“To tire of Ehrpristav would be to be tired of life, for walking within that city breathes every sordid joy and poetic pain in our world.”
-from Travels of a Young Bard by Charmaine
Ehrpristav is the capital city of and an Archduchy within Ackenzal. It is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of around four hundred thousand within the city proper. It lies at the intersection of Vesterine, Saefallas, and Loganfall in the delta of the Nathair River, and is situated atop the ancient Knotman city once known as Fvow’nakathrach, now called The Hallows. This ancient city, before being destroyed when the Anachitis unraveled the knotmen’s gods, had a source of power that was wondrous even at the time of the Old Dominion. Scholars have tried for centuries to understand it, but whatever core that provides the energy is so deeply buried that even the most talented scryers cannot seem to find it. However, the nodes of its power, called dwimmerwells, still crest the soil, and machinists and clever engineers, using techniques described in Chlothar’s Book of Specifications, have built devices around them to turn wheels, heat water, and power feats of tuning. One of the more impressive uses of this energy source is the creation of Dweomspring, a portable energy source that can be used to power clockwork devices.
Ehrpristav plays a central role in the politics, art, literature, science, and tuning arts in Ackenzal and the world. Its unique manufacturing capabilities ensure its place of absolute importance in the global stage. It has some of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most inventive people living behind its walls. Despite, or perhaps because of all of this, the city is also rife with crime, disease, abject poverty and oppression by not only the nobility, but by the immensely powerful merchant class.
Currently, the level of addiction to the drug autumn poppy is crippling the city’s productivity, with an estimated sixth of the male population dependent on the drug thanks to the Unkneeling, a criminal organization supposedly run by outcast dwimmerlings. The Syndicate of Merchants to Western Lands seems to have more control of the city than the archduke, and in response this and the illegal importation of autumn poppy the Vhatran Guard have begun raiding Syndicate ships and warehouses, collecting unlawful taxes and disrupting trade. A disease called Stenvel meanwhile spreads, and the efforts of the city’s physicians cannot seem to do anything.
Ehrpristav used to be where the High King of Ackenzal ruled, from atop the great, Orichalcum- covered tower that peers over from the center of the city. The city changed hands between dwimmerling courts & Huldra twice before coming into ownership by the humans of central Ackenzal. Now is home to the Parliament, the Crown-Elect, and the Archduke. It is also the center of power of The Spires, with the great University of Ehrpristav positioned just east of walled portion of the city. In its past Ehrpristav was controlled by the huldra of the spring court, who knew nothing of the dwimmerwells. They gifted the city to a then small human kingdom during the early period of their brieg control of Ackenzal. When, centuries later, builders unearthed the dwimmerwells, there was a diplomatic attempt to retake the city by the huldra, as well as a aggressive military siege laid by the dwimmerlings and thier monstrous creations. In the end, the human settlers of Ehrpristav, already becoming a central power of Ackenzal, kept their city through the hasty invention of the city’s eldritch manganon, war engines powered by the dwimmerwells capable of discharging vast quantities of eldfire over long distances, and a compromised treaty that guaranteed the independence of the city-state of Ehrpistav as long as it had tariff-free trade between it and the Spring Court of the Dwimmerlings. Less than a century later, after the first starfall, Ehrpristav secured its position as the greatest city of man by becoming the seat of the High King of Ackenzal.
Ehrpristav is ruled most directly by an Archduke, who is chosen by the Prince-Electors. His most important duty is control over the dwimmerwells, distributing what industries receive access to the ancient power source. It is widely believed that at the top of the High King’s Tower there is a device that allows the Archduke to regulate and distribute the energy of the dwimmerwells.
Magistrates deal with most legal issues under the authority of the Archduke, and private justicars and thief-takers deal specifically with interpersonal criminal offenses under the direction of government officials. The government does not regulate much trade within the city, and foreign trade is almost entirely controlled by The Syndicate rather than by the archduke, though recent events have seen abuses of power on the archduke’s part. Most of the government’s duties within Ehrpristav are control of the dwimmerwells, building of public works, sanitation, and defense. The Vhatran Guard is the Archduke’s personal branch of law enforcement, and operate as a kind of secret police. They are mostly used to protect the homes of nobles, the dwimmerwells, and to collect unpaid taxes from the powerful or the dangerous. However, they carry out criminal investigations, trials, and punishments outside the public, and occasionally even the archduke’s, eye if the crime was considered a threat to the nobility or the city-state. Interpersonal crimes are generally reported to magistrates, who in turn hire privately operating justicars to handle investigations and punishments. Civilians and businesses also hire thief-takers to resolve criminal issues. Civilian protection is offered by constables and nightwatchmen, who are appointed by their ward and do not receive money from taxes, but are generally paid directly by the people they serve. In the case of military needs, a large detachment of Free Legion soldiers is kept on retainer within the city.
