The Free City
Bilgewater - Street, Sean Yang
Drasir is, first and foremost, a free city in Ursa Madeum, and is therefore not subject to the Kingdom’s rule or to that of any noble house. Over time, it has grown into a seedy metropolis built on piracy and greed, known for its drunken, boisterous charm, as well as its frequently ruthless clientele.
Founded five hundred years ago, Drasir traces its roots back to the legend himself: Sir Creighton Drasir, pirate captain of the infamous Tide Turner and its motley crew. The story goes that the Tide Turner met its doom out at sea during the catastrophic Twilight Storm—all while carrying vast amounts of riches that would make even the wealthiest of Andelusian nobles swoon. Merchants were the first to discover its wreck along the western coast of Thraece, dashed against treacherous, maw-like cliffs. The ship was reported to be empty, oddly enough, with no trace of its crew or cargo anywhere in sight.
Believed to have survived, rumour spread that Drasir travelled inland to hide his treasure. Rogues and sailors, outlaws and warlords, even pious knights flocked to the sight of the wreck. A small community formed as a result, birthing the port town of Drasir, with each subsequent visitor building upon its shaky infrastructure until it evolved into the glorious pirate haven it is today.
As things currently stand, Creighton Drasir’s true fate remains a mystery.
Drasir is situated along the west coast of Thraece, deep in the recesses of a winding fjord. Its cliffs are set into a U-shaped valley flooded with saltwater and precarious sea stacks that render navigation difficult. Both ends of the channel can be freely accessible and are the only reliable methods of reaching the city—the cliffs surrounding it are often too steep to travel on foot, making the area a highly defensible location.
Some of the rock walls tend to curve up and outwards, giving the impression of a jaw with stalactites for teeth. The heart of Drasir lies in such a sight, often referred to as the Maw, and is connected to a dense network of caverns burrowing deep through the fjord’s outcroppings.
For a city with no regard for planning when it comes to the delicate matters of infrastructure, Drasir has done remarkably well for itself, regardless of its many faults. Amid the barnacled, rotting docks, the weather-beaten buildings, and the zoo of debauchery running wild through the streets, lies a gritty sort of grandeur. The architecture is sweeping and vast, scaling cliffs with towers that lean a little too far to the side, always building upon itself like a hive fashioned from wood, stone, steel, and the occasional drop of blood.
Much of the city is navigable by boardwalks, rope bridges, creaky stairs, and primitive elevators. A few districts are fraught with caverns hiding all manner of curiosities. Several outposts litter the fjord, typically acting as exclusive clubhouses for gangs, with plenty of ships crowding the docks belonging to one type of crook or another.
Drasir experiences a subtropical climate like the rest of Ursa Madeum but gets noticeably more fog and than cities further inland. The weather is fair year-long, the temperatures peaking during the new year (June). There tends to be heavier rainfall from November to April, and a dry season from May to October.
Flora and Fauna
> Olihen – The story tells of an unnaturally giant squid that can drag ships all the way down to the Fortuna Gallo, where crews will find rest amid the ocean’s darkest depths. An ancient and elusive creature with the ability to decimate fleets and leave no trace of its appearance. Few have claimed to see it with their own eyes, and only a handful are telling the truth.
> Bore Leech – Not all battles need to be won with cannon or rifle fire. Often all that’s required is a barrel of bore leeches, a bit of saltwater to ‘activate’ them, and a means of launching the barrel across to the offending ship in question. Given a few minutes, these worm-like creatures will tear through the thickest of hulls with vicious ease, using razor-sharp teeth to decimate anything and everything in their path.
> Scarak – One of nature’s finer attempts at creating a walking nightmare on eight legs, complete with large pincers, a sturdy exoskeleton, and a stinger sharp enough to puncture steel. Pressurized sacs inside of its abdomen allow a Scarak to heat ingested water to boiling temperatures. This water is kept in reserve for emergencies involving larger predators, upon which the Scarak can either squirt or inject it via the stinger at the end of its tail.
> Coral Golem – Unique gestalts created from a colony of parasitic invertebrates called Pirinoa. These creatures begin as tiny polyps drifting underwater in search of a host to infect via ingestion. Should this occur, the polyps spread through the host’s body, infecting bone, muscle, and organs until eventually reaching the central nervous system. At this point, the colony assumes full control of all bodily processes, using its host as a mobile, carnivorous feeding ground before decaying into a more traditional coral deposit.
Pirate Cove, Piotr Krezelewski
Drasir is a corrupt city of opportunity where gold and violence are the only two currencies that matter. No one rises to the top without being ruthless, a little cunning, and more careful than a jester at a funeral. Throughout the years, the tides have swept together an unruly sum of society’s refuse: drunkards, murderers, thieves, wenches, all with no place to go but Drasir for solace.
