by Max Barry

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The Wandering City of
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

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8

Overview

The Wandering City of Eisenstern


Flag


Motto: Griseo inter Lucem ac Tenebras
(The Gray between the Light and Dark)


Population: 12 million
Density: High


Capital: Eisenstern
Largest City: Eisenstern


Official Language: N/A



National Language: English (de-facto)


Demonym: Eisensternian

Government

Council of Seven:

First Seat: Vinzenz Kresge
Second Seat: Vehn, the Crafted
Third Seat: Areagne Twisse
Fourth Seat: Hildebad von Cunigast
Fifth Seat: Dagfinnur Einarsson
Sixth Seat: Sabira Vetui
Seventh Seat: Celena Notario & Ezzamuth

Municipal Authority:

Current Mayor: Páidí Haren
Current Deputy Mayor: Kuno Detlev


Establishment: Approximately 38 years prior to the current date.


Land Area: N/A
Water Area: N/A
Water %: 0


Currency: Star Mark


Time Zone: Variable



An Introduction

The Wandering City of Eisenstern, commonly called Eisenstern or The Star Tower, is a small sovereign state of no fixed location or land area, housed within a spatially-folded structure that outwardly resembles a tower. This structure is capable of directed levitation, and often shifts between universes in a semi-ordered pattern. This is what inspired the nickname "the wandering city", which was later adopted as an official pretitle by the Municipal Authority.

The tower is possessive of non-euclidean geometry - while it may appear to only be the approximate size of a large building when viewed externally, its interior dimensions are considerably larger. Its interior is also ever-expanding, as new areas are constructed. There is a theoretical upper limit to this expansion, but it has yet to be conclusively determined, and is unlikely to ever be reached.

Etymology

Eisenstern takes its name from its precursor - the eponymous Guild of Eisenstern. When translated, it reads "iron star" - an allusion by Kresge to his organization's original purpose as both a guiding force and a coalition of protectors. In its current state, it references the insurmountable will and drive of the city as a whole, as well as the council's aim at providing guidance towards the prosperity and enlightenment of their people.

The standard way to refer to a citizen of Eisenstern is as a "Eisensternian."

History

Eisenstern was originally founded by Vinzenz Kresge, along with a close-knit group of allies, in the kingdom of Ieflax. A world in its early stages, though with an abundant magical presence that had quickly surpassed the progress of mundane technology. At the time, Eisenstern was envisioned as an adventurers' guild, with the purposes of managing and organizing such things as monster hunting and mercenary work. It also served as a mechanism to further Kresge's own agenda - the collection and storage of powerful artifacts. These were gathered through raids, purchased, or simply stolen - Eisenstern's network of clandestine operatives was already beginning to take shape.

Over the years, it expanded in both membership and scope, becoming a multinational private security firm - the first of its kind. Kresge's plans had also proceeded with remarkable effectiveness - he had come into possession of the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of items of great arcane and historical significance. He himself was widely regarded as one of the greatest adventurers and combatants of his time, and still frequently participated in raids and operations alongside his subordinates. The Council of Seven had also been founded - while Kresge was still technically the leader, he controlled the organization alongside six of his closest friends and allies - all equally experienced adventurers, and powerful fighters.

Using his newfound resources, alongside his artifact collection, Kresge decided to construct a suitable seat of power. Seeking the aid and counsel of the most skilled mages and artificers, including many of the members of his own organization, he directed the creation of what would become the Wandering City. Its walls were forged from thrice-warded Abyssal Iron - a rare and incredibly durable material, of which Kresge's own signature sword and gauntlet was also composed. To gather so much of it in one place was a truly herculean task, both financially and physically, as it could only be mined in the vicinity of Planar Gates - ancient doorway-like structures left by a long-forgotten civilization. Their purpose was unknown, but the areas surrounding them were known to attract creatures of the abyss - demons, shades, and all other manners of soulless aberration. To mount any sort of mining expedition was tantamount to suicide, which contributed to the immense rarity of the metal. And yet, with his considerable resources, alongside his own martial prowess, Kresge vowed to protect the miners under his command. Eisenstern defended the mining camp for three months, during which time enough metal could be gathered. The Guildmaster himself slew scores upon scores of abyssal-spawn, which only served to further bolster his public image.

