The City By the Spire

Alexandria is a homebrewed version of the Ptolus setting, which is (c) Malhavoc Press.

Alexandria is a major city of seven-hundred and fifty thousand people. It is located in the land of Lados in a large bay on the northern end of the Coral Sea. The place was established to serve as the port for an important fortress built at the time of the Atlantean Empire’s foundation, a citadel called Orangarde. More significantly, however, it lies in the shadow of an impossibly tall (almost three thousand feet) and thin pinnacle of rock known simply as the Spire. The Spire and its surroundings seethe with mysterious legends and rumors. These tales tell of ancient battles waged and cities erected on the site, of demons and dark lords, of forgotten kings and mighty wizards. Many such stories might be at least somewhat true, for recent developments have revealed vast complexes beneath the city.   Of late, Alexandria has become a city of adventurers. Treasure-seekers flock there to explore and plunder the labyrinthine structures beneath the streets, which they call the “Dungeon.” If the stories are correct, these catacombs include the sewers of the city, vast stretches of subterranean passages and chambers created by Ghul and his minions, the remains of an even older city, an abandoned underground dwarven settlement called Dwarvenhearth, and levels that plunge incredibly deep below the present urban area.   It’s the smell of the city that gets to you first. No matter where you stand, you probably smell the odors of damp clothes and people, dry-rotting wood and straw, burning coal, cooking food, domestic animals, garbage, and sewage. The latter two aren’t as bad as they could be; the sewers in Alexandria, as in most large cities, are quite efficient, and the underground rivers keep their contents moving.   After the smell, it’s the noise you notice. People aren’t shy about shouting to their neighbors out their windows, or calling down the street from their doors. Tolling bells and sounding horns signal various religious rituals from the Temple District, and entertainers sing, play instruments, and tell jokes in the street. Street orators attempt to inform and persuade those who will stop to listen, while bell-ringers shout out the news of the day for those too busy or too ignorant to read one of the many local broadsheets. Behind all those sounds, in many areas of town you can hear the rushing waters of the King’s River through the ravine that cleaves the city in two, or the crashing of waves on the Cliffs of Lost Wishes at the city’s edge. No matter where you are in the city, you can look up and see the Spire, unless it’s raining so hard from a hurricane blowing in that the sky is just a swath of grey. As you look north, the city rises. To the south, it falls until it reaches the cliffs.   Alexandria is crowded with buildings—you won’t see many trees or green areas except in city squares or parks. The buildings are not tall, although a few towers and three- and even four-story structures rise above their lower neighbors. Although the structures vary from district to district, the typical Alexandrian building has two stories. The bottom one is built of grey stones and mortar with wooden beams and slats. The top story is made of wood and generally has the same dimensions as the bottom story; some buildings are a bit wider on the top floor, creating an overhang of two or three feet.   Roofs are usually slanted with gabled ends. They are covered with wooden shingles. Every building has at least one stone chimney. Typically, the buildings of Alexandria abut each other on at least one side, and usually two. One side of a structure typically runs along a very narrow alleyway—often no more than three or four feet across. Most such alleys are full of trash, empty crates or barrels, and other clutter. The streets are narrow, most measure about ten feet across, while major thoroughfares are fifteen or even twenty feet across. Streets are widest in the Nobles’ Quarter and in the Guildsman District—the former for the luxury of the residents, the latter for the practical needs of those who work there, bringing wagonloads of material back and forth, herds of cattle and sheep for rendering, and so on. In the morning, amid the ringing of bells, someone on the street is likely to see people rushing off to work, merchants opening their shops, and middle- and upper-class children on their way to school, books and wax tablets tucked under their arms. Vendors selling fresh baked goods and fruit are common, and cafes are filled with people drinking their morning tea or coffee. Vendors selling goods—particularly food—are common on almost every street in every district.   The Spire dominates the sky above Alexandria. It rises approximately three thousand feet above Midtown. Of course, it is only visible perhaps half the time due to the dark, looming clouds or the grey overcast skies that are so common, particularly in the autumn.   Even putting aside the Spire, though, the skies are rarely empty. Hot air balloons owned by the noble families are a common sight. House Abanar even owns a fleet of ships that fly in the air as easily as it might ply the seas. Mages under the effects of a fly spell, adventurers mounted on flying carpets, griffons, or wyverns, flying familiars and animal companions, and even a demon or genie in flight all might be making their way across the skies above Alexandria at this moment. The sky is also full of shadow sendings, although to the uninitiated they might just look like birds.


80% human, 12% moriedhel, 5% dwarf, 3% other.


