|Nation:||Unified Governorates of Benacia|
|Main roads:||The Eight Cardinal Routes (A1 to A8)|
|Current mayor:||Salbnan Lysander Falk|
|Map versions:||8.0.1 - current|
Structure and layout
Merensk, at least in the years after the fall of Minarboria, has suffered from the perennial Benacian problem of having too many people crammed within its boundaries with too little thought as to how they would be accommodated or provided for. The result, in consequence, is that the usual Benacian problems - squalor, malnourishment, pestilence - asserted themselves with their typical vigour. Benacia Command, appalled at having relocated to yet another heap of filth, having so recently departed the last one, immediately issued orders for a full-scale cleansing of the midden-heap of a city, followed by its systematic demolition and reconstruction along centrally planned lines.
Old Merensk: Centrum & Citadel
It would appear that those in authority charged with the reconstruction of Merensk in the wake of the Kalirion Fracture, to say nothing of some particularly unpleasant infestations by hostile biota which afflicted the suburbs, have had imprinted upon them by some unknown memetic influence a fixation with the number eight; as of the year 1672 there were under construction eight concentric walls enclosing an area of sixty-four square kilometres. In each of the eight "Segmentae Civitates" is being built a cathedral-temple dedicated to the worship of an emanation of the Highest Divinity, whose own cathedral - the Monad - is being constructed at the very heart of the city, with each temple mirroring the hierarchies of the Celestial Temple, beginning with the shrine to Ahriman in the innermost Segmentum and ending with Lest as the presiding patron deity of the outermost. In terms of transportation for instance, the city will be served by eight tramways. Each of the segmentae are in turn subdivided into eight municipal districts. There are eight recognised guilds into which all professions and trades must be shoehorned as best they can. Urban zones have been divided into eight categories for planning purposes. A Council of Eight advises the Salbnan appointed by Benacia Command as commandant of the city. It is as though the planners, bereft of ideas, opted for mindless pattern repetition in lieu of a consistent or meaningful theme. On the upside this does mean that there are eight hospitals under construction, which is more concern for the health of the populace than previous regimes have shown. Eight aqueducts, eight broad canals, eight teeming fish lakes, and eight capacious sewers, also appear to have made their way onto the planner's design board. Integrated water management systems having been something of a novelty hitherto in the former Shirerithian space, as evidenced by the miseries endured by Shirekeep over the centuries.
Consistent with the theme expounded upon at monotonous length above there are eight ring roads within each of the concentric segmentae, and eight converging avenues, four from north to south and four from east to west, whose interlacing forms the Centrum district upon which the Monad edifice is being raised.
The area within the walls is known collectively as "Zitadelle". The Eighth Wall, the outermost of the Zitadelle fortifications, measured twenty-eight kilometres in circumference [fortification descriptions]. All told, within the eight segmentum walls are to be found two hundred thousand households, comprising a cosmopolitan populace of Elw, Brookshirians, Babkhi, Tellians, Lach, Sani, Modani, Islanders from Amity and Mirioth, Natopians, Constancians. The halls of the Benacian Academy thronged with the chattering multitudes of engineers, scientists, scholars, historians, mobads, and celebrants. The city's prodigiously stocked markets, serviced by the Yards located outside of the great wall, were the envy of southern Benacia, with bazaars arranged according to the various trades and products, and whence to which liveried company the sellers owed deference - jewellery, armaments, electronics, machine tools, silks, cottons, unguents, perfumes, spices. Fed by the wealth garnered by the conquest of the territories that would become the Unified Governorates, Merensk had become fantastically wealthy within a comparatively short space of time, drawing onto itself the revenues of trade routes from across the continent. Such prosperity could be observed in the magnificence of the temples, palaces, hospitals, museums, theatres, and opera houses, all thrown up in the fusion of Imperial and Neo-Babkhan architectural styles - each building a monumental stepped edifice resplendent with marble columns, vaulting limestone porticoes, gilded windows, and glazed cobalt blue roof tiles. All of these grand palaces were overshadowed by the Panopticon Zitadelle itself, the "paradise of paradises, the heavily protected complex consisting of a labyrinth of buildings, interrupted by lush gardens", at the heart of which stood the great palace, surrounded by its own wall most beautifully and richly planned, within which were to be found the eight grand halls of the Command Executive's Directorates, and at the very heart of which was to be found the Panopticon itself an octagonal tower surmounted by an unsurpassed turquoise dome that sparked in the daylight and at night could be observed to radiate its own spectral shimmering glow. Within this building were said to be twenty thousand rooms and stately apartments.
