Way of the Wicked
One of the three great cities of Talingarde, Ghastenhall is by the far the most cosmopolitan and liberal. Compared to the orthodoxy of Matharyn and the rigid legalisms of Daveryn, Ghastenhall is a hub of trade, art, theater, learning and culture. Ghastenhall is at the forefront of Talirean art and culture. Virtually every new book and play written in Talingarde comes from this city. Most new music and fashion are born here. Almost anything truly new in the kingdom likely originated here. If you know what’s happening in Ghastenhall, you know what’s happening in Talingarde.
Ghastenhall is a city with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. The ruler, Duke Hadrian, is the last gasp of the old Barcan nobility that used to rule this island. He is considered a shrewd, if eccentric, ruler and his leadership has proven profitable for the city.
Ghastenhall commands the Godscar River, its lifeblood. Trade flows here from foreign lands and the cosmopolitan city is more welcoming and less zealous than other cities in Talingarde. Many in the church of Mitra grumble about this but the city has prospered as a result.
Ghastenhall has profited greatly from the Godscar river, indeed, the reason Castle Ghasten was built was to watch the river entrance. The river provides a bounty of sealife to feed the people of Ghastenhall, and the reason the soil here is so rich here is ancient topsoil laid down by the river. The river is vital for the survival of the city.
Possibly the oldest city in Talingarde, Ghastenhall has seen many masters (as shown on its heraldry), but in the end the Ghastens consider themselves almost independent from the rest of the nation.
Duke Hadrian’s grandfather marched to war against the Victor eighty years ago. As a member of House Barca, this was an understandable course of action, although many at the time saw the move as impetuous at best, folly at worst. Of course, the old duke was also wise enough that when defeated he swiftly swore fealty to the new king, but the whole ugly incident seriously damaged his reputation.
Far worse than the loss of reputation was the loss of two thousand of the city’s finest. The dead were solemnly brought back to Ghastenhall for burial after the war and to this day most citizens claim the war to be unnecessary. What did it matter whether the kingdom flew the colors of Darian Blue or Barcan Red and Green? Either regime would need their port and need their river.
THE FIFTEEN QUARTERS
While there are fifteen quarters in Ghastenhall:
I. Lord’s Quarter
Lord’s Quarter is a small city unto itself and the nobles, upper class and wealthy population who dwell here need never leave if they so choose. It is the only part of town that is walled and it has but a single gate — The Duke’s Gate. Beyond the gate is King’s Hook Row which leads straight to the Castle Ghasten where the Duke lives and garrisons his personal guard.
In every other part of the city, Lord’s Quarter is simply called “The Lorker.” “He’s gone Lorkers” is a local saying that means “he struck it rich, probably through some dishonest means.”
The single largest portion of the city, this crescent shaped quarter surrounds the Lord’s Quarter from the Cambrian Bay to Faithful Way. This is where the artisans work. In many ways when people speak broadly of Ghastenhall, they are actually talking about Whitequarter. Whitequarter is the most representative part of the city and almost half the population lives in this one quarter.
III. Priest’s Quarter
Somewhat misnamed, actually only a small percentage of this quarter is occupied by priests. However it is the location of the single largest church in Ghastenhall – the Cathedral of Mitra the Fire Undying and is the seat of the Cardinal of Ghastenhall.
A better description of the Priest’s Quarter would be the Scholar’s Quarter as this one area houses almost all of Talingarde’s centers of higher learning. The Universities of Ghaster, Heldynhall, Tynebrucks, Fairchester, Canterly and True Ghaster all crowd this quarter. The Library of Ghaster serves them all and collects books from across the world.
The priests and scholars who rub elbows also famously dislike each other.
Saltsquarter is where the fisherman who cast their nets into the salt water of the Cambrian bay dock their boats.
This is also where ocean-going vessels dock and is the busiest port in Talingarde. As a result, you can encounter peoples from all across the world here. It is not uncommon to see lizardfolk, minotaurs, ogres and even stranger creatures in this quarter. They are tolerated as long as they keep the peace but also seen with suspicion.
Goldquarter is the banking and financial quarter of Ghastenhall. It is also home to a vast network of speculators in jewels and precious metals making it one of the finest places in all of Talingarde to sell treasure. Even better, the merchants of Goldquarter are as a rule completely unconcerned with where the precious metals they broker came from. These merchants will happily hawk a holy symbol or a church treasure.
Virtually no one actually lives in Goldquarter. It almost entirely consists of businesses and trading houses.
Kingspeace has a reputation for being the most boring place in the city. This small quarter, largely populated by traders, artisans and farmers deserves that reputation.
This is Ghastenhall’s industrial heart. The sound of smithing and manufacturing never ceases here. This also means that Wrightsbridge is famous for something else — its legendary terrible smell.
Tuebelow is a young quarter and is the home of a newly emergent middle class. Wide and spread out compared to most of the city, this is a comfortable place to live.
Weatherby was a small farming community on the city’s outskirts but has been thoroughly absorbed into the city itself. Still at its heart, this remains a quiet farming community.
Virtually the entire western part of Weatherby has been bought up by artists and theater owners. With the building of the new Barrington-in-the-Round Theater near the quarter’s edge, it seems certain that Weatherby’s days as a farming community are numbered.
Scarpers takes its name from the old city slang for those who fish the Godscar River. ‘Scarpers’ and ‘Salties’ (those who fish the salt water Cambrian Bay) have long had a serious rivalry though this only occasionally erupts into incident of violence.
XI. The Red Quarter.
The ‘bad’ part of town, the Red Quarter consists of bars, brothels and pit fights. These are not publicized much since prostitution and pit fighting is illegal, but it isn’t hard to locate these business. The church of Mitra loathes these places and have demanded Duke Hadrian take steps to close such businesses down. Despite his assurances, these establishments continue to flourish, and are an attraction for foreign merchants and travelers.
Fresh river fish from Scarpers and farmer’s produce from Weatherby combine to create culinary delights, and many locals claim that the restaurants along Sothsby Way are the best places to eat in the city.
Once a farming community, Downerly is now almost nothing but warehouses when the port trade got too busy in Saltsquarter, traders came through and bought nearly the whole quarter. Now. The Old Lighthouse is just inside this quarter and still operates helping ships to navigate the Cambrian Bay into Ghastenhall’s thriving ports.
Once this quarter was known by the rather bland name of Farmington. But now, this rough badland of farmed-out fields is universally called Wrongside. If you can’t afford to live anywhere else in Ghastenhall, you can afford to live here.
XIV. Barleybell & Turnsborough
The exact borders of the farming towns of Barleybell and Turnsborough are uncertain. They are both claimed by two rural barons and the dividing line is uncertain. Regardless these two farming communities are Ghastenhall’s bread basket
PLACES OF NOTE: