Waitoshi was founded just over four hundred years ago by Lokoshen ozh Maizura, first Emperor of what is now the Lokoshen Empire. When his fabled Yellow Legion encountered the towers of what is now the University in the deep desert, they took it as a sign and settled. Over time the small town grew into a valuable trading post, convenient as it is to a good harbor and fairly safe roads south. Forty years later the aging Emperor declared Waitoshi- now a city- as the new capital of his empire, and it moved to the center of the map. As the fortunes of Empire have waxed and waned, the city has remained untouched in its center, flourishing with an influx of trade and travelers and burgeoning magical innovation. Lokoshen elite, both businessmen and nobles, are the titular rulers of Waitoshi, with mages from the world-famous Academy and high-ranking guildsmen participating in a less overtly powerful capacity. Though nearly a hundred languages are spoken in the city, the Lokoshen language Kashi remains the language of the upper class and the lingua franca of business.
Waitoshi is often called the “Rustling City”. Nowhere else in the world has libraries or academies to match it in scale. The scrawling of pens, the ruffling of pages, the shuffle of feet and the whisper of the dunes outside the walls make Waitoshi a place where quiet is easy to come by amongst shelves and cloisters, but true silence is almost impossible to attain. The city has grown for over four hundred years between the two White Towers of the Academy and then over itself; there are many courtyards where the open sky is only a suggestion of color. Some are said to be so deep that stars may be seen from their bottoms in the middle of the day. Every building and room has been used and reused for dozens of purposes at different times, and there are a wealth of places within the city that no living human has seen in the better part of a century. A guild even exists to guide foreigners through the city’s labyrinth safely, just as rangers do in the hinterlands.
The city’s primary defense (and greatest mystery) is its curious moat. The reason that the city has grown upward instead of sprawling out as most do is the actual physical boundary of this strange effect; no water surrounds the walls, but instead there exists a twenty-yard-wide zone of reversed gravity around the city’s circumference. The only reason that the city is accessible in the first place is an ill-understood fluctuation in the relative strength of this effect, which creates a null gravity “hole”. The culture and infrastructure of Waitoshi have adapted to these bounds like vines to an arbor, including a (banned) city-wide tendency to use the moat as a means to dispose of waste. This creates a danger for outsiders who are accustomed to garbage falling down- those that are incautious looking out of windows in the city walls often regret it. The cause of the anomaly is still a mystery, despite centuries of archaeological and magical investigation.
Waitoshi architecture is surprisingly consistent given the variety of the population, but the effect is made somewhat surreal by the juxtaposition of details specific to different trends throughout the city’s history. It is made even more alien by the unique support structures employed by the towers; their mysterious builders distributed the massive weight by suspending massive stone spheres from cables within the gravitic anomaly. Other builders have since imitated their example, and now the air above the city is a network of cables from the width of hairs to the size of a grown man’s torso. Buildings are piled haphazardly and seem to lean impossibly against their counterweights, the most famous being the “Cocked and Hens” inn near the city center in which the majority of guests actually sleep on what was once a wall. A few fringe individuals make a living climbing among the cables or even have homes built on the undersides of counterweights, and though these “spyders” and “downers” are technically violating city ordinance they are largely considered harmless nuisances and left alone.
Just as mold grows in a castle’s basement, so have the secret ways and hidden rooms of Waitoshi nurtured a burgeoning garden of crime and iniquity. Crime is more common here than in any other city in the world, and the criminals more varied. Cutpurses rub shoulders daily with foppish confidence men, and hooded figures abound on the streets- they may be assassins or lepers, and none knows until the blade flashes. There are at least six known criminal organizations in Waitoshi, along with dozens of freelance operators and mercenary crews. The city’s markets are arguably the best place to find those with more legitimate skill sets as well. The Rustling City is the seat of the far-reaching Querran Guild, the primary employers and contractors of adventurers and mercenaries on the continent. The Guild, all told, actually wields enough power to seriously threaten nations both economically and militarily, and plays an enormous role in the governance of the city. The Guildmaster Serro Phan is one of the most famous adventurers of his era, a living legend (and rogue) of impressively varied talents.