Few cities in Benacia could claim to be so elegantly provisioned as Merensk behind the walls was with broad thoroughfares, open spaces for recreation, and unrivalled grand hotels, designed to accommodate businessmen, diplomats, generals, and statesmen and to cater to their inimitable tastes.
Beyond the walls of Zitadelle an area of 9,216 square kilometres has been enclosed by fencing and checkpoints to create the Merensk Metropolitan Region in which the remainder of the population assigned to the economic, political, and military functions of the capital are assigned. As the reader may justly have come to fear by this stage, the Metropolitan Region is subdivided into eight urban bailiwicks.
1st urban bailiwick: The Paradise
Regimented as it invariably was, Merensk had its outlets for pleasure-lovers and non-conformists, especially for those amongst the privileged classes of senior guildsmen, functionaries, officers, and legionaries on furlough. The Paradise, established within the first urban bailiwick to be constructed after the completion of the Zitadelle, was a licensed district devoted to leisure and entertainment, and there all manner of frivolities were tolerated.
Here were to be found, theatres, taverns, public baths and houses of consolation, where all the austere and orderly values of Nationalist-Humanism and Holodomatic Cedrozurvanism were overthrown. The ways of luxury-loving merchants from back east prevailed over the martial code of the Black Legions, and styles were set by the courtesans, procuresses, actors and musicians of the colourful, exotic and unreal dreamland.
In the Paradise, both government functionaries and exhausted workmen seeking respite from the breakneck pace of construction in the remaining seven bailiwicks, could relax in the company of women and gelded youths, who were schooled in the arts of singing, dancing, and witty companionship. The training of these skilled comforters, invariably taken from the residual population of protected persons left over from the Auspicious Occasion, had often begun, under the supervision of the Konkordskaya Bratva, as early as the age of nine, and accomplished companions were celebrated figures in society. In the houses of consolation, men might also relax at at cards, backgammon, or plantation - a newly popular board game introduced from the interior where the purpose of the game is to move the black pieces from the right hand of the board to the green sanctuary on the left and where the player with the red pieces has to prevent the player with the black from completing the journey. Once the player with the black pieces has attained sanctuary he may begin to introduce various green and black pieces onto the board until the red players initial numerical advantage is entirely cancelled out and the game proper begins. There are those who suspect the game of being a non-too subtle form of indoctrination being spread by the various pilgrims entering the land during the period of Detente and thus the Paradise is one of the few districts where it is safe to play the game openly, even though plantation is rumoured to have avid players amongst even the most senior in the land.
The Paradise is also home to a small colony of Nezeni hired at some considerable expense to serve as a centrepiece for the absolute inversion of Nationalist-Humanist morality that the Paradise represents.
How the Paradise came to not only be tolerated but planned for by the state is a reflection of Nationalist-Humanist theory in and of itself, in that the genius of humanity resides in the capacity for hypocrisy and that the controlled release of otherwise undesirable passions in a regulated setting prevents what would otherwise be an uncontrollable eruption of repressed perversion and dissent that would corrupt and overturn society if yielded to.
The quid pro quo for this arrangement is that most activities tolerated within the Paradise would swiftly and inexorably result in disgrace, dismissal from all forms of employment and unavoidable reassignment to the Biological Remediation Service is attempted outside of its enclosing walls.
There were soon immense numbers of practitioners of the negotiable arts available in the environs of the Paradise. Meqael Mizarielion, visiting the city at the head of an Elwynnese delegation, estimated that there were at least fifty thousand plying the trade. Some were extremely smart, elegant, and as haughty as Fatima, a noted tennis player in addition to her other accomplishments, who once showed her indifference to money and scorn of the men who paid her by eating a thousand-natopo credit in a sandwich. A few of these courtesans succeeded in establishing themselves in the upper echelons of society, such as the Roché sisters who married into the Uaneill family after a period spent as the intimates of the Frainan-Streïakeï of the Central Banner Group. Many were fresh-faced, young and seemingly wholesome, whilst others were visibly worn-out such as the bar workers and calloused bath-house attendants that frequented the inevitably grubby margins of the Paradise accounting for the less favoured clientele.
