The City of Oakenheart
The history books have little written about the time before the Cataclysm. Stories speak of lava, blue flame, cold tundras, and a world shattering. Oakenheart was protected by the gods; preserved to last through the raging world outside. The earliest records speak of a radiant dome surrounding the city for fifty years; the storms and fires of the burning world flailed helplessly against the barrier held by the gods. Oakenheart owes its prosperity, growth, and very existence to the gods that protected it from harm; and every day of Oakenheart life demonstrates this.
In modern day, the barrier spoke of in the history books is nowhere to be found; the city, however, has grown to be ten to twelve miles in diameter. A massive oak tree lives in the center of the city, making an easy guide for those who find themselves lost. For five hundred years, Oakenheart has slowly grown larger and larger, its walls moving out towards the wilderness, but no citizen ever allowed to venture further than a few miles out.
The Expedition, however, changed everything. For the last twenty years, the ban on exploring is lifted, and the city has exploded outwards.
It is important to remember, while reading about the districts, that the following is a description of the general composition of the district in question. It is not at all unheard of to find taverns in the Grand Bazaar, a lone ranch among forges, and a woodworker by the farm. There are no laws determining where citizens build homes or establish businesses. The following represents the most obvious things about each district.
The Oak district features the Great Oak at its center: a great tree with branches and roots stretching over two thousand feet in radius. The seat of authority rests almost a half a mile off the ground, at the top of the Great Oak’s titanic trunk. A citadel, built from intertwining stone and wood, overlooks the city of Oakenheart through thick boughs and branches. All around the tree, rich merchants and nobles have paid the Oakspeakers to craft homes out of the trunk. Joining them are the schools and libraries of higher learning, as well as a church for most of the Greater Pantheon. Notably absent are churches to He-Who-Unmakes and the Void. Establishing a home and higher than a few hundred feet off the ground in this district requires inane amounts of wealth or a ruling sponsor. As such, there are only a few manses in the upper tiers, but the churches and schools of Art, Magic, and War dominate the upper levels. For example, the legendary Arcanist’s Circle can be found here.
The bazaar district is where the heart of Oakenheart’s commerce thrives. Artisan guilds and Merchant houses make their homes here, and farmers from the Life District make their way here to trade goods and supply the city. This district is rife with pickpockets and swindlers; but, at the same time, it is the only place where open barter and trade is allowed without a license. Shops elsewhere have been licensed and approved the Citadel, but also do not carry enough supplies to meet the city’s needs. As such, any time of year, even in most bad weather, there are tents spread all over the open areas of the Bazaar district, buying and selling goods to anyone willing to lay down coin. Some peddlers even live in their tents, buying and trading back and forth all year, living between the profit margins.
One of the landmarks of the Bazaar district is the Coliseum, a place where He-Who-Strikes-And-Burns is celebrated with displays of gladiatorial combat, duels, and other feats of strength and combat.
The Forge district is the heart of Oakenheart’s industry. While artisans place their houses in the Grand Bazaar, the neighboring Forge district is where manual labor workers find their home. Blacksmiths, woodworkers, brewers, jewelers all find their home here, working shifts through the day and night to meet quotas. The news of the Expedition and the lifted restriction on exploration has had the Forge district working double to meet the sudden demand for new and previously undersupplied products.
Nestled between the Life and Forge District, the Bonfire district supplies the majority of the city’s entertainment. Taverns, brothels, opium dens, and other places of pleasure and revelry cover the area. Many of these places are fronts for the less legal “businesses” of Oakenheart, but most are merely exactly what they appear to be. The most famous of these, the Warmblood’s Respite, is run and managed entirely by a family of kobolds.
As the seediest district, citizens planning on visiting the Bonfire district often bring two purses to their revelry: one with a modest, but significant offering and the other with their actual spending money. Pickpockets and thieves see this as a sign of respect; the citizen is giving a “ring to keep the hand.” These offerings are colloquially referred to these as “ringers.”
Disallowed from leaving the city, the citizens of Oakenheart turned to farming within city walls. Oakspeakers have long been tasked with helping the crops grow healthy and abundant; in return, the farmers follow the druids’ guidelines for environment-friendly farming, never over-sowing their crop to boost production. Farmers that step out of line face…dire consequences.
Also in the life district, one will find parks and rock formations; places the citizens of Oakenheart travel to avoid the bustle of life. It is in one of these parks that one could find the holy monastery of She-Under-Wings-Of-Dragons. The Life District encompasses thirty-five percent of Oakenheart’s area, and thus has the largest land mass of the districts.
Before the Expedition, the Raven district’s tenants were mostly Oakenheart militia, city watch, and a few guild houses devoted to bodyguards and mercenaries. Now, it is a bustling hive of escrow boards, training grounds, and rich sons and daughters looking to strike out for glory and fame. Where rarely traveled roads used to be used by discreet citizens cutting from the Bazaar to the Oak district, now citizens of Oakenheart flood the street trying to find work or employment at the old and new mercenary guilds.
