The Citry Of Highren
The City of Highren sits at the mouth of the River Adar and is the capital of the Highren Empire.
The New Growth – Elves that have abandoned the forest and become empirical social darwinists. Not really a term used to describe the elves themselves, more so used to describe their religion and institutions. “Old Growth,” by contrast, refers to the institutions and customs of the Perfecting Nation.
New Growth Philosophy – Like all Elven thought, New Growth’s philosophy is underlined by a fundamental faith in the survival of the fittest as the sole representative of divine will. By this way of thinking, longevity is, ipso facto, a sign that one has the support of the gods. New Growth Elves point to their significantly longer life expectancy as a clear sign that their lifestyle is better than that of the Perfecting Nation. For their part, the Perfecting nation asserts that by leaving the traditional elven lifestyle of hunting in the woods and living with nature the New Growth has broken from the law of the jungle–the instrument of divine will made manifest–and thus grown soft beyond the ruthless but perfecting process of natural selection. In part perhaps as a response to this, Highren’s elves strongly believe in social darwinism, asserting that one's station in society is reflective of one's inherent worth and aptitude. Interestingly, though de facto economic discrimination based on race is prevalent, Highren’s elite are remarkably willing to accept those members of other races who have risen to positions of economic influence. Noble humans easily intermingle with the ancient elven nobility, and orc major-generals and even the Noble-Chiefs of the Shattertusk clan (hobgoblins, see factions below) find themselves invited to elegant balls and filling seats of honor at government functions.
New Growth Religion – Elven religion is not generally proselytising in nature, and its influence on Highren society is generally subtle. Worship is not compulsory, and elves generally view their religion as, if not quite self-evident, self fulfilling. Each elven religion can be effectively boiled down to an assertion of what qualities are best for achieving evolutionary fitness. Culturally, New Growth religion, like so many facets of Highrun society, is integrated into projecting social and economic standing. The seating arrangement at services is divided up based on the size of the tithe given by the congregant, with the very wealthy getting prominent places in balconies behind the preacher so that the congregation can clearly see them. Generally, worshippers of the Elven gods pay some amount of homage to all of them, though patron deities are fairly common. The churches themselves, however, work entirely independently of, and often in competition with, each other.
Grand-Adar – an aspect of Thoth, god of craft, knowledge, and magic. In old Growth religion, Grand-Adar is a minor god of ingenuity, craftsmen, and magic who was prayed to by those who wished to outwit their enemies. According to legend, High Adar Highren Habsburg I recieved Thoth’s prophecies through a crow messenger (an animal closely associated with Grand-Adar). The crow commanded Highren to leave the forest and found a city at the mouth of a great river–and the rest is history. Highren was a powerful wizard, and after his death his tower was converted into a cathedral to Grand-Adar. Naturally, Grand-Adar is viewed as the patron deity of the city in addition to being worshiped by many mages and craftsmen. Grand-Adar teaches that inventive craftsmanship, arcane might, and a devotion to knowledge are the best routes to evolutionary fitness.
Fenmarel Mestarine – Goddess of strength and powerful animals. The New Growth aspect of Fennel's domains are animal, strength, wrath, chaos, and travel. Fenmarel is usually worshipped by warriors and those who wish to overpower their competitors. Consequently, he is usually worshipped by members of the military. A common saying amongst powerful elves is that “Pat-hlaw (non-elves) must first be introduced to Fenmarel before they can meet Grand-Adar,” which is to say, non-elves must first be made to understand elven power before they grasp elven civilization. Fenmarel does not have a major cathedral in the city though her churches dot the countryside and are the first built in newly-acquired lands. The most important shrine to Fenmarel in Highren is the Imperial Altar in the Royal Barracks. The Topiary Order also keeps a shrine to Fenmarel in their circle. Fenmarel Mestarine teaches that raw strength and speed is the best route to evolutionary fitness.
