Thursday, November 1, 2012

Citadel: City of Dungeons

Concludes the Bettellyn Series.  Click HERE for the original article.

Map Bettellyn Citadel Vicinity
Citadel & Vicinity -- Scale: 2 Miles per Hex

Aside from its sheer size, this city of 325,000 inhabitants enjoys the uniqueness of being built on a huge mound.  Some 38 squares miles and about eight miles across as the bird flies, Citadel rises 9,600 feet in its middle, with many streets commonly exceeding 22° inclines.  Most of the small passages are in fact stairs.  As a result of exhaustion the slopes inflict upon people and beasts of burden—not to mention numerous accidents with failing cart brakes and the not-so-occasional winter ice storms—a royal decree was issued fifty years ago for the creation of a mechanical device to help people and goods travel up and down the city.

Since streets were extremely crowded, the project went underground, physically.  Citadel owes its shape to centuries of older buildings on top of which newer structures were erected.  Over time, deeper levels were abandoned and, provided they didn’t collapse under the city’s enormous weight, sociopaths, criminals, and monstrous wildlife claimed their dark streets as their own.  Naturally, digging large tunnels, boarding stations, and access stairwells through notoriously hostile dungeons lairs proved a major challenge.  And so, fifty years later and piles of gold to hire the best engineers and workforce Stoutfellow could offer, the project still goes on, digging new branches, rebuilding others that collapsed, pacifying rebellious sections, unblocking barricaded tunnels, or upgrading ever more comfortable vehicles with greater, stronger, monster-proof armor.

The network relies on a proprietary form of artificial ley lines that channel telekinetic forces through stone grooves carved in the tunnels’ floors.  Vehicles travel on dwarven-forged steel tracks straddling these telekinetic grooves.  Each vehicle’s drivers use levers to hook onto or release ley lines.  Brakes allow the vehicles to stop entirely when reaching a station.  Relay houses buried along the tracks generate or support the telekinetic power grid.  Over the past decades, revenue from the Ley Coaches network has helped finance the endeavor.

Parties of pest removal expert are always in demand to clear infested segments of the network so drivers can meet their schedules.  Payment is reasonable.  It includes room and board for the duration of employment, as well as speedy transportation straight to the dungeons.  Retrieved treasures are subject to inspection upon return so that property stolen during the past 11 years, 11 days, 11 hours, and 11 minutes may be returned to their owners or related kin.  Anything else incurs a 10% municipal fee, half of which to reimburse Her Royal Holiness’s Treasury for the project’s massive loans, and the remainder to help cover cost of operations.  It has been said that the location of treasure motivated the present layout of the network, but this was never proven.

Four Ley Lines exist today.  The Ruby Line connects the Eastern Gates District to the Merchant Quarter.  The Topaz Line links Lower West Bastion with the Religious Quarter, via a tunnel under the river.  The Sapphire Line runs from Two Markets all the way down to the Grand Reliquary south of Citadel (the last two segments run on the surface).  During religious holidays, the entire Sapphire Line operates at full capacity.  Finally, the Emerald Line services North Port, the Mid-Ring Borough, and the Stone Knob Ward.  Frequencies on most segments can reach one car every 6-8 minutes each way.  Three lines provide ample service to Top-of-the-Hill.  Four stations allow passengers to switch lines.

Map Bettellyn Citadel Ley Lines

As the name implies, the Citadel of Citadels (1) stands on Top-of-the-Hill, the royal district.  Generally windy and much colder than the rest of the capital city, it harbors the residence of Queen Llynara and her royal guard.  The remainder of the district includes government and municipal facilities, including the High Cathedral of Samarion (2), the House of Lords (3), and residences of prominent aristocrats.

The remainder of the city includes two more concentric districts: the Mid-Ring Borough, perched between 3,000’ and 6,000’ from the river’s surface, and the Town-at-the-Bottom, stretching from the river up to 3,000’.  Cliff-like fortifications of High Wall (4) surround Top-of-the-Hill, while Middle Wall (5) guards the Mid-Ring Borough, largely the city’s middle-class and bourgeois population.  The western and southern sides feature the more desirable residences, those with a view on the river or on the Grand Reliquary, a little over two miles past South Gate.

Town-at-the-Bottom includes a seedy area at the northern edge, euphemistically referred to as The Pits, the market district (6), granaries, warehouses and North Port’s embankment (7), the Royal Port (8), Lower West Bastion across the river (9), the Merchant Quarter (10), the university and entertainment quarter otherwise known as the Owl-and-Donkey (11), Stone Knob (12) which is a rocky promontory nearly 2,000’ high serving as military quarters, Queen’s Gate a stone’s throw away to the south, the Eastern Gates District at the Ruby Line’s oriental terminus, and finally the Religious District in the northeast corner.