With the materials they had gathered, the tower was constructed. It was a thing of great ingenuity, centered around an unusually large and pure Aether Gem - a setpiece of Kresge's collection. This gem allowed the tower to quite literally take flight - channeled into a custom built Resonance Engine, the crystal provided a nigh-unlimited source of propulsion. Another artifact, the so-called Pilgrim's Cube, provided the means to distort the size and shape of the tower's interior. An entire city was erected within its walls, all without any increase in weight or external size. Further items of arcane significance were added here and there, along with a various more mundane features, as befitting of a great city. Defense wasn't skimped on either - the entire structure was outfitted with various armaments, both normal and magical, as well as a host of protective systems to supplement its already nigh-indestructible exterior. Finally, the tower was complete - guild hall and city state in one, it was a truly fitting seat of power for Kresge and the Council.

It was at this point that the Planar Clash took place. As one, the ancient gateways awoke. Across every land, they opened - giant doorways of previously unclear purpose, that had stood silent and undisturbed for millenia. Form within poured the Abyssal Hordes - great swarms of creatures from the darkness between worlds. Twisted things, wishing only for the destruction and consumption of all life.

The world's armies rallied to combat this novel threat, and for a time they held the darkness at bay. Eisenstern was needed more than ever, and its warriors traveled far and wide to drive back the hordes. But they could not succeed against an enemy with infinite numbers, and mindless, emotionless perseverance. At least, not forever. Cities and nations were lost, whole regions fell into chaos. Old wars were rekindled with novel ferocity, as nations fought over the last scraps of land that had not yet been overrun.

The sorcerer kingdom of Elytria sealed itself within an impenetrable barrier for all eternity. The kings of Merrick gathered their knights, and marched into the Abyss, vowing vanquish the source of the horrors. They were never to return. The merchant republics along the Serpent Sea formed a great alliance, and struck out on a campaign of brutal conquest against the rest of the world. Day by day, the world crumbled.

And so Kresge decided that Eisenstern would not crumble with it. Gathering as many of his fellow guildmates as he could find, he directed them to board the Tower. His entire collection of artifacts, alongside the wealth his guild had gathered over the years, was brought aboard alongside them. And there was still room to spare - opening the gates wide, he called for the citizenry of the nearby states to board his Ark. He traveled the lands, gathering the destitute and the hopeful, until one day he decided that enough was enough.

Shutting the great gates, he descended to the deepest levels of the tower, into the heart of the machinery that bore it aloft. There, he unveiled one of the greatest relics in his possession - the fabled World Casket. Channeling its power into the Resonance Engines, he tore a great rift in the darkness between worlds. And just like that, the Tower vanished. The Abyssal hordes continued their assault on the world's bastions, and yet Eisenstern had disappeared into thin air. Most thought they had simply perished. A few ventured to guess that they had descended into the Abyss, in a bid to follow whatever path the knights of Merrick had forged. The truth, however, was that Kresge knew he was not capable of ending the hordes. Not even with the entire guild at his back. So he settled for a plunge into the unknown - for surely, if the Abyss could be allowed to exist, then other worlds were not out of the question? Further planes, on which one could start anew. As it happened, his assumptions turned out to be correct.

The Tower emerged in a sky not unlike that of its home - a world of remarkably similar appearance, and with remarkably similar inhabitants. Indeed, the rift had not taken them far - perhaps into something more akin to a parallel dimension. As the occupants of the Tower rejoiced, Kresge stared thoughtfully at these lands, yet unexplored. If this truly was a new world, it was bound to be home to the unusual, the atypical. Strange concepts, objects and magics, alien to him and his kin. New sources of power...

Before long, Eisenstern had sent its agents to observe. To mingle, while the tower remained hidden. What they found was rather surprising - the races, the climates, even the languages of these strange lands shared a host of similarities with those of their home. There were, of course, differences - in names, borders and governments, and even in the basic fundamentals of society.

