The Gleaming City Settlement in Shadowfire | World Anvil

The Gleaming City

Situated between the Shatterbright and the shores of the Grifted Shallows, where the Godswollen River emerges from the Stonesky to spread out across the Mephitic Delta, sits the graceful spires of the Gleaming City. This is where the Lords of Fire conspire to rule the hearts, minds and tradeways of Shadowfire.   From a distance, the 500 foot tall towers of glass, crystal and obsidion reflect and refract the light from the sun. The city sparkles upon the hotizon, beckonning the scorched and wearyt traveller into its protection.   But it is a protection that comes at a price.  
It was always up there they said, touching the everfire since before the kin were kin and before the sands had melted. But I'd only ever heard tales told under lamplight in hushed voices a child knew to to stay quiet if they wanted to learn. The only sky I had known was made of stone, and brightness then was but a dull glimmer in the dark.   It wasn't until much later that i first saw it. With blistered eyes, and near death from thirst and the welts upon my skin. But there it was, like a shining blade emerging from the sands onnthe horizon. It's facets and spires reflecting a mriad of colours upon me, while the three towers floating at its zenith beckoned down to me.   This was the power I needed, to avenge my friends, and save our kin. This was my shining path.
From Impetine: Reflections and Conversations by Nameless Legate of the Risen Lord
  The Gleaming City is governed the Holy Caldera, the heads of a complex theocracy, supported by a rigid cast system and a ruthless system of bureaucracy and contractual obligations.   There are a number of distinct zone within the Gleaming City. The highest points of the city are reserved for the Lords of Fire, the holy monks of The Flaming Brand, and the many bureaucrats and servants that keep the city running.   Below them merchants, adventureers, pilgrims and diplomats from across the world gather in the shadows of the spires to trade, worship and jostle for the attention of the high and mighty.  

The High Towers

The Trispire

Crowning the city are the three slender and spiralling towers that seem to float above the city below. This is the domain of the High Caldera and contain their private contemplation chambers and personal quarters.   Between the spires stretches a thin, semi-translucent platform where the Caldera focusses and performs the most extreme and holy of their magical rites. This platform floats above the vast void beneath, the Atrium, which is framed by the ring of towers and the vast body of the city proper below.  

The Ring of Nine

The layer below the trispires is formed by a ring of tall circular towers, each joined to the central spires by gracefull arches. There are nine secondary towers, three for each of the Trispires. These are interconnected by a webbing of slender bridges, and are run by the nameless wardens of the city in their chambers atop each tower. Below them are the many floors of chambers devoted to the hundreds of bureaucrats who serve them and keep the order of the city and lands under their dominion.  

The Upper city

Holding aloft the ring of nine towers is the central body of the city, which is shaped like a massive teardrop around the central Atrium. The sunward side of the Upper City is narrow and shear, while the shadowside bulges out to fill the shadows cast by the towers above. This side of the Upper City tapers gracefully and its base contains the many entrances from the Shadow ward far below.  

The Sunward Heights

This section of the upper city is a narrow cliff of towers, balconies, domes and other buildings that each connect to their public apartment around the central Atrium, but catch the views and diffuse the llight from the sun into their bright interiors.   This is the domain reserved for the Lords of Fire. The spaces within are devoted to opulant palaces, complete with barracks and of their retinues of The Flaming Brand monks, and high hangers for their suadrons of Thermal Skippers.

The Shadowed Heights

The uppermost levels of the Shadowed heights are reserved for the rich princes of the Merchantry of the Torrent, diplomats and other trusted allies of the city who are less adapted to the harshness of the sun. Below them are found many luxury hotels, bath houses, restaurants and boutique stores that serve their high paying customers with any luxury and comfort they could desire.   At the top of the Shadowed Heights sits the domed three-levelled civic building, The Gilded Preceptry, the headquarters of the Merchantry, with its three-fold purpose as bank, judiciary and church.  

the Atrium

Down the centre of the Upper City the Atrium plunges nearly 300 feet from the Ring of Nine down to the Lower City. The curved walls reflect and refract the light from above and through the crystal walls into an ever sparkling haze that brings light to the many floors far below.   A wide promenade, known simply as the Concourse spirals down the walls of the atrium from top to bottom, with balconies branching off at regular intervals. The Concourse is crowded with outdoor restaurants and cafes, and a bustle of people. Many an introduction is made over cool juices and wines imported from the Shimmerlands and beyond, while the true deals are made within the parlours of the Lords of Fire and the Merchantry of the Torrent that line the length of the winding balconies.

