Located near the east coast, just above the equator, the independent city-state of Blackmire is a bustling, steam-powered metropolis. It's one of the earliest settlements on New Terra. Originally a privately owned, underground penal colony, it was carved into an archipelago in the Leviathan River gorge high in the Tidao Mountains. With limited ground area, the city had to expand upwards as its population grew. Mega towers rise from the rocky is-lands and buildings were carved into the steep rock walls on either side of the river. The city is divided into vertical districts, and districts are divided into levels.
The mega towers and rock buildings were continuously added on to over the years, becoming an agglomeration of various architectural styles and materials. They're all interconnected by a web of bridges and aerial tramways. Within mega tower islands, messages and small packages are delivered via a network of pneumatic tubes. Between islands, people communicate through telegraph wires, flying automatons, and couriers. There are portal hubs for transportation around the city, but the cost is exorbitant, and only the extravagantly wealthy in the highest levels can afford to use them.
While traditional boats navigate the multitude of tributaries and canals crisscrossing the city, steam powered and solar sail airships chug or glide through the airways between buildings. The hum of machinery and soft ticking of clockworks is as constant and reassuring as a mother's heartbeat.
Beautiful and intricate autonimals tread the highest levels. They are far more powerful, and considerably more expensive to own and operate, than the live animals that roam the lower levels. The denizens of the upper levels tend to look down their noses at live animals. They are noisy, smelly, and considered temperamental. They are also considerably less expensive to own. Autonimals are hand-crafted and require costly maintenance. Whereas live animals only require food and water. In a river city, water is plentiful, and balcony gardens provide plenty of greens and grains.
Magic is as much a part of daily life as mecha. Practicing magic legally requires as much training and licensing as practicing medicine or the law. There are temples dedicated to several gods, and even demigods, spread throughout the city, but Blackmire's patron deity is a goddess of magic named Sorcharine.
Blackmire is notorious for corruption and has earned the nickname "Sin City" by other New Terrans. Justice is a spectator sport, and money is often the chief determinate of innocence. Metropolitan Guards and judges protect those who can pay the most. There is stiff competition for civil service jobs. Bribery is simply part of the application process. The only true crime in Blackmire is getting caught, and the punishment is nearly always hard labor in the city-owned and operated mines in a nearby valley upstream. The ore rich valley has made Blackmire one of the richest city-states on New Terra, which attracted throngs of mortals and immortals alike with unrealistic dreams of wealth, or at least opportunity.
It was the ore, highly coveted in a world filled with metal mecha, which first brought people to the Tidao Moun-tains. But the ore-rich valley was high up, where the oxygen levels were even lower than in the wilds, the mountains provided little food and had poor soil in most places. And even with proper supplies air shipped in, mining the ore required hard, dangerous labor, and few were willing to risk it. The costs far outweighed the possibility of profit, so the merchant and master craft guilds who would have benefited the most from having the ore mined seemed out of luck.
But there were some guild leaders with more foresight than their competitors started a clever enterprise to mine the ore. Thirteen guilds pooled their resources and had the Tidao Mountains carefully surveyed and mapped. It was expensive and it took years. The other guild leaders considered the thirteen foolish. They thought the mountains were too dangerous and so the costs too high. They expected the thirteen guilds to end in a mire of debt and bankruptcy. But the thirteen guilds, who flippantly named their first territory Blackmire in response, were playing the long game. They could see the potential, and they risked it all by buying claims all along the Tidao mountain range.
The thirteen Blackmire guilds borrowed heavily from other guilds, who were only too happy to indebt their competitors. And then the Blackmire guilds dug deep burrows, where it was warm and safe from the elements during those early days of terraforming, into a rocky archipelago in a steep gorge downriver from the ore-rich valley. The other guilds were delighted in what they perceived to be the Blackmire guilds' stupidity.
But the leaders of the Blackmire guilds were far from stupid. As in most colonies, growing populations tend to lead to growing crime, which often outpaces the local law enforcement. The Blackmire guilds saw the rise in crime as an opportunity to be seized. In those stone tunnels, they built hundreds of prison cells. And then they invited cities and settlements from all over New Terra to send them their criminals. The Blackmire penal colony would imprison all of New Terra's criminals, for a relatively small price: food.
The other New Terrans were only too happy to send their criminals high into the mountains, out of sight, out of mind. Sending airships filled with food supplies to the penal colony high in the mountains would be considerably cheaper than having to build prisons and accompanying institutions needed in their own territories.
And so, the Blackmire guilds found their source of labor to mine for ore. The prisoners didn't have much of a choice, if they wanted to be fed, they had to work the mines. Thousands of prisoners died in the harsh condition, but the Blackmire guilds, and most New Terrans, didn't care. They were convicted criminals, and therefore expendable. Besides, the ore pouring out of the mountains was worth the cost of life.
The Blackmire guilds quickly paid off their debts and grew unbelievably wealthy. As terraforming continued over the centuries, Blackmire grew warmer and the mountains grew more habitable and fertile. The rivers were seeded with all kinds of aquatic life, and fish is one of the city's staples. Downriver, a valley that was once little more than scrub was constantly fertilized and enriched with nutrients until the soil was ready to sustain crops. Lined with terraced farmed rice paddies, fruit orchards, and vegetable patches, it's become Blackmire's own rice basket.
Eventually, Blackmire evolved into a regular city-state, requiring infrastructure and governance. The original thirteen guilds still run the city in the form of a High Council comprised of their guild masters. The High Council is led by the Chief Councillor, who is elected by the others with at least nine out of thirteen votes. Bribery, coercion, and even assassinations are common tactics in gaining the coveted position of guild master, especially among the original thirteen guilds.