The city of Aixe is a pleasant sight, its walls whitewashed and its towers fluttering with colorful banners, surrounded by a lake-fed moat 100 feet across. Drawbridges lead over the moats to the city gates, each of which is crowned by a painted portcullis-and-key symbol. On the far side of the moat from the city, buildings are clustered near the drawbridges like small villages outside the city walls.
As with the other major cities of Aachen, the area within the walls is ruled by a Mayor-Palatine who reports directly to the Lord-Governor, over the head of the Regional Governor. Just outside the wall, the situation is a bit complex. The surrounding roads (and the city’s courts) are maintained by the Regional Governor of Aixe. However, the lands off the roads are part of the feudal system, held by the Landsgraf of Peridor. The Peridors maintain two “merchant camps” outside the city walls, wooden-walled palisades where caravans can assemble without trying to do so in the chaotic, crowded streets of the city.
All three of the entrance gates have small “outer cities” on the far side of the drawbridges, where buildings have been built to avoid the crowding inside the walls. And within the walls, it is indeed crowded. Half-timber buildings press close against narrow, twisting streets, overshadowing them in many cases with built-out balconies. Caravans and travelers passing through the city must force their way through a pressing crowd of local wagons and citizens. To avoid crowding, many arriving caravans are admitted through the city in the early hours of the morning, beginning their journeys before dawn breaks and the city wakes to life.
The crossroad where the three high roads divide toward their respective city gates is a vast market fronted by the Court of the Governor of Aixe and the Hall of the Mayor-Palatine, as well as the city’s Guildhall. The city guilds are not as powerful as they are in free cities, for they are ultimately subject to laws and decrees of the Lord-Governor in Vermis
. Rather than having much political power in the city, they serve mainly to ensure that the city’s products are of high quality, and that citizens are not cheated. However, there is a constant drumbeat from the guildmasters that Aixe should seek the status of a chartered city under its own government. The Overkings have thus far utterly forbidden the Lord-Governors from granting such a charter, so the efforts of the guilds have had little effect.
Aixe is an old city dating back to the Atlantea era, although it has long outgrown the small area originally enclosed by the Atlantean walls (now torn down). Its prosperity from trade allowed it to build new walls over a century ago, but the city has again outgrown them and relies upon the open grounds beyond the city to provide needed space for new housing and for the assembly of caravans.
Originally, the Landsgraf of Peridor denied the city any taxes on the lucrative business of providing open space to caravans, but some years ago the Mayor-Palatine’s guardsmen hauled the current Landsgraf’s father from his residence in the city, declared him guilty within the hour, and summarily beheaded him in the city center, placing his head on a pike outside the merchant camp. The city then sent an apologetic letter to the Lord-Governor claiming that the entire affair had been a case of mistaken identity, they had thought the man was a pig thief named Boden. In order to prevent future cases of mistaken identity, the Peridors now pay the city a share of their profits.
Boden Bristleback, the actual pig thief, was never captured. He escaped the city, despite being grievously wounded, and fled to the Alder Zerin Forest, where his pursuers were attacked by a large pack of feral pigs. Routed by the porcine assault, the guardsmen were forced to retreat back to the city in disarray: empty-handed, wounded, and deeply embarrassed. The Mayor-Palatine died later in a mysterious hunting accident near the Peridor lands, and the Peridor family sent a large basket of overripe pomegranates to the city as a token of their respect.
As far as visitors are concerned, the city of Aixe is pleasantly friendly to foreigners. An entry toll is collected by the Governor’s guards at the city gate, a small fee of 1sp per non-citizen entering the city, and since merchants absorb the city’s transaction taxes, visitors who wish to sell gems or other treasure in the city can do so at good prices.