Before the expedition, rumours said that those looking to hire the legendary Dragon’s Eye Guild could drop a note in any alley of the Raven district, and they would find you. These days, the rumours haven’t changed; in fact, some say the Dragon’s Eye Guild has been more active than it has ever been.
The citizens of Oakenheart make their homes as close to their place of work as possible; as such, no real “suburbs” or anything of the like have arisen. However, there is a place of significance to mention, although it is not a named district.
The bluffs are a ghetto built along several layers of cliff face on the north side of Oakenheart, bordering the Life district and the Forge district. Those who cannot afford to live elsewhere gather in hovels or scaffolded homes constructed sloppily along and up the cliffsides. The truly despotic gather communally in caves carved out of the side of the cliff over a period of years. Homeless are gathered from elsewhere and dropped at the bluffs by the city guard. Some followers of Harold and Drakash attempt to take care of and feed those that live there, but they cannot possibly take care of them all.
It is an open secret that the thieves guilds, brothels, and smuggling guilds recruit most of their members directly from the Bluffs.
While the city itself has not changed much, there are still some significant natural landmarks scattered around Oakenheart.
The first thing a newcomer (if there was such a thing) would notice about the city of Oakenheart is the Great Oak tree. A massive behemoth of a tree, the Great Oak’s trunk is over a mile in circumference. Seeds dropped from the great tree are often kept as momentos and given as gifts to lovers or as peace offerings to rivals. Legends say that the great shield that protected Oakenheart from the Cataclysm drew from the life of the Great Oak, and citizens of Oakenheart hold nothing of higher value than the Great Oak.
The River that snakes through Oakenheart and wraps around the Great Oak before heading out to the wilderness provides life-sustaining water to Oakenheart. Pouring waste or defecating into the White River can be punished with death; the two hundred foot wide river is responsible for watering all of the farms and providing fresh water to most of Oakenheart. Everyone in Oakenheart knows this, and disrespecting the rapids of the water is not tolerated. Several sluices and aqueducts carry water from the second and third tiers of the Bluffs to forges and distant farms, ensuring that anyone who wants water, can get it.
A series of three tiers of cliffs make the north side of Oakenheart hold home to most of Oakenheart’s poor. The cliffs are covered with trees and riddled with caves, and the White River runs through its heart, creating a fair enough environment for those who can not afford real housing. Most of the city’s populace avoid the bluffs, but some clergy visit on a regular basis, trying to improve the lives of the impoverished as much as possible.
Oakenheart has only been under seige twice, but both times served to reinforce the citizens faith in the gods’ edict to remain within city walls.
The first time saw the rise of giants of all kinds come to conquer Oakenheart for themselves, almost two hundred years ago. Giants of all shapes and sizes laid siege to the city, hurling rocks, fire, lighting, and ice at the walls. For six weeks, the city laid under siege from all angles. Eventually, led by dragonborn General Utari, with the blessings of the clergy (and presumably, the gods), the Golden Legion swept out from the city of Oakenheart, taking the fight to the giants, slaughtering them down to a paltry few from the massive horde they once were. The Golden Legion took serious losses, but were victorious.
The second time was a mere two years before the Expedition was declared; the details of the start to the battle were unclear. Sentries and Caretakers had reported increased activity from animals and the like; a week later, the west gate was open and a horde of snake-like humanoids were flooding into the city. The battle took less than a day, but at the end of it, the invaders were slain, although at a steep cost to the citizens of Oakenheart.
Most of Oakenheart’s defenses have been in place for a long time, with the last modifications including a large increase to the height and width of the walls after the giants’ siege.
The wall surrounding the city is fifty feet high, twenty feet wide, and runs around the entire city, broken up by towers when cliffs demand elevation changes or the river demands bridging. Ballistae, manned and kept in good condition by the Golden Legion, are positioned every couple hundred feet. The Wall itself runs almost thirty-five miles in circumference, and the Golden Legion has to maintain a force of seventy-five hundred just to patrol the walls. The enchanted marble stone is a hallmark of safety and security for most citizens of Oakenheart.
The westgate is the main gate, and the street it opens to is fifty feet in width, just like the gate itself. The street leads to the Great Oak, and the gatehouse itself stands eighty feet tall with solid iron gates. Ten men must crank each gear to open the gates. Both doors must open at the same time, or the gates will not budge.
The East Gate was built ten years ago, after blasting away a section of the wall to make room. With the Expedition in full swing, the Council of Ilyenos realized the need for another gate, and had one commissioned. This gate is more modest, the house standing a mere sixty feet in height. It makes up for this by extending to one hundred feet in length and having two twenty foot iron doors on each end of the entrance tunnel.