In all the lands of the Free Cities, nothing compares with the elegantly-conceived thoroughfare that is Regency Boulevard. The centerpiece and crown jewel of the city's Palace District, this architectural marvel was designed in the aftermath of the great plague that had ravaged the Free Cities in the previous century. Although it took a lifetime to complete, few would claim that the time was ill-spent.
This beautiful promenade owes its genius to Master Thraso Burgage, the most prominent architect of his time. He had the vision and drive to tear down a portion of the old city walls and lay out a wide roadway leading from the businesses of Guilders Court and a new palace built over the ruins of the archaic keep that had once dominated the city's horizon.
Master Burgage envisioned a route both wide and stately, gently curving along the hill below the new palace. Each side of the road was lined with realistic statuary depicting ancient heroes and champions, and the grand buildings along its length house the city's great guilds, prominent temples, businesses, and the mansions of the powerful, each an elegant structure built of the creamy white stone favored by the local nobility. Tiles fired of the pale, golden clay found in the region cover the roofs and form fanciful roundels on the buildings façades.
Houses of the Guilds
These mighty structures are monuments to the authority of the region's influential merchants and tradesmen. Solid and imposing, the most prominent guilds in the land make their homes in these palatial buildings. Organizations housed on this street include the Ancient Brotherhood of Masons and Stonecrafters, the Liberal Association of Colliers (which controls the importation of coal in the city), the Ironmongers’ Guild, the Humane Union of Woolsorters and Dexters, and the Merchant Adventurers.
Most prominent among these guildhouses is that of the Ancient Brotherhood of Masons and Stonecrafters, which Master Burgage ensured was constructed with particular attention to detail. The current guildmaster, Anders Storron, is one of the most powerful men in the trade-dominated city. If rumor can be believed, the elderly quarryman has connections in every corner of the land, dictating even to the King himself. The intricately carven stonework of the airy structure contrasts sharply with the battered clothing affected by even the most prominent guild members. While the members of neighboring guilds look down their noses at the unsightly attire of the industrious masons, none can gainsay their far-reaching influence.
The Liberal Association of Colliers, which began as a humble organization seeking to protect miners from the abuses common to that hard trade, has risen in influence and power as the people of the Free Cities grew more dependent upon the miners toil for their fuel. Their leader, Bevill Rodesson, is a deceptively youthful man that exudes upper-class arrogance. While he has tried to forge alliances with the lesser guilds to protect his guilds newfound prominence, he lacks the diplomatic acumen needed for the task. Aristocratic landowners and mine operators throughout the region have recently demanded concessions from the guild, and few expect Rodesson to remain after the resulting showdown.
Only the most prominent of guilds maintain their guildhouses on Regency Boulevard. A number of less influential guilds have been forced to settle for simple offices within the buildings of other, more prestigious organizations. The notoriously corrupt Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Millers and Simnelers is one such group. These folk, frequently named in connection with the regions seediest and most unsavory business affairs, have somehow repeatedly been denied royal authorization to purchase any of the elegant buildings that line the boulevard. While their reputation may daunt the lesser officials of the area, those surrounding the Crown were offended by the guildsmens clumsy attempts at intimidation and have decided to stonewall them indefinitely.
The Public Houses
Several taverns and alehouses are found along the length of Regency Boulevard. These businesses each share several characteristics: They are clean, well-staffed, and grossly overpriced.
The Sauvage Tavern is easily recognized by the life-sized painted wooden statue of a robed desert dweller wearing an odd Sallvian headdress on its roof. Apparently copied from a fanciful woodcut representing the sauvages of that distant land, this colorful statue is easily spotted from hundreds of yards away. Located quite near the quarters of the Crown Guards, the rank and file of the Guards have been forbidden entry (after numerous brawls and altercations), so it has become a preferred watering hole for the palace servants and the staff from the High Court of Justice. Several local officials have tried for years to have the garish statue on the roof torn down, but the proprietors friends among the clientele regularly misplace the relevant documents before the magistrates can act on them.