All guilds and organizations, including established criminal organizations, share a part of Waitoshi’s governance. Each sends a representative to the Council of Interested Parties (a name widely ridiculed), held in Gunomon Keep, a bridge-like structure spanning the two Academy Towers at approximately their middle point. This strange building houses the backbone of the city’s government, and surmounts the Beck, the city’s infamously cramped and cruel jail. The current Mayor is Viscount Heften Maliagard Otto Twill Shensen, D.A.A., a former member of the Academy and well-regarded merchant- and the only arcanist currently openly involved in City politics. The Mayor presides over meetings of the Council on every new moon, wherein members set city policy and take care of many problems before they arise- essential in a place with such vulnerable infrastructure. The various gang leaders are intentionally and consistently included because the City recognizes that they are an unavoidable part of Waitoshi’s economy, and that they might as well be acknowledged and controlled. There are surprisingly few inter-gang disputes as a result.
Waitoshi’s vertical construction has created numerous and distinct neighborhoods, roughly separated vertically by economic status. A few, the very poorest, live in the complicated and geometrically-improbable Sewers at the lowest level. Very few, even among those who have lived in the city their entire lives, know how and where the sewers function, but they provide a few nondescript exits from the City beyond the two gates- for those that have the constitution to brave their wild gravitational variances. These routes are mainly controlled by the Red Razors, by far the largest (and poorest) criminal organization in Waitoshi. The Sewers span the entire lowest level of the city except the very center, which is seldom visited- this is known as the Bones, the skeleton of the old city. Archaeological research takes place in the Bones for those brave enough to navigate the Sewers, and a few very interesting and dangerous artifacts have been found therein.Above the Sewers and the Bones are the Rathouse and the Cave Quarter, both populated by the lowest common denominator that is generally considered “people” by the city at large. The Rathouse has a very few points that are open to the sky, but it is so far up that no sunlight may be seen- not unlike looking up from the bottom of a deep well. The Cave Quarter takes up somewhat more space vertically above and below than does the Rathouse, and consists of the interwoven remains of bigger buildings- originally the houses of the rich in the Old City. It is a strange and confusing concatenation of huge, echoing chambers and narrow passages. Many of the gangs dump their victims here, and it is a rare necromancer that buys his subjects elsewhere. These four neighborhoods are considered the bottom of Waitoshi’s society, and the upper class never openly goes down to these levels.
Many interesting and unique life-forms inhabit the undercity. Shrieking roaches are probably the most famous, housecat-sized insects with dozens of legs and a love of tobacco products. They are preyed upon by the less-discriminating of the Sewer denizens, as well as greeches- snake-slugs with armor plating on the top and slimy scutes on their bellies. They secrete a paralytic toxin from their radulae, which they can flip out like lizards’ tongues. Greeches are actually frequently resold as exotic kabob meat in the upper levels of the city by unscrupulous street vendors. Rats, as elsewhere, are a common sight, though ambient magical energy from the Academy makes mutations such as extra legs and prehensile tails fairly common. The city is also famous for the Rat Kings, balls of rats linked by tangled tails and Sewer filth, who develop hive minds that can telepathically control local flora and fauna. A sizeable population of myconids cultivates their strange fungi in the deeps, and saporitic parasites are often found on denizens therein. Though Waitoshi has rats by the hundreds of thousands, the more common pests are wupu, small flightless birds that lay sticky eggs in dark corners throughout town and consume anything even vaguely edible. Finally, life in the Sewers and other dark places is made easier by the growth of noxworms, insects related to the glowworm that cling to ceilings and secrete long filaments of a gently-glowing blue fiber to attract insect prey. Colonies of noxworm are one of the few great beauties to be found in the darkness below the surface of Waitoshi. They especially favor the wettest caves, and are often found growing over the trunks and branches of trees long-dead in sealed-off courtyards.
Above the so-called “rag tier” is the mid-level of Waitoshi, where are found the artisans, merchants, and tradesmen of the city. This is the vertical center, the level at which the majority of the city’s population resides and commerce takes place. It actually begins about fifty feet above the elevation of the surrounding terrain, the difference made up from the gates by gently sloping streets or stairs in the less traffic-heavy places. Though there is no defined boundary, the Ladder districts are usually considered to be those less than three hundred feet above ground level. A higher population means more distinct neighborhoods, each with a unique character that reflects its inhabitants. The largest neighborhoods in this section are Gatehouse, Temple Row, the Stacks, the Shingles, and Walls-Gatehouse is the entry point to the city for almost everyone, the neighborhood that surrounds the main gates. Its construction is very conservative by Waitoshi’s standards, and it is predominantly filled with travelers’ accommodations and shops that cater to adventurers and their ilk. The main point of interest in this area is the “Chib”, a huge courtyard about a quarter of a mile from the city gates that forms the main nexus of commercial activity therein. Guards and mercenary bodyguards from the gangs are common here; the crime rate is thought to be the lowest of any bazaar on the continent. Low house pricing also makes this area the neighborhood-of-choice for the guardsmen themselves, as well as Imperial soldiers and low-level civil servants. Sweeping around Gatehouse is Temple Row, Waitoshi’s equivalent to Farrheim’s Godenstrat. Within the middle levels of the city’s buildings these temples are among the oldest construction, and are heavily built atop one another and modified to suit the needs of different sects as they arise and gain influence. Over three hundred temples nestled together form something akin to a bastion that separates Gatehouse from the south end of the city.
