The Star-led Embassy is a nearly-lightless collection of suites reserved for the nocturnal and light-sensitive visitors of Lockhinge City
. These are both offered as temporary lodging and more long-term rental, both for invited guests of the city and other travelers.
The opening of the Star-led Embassy is considered the pilot of a larger effort in the city to work toward a fully-functional "second shift" of activity that begins once the sun goes down. The hope is that not only will Lockhinge gain another way in which it is pioneering diversity before the rest of the kingdom, by offering services and accommodations that are specifically tailored toward nocturnal species, but also see an increase in prosperity with city-wide revenue largely pausing when diurnal species head to bed.
The Embassy and the "Lockhinge After Dark" concept was the brainchild of Lord Tekhetsio Thriyan, who had only been toying with the idea until meeting the Darkling elder, Stargazer Dax. Moved by the story of the Darklings' unfair condemnation by the queen of the Feywild's Summer Court, and the peril that their people now face with their deadly sensitivity to light, Tekhetsio was inspired to move forward with his ambitious project. There are allusions that the Embassy's name is a reference to conversations had between Tekhetsio and Stargazer Dax.
Knowing that the Embassy needs to be as close to light-free as possible, it was immediately clear that no currently-constructed building in Lockhinge would work, and building new establishments is nearly impossible within the city. Instead, Tekhetsio set his sights on a series of old cargo warehouses on the Ridge, carved into the very stone of the mountain. Besides being extremely protected and having no windows to speak of, the structures seemed to Tekhetsio easy for the city to reclaim for its own purposes.
The Countess, however, refused to simply reclaim the warehouses from the merchants who were making use of them, so Tekhetsio had to approach them and make the deals himself. A high-ranking member of the Circle of Commerce
, one Benji Frogwater, agreed to the arrangement in exchange for Lord Thriyan to travel to the The Silver Strand
and take care of a matter of importance for him. Once accomplished, ownership of the warehouses were officially signed over to the Diplomatic Office.
Just as every border of Lockhinge City is subject to strict rules and negotiations with beings that dwell outside of it, the mountain that backs the Stone Quarter is no different. The spaces that had been carved into the mountain had been approved for simple storage purposes, but not for the dwelling--however temporary--of peoples not normally found in appreciable amounts in the city beforehand. So, the Countess also required him to travel into mountains to consult with their allies there and acquire official permission to let the Darklings and other nocturnal creatures dwell within the mountain.
The final barrier to allowing the Darklings to find official haven within the city was to travel to the Feywild and speak with the queen of the Summer Court herself, as Lockhinge has historically had alliances with the Feywild courts and the Countess did not want these put in jeopardy. Tekhetsio made the journey as envoy and spent several weeks there, negotiating and trading favors, before the Summer Queen would grant permission for the Darklings to stay within Lockhinge's borders without diplomatic repercussions between the two realms.
Strangely, shortly after construction of the Star-led Embassy was officially under way, Tekhetsio removed his name from most elements of the project, leaving control of it entirely in the hands of the Diplomatic Office, and his associate, Zaven Kashahesi.
Famously, aside from a constructed antechamber, the Star-led Embassy is built in a hollow carved into the sheer cliff wall backing the Stone Quarter. There are no windows to risk letting in light from outside, and the only portals are the front door and a tunnel leading to a secure emergency exit in back. Inside, two levels of suites open into the shared central hall. In the back is a hostel space only half segmented off from the central hall.
Everything about the Embassy is geared toward lightless living, and there is a style to it, both visually (for those who can see in total darkness), and tactilely. Beginning with the rough-hewn interior of the cavelike space, with its somewhat domed ceiling, there are very few sharp edges in the Embassy. The doorways are arched, and leading up to the walkway of the second level is a curved ramp instead of a flight of stairs.
To make up for the cold stone interior, extensive use of lush fabric is used, sourced from the incomparable Drail and Drossimer Hess
. Drossimer's signature focus on texture is centered here, as the only colors ordered are shades of gray and black. Likewise, almost all of the artwork and sculptures are entirely appreciated through touch and sound, as opposed to vision.
One notable exception to the light-free and visionless policies of the Embassy are the use of small bioluminescent lights. The pale-blue glow produced by certain fungi proved to be harmless to those normally sensitive to even candleflame, so various decorative installations make use of the material. The most famous examples of this are the ornate chandeliers hanging in the central hall, and a large piece of artwork that was commissioned by Zaven Kashahesi, honoring the Embassy's title with constellation-based imagery.
Lodging ranges from fine suites meant for honored dignitaries, to a more affordable rooms and hostel space, though even the lower end of the scale is still Stone Quarter quality.
While guests are encouraged to take advantage of the many new nocturnally-focused services for their meals and entertainment, a few things are provided on a complimentary basis. A small library with a rotating selection (all in braille) can be found just off the central hall, and a light early-evening "breakfast" is offered upon request. Plant-based and minimally-processed options (to those of Fey descent) are available.
All signage is in several of the most common languages, including braille, as well some that trigger sound-based illusion magic to convey messages out loud. The Embassy is also considered one of the first upper-class establishments that not only accepts kingdom currency, but also limited bartering for those who come from non-kingdom-sanctioned settlements.
Being an institution sanctioned and utilized by the Diplomacy office of the city, security is of the utmost importance. The Embassy is under careful watch, its rules are heavily policed, and its automated security systems are cutting edge--the lightless wards
most notable among them.
All workers are of course of species that are able to see in total darkness--not only for necessity's sake, but to strive for a sympathetic and welcoming relationship with the Embassy's guests. Workers are carefully vetted, and offering them ample pay is considered a matter of security. More than simply ensuring an enthusiasm for the job, generous pay cuts down on unhappy workers, which each would pose a vulnerability for the Embassy.
The final (and perhaps most vital) way that the Embassy is protected is in the way that it is owned by the Diplomatic office of the city, and not available to any individual or guild. In a city rife with social meddling and plots, the Embassy would be a fantastic target for either sabotage, criminal refuge, or ill-gotten profit. It also ensures that the profit made by the Embassy is almost entirely put right back up into the high standards of upkeep and staff wages for the establishment.
Lord Tekhetsio had first established the Embassy as a holding of the Diplomacy office when he wanted to ensure that it would be a little more resistant to tampering when his brother inevitably takes on the mantle of Count.