The City of Light
A storm brews on the horizon, my dearest friends - my honoured citizens. Medimia has raised the banners of war, and we must answer their call. They charge through Terenholt as betrayers and cowards, using twisted pacts in place of honest conviction.Even the most ancient of empires must have a beginning - somewhere their legacy began, and somewhere to call their ancestral home. Nestled in the Gilded Valley between the Alarian Mountains lies Aletheia, the renowned capital of the Aletheian Empire. It has long been considered a place of beginnings, as countless storied heroes (and, inevitably, their infamous opponents) were either born in this expansive city, or made their names renowned here. In recent days, Princess Ashlyn Alarian has become one such hero - a princess from a millennia long past, resurfacing as a mighty protector of the weak and stalwart Champion of Sarenrae. The brilliance of Aletheia is, however, not limited to its heroes or nobility. Merchants flock to Aletheia from all across the world, all wishing to trade in the city's mercantile Silver District. Due to its position along the Eleftheria River, and the diplomatic importance of Aletheia, many vessels from the far reaches of Istralar pass through the District, creating one of the most diverse trading environments in the planet. The other trade cities across the empire, such as Port Amarin and Undria, form part of a trade route that runs across the entire Western Continent and into the Eastern Continent, known to many as the Golden Pilgrimage. As Aletheia is one of the first major ports traders will encounter when approaching from the east, it tends to have a larger variety of goods obtained from the Pilgrimage than many other Aletheian cities - excepting only Undria. To remain accessible to all visitors, Aletheia boasts three separate teleportation hubs (located within the Platinum District for use by diplomats, the Brass District for military matters, and the Silver District for all others), an airship dock (on the valley's western side), and a riverside dock that spans the length of the river. Mountainside roads thread into the city from both sides of the valley and serve to connect the city to the rest of the empire.
Aletheians! We shall rise up of our own power, and send their fiends back to the hellish pits in which they belong! No being, mortal or divine, will ever hold sway over our hearts and minds! We are the Light, and we will fight to our last to maintain this truth!
Lest you think I speak only of yourselves, know that I have pledged myself to this cause - I shall meet them on the battlefield, and we shall show them the true might of our Empire!
Let our voices be heard in the citadels of Heaven - LUX ET VERITAS!
The Aletheian Empire is well-known for its diversity, thanks to the number of different countries and cultures that were absorbed into it via war or peaceful treaty over the past few thousand years. This diversity is especially celebrated in the capital. Whilst humans, as usual, are by far the most populous race, elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes are not uncommon. Because of the city's diversity, half-elves, half-orcs, and other mixed races such as undines or aasimars feel comfortable within Aletheia, and the constant infusion of travellers often leads to blooming interspecies romance. The Silver District is by far the most diverse area of the city, due to its status as the mercantile district of the city. Ratfolk, gnomes and occasionally smarter goblins ply would-be buyers with their natural charisma and trade-sense, and even traditionally marginalised races such as orcs and drow find themselves drawn into the throng without prejudice. In the Silver District, the only aspect of a person that matters is their coinpurse. The Bronze District, as the residential district of the city, is more comprised of the natural residents of Aletheia - humans, mixed races, and integrated races from across the nation. Whilst this is still a wide variety of people, it would be especially rare to find fey creatures, ifrits, or even ghorans here - these beings tend to prefer their natural homelands. The demographics of the Brass District are similar, due to the fact that all members of the Aletheian military must be citizens of the Empire. The Golden District is largely comprised of nobility, and thus is mostly a mixture of aasimars, humans and other outsider-touched beings due to the Empire's rules of succession. Elven, dwarven, gnomish and drow nobility tend to stay in their homelands, but occasionally will emigrate to Aletheia to take part in political games. Though attention is never drawn to their nature, vampire nobility has also been present in Aletheia for centuries - much to the dismay of the Keepers of Divinity.
As it is the capital of the Aletheian Empire, Aletheia is strictly controlled by the Emperor himself. The city's Brass District is the home of many Aletheian military troops, and due to the importance of the capital, these also function as the city guard - in fact, many military veterans consider it an honour to be assigned to city-based patrols, as this duty allows them to socialise with the many visitors the city receives whilst also defending their country against any threats.