The city is ostensibly ruled by a council, at whose head sits the Commissary, a sort of king and queen of the people. The other main council members are Kirian Ylestos (the Prince of the Church) and the Mother Superior of the Sisterhood of Silence. Other City Council members (with less influence) include guildmasters, the heads of the noble houses, and a few wealthy merchants. People of the town often refer to this body as the “Council of Coin,” because money is a powerful and influential force among its members.   Guildmaster Delver Sorum Dandubal, also a council member, is quickly becoming another force to reckon with—almost a fourth main member—but the three forces controlling the council dislike and oppose him. Truth be told, the real ruler of the city is the Commissary, Terentius Oran and Alexandria Oran. The City Watch operates under his direct command from Orangarde, a historic fortress that still stands in Oldtown. The Orans' group of advisers in charge of the city’s defense and protection is called the Twelve Commanders. These include Lord Dorant Khatru of House Khatru, Aoska of the Malkuth, and other local luminaries.


First and foremost, Alexandria exists to facilitate the exchange of money and goods. In fact, the city was formed three millenia years ago as a small port town to provide goods to the new fortress of Orangarde. Alexandria's economy still centers around its role as a gathering place for traders and goods. Farmers beyond the deserts to the north, both from the Borderlands and from the Ivory Duchies bring their produce to Alexandria to sell, whether it be grain, fruit, or vegetables. They also bring in livestock, including sheep and cattle. Loggers from the north ship timber into town to sell. Merchant vessels from all along the northern coast of the Coral Sea come to Alexandria to buy these goods and bring in others.   Alexandria also teems with craftspeople, from simple coopers (barrel makers) to incredibly skilled metalsmiths. The city even boasts a few artisans who can create and maintain delicate or complex devices such as clocks, firearms, and printing presses—and, to a limited extent, even steam engines and other wonders... one of the only places outside of the wondrous city of Endhome that can make such marvels. Cash flows like a golden river through the streets of Alexandria, which is an extremely wealthy city by any measure. Some of the wealth is old money stemming from the noble families. Some of it is new money coming into the city in the hands of delvers who arrive in town to strike it rich or come up from the Dungeon, having struck it rich. In many respects, Alexandria is a boomtown, the same way a city near a new vein of valuable ore would be. But rather than gold or silver, the allure is the ancient treasure buried long ago beneath the city’s streets. (To be sure, there are also veins of valuable ore beneath and around the city, but these days they play second fiddle to the allure of the Dungeon.)  


Officially, all merchants in the city are supposed to accept only ancient Atlantean Imperial coins as currency. Alexandria, however, always remained far enough away from the heart of the Empire that most people ignored such regulations even before the Empire of Atlantis sunk beneath the waves. This is particularly true of late, as delvers flood the city with ancient coinage or money minted by dwarves, elves, and even dark creatures from the Dungeon. Still, some merchants accept only Imperial currency, and all government facilities demand Imperial coin—which includes tax payments. But not to worry, moneychangers in Oldtown, Midtown, and the two Market districts will convert non-Imperial money into Imperial currency for a 10 percent fee.   Because a plethora of differing currency is used within the city walls, residents usually refer to coins simply as “coins” as opposed to the Imperial standard names. Thus, the price of a longsword is “15 gold coins.” Merchants who take the law requiring Imperial currency seriously might charge “15 Imperial gold,” or “15 gold Imperials” (or “150 silver Imperials"). Surprisingly few would say “15 gold thrones.” Platinum coins are quite rare. In fact, most establishments—taverns, bathhouses, bakeries, and so on—balk at accepting them. A simple street vendor selling apples might never have even seen one in her life. Silver is still the standard among the common classes.  

Notes of Credit and Paper Money

No one actually carries around sacks of thousands of gold coins in Alexandria. It’s not only inconvenient, it’s dangerous. Years ago, the wealthy businesspeople of the city began using notes or letters of credit: officially endorsed papers that represent a large sum, usually at least 1,000 gp (carrying 20 pp to 80 pp isn’t really cumbersome). These notes can be transferred or used as payment for goods and services, but never for less than the value of the letter. In other words, one cannot expect “change back” from a letter of credit. Merchants are not required to accept them, but if the letter of credit comes from a reputable source, they almost always do (after first examining them closely for hints of forgery).   Technically, there’s nothing stopping folks from writing as many notes of credit as they wish. However, every letter comes with the understanding that the holder can go to the issuer and exchange it on the spot for coin. Failure to honor a note of credit results in immediate Commisary involvement and almost certain fines, jail time, dishonor, and the cancellation of the offender’s credit across the city. Some of the larger merchant companies use notes of credit as currency unto themselves—a sort of paper money.  

Mage Coins

Mage coins are another example of how the presence of the Inverted Pyramid, the largest gathering of powerful spellcasters in the region, alters the way things work in the city. These triangular glass tokens are a bold new initiative created by the Dreaming Apothecary and issued to make money for the Inverted Pyramid. Mages of the organization began using them first, claiming each was the value of 100 gp. The attractive nature of mage coins—and the reason the bold initiative is working—is their magical property. The last person to touch a particular coin can summon it into his hand with a simple mental command. This means a character need not carry a lot of money around with him; he can keep his mage coins safely tucked away in a secure vault somewhere, still perfectly accessible to him. (Note that the coins cannot be sent back magically.)   Not everyone is willing to accept the coins as payment, however. In particular, the Church and any official city agency does not accept them. Governmental bodies consider the coins illegal, since only the city can mint coins, according to the Vast Codex. Nevertheless, there may already be eight hundred to a thousand mage coins in circulation in the city.


