Notes on Parth Morren [Orien]

Urban Wildlife

As with any city, much of the local wildlife has been displaced by the human population. The presence of the mostly-complete wall has further restricted the local fauna, as well. However, a number of animals, birds in particular, make their homes within the city. Early each spring, for example, the rooftops and chimneypots of the city become home to the large, ungainly but beautiful nests of storks on their yearly migration. The harbor, particularly the north docks and the Fishery, brings a massive number of gannets and gulls, who squawk and squabble over every spare bit of extra chum or dropped oyster. A number of ravens, crows, and turkey vultures swarm over the Shambles, picking up bits of meat from the butcheries. These carrion-eaters do a fair job of picking in the bone-yard, thus simplifying the work of the mortar-mixers who must otherwise bleach the bones before grinding them. A substantial number or raptors also nest around the city and help to control the burgeoning rat population. The Brown Cloaks, it is said, send a representative to a parliament of owls that meet in Castle Hill.

The city has enough green spaces both inside and outside the walls to be home to a number of song-birds, among them finches, robins, sparrows, starlings, and grosbeaks. Many small back-lot gardens are home to apiaries, which provide honey to many families as a welcome sweetener (and provide the raw material for the city’s famous mead), but also let loose large numbers of bees, who must roam quite far in search of nectar. By and large, both birds and bees are welcome.

Beneath the city streets, however, other conditions apply. When Morren founded the city, the Seventh Man and the Azures dug an aqueduct from the Balloken Hills, thirty miles away, and built a series of reservoirs within the rock to hold the water. In addition, they cut a series of separate tunnels to handle waste and sewage. However, these tunnels provide refuge out of sunlight and sight for less savory creatures than birds and bees; the city is rumored to host more rats and mice than even Wasthavan, with its 75,000 people! Other sorts of animals lurk in the sewers and reservoirs as well, but the stories range from the vaguely disturbing to the hilariously impossible. One ridiculous claim would have the citizens believe a dragon dwells in an empty reservoir chamber somewhere below Horsemarket.

The city also has its share of helpful animals, as well as feral dogs and cats. Four major ‘hiring’ stables stand within the walls, in addition to the royal stable up on Castle Hill, within the Fort. Donkeys and mules do much heavy lifting and circle-walking to power machines or load cargo holds. Many households are guarded by dogs or trained cats; but many of these animals escape or are turned loose when no longer useful, and they become semi-savage, wandering the streets looking for scraps of food.

Beyond the walls, the countryside cannot even be called completely tame. Bears visit the city refuse pile at night, clawing among the debris for food, particularly honey or junked fish. Wolves sometimes attack sheepfolds within sight of the city walls, particularly during the spring shearing when so many sheep are gathered in so close.

Prostitution

Prostitution is illegal in Parth Morren, reflecting the sensibilities of the founder, who included a condition in the city’s charter a hundred fifty years ago. King Morren was a romantic at heart, and spent much of his early years chasing a woman across the Ocean, the very archetype of the impossibly unavailable True Love. The modern city council, however, in addition to the Black Cloaks, are much more accomodating, and Morren’s Law is understood to apply not to the act of selling one’s own sexual services, but rather to someone else profiting unduly from that sale. Prostitution is acceptable, provided that the bulk of the profits wind up in the pocket of the woman or man doing the work.

As is the case elsewhere in Orien, prostitutes signal their services are available by wearing green gloves; men usually wear leather gloves, while women wear leather, silk or cotton. Brothels usually hang a green banner over the door or a window, and the lintels of a courtesan’s house are often painted green. Foreigners are often advised to check for the presence of two gloves before making an offer; a single glove is often worn by a lover to signal certain risqué or even raunchy desires to his partner.

Many of the city’s prostitutes work without much stigma, though they do not hang green banners from their windows. Often, they are involved in some other work, whether as artisans, merchants, or at some other profession; prostitution is merely a sideline business to earn extra income, and they put on their gloves solely when they desire. Some of them work through Parth Morren’s six official houses, to avoid bringing guests home; the use of a room adds 10% to the agreed-upon fee to the guest, and the host or hostess often pays a ‘club fee’ to the house annually. To avoid trouble with the law, the houses go to great lengths to conceal the amount of this club fee, and the number may be highly negotiable.

Only twelve women and eight men work as registered full-time professional prostitutes. Four of the men and eight of the women are the owners or co-owners of the six official houses. The other eight men and women are the city’s highest-paid courtesans, and each runs an exclusive household for the entertainment of their guests and friends. Lady Alayne is the most famous of them, as she is oftentimes the Black CLoak’s escort to many parties and gatherings. Her house is usually open to visitors, and a wide-ranging conversation about life, magic, sex, politics and trade goes on in her salon almost every evening. Anders Fairhair is less well-known in his sexual capacity. Given the rumors of how the Jade Robe affects the minds and physical desires of its wearers, it is not surprising that the Dean of the Jade School is also among the city’s registered whores, and that he accepts guests of every gender.

Anders conceals that part of his reason for plying the sex-trade in Parth Morren is that he suspects a former student of the Jade School, Kyrelle Ghosthorn, is also in the business. Kyrelle is extremely dangerous to all her guests, for she wears a Jade Robe dipped in blood, and is capable of draining her sexual partner’s life force into herself, to use it as magical energy for her spell-casting later. This leaves her partners feeling weak and sedentary for months, and can even kill them. Anders is determined to stop her. First, however, he has to find her.

Alcohol and Drugs

As one of Orien’s largest ports, Parth Morren receives a huge variety of alcohol on its wharves every week. Rums, liquors, whiskeys, wines, brandy-wines, beers, ales, stouts and more come to the city from all over the world. As a result, the Morrenese tend to have discriminating palates, particularly among the upper classes. This is not to say the city does not produce its own alcohols. Each of the city’s thirty taverns runs its own small brewery, and the breweries of the nearby market towns send the best of their efforts into Parth Morren every year for the Harvest Festival and the Black Cloak’s Medal competition.

While Parth Morren is too far north and has poor soil to produce good wine, the local grapes can be processed into poor wine that makes an acceptable brandy when distilled. More of the local grapes get processed into graffas a hissingly-sweet concoction served traditionally at midsummer after late suppers just before sunset. Extra grain is often processed into askavis, the water that makes fire in the belly; men usually drink askavis in the winter before the fire, and ladies sometimes put a spoonful or two in their kaphe or chlatin the afternoons.

Nine Kaphe-houses operate in the city, where the raw or ground beans for kaphe or chlat can be bought, or the two drinks may be expertly prepared. The Golden Cowrie, run by the Azure Robe and alchemist Peirs Hennahand is widely regarded as the best in the city. Peirs operates six glass, gold and bronze samovars of his own design, and also serves chlat in solid form, theobrame, the only shop in the city to do so. His truffles of theobrame, filled with liquid honey or rasberry paste, always sell out by mid-day.

Teikon is smoked in long white clay pipes. The pale green herb is popular, and is ascribed with various medicinal properties, but its chief usefulness seems to be to encourage storytelling, banter and good humor. It is sold over the counter at apothecaries, and many taverns also keep their own stock. Teikontal, the more potent and concentrated form of the herb, is rarely available, and even more heavily taxed than its regular dried-leaf form

Being a port, Parth Morren suffers from an influx of new drugs from time to time, many of which have much more dangerous after-effects than the Big Four: alcohol, kaphe, chlat, and teikon. The city remembers, and enshrines in law, the bans on the importation of coca, dream-poo, tabac, khirgaz, drumly, shamash and the strange substance known as ‘tongues’.

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