Sailing from Lake Encarthan, past the Reaping Rocks, a thousand fog lamps reluctantly emerge from the swirling haze, and the weirdly echoing din of countless faceless souls heralds one’s arrival in Caliphas, mist-shrouded capital of Ustalav.
Constructed behind the treacherous shield of a natural breakwater, Caliphas flourishes as the nation’s wealthiest, most accessible, and most cosmopolitan city. These factors—along with other, more mysterious persuasions — argued for the royal court’s relocation to within the city’s walls 30 years ago. Although a new capital, Caliphas is still an old city, and the grim statuary, soaring buttresses, sharp gables, and endless intimidating embellishments common to the nation’s oldest cities adorn its ominous structures. New industries also belch black clouds into the sky, mixing with the frequent fog to cloak some parts of the city in a wretched coat of ash. Yet numerous gardens, private menageries, and fenced parks dot the crowded cityscape, making Caliphas feel more alive than many Ustalavic cities—which often seem better suited as tombs for dead princes. The past decades have brought thousands of immigrants to the capital. While the nobleborn find and create luxurious housing with ease, their attendants have considerably more trouble. Such has led to not just overcrowding, increased squalor, and street violence in parts of the city, but to stranger crimes against which the overwhelmed constabulary has little defense, such as kidnapping, hidden slavery, underground fighting bouts, mysterious murders, and rumors of terrors lurking amid the city’s labyrinthine sewers.