Uthmere (Part Five)
By Ed Greenwood
Second Things to See
The Captain's Loft offers the most luxurious surroundings in Uthmere (except for those few envoys and personages of note who receive audiences or an invitation to stay in the guest apartments of the Palace). The Loft's exterior is a grand stone four-story pile of snarling rampant griffons sculpted to hold out flagstaves and balconies (all top-floor rooms have one, or in the corner suites, two). It has a tiled "strongfront" roof, and its own stables and carriage house located discreetly in the center of the first city block east of the Loft proper.
Only the shops facing the Loft (across a street to its south) can be considered "respectable" and pleasant to the eye. The rest of the docks is a reeking, tumbledown labyrinth of filth, working bustle, and (by night) lurking peril. At the far end of the waterfront from the Loft, conditions reach their nadir in the notorious dive known as The Bloody Hook, perhaps the worst accommodations in town.
Travelers are warned that the docks are too busy to be the most dangerous area of Uthmere. That honor goes to a small, dilapidated neighborhood called "the Shadowstreets," in the southeastern corner of Southshore Uthmere. It's a slum for beggars, the sick and sorely injured, the coinless, addicts, and all manner of tattercoats -- and even the Cudgels go there only in great force, thanks to the recent boldness of the neighborhood's populace (born of the presence and organizing influence of the Shadowmasters).
Visitors seeking ornate architecture, trees and green growing things (albeit behind walls, and aside from the moss that grows between cobbles everywhere in Uthmere) should seek the neighborhood of Hightowers in northeasternmost Uthmere, nigh the Lords' Park, where the houses are grandest, Cudgel patrols very frequent, and the streets quietest. Those "just wandering," especially if not riding in a coach or dressed luxuriously, should expect to be stopped and questioned -- and watched continuously.
The Park itself fills at midday with workers strolling, eating, chatting, or sitting down to a quick card game. The rest of every daytime, it's left to everpresent Cudgel patrols and the children of the wealthy at play -- each watched over by hired bodyguards (kidnappings for ransom or for slave-taking have occurred).
The Lords' Park is named because it was created by a Lord of Uthmere and has been maintained for public use ever since, by successive lords. This crescent of rolling grassy hills is adorned with rock-garden plantings, overhanging deciduous trees, and a tiny stagnant pond that gets fished empty whenever a Lord is foolish enough to stock it with ornamental fish. Dozens of legends of lurking stranglers, ghosts, and buried treasures cling to the park -- almost all of them fanciful. However, a golem belonging to a long-ago Lord is rumored (via reliable sources) to be lying flat on its back, buried only a foot or so somewhere beneath the Park grass -- awaiting its summons to defend the city or the Lord, whereupon it will erupt and stride off to do battle.
By night, of course, the Park is popular for lovers' dalliances and "shady business" meetings, wherein spies, thugs, and slayers are hired.
Corner buildings on some Uthmere streets sport visually interesting round turrets, and nigh every street immediately surrounding any of the squares has its "window-shops" (stores that have serving windows opening directly onto the street). By day, these streets bustle, and all in all, Uthmere offers an astonishing breadth of wares. A buyer who'll accept any shovel, bucket or helm (rather than insisting on a selection of shovels, buckets, or helms), almost can, as the saying goes, "buy anything in Uthmere."
Visitors to Uthmere shouldn't miss the city's most striking architectural oddity: Haelbow's House, a shop that stands by itself, hard by the Dalestream, as the most southerly building of Northshore Uthmere upstream of the Dalebridge. "The House" is on the very edge of the neighborhood known as Feldertown.
The House can't be missed, because it's a mismatched heap of pieces of salvaged buildings (a grand entrance here, a balcony there, a cupola yonder, and so on) rammed together in sprawling chaos. Inside, a curio shop of "everything well-used" can keep visitors busy. It has everything from wagonwheels to entire wagons, roof-tiles to stills, and armor to salvaged locks with keys (sometimes with doors still attached). The shop itself is a dusty warren of heaping goods, wherein customers rummage and then bring their unpriced finds to large, gruff, none-too-clean Rassivur Haelbow, who loves to haggle.
Growing weary, traveler? Our next column will begin to explore accommodations available in Uthmere.
© 2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.