Lanterns in the Mist
Carrion Hill gets its name from the fact that the city itself is built on the conquered and vanquished bones of previous cities— the site is no stranger to the carrion left in the wake of wars and famines and plague.
Carrion Hill is located in the county of Versex in the Soivoda region of eastern Ustalav. The city rises over the swampy southern banks of Kingfisher River. It is the only solid ground in the swampland known as the Wrythe for a distance of nearly 20 miles to east or west.
The city is split into three districts. The Crown atop the hill, the Tangle on the hill’s slopes and the Filth. The Crown is the home of Carrion Hill’s nobility and most of the government and public buildings. The cobbled streets are broad and bleached white. The buildings are large and made of stone and timber. The Tangle is the most crowded part of the city. It is a thick tangle of buildings and maze-like alleyways where most of the shops and residences can be found. The Filth is the lowest part of the city, a series of natural or artificial islands, where the poor and desperate dwell. The Filth is also home to the vital but dirty industries like tanners, gong farmers, street cleaners, the fisheries, and the dirty middenstone vats.
When the river fog rolls in every morning and evening, those dwelling on the Crown district atop the high hill can look out on white vastness while those below at least feel solid ground beneath their feet unlikely to wash away after one of the area’s frequent rainstorms or river floods.
The city is said to be built on the bones of the past. With various other incarnations of the city lying underneath. These under cities sometimes draw fortune hunters.
Law and the Crows: The Carrion Hill city guard are known as the “Crows”. They wear heavy black cloaks which match their dour personalities. Although the Crows genuinely try to protect the citizenry they are generally unconcerned with most petty offenses. Carrion Hill is known among other things for having cramped and twisting streets, and so horses are strictly banned within the city unless they are used for official business. Most livestock in the province are stricken with an albino wasting disease at birth anyway, so only the Crows and the wealthy can afford to import healthy steeds. Another important law is that unauthorized delves into the catacombs beneath the city are strictly prohibited.
The main industry of Carrion Hill is Middenstone; a drywall type of compound that has an unfortunate purplish coloring and tendency to crumble with age. Its redeeming quality is the extremely cheap cost to to produce and therefore purchase. There is also brisk trade due to the presence f the docks.
Carrion Hill is also called the isle of 10,000 temples, and although the nickname is a significant exaggeration (there are actually a mere 180 temples in Carrion Hill, most of them but tiny one-room shrines), it seems that places of worship for gods both vast and slight grow from the very land. Shrines the size of cupboards, painted representations of gods with an offering of flowers beneath, rub shoulders with churches that somehow squeeze balcony upon balcony in tiny frames over almost decadently elaborate pulpits, and above all is the grandest place on the hill—the Ossuary Church of Pharasma.
The western area of the Carrion Hill runs along the southern bank of the Kingfisher River. Much of the city’s waste ends up here, and as such, the water quickly clogs with flotsam so that there are always several barges at work clearing the waterways and removing the flotsam to one of the Filth’s great burn pits. Often, the transition between land and water is gradual, with shores being little better than quicksand; most buildings along the shore are built on wooden pilings sunk deep into the ground. Stories abound of folk who have found diamond rings, furs, and even magic items in the rubbish here, but also iron, wood, and other common salable commodities. A number of rag and bone merchants employ scavengers like this, and their warehouses are scattered on the edges of the Filth. The stench in the Filth is indescribable, especially in summer, and huge numbers of rats, flies, and particularly a species of maroon cockroach dwell here, making the land an almost living thing. The poorest (and generally newest) residents live in hovels clustered together for safety and stability—a town of scavenged rubbish. Numerous cruel taskmasters have their tanneries, alchemy workshops, and middenstone vats here.
By far the most crowded and populated part of Carrion Hill is the Tangle—the lower and middle heights of the hill itself. A twisting mass of alleys, dead ends, and lightless streets serve as the arteries and veins of the district. Towering around these black footpaths (that are often less than 2 feet wide) are claustrophobic houses of wood, stone, and increasingly, Middenstone. Anyone venturing into the myriad alleys without comprehensive knowledge of them or a guide stands an excellent chance of becoming lost, and those who do lose their way stand an excellent chance of being marked by thugs, cutthroats, or worse. However, in these alleys a traveler also passes countless houses, stores, and cupboard-shops selling everything from paper lanterns to decorative pig masks, from clay pipes and strange tobacco to street corner coffee houses at which locals gather to smoke long hookah pipes beloved of the population (the aromatic tobacco does an excellent job at masking the city’s other smells).
The cobbled streets at the top of the hill broaden and are bleached white, and locals joke half-seriously that the streets of the Crown are the tops of countless polished skulls. Buildings at the Crown are larger, and most utilize solid stone and good timber in their construction. Middenstone buildings are unknown in the district, but the color purple is not, for lavender grows in profusion in and around the many olive trees that thrive in the more pleasant air of the high hill. Actual crows are numerous here as well—some say they are waiting for something to happen. Merchants, dignitaries, and the wealthy make their homes here, enjoying the lack of taxes the isle grants. Two structures on the Crown in particular bear special note. The first is Crown Manor, a fortified castle-like estate that serves as both the Carrion Hill town hall and the home of the city’s mayor. Called Rag Manor by many of the city’s citizens (but never to the mayor’s face) for the colorful and plentiful flags and tapestries that hang from its walls and fly from so many of its tower roofs (yet are only very infrequently changed and replaced as they grow tattered). Crown Manor has served countless rulers of the hill as a last bastion against invasion, and it is said that its extensive dungeons consist of the ruins of no fewer than two dozen previous castles. The other structure of note on the Crown is the city’s largest and most intimidating church—the Ossuary Church. Built over the foundations of countless other graveyards and crypts, the Ossuary Church is run by the priesthood of Pharasma, although its site has served many deities over the ages. The building itself is white, its walls initially decorated with bones harvested from the depths of the church’s ossuaries for the purpose of making room for the new citizens of the Hill as the older generations passed on, but eventually as a grisly sort of decoration to celebrate the death of a citizen. Within the church, the walls are decorated with beautiful but haunting frescoes depicting Pharasma’s Boneyard. These murals are new, but the tradition is not—the deeper one goes into the vaults and crypts below, older murals for different gods exist.
Artists Rendering of a side view of Carrion HIll-