Despite the city’s ramshackle appearance, plenty of coin passes through its hands; it’s just a matter of knowing where to look for it and having the stomach to actually go fetch it. In many regards, Drasir is a place of extremes, where the poor are some of the poorest in the entire nation. On the flipside, the rich are some of the richest, hoarding treasures valuable enough to sway armies.
Travellers looking for under-the-table merchandise will discover no limit to what they can purchase. Black markets mingle freely with candid businesses, offering exotic wares that would normally be impossible to find anywhere else. Some goods can be also acquired through favours—quite a few individuals are fond of making their debtors work—or bought on a patron’s credit depending on how much influence they wield over the market.
Crime and profanity. Those are the two things Drasir will teach a man. Any other skill is secondary and better learned elsewhere in Ursa Madeum.
There is no official authority governing the city, nor has any measure of law been formally established. What few rules that exist belong to the powerful and the wealthy, including gang leaders and pirate lords, alongside merchants who’ve secured a sizeable influence.
Without a proper guard to police the streets, citizens are forced to look out for themselves. Gangs offer protection services for a premium to people residing within their territory. Mercenaries line every corner, assassins roam alleys and rooftops, and noble souls looking to keep the peace are far and few in between.
Despite the lack of solidarity inherent to the city’s nature, residents have frequently come together to repel invasions from the government. These historic displays of power have deterred any further attempts to conquer Drasir, as anyone foolish enough to try will be met with the full might of Ursa Madeum’s villainy.
> Dorian Finch – Arguably the most enigmatic pirate lord in all of Drasir, privy to secrets and information that could turn a kingdom onto its head. His wealth knows no bounds, nor does his long list of favours, and he seemingly has a hand in everything and anything that goes on within the city. Rumour has it his face was stolen from him long ago by an ancient spirit. He wears a blank mask at all times, covering even the eyes, in addition to a dark hood concealing the rest of his head.
> Vera Granger – A half-elf and longtime madame of the Pink Pearl, which serves as part brothel, part steam-house, and part theater and burlesque parlour. It’s a little-known secret that Vera is a powerful witch, proficient in the arts of scrying and charm crafting, among other lesser magics. Many come to her seeking their futures or simple tokens of good luck, but her services don’t come cheap, and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed.
> Amadeo Mortimer – Amadeo is the leader of the Shepherds, a fairly new gang in Drasir, known for his hateful disposition towards all abnormal beings. Nonhumans, mages, and beasts have much to fear with him in the city, as he’s fond of rounding them up for public execution, with each subsequent show gaining a larger following.
The Sea Devil, Brenda van Vugt
> The Black Spot – Easily the ugliest tavern in Drasir, but also the largest and rowdiest. It burned down thrice in the past decade and stands to burn down a fourth time every night. The barkeep, Madman Smithers, is a shifter with hammerhead shark-like features. He has the habit of quelling bar brawls with outrageous violence, which, unsurprisingly, serves to aggravate the situation even further.
> Fig Town – No one really knows why this market is called Fig Town. There are no figs to speak of, and it’s clear that most of its shoppers have never seen a fig in their lives. The market is tucked away in a massive cavern lit by torches and lightstone veins, with several offshoot tunnels branching outwards into the cliffside. Different shops open at night when the others close down—it’s generally agreed upon that the best merchants present their wares from midnight to dawn.
> Executioner’s Drop – A colossal waterfall, estimated to be sixty meters tall, slanting off the edge of the city into a river leading inland. Rows of jagged rock line its perimeter, housing makeshift prisons and watchtowers. It’s a popular tradition to execute one’s enemies by tossing them over the edge of the drop.
> Fortuna Gallo – It’s common belief that the souls of those lost at sea will inevitably find their way to this oceanic trench. The water above Fortuna Gallo runs like a dark scar on the ocean’s surface, and its depths are whispered to be the home of unknowable terrors like Olihen.
> Whalesgrave – A coastline filled with whale carcasses found on the northern shores beyond Drasir. There are as many as thirty dead whales lining the ground in varying states of decay. The air is putrid with rot, teeming with carrion feeders of all shapes and sizes. It’s considered bad luck to visit this area, as far too many in the past have died from illness shortly after.
> Great Fog Reef – Several miles to the west lies a region permanently shrouded in fog, concealing a gargantuan reef beneath its waves that remains largely unexplored. Some claim to hear whispers coming from the fog, others distant cries for help. Those curious enough to venture inside usually don’t come back, and the few who make it out alive are haunted by the reef’s mysteries.
> Putnam’s Point – A precarious little settlement hidden atop the fjord’s southern entrance, watching over the sea at large for any signs of potential danger. Messenger hawks are used to relay letters to a post office in Drasir, where the letter will either be read publicly or given to the appropriate correspondent.