Puppets of the Shadow
Faldale is a large, bustling urban center – the jewel of the continent of Vaern. It was the second great city of the Myr, built mostly by humans in the 2nd Century FE. The city sustained heavy damage during the Gnoll War of 517 FE, which destroyed its sister city of Myrhome, but has since rebuilt to an even grander scale, taking advantage of almost 400 years of advances to make the city brighter, more beautiful, more open, and yet more secure against attacks from within or without. Like many fortified towns, it is set up in rings, but the population has shuffled a bit, so those rings no longer have economic designations.
The Inner Ring is the oldest part of the city, and contains the House of Laws and Councillors' Hall, which face each other across the Great Court – actually an open garden of fountains, cultivated flowering shrubs, meandering paths, and conveniently spaced benches. Many of Faldale's citizens spend their leisure time in the park. Though several taverns can be found in the winding urban streets surrounding the Court, the best and brightest is the Suckling Boar, which boasts above-average ales and reasonable prices for lodging. The atmosphere of the Boar is usually jovial and open, as Fredegar Horpal – the Boar's portly halfling propietor – keeps his inn well-lit, well stocked, and has reasonable security both magical and mundane to ward against unprofitable shenanigans.
The Outer Ring was built after the War, and contains most of the relocated nobles' family mansions, as well as the Merchants' Quarter in the north of the city, famed for its perpetual Grand Market of Wonders. Adventurers seeking the grandest tales, greatest spectacle, and hard-to-come-by magical goods will find a trip to the Market time well spent. Those who prefer to avoid bright lights and careless banter would be better serviced in the Riverfront District. After the work of the day is over, the dockhands and other laborers abandon the area to other, less desirable citizens – giving the district its reputation as the Thieves' Quarter. Only one tavern operates on the docks – The Laughing Dog. Many a shady deal has been negotiated in its dimly lit booths, and many a curse has been muttered over the penny-pinching Norbert's high prices for his watered-down whiskey. Norbert keeps his guests in good privacy, though, and turns a blind eye to any activity that doesn't concern him personally – exactly what less reputable clients prefer.
The population is very diverse, with every race represented at least in part, and a fair complement of mixed race persons as well – who find in the melting pot of the city that their uniqueness becomes an advantage rather than a stigma. The Great Market, which runs day and night in the Merchants' Quarter, is a fantastic parade of spectacle as master craftsman and arcanists demonstrate their most beautiful and extravagant creations to attract the business of the city's wealthiest citizens. Wealth is relative however, and even the richest city has its poorer folk and those who, rightly or not, feel disenfranchised. These are concentrated in the Riverfront District which has come to be called, at least in everyday speech, the Thieves' Quarter, and in the so called Old City – an inner ring of cramped streets left over from the time before the Rebuilding.
The richest and flashiest of Faldale's noble families defied convention during the rebuilding by relocating almost en masse to new palatial residences abutting the outer wall – "for the view" most of them said. This migration mixed up the usual economic districting of the city that had resulted over time, and has resulted in a more scattered look to the Faldale of today, which three or four small cottages and shops all lie in the shadow of or even adjacent to the walls of a multi-story family compound.
Watching over the people of Faldale, and indeed the entire continent, is the Council of Lords. This body of seven lawmakers is elected by the populace. Four of the Lords represent the small outlying towns of Vaern, grouped into districts by geography. One comes from the Citadel of the Watch, which lies atop the great Wyrmspine Mountains. The final Lords, sometimes called the Lords of the City are elected from within Faldale itself, one by the nobles, and one by the commoners. The distinction between the two is arguable at this point in history, as one becomes registered as a "noble" simply by being able to pay the annual tax associated with the title, which is then conferred on you and your immediate family for the following year.
The common folk take the system somewhat lightly, and you will occasionally find "commoners" who every few years or so decide to be "nobles" for a time. There are a few perks to the title – these largely being access to palace gala affairs and a certain amount of legal pull in minor situations – but the relative scarcity of fringe benefits leaves many commoners joking that the Council has found a way to put a tax on vanity – and that the self-styled nobles line up to pay it.
Laws and Enforcement:
Policing and protecting Faldale falls to the City Watch. The Watch Captain reports directly to the Council, and with the aid of two Lieutentants, directs the deployment of the various groups of soldiers.
In a time of martial law, the Watch Captain has absolute power in Faldale, a provision put in place during the Gnoll War, when a recalcitrant Council refused to authorize proper action until it was too late to avoid massive damage. Many attribute Faldale's survival of the war to the openly "rebellious" actions of the Watch Captain at that time, Arryl Starwind. An Eladrin woman of great strength and commanding presence, she rebuked the council for their inaction and roused the Watch without their blessing.
After the battle, one or two council members argued for her punishment or even banishment, but the people of the city hailed her as a hero, and forced the council to not only raise a statue in her honor, but ensure that in a time of conflict, the safety of the city would always be in the hands of the capable military mind of the Watch Captain, rather than overly optimistic council members.