The City of a Hundred Fiefs is a federal city-state made up of numerous fiefs ruled by lords and ladies. It was built on top of the ancient city of Elante after no unique successor could be found to the kingship and the city had to be divided. Originally, Elante was located in what appears to be a random spot in the middle of nowhere to take advantage of an area with extremely high magic concentration. After the succession crisis, since the lords and ladies had to stay inside that area and inside their own fiefs, they were rather limited in space. As a result, they got rid the ancient buildings and replace them with immense towers, taking advantage of the powerful local magic to maintain them up and to use their exterior to do some farming. The magic also allowed them to establish wards around their domain so that they could defend themselves from all those attempting to size their land and reunify the city or simply wishing to extend their territories. And they are numerous.
The exact size of the towers depends on the power and skills of the local lords and ladies. The maximum ever reached is 1,000 m and about 200 storeys, however few can achieve this. In practice, 50 storeys is already a lot. Especially for the the people who actually have to climb them up and down, which few inhabitants of the fiefs actually do regularly, apart from those working on the maintenance of the towers or responsible with communicating and trading with the outside world. In the same spirit, towers inside one fief often have bridges erected between each other at different storeys. Those are temporary structure so that those can quickly be collapsed should one tower be claimed by any outsider.
The size of a fief is measured in towers. The currently dominant lord is at 150. For now. However, weak lords and ladies own only 2 to 3 towers, and the average is at a mere 11, with a median of 5. While the quality of the tower—whether it is in danger of collapsing anytime soon, how much farming it can do, how defendable it is—is of import, in practice, prestige is only linked to number. For this reason, destroying a tower so that it can be rebuilt is almost never done, no matter how unstable and magic-hungry maintaining it up is. Similarly, lords and ladies who have one of their towers collapse are considered weak and easy preys—and such calls are always answered quickly. This has resulted in the city being filled with extremely old and damaged towers that are patched up by magic and the will of their owners more than anything else.
City area: around 300 km².
Number of towers: around 1,000 towers.
Number of fiefs: changing but always near 100.
Fief size: from 2-3 towers to 150, average 11, median 5.
Tower size: around 18m width, max 1000m high (around 200 storeys).
Each fief is completely independent and only ruled by its lord or lady. Thanks to its wards, nothing and no one can penetrate inside of it without their permission. With the farming occurring on the surface of the tower themselves, most fiefs can survive on their own without external interactions. However such an existence is rather poor, with many resources such as additional building materials lacking and the food not being very diverse.
Because of this, the lords and ladies have decided to gather together to establish safe travel and trade within the city, as well as debate threats and matters that concern them all. In order to do so, they have created a council of all lords and ladies—at least those that actually bother and have the courage to show up to the council building. Attendance is never full, with the exception of extremely rare and impactful events, such as something directly threatening to level up the city. Otherwise, many lords and ladies think that the council is useless and have no interest in it, just wanting to exert their power over their own subjects. On the other hand, many lords and ladies are too weak and frighten to dare leave their wards and put themselves in a position of weakness.
All of this suits the rest of them perfectly well, as this leaves only powerful people in attendance who are actually interested in coming up with agreements, without having anyone trying to block every decision. Those are taken by vote by show of hands. The power of a vote is decided by the number of towers a lord or lady possesses, which clearly gives a lot of political power to a few individuals, just as they already have a lot of magic and resources at their disposal.
The council gathers in the centre of the city into the ancient royal palace of Elante which has been declared neutral ground and has ancient wards to reinforce this fact. In reality, powerful lords and ladies are able to bypass those wards, but this immediately alerts everyone else present and leave them to face the consequences.
In between the fiefs, there are corridors of neutrality that are used by trading caravans to travel. Those are little more than uncared-for dirt paths.
Inside towers, basements are well protected and avoided by all, as it is where wards and the magic powering the towers are anchored. The middle storeys and inside of the towers are generally where the lords and ladies' personal apartments are located, as this is the area most out-of-reach from potential attacks, as well as a central location to watch over their people. Among the rest of the population, the richer and more powerful are located closer to the lords and ladies, leaving the poorer and weaker at the bottom and top. The rooms next to the surface of the towers are reserved for farming, water gathering, and the magic keeping the tower up.
Basement Kraken by AmélieIS
Farming is done against and inside the towers. While in theory magic can help farm any crop, in practise most fiefs limit themselves to those that are in season and adapted to the locality and vertical growth. They also specialise in a few crops that they can then trade with each other. Having a dinner table with a wide spread of dishes is a luxury.
Water comes from the underground of the city, where there are an enormous water table and an underground river system. This is nevertheless not enough, as powerful lords and ladies redirect a big part of this water to their own towers, leaving the rest of the city to fight for what little is left and frequently face shortfalls. To compensate for this, the others use magic to gather water from the atmosphere, which makes the air very dry inside their fiefs. This has led dryness and dry skin to be seen as a sign of weakness and poverty, and the powerful to show off with big pools and fountains.
Trash is mostly recycled, as the poorest fiefs have few relationships with the exterior and have to make do with what is already there. Magic has allowed them to be very efficient with the recycling process, and they can use it to catalyse chemical reactions and accelerate molecular transformations.
The city main outputs and trading resources are linked to its unique advantage: its high magical concentration. They sell farming surplus as luxury magical food or medical food that can accelerate the regeneration of magical reserves. They also create magical artefacts that can only be made in area of high magic concentrations. The quality of these artefacts however depends on the knowledge and skills of the artisans making them and of their lords and ladies.
The inhabitants of the city are all the descendants of those originally living in Elante before the original succession crisis. They do not have free circulation throughout the city, and they even need the permission of their lords and ladies to leave their fief. Such permission is very rarely given, except to trusted individuals who are sent to carry messages to neighouring lords and ladies. Most people will be born and die in the same tower without ever having left it.
Life is very harsh for most, as they are little more than indentured servents. Few fiefs have a formal education system in place, and children generally only learn from their parents what little the parents know—which is mainly their trade. The only way to ascent socially is through developping the skills of their trade beyond general levels, or to develop their magical talents. Indeed, while everyone is born with the abilities to practise magic, people have different aptitude for it, and they will put different level of diligence in attempting to understand and master it. In practice, this results in enormous power and skill differences.
Thus, magic is a shortcut to be noticed by your lord or lady and be elevated to a better postion. And if they fail to have the good sense to do so, you can always take matters into your own hands...