The Buxom Queen Alehouse picked up its sobriquet from the rather creative portrait of the 5th Century Queen Inatta hanging above the door. Although the formidable woman was known for her beauty, the sign exaggerates her virtues out of all measure. This alehouse has become the preferred gathering place for members of the Crown Guard. Although they are a well-behaved group (by military standards), the innkeeper is currently involved in a suit against several members of the Guards over the destruction of his fine front windows of clear bulls-eye glass.
The Two Dragons, a large and well-appointed establishment, is adjacent to the Golden Crown Playhouse. Co-owned by several of the Playhouses backers, it has become popular with the patrons of that place, who frequently gather at the Two Dragons before attending a play or to eat afterward. While the theatres staff are offered a discount on the food to encourage their attendance at the tavern, few of the actors can afford even the reduced prices.
The Golden Crown Playhouse
Further up the avenue, nobles and guildsmen alike flock to fill the seats of the Golden Crown Playhouse. Commonly known as "The Cock Pit", this theatre is actually quite sumptiously appointed. The structure’s leaky roof has large panels that may be removed to let in sunlight and fresh air when the weather permits. Sturdy benches fill the galleries where the merchants and guild members are seated; the loftier galleries are filled with comfortable chairs for the gentry. The structure’s floor offers what is perhaps the best view, but is most subject to the weather’s vagaries. It is crowded with the "groundlings": apprentices, students, and workers that pay only a penny to see the bawdy comedies and other plays that delight both noble and villein. The theatre’s master, Baldrick Fallnose, is notorious for his determination to import the finest talent available for his stage, even if he must search every bawdy house and low tavern in the city to achieve his goal.
Regency Boulevard houses the citys embassy from the Hegemony, a bellicose empire to the east of the Free Cities. This heavily-fortified structure is home to a large staff of diplomats and functionaries (most of whom serve as spies) with a number of guards and soldiers. Its exterior has been remodeled extensively from the original designs of Master Burgage, with carefully considered bands of bas-relief sculpture added to the buildings exterior walls. These decorative strips celebrate great works of the old Empires most famous emperors, showing them planning aqueducts and conquering savage barbarians. One who examined the bands in detail would clearly see their message, the idea that the Empire brought peace and plenty wherever it ruled. Since the Hegemon regards himself as the obvious successor to the old emperors, the arts implied message is clear.
The Hegemony is known for its subtle diplomacy and cruel manipulations, and the embassy staff exemplify everything they are famous for. Their leader, Lord Karrehler, is as subtle as he is shrewd. A mage of no small ability, he surrounds himself with numerous small enchantments of protection and persuasion. Even without his magical abilities, the physically-unimposing man is a formidable diplomat, armed with encyclopedic knowledge of the region and an impressive command of oratory and rhetoric. Few emerge from his presence unimpressed by his powers of persuasion.
Several members of the embassy staff are agents of the Hegemonic Inquisition, grim clerics known for their careful investigations. These quiet inquisitors keep extensive records of suspected heretics that have fled to the Free Cities from the realms of the Hegemon. They look forward with cruel anticipation to the day when the Hegemon forces the Free Cities of Terrock into his empire and these heretics face the justice that they have previously eluded.
Additional offices found on the boulevard include the embassies of several of the other minor kingdoms of the balkanized peninsula. Each of these places tends to have a small staff of courtiers and diplomats, whose time is generally taken up with matters of trade.
The Crown House
While the Crowns financial affairs and the business of government take place within the Office of the Exchequer in the palace, a great deal of the realms income is generated by the licensing of moneychangers and the Crown House, one of the most powerful banking houses in the region. First established by an alliance of prominent guilds, and then given preferential legal status by the King, this financial house provides financial services for many of the most powerful guilds and organizations in the Free Cities. While a number of competing banks exist, the monarchs of neighboring regions have largely come to accept the dominance of Crown House in financial circles. These rulers now receive considerable amounts of revenue in exchange for the near-monopolistic legal advantages they are able to offer the bank.
