Upper City

The Upper City exudes wealth. Its buildings' shutters and doors bear vibrant colours and are smartly maintained. Its streets are wide, and its terrain is nearly flat. Magically lit lanterns hang from ornate arms, extending streetward from most buildings, keeping the avenues well lot. Flowering gardens have been replaced with glowing fungus, all carefully chosen to be aesthetically pleasing.

Everyone in the Upper City is either a noble; a domestic servant of a noble, often from a proud line of retainers; a special constable, often also a hereditary post; or an affluent business owner. Upper City establishments serve the nobility and other wealthy customers almost exclusively. This part of the city has few inns and no public taverns. The nobles do their drinking at home, in private clubs, or on overnight soirées into the Lower City. Coffee houses are quite popular. After Final Bell, the streets are devoid of activity except for patrolling special constables.

The Gates

The Old Wall, the original wall constructed to defend Bête Noire, contains the Upper City. Five gates separate the Upper City from the Lower City. The Black Dragon Gate protects the northern entrance into the city. Originally, the only gate leading to the harbour was the Red Dragon Gate. It is still the only gate in the wall segment separating the Upper and Lower cities through which normal traffic and trade is permitted. Special constables always guard the Red Dragon Gate, and the constables and Greycloaks use the site to transfer prisoners destined either for trial at Justice Hall or confinement in the Zeetower.

Blue Dragon Gate, White Dragon Gate, and Green Dragon Gate, the other three Old Wall entrances, are small structures created for the nobles' convenience after the Lower City was enclosed. Those not in the company of a noble, not wearing a noble's house livery, or not bearing a noble's letter of employment must use the Red Dragon Gate.

The Circus

The Circus is the city's only large civic space and serves as its market. By law, all buying and selling in the city not completed in a licensed and taxed establishment must be done in the Circus. Merchants at the daily market set up their tables, accoutrements and wares at Dawn Bell. At Dusk Bell, the special constables clear the streets of visitors and vendors.

Decorum and order hold sway; street music and noisy activities are prohibited. This rule does not pertain on days when the council declare that the Circus be used for civic purposes. At these times, vendors suited to the festivities set up on the Circus' fringes while the area's central expanse is given over to dances, contests, and games.

Most nights, the Circus is an empty space whose perimeter (and only that much) is illuminated by light from the buildings that ring it. Nobles sometimes schedule the space for an evening social event, such as a concert, grand ball, or wedding.

Hall of Justice

Once the original fortress protecting Bête Noire, the Hall of Justice has transformed from fortress to courthouse. It finds use for professional guild meetings, civic events, court trials, tax counting, real estate and law record-keeping, and meetings of Parliament and the Privy Council.

The long-held tradition of the whole citizenry voting to elect ministers ended after an attempted coup. Today, the privy council is made up of the High Confessor of the Faith of Zedek, the Lord High Constable, the Knight-Commander of the Greycloaks, the Lord Enchanter of the Cabal, the Grand Inquisitor, and the Lord Mayor. In the event of ties, the Traitor King will pass a vote.

Whitehall Place

The Upper City's police force uses Whitehall Place as a barracks and for training, storage, and organizational needs. The citadel has only a few jail cells, which the special constables use to temporarily hold those awaiting a trial in the Hall of Justice or a transfer to the prison in the Zeetower.

Special constables staff the Upper City's walls and run interior patrols day and night. The Upper City is the exclusive domain of the constables; the Greycloaks have no jurisdiction here. Special constables all live in the Upper City, and many are volunteers drawn from daughters and second-born sons. The Privy Council grants a fifty percent reduction on taxes for any house that contains a special constable.

At night, the constables evict everyone from the Upper City except for residents and their guests. All constables know every noble by sight. Anyone else is detained and politely (at first) questioned. Constables release anyone who has a good reason to be out and who is dressed in a noble's house livery, bears a noble-signed invitation, or carries a constable issued stamped and numbered wooden or silver badge. Passes that the constables supply are collected and changed often to foil counterfeiters.

Temple Hill

When Bête Noire was still above, Temple Hill held the grandest cathedral to Zedek in Theudemeria. Since Zedek's descent to the Underworld, and the city's descent Below, theology has become more flexible. Temples still hold services, Bête Noire still has bishops, the Traitor King is still head of the church. People are just more polite towards the infernal.

Many of Zedek's churches have become shrines to the Seven. An oft-frequented temple to St. Nehalennia is located in Wolfstack Harbour.

Nearly everyone in Bête Noire gives honour to St. Saoirse. Torlin Valemont, the High Confessor of Bête Noire (and the Traitor King’s firstborn son), is perhaps the most famous devotee of St. Saoirse in the city. While his appointment as High Confessor is seen as both political and blatant nepotism, it is believed to have further solidified the power of Saoirsians within the city.

While the Faith of Zedek would proclaim it heresy, worship of the Turathian deities Helel and Koshek has become popular since the war with Torment. Helel's worship has decreased of late, however. Part of this is because the sun can't been seen underground, part is because "missionaries" of the Shining One view Below as unholy, and spread Helel's shining wisdom to the underbelly of the world - with a heavy mace in one hand, and Helel's searing flame in the other.

The daemonfae have tried to erect a temple to Sarya on Temple Hill, but the city has thus far banned worship of the Queen of Daemonfae.


Shrouded in secrecy, the campus’s 30-foot-high walls only barely conceal the grand Hall of Summoning. Visitors and residents cannot hope to ignore the presence of the Acadamae, and since very few people unconnected with the college know what happens within it, the place births abundant (and sometimes ludicrous) rumours. One of the more popular of late is that the university’s drop outs become test subjects for the necromancy college.

A great number of imps make their homes on the Acadamae’s campus. These imps frequently take to the air, flitting about above the campus and across Bête Noire. They tend to travel in groups, as the city’s pseudodragon population views them as foul representations of evil and petty sadism (which, of course, they are).

If a mage wants to be considered “legal” by the Cabal and not branded a heretic, graduation from the Acadamae is mandatory. Anyone caught practicing magic without a degree from the Acadamae is locked up within the Zeetower.

University of Bête Noire

While it pales next to the grandeur of the Acadamae and does not carry with it the additional prestige inherent in magic, the University of Bête Noire nonetheless possesses its own reputation for greatness. A number of historical relics were preserved at the university following Descent. The museum on campus has maintained its prestige, even Below, as it is one of the few cultural institutions left. The special constables constantly patrol the museum, as does an abjuration student of the Acadamae (the protection of irreplaceable city relics outweighs the semi-friendly rivalry of the two institutes of learning).

A small temple to St. Velentr can be found on campus. Many of the university’s engineering students can be found in prayer before engaging in a new project.

River Palace

This fanciful structure sprawls over the Stolen River. The River Palace stands on 12-foot thick walls sunk into the riverbed, with arches forming ten 30-foot wide tunnels that pass all the way under the palace, each navigable by boats. The Traitor King and his consort live safely in the River Palace. No one is permitted to use his name anymore. The Traitor King hasn't left the palace in thirty years. His consort still arranges concerts and banquets in the darkly glittering rooms and dripping gardens. The upper crust of Bête Noire's elite hobnob with each other here. Apparently the King doesn't like light. Or sudden movements, loud noises, foreigners, treason, peaches. When you're King, you can do that kind of thing.
© 2014 Tyler Yaehne
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