Thronging like a mass of anthills, the city Nexus sprawls at the juncture of the Yellow and Gray Rivers where they feed the swollen Yanaze. Built on, around and under the ruins of a city older than the Exalted, the modern and ancient cities intertwine. Irimoya-roofed shrines and teahouses with elegant rice paper doors stand cheek-by-jowl with brick warehouses and shantytown shacks. Leonine gargoyles leer from the cornices of stone façades scarred by scavengers’ chisels and sorcerous fires, while strings of paper lanterns blaze over the brightly colored awnings of the city’s bazaars and the meandering length of the blue light district. Beneath it all, underground districts have been tunneled from the bedrock, full of “sunless folk” who rarely see the sky.
Though primitive by the standards of the Imperial City or Lookshy, Nexus’s homegrown technology—fed by mercantile wealth and scavenged lore—outpaces that of its rivals throughout the Scavenger Lands. Blast furnaces light up the night like roaring, bloody suns; trip hammers crash on hot metal with the clangor of sword on shield; windmills and waterwheels groan like dying men; ventilation fans howl like banshees as they send wind through the under-city. The ground vibrates with the rumble of elevators and pulley-cars. Tons of finished goods pour out of Nexus’s workshops every day, to be purchased in bulk lots at the city’s markets and carried off by caravans and ships to every corner of Creation.
Though slavery is illegal in Nexus, backbreaking labor for a pittance is all that most can hope for. Work gangs labor beneath the whip to haul cargoes between docks and warehouses. Elephant and yeddim drovers risk crushing by their own beasts, whose power they harness to lift the city’s massive gates or to raise drawbridges so cargo vessels can pass. The elderly eke out a precarious living selling goods in thief-ridden marketplaces, while youths sell their bodies in brothels and alleyways.
Just as industry drives the engines of Nexus, it also poisons and pollutes. Tanners, alchemists, and ironmongers fill the air with stench, smog, and soot—coal ash drifts down like snow, while the effluent from their workings taints the rivers. Trash and sewage blacken the Yellow River downstream; bathing is unsafe, and those with no other potable water boil it three times before drinking. With the city’s First Age dams damaged and derelict, spring floods deluge the city’s lower districts. Some neighborhoods never dry out, so that citizens float their homes on rafts along canal-streets.
The wealthy live in a city apart from this muck. Their homes stand in hilltop districts. Pulley-cars draw citizens and their goods up to the heights, where household guards keep order around their masters’ estates.
Nexus is central to the Guild and Eastern commerce. No princes rule here. Official power rests in the hands of the understated bureaucracy of the so-called Council of Entities and the deadly wonderworking of the mysterious, masked Emissary. There are no modern codes of law and precedent, only edicts propounded by Councilors and administered by Council-paid mercenaries and the Emissary’s inscrutable whim. In practice, real power lies in the greedy hands of wealthy merchants, captains of industry, priesthoods, guilds, and street gangs. Their rules are enforced not by uniformed soldiers, but by leg-breaking thugs and knives in the night.
Six unchanging edicts—the Dogma—demonstrate the principles by which Nexus
is ruled. These are taught to all citizens and inscribed prominently in public
places. Like all edicts of the Council of Entities, they are subject to interpretation,
but those who attempt to weasel their way around the spirit of the Dogma
inevitably suffer the attentions of the Emissary.
• No taxes shall be raised, save by the Council.
• None shall obstruct trade.
• None shall bring an army into Nexus.
• No one shall commit wanton violence.
• None may falsely claim the Council’s name or sanction.
• None shall harbor a fugitive from the Council’s wrath.
This is from the book not my brain!