Arylon: A River Town
by Scott Bonner
Tower description by Jade Williams
Twelve-thirty-five DR was a difficult year, destructive and terrifying to the young city of Arylon. It brought orcs from the north, and much was laid low before the invaders could be pushed out. In many ways, this invasion was rebirth for the community, wiping much of its long history away like flotsam from a wrecked ship.
The farmers, dock workers, and river tradesmen of Arylon were forced by circumstance to rebuild, almost from barren hills. Only a few neighborhoods in poorer areas, some sturdy stone buildings, and the great stronghold of Mhadanae Sangh still stood. Many old concerns and contentions were forgotten as the city re-formed itself. The orcs, in many ways made the people stronger; the timid died or fled, while the strong-willed stayed. Those who survived and chose to stay rebuilt with determination, and everything from the streets to the government was remade. Most importantly, they began construction on a great defensive wall to replace the wooden palisades the orcs had burned, and redefined themselves from within its bounds. Now they would not be a little trading town-- now they hoped to be a protected city and a power in the area. They became more organized and structured, and more proud with each new stone they placed.
With the new pride came political changes as well as Arylon redefined it's relationship to Amn. By 1238, Arylon paid yearly tribute to Amn but nothing more, capitalizing on internal strife within Amn. Able to make use of the profits from quarry and logging operations for the first time, as well as slave labor from captured orc invaders, the wall was completed in 1241. By 1276, arylon ceased paying even tribute to Amn. For the first time since before any man's memory, Arylon was not under some nation's will.
From 1333 to 1358, much of the town's nature was changed again. This old community, whose fortunes had long risen and fallen with passing armies and the will of other kingdoms, rose again to become a new city nominally under the will of Amn, and the city overflowed its walls. When the Dragonspear Campaign began in earnest, Amn was unable to protect the city, and Arylon had to look north to the Lords' Alliance as well as south to Amn. The Time of Troubles capped these turbulent years, and refugees fled to what they hoped would be safety in isolated Arylon. Arylon became a haven for those fleeing the larger cities, and its community, always diverse, now became cosmopolitan.
Amn left with the war, and the surrounding nations in time gave over governance of the city to its people. To the city's relief, Arylon was again guiding itself. Now a spirit of freedom rose, of independence and of tolerance. Arylon had become cosmopolitan indeed, beyond what any could wish (or fear) for a city its size.
Thus the city is complex and has already grown well beyond the bounds of its walls. Its citizens learned pride and order from the rebuilding and from Amn, acceptance of diverse peoples from the Time of Troubles, and a sort of giddy freedom from its recent independence. Some, the young or optimistic, hope to build into a power of the area and establish a more direct route to the trade way. They hope to nurture growth by opening all manner of trade. The pessimistic look east to Elturel or south-west to Amn and wait for the next conqueror, knowing full well that Arylon survives through its alliances with Baldur's Gate and Scornubel. They grumble at the growing crime that trade money brings, and fear what may come from the Fields of the Dead.
Arylon has become a place for beginnings, but corruption slips under the gate. Arylon is a market town, trade oriented, with fertile farms, a copper mine, and the trade routes to support it.
Arylon is disciplined and orderly on the surface, at least in the northern end, but corrupt just beneath. The impressive discipline and tactics of the Silver Crescents are effective but also rather limited. Small-time racketeering and smuggling (even small thieves guilds) are all too common and difficult for military organization to stop. But, if anything gets big enough that community members know or suspect it exists, or big enough to exert control, the Crescents are extremely swift and effective in returning order.
The city's recent chaotic history has eliminated nobles as Cormyr may define them, but it has many wealthy families trying to claim the title, more by money than land, and trying to reassert the power nobility once held. Most citizens are poor or comfortable, but a few are very rich. Slowly, a middle class of sorts is growing, expanding with trade and immigrants coming to Arylon to either retire or start fresh.
In many ways the wall divided the city even as it united its people. Wards have become sharply defined where before they were vague. The city is now made of five distinct wards. Inner Ward lies to the north at the crest of a gradual rise, nestled between the main wall and the inner wall that divides the city from east to west. Dock Ward lies also within the main wall, covering that gentle rise and reaching into the waters of River Chionthar. These "closed" wards, within the great wall, are truly the heart of Arylon. Most citizens of Arylon reside here, the Crescents have immense authority, and the government shapes its laws with these wards first in mind. These wards are stable, changing little from one trade season to another.
Outside the main wall, spreading out from each of the three gates, lie the open wards, each changing size and shape with the seasons and trade. To the north of the city, near the gate built next to Mahdanae Sang, lies Field Ward. From the River Gate to the west, stretching along the river, lies Trade Ward, sometimes referred to as River Ward, after the River Gate. From Sunrise Gate to the east, also along the river, lies Sunrise Ward. These open wards are dirty and busy, with some places more honest than others. The government is slower to consider them, and the Silver Crescents are limited in what they can do without a wall to control access to a given ward. Here many of the common people live. Most who live in the open wards work in them, with a minority working in Dock Ward and a few working as servants and trade apprentices in Inner Ward.
