The Ivory City
Straddling a river on a naturally fortified Isthmus on the northern half of Geron, Torum was founded 150 years ago as a mining outpost of Grax, a prosperous trading nation now subjugated into the Basileia Kontaros. Colonists and miners were gathered from all over the north to exploit the rich seams of Ivory Ore, a mineral in great demand for its myriad magical properties, it was the prototypical boom town. Ivory was mined in the city for 30 years as its population grew year on year until starting from a scant 600 miners and their families, it had reached 50,000 by the time the mines had dried up.
The powerful location the city occupied meant it retained value well after its mines had dried up. The richest soil in the region was found above the ivory seams, soaked with millions of years of reflected magical radiation, and attracted farmers in droves. Traders seeking to ply the coasts of Geron realised the importance of the narrow Isthmus as a shortcut around the continent, and a great canal was constructed. Immigrants flocked to the town from al over the continent, and the birth rate soared. The population boomed further until 50 years before the present, when it had reached 800,000, by far the largest city on the continent and with a population greater than some of the states in the south.
The wealthy merchants and nobles who had invested in the project had built great towers above the city, plated in much of the same Ivory that was mined in the city, as displays of their opulence and the wealth the city commanded.
Then, 57 years ago, the Kontaroi began their expansionism, and invaded Grax. The Graxians put up a hard fight, but the Kontarene Naval superiority was sufficient to capture the city of Torum, the lynchpin of Grax’s defenses, aided by traitors inside the walls who opened the north gate. While the city had held out for 5 years, after its fall the country fell in months.
Life under Kontarene rule was, and still is, good for the average citizen. The militaristic state has a constant need of fresh soldiers, who can reach dizzying heights in the Kontarene Army and Navy no matter their origins. Local governance is devolved as long as tithes of food and troops are paid to the Empire on time.
Matters are somewhat different in Torum. Its gargantuan sprawl and labyrinthine layout, coupled with its massive population, exacerbated by several catastrophes and periods of incompetent management since the conquest, has led gradually to a total collapse of order in the city’s lower wards, colloquially known as Hives, with the lower reaches of these Hives becoming no-go areas for even the Arbitrators due to a growing population of highly armed, numerous and ruthless Gangs.
To ‘solve’ the problem, the nobles came up with an ingenious idea – they decided that all those living in the lower wards – some 60% of the populace – would be excommunicated – cut off from all help and governmental contact short of the squads of Arbitrators who periodically journey into the hive in force for conscripts to fuel the Basileius’ ongoing wars in the south.
This situation persists to the present. The city of one million, in a large Empire of only five million inhabitants, in a continent of 20 million souls, is overwhelmingly Human with the the Nobility being Human or very rarely Half-Elven. That said, the realm is fairly cosmopolitan and other races are accepted by the Spirers, and while not usually shunned, they are viewed as a curiosity as the nobles are insular and hedonistic and care little for much beyond their own amusement.
In the lower levels though, anything goes. Elven immigrants live in shacks alongside Halflings. Humans and the rare Tiefling share squalid tenements that block out the sun, and Kobold colonies worm their way through the stone beneath. Dwarves build pale imitations of the great Mead-Halls of their legends, all the more depressing for their surroundings. Gnomes build hovels and cram them full of gadgets and gizmos of unknown provenance and safety. There is even an ancient, still inhabited Dwarven Hold deep in the Undercity through the labyrinthine Warrens, the remnants of the mines on top of which the city was built.
The nobles use gnomish-built cable cars and Dirigibles for inter-spire trave, which have both made the League of Gnome-Aligned Tinkerers very, very rich. They rarely leave their spires, if ever, so as not to be forced to travel the hives and face their disgruntled subjects. The Hivers are largely left to their own devices with relatively no oversight as long as they don’t bother the spire dwellers – and they haven’t for the 38 years since the Excommunication, the threat of Arbitratorial intercession looming ever over those foolish or ambitious enough to cause trouble in plain sight.