Gateway to Zwuyala
The life of cities tends to follow a natural cycle, over the course of centuries: first, a golden era of glory and greatness, followed by decadence, vice, and corruption, which leads the city into an age of ruin and destruction. Port Katerinettaburg, on the other hand, is a city ambitiously pursuing all three phases simultaneously - glory, decadence, and ruin. From its position at the head of the Tugrezi River, it commands trade between the Dark Continent and the ravenous markets of Spindlewick across the Vriendelike Zee. Brave explorers set forth from the city in grand expeditions to discover the secrets of Zwuyala, from the lost canyons of the Rim Valleys to the hidden cities of the Rau Jungle. And yet, despite its youth and wealth, its stone walls are crumbling, its taverns are dens of corruption and vice, and it shudders with death and horrid tropical diseases beneath the shadow of Grootklipsnoep Mountain.
Theme and Mood
Theme: Civilisation and Barbarity
The Empress Katerinetta, for whom the city is named, was famed for her courteous manners, her outrageous beauty, and her fondness for the Soleillaise style of wearing leather boots made from human skin. Port Katerinettaburg considers itself to be an outpost of civilisation on a dark continent filled with savagery and barbarians, but within its walls people as cruel as any orc can be found. Is the 'civilisation' they claim to bring truly an improvement?
Mood: Gateway to Adventure
Stationed as it is on the edge of the Dark Continent, there is a sense in Porkatzburg of being on the verge of something amazing; the way the plant life springs up in every nook and cranny, the glint of a pterodactyl soaring in the breeze, the constant tension between the city and the surrounding countryside. The local newsheet, the Items of Note, is often filled with vivid imagery and reports brought back by expeditions into the heart of Zwuyala. Rumours are constantly flying about lost cities of gold, forgotten gods, and glorious opportunities to find fame and fortune.
The wealth of a continent flows through the docks of Port Katerinettaburg, but you wouldn't know it from a quick glance. Dark and crowded, the port district of Porkatburg is the heart of its economy, and of its corruption. Where the murky waters of the Tugrezi flow into the Friendly Sea, native dockworkers scurry to and fro loading fast clippers and enormous galleons with coffee, gold, spices, and other treasures, and drunken sailors stumble from tavern to brothel to sewer, only occasionally pausing to vomit between stops.
The Poisonous Frog
Every city has one. It's the tavern where mysterious strangers in dark cloaks go to seek assistance from unstable mercenaries in unusual quests for gold and experience. In Port Katerinettaburg, that tavern was the Poisonous Frog, up until the point at which it was acquired by Jasmyne Spellman, a young woman with an entirely different idea of what a tavern should be. Murky dank corners have been replaced by al fresco dining under brightly coloured parasols, tankards of ale have been replaced by frilly drinks with pieces of fruit on the side, and the regular clientele have become entirely confused.
Founded thirteen years ago by an alcoholic wizard and his imaginary friend, Katerinetta University has since bloomed into a formidable learning institution, in the same way a fungal growth grows into a formidable festering cyst. The University, which currently has a faculty of two and a student body mainly consisting of voodoo dolls, would barely merit a mention were it not for its extremely large and useful library, available to members of the public who are willing to brave a campus that serves mainly as a battlefield between the two archchancellors.
It is said that anything in Zwuyala can be bought at PrinzAlbert, for the right price. An enormous market sprawls across the platz, selling everything from rare spices and exotic perfumes to bizarre curses and oppressed slaves. Colorful tents, exotic scents, and herds of slaves and beass are the dominant sensations within the market. The Governor turns a blind eye to the activities at the PrinzAlbert; as long as it brings wealth to the city he cares little for the sordid details.
Though it lies beyond the city walls, th mighty Grootklipsnoep dominates the city. It rises above the city like a god above the Coin, casting it in shadow when the season is right and shining like a brilliant emerald thumb with the evening light. Buried within the mountain lie enormous deposits of rock treacle and stalag toffee, mined by goblin slave labour and shipped off to the confectioneers of Spindlewick.
Nestled at the foot of Grootklipsnoep is Johannz Haus, the governor's mansion. Decorated in the Classical Revival style, its majestic white columns and balustrades glisten in the morning sun. From here, the Imperial Governor, Sir Frederick Willhelm de Botha oversees His Imperial Majesty's domain; at least, he does in theory. In practice, he tends to throw the sort of decadent parties that would make old Reman emperors frown, and leaves the practical administration of the colony to merchants and crime lords.
Personages of Note
Sir Frederick Wilhelm de Botha II
A forgotten cousin of the previous Emperor, packaged off to Zwuyala to avoid causing trouble in more important lands, Governor de Botha is a large, fat man with a broad smile and a fondness for exotic women. Despite his fondness for depravity, he makes an effort to present himself a kind and just man to visitors and Imperial agents. If confronted with an uncomfortable situation, he will sincerely promise to do something about it, palm it off to one of the clerks, and then forget about it at the next opportunity.
Colonel D. Jonne Mosterd, 3rd Neuhumbrien Foot
When D. Jonne Mosterd surveys Port Katerinettaburg from his vantage point in Fort Voetreut, he sees a thriving city carving out civilisation from savage wilderness, peaceful and content. His lieutenant, Meester Bodie, strives to maintain this delusion, as he and the rest of the garrison profit quite nicely on the bribes of bandits, criminals, and pirates. Occasionally, they mount a minor punitive expedition against one of the local tribes to given Colonel Mosterd an excuse to "show Johnny Savage the taste of Imperial steel", or simply to distract him from some more serious events in the city.
Xi - The Savage
The city's most powerful crime boss was once a tribesman in the deep Yalahadu Desert, living in the simplest conditions imaginable... but he was happy. That was before the gods saw fit to crash an ornithopter into his village. Within the ornithopter was a magic flask - an alchemist's flask, filled with a potion of invulnerability. The tribe's shaman deemed that the potion was the work of demons, and bid Xi to carry the flask to the edge of the world and hurl it into the void.
He never made it to the edge of the world. Instead, he fell victim to a deeply peculiar institution of civilisation: slavery. Captured by raiders from another tribe, he was sold in Port Katerinettaburg as a sewer cleaner. After several months of abuse, he succumbed to temptation and drank from the flask. When they found the overseer's body, it was not a pleasant sight.
The potion changed Xi. Though its physical effects faded quickly, Xi had tasted power and cruelty, and he couldn't give it up. He became an enforcer for a dockyard gang, and swiftly climbed the ranks of the criminal underground.
Today, Xi rules the city's lowlife with an iron hand. He enjoys the comforts of civilisation, and maintains a beautiful townhouse in the city's wealthy quarter, but enjoys torture and cruelty even more. To cross him is to be marked for a fate worse than death.
Lady Rozelda Rozenheim
One of the most famous adventuresses of the age, Lady Rozelda Rozenheim, the Delving Duchess, makes her permanent home in the fashionable end (i.e., the part without black people) of Port Katerinettaburg. Despite her reputation for adventure, while in town between expeditions, she appears every part the perfect socialite, with the kind of refined beauty that takes a team of trained professionals hours to achieve. The Annual Adventurers' Widows and Children Ball is the event of the social season in Port Katerinettaburg.