Welcome to this, the first of a (yet another) new series of posts. The purpose of this series to provide inspiration for cities with which to populate your fantastical worlds, as well as supply some suggested plot hooks.
Feel free to take as much or as little content as you wish to use in your own games.
Deep in the middle of the Emerald Bog lies the city of Mara’s Wake. Named for the saint who raised the first walls and led the efforts to drain the bog, Mara’s Wake is a trading hub, and the gateway to the North, for the entirety of the Southlands. Protected by thick walls of stone and miles of mist-covered, bottomless peat, it has resisted invasions, plagues and disasters for five hundred years.
To gain access to Mara’s Wake, one must buy the services of an Emerald-guide, a select handful of people authorised to escort travellers, traders and pilgrims across the Emerald Bog, using the few safe paths that exist. After three days of travel in a permanent, green twilight, clothes damp from the ever present mist, visitors will come upon either the Star Gate or the Tower Gate.
The former is a solid construction of preserved timber, metal and stone that straddles the road leading directly into the marketplace. It is manned at all time by no less than ten guards and is the most used method of entry and exit for visitors.
The Tower Gate is situated at the base of a three storey tower built by master masons and guards the temple quarter where the Saint’s bones may be found. The tower itself serves as a barracks and armoury and only distinguished guests are permitted to use this gate.
The natives of Mara’s Wake themselves know of a number of smaller gates and paths out into the Bog, many leading to popular fishing spots or the few hills capable of supporting farming that exist within it. Whilst they are welcoming to outsiders, the people who live in Mara’s Wake treat themselves as a people apart, unwilling to share the secrets of their city but happy to share its bounties.
Due to its position as the nearest city to Great Eagle’s Pass, Mara’s Wake sees visitors from both the Southlands and the more populous folk from the North. Common traveller’s tales tell of chance meetings between the Kings of the North and the Emperor of the South taking place in Mara’s Wake and many within the city can claim descent from travellers of both nations who met there and never left.
Governed by a council of five, Mara’s Wake holds an election every three years with only one post being hereditary. The Speaker is always a member of the Saint’s family, responsible for maintaining the temple district and directing the people of the city in matters of faith. The other four posts are open to any master-craftsman who wishes to stand for election.
Only three times in the history of the city has a council proved so unpopular that it has been dissolved by the Speaker. For the most part, its decisions are viewed as fair and just, with many people regularly visiting the council chambers to discuss matters or listen to hearings and council sessions.
In addition the temple district, where many travellers and pilgrims have set up their own shrines, and the marketplace, Mara’s Wake has a thriving Artisans Quarter and a large fishing and farming district pressed against one of the city walls where the Bog has been turned into farmland for crops and animals, as well as large pools of deep, clear water. No-one knows for certain how the fish get into the pools, but there have never been any signs of shortage or over-fishing.
The council has been killed, and the Speaker kidnapped. No-one knows who did it or how it happened.
Fishermen have reported strange lights from the bottom of one of the pools each night.
A spate of deaths in the temple quarter has caused great concern among the city Watch, but there are no clues to be found.
A recent outbreak of plague in the marketplace has forced everyone inside for safety and the city is suffering. Can a cure be found?
The Speaker has not been seen for weeks, her house is empty and the Saint’s bones have been stolen. The city Watch is not trained or equipped to deal with situations like this.