But what truly fascinated Kresge and his inner council was the difference in magical theory. Everything worked in a completely different manner - while their own magic still functioned exactly as it had done, the native inhabitants were capable of certain feats that would have been thought unthinkable back home. Then again, they also lacked several parallel branches to what the Eisensternians could practice - necromancy, for instance, was a foreign concept to them. Kresge understood, then, that he must learn these novel abilities, and obtain the greatest artifacts in which they manifested. He thought to the Casket, and to the multitude of other worlds that may await them beyond the Veil. An infinite number of technologies, wonders and relics, all waiting to be added to the collection...

Now, Eisenstern wanders. The guild and the city are one, and together they roam the multiverse. The city runs as any ordinary merchant republic would - its citizens live within the protective confines of the tower, as a group of wanderers from innumerable different worlds. They trade in commodities between dimensions - metals that defy the laws of physics, devices that achieve things thought impossible by some. They peddle the magical and the wondrous, when in reality it is merely... different. Different stock, from a different place.

The Council sits atop it all, gathering artifacts and technology. The Tower grows ever larger, as do Kresge's ambitions. For he has made a vow - to one day return to the darkness between worlds, and succeed where so many had failed. To vanquish the source of the Abyss once and for all, so that all other worlds may be spared the fate of his own.

Layout

The above map is an approximate representation of the various districts of the Tower. Note that they are most certainly not to scale, and that their dimensions and shape are subject to near-constant change.

Colour Key:

1. Central Elevators
2. Eisenstern Guild Hall
3. Municipal Authority - offices & town hall
4. High-Density Residential Districts
5. Low-Density Residential Districts
6. High-Density Industrial Districts
7. Low-Density Industrial Districts
8. Avionics & Core Systems

Demographics

Population

Eisenstern is populated rather densely, with a current number of inhabitants totaling approximately 12 million. Most of these are concentrated within the central city-column itself, which is divided vertically into districts. The rest have made their home in various pocket dimensions and miniature realities, linked to the Tower by means of interdimensional Gateways. While most of these are state-sanctioned and stable (including a large portion used for farming and industrial manufacture), there have been reports of illegal planes created with linkages to the Tower. The Municipal Authority is working to shut down any such areas as soon as possible, due to the public safety hazard presented by an improperly maintained Gateway.

Language

No official language exists, though English has been adopted as a de-facto Lingua Franca, due to its statistical prevalence in so many alternate planes of existence. The vast majority of citizens are conversant in at least some dialect of English, along with whatever native languages are inherent to their original world and area of residence.

Religion

Religion is another topic of confusion - due to the multitude of gods and deities worshiped throughout the multiverse, no official religion is set within the Tower. Near-absolute freedom of religion is practiced, as long as its tenets do not involve violence or other non-consensual behavior against other residents, or the inhabitants of whatever world is currently being visited. Worship is carried out in an innumerable quantity of ways and deviations, depending on race, origin point and demographic.

Race

All manner of races make up the Tower's citizenry, and this does not merely extend to humans of varying ethnic makeup. While humans and human analogues, due to their multiversal prevalence, are in the majority, a wide range of other species is present within the city's walls. This ranges from some more human-like creatures, such as elves and beastfolk, to esoteric and unusual lifeforms such as the aether wisps, shoggoths and star-spawn. Every citizen is treated equally irrespective of race, which has led to a marked decrease in perceived importance of racial issues within the city. Racially-motivated violence is practically nonexistent, and a significant portion of residents are actually refugees of ethnic cleansing and similar atrocities.

Government

From a technical perspective, Eisenstern is ruled by the Council of Seven, who also make up the ruling body of the central Eisenstern guild. A member of the Council is elected based on combat prowess, usefulness to the guild and city as a whole, and a cooperative personal dynamic. There are no term limits for Council members - a member is only replaced upon death, voluntary abdication, or majority vote for forced abdication by the remainder of the Council.