Crown House, despite its prominence, does not maintain massive hoards of currency on the premises. Much of the money in their care is distributed among other banking houses and secured within the vaults of royal strongholds. What currency they do possess is carefully secured, however, with formidable physical and magical wards and guardians. One of these mysterious defenses is believed to be a gigantic animated sculpture within the magically-sealed depths of the bank. This massive golden statue of a ferocious dragon-winged lion physically swallows much of the money and regurgitates it upon demand from the banks officials.
The High Court of Justice
The Citys High Court of Justice is a building of pale stone, decorated with a frieze of the ancient goddess of Justice administering judgment upon the wicked and avenging the righteous. Before the buildings large courtyard, a massive statue of King Senach the Lawgiver stands, its traditionally stoic face looking somewhat dyspeptic, as if his digestion had been disturbed by the passing attorneys and lawspeakers.
Within these halls, a number of the regions Lawspeakers sit court, led by the infamously harsh Malvo Crewlbatter, the Provincial High Lawspeaker. He is ably assisted by his pallid and unpleasant clerk, Parrick Woolcozen, who ensures that the cases brought before him are worthy of his attention and diverts other cases to lesser courts. Many are glad to escape the judgment of Lawspeaker Crewlbatter, whose detailed examination and remorseless punishment of malefactors is legendary.
The Cathedral of St. Guinan the Dolorous
Immediately adjacent to the palace, the impressive tower of the Cathedral of St. Guinan the Dolorous can be seen. The churchs interior is everywhere adorned with wondrous artwork, commissioned by Bishop Wenzel in the early years of his appointment. Quite an esthete, this busy churchman surrounds himself with the beautiful and elegant; he is the patron of some of the lands greatest artists. The Bishop drives himself and the clergy under his supervision with as much energy as he devotes to the art he loves; his harried underlings can often be seen as they hurry about the city, busy on various missions for their demanding bishop. Bishop Wenzel is not known for leniency; those failing in their duties to the church will be sternly brought to task, whether their failing was as minor as missing services one morning, or as severe as neglecting to tithe properly.
Ironlord Hall: The Quarters of the Guards
Across from the Cathedral lies Ironlord Hall, the headquarters of the Crown Guard. A walled stronghold appended to the palace, this small garrison quarters the picked troops of the palace guards. Within the compound, several buildings provide housing for the troops and their mounts, ranging from Ironlord Hall itself, which is used for housing officers, to various barracks, stables, and support buildings. Each of the buildings has been given an appropriately warlike name, but most of the structures are known by absurd nicknames: For example, Courageous Hall is better known as Cawage Hall (in memory of an unfortunate incident with a lisping nobleman that addressed the troops). The whole walled compound is generally referred to as Ironlord Hall, but members of the Guards will invariably refer to it as The Stronghold.
Although the fortifications of this garrison are significant, their placement would allow a force holding the palace to easily reduce the attached stronghold. Master Burgage took no chances that his design would be used to launch a coup attempt. He planned the garrison as a solid base for a force dealing with civil unrest within the city, not a citadel meant to withstand a serious siege.
Newcourt, the Kings summer palace, dominates the hill above Regency Boulevard. Those comparing it to the beautiful structures and arches that line the rest of the boulevard consider it to be substandard, a building that tries to be all things at once and condemns itself to mediocrity.
Newcourt was the final structure on the boulevard to begin construction, delayed for years by the Herculean task of clearing away the ruinous old keep that had previously occupied the site. Before construction of the palace had begun, Master Burgages health had declined; his place was then taken by Mssrs. Thackrose and Thane, architects less interested in completing Master Burgage’s vision than in imposing their own ideas on the project. These men made numerous changes to Master Burgages original plans, construction short cuts that would supposedly hasten completion of the palace.
Unfortunately, Thackrose and Thane eventually proved to be as unscrupulous as they were vain. Rumor soon began circulating that their "short cuts" had allowed them to divert massive amounts of money from the project, enriching themselves at the expense of the Crown. It was rumored that their peculation was responsible for the shoddy construction that marred the structures hallmark façade, and even worse, they failed to fully clear the foundations of the old keep as originally planned. Their shortcuts caused portions of the palace to eventually settle and crack, ruining many of the elaborate mythological frescos that decorated the interior.