The Shingles occupies the northeastern quarter, and is the center of the trades in Waitoshi. Every house in the area has a shingle set in front, offering almost any service imaginable and a few that aren’t. Families in the Shingles are stereotypically industrious craftsmen, and the district is famous for its use of city infrastructure to improve efficiency; one of the more noteworthy examples is the Lumber Line, a conveyor system that uses the counterweight wires and a system of pulleys to transfer lumber directly over the crowded streets from the gates to carpenters and pulpers far from the Chib. Accidents do happen, but generally an informal network of spyders keeps everything running smoothly. Another example is the Updraft, a set of rails by which casks may be rolled up and down to the Chib and back within the city moat. New families in this area are uncommon but accepted, and the Shingles in particularly is an exceptionally diverse neighborhood. The Stacks occupy a significant portion of the north and west of Waitoshi next to the Shingles, and after Temple Row is probably the oldest construction in its stratum. Originally a group of paper mills, the Stacks have expanded over the centuries to include other related professions, and unrelated ones that offend the eyes or nose too much to be anywhere near Gatehouse. Pulpers, gong farmers, papermakers, tanners, leatherworkers, and bookbinders all make their residences here, and the area is often referred to in the upper reaches of Waitoshi as the Heap for its collective presence on windy days.
The third tier of the city is split in two, with a division lapping the sides of each Academy tower. Around the south tower is the Spires, the home of Waitoshi’s upper crust. A significant minority of buildings here are made from wood, an unsubtle statement of wealth in the middle of a desert. Landlords, successful merchants, minor nobility, and military officers comprise most of the area’s population. Around the north tower is the Changers’ Quarter. This heavily-built section comprises the city’s financial district, and is the easiest place to find rare or expensive goods that would be high risk items in the Chib. There are relatively few paths to this area that are not permanently blocked or under heavy guard, and its vaults and vendors are among the most discreet in the civilized world. Between the two towers, suspended like a huge egg, is the Beck- Waitoshi’s only jail. In a place where truth may be guaranteed by magic and falsehood by coin, justice and the vengeance of the mighty keep many imprisoned. Some in the Beck are innocent, and others are the worst of that humanoid society has to offer. The Beck also houses the criminally mad in their own ward at the bottom of the cylindrical structure, a place that even guards rarely tread. Being sent there is usually a death sentence. The Beck as a whole only has two entrances, one high and one low, and is actually a building within a building. The outer portion is a shell, while the inner slowly rotates to deter tunneling through the walls. Escape is so rare as to be unheard-The Academy Towers stand at approximately one thousand meters in height, and dwarf all other construction in Waitoshi. Their matte white forms are visible up to seventy miles away, making the city a beacon even into the deep desert. The North Tower is slightly (10 m) shorter than the South Tower. Both are composed of a mysterious, pale composite material that has never been replicated: it exhibits the working properties of steel and even greater toughness than concrete, but at the weight of seasoned hardwood. The Towers also exhibit astonishing (if slow) self-repair, which has kept them safe amidst several urban disasters from fire to hydrochloric hail. The towers are sleek and organic, tapering to fine points. Their cleanly sweeping lines are broken by shelves like the fungus on tree trunks, which are mostly used for outdoor exercises, botanical gardens, or the like.
When Waitoshi was founded, the Emperor brought in sages and wizards to study the Towers and their immediate environs, as well as the catacombs beneath them. When the town grew into a city and the Emperor declared it his new capital, the senior members of the exploration team sought Imperial sanction to create a school and library with the initial purpose of cataloging the extent of their discoveries in the city and training new explorers. This Academy was given the well-examined upper reaches of the North Tower initially, while the Imperial Court occupied the higher portion of the South Tower. Over subsequent centuries the school grew to encompass the entirety of the South Tower and fill the bottom of the North; when the original Emperor’s grandson Chouden moved the Imperial Palace out of the capital the Academy Seniors took over the empty chambers.