Ehrpristav is a shipping and manufacturing hub. The shipyard of Ehrpristav is able to construct roughly one new, cargo-carrying vessel every week, a remarkable feat of production only made possible by the dwimmerwells that powers the wheels, saws, and pulleys of that shipyard. Ehrpristav is also the only producer of dweomspring in the world, a monopoly that would give the city inordinate power if they were not completely dependent on Helligimark for their supply of spunstone, a necessary component of dweomspring. Finished textiles, made with dwimmerwell power are another large export of the city, though they import the cotton from the colonies in Pachiomadio. The city imports almost half of its food supply, with farms just outside of the city walls and the fish of the harbor providing for the rest. A large number of various guilds supply the city with finished goods made from imported raw materials. Ehrpristav ‘s biggest trade partners are the Free Ports, but the maritime enterprise’s success is based on how far-flung one can find Ehrpristav windjammers on the open seas, from the peninsula of Thassal to the far end of Pachiomadio.
There are four hundred thousand people living within the limits of the archduchy. There is technically no majority population, as even the largest ethnic group, the Havsfolk, accounts for only a third of the people. The Cairnthays, an ethnic group originally from the northern shore of Cairnaythiel who came to the city almost two centuries ago to flee from wars fought by the city-states of Lypra Haveno, account for about a fifth of the population. They have maintained their own language and have established wards of the city. Many Zapandi live in Ehrpristav , having traveled with colonizing ships during the period of settlement in the western continent, and eventually bringing their own families over the vast sea. Gilders who practice the hiddenfolk faith of Fíodóirí have begun placing roots in the city, hoping to escape the discrimination of their home island, only to meet similar bigotry within the walls of Ehrpristav . In addition to the diversity of the city’s main population, the harbor is often populated by variegated traders from all over the world, and the university attracts scholars from across the sea.
The non-human population makes up about a third of the city, primarily the stout splicebred designed for mining that was commissioned by The Syndicate during the period of slaving in Pachiomadio. The is a splicebred population of about forty thousand live mostly outside the walls of the city-proper, being traditionally employed on farms. There is a new surge of refugees from The Char, felledmen who have just now been coming into their truebreeding forms fleeing from the varied monsters and warlords that now control the wasteland to the east. These refugees have been placed outside the city walls in hovels and tents as the government tries to decide what to do with them. The giants’ natural tendency toward extremes combined with their imposing appearance makes them unwelcome guests in much of the city. A small but influential dwimmerling population lives in the city, many of whom coming to Ehrpristav after suffering from Tequisous, the Autumn Court’s version of ostracism. The Unkneeling control a large share of the criminal underworld. They are alternatively feared, despised, or respected by the native citizens of the city.
Ehrpristav is home to a multitude of different languages. One can hear two dozen different languages by walking next to the harbor, and that’s if they are not paying very close attention. Vulgate is the language taught to children who go to school, and most in the city use it as a common tongue. Havsprog is the traditional language of the most populace group, though many of the younger generation in the city no longer speak it, opting instead to communicate in Vulgate. Kuniksprog is taught to noble children as the language of the court, and it is technically a crime for low-born to use it. This policy has been problematic with the giant refugees, who natively speak kuniksprog (and not Vulgate at all) as they come from a region that was isolated from the rest of Ackenzal for three hundred years. Many Cairnthays speak Eidioma, which is from a completely different language group and is most often used within family homes. Marujo is spoken among the immigrants from Pachiomadio, and is a big linguistic contributor to the Cant used by the criminal underworld.
The official religion of the city is that of the Ascendant Church, though many faiths find expression within the archduchy of Ehrpristav . Worship of vestiges and anathems is expressly forbidden, though there are many who still place prayers to The Trickster and others. The patron saint of Ehrpristav is The Builder, and is the most common ascendant to find clerics bound to within the city. The Cairnthay worship the Lord of Skies and Waters, and have a large temple dedicated to him along the river. Some humans from Leovigild practice the hiddenfolk faith of Fíodóirí. The felledmen, notably, seem to have no clear faith among them, further making them a target of harsh suspicion.