The current members of the Council are:

  • Vinzenz Kresge
    Founder of the Guild, The Iron Hand. Currently occupies First Seat of the Council.
    Technically the most senior member of the council, overall leader and most powerful combatant. Human, male, unusually tall and broad-shouldered. Grey-haired, grey-eyed. Age unknown, though physically in peak condition. Originally founded Eisenstern and commissioned the Tower for his own agenda, then repurposed it as a travelling ark. Well-known for his inhuman strength, exotic signature weapon and tactical ingenuity. Skilled weaponsmith, and has personally forged several weapons used by the Council.

  • Vehn, the Crafted
    Warmaster of the Guild, Master of Puppets. Currently occupies the Second Seat of the Council.
    Direct commander of the Black Legion, and therefore the chief commanding officer during wartime. Highly advanced, sentient golem, created by Kresge to serve as an ally and weapon. Immense cognitive power, capable of processing the input from (and precisely controlling) untold numbers of proxy bodies simultaneously, allowing for Eisenstern's armies to move as a single cohesive whole. Rarely engages in direct combat, is capable of creating magical "strings" for both offensive and defensive applications.

  • Areagne Twisse
    Chief Emissary of the Guild, Herald of Thunder. Currently occupies the Third Seat of the Council.
    Typically dispatched to deliver crucial messages and oversee important deals. Human, female, slight build. Black-haired, blue-eyed. Commands an elite unit of guards, doubly trained in assassination. Famously superhuman speed and agility. Fights using a set of six identical machetes, along with a host of lightning-based spells.

  • Hildebad von Cunigast
    Spymaster of the Guild, The Black Cardinal. Currently occupies the Fourth Seat of the Council.
    Head of the covert operations division, in direct command of Eisenstern's spy networks and assassins. Presumably human, though always seen wearing a white porcelain mask. True race and characteristics unknown. Black-haired. Fights using shadow-based magic and a rapier.

  • Dagfinnur Einarsson
    Grand Archivist of the Guild, Palm of the Mountain. Currently occupies the Fifth Seat of the Council.
    In charge of archiving the guild's collection of artifacts, as well as maintaining a catalogue of their capabilites and potential uses. Beastfolk, with aspects of buffalo. Male. Incredibly tall and broad-shouldered, to the point of gigantism. Brown hair, brown eyes. Small horns, hair akin to mane. Master monk, though not in worship to any particular god. Immensely skilled hand-to-hand combatant, having mastered several martial arts alongside a system of magic known as the "gateway of tempest".

  • Sabira Vetui
    Grand Engineer of the Guild, Maniac of K'vehl. Currently occupies the Sixth Seat of the Council.
    Oversaw most major aspects of the Tower's construction, and continues to innovate and maintain its mechanisms and functions. Elf, female, short. Blonde hair, green eyes. Famously gifted mechanic and alchemist, constantly designs new devices and contraptions. Uses these in combat, with a wide variety of effects.

  • Celena Notario
    Chief Recruitment Officer of the Guild, The Witch of the North. Jointly occupies the Seventh Seat of the Council, alongside Ezzamuth.
    Oversees the admittance of new members to the Guild, following a rigorous screening system. Human, female, tall. Black hair, pale (near-white) eyes. Eyes turn golden upon fusion with Ezzamuth. Known to be one of the most powerful ice mages to have ever lived. Famously branded a heretic for consorting with Daemons, and still bears said brand to this day. Partnered with Ezzamuth, who acts as her familiar and most of her clothing.

  • Ezzamuth
    Chief Recruitment Officer of the Guild, The Shadowforged One. Jointly occupies the Seventh Seat of the Council, alongside Celena.
    Aids Celena in her duties (as stated above), alongside providing personal protection. Male-identifying (technically genderless), no fixed appearance. Greater Daemon, capable of changing his shape into a practically limitless number of forms. Most often appears as a wide variety of black clothing (when worn by Celena), sometimes accompanied by white bandages. When separate, generally appears as an indistinct shadowy figure, clad in a black cloak and wide-brimmed black hat. Burning yellow "eyes" - generally empty sockets, emitting an ember-like glow. Not bound to Celena in the manner of a conventional familiar - their relationship is more akin to that of partners. Fights alongside Celena by manifesting a wide variety of weapons from within himself, including firearms, melee weapons and magical armaments of various subtypes. Is capable of partially fusing with Celena, allowing for a greater synchronization of combat capabilities and partial personality melding.

