhall, a mile north of the Azure Chamber in Great Varler Square, and the Azure Chamber instead debates and either ratifies or rejects the suggestions of the council and ultimately the Protector themselves. It is known as the Azure chamber because of the vast sky blue mosaic of the heavens that covers the inside of the chamber's Yerena Dome (created by the Durian artist Yerena in the last years of Dures II). It was meant to signify that while Arc's merchants occupied themselves with the earthly crudity of money and commerce, that there was still something transcendent in their souls and that they could imagine themselves talking directly to the heavens and by extension, to the Keeper.
DiplomacyBecause of Arc’s economic power and its position as a centre of world trade, most other nations and city states attempt to maintain good relations with the city. Arcites in general have little interest in anything happening outside the Arclands and few see the affairs of nations such as Veska or the Mill Lands as being remotely important. The two major diplomatic problems that Arc faces are with the cities of Dran and Skaris. Dran was established by the emperors of Arc centuries ago as a military outpost that would strike out at troublesome nations to the east if necessary. It broke away from Arc, establishing itself as a rival to the great city and became the centre of militarism in Aestis. Dran’s rulers have incessantly plotted and schemed against Arc for centuries, seeking to replace the city as both the military and economic great power in the continent. The second problem is far more baffling for Arc’s diplomats as it involves the insular theocratic city of Skaris. Arc has been the home of the Aruhvian faith (the worship of the Keeper) for millennia, but when Skaris was founded two and a half centuries ago, the religious ascetic who established the city, Elunre Ashtar, claimed the religion for the Skarisi alone. Elunre and subsequent Skarisi leaders have claimed that only they can practice Aruhvianism faithfully and that in Arc the religion has become corrupted and even worse, abandoned. Despite the extreme views of the Skarisi, there is more than a grain of truth to what they say. The great Aruhvian temple, the Volderan, which stands over the Three Sisters is half abandoned as the faithful dwindle away and Arcites instead pursue earthly pleasures of wine, gluttony and gold.
Storm RowStorm Row is the central docklands district of Arc's waterfront. It stretches from the piers and jetties of the great Arc docks that extend out into the city's deep water harbour, all the way back for a quarter of a mile into the streets and alleyways that teem with taverns and alehouses. In the back rooms of many of the inns of Storm Row, the guildsmen and women of the House of Sail meet, mercenary deals are made and smugglers import their wares. The Young Lords of the Port, arrogant noblemen whose fathers underwrite every ship that sails hold forth in taverns and the district at first glance appears to be well garrisoned with the city watchmen. However, there is a great deal of criminality, intrigue and espionage in Storm Row and the authorities are not blind to this.
The Dures RoadThe Dures Road runs through the eastern wing of Arc and threads its way through the poorer mercantile districts that are in slow and steady decline. At the top end of the road is the Old Tannery district. Because the Dures Road has become increasingly run down, it has become an ideal place for drifters, those with secrets to hide and those who are looking to hire muscle with few questions asked.
The Starrander RoadThe Starrander Road is the shortest and widest of the three northbound boulevards of Arc but it is without a doubt the most important. Along the road, facing out into the busy streets is every major mercenary company that exists under the eyes of the law. Some, such as the Five Flames Company, occupy mansions with extensive grounds for training, stabling, smithies and armourers, and their commanders live in great opulence and wealth. The major companies of Arc are almost exclusively law abiding, knowing that any murky activities are best carried out far away from the city. The lesser companies, that inhabit the back streets behind the Starrander Road obey the law in a more ad hoc sense. Lining the Starrander Road are dozens of large townhouses, parks and secluded taverns and eating houses set aside for the Arcish well to do. Unlike its mirror opposite, the Dures Road, those that live along the Ordrish have a degree of wealth and social connections, though they have nothing like the power of the financial elite who reside above the city. Access to the Starrander Road is barred to the poor by the Starrander Gate between the road and Storm Row.
The Ordrish RoadThe Ordrish Road runs from Storm Row to the Three Sisters through the western wing of Arc, opening out into the Trophym, the great square at the foot of the great stone stairways which acts as Arc's largest marketplace.
The TrophymThe The Trophym is the great plaza of Arc, it is a vast public space that is given over on most days to market vendors and traders, but is also used for Aruhvian ceremonies, public pronouncements of war and succession and other major matters of state. The Trophym sits in the centre of the city, at the top of the Dures , Starrander and Ordrish Roads. Around the edges of the Trophym sit the great buildings of state, the Azure Chamber and the Red Hall.
The Shadow DistrictsBeneath the gigantic stone bridge-stairways, the Three Sisters, are large areas of the city that exist for most of the daylight hours in their shadow. These shadow districts tend to be avoided by wealthy and respectable Arcites and have largely been abandoned by the government of the Protector. The neglect of these districts is symptomatic of the growing corruption of the city. Lawlessness proliferates here and it is an ideal place for darker forces to establish themselves. There have been recent rumours of gangs of cowled men and women controlling entire city blocks and even stranger tales of them disappearing deep into the cellars and sewers under the city. Protector Droskun Arrand has gradually given up on enforcing the law in troubled parts of the city, knowing that it is of no interest to his backers, the great banking houses of Arc.
The Groves of ArcAbove the city, on the slopes of the three mountains, the Renglaw, the Angau and the Mora sit the groves, man made terraces that are large enough to accomodate villas and ornate gardens. These palatial residences are a distant echo of the Vannic desire to be elevated from the masses on the ground and they are occupied by Arc’s elites. They still fall within the city’s walls and they sit either side of the Three Sisters, but their owners are able to live in unparalleled luxury and comfort while the poor toil and struggle hundreds of feet below. The official residence of the Protectors, Ulvast, is the largest of the groves. The second belongs to the wealthiest banking family in Aestis, the Torres clan. Do you want more lore? Get weekly updates on World Anvil and the Arclands Blog straight to your email inbox, PLUS our list of fifty mysterious trinkets to delight and enchant your adventuring party. Get your copy here.
A Fire in the Heart of KnowingOur debut Arclands novel is available here. Read A Fire In the Heart of Knowing, a story of desperate power struggles and a battle for survival in the dark lands of Mordikhaan.