Nonetheless, all who diligently adhered to their profession, from the fairest to the foulest, enjoyed the protection of the Guild of the Lotus, a recognised and legally sanctioned trade association to which all hospitality workers and entertainers, were obliged to be registered in order to perform their services. Appropriately, in view of the concentration of their interests within the walls of the Paradise, it is appropriate that bailiwick falls under the government of the Guild of the Lotus, with minimal oversight afforded by aldermen appointed to the Board of Control, in return for forty percent of all revenues taken in the Paradise being gifted to the Command Executive of Benacia Command.
2nd urban bailiwick: The Yards
The Altebruk, a brackish stream, as yet un-drained or canalised, separates the licentiousness of the walled Paradise from from the bustling market of merchants, craftsmen, and retailers, who congregated in the container and storage yards under the shadow of Merensk's Grand Central Railway Station, a Minarborian edifice of towering red-brick vaults and wrought iron latticework, around which had been built in recent years an enclosing clay-brick stepped-platform, done in the Neo-Babkhan style. Into the container yards come also the articulated and tracked cargo vehicles that traverse the notorious trunk-roads of central and southern Benacia, to load and unload, disgorging goods that promptly disappear into the vans and autobuses of the guild-affiliated tradesmen whose services keep the city operating. In a city whose economic life is dominated by the Honourable Company and the eight-fold guild structure whose liveried companies exert a near absolute dominance over the professions, these tradesmen are the eyes and ears of those unliveried entrepreneurs who occupy precarious but necessary niches in the city's economy. To be turned away by the cudgellers from entering "The Yards" is to be cut off from the constant flow of gossip, rumour, and speculation, that was the lifeblood of business.
3rd urban bailiwick: Trenchtown
Trenchtown, colloquially known as "South of the Yards", was the starting point for the excavations and earth works which introduced into Merensk the subterranean networks that carried into its heart the various life-sustaining amenities upon which the city is sustained and thereby flourishes. Since the completion of those works, architectural marvels in their own right however, Trenchtown has become chiefly notable for being the site of the outflow of the city's effluence where the vast brick-lined sewers make their confluence with the Altebruk and together wend their noisome way towards the fields of filtration beds, hemmed in by vast earthen retaining walls, that constitute the great Trenchmire around the margins of which whole tribes of wretched mudlarks and other indigent ne'er-do-wells congregate.
It is no surprise then that property and land for building is to be found at its most affordable in this locale and the tenements thrown up here the most familiarly rickety and dung splattered as to be recognisable to a denizen of Shirekeep.
4th urban bailiwick: The Plantations
To the west of Trenchtown, beyond the Rothaven Road leading away to the southern coast, can be found the teeming fruit orchards known simply and collectively as "The Plantations". Amply irrigated and manured by the generous application of human ordure, these walled gardens are home to neatly aligned, evenly spaced, and tenderly nurtured groves of apple, almond, apricot, cherry, plum, and walnut trees, in the shade of which the cities vast legions of hogs forage gamely during the autumnal season, contributing their own filth to the richness of the soil thereby. These orchards, tended by leaseholders resident in adjacent cottages, are also home to innumerable bee hives, necessary as one might expect for ensuring the mass pollination upon which the fruit industry in the city depends. These abundant hives ensured that honey-making and mead-fermenting became cottage industries carried on at a not immodest scale. Whilst the fruit harvest is purchased at "agreed rates" by the Guild of Factors, and orchard foraging is compensated at rates set by the city, the sale of honey and mead is an unregulated affair left to the orchard-keepers of The Plantations themselves, and for many this additional income is what permits them to maintain their tenancies from one year to the next.
Fruit-picking, being unskilled and seasonal work, relies - since the abolition of serfdom - heavily upon the availability of the inhabitants of Trenchtown and its adjacent mires for temporary employment - recruitment fairs being communal affairs held around various local taverns and district moot-halls during the festivities of midsummer.
Notable tourist traps
- The Altar of Dubious Inspiration: situated on the capitol hill in Merensk, consisting of a lead statue of Vasroe in meaningful conversation with his alter egos
- The Museum of Froyalanish Degenerate Culture: located deep within the Paradise, the museum is home to various otherwise proscribed works, centrepiece consisting of a wax tableau of St Harald being adored and worshipped in various pornographic poses by a harem of nubile avatars. Inexplicably popular with the lascivious metropolitan crowd drawn from Shirekeep.