In reality, the Council has little bearing on the day-to-day life of the city, as they primarily busy themselves with fulfilling their guild's nebulous agenda across the worlds they visit. The Municipal Authority, a democratically-elected governing body, handles most matters pertaining to the internal dynamics of the city itself. They are presided over by a Mayor and Vice-Mayor, both of which are elected by a parliament. Parliament representatives are, in turn, elected by the citizens of the city. Voting is not compulsory, though in the event of a voting deficiency, the Council of Seven (or other functionaries of the Guild) may be called to mediate the election process.

Foreign Relations and Military

Foreign Relations

Regardless of current location and universe, Eisenstern seeks to maintain cordial relations with all nations it interacts with. After all, it would not do well to attack potential clients. Exceptions to this rule include creatures of the Abyss, which are generally destroyed on sight, those who hurt potential profits via excessive warmongering or xenophobia, and those who attack the Tower directly.

Military

Despite its size, Eisenstern possesses a significant military presence, to be called upon as the need arises. Although direct military action has thus far been a rarity, the Tower is very much capable of both defending itself and mounting invasions when needed. The bulk of is combat-capable forces stems from the so-called Black Legion - a practically endless supply of golem-like automata, produced and deployed by the Blackforge. They possess only rudimentary intelligence, and are typically under the direct control of Vehn, the Crafted, whose cognitive functions are sufficient to allow for the simultaneous, perfect control of millions of bodies.

Drones of the Legion come in varying shapes and sizes, and carry varying armaments depending on role. Unifying traits include a distinct, black alloy composition, featureless faces save the Eisenstern glyph, and a general appearance akin to mannequins. They cannot tire, feel no pain, and are far more durable than any human soldier - not only that, but disabling them takes a considerable amount of damage. They are often capable of retaliating even after being bisected or decapitated, and may even reattach severed limbs and extremities (depending on the method and location of severance).

As previously mentioned, all such drones are produced at the Blackforge - a mechanical amalgamation of forge, matter-replicator and construction unit, located at an undisclosed location within the Tower. It is capable of maintaining a ceaseless, potentially infinite output of soldiers, although varying unit types require varying amounts of time to be constructed.

While the Black Legion is the most commonly used offensive branch of Eisenstern, it is by far not the most powerful. That honor falls to the original guild itself, which still maintains a presence within the city. Each soldier of the guild is subjected to rigorous training, and is typically possessive of advanced knowledge in either select weapon disciplines, branches of the arcane, or both. The most powerful of these operatives are, understandably, the Council of Seven - each of them is possessive of varying, vastly superhuman capabilities, and they have been known to eradicate entire armies single-handedly.

In additon, the Tower's Municipal Authority maintains its own military presence, consisting primarily of drafted citizens. Service is typically voluntary, although emergency conscription may be enacted in the event of lowered manpower. They typically serve as the Tower's security force and law enforcement agency, and are rarely involved in extranational combat. Their capabilities vary wildly depending on race and background, and may either be on par or superior to their conventional human counterparts. Shoggoths are a notable example - afflicted by the Curse of the Flesh, they cannot be killed by conventional means, and will regenerate extremely rapidly when wounded.

Finally, there is the Tower itself. Its usage as a machine of war was envisioned during construction - not only is its exterior nigh-impermeable to any conventional armaments, and securely warded against arcane attack, it is also fitted with a wide variety of weaponry, sourced from varying dimensions and locales. The primary armaments fielded by the tower are batteries of Fel Cannons. Harnessing the power of trapped Daemons, they are capable of unleashing so-called Felfire - an unnaturally hot form of enchanted flame, green in coloration, capable of quite literally vaporizing steel. It is also impossible to extinguish by conventional means, except by deprivation of fuel - without magical intervention, even the tiniest flame of Felfire is capable of burning away at entire rainforests without reprieve. If one's sleeve is grazed by Felfire, then one has about half a second to sever it before death becomes inevitable. Other magical armaments fielded by the tower include Vortex Lances, Shards of Balthazar, and Quake Engines, among many others. It is also equipped with certain more mundane weaponry, such as cannons and hydraulic rams. Combined with its inherent levitation and ability to instantly warp between two points in space, the Tower is a terrifying military asset.