In its current form, the Academy is vertically stratified by seniority and prestige like the rest of the city. Neophytes and younger teachers occupy the lower reaches and do what little exploration is still carried out, as well as learning the basics of academia and mage-craft. Any student who can afford the basic rate of entry is permitted to become a neophyte- most come from the families of middle-class artisans, tradesmen, and merchants in the city who can afford the fee but are not too proud to endure the first year of drudgery in the dank lower reaches of the city (christened by neophytes long ago as the “de-Basement”). At the one-year mark, one hundred of the most promising neophytes are accepted after rigorous examination to the Academy proper, where they take their first Ring and choose a College under the guidance of a master.
Rings are the primary sign of advancement in the Academy, and Waitoshi mages normally eschew the long, flowing sleeves favored in other places in favor of tight matching vambraces that allow their Rings to be seen. A Ring is a smooth hoop of metal, usually steel or silver, etched in runic script and surrounded by tattoos that indicate the wearer’s College and proficiencies. Wizards receive a ring upon completing major milestones in their training, which vary from College to College. The construction of these artifacts is the responsibility of the student, and the funding for them is that of his or her family; well-to-do students sometimes have their Rings forged from electrum or platinum to reflect their wealth. For the initiated, a mage’s rings tell a significant portion of his life story; the renowned Master Vorren, for example, is famous for having only rings made from iron he extracted from his own blood and bone. During the Grafting Ceremony, the Ring is heated red-hot and grafted directly into the student’s flesh, then surrounded by the aforementioned tattoos. Orientation, placement, and other details are dependent upon the traditions of the student’s College.
Upon reaching a certain level of competency within their College, apprentice mages generally undergo a further round of testing and then receive their Journeyman Ring. These youths are then sent out into the world to ‘benefit the Academy’ in whatever way they see fit. These fall into some rough categories, though any student who can show material benefit to the University is considered a successful journeyman even if he or she does not fall into one. “Leatherhounds” seek out lost or rare information not only in the form of books but also artifacts, scrolls, and other relics or writings that will add to the collective knowledge of the Academy; these journeymen are often in the Records College, and become Librarians- a title that carries enormous weight in the Academy at large. Tinkers and Scribblers build new things and push the boundaries of what is known about magic, while Journeys go out into the world to find what project they feel is worthy of their time. Most Waitoshi mages found abroad or in adventuring groups are Journeys making their way. All journeyman mages get sponsored by a master, usually one with whom they have already studied. A sponsor provides the student with a small purse and any relevant information to their proposed task. Students are afterward expected to earn their own way.
After a period of work or travel that traditionally lasts at least five years, a journeyman student returns to the Academy and his or her sponsor. They are then taken to the Chamber of the Fifth Ring near the top of the North Tower, where they show their magical proficiency and demonstrate the value of their long endeavor to the school in front of the Senior Synod. About half are successful on their first attempt; the rest go out again to refine their craft. Having passed the examination the new Master is given one week to make a final ring, and it is grafted like the others in a special ceremony. The rank of Senior Master is one that few attain, and the ceremonies and requirements involved are a close-held secret of the school. Masters usually live in the upper reaches of one of the towers, though some choose to remain abroad. Those that live in the Academy are provided room and board, while paying a tithe of any earnings back to the school’s coffers. These Masters usually spend about half of their time teaching and half working on a project of personal interest. With a few exceptions, all Masters publish treatises on their work to be added to the enormous libraries.
The Academy is considered the greatest center of learning in the civilized world, ahead of even the Sanctum Apotheca in Farrheim. There is significant travel to and from other realms and worlds in the upper reaches of the school, and it is a rare student indeed that gets through the first phase of his apprenticeship without coming face-to-face with an Outsider in some fashion. The Sage Synod is a collection of Masters and Senior Masters with a particular interest in new learning and the fruit of work in the field. This Synod meets every month on the new moon to discuss new trips abroad and to hear lectures on the learning of their fellows. Many non-member Masters also view these lectures via scrying device, and a few are even popular enough that students watch. One such is the firbolg sage Lynch, a very widely traveled Master who has only recently been convinced to stop making his lectures entirely in the form of sonnets. The rude limerick with which he responded to this request has been the subject of considerable glee among students, who were by and large unaware that “arse” could be so convincingly and viciously rhymed with “glass”.