The lower city

Shadow Ward

The Shadow Ward is the external city of low-lying stone buildings that fill the vast shadow of the towers above. Protected from the direct blasting of the sun, the buildings and narrow alleys between are also protected by many layers of colourful fabrics and silks that flap forever in the prevailing winds.   Beneath their protection, and sweltering in the extreme heat, dart the many vistors and denizons of the outer city, flitting between the buildings.   Here there are many warehouses, taverns and entertainment from all corners of the globe. There is a heavy presence of Flaming Brand who police the streets and establishments in small trios. Despite this, minor crimes and misdemenours are common, especially in the covered market places and other crowded spaces.
by Midjourney
  On the southern edge of the Shadow Ward lies the main gate to the city, one that is usually open to the Cliffside areas overlooking the waters of the Godswollen River, amnd the paved hiwghway that heads down to the docks there.  


On the sunside of the main tower is the huge ring of defensive walls and turrets, which circles the entire city, including the Shadowward. it is vast, at least

Cliffside and the Riverport

The wide and meandering flow of the Godswollen River rushes past the doorsteps to the ShadowWard. There lies the bustling port which is the entry point for most visitors, with warehouses and large jetties thrust into the silt-churned waters.  
To the south stretches high obsidion cliffs, which are riddled with ancient lava tube tunnels. Thes tunnels are used for storage, and for the homes of many who cannot afford to stay even within the Shadow Ward. The tunnels twist and turn in a chaotic maze of caverns beneath the plain surrounding the Gleaming City, with some entrances rumoured to even reach the Under City. It is a relatively lawless and chaotic place, where many a dissident or asipiring smuggler has set up their bases of operation.
by Midjourney

The Undercity

The Warrens

Many visitors and servants who are not wealthy enough to live in the city above, find their home in the tangle of tunnels and caverns carved through the rock below the city. It is a largely ungoverned place, and the true extent of the tunnels is not known.

The Reservoir

The city draws in water from the nearby Godswollen River into a vast series of tanks beneath the city. This is then used for a variety of purposes:
Water circulation
Vast pumps push water up to the top levels of the city, and the entire city is threaded with a network of pipes that bring clean water to the thoasands of rooms and palaces above. This is used for drinking, bathing and cleaning throughout the city.   This system is also used for waste removal, with sewers that bring the waste down to the Recycling plant below the city.
Climate Control
A complex set of magically compressors and the waters from the Reservoir creates a vaste refridgeration network that sends cool air up through the Atrium to be distributed to the living quarters across all levels of the city.

The Vault

The most guarded area of the entire city is the Vault. It contains the true wealth of the city in the vast amounts of Crystaline Uhd that the city's forces mine from the Shatterbright and the wastes of Mortugurra.
Storage and distribution of magic
The ownership of Uhd and access to it is tightly controlled by the Bureaucracy, and heavily guarded by Deks of The Flaming Brand that are directly loyal to the High Caldera rather than any individual Lord.   The Uhd is used to power the infrastructure and defences of the city, and can be withdrawn and deposited like a bank for use by the Lords and their minions.
Wind power
Additional power is captured across the city by individual use of widmills attached to the otuside of apartments and up and down the full height of the Atrium This source is not centrally regulated nor measured, but is used by many to gather and store magical energy for their own personal use.

The Mortuary

The mortuary is the domain of the Usokufa, and holds the mysterious factories where they recylce the dead bodies of those within the city, or sold to them by those across Ardi-Kokufa. This is where Bodyservants are made and sold to buyers within the city and beyond.

Industry & Trade

The city gets its immense wealth from its vast reserves of Crystal Uhd, and the monopoly it keeps on access to the Shatterbfight and beyond where the hundreds of Uhd mines the Lords control can be found.   This is what brings many from across Shadowfire to trade, and with them they bring every luxury known to satiate the desires and appetites of the Fire Lords.   A secondary industry, peculiar to the Gleaming City is the production of Bodyservants by the Usokufa. In recent years, the ownership of Bodyservants has become morbidly fashionable even within the Protectorates, and the Lords of Fire themselves vie for the more unusual bodies to fashion into servants. A rare Deepkin, or Goblin from the Sea of Black Ice makes for a fine topic of discussion when they serve drinks at a diplomatic function.   An illicit trade in dead bodies for bodyservants has risen, and while it is frowned upon, many look the other way. Some fear that the unscrupulous across the world are killing people before their time in order to supply the growing demand.


  • obsidian and moulded glass
  • metal frames and moulded panels
  • high vaulted spires
  • mosaics and glass tiled windows
  • tents and fabrics for shade
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Cover image: by Midjourney


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Aug 1, 2022 14:57 by Cassandra Sojourn

You have a gift for writing a city like a painting I can imagine. I love the attention to detail to all levels of the city and how climate and water are controlled.

Choose your poison:   Phasmatum: An Afro-Solar-Fantasy world created for my epic novels.
Adazuri: A shonen-inspired magitech fantasy world home-brewed for 5e.