Raerdengeld is the second city of the Daerdenfel March, and the largest port city of the Northern Marches more broadly. In addition to being the only deepwater port in the north to remain open year-round, Raerdengeld is both the original landing site of the Pontae Invasions and the home of the exiled Shaersen people of what is now the Principalities; the incredible diversity of Raerdengeld’s residents has even come to include a comparatively large population of elves, though they are among the least integrated members of the populace, living in a series of small camps along the edge of the city proper.
Urban Layout and Municipal Features
Raerdengeld is a large port city straddling the mouth of the River Geld and extending out to the islands in the bay. With a population of around 85,000, Raerdengeld occupies substantial area on both sides of the river, and over the centuries since the site was originally settled has expanded southward and to the east, up the banks of the Geld.
North of the river is the Aldine Salient District, the seat of Barklay power. The District takes its name from the beginning of the Pontae Invasions, during which the Aldine Salient represented the only territory conquered by the Pontae north of the Geld. The fortifications built at the time persist to this day, though they are now centuries old, having been scrupulously maintained by the Barklay rulers of the city. The Aldine Salient District is the only part of Raerdengeld on the mainland that has city walls. In addition to the ducal residence, the district is home to many of the richest and most powerful families in Raerdengeld
South of the river is the Old City District, which represents a much larger fraction of Raerdengeld’s urban area on the mainland. Lacking walls to constrain growth, the buildings of the Old City District are much less densely packed than in the Aldine Salient District or the capital. In addition to hosting a much greater fraction of the population, the Old City District is also host to much of Raerdengeld’s commercial trade activity, and has a much greater percentage of its waterfront occupied by docks.
On the two islands located in the bay are sited the Tower and Castle Maelford Districts. These were originally a pair of fortresses connected to the mainland by causeway, built shortly after the Pontae Invasions to command the bay; as with the Aldine Salient District the fortifications have been maintained in good order to the present day. In the intervening centuries, however, the curtain walls and bastions of the two castles expanded to become plazas and arcades, and both fortresses ultimately exceeded the boundaries of their host islands as they evolved into city districts.
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the city is, however, the docks. Spanning the length of the waterfront on the mainland, and feature outgrowths on the island districts, Raerdengeld’s docks can accommodate more simultaneous ships than any other port in the Northern Marches, and is even competitive with the great Saerdic ports at Vlassaedos and Emeperor’s Bay in the south.
Raerdengeld takes its name from the river that it lies at the mouth of, and gives it name to the surrounding area, the Raerden Flats; these are the two dominant geographical features of Raerdengeld, and have heavily influence the development of the city over its history.
As suggested by the name Raerden Flats are a large area of flatland lying along the coast. Dotted with areas of sparse woodland and small villages, the Flats are (like much of the south of the March) more densely settled than the duchies to the north, and are host to a much larger number of minor noble holdings under a more complex system of feudal relationships; the Raerden Flats are divided into three baronies and five counties under the Duke of Raerdengeld, while by contrast the Blinde Steppes has only two counties outside the personal lands of the Duke.
The River Geld meets the sea in a much more leisurely fashion than its canyon-bound northern tributary, the Westgeld. Long, wide, and slow, the Geld wanders south and west across the Raerden Flats in a comparatively straight course to a large natural bay. The size and speed of the river, as well as the fact that it runs all the way north to Alderstadt and Daerdenfel, have made the Geld the most important trade route in the Daerdenfel March, and one of the most active commercial waterways in Sobrius.
The most prominent landmark of the Aldine Salient District is the Ducal Palace, though that district also contains the city’s fairly impressive main cathedral as well. The palace is a massive fortress of native granite; the curtain wall of the palace is integrated into the walls surrounding the district at the mouth of the river, giving the fortifications more direct command of the port. The keep of the palace is well known for its lavish interiors decorated in a riot of colors and textures provided by the many exotic materials and artistic works imported into Raerdengeld’s busy ports.
The Old City District is home to many impressive buildings, including several subsidiary cathedrals, but the grounds of the Southern Tamerlaen Academy stand out. Comprising several square miles of manicured gardens, training fields, and dormitories, the grounds also contain the three great halls of the Academy, built in the domed style of Tamishaer in the Principalities. Particularly impressive is the Tower of the Walled Garden, a slim, elegant building of seemingly impossible height studded with strips of red marble and bronze ornamentation up and down the structure.
The most prominent building of the Tower District is the structure from which it draws its name, a massive fortress known as the Tower that dominates the entrance to Raerdengeld’s harbor. Rising 120 feet above the waters of the bay, the walls of the tower are among the tallest and thickest in the Daerdenfel March. By contrast, the Castle Maelford district has lost much of its military character in the centuries since the building of the titular Castle Maelford. Though still an imposing fortress, the castle has surrendered its place as the most prominent building in the district to the main branch of the Imperial Bank, a huge Saerdic building of white marble and polished black granite.
The ruler of Raerdengeld is, by ancient tradition, the head of House Barklay, which also directly controls the Aldine Salient District. Under the Barklays are five lesser dukes, three of whom are the potentates of the remaining city districts. Outside of the city proper, the lands controlled by the fortresses Castle Regulus and Rent Cliffs are also the vassals of House Barklay. The Dukes sword of the Duke of Raerdengeld are, in contravention of usual feudal practices, sworn to House Barklay directly; when the Barklays surrendered the title of King of the Pontae during the unification wars a century after the Pontae invasions, the victorious House Sendrakar allowed House Barklay to keep its existing feudal oaths intact as part of the ultimate political settlement. Though the relationship between the Barklay Dukes of Raerdengeld and the Sendrakar Praepositi of the Daerdenfel March have typically been cordial and even friendly, strife and the occasional war between the two Houses is not unknown, the most recent increase in tensions having occurred only a decade ago; amity was ultimately restored by the matrilineal union of the eldest male Sendrakar heir, Duncan, into House Barklay.
The Southern Tamerlaen Academy
When the Shaersen people were exiled from Tamishaer three centuries ago, they migrated north and west, unable to find a Paervlassid Praepositus willing to accept a refugee population settling in their March. Ultimately, after being denied entry to the Paervlassid Empire proper, they crossed into the Daerdenfel March. House Barklay immediately recognized the plight of the exiles from Tamishaer, and petitioned the Sendrakar Praepositus to allow the settlement of the Shaersen people in Raerdengeld. In spite of the objections of the Praepositus’ ostensible superiors in the Paervlassid Empire, the Praepositus granted this request, and the Shaersen were settled on what were, at the time, the edges of the Old City District.
In spite of initial friction caused by the introduction of the Tamishaer dueling culture to Raerdengeld, the Shaersen found that they had more in common with the Septim-Pontae population of the March than not, and rapidly integrated into the dominant culture of Raerdengeld. Within a century, the Southern Tamerlaen Academy had been founded as an effort to preserve Shaersen culture and its unique pedagogical philosophy. The Academy offers education in magical and non-magical fields to any student of sufficient ability, regardless of membership in the original Shaersen ethnic group, and is regarded as being competitive with the great universities in Daerdenfel.
The most talented students of magic are offered the option to learn the traditions of the famed Shaersen warriors, the Southern Tamerlaen. Taught to supplement a deep knowledge of magic with sword play, and to supplement superior swordsmanship with knowledge of magic, the Southern Tamerlaen are famous across the continent for their skill in battle. Many graduates of the Academy who are trained as Tamerlaen warriors choose to enter the service of House Barklay, though this is not required of any students who are not obligated by a previously existing feudal oath.