Calistria – The cult of Calistria is strong in Highren, though it often takes on non-religious dimensions that are palpably heretical to Old Growth elves. Prostitution is controlled by the church by royal decree. The enforcement of this decree, however, is generally left to the church itself, and the priests and priestesses of Calistra find themselves in turf wars with criminal organizations with a frequency that some feel is inappropriate. The church also controls a lucrative trade in misstresses for powerful elves looking to sow half elf sons (the entry on half elves goes into more detail on this). Calistra’s church also fills an important role in information brokerage. The most important temple to Calistra is the Cathedral of Silk on Temple Island. In addition, nunneries (which act as brothels) dot the city. Calistra teaches that guile, trickery, and charm (and poison) are the best routes to evolutionary fitness.
Gozreh – Like most maritime cultures, Highren puts great emphasis on appeasing Gozreh, god of the sea. The Isle of Wrecks is the sight of the main temple to Gozreh, the Storm Cathedral. It is customary for captains to send a rowboat with offerings to the isle to receive the blessing of the druids and priests before embarking on a voyage. Of course, a wealthy captain will laden the rowboat with sufficient offerings to secure the services of one of the druids who live on the island for the voyage. Beyond the Isle of Wrecks, shrines to Gozreh dot the docks. Gozreh is a new addition to elven deities that did not warrant worship in Old Growth religion.
Camazotz – the Master of Black Wings enjoys a strong following amongst both Old and New Growth elves. His domains are Animal, Chaos, Darkness, Evil, and Trickery, and he is revered as the god of stealth predators and deadly ambushes. Camazotz’ followers are not readily apparent to the average citizen, and the location of his church (churches??) is not public knowledge. The only overt indication of his presence is celebrations of the elven new year, which takes place on the first new moon of winter and is observed through a night-long celebration that involves masked parades. During this day citizens of Highren leave bat blood on their doors as a sign of submission to the dark lord, lest they risk retribution. If Camazotz has a dedicated clergy it is not known where they are or how to contact them. Camazotz teachers that stealth, ambush, and obfuscation is the best route to evolutionary fitness. ‘
Cyth-V’sug – An aspect of the demon lord Cyth-V’sug is worshipped by in Highren as a god of plants, fungus, decay, and the earth. His domains are plant, chaos, evil, and earth. The most important site dedicated to Cyth-V’sug is the Topiary Glade, located outside the city gates. Here the Topiary order dedicate sacrifices to their god. The topiary order is mostly druids, and they own extensive orchards outside the city gates. More than any other god, Cyth-V’sug ignites debates between the New Growth and the Old. The old growth finds the use of druidic power and Cyth-V’sug’s rights in the pursuit of agriculture and profit absolutely disgusting.
Rovagug – The Rough Beast is not worshipped like the other gods, but it is observed as something of a tool of divine will. Rovagug represents the cleansing destruction that weeds out the week and proves the strong. Effectively, Rovagug represents evolutionary pressures. In a sense Rovagug is welcomed for its role in destroying the week. After all, the only ones who fear Rovagug are those who are unfit to survive the trials of the gods. A common custom in among all elves is to make an offering to Rovagug after suffering a disaster, both as a thanks for the opportunity to evolve and as a display to rivals that the celebrant is still powerful.
Half Elves – half elves find themselves in the odd position of being born into the second rung of society without much ability to either ascend or descend the hierarchy. A half elf usually owes their position, their job, and their education to their father (elven woman are strongly discouraged from interbreeding with other races). Unlike the non-elven races, half elves have little racial unity and usually prefer to associate with the house of their father. Half elves are very common the bureaucrats and mid-level functionaries of Highren society. An elven patriarch can assume the loyalty of his half elf children because they owe their position to him and have little chance of advancement (only one house has a half elf patriarch). “Royal half elves,” or half elves fathered by the royal family, dominate the state bureaucracy and are in key positions of power in the caretaker regime left in place by High Adar Corellian Habsburg.
