The only true city on Nynrah, a default capital of sorts, a shining jewel amongst a cluster of lesser crystals. Or a bloated toad squatting amongst tadpoles, depends on your point of view. It is built directly into a volcano, with a grand total of nine tiers hewn into concentric rings descending steadily within the great crater. A web of cable-cars ferry people and freight between each ring, moving through the fogs that fill the air. While the people here have not had the same time to adjust as the good folk of Phantom-on-the-Water, they are far more multicultural and aren’t likely to notice a few Rahkshi. And you’ll probably want to keep it that way, for getting yourself noticed will most likely draw the attention of the Guards of the Circles and they are far more professional than their slightly silly name suggests.
First Tier, Fringe Level: On the very top of the volcano, circling its mouth like some terrible infection, is the entry level of the great city of Malebranche. It is a sprawl of tents and awnings as temporary shelters and stalls spring up every second, colouring the place every shade of the world. This is where new arrivals to the city find themselves, and often lose themselves, as this bizarre bazaar is a whirl of every sensation.
Notable Locations: Great Food Market
Second Tier, Business Level: If your venture in Malebranche is more of a permanent affair, then sooner or later you will find yourself in the second tier. It is where the enterprising Skakdi and cunning Vortixx set up their companies, running them from great buildings that stretch up almost to the opening of the great fire mountain, all the better to avoid the fog and filth that filters up from the lower levels. Here is where money is changed hands, where contracts are signed, where the civilised end of business concludes itself.
Notable Locations: Xia Solutions Tower, Tridax’s Estate
Third Tier, Residential Level: While the executives have their ivory towers in the second level, the workforce they use makes its home just below. And this is no shanty town of crude huts, the houses are spacious, well-lit and kept as clean as possible despite the emissions from below. All the doing of the elite above, thought not because some cunning goldsmith has made them all hearts, purely because healthy and happy workers can work harder and better.
Notable Locations: The Dreadnought O’erturned tavern, the Vapour Gardens bathhouse
Fourth Tier, Warehouse Level: Often the sheer bulk of items made to order requires somewhere to keep them. For ease of transporting them to the first or second tier a vast series of storehouses was constructed as close as possible, so anything needed could be held then ferried upwards at most convenience. The warehouses themselves are but simple boxes of stone and mortar, their walls thick enough to keep safe perishable goods even in the face of the volcano’s heat.
Notable Locations: Xia Solutions storage compound, Actor’s Cradle amphitheatre
Fifth Tier, Smithing Level: Beware, for here be artisans, a most crafty and easily offended breed. The Fifth Tier is taken up by blacksmiths and great craftsman, each of them a master of their trade be they Ghost, Vortixx or even Skakdi. Their smithies are small, often open buildings, perhaps with a few small sheds based around them like orbiting moons. Each smith can own a large plot of land here, but rarely uses all of it, using the space to keep businesses separate and egos from clashing.
Notable Locations: The House of Grossh, the Gold Quarter
Sixth Tier, Factory Level: You might almost be mistaken for missing this Tier altogether. The buildings are large enough and so close together that it looks like they’ve simply been carved straight out of the mountain rock, with innumerate chimneys poking out from them like redbrick ribs. They’re factories, built specifically to churn out mass produced wares. The smiths above will make you ornate jewellery or intricate circuitry, but the factories here will make you enough armour to clad an army. And they’ll do it in a day. And offer you a discount if you buy the swords to go with them.
Notable Locations: Malebranche Sewage Works
Seventh Tier, Processing Level: It is here that raw materials are brought, here where they are hammered and heated and churned and subjected to all manner of technique both crude and complex until they have been turned into something workable. Dull rocks come in and shining ingots of steel are sent out. The architecture seems to take after this process, with the buildings lower down being workmanlike slabs of stained rock while the ones higher have more of a polished sheen to them. Well, as much as you can with the rising grime of the Eighth Tier stretching up to greet them.
Notable Locations: Grand Smashing Plant
Eight Tier, Refinery Level: To those who know, lava is more than molten rock. As a burning force of nature it courses through the very bones of the world and consumes all it touches. It is at this level that specialists seek to separate the meal from the magma, extracting valuable ores, precious materials, rare fuels. It is dangerous and messy work, necessitating that the lava be kept hot and flowing or risk losing all it contains. The refineries themselves are set far apart from one other, to prevent any fires spreading too swiftly amongst them, and constantly vomit forth noxious fumes and foul oozes, the waste products of this dangerous profession.
Notable Locations: First Vein Purifications
Ninth Tier, Caldera Level: The mountain’s heart, a lake of fire that glows and boils like a sun trapped within earth and rock. The heat is intense and blistering, none can venture here but the hardiest of Ta and Su stock. Those brave few farm the raw magma, carefully tending the channels that draw it forth from the deeps below and sending it upwards. There are few buildings, humble yet sturdy homesteads for those who spend their lives amongst the fires.
Notable Locations: Clementine Falls
Malacoda: One of two rivers that flow around the great volcano, this one formed of various underground geysers and boiling wells found lower than even the Caldera. As its twisting branches reach through the rock of the mountain it has largely repurposed as plumbing for the city, providing the citizenry with fresh water and flushing out the filth. It emerges from a hive of pipes at the volcano’s south face, before twisting round westwards and heading north, a bubbling mess of sludge and slime that quickly degenerates into a swampy marshland.
Eidolon: The opposite of the Malacoda in almost every way, the river Eidolon is formed of meltwater from the rings of ice that encrust the top of the mountain, many tiny streams becoming one mighty river that gushes down the mountain with the purity of liquid diamond. It is occasionally used in a series of canals and locks to ship heavier freight up to the Fringe Tier, as no-one would place vessels in the Malacoda lest they start dissolving, but is mostly left untouched to pool at the north base, wind round east and flow south to Phantom-on-the-Water.