Alexandria lies between the Spire and the sea. The highest portion of the city, the Nobles’ Quarter, is built on the base of the Spire. From there, the level of the city drops down a sharp cliff to Oldtown, and then down again into Midtown. The final cliffs at the edge of Alexandria drop into the bay, with the only area of dry land at the bottom of those cliffs occupied by the city’s docks. Well-worn paths connect the various elevations and help make Alexandria very defensible (although the city has never been attacked).   The King’s River flows through the city, spilling into an eroded chasm in the southwest corner and flowing down to the Bay of Alexandria near the docks. The bottom of the chasm, called the King’s River Gorge, is eighty feet below the level of the ground on its south side, but more than two hundred feet below on its north side. The north side still holds the old city walls and fortifications. A bridge built upon two massive pillars, themselves erected atop natural rock columns, stretches across the King’s River Gorge at a steep angle, leading into the area of the city known as Oldtown. Another bridge stretches across the chasm to join Oldtown with the Rivergate District. Although Oldtown is higher, the difference in elevation between these two districts is not steep, so the slope of this bridge seems far less noticeable than that of the other.

Guilds and Factions

Alexandria teems with various factions and groups with agendas and secret goals. In brief, these include (but are not limited to):  


Alexandria has eleven noble families, all of whom enjoy special status by ancestral right. Most of them are quite wealthy, and with affluence comes influence. The noble houses were once the seats of real power in the area, serving a dynasty of kings that ruled the entire region of southern Lados before the Empire took over. (That’s where the King’s River gains its name.)  


Probably the most powerful crime family in the city, the Balacazars are certainly the oldest. Menon Balacazar is the aging head of the organization, with his son, Malkeen, serving as his second in command. Other siblings include at least two daughters. Arkhall Vaugn, an infamous wizard, works with the clan. The family funds a number of criminal endeavors, gaining profit from theft, extortion, smuggling, illegal gambling, assassination, and trade in slaves, drugs, and evil magic items.  


Founded by a tiefling-turned-aasimar called Temperence, the Brotherhood is an order of monks who believe that no evil is irredeemable and that seeks to give any evil creature a chance to repent. Its members do not believe in “inherent evil.” Specializing in rehabilitation, they operate in the Dungeon out of the Fortress of the Redeemed but maintain a surface headquarters in the Guildsman District. They make it known that they willingly accept any prisoners who are not of the major races—in fact, they’ll pay a small bounty (5 gp per Hit Die) for evil creatures with a modicum of intelligence (in other words, an Intelligence score of 3 or above).  


The Church of Lothian runs an organization called the Conciliators, which consists of inquisitors dedicated to converting infidels, destroying magitek (which resembles both magic and technology), and stamping out evil. The group is headquartered in the Temple District.  


For the last five years, the Delver’s Guild has grown in influence, becoming both popular to join and wealthy. The Delver’s Guild offers its members information about job opportunities and events pertaining to the exploration of regions below Alexandria. The guild also maintains the city’s most extensive collection of maps of the underground realm and an impressive library for research. Members receive passwords that allow them to access secret chambers within the underground regions. These secret chambers, called waystations, are stocked with food and simple supplies. High-ranking members gain retrieval insurance, which guarantees that, if they should die while exploring, guild members will retrieve their bodies and have them raised if possible (retrieval and raising paid for out of a special guild account funded by the insured).   The guild’s membership hovers around eight hundred. In addition, there are said to exist at least four hundred delvers not affiliated with the guild. At any given time, about one-fifth of this total (some two hundred fifty people) are exploring the Dungeon. It is estimated that for every ten delvers who go down each week, one does not come back. About one hundred new adventurers come to Alexandria and some twenty-five are raised from the dead every week. Since the Delver’s Guild began keeping records three years ago, about eight thousand adventurers have died permanently while exploring the Dungeon. Another two hundred thirty have permanently retired, either in the city or elsewhere.  


The Dreaming Apothecary may be more legend than fact. Those in the know claim that a secretive group of spellcasters crafts magic items for people, making transactions with them magically in their dreams. Darker rumors accuse these powerful mages of keeping others in the city from making magic items for profit by coercion, backed up by their formidable magical might. Potential customers can reach the group at Danbury’s in Delver’s Square.  


