You’ve arrived at last! My friend, I hope your voyage was a calm and godless one. The world is such a dangerous place, these days. Krakens and war-saints and other monsters, they tell me. But here you are in Guerdon, and – if you are wise – here you will stay! Let me show you the city!
We begin where many journeys end, at the docks. Guerdon coils jealously around its harbour, grasping at the sea with jetties like concrete fingers. The sea carries Guerdon’s fortune; the host of merchant ships docked here are testament to that. The city’s current prosperity is founded on the trade in alchemical weapons. We sell to all sides in the godswar, you know.
Let this press of speculators, stevedores and sneak-thieves carry us away from the stink of the dock, and we’ll go up towards Venture Square, the heart of Guerdon’s commercial district. Lest you become lost, you should quickly mark some landmarks that you can rely on. Off to your right – to the east, with your back to the harbour in the south – you see a great swelling rise, heavily build up. Tier upon tier of houses and shops. The narrow streets and theatres of Glimmerside, the pleasure-quarter and playground of the wealthy, and beyond the spires of Holyhill, with the three shining Victory Cathedrals at the crown. You can see those spires from anywhere in the city. If you’re ever lost, seek refuge in the church.
Your other key landmark is ahead and slightly to the left – that massive, ugly knoll of rock that looks like it was torn from the earth? That outcrop is known as Castle Hill; it’s the oldest part of the city, they say, although no-one knows for certain. You’ve heard the old tales of Guerdon, haven’t you? About how the city was found empty by settlers from Varinth, in the time of the Dawn? No? Another time, maybe.
Where were we? Ah, Castle Hill. It’s sheer on three sides, making it easily defensible. You have to struggle up the slope from the west, or did before they cut stairs into the rock. Houses and streets too, carved into the vertical rock. Parliament’s up there, if your business takes you there. Anyway, make sure you keep Castle Hill on your left. If you stray too far west, you’ll wander into the Wash, and… well. Every city has its regrettable side.
But we have not come close to exhausting the attractions of Venture Square! This is the greatest market in the world. Ignore the pedlars and the stalls – no, business is done in the coffee shops. The trade in shares, in alchemical shipments, in companies and, well, ventures – more money passes through this square in a morning than can be imagined, and most of it goes to the Alchemists – but we’ll visit them in time.
What is it? Oh, those things? They’re Tallowmen. Perfectly… well, not harmless, obviously, but they’re here for our protection. The alchemists make them. They’re living wax statues – I understand they transmute condemned criminals into wax to produce new Tallowmen. Their thoughts are fire; those flames burning in their heads are what animate them, and give them their strength and speed. They burn down over time, and have to be remade every so often. But they keep the city safe. They keep the thieves and rabble from leaving the Wash, and ensure dangerous saints don’t trouble us with unwanted miracles.
Stop looking at them! Stop staring, damn you.
They can smell fear.