Strategically placed in the heart of Falcate Bay, Wardeen is the capital of the Republic of Castar, and the seat of its Assembly. Wardeen was built across the many islands that are nestled in estuary of the River Tashghil, all of which are connected together by bridges and the Capital’s Gondolari, who provide a water transport and freight service within Wardeen. At the heart of the city is Republican Palace, where the last king of Castar had originally built a sumptuous network of gardens and palaces as his summer residence. Now, this central island has been turned into the physical and spiritual centre of the Republic, housing the main bureaucratic infrastructure, the residence of the Protector and the meeting place of the Assembly, the Cascading Hall.
The gateway to Wardeen is the Great Harbour, a large coastal island that is almost entirely covered in docks, jetties and warehouses. Many of the richer merchants also maintain their own private docks as part of their compounds, and the majority of Wardeen’s canals and waterways are able to accommodate the average Castarian trading dhow, even if they have to collapse their masts to get under the bridges….
The city’s other islands are a hotchpotch of different strata of society rubbing shoulders together. It is not unusual to see ramshackled slum buildings built against the walls of a wealthy merchant’s compound. On some islands, such as Keraktan, the artisan community has banded together to protect their homes and livelihoods from encroachment by the poorer citizens, even going so far as to run their own militia force. With inequality rampant across the city, it is unsurprising that a wide variety of, more unsavoury, groups have been able to set up shop in the murkier corners of Wardeen.
Wardeen is a mixed population city, with different sapient species mixing freely. There is a large population of Elves who live in the city, and the common interaction of the Elven populace with the other residents of Wardeen means that there is a significant number of Half-Elves amongst the population as well.
As the capital of the Republic of Castar, a much higher percentage of the population of Wardeen is made up of wealthy citizens compared to other settlement centres in the Republic. This is partly to do with the immense amount of trade activity that is centred on the city, but also it's position as the centre of Castar's government.
There is a strong middle class community in Wardeen, made up of small scale merchants, tradesmen and artisans, that is predominantly centred around Keraktan Island.
A large portion of Wardeen’s poorer citizens find employment as Gondalari, teamsters and dockhands in and around the Great Harbour, or as manual labourers for the richer merchants. Many of the city’s occupants from the slums in the south of the city find paid, albeit, unpleasant work in the numerous tanneries located there.
There are no communal defences as such in Wardeen. Instead the wealthiest citizens build their own fortified compounds which are defended by their own personal defence forces.
Each district of Wardeen has a Republican Army Guard Tower in it, that acts as a garrison station and temporary prison, though these are designed to maintain law and order within the city, not protect it from external attack.
Two locations in Wardeen, the Great Harbour and the Republican Palace complex, are deemed too strategically important to be left in the rather lacklustre care of the Republican Army, or the more partisan forces of citizen militia and personal defence forces. Instead, these locations have been placed under the care of the Legislative Guard, a crack division of highly trained, highly disciplined and exceedingly well-armed and armoured troops, whose main remit is to defend the person of the Protector of the Republic. As a result, the Legislative Guard maintain a permanent garrison within the Great Harbour, and are headquartered out of the Republican Palace. Although they are relatively few in number, no more than 3000 troops, it is often joked that a single one of the Guard could defeat the entire Republican Army, whilst relieving themselves at the same time.
Unlike the rest of Wardeen’s constituent islands, the Great Harbour and the Republican Palace are also differentiated as being the only places where permanent, defences for the good of the ‘people’ exist. The bridges leading to and from both islands are heavily fortified, and each island has a curtain wall running around their coastlines, except from at designated landing points.
Despite its reputation as the major trading hub of southern Turoza, Wardeen is not a centre of industry. Instead, Wardeen’s economic position is based much more on it being a centre of exchange, with the vast majority of the goods unloaded in the Great Harbour and private docks of the wealthiest merchants, being destined for sale in one of the other nations in Turoza. Wardeen’s strategic position in the centre of the continent, means that Castarian merchants are able to cash in on the opportunity to facilitate trade between the nations in the north and those in the south, particularly along the western seaboard. Having said that, stall holders in Wardeen’s Bazaar carry out a roaring trade in luxury imported goods, for local and foreign clientele alike.
Wardeen does also have some areas of industry, with the south of the city being home to a large and lucrative tanning industry; with Castarian leather goods fetching a good price in most markets across Turoza.
As a city that built across a chain of estuarine islands, space is very much at a premium in Wardeen. The majority of the buildings are at least three stories tall, and in the poorer districts, some buildings can house many unrelated families living in close proximity with one another. In the poorer districts, the strain placed on the aging, decrepit tenement buildings, many of which sport rather dubious additions to increase potential floor space, means that building collapses are not uncommon.
In contrast, the compounds constructed by the wealthiest members of Castarian society take up large tracts of Wardeen’s islands. These compounds are often complete with their own docks, warehouses, servants’ quarters, workshops, libraries, ornamental gardens, in addition to the sumptuous residences their owners build for themselves and their families. Equally, the areas occupied by the artisanal, and less well off merchant classes are distinguishable from the tenements of the poorer regions, by the fact that the buildings themselves are on the whole much smaller. As opposed to the rickety tenement buildings sprawling up over multiple stories, the middle class of Wardeen instead prefer to live in more lavish double storey townhouses, often with a trade workshop, or specialist store built into the ground floor rooms.
With so much water in and around the city, there are numerous bridges connecting the various islands, but as the streets themselves tend to be very cramped, to minimise the potential space lost to roadways, the majority of goods and materials are transported on the water. Water transportation is big business in Wardeen, and as a result a specialist group of workers called the Gondolari, have risen to monopolise the market. They are easily recognisable thanks to their communal penchant for straw boater hats, worn partly to mark them out as Gondolari, and partly to protect them from the sun on the exposed waterways.
Wardeen was originally a very small settlement, whose existence revolved around the summer palace and gardens that Nebuchadnezzar III constructed on the island that is now the Republican Palace. Prior to the construction of the palace, the area of Wardeen had been a small fishing village, which had attracted little or no interest from the royal household previously. It was only when travelling along the coast that Nebuchadnezzar, stopping to admire the view of Falcate Bay and the Tashghil estuary, decided on a whim to build a summer residence at the location.
After the overthrow of Nebuchadnezzar III and the establishment of the Republic, the palace site fell out of use and was essentially ignored for nearly three years. It was only when the first Protector, Ador Palasar, recommended moving the capital from the old dynastic capital of Hajjalla, to a place that did not hold too much historical baggage, that Wardeen was rediscovered, and was inaugurated as the Republican Capital in 256 S.E.
From that point, the growth of the city was explosive, aided by the fact that the Falcate Bay area is an ideal natural anchorage, and over the course of 300 years or so has grown into a truly magnificent capital city.