The Fallen are fiends also known as the “young demons,” though few people care to dwell long on the question of who the “old” demons might be. The Fallen live in the Dark Reliquary of the Necropolis with their allies, the Forsaken, and follow the leadership of two demons whose names are only whispered: Raguel and Lilith. Most people wish the Fallen were not in Alexandria but, for demons who dwell within the city’s walls, they actually cause surprisingly little trouble. Few speak of them, but when they do, they often claim these demons are either waiting for something or quietly looking for something.  


The Fate Weavers are a small group of prophets and seers who claim the ability to tell people’s fortunes. Locals consider the group a front for prostitution.  


Those who value death and undeath more than life are called the Forsaken. Necrophiles, necrophages, and necrophiliacs, these disgusting people worship dark gods and consort openly with undead and the Fallen. They base their activities in the Necropolis. The Forsaken are the sworn foes of the valiant Keepers of the Veil. A smaller subgroup within their ranks called the Licheloved carry out the will of dark death gods in ways that—it’s said—even the other Forsaken find difficult to stomach. Another subgroup, the Torrens, are specifically anti-Lothianite.   Some of the Forsaken are living people who consort with the undead, while others are actually undead themselves. They particularly revere ancient undead called the Wintersouled, who reportedly built the Dark Reliquary. If any of the Wintersouled still exist, no one in the city knows about it.  


Healers, physickers, and surgeons who use a magical process involving heat to heal wounds, the Healers of the Sacred Heat base themselves in the Temple District and offer inexpensive healing. It’s said to be painful, however. Theirs is not a place known to appeal to adventurers (who look for instantaneous and painless healing and have the gold to pay for it), but rather to locals for treating various chronic ailments.  


The Inverted Pyramid is a mysterious and ancient guild of arcanists. Their membership roll remains shrouded in mystery, but it most likely includes the most powerful mages in Alexandria—and probably the southern hemisphere. For years they have wielded considerable influence in the city. Their headquarters is said to lie somewhere hidden from normal sight by powerful spells. In days past, the Inverted Pyramid was a great foe of the Church of Lothian. When the Edict of Deviltry was issued centuries ago proclaiming all arcane spellcasting to be an evil act, a number of mages gathered to form a secret society dedicated to preserving themselves and their lore. Within the Inverted Pyramid, the members of this guild meet, store their valuable books and supplies, and craft magic items and other creations. The Inverted Pyramid concerns itself with preserving magical lore and all things arcane from those it believes would eradicate such knowledge.  


The Keepers of the Veil is an order of holy knights dedicated to the destruction of undead, specifically free-willed spirits that should have remained on their own side of the great veil of death. Occasionally they ally with a smaller group called the Knights of the Pale. The Keepers of the Veil work from a fortress, the Siege Tower, on the edge of the Necropolis. They strive to eradicate the curse of the undead from the world forever. Their co-leaders are Sir Beck Von Tibbitz and a Lothianite priestess named Phadian Gess.  


Kevris Killraven arrived in the city only recently, but in that short time this mysterious woman has created the second most powerful criminal organization in Alexandria. The league deals in extortion, prostitution, and illegal drugs. A number of nonhumans work for Killraven—troglodytes, ogres, and many other creatures. Although early on Killraven was rumored to have ties with the Shuul technophiles slavers and the Sorn mages, most now dismiss such tales as nonsense.  


An ancient order, the Knights of the Golden Phoenix has remained alive through the extreme devotion of its members and their descendants. They oppose evil in all its forms, although they have a particular hatred for the wicked House Vladaam, and glorify the combination of warfare and artistry that they call Purity of Movement. They also revere the mysterious Prime Gods and serve as a focal point in the re-introduction of those gods into society. The knights are based out of the Eglise de Ballet in the Temple District. Their leader is a woman named Kaira Swanwing.  


The Knights of the Pale are a small order dedicated to combating supernatural threats, particularly demons and spellcasters. Although not an official organization of the Church of Lothian, they focus their whole organization on the veneration of Lothianite saints. Their leader, Dierna Hillerchaun, bases the order out of her home, a manor in Oldtown called the Bladechapel. The knights work with the Keepers of the Veil and the angelic Malkuth.  


The Malkuth are a mysterious group of celestials and half-celestials who live in the Pale Tower in Oldtown. Little about them is known, as they keep to themselves and rarely come out of their impressive abode.  


This thieves’ guild has enjoyed a long tradition in the city, but many say its day has passed in light of the growing power of other, broader criminal organizations. Its headquarters is said to lie deep below the city.  


Calling themselves the Order of the Fist, a small band of monks and fighters believes in action: setting a goal and doing whatever it takes to achieve it. Although members may differ in their particular goals—even in their outlooks on the world—they all agree on the importance of going for what you want in life. Their leader is Wynn Rabinall, a male human.  


A gang of young thieves based in the Warrens, the Pale Dogs paint their fingernails black and often wear double rings. They follow a mysterious figure named Jirraith and may have connections to the Balacazars or the Vai.  


