The City of Cowls
Indiss is a riverside seaport near the mouth of the Ironrock River, about 60 miles southwest of Pelaurios in The Sunlands. One of the busiest seaports in the western kingdoms, Indiss is also one of the youngest of the great cities of the world, having been officially founded 444 years ago, in the 30th Year of the Sun, when Irongild was renamed Pelaurios.
As part of the reconsecration of the city, Pelaurios was declared a sacred place, and sinful activities were banned. Among the forbidden activities were prostitution, gambling, moneychanging, and public drunkenness, and Tieflings, Dragonborn, and all “Folk of the Darkness” (a vague term, probably meant to include the Unseelie, goblinoids, orcs, etc.) were forbidden from even entering the city. Realizing what a terrible impact these new laws would have on the city’s ability to conduct international trade, the King mandated that a new port be founded. A likely spot was searched out, at a bend in the Ironrock near the edge of the delta, where a deep and wide harbor was to be found. This village of fishermen was renamed Indiss, after the mythical Lost City of Yndas somewhere in the swampy delta.
The city grew quickly; wharves and quays were constructed and warehouses and taverns built to house goods and sailors. Fleets of river barges and great caravans of horse drawn wains carried the goods to Pelaurios, while in Indiss, the gamblers and whores that had been turned out of the capital found themselves a veritable paradise. Soon, the nobles of Pelaurios began to construct manors and townhouses on the low ridge to the north of the docks, to indulge the vices they could not enjoy in the capital, and Indiss became known as a playground for the idle rich.
Although the rules restricting moneychanging, gambling, and forbidden races were eventually relaxed in Pelaurios, Indiss had cemented its reputation as a hive of debauchery and decadence and a favorite stop for sailors from around the world, and so it remains the busiest port in the land to this day. The city has weathered the recent unrest in Pelaurios largely unscathed, though the nobility of the city, seeing a chance to increase their own influence, have been clamoring for Lord Mayor Fronc Delain to depose the King and take his place. Lord Fronc refuses, but the clamoring continues. It is only a matter of time before things come to a head.
Today, Indiss boasts a population of over 18,000 souls, mostly humans but with sizable minorities of dwarves, half-elves, and tieflings and a smattering of the other common races, as well as goblins and kobolds. The tieflings, goblins, and kobolds are largely concentrated in the Ratrun, described below; humans are to be found everywhere, while dwarves and half-elves tend to live in the Crescent Ward and Hillside.
Most travelers enter Indiss by ship, and thus, the first district they see is Harbortown. Stretching in a great, narrow arc along the waterfront, Harbortown is three quarters of a mile of flophouses, brothels, warehouses, taverns, gambling dens, markets and vendors all clamoring for a share of a traveler’s attention (and coin.) As one passes north out of Harbortown along the Golden Road, the noisy stalls, taphouses, and markets give way to prosperous shops and houses and fine, upscale inns. This is Hillside, where the better off folk of Indiss live and work. Straddling the line between the two districts is the Field of Honor, Indiss’ arena and temple to Kord. Bloodsport is legal here, although battles to the death are not. Plenty of fighters still manage to die of their wounds anyway.
To the east of Hillside, a sharp ridge of black rock curves from the north to the east. Fifty feet high, it is unmarked by any road or stair; the only way up is around, along the Golden Road. At the top of the ridge, like a second city in the clouds, is Northridge, where the nobility of the city dwell, above the reek and the muck that the rabble below must wallow in. Patrols here are unforgiving of transgressors, and most criminals don’t find their way to justice, but end up face down in the river instead. Beyond Northridge, the Golden Road winds its way out of the city and on to Pelaurios, 60 miles away.
Below the southern curve of the ridge, and to the east of Hillside, is the Crescent Ward, the largest of the city’s districts, if not the most populous. Named not for its shape (it’s more of a rough circle) but for the silver Crescents prevalent as currency here, Crescent Ward is the heart of the city. Shops, inns, row houses, apartments, markets, and taverns throng the streets, though few travelers have reason to come here unless they are looking for something particular. At the Crescent ward’s southwestern end, where it meets Harbortown and the Wharves, stands Castle Indiss, the home of the Lord Mayor and the seat of city government. Just north of the Castle is the Scriptorium, a haven for sages, scribes and seekers of knowledge. The Scriptorium stands at the southern edge of the Great Bazaar, a vast open air market which marks the point where Harbortown, Crescent Ward, and Ratrun converge. There are a great many permanent shops and stalls here, and countless tents and painted wagons that come and go with the fortunes of their owners. Almost anything one desires can be found in the Bazaar.
As one moves east from Crescent Ward, the streets get narrower and more twisted, and the row houses give way to crooked, run-down tenements. Stray dogs fight in the streets, and drunks brawl in the filthy taphouses while thieves and cutthroats peer darkly out from the shadowed alleys. This is the Ratrun, the city’s slum. The streets grow ever muddier and filthier the further east one goes, until the tenements give way altogether to shantytowns of tarred huts and great mudflats at the shore of Greenwater Lake. Here, on the lakeshore, is the City Lockup, known to most locals as the Danks. Its underground cells are squalid and damp, with mold-crusted walls and dark puddles in the corners. Neither light, warmth, nor hope are to be found here. Just to the west of the Danks is the neighborhood of Gallows Corner, named for the Gallows Court, where hangings are carried out almost daily.
Along the river to the south of the Ratrun is the Wharves, a strip of smaller docks and little shacks and houses where the city’s fisherfolk dwell. Fishmonger’s Square is also here, where the best fresh fish can be found and street vendors sell freshly-prepared fenrepps, concoctions made from grilled fish or shrimp, wild rice, bloodfruit and fenpepper, all wrapped up in a great black kelp leaf. They are the signature dish of Indiss and craved by sailors and travelers who pass through the city.
To the west of the city is the Ironrock River, which enters its meandering delta just to the south. East of Indiss is Greenwater Lake, a long, narrow, and murky lake that marks the edge of the Weeping Fens, a nasty swamp inhabited only by fierce creatures and the brave Swampfolk who cultivate wild rice and harvest the fruits of the swamp. Known to the city folk as Murkies, they often come into the Wharves to sell their wares, by boat or afoot.
See Also: History of Indiss