Aksambul: The Queen Widow
North Quay. North Quay is the poorest district in Aksambul. North Quay is populated primarily of unskilled laborers, canal dredgers, and sewer workers. North Quay is also the only district to boast a “civilized” goblin population, and has the largest community of half-orcs and dragonborn in the city. Extortionist politics, powerful slumlords, and a huge drug market dominate North Quay. A significant underdark contraband blackmarket exists in North Quay, and is frequently the sight of various wars between cartels as well as massive joint city guard and army operations.
Casbah. The Casbah is a working class district of Aksambul, and is one of the most politically and culturally influential districts in the city’s history. The Casbah is famous for it’s hard-nosed blue collar population, which has never forgotten that the Freeborn Rebellion was born in the Casbah. The district is divided into several wards, each dominated by a ward boss. Politics in the Casbah is violent and fast paced, with nearly every citizen having an opinion of ward bosses or potential replacements of ward bosses. In a way, the Casbah’s hectic democratic scene can resemble warlords that vie for control over wards, with elections often resulting in clashes between rival civic organizations. The Casbah is particularly famous for this political violence, as Aldermanic races with rival charismatic candidates often lead to a district wide war, with ward bosses securing polling stations and distributing coal, food, and gold in exchange for votes. The blatant corruption and violence of the Casbah is tolerated by locals, as the smartest or strongest of the populace can rise to power. In away, the Casbah represents a violent form of Meritocracy.
Particularly charismatic Casbah Aldermen and leaders have been known to unify the Casbah, and embark in violent campaigns in other districts, influencing elections and consolidating Casbah control. This violent expansionist flavor often leads the Casbah to be in confrontation with other powerful districts, primarily the Palisades. Casbah’s tendency to influence the elections of Deran and North Quay has led to constant competition with the Palisades, who believes that the Casbah is cheating and exports thuggery. The Palisades, however, are accused of renting political support while also being a political power only representing the rich, as the Palisades most often allies with the Favian Quarter (only after the Favians received a substantial shipment of cash) and Rampart, while also always siding with Temple and Garden district. Because of the rivalry between Casbah and Palisades, representatives of Palisades organizations often have a chilly reception in the Casbah, and certainly the residents of Palisades do not feel welcome in the hectic and dense district.
In the Casbah, civic organizations hold significant sway over the population, though criminal organizations are also warmly embraced by the community and hold equal sway. While prostitution and drug use is common, the Casbah is known for its gambling houses, pit fights, and black market so pervasive, it is difficult to know if anything purchased from a merchant’s stall was legally acquired. Accordingly, the thieves guilds hold incredible influence over the Casbah, and serve roles not dissimilar to civic organizations, charities, city guard, or merchant guilds. Within the district, the boundaries between civic and illegal organizations are constantly blurred, as is nearly everything about the district. Despite the fluid nature of Cabah morality and culture, residents of Casbah are known for being ambitious, opportunistic, and never forget where they are from.
The Casbah is also famous for its sprawling beehive like neighborhoods, where navigation through labyrinthine streets make it impossible for non-Cashbah residents to travel through without getting lost. Of the many famous neighborhoods in the district, the two most famous are the Burrows and the Wheelhouse. The Burrows is a dense neighborhood populated by gnomes and halflings, and feature dozens of 3 foot homes built on top of each other. The Wheelhouse is a Tiefling ghetto, and is said to have one of the best black markets for magical items. It is sometimes called the city within a city, as Casbah maintain’s it’s own traditions and accent, with nearly everything existing on a spectrum. While the Casbah is dense and the markets are completely integrated, races tend to cluster around each other, with humans, elves, and half elves forming one grouping, halflings and gnomes forming another, dwarves facilitating their own communities, while tieflings, half-orcs, and dragonkin dwell in their own ghettos.