Economy

Eisenstern operates as a mobile trader enclave, and is uniquely suited to the procurement of exotic goods due to its mobile nature. Its primary source of income comes from buying, reselling and trading in items and goods that would be considered unusual and valuable in certain dimensions, but are plentiful in others. For instance, they may mine or collect a certain metal in a world where such metal is plentiful and worthless, then proceed to travel to where it is in short supply, and sell it at a massive markup.

Eisensternian markets are typically set up some distance outside the city, often while the Tower itself remains concealed. Security is provided by Municipal Authority forces, though the Black Legion remains on standby in case of any serious threats. More significant purchases, usually on a national level, are carried out via trade emissaries, who are transported along with the goods to the transaction's location by either heavily-guarded convoy or direct teleportation, depending on circumstance. Emissaries are usually combat-trained, and remain under heavy guard, in order to prevent robbery and the seizure of goods.

As a sidenote - while in technical terms, the Eisensternian economy is best-described as state capitalism, one would do well to remember that in this case, the state is probably the biggest entrepreneurship of all. The Guild of Eisenstern regulates all trade merely because it is the primary trader, and thus smaller parties must work through it as a mediator, as they operate within its property bounds and are thus subject to its economic laws.

Culture

Eisenstern's culture is a strange mish-mash of various concepts and influences, from the entirety of the multiverse. Emphasized values include judgement by merit, acceptance of the unusual, and unified resistance against those who would do the community harm. Beyond that, there is a wide variance in customs between the various species and groups inhabiting the Tower, and no two cultural subgroups are exactly alike.

An easily-demonstrable example of this is food. When looking through the restaurants, stalls and other dining establishments present throughout the city, one may find almost every dish from every culture imaginable. Eisenstern has no "national food" - rather, its markets and shops are filled to the brim with the national foods of practically every nation it visits. There are few places more culinarily diverse than Eisenstern - these trends have also given rise to unusual examples of fusion-cuisine between cultures that would ordinarily never have come into contact. In this way, the culinary scene of Eisenstern is a perfect representation of its cultural makeup as a whole. Impossibly diverse, merged together in odd ways, and ever-changing.

Infrastructure

Due to the Tower's status as a single city, its municipal infrastructure is relatively straightforward. A central elevator shaft runs down its entire vertical span, fitted with several elevators, each of sufficient size to bear a similar quantity of goods to a cargo ship. They are interspaced with smaller, personal elevators, as well as medium-sized ones designed for the transportation of vehicles. Ladders, stairways and smaller elevators are present at other points throughout the city, though these rarely run through all of its floors in a linear fashion.

The generation of energy and other necessary processes are handled within the lowest level of the Tower - the Core Systems district. Under perpetually heavy guard, this section of the city also houses the systems that keep it aloft, alongside a wide variety of other miscellaneous machines and devices.

The growth of food is, by contrast, not technically even carried out within the Tower itself. Instead, various pockets of otherwise unrelated space have been assembled into what is now known as the Patchwork Acres - a partially extradimensional expanse that may be accessed from several points within the Tower, arranged in such a way as to allow for completely unrelated climates and seasons to occur in close proximity to each other. The magic holding the entire area together allows for the coexistence of, for example, a tropical banana plantation and a mountain goat farm side-by-side. There are no physical boundaries between such areas, but moving between them carries a corresponding change in weather, temperature and time. Farmers are advised not to look at the sky too much, as it is known to cause migraines and dizziness due to the mental effects of observing spacetime folds. The Acres allow for complete self-sufficiency with regards to food supplies when necessary, though both exports and imports of various foods remain widespread.


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