Half elves are almost never accepted by their mother’s community, a separation encouraged from birth. The Middling district is a built-up sandbar that is filled with the mistresses of elven nobles. The mother will often spend most of her life raising her half elf children here, in isolation from the non-elven communities of Highren. Like their children, these women are usually ostracized from their original communities. The half elves are raised in this district, usually attending the College of the Administratum to prepare them for their future careers. The length of this instruction varies, and some houses prefer to do the bulk of instruction themselves. This position of privilege engenders great resentment among non-elves. The term ‘daddy’s boy’ is so commonly used to refer to half elves that it is virtually a racial epithet.
Dwarves – Like most surface communities, Highren has seen an influx of dwarven refugees. Generally, the dwarves keep to themselves in The Crouch district. They have, however, taken over the forged metal market in the city, a lucrative trade which has won them government weapons contracts and made their neighborhood noticeably more affluent than their neighbors. Of all the races in Highren, dwarves are second perhaps only to orcs in the amount of distrust and dislike they generate from the average citizen.
Halflings – Mostly, halflings in Highren are immigrants from The Dale Confederacy, which was a group of loosely aligned villages situated to the east of the Lower Spine (a term for the bottom of The Spine of the World). Since the conquest of their homeland about 100 years ago, These halflings (amongst whom most halfling subraces are represented) have flocked to Highren, generally as economic refugees. Over time, the halflings have acquired a reasonable amount of wealth, but the race as a whole still has an overwhelmingly working-class character. Most halflings live in The Scrapes neighborhood, hough enclaves exist, most notably Shortpier. Yavearin halflings are uncommon, but not unheard of, though they almost never settle permanently in the city.
The Scumbog is a brackish swamp west of Highren. Though officially part of the empire, Scumbog is extremely poorly incorporated. A simple cost-benefit analyses explains this, the swamp is difficult to control and of little value, and thus imperial presence is limited to a handful of farming villages on the landward edge of the swamp and a couple of naval bases along the coast. Of all the people of the swamp, only Grippli are common in Highren. Unlike the other Scumboggers (a derogatory term), Grippli actually had a civilization of flat-bottom boat traders, at least until the empire destroyed their towns (the culmination of a frustrating occupation period). Grippli mostly work along the river in the Royal Docks and on riverboats and harbor boats. Lizardfolk, bullywugs, and the like are rare, and are almost always either poor laborers or mercenaries.
The Lower spine is absolutely lousy with orc tribes. Naturally, when High Adar Gaston Habsburg IV sought to incorporate the area into the empire (The Iron War) this problem has to be dealt with. While the first orcs came to Highren as slaves, Gaston quickly discovered that the orcs made more profitable mercenaries than enemies. 5 infantry platoons and 2 cavalry companies of orcs now serve in the Imperial Army, with all but one platoon serving in The Head War. A handful of orc mercenary companies also serve interests in Highren, particularly criminal interests. Most orcs and their families live either around the Royal Barracks, upon the manse of various noble estates, or in The bottom. Half orcs have also become somewhat common, generally in the bottom as well.
Once mighty hobgoblin tribes plied the upper River Adar as river pirates. They were gradually incorporated into the empire during the reign of Hastrel Habsburg III. Like orcs, hobgoblins are most commonly seen the Imperial army, but unlike orcs hobgoblins are not segregated into their own companies. Over time, a significant number of hobgoblins have immigrated into the city in search of jobs. They mostly live in The bottom, but a sizable number of hobgoblin police have managed to work their way up into The Smooth. Clann Shattertusk managed to catapult themselves into the cities economic notables by buying up and dominating the Flotsam neighborhood. Hobgoblins are generally disliked by the city's working class, and they have a reputation for brutality as policemen and enforcers for the houses.
Humans are a mixed bag to the extreme, ranging from masters of house Fairspear to lowly goat herders only recently incorporated into the empire.