Coat of Arms Bettellyn Citadel
Naturally, weather always is a concern in Citadel as several thousand feet of altitude difference do bear an impact.  It isn’t uncommon to enjoy cold but sunny weather on Top-of-the-Hill, while dreary, soggy conditions prevail over Town-at-the-Bottom, Mid-Ring Borough remaining lost in the fog.  Much of the rainwater either cascades through streets and public stairways before flooding the lower dungeons.  Spring and fall are particularly bad times for dungeoneering, unless one enjoys mucking about in deadly, slippery quagmires awash with soiled waters.  As one might have surmised, Citadel remains entirely devoid of a sewer system.  Collapsing buildings and sinkholes are the next concern, especially the sort spewing darker residents from the world below upon the fair streets of Citadel.

Ten thousand HD-worth of troops defend the capital city.  This includes more than 2,000 infantry units backed by about 500 cavalry.  In addition another 26 clerics and magic-users averaging 5 HD provide medical and arcane support.  Of note, 3 archons have made themselves available should the capital find itself under attack.  They do not actually reside in Citadel, but often visit the High Cathedral.  The Royal Guard accounts for roughly a third of this force, housed on Top-of-the-Hill.  The remainder handle common law enforcement in the city’s two lower tiers.  Command posts cover the major wards, accounting for 500 troops of various types.  Another 800-900 occupy watch towers and gatehouses of Middle and Outer Wall, Stone Knob, and Lower West Bastion.  Cavalry units are housed mostly in the latter two districts.  Light cavalry is responsible for patrolling the city’s surrounding region.

Bettellyn Citadel Garrison 
Very little of the powerful Bettellyn navy hails from the capital city.  A small flotilla patrols long stretches of the Llyn River as far south as Vonboby and the village of Covenant, and as far north as Corona Castle and Stonefont Keep.  During the Days of Royal Ceremony, the Citadel Flotilla is present and expected to escort the Royal Barge.  Airships or submersibles only visit the capital on rare occasions, usually as the result of a special mission, either one requiring speed or complete discretion.  A ship of the Bettellyn Navy is referred to as Her Royal Holiness’s Nave (HRHN).  As it were, common naval terminology describes a ship’s prow as an “apse” and its stern as a “narthex”.

  • Small Galleys (6): HRHNs Faith, Hope, Compassion, Serenity, Exaltation, and Devotion
  • Large Galley (1): HRHN Archons’ Will
  • Royal Barge (1): HRHN Golden Ark

Bettellyn Directory

This article concludes the Bettellyn series.  Thanks for your interest.  Coming next:  Foresthome.


  1. I'm slowly trying to be up to date with your awesome articles but your writing is way faster than my reading...

    Anyway, I like a lot the concepts you introduced in Citadel's description, especially the ley lines. Could the knowledge of such a magic could have been imported (or stolen) from Wendar? I remember a very interesting article you wrote ( some time ago. I also envision a possible connection with the magic that powers the wind galleys of Niscosenia (from an article of Geoff Gander: , see especially the end of the article).

    I would also like to suggest a few more features useful for Citadel's everyday life:

    - The "floating disc" spell would be an extremely useful tool to move goods to shops and warehouses across the steep slopes of the city. There could be a dedicated service of porters able to use this spell who provide their services for a (not so) modest fee to the middle-income part of the society.

    - In my opinion the most efficient way to send messages across the city would be by homing pigeons (a very non magic vay). There could be superior breeds who possess an enhanced memory to remember the route through the everchanging cityscape, or even magical breeds (maybe linked - or ancestor -to the old magical crows used by the Council of Alphatia) with the power to memorize and repeat a short message, who knows.

    - The odd cityscape would likely create true "canyons of buildings" at the bottom of which daylight is very scarce even at midday. There could be groups of "illuminators", paid by the municipality or by the quarter's inhabitants, whose work would be to carefully place mirrors and magical lights in order to divert some daylight to the most shady streets. By the way, such dark places could also be an attractive spot for the Shadow Lords of Eadrin, couldn't it?

    - Providing water to the topmost building of the pile would be a challenge even for modern standards, I suppose. What about an odd plumbing system powered by water elementals in the bottom level of the city?

    Hope these could be of any help!

    1. Wow! Big comment. :-)

      I vaguely remember the reference to Wendar's ley lines. The difference here is that those in Citadel are entirely artificial. Other than that, I can't see why there couldn't be a link between the two.

      Floating disks are very good idea. Pigeons are fine, but magical messaging would be more appropriate. Imagine a network of boxes back-lit with continual lights, and a series of little crystal keys with which you could enter messages or send phantasmal images. The message would appear on another box. For an additional fee, motion and sound could be added. It might be called the interhex (or the spellnet)! It could also support a service called Face-Grimoire (groan...)

      I like the idea of the canyon streets. I'm sure that can easily be worked into the description of the city. It would help explain the population level and make the city so much creepier. Sounds good. Thanks for the suggestions!


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