Once a simple organization created to uphold the concept of order, the Shuul has grown over the years into a powerful force attempting to restore the prominence of technological devices such as firearms, clockwork devices, and steam technology in the city. Despite a predilection for machines, the Shuul do not reject magic, as one might expect. Instead they embrace it and see the union of magic and machine as the ultimate accomplishment. Most members of the organization are humans and smallfolk, particularly Firemountan smallfolk. The Shuul maintain close ties with House Shever.  


Rumors say this quasi-legal spellcaster organization maintains a close association with the Shuul. Others say its real backing comes from Kevris Killraven. Its members favor the use of technology and mechanical devices to supplement their magic.  


Founded in Alexandria more than two thousand years ago, an all-female order calling itself the Sisterhood of Silence established itself as a major force for law and defense. While the order has since spread to other cities, the Priory of Introspection in Alexandria remains the central headquarters of the entire Sisterhood. As their name suggests, the Sisters of Silence do not speak. Instead, they employ a cadre of devout eunuchs to speak for them. Among themselves, they use a complex set of signs, postures, and expressions to convey vast amounts of information quickly.  


The Vai is a wicked assassins’ guild in Alexandria. Each member takes an oath to kill an intelligent creature every day. They are tied to almost every evil organization in the city in some way.  


The men and woman calling themselves Viridian Lords are powerful, twisted rangers who haunt the wilderness of the Bone Eaters Desert. These rangers have learned a way to fuse themselves with desert flora to grant themselves greater power and a stronger affinity for nature and the land.


There are eleven districts in Alexandria:  

The Docks

Far below street level, the Docks rest on a narrow strip of land at the bottom of the city’s eastern cliffs. The wooden buildings here sit slightly askew from one another, because the entire small district is built upon slowly sinking sand. Even the streets are sand. A dozen or more ships moor in the deep waters here at any given time. This is a particularly rough area of the city, thanks to the influx of sailors and its isolation from other districts. A single winding road provides access up a steep incline to the city proper. The Docks area is full of warehouses, shipyards, hostels, and taverns, all catering to sailors and merchants. Isolated from the rest of the city by the cliffs, sometimes it seems as though the Docks area has had to become its own little community. Many Alexandrian residents live their whole lives without going there—but, of course, they probably haven’t been to the Nobles’ Quarter, either.  

Guildsman District

Alexandria teems with guilds. Every type of artisan, smith, or other professional belongs to a guild of similarly trained and employed individuals. These guilds enjoy a strong voice in the City Council. This district in the south end of the city holds many tanneries, smithies, foundries, textile houses, grain mills, paper mills, brickmakers, bookmakers, woodworkers, and other production facilities, as well as warehouses, granaries, coalhouses, stockyards, and similar storage sites. Not surprisingly, this district has a distinct odor. Unless one works here, a local rarely finds a reason to visit, although this district sports a few taverns and other businesses catering to the working class. The Guildsman District’s rough reputation prevents most people from frequenting the area at night. Those who live there often join a guild for protection. Just a few of the guilds in this district include the Drapers’ Guild, Goldsmiths’ Guild, Herbalists’ Guild, Ironworkers’ Guild, Masons’ Guild, Silversmiths’ Guild, Tanners’ Guild, Weaponsmiths’ Guild, and Woodworkers’ Guild. The Sages’ Guild, Shipwrights’ Guild, Warriors’ Guild (the Order of Iron Might), and a few others are headquartered elsewhere in the city.  


As the central area of the city, Midtown is both a commercial and a residential hub. It is also where one finds many local entertainment offerings in the form of pubs and taverns as well as theaters, dance halls, gambling dens, and more. Visitors looking for a place to stay usually find themselves directed here, as most of the city’s temporary lodgings are in Midtown. Midtown is home to both Tavern Row and Delver’s Square, where many employers seeking to hire adventuring parties can post their announcements. It also has a few shops and plenty of residential areas, such as Emerald Hill, where most elves choose to live, and Narred, a centaur neighborhood. Besides the Delver’s Square shops that adventurers frequent (Rastor’s Weapons, the Bull and Bear Armory, Ebbert’s Outfitters, and Myraeth’s Oddities), those in the know also appreciate Saches clothiers on Yeoman Street and, of course, the Row Bathhouse. Potions and Elixirs’ Midtown branch offers a large stock of potions for sale. The most popular adventurer hangout is the Ghostly Minstrel tavern and inn in Delver’s Square. Many folks seem leery of both the Onyx Spider (on Tavern Row) and the Black Swan (which is mainly for dwarves). Danbury’s, also in Delver’s Square, caters to spellcasters.  

The Necropolis

A city several centuries old tends to have a large graveyard, and Alexandria is no exception. The vast Necropolis in the city’s northeastern corner sits on a few rolling hills, now completely covered with mausoleums, crypts, and graves. The entire Necropolis is surrounded by a wall, with guards posted at each of its four gates. These guards’ primary duty is to warn people not to stay in the Necropolis after nightfall and to watch for grave robbers. Most people know that undead roam the Necropolis, but various churches and holy orders, such as the Keepers of the Veil, do their best to contain the menace.  

Nobles’ Quarter

Alexandria has no shortage of wealth or wealthy people. Technically outside the city’s walls, the Nobles’ Quarter, with its row upon row of manors and estates, climbs the city’s western cliffs abutting the Spire itself. Travelers can enter the area only via a single avenue that runs up from Oldtown through the fortress of Orangarde before reaching the Nobles’ Quarter. The heights where this district now sits were easily defensible in the city’s younger days; originally, all Alexandria residents could gather here in times of emergency, secure behind Orangarde's stout gates. However, as time passed and the city grew, members of the elite class claimed these enviable heights for their residences, leaving the less wealthy to expand into the lower quarters.   The largest estates in this section of town belong to the ten noble families that have held power in the area—to one degree or another—for centuries. In addition to the homes of the wealthy and the services that cater to them, this district houses the Holy Palace, where the Prince of the Church lives; lately he is joined by his mother, Vivienne Amiel, visiting from her northern capital. The Nobles’ Quarter holds the Crown Theater opera house, the Academy of Music, fabulous eating establishments and theaters, a floating apartment building, and other luxuries and sites of interest.  

North Market

When one enters the city from the north, one is greeted with the sights and smells of a busy marketplace. Well-worn cobblestone streets are packed with vendors occupying wooden booths, pushing carts, or simply hawking wares they tote in massive baskets on their backs. Fresh foods of all kinds—fish and shellfish from the sea, fruit from the orchards to the north, and local breads and pastries being favorites—are available in any quantity. Other goods are for sale in small shops, tents, or from the backs of wagons. The City Watch patrols this busy area to keep thieves and pickpockets from running rampant. Rumor has it that the guards employ sorcerers to patrol the area invisibly, using spells to keep an eye out not only for traditional thieves, but for magically aided ones as well. They watch for invisible robbers, overt use of charm or compulsion magic, and similar tricks.   If you’re looking for tasty baked goods, try Tavoh’s Bakery; a good clothier, try Endle’s Finery; for a fair weapon shop, go to Mitoren’s Blades, although Rastor’s Weapons in Delver’s Square (in Midtown) is probably better for traditional arms. A small firearms emporium called the Smoke Shop opened recently as well.  


Alexandria was founded over three thousand years ago as a small community surrounding a fortress called Orangarde. The fortress’ original purpose was to keep the area clear of evil creatures drawn by the power of Jabel Shammar, the citadel at the top of the Spire. It also sought to watch over Goth Gulgamel, the fortress halfway up the Spire built by Ghul, the Half God, Majordomo of The Enemy. Orangarde was constructed more than seven hundred years ago, just after the defeat of Ghul, to serve as a symbol of the union of elves, dwarves, and humans in that war. Over time, the community grew into an important port, and the need for Orangarde as a wilderness bastion waned. Today the old fortress is still used by the rulers of the city, the Commissary, and the area surrounding it on the city’s near west side is known as Oldtown.   It sits atop a ridge higher than most of the rest of Alexandria, but still lower than the Nobles’ Quarter. The stone and marble buildings of Oldtown reflect a grander, earlier age. Graceful columns, majestic entrances, tall stone towers, and buildings of three or even four stories are common sights here. Yet all bear the signs of age and wear. Today many of these buildings house the bureaucracy of the city. Still others are museums or homes for the wealthy (those not quite wealthy enough to live in the Nobles’ Quarter). There are wonderful theaters, auditoriums, and even a grand Arena in this large district of the city. The Arena provides a spot for tournaments, fairs, and sporting games of all sorts. Nearby, the Inverted Pyramid mages’ guild sponsors a magical ball sport simply called “the Mage Game,” held in a large indoor coliseum in Oldtown. This is where citizens go to get licenses, like those needed to carry a firearm. The City Courts are located here, and as are the City Council’s meeting chambers. Both the Delver’s Guild Library and Maproom (but not the guild’s main office) and the City Library are here. Oldtown has a fair number of parks, monuments, and other touches of class and beauty as well.  

Rivergate District

Strictly a residential area, the Rivergate District is as close to a “middle class” neighborhood as Alexandria gets. It is located on a rise of land, surrounded by cliffs on all sides except the northeast, where a steep slope mostly free of buildings and covered in trees rolls down to the North Market and the main North Gate. Its residential cul-de-sacs—called “boroughs” by those who live here—each boasts its own unique architectural identity.  