Here is where the first human settlers came, after Mahdanae Sang was built, and where the city is still busiest. Here trade thrives, from the docks to the inner wall and from Sunrise Gate to River Gate. Warehouses, docks, coaster offices, business offices, and the less delicate or legal businesses reside here. This is where companies are managed and people toil, where crimes are committed and people scheme.
Here is the heart of the city, where the money is made and corruption seethes. The veneer of order is extremely thin, and its inhabitants often snicker when the city council tries to exert control; the Crescents rule as much by force as by right in the seamier parts of the ward. Dock Ward merchants and traders make some profit from the nearby Trade Way, but bigger profits come from the conflicts between Elturel and Scornubel, as traders moving product from Scornubel to the sea use Arylon to bypass Elturel. Some small crime guilds can be found by the sly, as well as many seedy businesses. However, Dock Ward is also full of hard working, sweaty, poor citizens, trying to make a decent living amid the corruption, and occasionally falling in with the immoral to make a bit more money. Notable in its seediness and the ignorance and prejudice of its residents is the Rivergate Community (see the series of submissions by Scott Bonner), just inside the western edge of Dock Ward. In contrast, the same ward houses the hope-filled Erevel Community (see the series of submissions by Jade Williams).
Dock Ward is relatively poor, with much of the huge profits flowing north to Inner Ward even as the cargo flows out of the city. Little thought was given to organizing Dock Ward as the city was rebuilt, since many of the neighborhoods that survived the orc attacks were here, revealing the city's disorder before the wall. The streets run crooked, winding between old communities and newer warehouses, lined with taverns and shops that cater to river traders. The oldest street of all, River Way, still lays along the Chionthar, separating the docks from the warehouses and echoing the path once worn by mules hauling barges upriver. A few other streets were cut as the city rebuilt, but most have sprung up by chance rather than by design.
Arylon's Inner Ward wealthy, secured within the wall, are imbued with that haughty and fearful quality so indicative of the new rich. All the political and social action goes on here, surrounding the seat of city government and the houses of families who became wealthy from trading or farming. Here monuments are built to honor the powerful or heroic of Arylon's past, and gardens carved from the expensive real estate display the power and prestige of their owners. Where Dock Ward is built from wood, Inner Ward is built from stone gathered in quarries to the east and south. Many of the buildings show the influence of Amn, with the variety of southern architecture marking which stage of Arylon's growth the structure was built in.
The most striking feature of the ward, besides Mahdanae Sang, is the impressive Arylon Park, a long mall stretching from Promenade Gate north to government buildings, including the imposing Justice Hall. Here are fountains, statues, open greens, and many Silver Crescents to protect them all.
Many of the family houses, especially those along the inner wall that divides the closed wards, are large and impressive, reflecting the wealth and aspirations of Arylon's elite. A few are true manor houses, serving as the central home of a given family, but most are cottages with gardens designed to serve as working homes to extend the sway of the older families based out of mansions outside of town. Here also are the elite shops, skilled artisans, and providers of luxury items.
This is the northernmost ward of the city, stretching north from Field Gate near Mahdanae Sang and spreading as far as the trade seasons allow. Field Ward is the smallest of the open wards, and the most established. There is a curious mix of tentwork dwellings and very solidly built homes. Most of the tents are larger, owned and used by overland traders to house wagons and goods without investing as much money in the somewhat iffy river trade. Permanent dwellings are rare, and all are owned by citizens of Arylon except for the farmer's market, which is owned by the city (see "Arylon Market" by Koby Nachamias). The market consists of a circular stone wall with open-air stalls for rent. The walls of all long-standing structures are thick stone, at least on the first floor, to protect citizens in case the Order of the Sphinx fails to stop some undead creature. Both the Crescents and the Order patrol heavily here as it is the primary route that attackers have used to reach Arylon.
Crime is relatively rare, though criminal organizations that prey on the Trade Way may pass through or even be based here. Any brigand group based here will not last long, though, with Crescents and Order members crossing their path.
Trade Ward extends west from River Gate, and covers more land than the other open wards. It is focused on sending out large shipments; there is little room for small businesses that cannot compete with the larger organizations, capable of shipping goods to distant Baldur's Gate and dealing directly with the ocean-going captains who will take the goods much, much further out. It has more permanent structures, larger warehouses to gather goods in and its own docks. It also holds the Dwarven Quarter, where most of Arylon's Dwarven residents eventually settle (see the series of submissions by Jim Millington).
There is a strong southern influence in architecture and social mores, as humans from southern lands often settle here to handle trade for merchants headed south. Corruption and crime are more industrial, with major illegal shipping rather than small-time crime. After all, small crime may bring the Crescents, so the successfully corrupt have a vested interest in keeping small-timers clean. Illegal slaves may pass through this ward if they can pass at all. A citizen can walk the streets safely, but it remains the most corrupt ward; the Crescents, after all, are based on the opposite side of the city.
Sunrise Ward extends east from Sunrise Gate. It was the first of the open wards to spring up, and has the largest population. It looks solidly east, focusing on Elturel, Scornubel, and the river itself.
Sunrise Ward is sometimes rough, taking in all manner of criminals as illegal goods move in from nearby Elturel and Scornubel, both by land and by river. Goods from the eastern cities are unloaded and repackaged in Sunrise Ward before being moved into the city. This is also the first stop for spies from Arylon's rival, Elturel. However, Sunrise Ward does not have established and feared corruption like Dock Ward; it houses the late-comers to the street-crime and illegal trade markets. Sunrise Ward has a mix of small tent structures, some solid buildings with taverns and trade-focused businesses, and a few large warehouses, both solid and tent, for the occasional large shipment from Scornubel or Elturel.
Construction began in 1235 D.R. and ended in 1241. The wall circles three sides of the city, all except the river's edge. In addition, an inner wall was built following the top of the rise to separate Inner Ward from Dock Ward, building up from the ruins of an ancient wall long since fallen.
The wall sits atop a long defensive mound, approx. 10 feet high. The wall itself is an additional 10 feet high, with 5 foot crenellations on the outer edge (for description purposes, the southern edge of the inner wall serves as an outer edge). Each section of wall is 6 feet thick, with layered stone-earth-stone construction, and a walkway across the top. (See the picture of the wall around York at the Arylon Web Site for inspiration). Towers, two floors high, are built at each junction. They open onto the walls, and the roof is twenty feet from the top of the mound. These towers have narrow, one-man exits at ground level, with solid oak doors and tight passages to the walls. Flower beds line the ground on the inner side, with no buildings allowed within 20 yards of the wall. On the outer side is open grass, with no permanent construction allowed within 150 yards and no tents within 75 yards.
There are three gates breaching the outer wall. Field gate is to the north, near Mahdanae Sang. Sunrise Gate is to the east, near the river's edge. River Gate is to the west, also near the river's edge. Along the inner wall are 3 additional gates; from west to east Merchant Gate, Promenade Gate, and Noble Gate, more or less evenly spaced. Each outer gate is 20 feet high, 20 feet wide, and nearly 3 feet thick, made of iron-bound oak. The inner gates are the same size, but only half as thick. (see sketches of gatehouses on the Arylon Web Site; the top left one shows Field, Sunrise and River Gates. The top right picture shows the gate style for the inner wall.)
On the highest land of the city, the northwest corner, stands the imposing stronghold of Mahdanae Sang, or "stone fist". Serving as the anchor for the defensive wall, this medium-sized keep houses the Silver Crescents and serves as the staging ground for city defences. With the final form designed by some of the best military planners in Amn, it has stood in some form since the early days of Arylon, before the orc invasion of 1235 D.R. and before the defensive stone wall was built.
To the south, across the river, is peaceful country, with a few farms and estates, and no one too close to the Woods of Sharp Teeth except the druids themselves. Arylon holds no power over the river, though the city places scouts to watch for attack when necessary.
On the plains east of the Woods of Sharp Teeth are the farms and estates of wealthy families. Often these families will maintain their own barges for crossing the river, in hopes of avoiding the rough river traders. Also, a mule track for hauling barges against the current lies along the southern edge of the river, as well as the Mill District (see submissions by Mark Oliva). Finally, just below Sunrise Ward on the south bank stands a deserted tower (see below).
To the north, east, and west are villa estates and family holdings. Here is where the new rich practice their roles. Any road connecting Arylon and the Trade Way will not have rich homes near it, as the wealthy prefer winding country lanes with no common ruffians passing by each day. Instead, the main roads are lined with small businesses and small-time farmers. To the east-northeast of Sunrise Ward lies the thriving farming community of Arylon's Tail.
Further out are more small time farmers and a few large, feudal farms owned by the same families who own the villas. These farms often have small walls around the house, to keep out undead. The outer lands to the northwest also hold mines and quarries, as well as a road-side inn or two to accommodate adventurers looking for plunder in the Fields of the Dead. Around each mine and quarry a small settlement of workers and their families has sprung up, with constant trade between the mines and the city, with traders mostly exchanging copper and stone for daily goods. These mine owners also ship goods north, along Soubar's Ride to the trade way, and east, through Sunrise ward and down the river to Scornubel.
