The provincial capital of Pelenar Province, Port Salaz is an enormous port city that has been hacked out of and raised above the ever encroaching mangrove swamp that surrounds it, to take advantage of the near perfect natural harbour that the bay it is situated on can provide. The city is often referred to as the maritime heart of the Empire of Turelion, as so much trade goes through it, and it is home to one of the most important of the The Imperial Navy's bases, from which Imperial sailors and marines set sail to fight their never ending war against the Kelrik Pirates.
The vast majority of Port Salaz’s population are defined by the Imperial Bureau as being ‘lower class’. Most of this section of the population live in the Mire area of the city and work in the docks, in fishing or transporting goods across the city for the many commercial and mercantile concerns that exist there. Unsurprisingly, a large subsection of the population that is defined as being ‘middle class’ is made up of merchants and traders who carry out the majority of the commercial activity that takes place in Port Salaz. Another significant subsection of the middle class are those who provide secondary services to the merchants and the crews of the ships that regularly arrive in the city. The smallest section of the population, where about 50% of all of the wealth in the city is focused are the ‘upper class’, which represent the ultra-rich merchants and people who are high up within the city and provincial government. Because of its function as an active port city, Port Salaz also has an enormous number of itinerant residents who arrive on ships that come to the city to trade, usually their crew, and who only stay for a few days before they set sail again. This constant churn of nautical visitors drives an enormous service economy, mostly based out of the Mire, to provide more sensual comforts to the sailors than a glass of Hag's Breath is capable of.
The bay and the city’s enormous harbour are protected by four retired ships that once sailed for the Imperial Navy, which have been converted into floating gun platforms and are now permanently moored in the mouth of the bay. These converted fortifications have also had their lower decks converted so that all four can act as gaols to hold the significant number of prisoners that the crime ridden city generates. As the ground of the landward side of the city is too soft to allow for the construction of a fortified wall, it is protected by a wide, deep moat that has been cut through the mangrove swamps surrounding the settlement, to create a water barrier. Like the entrance to the bay and harbour, this moat has four smaller, ships, now converted into static gun emplacements protecting it. There is only one permanent, purpose built piece of defensive infrastructure within the city, and that is the Harbour Fort, which is a large round tower built in the harbour quarter as its name suggests, which acts as the garrison for the contingent of Provincial Troops that operate as the city’s guard and acts as a last line of defence over the harbour should it be attacked. In addition, Port Salaz benefits heavily from the fact that it is the base of operations of the substantial force of the Imperial Navy that have been deployed in Pelenar Province to combat the Kelrik Pirates. This means that there are several Imperial Navy ships in port in the city at any one time, with the flag ship of the fleet in the region, The Valiant Heart being almost permanently docked in the Harbour Quarter. As well as the historical presence of the Imperial Navy, Port Salaz is also home to a garrison force of The Imperial Drakes, who are based in a purpose built fortress located just beyond the city's moat. However, these troops are not garrisoned here specifically to defend the city, but are instead there to ensure the loyalty of Pelenar Province's Satrap to the Emperor of Turelion and Kelbonnar is unwavering, and to remind them who is ultimately in charge.
Industry & Trade
The main industry of Port Salaz is the enormous amount of activity that goes into the portage of goods from trading vessel to trading vessel, with a significant proportion of the lower echelons of society employed as dock workers. A smaller percentage of the population is also involved in fishing with a number of small fishing fleets setting off from the Docklands quarter of the city each morning and returning with their catches to sell at market in the afternoon.
Whilst Port Salaz is not accessible by any land routes, it is well connected to the outside world thanks to its key position within the Empire of Turelion's maritime networks, and the fact that it is the convergence point of several Firewing routes between Pelenar, Langstrom, Greltor and Norgantho provinces. Within the city itself, most of the roads outside of the Harbour Quarter are actually raised wooden walkways, which life the thoroughfares above the water level of the encroaching mangrove swamp and allow easy connection to and between the majority of the city’s buildings, which are built on stilts and raised platforms. Port Salaz is divided into four quarters:
- The Harbour Quarter – The bureaucratic heart of the city, where the city’s and Pelenar Province's key administrative and governance institutions are based. This is also the area where the wealthiest residents live, and it is the location of the original harbour infrastructure, which has now all but entirely been taken over by the Imperial Navy.
- The Docklands – An enormous strip of land stretching off to the west of the Harbour Quarter, the Docklands is an extensive area of jetties, wharfs and docks that have been built to a varying degree of standards, originally intended to increase the city’s trading capacity, though now it functions much more as a replacement for the original harbour. This area is dominated by warehouses and most of those who live there are people who are housed in barrack like buildings who work for large trading entities, such as the Hastellion Trading Company.