- Merensk Fighting Pit: Preferred method for disposing of wayward Amokolians and Lach, situated within the Zitadelle in Section Eight of the Eighth Circle (of Lest), the fighting pit also serves as an amphitheatre for the staging of amateur dramatics on subjects more respectable than might be played in the pleasure districts and hosts various sporting competitions, of which the Gubernatorial and Military Association Football Conferences are the most popular.
- The Legate's Prefecturial Parade: held on the date of the Festival of the Undaunted Atos, the parade marks the ceremonial installation of a new Legate as Prefect of the city. Beginning with the execution of condemned criminals at the Merensk Fighting Pit, the parade - comprised of contingents of garrison troops, cudgellers, and the garlanded apprentices of the city's guilds and liveried companies - processes from section to section and from circle to circle within the Zitadelle, stopping at each ale house, tavern, or public house along the route to demand beer, wine, and meat pies, under the implicit albeit jovially expressed threat of a cudgelling for non-compliance. The procession is customarily led by a Sagart of the Church of Elwynn, escorted by a cohort of choir-boys who are each carrying squids impaled on bronze tridents. The Sagart, impervious to the depraved scenes taking place to his left and right, solemnly makes readings from the Book of the Orchids at each stop. At the gates to each of the eight circuits along the route the Prefect-designate steps down from his gilded-carriage to receive a mug of beer from the Circuit's ruling Aldermen as well as the keys to the district. The beer he drinks and the keys he returns, confirming the aldermen in their office for another year. This being done the Prefect-elect is invited to witness the scourging of the indigent poor and an accompanying mummers dance performed by the guilds of the circuit, part of his duty being to score the performance of both and to award a silver cup to the Circuit that demonstrated the most exemplary standard of attainment. The procession continues in this fashion through each of the eight districts until finally it arrives at the curtain wall separating the Panopticon Zitadelle from the Centrum District. The Prefect-designate is granted admittance into the Zitadelle and is led up onto a balcony built into the gate-house overlooking the assembled multitudes of the city. There the Legate kneels to the Szodan and receives in turn the mural crown and baton that signify his new office. Whereupon his predecessor in office either receives a purse of gold coins or else is unceremoniously thrown from the battlements in recognition of his conduct over the previous year. The final duty for the confirmed Prefect is to call forth the Aldermen of the Eight Circuits to attend him upon the platform, there he announces to the multitude the winner of the silvered civic cup for the year. At this decision, invariably, the other districts take umbrage, and no sooner has the cup been passed into the hands of the winning Alderman than the cry of "cudgels" is taken up by the apprentices of the guilds hailing from the unsuccessful Circuits and the rest of the day is spent watching the apprenticed youths battling each other with the utmost ferocity to redeem their besmirched honour.
- "The Season": commencing with the annual opening of the State Assembly in the afterglow of the Festival of the Undaunted Atos and the arrival of the Commissioners and Governors from their provinces to present their tributes to the Szodan, the Season would continue until midsummer when the majority of the officers would return to their regimental postings in the Governorates to prepare for partisan-hunting season and the autumnal assizes. The arrival of so many tribunes and legates into the capital, with their families and household retinues in tow, made the so-called Merensk Season an opportunity to socialise and to engage in politics. The most exclusive events were held at the Minarborian era town mansions of leading members of the Command and Civil Executives. The season's roster of events would open with the Gubernatorial Debutantes Ball, when débutantes - young women selected by the provincial governors on the basis of their educational attainment and genetic health to form part of the tribute rendered to Merensk - from the governorates were presented to the Szodan and the officer corps attired in their national costumes, and closed with the Junior Officers' Bridal Auctions held on Midsummer's Eve - after which the newly affianced officers would disperse to their cantonments. Considering the overly militaristic attitude of the regime presiding over the UGB, it is perhaps surprising that Merensk hosts one of the more active formal ball seasons on the continent, albeit a considerable distance behind the frivolity obsessed aristocracies of Francia. This becomes less remarkable once it is considered that the regime is at great pains to offer consolations to the old feudal nobility for the loss of lands and titles collectively experienced after the Kalirion Fracture, with service under the banners of the Black Legions becoming the font of honour, and Merensk supplanting Shirekeep as the repository of material rewards along with all conceivable forms of gratification. In addition to the state sponsored functions, further balls were organised by an array of guilds, groups affiliated to the two licit political parties (N&H, C1660), sundry charitable endeavours, and their most benevolent corporate patrons. Across all of these events a uniform standard is maintained. The dress code is evening dress: white tie and tails or Mess Dress Uniform for men; strictly floor-length gowns for women. The final ceremonial is the blowing of the hunt horns and takes place 4 o'clock in the morning. Those who find the brisk succession of events associated with the formal balls circuit to be overly wearisome, if not utterly tedious, have been known to lose themselves in the Paradise district for a period of respite, becoming the occasion for mild scandal and gossip, whilst those who allow themselves to be led towards the noisome cellar bars of Trenchtown sometimes disappear for good or at least until such time as their bare-pocketed corpses are fished out of the adjacent sewage filtration beds.
