The first that I notice is the stench. This city reeks, from the stinking brown river to the heaps of garbage by the sides of the cobblestone roads. There are bands of pigs, some as mangy and wild as feral dogs that roam the avenues. I guess they eat the garbage that the locals throw out. Congratulations Vardipor, you've turned all your trash into pig crap. The stuff is everywhere. At least there are a few carts with men and flat shovels, they make a show at cleaning up the filth.

Cooley the Wanderer

City Image: Old Vardipor

The city of Old Vardipor, more often known as the City of Pigs or just Var'por, is a relict of the golden Imperial Age. During those halcyon years the city sat at the nexus of three major trade routes and was a center of trade and commerce. Most of the ‘old city' portion of Old Vardipor is well made stonework. The most common stone used was a local variety of yellow limestone. This material is not in common use any longer as most of the quarreys have long since flooded. The price of reclaimed Vardipor limestone is moderate as the stone is of good quality but there is little demand for it.

  • Hogsheart

The heart of Vardipor, originally called the Caravanasary or just the Common Ward, is now called Hogsheart. The most dominant feature of the ward is the large open commons in the middle. The entire ward is paved, and the buildings and shops appear in irregular clusters resembling copses on trees on an open plain. The buildings have raised sidewalks in front of them and these walkways are enclosed by waist high stone balustrade. During the height of the city's commercial power, these walkways allowed pedestrians safety while going about their business and seperated them from the flow of drawn wagons and carriages. Now, these stone railings keep the pigs out of the shops and the raised walkways keep shoes and boots free of pig crap.

The Dram-Flow bisects the ward, and the city in general. In the vicinity of Vardipor, the river is a sluggish expanse of tepid brown water, carrying a few barges and assorted small boats. The fishing is poor as the constant run-off of porcine and human waste have fouled the river. Many of the pigs that are brought in the city arrive in barges and are unloaded directly into the processing centers of Hogsheart. The river itself is considered unsuitable for long distance travel and trade as to the south it drains out into a fetid swamp that is unnavigatable. In the north, the Dram-Flow is rife with sand bars, debris that snags ships and the river spirits in general are rather hostile to humans.

  • Vauskhyll District

The Vauskhyll District is the largest and most densely populated part of Vardipor. The buildings have grown tall and crowd one another, creating mazes of alleyways, side streets and urban grottoes. The architecture here was originally all stonework palaces and later larger tenement style block houses. The stone foundations remain, most of which are rarely ever more than three levels high. In the years since masonry went out of business in the city, woodwork and add-on construction have raised some of these old buildings to as much as five and six levels high. There are some streets and corners that due to the tall crowded buildings, never see the light of the sun and live in perpetual twilight.

Most of the district is composed of craftsmen and laborers who work in the Hogsheart processing the pigs that are brought in on the river barges. The rest are businesses and guilds that tend to the needs of the workers. Brothels, taverns, flop-houses, and dives are scattered through the district like rat droppings. Most of these establishments are grimy and in need of cleaning, and the buyer should most certainly beware.

  • Droph District

Located south of the Hogsheart, Droph is considered the poorest and most filthy part of Old Vardipor. The houses are all relatively new and entirely made of wood. Most of the district, aside from a few gates in the city wall and stone buildings for the Guard and a few slumlords, is ramshackle construction. The poor indeed infest Droph like a plague of locusts. There is no paving on the roads, and in wet weather it becomes a morasse of mud, and feces. The district is rife with crime, petty theft and vandalism. Law enforcement is almost nil, and as such many juvenile gangs make their abodes in Droph, and there are several proto-thieves guilds in the area.

Beyond the boundaries of the Droph district lie large swaths of marginal farmland. While the inhabitants of Vauskhyll labor over the flesh and blood of pigs, Drophers as they are called, labor over meager harvests from the land. The soil itself is fertile enough, but t

  • Grobstyr

Grobstyr is much like Vauskhyll in nature and demeanor, old stone buildings and crowded haphard walkways. It is the administrative core of the city, and houses many of the city's wealthy and elite.

