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SKARNELM IS A DARK, BROODING CITY on the coast of the mountainous northern region of Glaskwall. Much of the city is carved deep into the half circle of steep cliffs surrounding it. These are the original parts built by the Progs themselves and are nowadays occupied by the powerful and wealthy members of society. Even in cold weather, the warren of corridors, rooms, chambers and halls within the mountains remain comfortably temperate, kept that way by the sympanetic geometry of Kressgir’s inner structure.

map of Skarnelm

In the days of the Progs all that lay between their mountain homes and the sea was a strip of land which would have been empty apart from wildlife. When the Progs disappeared a dirty, haphazard mass of buildings sprung up, constructed by the various species who moved in. The newer buildings were often made from the leftover stone hewn from the mountains but, when this ran out, the later ones were fabricated from wood and other materials brought in by sea.

The first thing that strikes visitor alighting at the docks are the mountains looming over the city, their craggy faces pierced here and there by a handful of windows and dotted with the occasional balcony and turret. If it’s a calm day, the second thing that strikes visitors is the stench. The air is thick with a miasma of smoke and fetor coming from the crush of houses, towers, churches, halls and warehouses jammed at the foot of the cliffs. Narrow, winding streets penetrate the city like veins of mold through cheese.

On the northern side of the harbour is the loftiest peak, Kressgir, which contains the royal palace, court and city guard. Three of the windows piercing Kressgir’s very tip bring natural light into some rooms of the imperial palace. Below the palace are the mostly windowless apartments of the more exalted nobles, followed in descending order by the guest apartments, courts, function rooms, officials’ quarters, kitchens, laundries, servants’ quarters, storerooms and dungeons.

There is only one pass through the mountain range protecting Skarnelm. The road leading from it is always busy, filled with carts bringing in produce from the farms carpeting the landward side of the mountains. The pass is protected by a rather forbidding gateway with heavy doors and a portcullis designed to prevent foreign armies wandering into the great city.

The only other entrance on the rear side of Skarnelm is the cave, two thirds up the side of Kressgir, which served Drome as a landing strip.