As you sit in your fishing dingy offshore on a lazy summer morning, Hillport rises to the North. The expansive bay shelters commercial and fishing vessels, with their triangular sails and mysterious cargoes. At the pier for the ships and the fishing docks are shrines to the Master of the Void, as he is also known as the Lord of the Waters. People line up to placate him with offerings of fish (as if he didn’t have enough of those handy anyway).
Just offshore to the west are the merchant district and the most expensive markets. To the east and below the river are the common folk and slaves, sheltering in their modest homes and quarters. Their life is not always easy and the streets are not kind. The military sweep through to try to arrest mischief-makers with few results.
The main body of Hillport rises behind the port, into the dim distance beyond. You can almost see the expensive estates with their colorful banners and greenery, beckoning to each other across the bay. Above the estates rises the highest temples in Hillport, monuments, and the capital buildings, gleaming in the rising sun.
The people are increasingly repressed and fearful. Hillport seems to be quite in control of the larger region. Blurred family allegiances among the nobility have created a climate of political inability. Some merchants who are able to, have already left for southern climes or they have sought out less known (and more dangerous) trails through the mountains to the east. This has left the Hillport armies in a position to sponsor merchants to stay, and leverage to muscle merchants opposed to them.
The merchant class and nobility wear loose pants and oversized shirts or blouses that are not tucked in, and come down mid-thigh. Brilliant colors speak volumes about the owner’s financial prowess, as many tints are expensive. Shirts and blouses are often highly decorated with needlepoint. Hats are fashionable, and might be either silk or leather. Ladies’ bonnets often boast huge brims (to show off how much they could afford of course) unless it is windy. Winter brings out knee-length sweaters and overcoats. Shoes are unwieldy platforms of six inches or more in height, the soles primarily composed of selected hard wood with brass tacks in the bottom for extra noise. Even though most urban streets are paved and sewage is available, evidently they have an aversion to getting into any sort of street muck.
Those who can afford it are also driven around in large chariots. These large two-wheeled carts are easily pulled through the streets, and can usually be parked anywhere. It is common to fit the driver in front of the compartment, with room for four to be seated inside. For stability, some of the larger versions have a third wheel toward either the back or the front to even out the load. Chariots are pulled either by slaves, or by draft animals (with similar attitudes and treatment dished out from the passengers toward either).
These folk live in sturdy homes of humble sorts – rectangular log and sod construction (like a log cabin). Upper class neighborhoods will boast at least two floors, and especially around Hillport you’ll find many homes of several stories and large yards and gardens.
Concrete is becoming a common building tool, but there is no consensus on how best to reinforce it. Concrete is used as statuary, pools and fountains, sidewalks and streets, and as a buttress. It was heavily used in the raising of the aqueduct that satiates Hillport’s thirst and need for cleanliness.
Cut glass of many colors and designs are used to highlight windows, show off hanging mobiles, and any manner of globes, beads, cameos, and sometimes inset into furniture.
The two main forms of music in this are are martial and folk. Martial music is heavily drummed with horns, and began as a means of keeping the armies moving along. Folk music is a more broken rhythm with lilting flutes, often with softer drumming.
The Hillport army uses a banded bronze plate that is somewhat heavy, to cover the shoulders, chest and back. This is worn over bronze mail that extends down the arms and to mid-thigh. Depending on the season, leather leggings are worn with bronze greaves, or the greaves by themselves in high summer.
Shields are made from leather reinforced wood or wicker, both square and curved, giving ample canvass to the markings appropriate for the regiment and unit.
Bronze helms have cheek guards that come down to the jawline, and centurions and higher-ranked individuals will wear various crests of colored feathers or fur.
Military weaponry choices will vary considerably, depending on the opponent.
Against civilians, ruffians, runaway slaves or other unarmored peoples, soldiers will use their short swords and shields. They will form ranks and lock shields, clearing streets of brigands and anybody else in the way.
Since bronze swords are not effective against armor, against an armored opponent the military will use a hook and punch combination.
Hook – a bronze arm reinforcement worn on the off-hand forearm. It has two large hooks or fingers on the end. These tines are anywhere from 6” to 18” long, and usually curve downward. The hook is used to get one or more of the hooks under the opponent’s armor and hold them in place for a more directed punch attack, and to fend off attacks from opponent melee weapons.
Punch – a very stout puncture weapon worn over the hand and forearm. A punch is a somewhat short but thick blade or spike of bronze. When the opponent has been ‘hooked’, the punch finishes them off at a very close range. The blades are not necessarily sharpened, but the point is always well maintained.
Spears, crossbows, axes, and staves are also used. Swords or whips are only normally used against unarmored people. Since there is no plate armor, pole arms are not really needed.
Hillport is walled with a series of great stone rings. The gates are bronze-plated and watched closely by guards that are rotated regularly. Watch towers appear above the walls at a distance of about two bowshots between them. The main port has a very tall stone tower that also serves as a lighthouse, where men with telescopes can view a wide expanse of the sea.
As the first experimentation with a Republic concept in TIRRA, Hillport is a large capital set amid the hills and peninsulas on the northwest coast. Claude, the Proconsul, rules Hillport with political help from his cronies in the Senate. Nearly twenty decades ago the Republic was founded with a great deal of internal fanfare – and much ridicule from its neighbors. Kevis had many uneasy days after the founding of Hillport until he committed suicide by drinking poison after the eighth year anniversary celebrations.
The official Hillport boundary is known by the Bertram River to the east; the Baldtops to the north; and the sea along its coastline – between two peninsulas.
Hillport is ridiculously wealthy, since it has mineral wealth. The heavily fortified mines are in the hills, and they are a carefully guarded state resource. Most people who venture there don’t come back – or they end up working in the mines to ensure the state secrets. The streets of the capital are lined with statues, temples, obelisks, and opulent decorations for the purely decadent at heart. The local gold coin (the “wheel”) is proudly on official Hillport banners. Their bathhouses are elaborate miniature palaces, fit for socializing or entertaining.
With that wealth comes a large army and navy for an area that is essentially a city-state. This is strange since there are few rivals and no nations are threatening war. The old men are gossiping about war these days. They fear a possible invasion of Malthos or Kaloram. Hillport troops also roam Narzil, providing all defenses for that small country.
The wealthiest live in villas that are warm in the winter and breezy in the summers. The floors are built up so that the servants can make fires below to heat the floors and outer walls, which also provides hot water for the baths.
The other thing going for Hillport is their invention of concrete. With this strange mixture they are now able to build arches, streets, buildings, columns, and other more artistic pursuits. The secret of the concrete is being jealously guarded and each mixture of the substance borders on being a religious ritual.
The sad thing about Hillport is that they have leveraged their way into taking people into servitude from outlying areas that are poorly defended. Some people are outright slaves due to inability to pay real or imagined debts, and others are working off debts that were incurred and sadistically increased due to government sponsored merchant dealings in the area. These are the miners, street sweepers, house servants – performing all of the mean, dirty jobs nobody else will do. The life of a slave in Hillport, while often degrading, is usually secure from being tossed into the Coliseum or some other entertainment venue as a laugh for the mobs.