This squat, square tower is a relic from the Dragonspear Wars. When the hordes from Castle Dragonspear were raiding the caravan routes during the early days of fighting, the allied commanders feared that they may press ahead and take control of one of the towns along the Trade Way. If this happened, they would have a direct route to Baldur's Gate, and from there to the entire Sword Coast, effectively surrounding the allied forces arrayed against them.
Arylon was given the task of preventing any troop movement along the river should this happen, and so a series of chains and floats were constructed to block the river.
On the south bank of the river, aligned with the east end of the city wall stood a lone tower -- a relic from long before, when Mahdanae Sang was still being planned. It served the fledgling town as a watch post, giving them an eye to the south. With the coming of Dragonspear, dwarven engineers were recruited by the allies to bolster the strength of the tower. They massively reinforced it with an outer stone 'shell'. The dwarves, lead by Theron Starhammer, garrisoned in the tower while they constructed anchoring blocks on the city wall on the opposite shore. From the wall, at this point, heavy chains were attached, and strung across the river to a lever and pulley system in the tower. Built by Gondsmen, this arrangement was designed to haul up the chains and spiked logs from the river bed to a level that would block the river.
To allow continued trade, another pulley system was constructed horizontally around the tower. Dubbed the 'trade gate' this allows barges hauled by mules to be unhooked and manually maneuvered into or out of the city. While it took longer this way, it was considered much safer for the security of the city.
With the end of the war, the surrounding cities (Elturel, Baldur's Gate, and Scornubel) quickly forced through a treaty with Arylon which called for the immediate removal of the chains and prevented any other river-blocking devices being used without the agreement of all the cities. A few nights later, a disturbance in the magical field around Arylon was felt by many of the mages in the city. When the Crescents checked the next morning, they found the tower sealed -- stone blocks filled the doors and windows. There was no sign of Theron or his engineers.
The tower was declared abandoned shortly after; the cost of reopening and keeping it operational was deemed too high by the newly-independent city. As a testament to its dwarven construction, it remains a heavy-set, fortified building, despite it's abandonment. The 'trade gate' remains operational. A city engineer regularly inspects the mechanism, keeping it oiled and cleaned.
The tower remains inviolate since it's abandonment, although recently several interested parties who want to either occupy the tower or open it for exploration have approached the council. The Crescents that patrol the south side of the river keep an eye on the tower to make sure it stays sealed.
Arylon allies itself with Scornubel to the east and Baldur's Gate to the west, forming a convenient stopping point halfway between the southern Trade Way and a sea port for trade with southern coastal kingdoms. This has proven very profitable, with many trading companies stopping to rearrange their loads for the second leg of the long trip or to trade for different goods from Triel, Elturel, or Arylon itself.
However, it has also put Arylon in the midst of the ongoing trade war between Elturel and Scornubel, with Elturel vying to weaken Arylon and therefore cause river craft to push a bit further to Elturel instead of stopping at Arylon and then pushing on to Scornubel. Elturel has yet to threaten Arylon with force, but it moves to influence trade away from Arylon. Scornubel counters by encouraging trade with Arylon and hinting, though not pledging, that they may help if Elturel tries to use force.
A few Arylonian shipping companies also have dealings with traders in Iriaebor to complete the route to Cormyr. Since Amn ceased to rule, there have been hard feelings from Arylonians toward Amn. Officially, Arylon does not recognize Amn, and Amn sees Arylon as an upstart province not worth the effort of retaking. However, merchants from both sides gladly exchange goods along the river.
Arylon also has a healthy trade relationship, though no alliance, with Soubar to the north-east. Here is a shorter route still between the Trade Way and the sea, though Thundar's Ride is not as sure or as safe as the Trade Way. This route has proven convenient for merchants who know they want their wares to go directly from the central Heartlands to the sea, who find river travel more efficient for their wares, and have the clout to deal directly with the powerful coastal cities. This route has also proven effective for traders who wish to circumvent the fees -- or laws -- of Triel and Elturel.
There are other sources of income and trade for the city. Adventurers, drawn by plunder from the Fields of the Dead and rumors of ruins, provide a rich source of income for many businesses in Dock, Sunrise, River, and Trade Wards. Also, Arylon is a common recreation site for northern nobles and wealthy wishing to get away from the politics of the northern cities and the trials of the Trade Way. Finally, there is a strong push from fur traders and logging companies to allow trapping and cutting in the Woods of Sharp Teeth near Arylon, but these efforts are stopped by a protection agreement between the Arylon Council and druids in the woods, as well as by the dangerous animals living there. But, some illegal logging still occurs, with the wood coming into Arylon surreptitiously. Valuable Duskwood is shipped directly east to Elturel.