Nightholme, locally referred to as “the Hole” is a city-state defined by it’s unique geography.
Sheer cliffs three miles high engulf the city on all sides, creating several unique cultural and natural phenomena.
A Closed City
The river is only way for most merchants to bridge the gap between the northern and southern half of the continent. This trade route is the main reason for the city’s existence, and the tolls extracted line the pockets of the city’s upper crust. Since these tolls are so important to the city, the gates where the river enters and exits the city are carefully guarded at all times.
As a nod towards the merchants who keep outside goods flowing, the city sends regular patrols up and down the underground river passages that lead to and from the city, ensuring that the route stays safe and clear.
A City in Darkness
Being surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs has another effect unique to the city – a trait that gives Nightholme its name. The rock walls obscure all but the most direct sunlight. Daylight falls on the city for only an hour each day, for a half hour before and after noon. Locals call this hour the clifflight
For visiting merchants, this is the busiest hour of the day, and the time most voyagers leave the city. By default, this commerce draws many locals out into the city to do business. The most devout, or superstitious of the locals consider this time dangerous and hide themselves away in their homes during the clifflight.
An Independent City
Since space is at a premium in the Hole, there obviously is not much room for farmlands. Besides that, the lack of sunlight makes growing most crops impossible. The city’s gentry sidestep this problem by purchasing foodstuffs from merchants passing through the city. The city’s poor depend on another food source, one that neatly sidesteps both major obstacles to crop production.
Ghost Lichen is a bitter, chalky, and extremely nutritious plant that grows from the walls of the cliffs. Rather than farming on the ground, immense plots along the sides of the cliff walls supply crops to the city. By growing along the upper edges of the cliff wall, the Ghost Lichen are able to get much more sunlight than the city below.
A City of Devotion
Outside of their role supplying food to the city, little is known about The Gossamer. They are sequestered from the main population of Nightholme, and live in a special section of the Temple District. Only the Priests of the Gossamer Order are allowed contact with the Gossamer.
The general population reveres The Gossamer as living gods, worshiping them, and bringing offerings to the temple to thank them for their bounty of food. They are almost universally loved and feared by the citizenry.
A City in Peril
The very walls that protect Nightholme from foreign military and economic forces make the city vulnerable to another threat. A plague is sweeping through Nightholme.
The city leaders have, for the most part, done a good job of containing the spread of the disease. Their first step was to increase security, with screenings at either end of the Vein. Those found infected are quarantined, then shipped down-river in plague-ships. The result is that the marshes surrounding south of the city have sprouted plague colonies.
A Frightened City
In light of the plague, old customs and superstitions have reemerged among the local population. Many turn to the Gossamer Order for protection, and more and more street priests have turned up on the corners. Along with old ways, come old superstitions, and none is more pronounced than the fear of arcane magic. Mages were never popular in Nightholme, but before the sickness spread, most of the population was willing to ignore them as long as they kept quiet. Now, mages are actively sought out.
While locals worry about the danger of plague, traveling merchants have another concern. Groups of thieves have emerged to take advantage of a panicked city and a distracted guard. As more and more merchants lose shipments, there has been a steep upturn in the number of hired guards traveling down the Vein.