The Shipwrights’ Union -
A strong union of skilled ship builders who control the construction of large boats. While the Guild has maintained substantial power, in the past the Crown has interceded and appointed a Master in the guild who acts as a liaison to ensure that royal projects are attended to. In exchange the guild received official recognition as a facet of society and some level of protection from noble meddling. The hierarchy is structured in such a way that initiates progress from Apprentice to Journeyman to Master of a class to Wright-Master. The Wright-Masters oversee individual projects as well as elect a Grand-Master who oversees day to day guild operations, however the position is easily revoked and only requires a simple majority vote of no confidence.
The crown also built The Grey Tower on the island to “Prevent any violence against the Union or sabotage of their projects”. The tower is one of the newest constructed and is well armed.
The Great Houses
A powerful elven house who owns the license to trade with Highren’s colonies along the Cailem Peninsula.
A powerful elven house who controls the largest wharf in Highren. After having all of their licenses and properties voided by an order of the crown on 4.29, Kagare Highbloom fled with an unknown number of retainers and has apparently evaded capture.
A powerful elven house who have extensive trade relations in the Batar cities.
A human house that has an enormous amount of economic influence over the Lower River Adar Valley.
Own major chunks of the Royal Docks, as well as significant inland holdings. Half elf.
The other major holder of the Royal Docks. Also, House Crestern controls major holdings along the Upper River Adar Valley.
Notable Lesser Houses
Insular dwarven smiths that control a number of blocks in The Crouch. Other dwarven clans exist, but Clan Glittercave are the largest and best connected politically.
Hobgoblin clan that owns the Flotsam neighborhood.
General Besimar Blackhand is the Master of the Garrison of Highren. He is also the highest ranking military officer that was not at the front. 5 companies are in highren (not counting marines). Highren companies consist of 100-500 soldiers (the number varies widely because companies are raised by houses or even individuals as well as by the crown).
Highren’s Royal Navy is remarkably small, and is mostly concerned with resupplying naval outposts, moving troops, and conducting reconnaissance. Most of the warships fly under the flag of the great houses, though the admiralty can and does requisition them when it needs to protect its troop transports etc.. The navy does boast an impressive fleet of small, fast, and well armed Gustavus class interceptors that handle very well against smugglers and as scouts.
The Topiary Order
Druids that betrayed nature for sweet sweet nectarines.
The Isle of Rings (colloquially, “The Harpy’s Nest”)
The creation of half-elf scions is a critical duty of any powerful elven noble. Effectively, powerful elves are sugar daddies, and this is the neighborhood of sugar babies.
Tenement district resplendent with hab-blocks. Mostly houses new immigrants. More of a working class neighborhood than a slum, but not a good place to live. So named because the buildings have so many stories.
Halfling area moved into after the dwarven housing crash. Also, some other small sized creatures.
One of the greatest military traditions of the Highren Empire is the floating of a victory barge. Even the poorest dreg has fond memories of a victory barge floating down the River Adar laden with the spoils of conquest and lead by a High Adar resplendent in victory. But after the city-wide festival subsides the barge itself remains, for it is far too massive to make the return journey up the River. For over a century these barges have been left to accumulate along the treacherous waters of Highren’s eastern shore, which ships did not generally dare to navigate. Over time this mass of derelicts became an opportunity for poor dregs unable to make rent; over more time they became an opportunity for Grelt Shattertusk, an enterprising hobgoblin. Grelt managed to rally the resources of clan Shattertusk to secure the purchase of the barges (the crown, for its part, was confused why anyone would want them). Over time, as it turns out, the Shattertusk clan has proven incredibly efficient at collected rent and maintaining order in this floating slum, to the general approval of the houses and the total horror of the residents. The neighborhood is an incredibly corrupt rotting cesspit, but it also now pays taxes to the crown. As for Clan Shattertusk, wealth and affluence have made them the premiere hobgoblins of the city, effectively representing the race to the upper echelons of government. Thus, as is almost the rule in Highren, wealth has beget wealth, and the clans power has grown to that of a lesser house.
The Crouch – dwarven neighborhood.
Collection of butchers shops. Segregated here by royal order.