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Belverus was the capital city of Nemedia.

Even from a distance, Belverus is an impressive site; built on an ascending hillside, with massive buildings, temples, and other impressive structures breaking the skyline of the walled city, it’s impossible not to look upon it and think of the ancient culture that built the site eons ago. As the capital of Nemedia, its inhabitants are well aware of their role in the culture of the West, and their piety — some would say arrogance — is well known.

Despite the fierce national pride of most Nemedians, they also recognize their role as keepers of knowledge, both modern and ancient. Many of the old buildings in Belverus have been repurposed; temples are now museums, grand estates are now libraries, and partially ruined and razed structures form the cornerstone of public parks. New buildings are made with an eye towards emulating ancient designs and patterns, but not copying or duplicating the motifs outright. This has gradually given Nemedia its own identity and culture, a sometimes-discordant mix of Hybori pragmatism and Acheronian opulence.

Nemedian culture emphasizes strength and knowledge and, in this regard, they have aligned themselves with the Church of Mitra to aid their progress in both areas. Edicts from the church carry nearly the same weight as proclamations from the Royal Palace. Cynics and non-believers whisper that the Church of Mitra actually holds the reins of power in Nemedia but, in truth, the King and the Church enjoy a mutually acrimonious relationship and vie for the public’s heart at every turn.

For scholars and anyone interested in studying the remnants of Acheronian culture, Belverus is the best place to start. There are active digs and delvings, most of them orchestrated by the Church of Mitra, and no end of texts to translate, artifacts to puzzle over, and discoveries to make, provided you wish to share your findings with the state. Removal of antiquities from Nemedian borders carries stiff penalties. Naturally, there is a thriving black market for those very items.

The City Gates[]

These grand columns are fifty feet high with a buttressed arch across the top. Walls on either side of these columns run directly into the hillside that gives rise to the upper-class neighborhoods of Belverus. There are other walls up on the hills with walkways carved into the rocks. Guards camp at the gates at all hours of the day or night, and everyone undergoes cursory questioning if they appear to be law-abiding citizens and pointed questioning if they appear to be otherwise. Of course, some of the more foolhardy simply climb the adjacent hillside and leap over the walls to gain entrance to the city. And that’s why the city watch is so vigilant. The city watch is always here, using the shade of the pillars to escape the oppressive heat. They keep an eye on the incoming traffic, but also scan for large parties on the road and off. Should any raiding party be foolish enough to approach the city, the watch has an elaborate system of bells and banners to summon reinforcements well before an attack can begin.

The City Market[]

Belverus plays host to a number of small open-air markets, but the city market, in the center of town, is something to behold. This large, sunken square has a raised circular dais in the center where speeches are delivered, news is announced, and occasionally musicians and poets perform. Around this stone stage is a broad avenue with stalls and tents on either side. Here the citizens may shop and bargain and trade. Stairs lead down into this sunken area from the street above, and the edges are lined with a small stone wall allowing people to see the speaker on the dais. Lining the wall, facing outward, are an encampment of beggars, infirm, and hustlers, all vying for spare coin. The only time the cacophony of sound is silenced is during royal proclamations.

The Marchant's District[]

The eastern side of the Central Market is known as the Merchant’s District. This is the heart of interstate commerce. Here farmers sell their surplus, and lumberjacks fill orders for ash and fir. Anyone looking to buy or sell commodities finds any number of businesses, legitimate and otherwise, to help them in this district. Commodities are sold in large quantities to brokers, who store them in the large empty buildings and set the price for other merchants. This is part of the empire building going on in the Western kingdoms, and a lot of money changes hands so that the Aquilonian court can have the finest dresses made of Stygian silk. Getting these commodities to market is sometimes an epic undertaking. The Merchant’s District is literally crawling with guards, both personal and state-appointed.