City LawsSlavery is forbidden throughout the empire, and Aletheia itself is no exception, though this does not prevent the city's shadier inhabitants from making deals in dark alleyways or secretive underground hideouts. Drugs and spells that remove a person's control over themselves are also carefully controlled, as are many other magical items - the Mages Guild carefully vets any wishing to sell arcane devices to prevent Staves of Domination or their kin from being sold, and the Keepers of Divinity are extremely diligent in ensuring their divine counterparts maintain their obedience. Certain churches, such as the Church of Calistria, are occasionally granted religious exemption on this rule. Live animals must first go through a period of quarantine to prevent invasive disease or potential magical disaster from striking, and must follow care guidelines to ensure no animal abuse takes place. Magical beasts are not permitted to be sold within the city unless special permits have been received.
PunishmentBreaking any of the city's laws, or the Empire's, will result in arrest by the Aletheian Military. Depending on the severity of the offence, the punishments vary from small fines (for being disorderly or minor theft out of necessity) to lifelong imprisonment in the feared dungeons of Solariste. In the most severe cases, particularly relating to treason, murder, and rape, the capital punishment may be administered. Capital punishment in the city itself is never an overly public process, but those who wish to watch may visit the Brass District to witness justice being dealt. The guilty party will be given the chance to say farewell to their loved ones, receive their last meal and write a will, and will be allowed to choose their method of execution from a specially-prepared list. Owing to the variety of races and levels of ability among their population, the list must avoid methods that the guilty party might be immune to; a vampire, for instance, would not be given the option of drowning.
Legal IssuesCitizens with grievances are encouraged to report these issues to the City Guard, or to bring them up to the Lower Aletheian Courts. If a matter is significant enough, it may be raised all the way to the Emperor himself after passing through the layers of the Noble Courts. Citizens are also permitted to go straight to the Emperor and petition him for aid, but only during special times when the Palace has been opened for this purpose. Due to the current war between the Aletheian Empire, the Medimian Empire, the once-neutral faction of Terenholt and the Kingdom of Ordan, these council sessions are currently suspended.
TaxationEach citizen is expected to pay tax towards the maintenance of their city, calculated based on their reported income under the influence of a Zone of Truth spell. Those tricking this spell will be arrested by the Tax Office and punished with heavy fines or jail time. Inability to pay tax will result in a court-mandated job that generally grants a liveable, if small, income; if this job is refused, the citizen will be mandated to either enter the military or leave the city. Disability or advanced age is, of course, taken into consideration with this. Due to this process, Aletheia is generally considered one of the most progressive places to live.
By far the most significant location of Aletheia is the palace. Towering above the city, its golden spires can be seen for miles around, and its white stones seem to glow white even in the darkness of night. Stained glass windows depicting the events of its history glimmer in the light, and within, the nation's highest courts and most precious treasures can be found alongside the Aletheian Royal Family. As one steps out of the palace, their attention will be drawn to the plume of fire that rises up in front of them. This is the Flame of the Lost, an ever-burning fire that rises higher depending on the amount of loss their kinsmen have suffered that day. Numerous bouquets and favours have been placed around its barrier, in memory of their fallen friends. Further south, the eye is greeted by the lush green grass of the public royal gardens. Statues dot the landscape, portraying fallen emperors and empresses. The gardens slope downwards towards the rest of the city – very few other buildings can be seen upon the mountainside this close to the palace. Across the valley, magical towers and the spires of churches can be seen in Aletheia's Golden District, where the rich and noble live under the careful protection of the Aletheian City Guard. The slate roofs of the Silver District, the riverside mercantile region of the Capital, are visible down below, surrounded by the many thousands of homes of the Bronze District, where the majority of citizens live. The Brass District, where the military train and live, can be glimpsed to the east of the Royal Gardens and Palace. Their quarters run underground and allow them to easily access any area of the capital. The palace itself, as well as a few other buildings inhabited by close relatives of the Emperor, are located in the Platinum District.
Important LocationsThe Silver District boasts a number of forges, alchemical laboratories, shipyards, mills and other important craft-related buildings, and would likely spew forth a horrific amount of smoke if it were not for the careful enchantments placed upon the area. Countless restaurants and pubs can also be found throughout, serving a mixture of cuisines from Aletheian native to delicacies from as far away as the Takawaokan jungle. A vast bridge, unofficially known as the Captain's Folly, stretches across the centre of the river running through Aletheia to unite the halves of the Silver District - known by such a name due to a serious boating accident three decades ago, when an impatient captain decided they didn't need to wait for the bridge to part. The Golden District, whilst being home to many of the rich or noble familes of Aletheia, is also where many churches were established, and as such often receives visitors from all over. The largest of the religious buildings is the Cathedral of Light, a tall cathedral dedicated to Sarenrae and her deific allies - many lesser nobles choose to marry in its spacious main hall instead of inconveniencing the Emperor by requesting the use of the Palace. Other such churches include Cailean's Tankard (which also doubles as one of the finest pubs of the land), the Inheritor's Halls (for the faithful of Iomedae), and the Spire of Temptation (where Calistria finds much worship). A few mages have chosen to also establish their spires along the outer edges of the Golden District, providing the residents of Aletheia with much entertainment - it is not uncommon to see apprentices being sent out on errands via strange methods of transportation (such as transformation into a half-bird, entrapment within a ball of water, or simply via catapult) when they have displeased their masters. The Brass District is, due to its military nature, home to the military barracks and training areas, but also hosts the city's own courtrooms and legal offices. Out of public view, the interrogation chambers and dungeons of the Palace run beneath this area and can be accessed through the military's underground tunnel network. Whilst the city does have its own prisons, they do not hold major criminals for long - such criminals are usually either executed, or transferred to Solariste.
