Silk and Steel and Stone
A traveler’s guide to the city of Silkspan
Silkspan is carved out the opposing cliff faces of a smaller canyon that branches out from the northern edge of the Great Emerald Basin, both sides connected by several spidersilk-fiber-bound suspension bridges (from which the city gets its name) and countless zip-lines. The primary skyrail track around the edge of the basin runs through Silkspan, and the city boasts one of the most extensive airship docks in the region; all of this serves to funnel trade and travelers through the city, making it one of the focal points for the ongoing industrial revolution.
Silkspan’s government is quite laissez-faire, being composed only of the city guard, which collects taxes from imports and exports, enforces the peace (usually), and keeps records of land ownership within the city. The guard originally grew out of the private security force of the Silkspan Docks & Trade Guild, which owns most of the docks and skyrail stations in the city.
Disputes that do not involve the guard’s narrow purview are often left up to the individuals involved to settle on their own, and quiet corporate warfare is not uncommon.
Most buildings are carved directly into stone, built from quarried stone bricks, or forged out of common metals. Wood is a luxury that must either be specially (and expensively) cultivated or brought from the basin jungles at great risk. Many different architectural styles are intermingled in a cosmopolitan melting pot, including many experimental designs unique to particular buildings.
Ziplines are fairly ubiquitous methods of getting around within cliff cities, and every city dweller keeps a zipline hook or carbine on their bracer or belt. Powered cables that continually loop upward with places to hook onto provide methods of vertical ascent.
Visitors to the city are loaned carbines at the entrance for a small fee, and aren’t allowed into the city without them. The revenue from this helps maintain the cable systems, and provide for the medical costs of fall injuries, which aren’t too terribly common, but on the level of traffic accidents in modern times. (It’s something of a badge of honor/shame to be able to claim that you’ve survived the farthest fall in any group of people.)
Guards and responsible, well-off citizens carry wands of feather fall, and there’s a 25gp bounty to anyone who saves someone from a fall.
Populations & Cultures
The sections of city closest to the edges of the cliffs tend to be favored by Quills, who prefer direct access to the sky, while Crags and Bolds are more often found deeper within the massive, carved-out caverns and halls beneath the cliff. Grays and Cogs can be found throughout the city.
Quills are often the most visible culture, their dwellings and public forums adorned with brightly-colored silks and lanterns, and their varied plumage makes any Quill gathering a sight to behold. Fond of public discourse and debate, often of the spirited and raucous variety, it’s not at all unusual to find groups of them holding impromptu conversations in the streets.
Landmarks, Districts, & Points of Interest
The uppermost section of the north-western city cliff is dominated by the open air courtyards and brightly-colored, vertical architecture of the Aerie. Home to a good portion of Silkspan’s Quill population, the Aerie is a focal point of culture, art, and local politics. Many Grays have also made their homes here, integrating relatively seamlessly with Quill traditions, fashion, and fondness for debate.
Four distinct Quill communities are notably active here, and they each contribute representatives to the council of elders that make decisions for the de-facto government of the Aerie. Council meetings are held in the grand forum, and are open to public participation.
The Silkspan Air Docks
Home to the headquarters of the Silkspan Docks & Trade Guild (and thus the city guard that it maintains), the main docks are perhaps the most well-patrolled and secured part of the city. Built into the massive suspension bridges that span the two city cliffs, the docks are host to hundreds of airships each day, and have dozens of large ‘dry’-docks, both private and operated by the guard, where airships can be built and repaired.
Five massive anti-air cannons are spaced across the southernmost bridge, facing outward to the open air above the Great Emerald Basin; capable of hulling most ships in one shot, they’re a potent deterrent against any direct attack by privateers or rival cities, and have not had to be fired against live targets for years.
This massive concourse spans both cliffs of the canyon city, containing several major stations for the primary skyrail lines that run around the edge of the basin. Continuously active and bustling with both travelers and cargo, and directly connected on both sides to the airship docks, the junction is a transportation hub for both the city and the surrounding regions.
The Emerald Junction is owned and run by the same Docks & Trade guild that controls the airship docks, and the guard has a relatively heavy presence here.
The heart of industry in Silkspan is here, in the noise, smoke, and heat of the district colloquially known as the foundry. Countless factories, workshops, and refineries continuously churn out products both new and old.
Situated directly adjacent to the warehousing district, the foundry’s factories can efficiently move hundreds of tons of raw materials and finished goods every day.
