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Shirekeep is the capital and chief city of Shireroth, with a history going back over 2500 years.
Although the origins of Shirekeep are shrouded in legend, most people believe that the city was founded by Kaiser Raynor I after his conquest of Brookshire. Raynor built the part of the city now known as "Raynor's Keep" as a fortress guarding the Elwynn River and as a palace for himself and his successors; commoners and artisans settled to the east of the keep, on the Elwynn's west bank. During the reign of his successor, Raynor II, the city expanded northward as Shirerithian forces fought off the Elw barbarians in the region surrounding the city. During Shirerithian expansion, many of the conquered peoples of the Shirerithian Empire immigrated to the city, creating the sprawling foreign quarters of the south.
Shirekeep has been burnt down several times, usually as a result of experiments or military drills gone awry, but occasionally during wars. The city suffered severe damage during the Mog Rebellion, and much of it was also burned down during the War of the Wylthean Succession. Most recently, parts of it have fallen into decay as the Kaiser's government lacks the funds needed to properly fully maintain the city.
The easiest way to get to Shirekeep is to fly. The Mattlore Devious International Airport receives flights from all over Micras. No visa is required for most nationalities, although Babkhans, Treesians, and Aerligians need a special "Certificate of Non-Evilness" from the Ministry of Immigration, which the Ministry stubbornly refuses to provide. Although there were previously some issues with nearby Shirerithian airbases using planes for target practice, especially those coming from or heading to Babkha, Aerlig, or Treesia, this issue has been mostly settled.
Travellers already in Shireroth may wish to take a Shirerithian railroad or superhighway from elsewhere in the country. A train ticket from the Brookshire or Goldshire capitals costs about 40 erb; one from Eliria costs 20. The line from Musica costs 25, but has a bad tendency to fall into the river around the area of the Isa Bridge; make sure to check on the bridge maintanence status before you go and to bring a life jacket.
For those with more money to burn, the classiest way to enter Shirekeep is by boat. Several companies run pleasure cruises along the Elwynn River; fly or sail into Musica and then take a three or four day leisurely boat ride across the Lunarian and Monty Criscan countryside. Expect to pay about 1000 erb for lodging, transportation, food, and entertainment. Probably the best known of these cruises is the Salamandro, a restored Mog-era frigate whose twenty cabins feature period decorations. Occasionally it will be assaulted by a restored Mog-era pirate ship, whose crew, dressed in traditional Mog-era pirate costumes, will kill some of the travellers with authentic Mog-era weapons. A cruise on the Salamandro costs at least 2000 erb, and should be booked at least six months in advance.
Once in Shireroth, you'll want to make your way to the St. Zor Railway Station, hub of both the city bus system and the SARTRE (Shirekeep Area Rapid Transit Railway Express). Shuttles run from St. Zor Station to Mattlore Devious Airport and back every prime numbered minute after the hour.
Raynor's Keep stands in the center of the city, surrounded by a stone wall. Most of the city's historical attractions are here, as well as the center of the Shirerithian government. There are only three gates into the Keep (one to the east, one to the west, and one to the south); these close at 11 PM and open each morning at 10 AM or when the guards wake up, whichever is later. Foreigners who have a Certificate of Non-Evilness will need to show it to the guards before entering the Keep.
The Commercial District and Docklands
The Commercial District and Docklands sit on the Keep's east flank. The Commercial District was originally Shirekeep's main trading port, full of shipyards, docks, and the businesses that sustained them. Cheap dockworkers, usually emigrants from Babkha and Mondesia, were the lifeblood of the industry, and when these were banished from the city by Kaiser Brrapa V, the docks moved east of the river to Goldshire, where they became the Docklands. The Commercial District stayed almost uninhabited for a few decades until some of Shireroth's more enterprising businesses learned they could get land there cheap. It then became a labyrinth of glass and steel office towers, home to Shirekeep's tallest buildings.
Just to the east of the Commercial District lies TIMOTHY'S CLIFF, a precipice where a small hill makes a sheer drop into the waters of the Elwynn below. Back in the days of Kaiser Timothy II, when a thief was caught he would be brought to the top of the cliff and then, with great pomp and ceremony, thrown pushed off the edge into the river beneath. As the cliff was only about ten feet tall, the thief would inevitably plop safely into the river and swim to freedom on the other side - which suited Timothy II just fine, as he was a big softy at heart.
