Boundaries and Ties
Catarina sits on many boundaries, and ties together many threads. The river Elduin winds down from the West from the great mountains called Cilvenniath in the ancient Imperial Elvish, or Skyreach in the common tongue. On its way to the sea it passes through craggy hills and ancient forests until it reaches the coastal flood plains. Annual rainstorms in the west swell the Elduin to two or three times its size and it bursts its banks spreading mineral-rich soil across the surrounding farmland.
As the river nears the sea it reaches the White Rocks, a large outcropping of much harder rock upon which Catarina proper is built. The City spills out along and across the river, and though the noble quarters are never at risk a surprisingly large amount of effort is spent by the City minimising the river’s annual excesses with floodgates and repairs – an easy source of seasonal work if you are happy with manual labour.
The river terminates in a large natural harbour that makes a perfect stopping-off point for coastal shipping. Unsurprisingly this means a great deal of shipping and shipbuilding, and of course piracy. The bay’s islands are almost all owned by the Noble houses as summer homes, but a few contain guild warehouses and at least one island is given over as a cemetery, housing an ancient cloistered monastery devoted to the worship of Pelor and the placation of Nerull. The ocean beyond is only sailed by the desperate, for there is virtually nothing for many leagues beyond the horizon save a few scattered islands, and perhaps nothing at all of note between the coast and the edge of the world.
Fleets of ships operate the coasts bringing goods to and from the City. North are the storm-wracked coasts and in the far north, ice. These lands are hard and home to many strange creatures, but also many undiscovered treasures and wealth of their own. To the south the coast quickly becomes barren and dry, fertile grassland giving way to arid desert and sparse inhabited lands. Far south, past the deserts, are foreign realms with whom Catarina has little contact beyond merchants and the goods they bring – often exotic rarities and ostentatious finery.
The Twisted Streets
Nobility and the Imperial Quarter
The City itself spills down from the White Rocks, at the peak of which sits the ancient Imperial Palace, containing the Broken Throne. Surrounding the palace are the mansions and estates of the noble families, and the richest and most exclusive merchants. The Imperial Quarter (alternatively the Upper City, or the Noble Quarter) is the centre of political power and wealth. The Seneschal Guard have their headquarters and their most pervasive presence here.
The Lower City – Medinas and Markets
Market squares are common across the city, most districts having at least a couple. A substantial proportion of the lower city closer to the river is a winding medina, housing a large residential population but also some of the more interesting markets and in particular black markets. The Thieves’s Guild has a large presence here; their headquarters sits below a large central tavern and several safehouses scattered across the area means there’s always a place to go to ground. Paradoxically, the Lower City contains much less formal Merchant’s Guild activity than you would otherwise guess – the vast majority of the Guild’s power sequestered in the upper city or focused on the larger markets near the docks.
The Grand Plaza, Temple to Pelor, and the Gods’ Quarter
Pelor’s Temple dominates the skyline of much of the lower city, rising from a small hill. Before it lies what is known as the Grand Plaza – a huge plaza constructed for celebrations and feast days, which more frequently pays hosts to crowds of pilgrims and the faithful on observances, as well as street traders and peddlers of various kinds. Throughout the district the temples to other gods can be found, though none quite as prestigious.
The Ampitheatre and the Theatre District
Street entertainers can be found across the city, but their greatest concentration can be found in what is usually known as the Theatre District. Playhouses, taverns, and dens of various iniquities can be found scattered throughout the ramshackle housing of this district, with a large population of artists. The large Ampitheatre here dates well back to Imperial days, and hosts popular events like public executions. This is also the City’s red light district, and a number of popular brothels operate in the shadow of the Ampitheatre itself.
The Foreign Quarter
Foreigners are welcomed with open arms and open coinpurses in Catarina, but frequently have trouble finding a place to stay unless they are well connected or well monied. Though the conditions here are barely above a slum the generally-named “Foreign Quarter” houses a number of ghettoes and markets dedicated to the interests of the City’s minority populations, with a variety of races and cultures represented in a remarkably small area.
Slums and the Blasted Quarter
Where once the Arcane University stood directly across the river from the White Rocks, there is now a ruined waste surrounded by high walls. The residential areas near the Blasted Quarter are some of the least desirable (but cheapest) in Caterina proper, occasionally having to deal with infestations of magically mutated pests and the fallout of wild magic. The poor and the desperate (and the greedy seeking to exploit them) have started to spill inside the now-crumbling walls, despite efforts to maintain the quarantine, and the edges of the Blasted Quarter are a shanty town filled with some of the most destitute of the city’s citizens.
Not quite at the confluence of river and ocean itself, but slightly within the City’s walls, are the docks. Large warehouses and the masts of merchant vessels dominate this district; the Docker’s Guild dominate the streets. There are large commercial marketplaces and the offices of various trading companies here as merchants seek to offload their wares from ships. At night the docks are filled with the revelry of sailors; the hostels and taverns of the area often do exceptionally well if you don’t count the frequent bar brawls and infrequent fires.