There has been a major settlement on the Hilt of the Dagger River since
before recorded history. The current metropolis, Sharn, has existed since the formation of the original Five Nations, about seven hundred years after humans rose to prominence on the continent. For more than two millennia, the towers of Sharn have grown, rising thousands of feet into the sky. This vertical expansion has given the metropolis its title: The City of Towers.
A riot of architectural styles and designs play through the city’s impressive skyline. From its deepest foundations to its highest spires, Sharn displays the history of the continent for all to see. Heavy, oppressive goblinoid architecture provides the base for much of the city, its stonework reaching back to a time when humans did not exist on this continent. Atop this ancient foundation, the periods of human civilization stack one on top of the other as the city reaches for the clouds.
The City of Towers can be as impressive as it can be oppressive. The same skyscrapers of stone can make one person laugh with excitement and another weep from the size and weight and impossible heights. Whatever emotion the city inspires, the place remains a bustle of activity at all hours of the day and night. With a tremendous array of cultural, culinary, and commercial delights to sample, and its position as the gateway to Xen’drik, Sharn attractsvisitors and adventurers from around the world. It is a hotbed of activity, known in equal measures for its wonders, its crime rate, its amazing amount of corruption, and its genuinely exciting atmosphere.
Sharn rises from the cliffs overlooking the Hilt, a wide bay at the mouth of the Dagger River. This inhospitable outcropping of rock allowed the city to grow in only one direction—up. The ports at the base of the cliffs load and unload cargo and passengers from seafaring vessels, raising and lowering goods and travelers alike on massive lifts operated by ropes and pulleys that travel through the neighborhood of Cliffside. This working class region is built into and upon the steep cliffs overlooking the river and bay. At the top of the cliffs, the rock walls seamlessly blend into the earliest stonework laid in ancient times. Here, the city and its amazing towers really begin.
The City of Towers is rumored to sit atop a massive lake of molten lava. Those who work in the bowels of the city, a subterranean region known as the Cogs, claim to feel the heat rising off the lava streams, but few have ever gone below the great furnaces and foundriesof the Cogs to seek for the fiery lake itself. In the Cogs, heat and magic cooperate to allow workers to process ores and other raw materials needed to sustain Sharn’s industrial machine.
Also within the depths, ancient ruins, labyrinthine sewers, vertical shafts, and forgotten chambers pile level upon level, climbing higher and higher until the inhabited regions are reached. These higher levels, made up of towers growing like trees in a forest of stone and brick, contain most of the city’s residents and visitors. Poorer members of society live in the deeper portions of the towers, while those above gain wealth and status the higher up they live. The uppermost levels feature open-arched towers, balconies, bridges, and platforms that form a strange lacework of “solid” ground high in the air. Above all of this floats the neighborhood known as Skyway, where the most affluent citizens live and play.
Sharn is situated within a manifest zone linked to the plane of Syrania, the Azure Sky. The manifest zone primarily enhances spells and magic items that permit levitation and actual flight. Outside the zone, most of these items either grow weaker or lose the ability to function altogether. Without the zone, the city’s great towers and spires would crumble, its transportation systems would collapse, and the neighborhood of Skyway would plummet to the ground.
Sky coaches slowly move from tower to tower, transporting people. Other ways to get around the city include walking (almost every tower can be reached by multiple bridges that connect the platforms and walkways at different levels), lifts that ride up and down and side to side along magical strands of light, and magebred animals trained to carry passengers within the city’s limits.
Our story begins indoors, however. It is raining in Sharn... not a very rare occurrence, considering the city's geological location. The rain flows down from the higher towers, dirtying itself before it reaches the bottom-most dregs of existence. However, even in the slowly waning hours of the day, many still remain active, including the students of the Archmage, Oloril Taletreader.
Situated on the upper parts of the town, the rain was still clear - refreshing - though many individuals steer clear of the heights of Sharn, for the swaying towers and the long vistas of life so high up is dizzying - disturbing to many. Still, a great deal make their lives up here... and several more meet their deaths.
The home of Oloril Taletreader is elaborately beautiful, attesting to the man's status as a very, very old elf. Every inch of the place is meticulously carved with such stunning beauty, the heavy wood of the furniture of elven craftsmanship, that even the smallest bit of it would catch a fortune on the market, if any thief were stupid enough to steal from a wizard... doubly so for one of such power.
Such power, in fact, that the place is modified completely by magic - each student's room a pocket dimension leading from the same doorway, unlockable by their various keys. The library, kitchen, and study extending from the same sort of doorway, though activated by password.
It is no wonder that the archmage is credited with being one of the greatest Conjurers of this age... and the one before. The elf... so old that his tattoos are fading, wrinkles upon the elf's face... hair, whitened. The feeble old man has lived longer than any elf ever should... and yet, he still keeps the grace and wit of someone a great deal younger.
Of course, this story isn't about him. It's about his apprentices...