The Foreign Quarter
The Foreign Quarter is the collection of ethnic communities on the Elwynn's south bank. One day, in a particularly xenophobic mood, Kaiser Brrapa V banned a long list of foreigners, especially Babkhans and Atterans, from Shirekeep. The banished foreigners crossed to the south bank of the Elwynn, setting up what began as a shantytown and later became its own town, outside the capital's special administrative region but linked socially and culturally to Shirekeep both by its proximity and a series of bridges. Although Brrapa's prohibition has long been lifted, most non-Apollonian foreigners choose to live in the Foreign Quarter anyway to take advantage of the communities there that bind them to their homeland. Many signs in the Quarter are bilingual, featuring both Shirerithian and the language of some foreign country, and even the most patriotic Shirerithians cross the bridges some nights for Shirekeep's most exotic cuisine.
The Audente and Soloralist Quarters
The Audente and Soloralist Quarters are to the Keep's south. When Shireroth was a province of Audentior, the Audente governor, his staff, and the various office he ran were placed in the far south of the city, which quickly became, in these days before the Foreign Quarter, the international hotspot. The Jasonians congregated in the westernmost part of the area. During the secession from Audentior, much of the Audente Quarter was burned in riots, and the Jasonians, Shireroth's new masters, chose to relocate their capital a few hundred meters west into the territory which officially became the Jasonian (later the Soloralist) Quarter. The Audente Quarter now has very few real Audentes, and is inhabited mainly by native Shirerithians and by increasing numbers of Anticans, who find the old Audente architecture someone similar to their own culture.
Northshire is the name given to the area to the north of the Keep, and was a separate village for some time until it merged with the capital around the Alexandrian Age. Legend says that the village was founded by Raynor II as a work camp for laborers constructing his greatest project, the gigantic catapult that would fling him into Heaven and make him a god. Northshire was once the capital of the region currently known as Elwynn, but was replaced by Eliria once the Kaiser's forces pushed beyond the Elwynn's North Fork.
1) The Lukedu Center for the Exploding Arts lies in the basin of the giant crater formed by the spectacular destruction of the previous Lukedu Center for the Exploding Arts. It hosts Shireroth's weapons laboratory, armory, and, once a year on the last day in Agnifiero, its most popular fireworks show. Excited citizens start grabbing seats on the crater rim up to a week in advance, and the Kaiser himself traditionally watches. Since the unfortunate incident cutting short the reign of Kaiser Leto II, he has watched by video link from his palace; since the unfortunate incident cutting short the reign of Kaiser Santiago II, from his winter palace in Brookshire. Visitors are invited explore the Center between 10 and 5 weekdays; guided tours are free, but renting a hazardous material protection suit, highly recommended, is twelve erb extra.
2) The St. Zor Railway Station is the portal to and from Shirekeep, linking the Elwynnese Railway to the Shirelands Line. It also is the hub of the bus system, receiving all buses from out of city and connecting their passengers to the intra-city bus lines. The station opened a hundred twenty-seven years ago, and has never had a bus be more than a hundred twenty-seven years late.
3) The Mattlore Devious International Airport / Hospital / Stadium / Aquarium / Zoo / Mini-Golf Course / Cemetery / Ashram / Fire Station / Racetrack / Copper Mine is the first glimpse most international visitors see of the capital and, thanks to draconian zoning laws starting in the time of Kaiser Meskan I, home to 64% of Shireroth's public services at last count. The Mattlore Devious Shuttle System conveys visitors from the parking lot (the third largest on Micras) to the various substructures in the complex.
4) The Triple Towers stand within the Ancient City, the part of Shirekeep within Kaiser Raynor I's old city walls. The first houses the Imperial Advisory Council, where the Kaiser meets his most trusted friends. The second is the barrack of the Kampeions, the Kaiser's private bodyguards. The third is the home of the Imperial Arbiter, who dispenses justice on the realm's most sinister criminals.
5) Also within the Ancient City is the Temple of Mors, possibly the oldest building in Shirekeep after Raynor's Keep itself. The Temple houses the remains of all the dead Kaisers of the past, and living Kaisers enter it only once, on their coronation day. The Temple is the most isolated building in the Ancient City, it being considered horribly bad luck to be close to a Temple of Mors for too long.