A mishmash of architectural styles both new and old characterize the myriad homes and apartment complexes of the residential district. Buildings often feature later additions and extra floors both above and below, with small businesses often running shopfronts out of the ‘lower’ floors (i.e., on the level of the main thoroughfare, below and above other purely residential levels.)
Situated adjacent to (and serving as a logistical bridge between) the cargo transfer station of Emerald Junction West and the raw industry of the Foundry, the warehouse district stores millions of tons of raw materials, finished goods, and everything in between.
While the private security of the major warehouse holders tends to harass anyone loitering around the area, there is still a flourishing population of vagrants, smugglers, thieves, and possibly underground political groups that move and live in the background both here and in the adjacent slums of Slagtown.
While not the most opulent district in Silkspan (that distinction goes to the Gilded Grotto), Guild Row is arguably the wealthiest, being home to dozens of major corporations, guilds, and leaders of industry, along with many powerful mistmarked individuals they employ.
Security here is tight, not because of any guard presence, but due to extensive and well-funded private security forces and anti-intrusion systems.
Deeper into the western cliffside, the large brumble-bored caverns that the whole city was originally carved from have not yet been built over or forged into a more civilized structure. Most of the city’s major mining operations are situated in the depths of the Brumblecombs, as well as a number of more traditional Crag-Bold communities and the colonies of domesticated brumbles and craftspiders they maintain.
Many of the farther reaches of the ’combs are unmapped and/or constantly being expanded by the native fauna, and are thus very viable sites for possible hidden strongholds/homes/hideaways/passages.
North of the city proper, the canyon narrows and grows shallower in depth and steepness; fed by the small river that runs south beneath Silkspan and eventually into the Emerald Basin, the land here is lush and beautiful, albeit still rugged and mountainous. This is the perfect environment to keep and ‘pasture’ the magically-bred cliffyaks that serve as mounts, cargo-haulers, and livestock for the peoples of Ancra Caligo, as well as being essential sources of wool, hide, milk, and fertilizer.
While being well-sheltered from outside forces by Silkspan itself, the Crevasse contains many unmapped caverns and side-valleys, and there’s always at least some need for explorer-exterminators to help keep ranchers and their herds safe.
The more secluded reaches of Cliffyak Crevasse are also where many private dwellings are built by those that desire privacy and refuge from the noise and bustle of the city. There are plenty of places where an enterprising home-builder might carve out a small valley or cavern of their own.
The Gilded Grotto
The growing pressure on the coinpurses and bank vaults of the wealthy brings demand for the exclusive and the luxurious, and the Gilded Grotto provides both at a premium price. Carved out of a massive, isolated cavern that is open to the glow of the sky at its apex, the Grotto has been painstakingly cultivated with all manner of exotic flora, imported from the emerald basin at great expense; there is even a small forest of trees and a zoo’s worth of small, herbivorous dinosaurs.
The only official entrance to the grotto is sealed by a door of gold-leafed adamantine, and guarded continuously by the Luxor Corporation’s best guards. Only those with a membership (or those escorted by members) may enter, and the pricetag for a lifetime membership is 50,000gp.
Within the cavern, several palatial halls and mansions hold regular parties, gatherings, and shows for high-society, and there is even a private offering shrine built around a stable mist font. Those who partake in the Grotto’s luxuries benefit from a +2 morale bonus to skill checks for a week.
The smelters and factories of the Foundry produce significant waste, and the unofficial solution was simply to bore a massive hole downward to act as a drain/garbage chute into the unexplored caverns far, far below the city.
For many with nowhere else to go, this stinking, smog-filled place has become home, with slums and shantytowns popping up all along what has come to be called Slagtown. Rampant crime, terrible living conditions, and periodic floods of toxic refuse or molten slag make this ‘district’ one of the worst places to live, and a hotbed of malcontent.
For every day you spend at least 4 hours in Slagtown without some kind of breath mask or magical air supply, you must make a DC 12 Fortitude save versus poison or suffer 1 point of Constitution damage.
This adamantine-armored stronghold watches over the canyon entrance with hundreds of cannons and a full contingent of the city guard. Serving as the administrative center of the city’s limited government, the garrison was build out of, and still contains, the headquarters of the Silkspan Docks & Trade Guild.
Those arrested by the guard are kept in cell blocks at the lowest levels of the garrison, hanging over the canyon floor below; the cell blocks are suspended by a release system that allows them to be jettisoned in the event of a riot or attempted jailbreak, sending those within plummeting to their deaths.