- The Merchant Quarter – The area to the north of the Harbour Quarter and the Docklands is the Merchant Quarter, which houses the markets, auction houses and commodities exchanges where the vast majority of goods that are brought into Port Salaz are bought and sold. Most of those who live in this area, especially in the areas closest to the Harbour Quarter, are middle class people, who tend to be linked to trade or its associated service professions.
- The Mire – In the north of Port Salaz, straddling and encircling the other three districts is the Mire, an area where most of the city’s less affluent citizens live. The areas closest to other districts are well kept and hospitable enough, but the deeper one gets into the Mire, the worse conditions get, with the areas adjoining and within a mile of the city’s protective moat being a large slum.
Guilds and Factions
As the centre of their operations against the Kelrik Pirates, the Imperial Navy has a strong interest in the city, and there are always Imperial ships docked in the Harbour Quarter of Port Salaz. Indeed, so many Imperial ships come in and out of the city that almost all the stone built jetties and associated infrastructure of the Harbour Quarter have been sequestered for the use of the Navy, meaning that almost all other vessels have to use the less central and less permanent infrastructure of the Docklands. The few slots in the Harbour Quarter that are available for non-Naval ships are like gold dust, and a substantial amount of influence, and cash in hand do dole out as bribes is required to secure one. Despite the presence of the Imperial Navy, the Kelrik Pirates are well known to have a significant presence within the city, with their activities focusing around recruitment of additional people to their crews and spying on the Provincial Government and the Imperial Navy. The criminal organisations the Scarlets and the White Fangs also have a presence in Port Salaz, where both have been drawn to the large urban poor populations and the large amount of trade that takes place in the city, both of which are ripe for exploitation. Unsurprisingly, the Hastellion Trading Company has a big interest in Port Salaz and they have invested a large amount of money into ensuring that they have a large stake in the commercial activities that take place in the city. They have even gone as far as to construct their own bespoke harbour and warehouses in the Docklands area of the city, to facilitate the ease of their operations.
Whilst Port Salaz itself has little within it to specifically attract tourists or sightseers to it, it does receive a large number of visitors, principally because the city is at the heart of the Empire of Turelion's maritime trade network. This means that most of the city’s visitors either travel there so that they can find a ship that will take them on to their eventual destination, or because they are involved in trading.
The city’s geography has rather profoundly affected and segregated Port Salaz’s architecture. The buildings of the Harbour Quarter, which are built on pretty much the only stable, dry ground in the area, are constructed out of stone, and although they are predominantly rather plain, important buildings, such as the residence and offices of Pelenar Province's Satrap and the Alderman’s residence and offices have been augmented with some limited decoration, primarily plain columns and the odd piece of statuary. The actual harbour area of the Harbour Quarter is also constructed from stone, with the custom buildings, installations of the Imperial Navy and the Navy’s berths and jetties all constructed from well-shaped and put together stone blocks that were specially imported for the purpose. Beyond the Harbour Quarter, the buildings are almost entirely made of wood and are a hotchpotch of styles, sizes and quality of construction reflecting the fact that most of the people who are resident in Port Salaz were left to their own devices when it came to building their homes and businesses. The reason that almost all of the buildings outside of the Harbour Quarter are made of wood, and other similar materials, is partly the cost of importing stone or bricks to the city, but is also due to the fact that as most of the buildings are erected on stilts to keep them above the water level, and the buildings therefore need to be constructed out of a lighter material to prevent them from collapsing.
Port Salaz is situated on the shores of a wide, deep water bay that is protected by the thick mangrove swamps south and west, making it an ideal anchorage for even the largest of ships. The patchwork nature of the mangrove swamp that makes up the majority of the island of Jamilez means that there was never enough solid land for Port Salaz to be constructed on to begin with, let alone enough to contain its expansion over the years. Whilst the Harbour Quarter is constructed on the only ‘solid’ ground in the area, the rest of the city is mostly constructed on artificial platforms, sunk into the swamp bed, which are connected by wooden walkways. Had it not been for the deep, sheltered waters of the bay Port Salaz is constructed on, which make an excellent harbour space, the decision would probably have been taken to build the city somewhere else, but the lure of such a prized anchorage was too much. The concessions that were made in exchange for the ideal harbour space, the damp, mosquitos and stench of stagnant water are things that Port Salaz’s citizens simply have to put up with.