Murska City Layout:
The old city of Murska is built on a bluff on the eastern face of Mt.
Khadizhan overlooking the Welgin Tei. The natural defenses of the location
appealed to the city founders, as did the proximity of the dwarvish underground
highway. A high city wall protects the city from avalanches, boulders, and the
unlikely threat of attack. Murska is well-supplied with fresh mountain water
from an aquifer and the numerous springs and creeks in the area.
Most of the streets in Murska are paved with cobblestones or cut into the
mountainside, often employing switchbacks or stairs to negotiate the steep
slopes. Streetlamps light the narrow streets in the evening until curfew.
Buildings in Murska are constructed of the native granite and bluewood timber.
As space is limited on the mountain most buildings are 2-3 stories in height,
with alpine roofs covered in slate.
High Town is a wealthy district of merchant princes and a few expatriate
noblemen. There are large estate houses with walled gardens. Temple Row is
nearby, with the main temples dedicated to the worship of Errodon, Gheal, Jayan
and Gurtag. The Colleges of Natural Philosophy and Engineering and the Academy
of the Arts border this affluent area, as does a street of artisans.
The Square is the center of daily life in Murska, the heart of the retail
shopping district. Burghers Hall and the Mage Guild face the square, and the
banking houses and guildhalls are within a block or two. Many of Murska's
craftsmen have their shops here. The Murska Amphitheater (arena) is northwest of
the square at the end of Broad Way. The Dragon's Hangover is near the arena, and
it enjoys a very large crowd on Games Day, but the rest of the week it's a
neighborhood bar for sports fans.
The steep side of the mountain overlooking the river has terraced streets
connected by stairs, a residential area. Near the Auldgate is a predominantly
dwarvish neighborhood. Khadizhan Road leads outside the city to the Kuath Tor,
gateway to the dwarvish highway. This is a fairly quiet and respectable part of
town, although there is a small red-light district centered around Blue's HOP.
Along the Serpentine are several small inns catering to travelers and tourists.
Imposing cliffs over a hundred feet high form a palisade on the west bank of the
river below the terraced streets of old Murska.
Slideside is a disreputable district, home to lower-class lodgings, private
gambling clubs, and Murska's most infamous house of assignation, the Rose. The
fast river current precludes most upriver trade, but smugglers and trappers run
goods down river in canoes from time to time. At Hwar's Landing is a small dock
area and there is a fish market on the street.
The Bridge of Dreams connects the old city with the newer Eastside. This
marvel of dwarvish engineering genius is over three hundred feet in length. It
is supported by a graceful arch of stone. At mid-span, it is nearly a hundred
and fifty feet above the river. The bridge is Murska's most famous landmark, one
of the wonders of the world.
Eastreach is the center for commercial shipping and trade. Much of Murska's
economy is fueled by its access to goods from the dwarvish highway which
surfaces just north of Auldgate. Bulky goods are warehoused in the Eastreach,
guarded by private security. Many of the wealthiest Murskans stable their horses
and keep their hunting dogs and falcons in mews in the area. At the eastern edge
of Eastreach is a large open air market. A small community of Shewish giants
live nearby. On the hill south of Eastreach is Balthor Abbey, a monastery that
makes wine. Their vineyards cover the sunnier slope of Monastery Hill.
The Fire Dragon Inn is at the eastern end of Victory Place, which borders the
common pasture. Several gladiatorial stables have exercise yards in the area so
the after practice trade is brisk. Most merchants visiting Murska stay in the
well-appointed inns in the Eastreach.
The Bottoms is Murska's poorest district, with many unpaved streets and
timber construction instead of the usual half-timber or stone buildings found in
other parts of the city. There are no street lamps and it can be a very
dangerous place after dark. Every spring, when winter snows melt the river
rises, much of the Bottoms floods, turning the area into a quagmire of dark mud.
The meadow below Eastreach slopes to the north and west toward the creek and
river respectively. Beyond the valley in all directions there are more rugged
hills. The Zensu road goes through the only easily traversable pass into the
valley. Think Yosemite valley and you'll have a good idea what the hills and
mountain look like--all rugged white and grey granite, worm smooth in places by
the action of the wind, rain, and snow.
The surrounding hills are called the Three Sisters (Avhka, Swovka and Medka).
They are still forested with huge bluewood trees and other conifers, plus a mix
of a few aspens, birches, and the like. There are several waterfalls which run
down into the valley. The largest is called the Veil of Tears. A small wood
behind the mill has been preserved as a sacred place dedicated to the worship of
Dannesjoh Quickhand, the woodland god of the Shohoma.
The climate in Murska is relatively mild, given that the river level is at
4,000 ft. The Three Sisters and Mt. Khadizhan shelter the city from the worst of
the winter storm patterns. The mountain peak is often shrouded in clouds. Snow
is common in winter but blizzard conditions are rare. During the spring and
fall, evening fogs rise up from the valley. Summer weather is mostly sunny with
temperatures in the comfortable high 60s to low 80s at mid-afternoon. There are
occasional thunderstorms in the summer.