Despite the segregation and hostilities that play an important role in life in the district, the Casbah unifies around the Common Colleges, as well as the Colosseum. The Common Colleges is a collection of lecture halls and student dives that are built into the center of the dense neighborhoods of the Casbah, with lectures being taught to any who wish to listen. The Mage Universities, Bardic Academies, and the Seminary frequently complain that the “Commons” does nothing but educate undesirables in the way of magic, and contribute to the abuse of arcane and divine energies. For the poor, however, the Commons represents a way to attain power and change social station, and many accomplished wizards, sorcerers, bards, and clerics flock to the Commons because of it’s inclusive and tolerant approach towards race and magic. The Colosseum is a massive race track in the center of the Casbah, which regularly holds horse races. Outside of the colosseum is the Grand Bazaar, a massive multi-block covered market.
The Canals and lake are incredibly important to Casbah culture. As with the rest of the city, the city itself is built on a raised platform, with the sea level being nearly 8-10 feet below the streets. As the tide or storm surges raises the water, the city just hopes that water does not rise above the 8-10 feet level. The tide does, however, regularly raise the water by about 3 feet, so the entire sewage system exists at this 3 foot level. When the tide comes in, it cleans out the sewage from the city. Because the water is so vital for not just employment but also sanitation, it has also proved to be an important element in how Casbah residents transport goods, cook traditional foods (fish stews), as well as how they escape from police or rivals. The Sewer network under the entire city is indeed sprawling, but the residents of the Casbah have turned their sewers into something of a subterranean city.
Favian Quarter. The Favian quarter is a predominantly elven and half-elven middle class district. A large number of pacifist refugees from the Eastern elven lands settled the Favian quarter, and have sense left an important imprint on the cultural and economic history of the city. The Favian elves brought with them a sophisticated knowledge of divination, enchantment, and transmutation magic – as seen in the illustrious Seren Acadamy, and became an important force in Aksambul’s emergence as a center of study for magic. The Favians also brought with them expertise in espionage, and many of Aksambul’s greatest diplomats and spies have came from the Favian quarter. The Favians established themselves primarily as traders and artisans, and established a strong merchant class that specializes in trading spices, herbs, and medicine. Leading families that hold significant sway over the artisan and merchant guilds of the quarter heavily influence Favian politics. These families often engage in espionage and blackmail, and are often known to ally with shadowy organizations from outside of the district for jobs that they cannot personally partake in.
The first group of refugees to arrive in Aksambul arrived almost a 1,000 years ago, and have since maintained a robust district within the city. Some say that Kogan Citadel is the most reliable and consistent part of the city. The Dwarves of the Kogan Citadel are refugees from the northlands. They were pushed from their homelands by other dwarves, who felt threatened by the Kogan philosophical tradition, Clannmeld. The Clannmeld system requires that all members of the Kogan Clan be completely equal, and that all profits from Clan activities must all go towards the clan. In addition to equality, the Clannmeld system also has a unique legal and honor code, which binds all Kogans into a strict ethical code. The Kogans have also allowed for a large community of Rock Gnomes, who live in a community known as West Burg. Because of Clannmeld, Kogan operates an inefficient government that has a thieves guild, a merchants guild, an artisans guild, and even a community police force that operates coordinates on almost all decisions. However, Kogan also has an elaborate political network and is politically savvy, as they are capable of making nearly every level of their district act in unity. Kogan’s patronage of Outer Aksambul is largely driven by genuine respect for the only other clan organized district in the city, as well as for ideal intermediaries between the Citadel and the dwarven kingdoms to the north.
Fort Delphine. Fort Delphine is the military installation that oversees the Delphine valley in the southwest Mountains, known for its silk production as well as the Deep Road – the worlds only known trade route into the Underdark. Life in Fort Delphine is characterized by isolation, heavily armed guards, and frequent attacks from monsters of the Underdark. The fear of invasion or attack is nearly always present, so Imperial patrols and a heavy military presence heavily influence the culture and life of the valley.