Guilds and Factions
Significant FactionsBoth the Mages Guild and the Keepers of Divinity have significant presence in the city, alongside a number of noble houses that have risen up within the Empire. Of note, the vampiric noble house of Marchelle keeps its main residence within the Golden District. The Aletheian royal family is also present within the city, and as of late, the Alliance of Light have been witnessed meeting in the Royal Palace to discuss the current war.
Trade GuildsThere are so many trade guilds within the Aletheian Empire that strict rules around their formation have had to be put in place over the past year. Listing them all would be an arduous task. The largest guilds are currently the Smithing Guild, particularly due to the collapse of Dhun Volkulgar, and the Brewmasters Guild, but neither can truly compete with the general Merchanting Guild in numbers.
Religious GroupsAs indicated in the Infrastructure section, Aletheia boasts of many different religious groups, usually aligned with the Good. No deity is forbidden to be worshipped outright, but evil-aligned groups are usually viewed with suspicion if not outright arrested for their religious practices. Sarenrae has historically had the largest group of worshippers within the empire, but Desna's views on freedom have long been respected, and Abadar's lawful nature is quietly appreciated.
Our homeland has grown from a refugee's desperate attempt to find safety in the mountaintops to a flourishing capital city of the world's greatest empire. Our path through history has, regrettably, been paved with the blood of our families as we have sought to establish our home - but our greatest success has been wiping the red from our names and underlining them with the silver ribbons of peace. No Aletheian will know what it means to be a slave, or to be controlled against their will. We are a free people, and we shall walk in the Light as we step into the future together. Lux et Veritas, my dearest citizens. Light, and the ever-burning truth of our hearts!Aletheia has had a long and storied history. The blood of many stains its shores; the wreckage of enemy fleets can still be found near its coasts. Altaanlu, the eternal guardian of the city, is by far the most honest witness and knowledgeable historian of Aletheia, and has been consulted by many budding authors on the true events of the land's history. Due to the intrinsic link between Aletheia and the Empire that has formed around her, the history of this city will instead be detailed in the Aletheian Empire.
The Alarian mountain range forms a natural valley, through which the river Eleftheria flows. Smaller springs and rivers run down the cliffsides and into small natural lakes formed throughout the range, or into the Eleftheria. Aletheia is positioned to take advantage of the benefits offered by this geography - the royal palace is placed on the easily-defensible upper reaches of the city, surrounded by rock and ensuring any attackers would have to climb up the hills to reach it, and the Silver District, home of trade, runs along the Eleftheria to allow traders easy access to the river for transport. The rock beneath Aletheia is sturdy, allowing for an expansive underground network beneath the city. The Aletheian Military have made excellent use of this, as have the undesirables gathering in the city. The Brass District is connected to a series of orderly tunnels that allow the guards swift access to many areas of the city in case of invasions or trouble. The exact layout of these is secret, but predictable - a fact that the city's shadier aspects have learnt with glee. A group of duergar were the first to burrow beneath the city, and others have since joined them, creating an underbelly of unseen trade markets and dark affairs - a true black market. Unbeknown to these criminals, the military's oracles and diviners have been maintaining a close watch on all that happens in these areas, and the city guard have been known to collaborate with the Eagle's Shadows (not always knowingly) to set up sting operations. Most significantly to Aletheia's geography is the unspoken presence of its guardian - Altaanlu, the golden dragon guardian of Aletheia, rests atop the mountains opposite the Palace, his tail often coiled around the peaks. His golden scales gleam brightly on sunnier days, a gentle reminder that all within the valley falls under his gaze. Whilst Altanluu rarely interferes in lesser affairs, it is not uncommon for pilgrims, lost souls, or adventurers to seek his advice in the mountaintops, and the royalty of Aletheia are practically children to him for reasons nobody seems to understand.