South Market

To locals, the North Market is simply “the Market,” while this area is the “South Market.” Unlike its counterpart, the South Market is not an open-air marketplace. It has fewer vendors dealing out of carts and more established shops and places of business. Goods usually cost more in the South Market, but a buyer is far more likely to find trustworthy and reliable salespeople here. This is also where one finds the city’s commodities markets and the headquarters of large merchant organizations, such as the Rogue Moon Trading Company, and of course the Oran Trading Association. As in the North Market, many of those who work here also live here; the district has substantial residential sections.   The South Market is newer than the North Market and has more artisans and industry than its counterpart. You’re more likely to get something made to order in the South Market, because the store selling leather goods, for example, is probably also a leatherworker’s shop (such as Donnel’s, a friendly dealer in leather goods). Nonstandard races or those with special physical needs when it comes to clothing should check out Maran’s Odd Sizes. Navaen Bowcraft is a fine place to buy bows or arrows, and those looking for a real treat should stop by Ramoro’s Bakery.  

Temple District

Although the worship of Fatima, the official deity, is the dominant religion of the city, Alexandria’s cosmopolitan residents revere hundreds of other gods as well. Temples, churches, shrines, and small monasteries fill this district in the north central part of town, with the Street of a Million Gods (a bit of an exaggeration) running through it from north to south. Even the Blessed Bridge across the King’s River here has small shrines built upon and into it.   The district stretches east and west from the Street of a Million Gods. Notable sights include the Eglise de Ballet devoted to worship of the goddess of dance herself, St. Valien’s Cathedral for worshippers of Lothian, and the Priory of Introspection where the Sisterhood of Silence is based. Although clerics are the most common representatives of the many gods, a number of temples support monks and paladins as well. The Temple District has a single bar, Taggert’s, which is also a temple to a god of the keg.  

The Warrens

The Warrens in the eastern part of town is a terrible slum sick with poverty and crime. Rumors say that the City Watch won’t go down into the Warrens. The streets here have no names, and most of the buildings aren’t marked—the place is not friendly to outsiders. Some visitors may have experienced a little theft or crime in the city, but it’s nothing compared to what goes on in this district. Some place the headquarters of the Vai within the Warrens. Others whisper of a crime lord named Jirraith and his gang of young thieves called the Pale Dogs who really run the place.

Natural Resources

Alexandria's very identity as a city is shaped by the natural features that surround it and form its foundations. Oldtown is shaped the way it is because of the restrictive plateau it’s built upon. The river serves as a border for many districts. Lots of aspects of life in the City by the Spire are the way they are because of the local topography.  

The Spire

The Spire reaches three thousand feet into the sky, a pinnacle of dark grey rock that grows darker as it rises; the top is pitch black. It is a wholly unnatural creation and anyone gazing upon it knows it—the Spire is simply too impossibly tall, too incredibly thin. It is very broad and surprisingly flat on its eastern side, making it perfect to build a fortress and eventually even a city upon. The western side is rougher and more sheer. Two other fortresses are associated with the Spire, in addition to Orangarde at its base. Approximately halfway up, built into the side of the Spire and perched on a rocky shelf almost certainly created by magic, lies Goth Gulgamel, a disturbingly featureless castle of twisted black stone. At the very top of the Spire rests Jabel Shammar, an equally black fastness of stone and iron with three tall, pointed towers surrounding an even taller, daggerlike spike of dark metal.   Most people say they find the Spire disturbing to look upon. Although only a few know its true history, many folks tell fabricated but dire tales of demonic sculptors; angry gods impaled after a war in the heavens; and black spears thrown down from the moon. One hears equally tall tales of what lies in the fortress at the top of the Spire, whose name is slowly fading from the public consciousness (people just call it the “fortress at the top of the Spire”) along with its history. Some even doubt there’s a fortress up there at all—they say it’s just a rock formation. Still, no explorer-mages with fly spells or brave souls with other means of flight have ever returned from a trip there.   Goth Gulgamel people do remember, but only as “the fortress of Ghul.” Given that the threat of Ghul has been over for a thousand years, even his memory is starting to fade, though. People remember that he was an evil conqueror, and that’s about all.   Over time, new Alexandrian residents start to ignore the Spire. For one thing, one eventually grows inured to fearing that some supernatural foe will emerge from the Spire to devour the town. People don’t want to think about what might still linger in the Spire fortresses, so they don’t.  

The King's River

The King’s River runs through the deserts of southern Lados separating the sandy Bone Eaters from the hard-scrabble Hellsreach Badlands, a large but slow-moving waterway that splits the land. When it nears Alexandria, however, runoff from the Spire and the area’s frequent storms feed into the river, making it much faster and more substantial. The river skirts the northern edge of the Spire to pour into the King’s River Gorge in a two-hundred-foot plunge. The waterfall here is called the King’s Falls. When it leaves the gorge, it runs into a narrow channel between Rivergate and Oldtown and down Wings Falls. The channel the King’s River cuts through the rest of the city usually is no more than sixty or seventy feet across, but it measures up to one hundred feet deep as the land slowly slopes toward the shoreline. When the river reaches the Bay of Alexandria, it spews forth from the Cliffs of Lost Wishes in a grand, four-hundred-foot waterfall called Gasping Falls.   In geological terms, the river is a new one, its course diverted by the creation of the Spire. In the city the river is entirely unnavigable, being far too rapid and with too many waterfalls as it courses to its final drop into the sea. Since the river is not used as a source of water for the city (it gets its water from much cleaner underground wells), the sewers pour into it from both sides of its narrow channel. Likewise, residents dump trash and refuse of all kinds into the river as it roars through its ravine. This is one of Alexandria’s main sources of refuse disposal, which speaks to the degree of contamination in the river.   In addition to the King’s River, the area is home to a number of underground rivers. These join the King’s River near its end, rushing out of caves beneath Midtown and the Warrens. The action of these rivers has formed many caves that honeycomb the area beneath Alexandria, some of them massive in size.  

