Storied Languard—capital of Ashlar and its greatest city—stands hard against Hard Bay’s turbulent, stormy waters. To the north lies the Mottled Spire’s brooding spray-drenched mass, the curse-haunted ruins of Greystone and Gloamhold’s doom-wreathed halls. Ashlar’s greatest—indeed only—city, Languard is a noisy, dirty place. Here, amid broad, muddy streets teeming with life and shadow-mantled, danger-filled alleyways there is little beneath the sun that cannot be had somewhere—for a price.
Few Languardians overly concern themselves with the brooding terrors lurking within Gloamhold’s halls, but for others, the legendary, benighted ruin draws them to Languard as a moth to a flame. For within Languard’s stout walls live, plot and scheme a surprising number of adventurers, freebooters and mercenaries all lured here by the treasures said to lie but a scant few miles to the north.
Set upon the Svart’s northern bank, High City rises above the stink and muck of the rest of Languard by dint of a series of bluffs rising from the river’s waters. Here dwell the great and the good (or perhaps just the wealthy) of Languard.
In High City, the streets are cleaner and broader, the houses are of stone and slate, and the folk are wealthier and healthier. The concentration of so much wealth and power should attract thieves and other ne’er-do-wells. However, given the large numbers of men-at-arms, bodyguards and other armed personages serving the folk dwelling here, it is a brave, stupid or superlatively skilled burglar who works in High City.
All Ashlar’s noble families maintain townhouses in High City for when family members visit the city on business (or pleasure). Such places are staffed permanently by trusted servants and a small garrison of men-at-arms to discourage theft.
The name given to the bulk of Languard sprawling to the south of the Svart, the Low City is home to most of the city’s populace. Also comprising the Shambles, Fishshambles and the Wrecks, the Low City is named both for its position below the High City and for the low-born status of most of the folk dwelling therein.
Lying exclusively to the south of the Svart, between Cheap Street and Low Gate, the Shambles is a place of narrow, twisting alleyways, tottering tenement buildings and cloying desperation. Here dwell Languard’s poor in cramped, unsanitary conditions.
Most of the Shambles’ dilapidated buildings are of shoddy wooden construction. Typically, three—or sometimes four— stories high, they cluster together; upper levels jut out over the alleys below giving the whole district the aspect of a gigantic sunken maze. The streets are nothing more than packed, worn earth that turns to slippery mud during heavy rainfall. To the north, Cheap Street divides the Shambles from the Fishshambles.
The Fishshambles sprawls along the waterfront to the north of Cheap Street. Here a tangled, reeking labyrinth of narrow, tenebrous alleys—punctuated by a few wider roads—runs down to the Svart and the network of rickety wharfs and jetties jutting from its southern bank. A few folk maintain totteringly decrepit warehouses, hard against the docks; most such locations are used for nefarious activities such as smuggling. At least two are under the Shadow Masks’ control.
The folk here are tough, well used to dealingwith the vicissitudes of life and Hard Bay’s perils. Adventurers seeking a boat and its master brave enough to sail to Gloamhold will likely eventually gravitate here.
Many of the folk and businesses in the Fishshambles— unsurprisingly—make their living from the sea. Most of the choicest fish is landed in the Old City; the folk dwelling here must make do with the cast-offs and leavings of the wealthier folk across the river.
Where the ramshackle and slimy, sagging wharfs redolent with decay cluster thickly along the Svart’s muddy, slick bank gather the ferociously independent and inbred Takolen. A singular air of ruin and decay hangs heavily over the rotting wharves and the festering, stinking boats moored alongside or grounded in the shallow water thick with silt, seaweed and jetsam.
Many of the fetid hulks moored along the crumbling docks have not put to sea in living memory. In truth, most c annot. Lashed together, the boats form a confused mishmash of homes, warehouses, whorehouses, taverns and other less pleasant businesses. Even the agents of the Shadow Masks dare not work here, but some of the braver—or perhaps more debased—souls do occasionally visit certain of these uniformly foul, unwelcoming businesses.