Murska trades manufactured goods and the riches of the dwarvish realms for
food and other necessities. Murskan craftsmen excel in the manufacture of tools
and mechanical devices, optical equipment, jewelry, and fine furniture. Many
fine gem cutters, silver and goldsmiths make their home here. Murska's best
known export is its elaborate clocks, prized throughout Alastari. The bluewood
timber cut commercially is used only in local construction and woodworking
because of transportation difficulties. Murskans burn relatively little wood,
relying on a variety of fuels, included firestone (a high-grade oil shale),
methane (produced by composting), and coal.
Most of Murska's food comes from outside the valley. A village called Wyckham
a few miles east provides grain and livestock. Murska Mountain Blue cheese made
from goat's milk is aged in caves around the valley in the abandoned mine shafts
in Avhka Hill. The dwarvish underground kingdoms provide rare delicacies
including several types of tasty mushrooms and herbs. Goats are herded in the
hills. Many city folk raise chickens, pigs, and rabbits to supplement the food
Hunting and the cutting of timber is regulated by the Wildwatch, an
organization that functions as part forest ranger, part military scout/irregular
commando force. Members of the Wildwatch are expert trackers and hunters,
spending months at a time away from civilization. They are Murska's distant
warning system and first line of defense against monsters and outside military
aggression. Most "watchers" are fluent in several languages. The Wildwatch has
many non-humans in its ranks.
Murska is governed by a Council of Burghers. By treaty, the Shohomi and
Sunwalker clans retain a seat on the council. Other burghers represent the major
craft guilds, the priesthood and the various boroughs of the city. In all there
are some twenty burghers. Burghers are selected by their constituencies, usually
by a popular vote. Terms of service on the council vary. A challenge for the
office can be made any time after the first year of the term. Most burghers hold
the office for 5 or more years. Recall elections are rare but not unheard of.
Most of the power is concentrated in the Five: his Honor, the First Speaker,
chosen from among the burghers to lead them, functioning as mayor at most
important city functions; the Guilder, chief spokesman for all the craft guilds;
the Shohomi, who represents the Shewish people; the Trader, the dwarvish
representative; and the Guide, who speaks for the religious community and is
often a seer. In cases of a tie, the First Speaker casts the deciding vote.
Council meetings are closed to the public unless a majority of the burghers
demand an open meeting.
The People of Murska:
The majority of Murskans are humans who trace their roots to Harkeny
ancestors who made the Long Trek. They have fair complexions and dark brown or
black hair and eyes. Many Frafrejans have made their way to Murska over the
years, seeking a better life. A few Murskans display Frafrejan heritage in their
fair hair and pale eyes. The city boasts large dwarvish and Shewish giant
communities, which give the city a broad cultural base. Almost every type of
intelligent being is welcome in Murska, provided they are willing to live in
peace with their neighbors. A noted exception are demons and the Priests of
Kjarran. An angry mob once hurled such a priest off the cliffs. The street where
it happened is now called Karnhorn's End.
In their everyday dealings, Murskans have a reputation for plain speech and
sharp trading. They have little use for titles or nobility, and respect a man
for his achievements, not his "breeding." (This is less true in upper class
social circles.) Murskans are fiercely proud of their status as freemen, and
they abhor the institution of slavery and those that profit by it.
Most Murskans spend many hours a day going up and down stairs, which
increases their stamina and gives them great leg muscles. (They claim this makes
them better lovers.) The clean mountain air and water promote a remarkably
healthy citizenry. Murskans are a cheerful people, fond of singing, dancing and
storytelling. The Harkeny have a rich oral tradition which survives in Murska,
and a good storyteller is always a welcome guest. The long association with the
dwarves has encouraged a love for mechanical puzzles, such as puzzle locks.
The Murska valley is dominated by Mount Khadizhan, which rises over two
thousand yards above the river. The weathered white-grey granite mountain is the
only true mountain in the Welginkandar range of hills, although the natives of
the area prefer to think of the larger hills as mountains as well. The older
parts of Murska are built directly on a mountain bluff. The main square sits at
an elevation of forty-five hundred feet.
The three large hills forming an arc from north to east are called the Three
Sisters. Avhka, the northern hill, is known to the dwarves as "Round Top Hill."
It was the site of the original settlement in the valley, when dwarves mined the
hill for silver. The other sisters are called Swovkha and Medka. These hills and
the mountain protect the valley from harsh winds and the worst of the weather,
giving the valley its relatively mild climate.
There are many streams and creeks feeding into the Welgin Tei. At the head of
Mill Creek is the Veil of Tears, an impressive waterfall which runs in the early
spring and through the rainy season. To the north of Murska is Clear Lake,
forming the headwaters of the Welgin Tei. The Great Falls spill from the
southern tip of the lake, the river falling some five hundred feet in a less
than an eighth of a mile in a cataract of white water. Every year a few lives
are lost to drowning in the dangerous river.
At the eastern end of the valley is the East Gap, where the Zensu Road passes
out of the valley. From the gap the road bends south, then southwest. Several
small farming villages lie to the south and east of Murska, Wyckham being the
closest. About a day's ride southwest the road rejoins the river at Fhar's
Station, then continues on west to Zensu. Most goods are loaded onto sturdy
riverboats at Fhar's Station and sent down river to Zensu and other cities
rather than continuing overland.
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