Old Vardipor began as a caravanasary on the east to west Spice road. This overland trade route carried mostly textiles and grain east out of the Imperial breadbasket, and spices, peppers, and rare components for magic west. Once the foundations of the city were made and a garrison was in place, it wouldn't be long before new trade routes grew to take advantage of this location. A route sprang up leading south out of the rolling mountains bringing finished metal goods, ingots of quality but unworked metal, and the gems and treasures of the mountains. Trade increased as these traders took home the pungent peppers of the east and grain from the west. Trade flourished and the city grew even larger. A third trade route grew, this one from the fens and swamplands of the south. Two products came, rice and pigs on the hoof. These animals were hardy swamp swine and were resistant to disease and were not at all picky aobut what they ate. It was soon obvious that the road-ready swamp pigs were a superior source of meat than the rangy Pralendian goats or reedy legged highland cattle. The Swine Road turned the old Pepper Road and the Vardipor trading station into one of the main arteries of trade for Palisander instead of a secondary route for old grain and leftover cloth.

This age of prosperity grew the city until it was large enough that a new expansion was demanded, more than just builing onto the already sprawling outer wards. The foundations of a new city wall were erected two miles from the edge of the now dubbed Old Vardipor. New Vardipor would be the focal point of eastern trade, commerce, and usury, while the bulk of the sweating, cursing, and hard labor would be confined to Old Vardipor. The Dram-Flow river seperated the two cities, and the two were connected by a pair of stone bridges. Eventually the two cities grew together, and Old Vardipor outlasted New Vardipor and just Vardipor.

The city was left in terrible shape after the Nightmare War decimated the empire and shattered the old capitol. The once massive flow of trade vanished almost overnight, and the city that made it's living selling pork and spices to the capitol was rocked a second time. The streets were littered with bodies, both porcine and human alike from the horrors inflicted during the conflict. The bodies were cleaned up, but without trade, the food supply dwindled. Things became dire, and while many fled the city for the outlying farming communities, it was a dangerous proposition. While the war was over, there were still monsters, bandits, and horrific things left over still lurking outside the walls and guards of the cities.

People stayed, and faced with the prospect of starvation, the people turned from pork to long pork. Cannibalism was rampant for a short time. This wasn't a long term issue, as after a while people began to return to Old Vardipor to trade, and they brought food and other goods with them, because it was the closest city they had to trade with. Eventually the city stabilized itself, and the cannibalism and other horrors were buried in the past. The swineherds and tanners went back to work, and the mills were turning out flour for bread again.

The people of the city never forgot the hard times, the fall after the war, and the hardships that followed. They celebrate a Day of the Pig celebration, Pogpesch Day. There are celebrations, heavy drinking, and tables are set heavy with feasts. Some people will dress up in outlandish costumes, monsters and demons from the war, and there is music and dancing in the street. The common folk will wear different masks, with pig masks and skull masks being the most common.

The Darker Side

Pogpesch Day is generally a happy, if slightly morbid holiday, but like all such things there is a much darker side. The more ritualistic and religiously minded carried a tradition of ritual cannibalism into the celebration for centuries after the Nightmare war. These groups would take a freshly dead body (typically a criminal recently executed) and would then clean, bless, then dress the carcass, and cook it. Rather than feasting, the members would take a single bite, consuming the flesh of one of their fellows to remember the horror and shock of what their ancestors did to survive.

This religious tradition faded away, suppressed and buried by the member of the Trinitine church. But there were some who carried on with the tradition. The Gourmands of Old Vardipor found the pomp and circumstance of the rare feast exciting, and they found and tasked the best chefs they could find with the challenge of creating the best and most exotic dishes from the most common of animals, man. Once the dish is served, typically on gold trays, with crystal goblets and the best wines, the meal turns into an animalist bacchanal. The Gourmands wear the pig masks, and they eat with knives and their bare hands. Men and women alike, gorged on human flesh and drunk on wine will often turn to each other and fornicate wildly, often under the influence of rare spices and exotic drugs.

The next morning, save for a few strange bruises and hangovers, none would expect that these upright, stoic, pillars of the community, scions of the wealthy families, and other people of prominence, would be involved in such depravity.

Author's Note:

Old Vardipor has a character much like New Orleans, a working class city, stained with a dark past (cannibalism versus slavery) and from that a vibrant community, reknowned for its arts and street performers, but also known for having a dark streak. In such a place, large and wet with blood, human and animal alike, it is easy to find organized crime, vampires, assassins for hire, in the same context as a soaring cathedral, deeply religious festivals, displays of vulgar wealth juxtaposed next to demonstrations of deep poverty.

All under the image of the pig.

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