King's River Gorge

The channel the King’s River cuts as it flows through Alexandria is an extension of the vast King’s River Gorge. This defile is two hundred feet deep and more than a mile long. The bottom is very rugged with sheer sides. A number of natural stone columns rise up from the bottom of the gorge, the most prominent being two called the Devil’s Legs. These provide the foundations for the stone supports of the King’s River Bridge, which is, in fact, three bridges: one from Oldtown to the southern leg, one between the two legs, and one from the northern leg to the far end of the chasm, where the Emperor’s Road continues north out of town.  

Beacon Island

A rocky crag jutting up from the cold waters of the Bay of Alexandria, Beacon Island hosts a tall stone lighthouse used to guide ships through the relatively narrow safe course into Alexandria's harbor. The remains of a much older lighthouse still stand a bit away from the newer structure—“newer” being only relative in this case, as it is four hundred years old. The older lighthouse is said to be haunted by the spirits of all the sailors who have died on the rocks nearby. Some say it was built by the Atlanteans, who once dwelled in the area for a time. The lighthouse on Beacon Island is staffed by a handful of willing people who work for the Dockmaster.

Alternative Name(s)
The City By the Spire
Inhabitant Demonym
Location under
Imperial coins have specific names, as follows:
  • Platinum pieces are imperials.
  • Gold pieces are thrones.
  • Silver pieces are shields (although slang terms include “shinies,” “pounds,” and “moons”).
  • Copper pieces are pennies (also known as "pence", “jennies,” “bobs,” or “jacks”).

Alexandrian Noble Houses

  • Abanar: A mercantile house, Abanar is very wealthy but not well regarded. Dered Abanar is the very old head of the house. There is much controversy now among his many children as to who will take control when the elder Abanar is gone. House Abanar is unique among the ten noble houses in that it allows wealthy citizens to buy their way into house membership. A minor noble title costs 10,000 gp. The other houses look upon this practice with disdain.
  • Dallimothan: Often called “House Dragon,” the members of this house dress in dragonscale armor, use dragon regalia, and are said to truck with dragonkind. House Dallimothan, led by Kirstol Dallimothan, remains a powerful and wealthy force in the city.
  • Erthuo: Scholars and gentlefolk, House Erthuo normally avoids confrontation and rarely gets involved in squabbles between other houses. A family of elves and half-elves belongs to this house, headed by Peliope Erthuo, a half-elf.
  • Kath: A wealthy house, Kath is known for its talented, glamorous, and attractive family. Devina Kath is the head of the house, which patronizes the arts.
  • Khatru: Famous for its military leadership and martial prowess, House Khatru is made up of arrogant boors and self-righteous warriors. Dorant Khatru is the current master of the house.
  • Nagel: This old, charitable, and altruistic house has recently fallen on hard times. Fransin Nagel is mistress of this rather minor house. She and her family are the enemies of House Sadar.
  • Oran: The House of Kings, House Oran can directly trace its lineage back to Atlantean nobility. It is an old, well-respected and well-liked house by all but the criminal elements of the city. Known for their diplomatic skill as well as their mercantile skill, House Oran acts as a stabilizing and mediating force between the other squabbling noble houses. Terentius and Alexandria Oran are the current leaders of House Oran.
  • Rau: Foes of House Khatru, the Rau have a reputation as rogues, pirates, and scalawags. The house has a fair number of spellcasters as well. The head of the house is Verrana Rau.
  • Sadar: Known for its long line of mages, this house—which some call the House of Shadows—is quite powerful. Its leader, Lord Renn Sadar, has a strong association with the Inverted Pyramid arcanists’ guild and shadow magic. They are enemies of House Nagel.
  • Shever: Known for its skill with machines, House Shever made a great deal of gold long ago, but until recently was fading in influence. Now with strong ties to the Shuul organization of technophiles, the house is on the rise again. Thollos Shever is the head of the house.
  • Vladaam: An evil house, and very ancient, House Vladaam seems to have lost much of its power and influence in recent times. Iristul Vladaam is the current master of the house, although he has not actually been seen in the city for years. Most people whisper that demonic blood runs through the family’s veins.


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