Also called Archtown, Archway etc
The original Arch is old – very old. Older even than the Tifvitaal empire, although that civilization did add to it considerably. Its original builders are unknown, although they may have been giants – much of it is outsized and overscaled.
Arch has become important because it provides safe passage between the Central Seas and the Eastern Seas – and the Eastern isles are a valuable source of spice and other tradegoods. The seas North and South of Arch are full of dangerous shattered reefs and stormy waters.
Arch is mired in bureaucracy and has an extremely stratified society. The great bridge itself has been added to over the centuries. The top levels are built on the original structure, receive good sunlight and are safe and stable. As the levels go lower (and wider, in search of light) they get poorer, more cramped and darker. They also dip into the mists and clouds, making visibility even worse. Some areas are mere walkways and gangplanks hanging over the gaping drop below.
Travel between levels is difficult, requiring appropriate pass permits; documentation which must be bought at high price, applied for or awarded in exceptional circumstances.
The lowest level slums are getting more dangerous with time, since much of them are built of wood or shoddy stonework. Recently there have been occasional ‘bridgequakes’, causing some parts to fall away taking many lives. Public outcry demands more building materials to reinforce those areas in danger, but there are restrictions – the bureaucracy fears making the whole of Arch too heavy. In addition wood and stone from the supporting pillar isles is available only at a controlled rate. Why though?
Places in Arch
A huge column that rises from the docks below up to Arch itself. It is hollow, and contains ramps, stairs and a series of pulleys and lifts, as well as resting points, tradehalls and even inns. Merchants stopping over at Arch often never set foot in the city itself. Like Arch itself, use of the better transport options costs money. Some poor folks make a living carting or carrying stuff up and down.
The Stairwell Guesthouse is the largest inn found inside the Northern Column.
There are also customs checkpoints. As well as checking for contraband and undesirables they weigh everything travelling up to Arch – weight as always is of great concern.
Making a living in the lower levels is hard, since there is no land to farm and the sea is too far below for fishing. At some point though great curtains of moss and strange plants began to grow from the sides and the underside. These have been cultivated by the denizens and now prove quite a beautiful sight, with all sorts of fronds and flowers emerging from the mist and shining in the occasional sunlight.
Strangely adapted shellfish and other creatures live in the mosses and kelps too, and are gathered and hunted. Seabirds too provide a source of food.
The Keystone is the keep at the centre of Arch. It spans the top few levels. It is the centre of the bureaucracy, and much of it is taken up with various open-plan offices and queues. Winding corridors make the more important offices all but impossible to find without a guide.
Levels of Arch
Top Level/Sky level/Sun Level
The rich, noble and elite live on the top level. Because floorspace is still contested, they built tall spires, trying to outdo each other to get a better view and more sun. Weight of the spires is still restricted; so they tend to be spindly.
The streets are narrow, but wide enough allow a sedan chair through or small exotic mount – such displays of status are what drives the top-levellers.
Artisans, wealthy merchants, clerks etc.
Lower-middle class, working class trades etc. Passes between levels 3 and 2 are easiest to obtain – although still difficult.
Level 4/the basement/ the dredges
The slums levels. There is also an incomplete sub-basement level 5.