Taren is a city slightly north of where the wild magic river flows into The Poison Bay.
The name “Taren” refers to both the city itself, a walled city about three miles across, and the surrounding suburbs and farms of its fifedom. It is a populous, labyrinthine city rife with corruption, said to be decadent and squalid in roughly equal parts.
The city is ruled by a Marqués, though power is, to some degree, shared with the many Guilds and the surviving nobility. They form a sort of advisory city council. The Marqués has almost absolute power over the affairs of the city and works together with the leaders of the city’s Guilds, who elect him through the Guild Council. The Marqués usually rules until his (or her) death. Marqués have been known to resign, but this is very much the exception. However, due to the Machiavellian nature of many of the city’s citizens assassinations have been common.
Taren is an oligarchy. Eligible for election are the rich and influential, though how this influence is gained is not called into question.
The city as it currently stand is built on an archipelago of small islands, many years ago the poison bay burst its banks flooding all but the highest points of the city, which lead to the formation of these islands. More islands formed over the years by te people reclaiming land from the flood.
Getting around Taren between the islands is done via a system of canals, bridges and skywalks. There are probably as many canals in the city as there are major streets.
Due to the fact that much of the city was built on reclaimed land, effectively building a new layer of the city on top of what was submerged, many of the old buildings, cellars, submerged streets abandoned sewers form a sort of tunnel and cave network under most of the city.
The unusual and magical nature of the floodwater (wildmagic river and poison bay water) has left large sections of this network not flooded or only partially flooded. Areas of this tunnel network are dangerous as some are flooded, some have odd magical nuances and some have become home to dungeon crawling creatures. However, since a surprisingly small number of the city’s population know about this network, those that know the tunnels and are careful are able to use the tunnels to get around relatively unimpeded.
Bedlam is the name given to the poorer area of the city, near the docks. It is seen by the aristocracy as a slum or simply “the wrong side of the tracks” and to an extent this is true, it has its fair share of tenement slums and street crime is higher here than in any other part of the city. However, Bedlam has become over the years a bohemian style area of culture, drawing in less than well off bards, playwrights, artists and actors.
Location: The Penitent Steps
Many religions are practised and gods worshipped throughout the city of Taren. For the wealthy elite, religion is practised within the comfort of their own homes and many of the pristine houses of Taren has a small chapel or shrine to whatever god or gods they may worship.
For the poor people of Bedlam however it’s a different story, many of these people don’t even own their own houses never mind their own chapels. This is where the Penitent Steps come in.
The Penitent Steps are a series of one roughly one hundred and fifty steps up to the top of the highest hill in Bedlam. At the summit of these steps is a large, circular temple with an open domed ceiling. In this temple you will find street preachers and representatives of all the major (and most of the minor) faiths of the city. Many clerics have a shrine with a confessional-like booth at the back inside the temple.
Because of the multitude of religions practised here, many having different… opinions shall we say, the prospect of violence used to be a constant threat. (It is believed that a fight that broke out on the Penitent Steps, and the ensuing riot, led directly to the fire that threatened to sweep through Bedlam a number of years ago.)
These days an unwritten but mutually accepted rule forbids any violence on the steps or in the temple. All religions and religious practitioners are (at least outwardly) equally respected here.
Because of the ban on violence on the Steps many people continue the long tradition of moneylenders in the temple and on the temple grounds. Many of their customers actually approve of this (though they would never say so) because this means they do not have to be seen entering money lending houses (some of which are located in the shadier parts of town).