6/7) The Museum of the Fine Arts houses Shireroth's best paintings and sculptures. Its sister structure, the Museum of the Mediocre Arts, houses all the paintings and sculptures not good enough to be showcased in its neighbor, and is one of the least visited museums in the city.
8) Raynor's Keep is the oldest and largest building in Shirekeep and occupies the center of the city. Built by Kaiser Raynor I as his capital and fortress, it now serves as the Kaiser's palace, administrative center, and reception hall. It connects to the Triple Towers by a series of battlements, which are currently used as government offices and storerooms.
9) The Landsraad stands near but outside the Old City, in the center of a district called Ministry Row for the seven Government Ministry Buildings located side by side there. Before it is the famous equestrian statue of Praetor Nicholas Raglan, and its legendary cast-iron Front Gate both keeps out commoners and serves as a meeting-point where they can protest the body's actions. The Landsraad also has a much less conspicuous Back Gate, built by Nicholas Raglan as a secret escape route during a period of tensions between the Kaiser and the nobility. The period ended amicably when Kaiser Trantor III signed the famous Mango Carta. Tourists are welcome unless there is a meeting going on; while adults view the majestic meeting hall, children can try their hands at the fun Landsraad Water Bottle Toss game outside.
10) Raynor Village is a portion of the Ancient City restored to how it might have looked when Kaiser Raynor I ruled the Keep. It contains the Shirekeep Visitors' Center. Watch as women in authentic Raynorian dress demonstrate how the first Shirerithians used to mix gunpowder (please, no smoking in Raynor Village)
11) The Cedrist Temple, also called the BOOMist Temple, is along with the Temple of Mors the holiest spot in the BOOMist faith. Built by Raynor I to honor his gods, it holds service every Vivantiaday, Semisaday, and Hasanday, as well as on special occasions. All BOOMists are welcome to attend freely, although be warned that the temple fills quickly, especially on Vivantiaday.
12) SARTRE, the Shirekeep Area Rapid Transit Railway Express, is the best way to travel Shirekeep quickly for tourists and citizens alike. Travelling alternately above and below ground its four lines (the Station line to the north, the Brookshire Line to the west, the Landsraad Line to the east, and the Malarbor Line to the south) include stations only minutes away from all of Shirekeep's major attractions. Every third car is kept empty, to symbolize the crushing emptiness of modern life.
13) John Metzler III University, or JM3U as it's known by the locals, is Shireroth's most prestigious institute of higher education, available only to students who have done phenomenally well on their Shireroth Test Of Order and Development, or STOOD tests. Come watch a game by JM3U's sports team, the Fighting Meese, or hear a lecture by some of their world-renowned professors.
14. The Temple of the Quintessences, designed as a smaller copy of its original parent temple in Menelmacar, is one of the largest surviving Soloralist temples and a center of the faith in Shireroth. It is located by the Hyperborean Temple and the Multi-Temple on a street that has now become known to locals as Heretics' Way.
15. A short walk from the Temple of the Quintessences are the Hyperborean Temples of Truth and Beauty. While these pale in comparison to their parent temples in Thule, the former provides a voluminous library open to the public (albeit mostly in Hyperborean), while the latter holds the Benacian continent's most prestigious collection of Hyperborean art off the island itself.
16. The Multi-Temple was built by Kaiser Matthew "the Mad", who hoped to lure all the heretics in Shirekeep to one place and then light it on fire. Before it was completed, Matthew was replaced by his nephew, Kaiser Edwin "the Seems Sane Enough, At Least For A Kaiser" who allowed it to be used for actual worship. Visitors can attend simultaneous ceremonies by, among others, the Priests of Eru, the Aralanic faith, the Zoroastrians, the Christians, the Ultimate Comment, and the Path of Yellow. Those sensitive to loud noises should be warned that the Multi-Temple can provide quite a cacophony, as each priest does his best to outyell the others.
17. At the very point where the Elwynn splits in two stands the pride of Shirekeep, the Statue of Malarborty. This ninety-four foot bronze image of Shireroth's most recognizable god is located on the very spot where, according to legend, Kaiser Francis I fought the evil Malarbor and made him swear to serve as Shireroth's protector. The statue is the first sight visible to boats sailing up the Elwynn, and was built partly to awe any emissaries viewing Shirekeep for the first time. In this goal it is certainly aided by the primitive but effective sound system installed by Kaiser Nicholas III, which at intervals shouts at passing boats "TRADE WITH SHIREKEEP! MALARBOR DEMANDS IT!"