Population, as of 1678 AN:
- Zitadelle: 900,783
- Metropolitan Region: 1,977,235
The population density of Merensk, Zitadelle and Metropolitan Region combined, is 313 residents per square kilometre.
As befits the region, the records concerning Merensk are sparse - at best, even down to modern times on account of the frequent calamities which overwhelmed the continent. Known to the Ashkenatzim as Introbsk. It can be determined that the city was confirmed as the seat of the Lichgraviate of Lachmeren in the year 1635 and, as part of the Lichnina, it was ruled by a Lichgrave serving as royal governor appointed at the behest of the Empress of Minarboria, who was herself - needless to say - also a revenant. It was a peculiar time in the history of the continent, when corpses were in many cases more animated than their living counterparts. This arrangement, periodically reaffirmed, endured for the duration of the reign of the undead over southern Benacia.
The population of the city during that period comprised of a Laqi majority whose heritage dated back to their settlement in the region following the collapse of the Laqi Free Republic.
The city's garrison was drawn from local military units of the Lachmeren Military District, which were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Lachmeren Regiments and the 3rd Pergola (Air Defence) Regiment.
There are indications that, during the restoration of human rule (1649–1650), Merensk somehow survived being on the receiving of the attentions of one Kizzy Drakland. Merensk was reported at that time to have been relatively stable, it had been claimed by Shireroth rather quickly with no local opposition. The people of Lachmeren were reported to have regarded Shireroth as the lesser of two evils, the greater evil being left to the Green or other foreign powers. Considering the famous antipathy of Minarboreans towards the Imperial Republic it is entirely possible that this assessment was the product of the imagination of an overly optimistic Salbnan trying to curry favour with High Command in Shirekeep.
Indications exist that Tapferite bosarchs conducted missionary work in the region of Merensk, even obtaining dispensation to splash passers-by with goats milk as part of their missionary work. Fortunately this appears to have left no lasting impact upon the wider population.
More serious however was growth of daemonic cults in Lachmeren, again under the tutelage and indulgence of Kizzy Drakland, who had acquired for herself the title of "Daemon-Queen" of Malarboria. The practice of overt daemon-worship, in addition to causing significant tensions with Imperial authorities, also began to stoke resentments amongst Merensk' multi-ethnic population. Matters would be soon brought to a head during the Folksraad elections of 1660 which saw a disparate coalition of minority parties, quietly supported by sympathetic outsiders take on the Loyalist Legion, the puppet party of the Daemon-Queen.
The sequence in which revolutions and emigrations saw Malarboria replaced by Modan, and Modan replaced by Malarboria-Modan in turn, need not concern us here but we can note that at the end of this sequence Merensk was elevated in status, in the year 1668, by becoming the capital of the consolidated subdivisions of Lywall, Lachmeren, and Angularis, henceforth called Malarboria. This arrangement itself would only last four years until the events of the Kalirion Fracture would overwhelm the continent once again, and this time see Merensk arise from the wreckage of the old Imperial order as the capital of the Unified Governorates of Benacia and the foremost citadel of the Black Legions.
- ^ Each with eight-hundred beds.
- ^ It should be noted that no companion entered the Houses of Consolation with the purpose of learning the culmination of their profession before the lawful age of majority.
- ^ The nightly burlesque show at a club known as the "Eight Spindle Arms" for instance is reported to be a travesty of taste and decorum, and thus is immensely popular.
- ^ Letters of Credit being ubiquitous as promissory notes to the point of becoming a virtual parallel currency this grand gesture may not have amounted to as much as it might have done otherwise.