Cork Street[]

The street that separates the rest of the Merchant’s District from the Central Market is called Cork Street, and it’s where all of the glass blowers, cask makers, bottlers, and vintners sell their wares from the wine merchants and the grape growers. Nemedian wine is legendary and the artisans on this street are busy all year.

Nemedian Wine[]

The grapes that grow in the southern hills of Nemedia are legendary for the wine they produce. Nemedian Wine is considered a delicacy in the west, and Nemedians trade shrewdly for it. In the east, they have their own spirits, but Nemedian wine is still considered a mark of wealth. Nemedians do not trade with anyone in the south for it, and this is where it becomes contraband in places like Corinthia. Moving more than a bottle or two can turn quite a profit or bring the law down on a person’s head.

Scholar's District[]

The street that marks the southern side of the Central Market is the edge of the Scholar’s District. Here the ground begins to climb up the hill and, of course, that is where the temples, schools, and public meditation and debate spaces are located. The smaller temples and churches include a smattering of the other Western gods, but these churches are very poor and cater mostly to visitors and merchants passing through. It’s obvious to all where the population turns to when they seek divine guidance.

The Temple of Mitra[]

This is the largest building in Belverus, though not the tallest. It’s completely intact, one of the few structures that required no repair. Its gleaming white and gold walls shine across the city, catching reflected sunlight that makes it difficult to stare at during certain times of the day.

This is the central home of the Church of Mitra for all of the Western world. As the heart of the faith, there are constant scribes, advisors, emissaries, priests, dignitaries, and acolytes coming in and out of the building on church business at all hours. There are even armed guards to keep watch over the temple at night, though they are lightly armored, enrobed, and carrying maces that look a lot like holy water sprinklers.

There is a small cadre of acolytes of Mitra known colloquially as “relic hunters”. These are sometimes, but not always, reformed criminals and scoundrels who have seen the error of their ways, accepted the wisdom of Mitra, and have gone back to the life that their skills are uniquely suited for. The church provides them with their necessities, and they obtain rare antiquities, plunder historic sites, and even re-acquire the church’s stolen property. The church and its dealings should make it difficult to do any mischief in Belverus. Agents of the church are everywhere and many of the citizens are pious, as are the government officials. That’s not to say that corruption doesn’t exist, but it makes it harder to know who to trust and also who to bribe.

The Royal District[]

Carved into the largest portion of the hillside, above all other neighborhoods, is where the politicians and the wealthy call home. The intact structure here is a massive estate, three stories tall, cut partially into the hillside and surrounded by large strong walls. King Codrin Saldius lives here. The Church of Mitra also owns several large houses in this district and the leader of the church, Grigor Flavius, lives in one of these palatial estates.

All of the other villas and estates in the Royal District look like smaller, more modest versions of the two buildings. Family crests are seen on many of the banners at the front gates — less a sign of personal pride and more a system to navigate the winding streets and distinguish one house from another.

The Ruins of Belverus[]

High in the hills that flank the city, and across the shallow valleys and adjacent hilltops, there are ruins, tombs, and other ancient sites that honeycomb the area around Belverus and go deep into the hills themselves. Teams of excavators, both state and church sponsored, are hard at work digging down into the ground for these buried structures. Everything closest to the city within several miles has been thoroughly excavated and unearthed. Some of these sites are cordoned off as having historical value. Others have been left fallow. All have been emptied of their contents.

Yet there are many treasure hunters, ambitious scholars, and less upstanding citizens who have followed scraps of paper and strange clues and pieces of maps in the hopes of uncovering rare Acheronian artifacts, eldritch magic, or some other quick fortune. On the side of the road, a few enterprising souls each carry a basket full of genuine Acheronian jewelry, plundered just yesterday out of their sainted mother’s family crypt, and available to such wealthy and learned travelers for one-tenth their real value.

There may well be some ancient and untouched site left to be discovered by intrepid thrill-seekers, but what strange secrets that lie in the rocks beneath Belverus may be best left undisturbed.