Most souveniers in Shirekeep are sold either in the Docklands (if they're cheap) or in Raynor's Keep (if they're expensive). The Raynor Keep souveniers include replica swords, axes, maces, bludgeons, spiky helmets, spiky shoes, armor, and other Raynor-era weapons. Kevin Darjainen runs a heraldry shop near the main tower, and will make your family a personalized coat of arms for a fee. Although traditional Shirerithian arms use goat blood for the red paint, if you bring the blood of your enemies he can substitute that instead.
Docklands souveniers tend to be more modern, and range from bobblehead dolls of Raynor I to Malarbor t-shirts to "Restore the Shirerithian Empire" bumper stickers. The prices tend to get cheaper the further you go from the waterfront.
All across the city you can buy de-activated nuclear bombs from the Lukedu Center for the Exploding Arts. MAKE SURE THESE ARE DEACTIVATED BEFORE YOU PURCHASE THEM! Generally, bombs that have been safely deactivated will have the name of the inspector on them and an LCEA stamp. Bombs sold in the Foreign Quarter are often not Lukedu items at all, and are more likely to come from the stockpiles of Attera or Col, which may not have deactivated them properly. Needless to say, the best place to buy flammable or radioactive items of all sorts is the Lukedu Center gift shop, but this is somewhat more expensive than elsewhere in the city and if you want to stay in it for more than eighteen minutes (twelve minutes for young children), you have to rent a special suit from the staff.
For the man who's got everything, why not buy a noble title? With the collapse of the Empire and the dissolution of the New Feudal system, for a few thousand erb you could make your loved one Count of Wintergleam or Countess of Shimmerspring. Although official titles with Landsraad speaking rights are far beyond the means of most travellers, unofficial counties, which can be created and destroyed at will by higher nobles, are generally easier to pick up. An office for such transactions sits just to the right of the Landsraad Front Gate on Raglan Street.
Although the Shirerithians are known for their friendliness, they can become angry if you fail to properly respect their culture. Any criticism of the Kaiser is taken very seriously and should be avoided. Although Shireroth is tolerant of other religions, or, as they commonly call them, "accursed heretics", you should avoid mocking the Shirerithian faith, and if you want to preach a rival creed, go to an approved venue such as the Multi-Temple.
If you are a Babkhan, Treesian, or Aerligian, you may encounter hostility or discrimination in some areas. In particular, if the guards in Raynor Keep ask if you want to see an authentic example of the ancient Shirerithian method of execution, you should not under any circumstances say yes. If stopped by the police, be as helpful as possible and immediately present your Certificate of Non-Evilness. There are many Babkhans in the Foreign Quarter and you may find yourself more warmly received there.
It's best not to say anything along the lines of "Wow, sucks that you lost that whole big empire, huh? Guess that was pretty stupid of you."
The Docklands can be a fascinating place to shop or people-watch, but be aware that over the past few years, many con-men have started to prey on the tourists there. One popular con is the "Jaihan Snake Con", where a man will claim to be an explorer returning from the jungles of Jaiha and ask you to hold his giant tropical snake, "just for a second", while he "goes to the bathroom." He'll then throw a giant tropical snake at you, which you will feel obligated to hold for him. However, another explorer (unbeknownst to you, a confederate of the first explorer) will then come by, claiming to have a space mongoose from Jupiter, and ask you to hold that for a second, in the same manner as the first. The "space mongoose" is actually just an ordinary mongoose with antennae glued to its head, and will immediately eat the giant tropical snake, which is in fact only a regular giant snake from the marshes of Wintergleam painted in tropical-looking colors. The first explorer will then come out, act horrified that his giant tropical snake is gone, kill the mongoose in his rage, and demand up to a thousand erb in compensation. Then, just as you're ready to leave, the second explorer will come by, act horrified that his space mongoose is dead, and demand all the erb you have left. Thousands of tourists have fallen victim to the Jaihan Snake Con. Remember - if anyone comes up to you with a giant snake, tell him firmly but politely that you refuse to take it from him.