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No Gods or Kings, Yet Knowledge

Volta Harbor


Volta is one of the most unique locations in all the world. It is a town by the sea founded on a large zinc deposit, cured by the salt air. The chemical properties of the zinc-infested soil make it impossible to grow anything, but reveals a much stronger power: electricity. The differential between zinc and salt, mixed with a little conductive material like copper or iron, turns Volta into a large battery. Consequently, violent storms the likes of which not seen by any other location erupt here. Lightning storms last for days on end, and the townspeople have lightning rods to channel the energy under the road and ground the buildings. It's not uncommon to witness a gigantic thunderous boom on one or several buildings, then the loud hum of a rod as the electricity sinks into the soil. The town is built around their newfound power, and as such metals like iron, copper, and gold are not highly valued here. Such metals are known as conductors, which channel the electric power in the air. Tourists to this strange town often find their own gold will zap them, and are encouraged to temporarily exchange them for the local wooden currency. Since wood does not conduct electricity, it is safe to handle.

Likewise, the town has very few guards. Any bandits approaching the city bristling to the teeth with metal weapons find that their own knives, swords, and even armor has turned on them. Arrows fly unpredictably here, wobbling and flying oddly as electricity arcs off the metal heads. Weapons like hammers are the most dangerous, and tend to draw gigantic spires of lightning from the earth and the sky both. While this looks neat, it is incredibly dangerous to the wielder. Men who wear anything other than leather will find themselves electrocuted in their own armor. Even buckles, belts, and nails on the bottoms of shoes produce painful shocks.

As a secondary precaution against raiders and hostile armies, there exist three spires protecting the land-facing front of Volta. These spires are constructed of steel infused with salt and zinc, and wrapped in copper wire. Anything even remotely conductive wandering near these spires will get painfully zapped. If they ignore the warning, drawing closer might result in electrocution. Signs are posted in several languages at the furthermost edge of the spires' range...ignore at your own risk.

The denizens of Volta are a relatively safe, happy city. They thrive on the harvesting of salt from the sea. This salt can be combined with cool water to make a freezing slurry that keeps the precious bottles of wine transported from outside farms cold and safe. Men who have ordered shipments of beer are often shocked to find that the barrels arrive frosty even in the middle of summer, with no magic involved. The people of Volta have embraced Alchemy and science to their own benefit, and Alchemists are both welcomed, advertised for, and loved in Volta. The small city boasts one of the largest Alchemical reagent stores in the whole of Idalos, and Alchemists are encouraged to sell their recipes. Recipes shared with the town for their own benefit will net a decent amount of pay. More so, if an Alchemist learns how to further harness the gift of lightning.

Come to Volta, the Town of Storms, and leave your (probably metal) weaponry at the door.

Location


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Volta is located in the Taagi Baara Steppes, on a small peninsula east of Eaglehead. It is surrounded by barren plains, which feature no plant life. The ground is streaked in deep green from the copper deposits in the ground, poisoning any crops that people once attempted to grow there. Rain and storms are common, as the intense electromagnetic energy from the copper deposits interacts with the salt in the sea air, forming a natural battery. This makes the weather unpredictable and dangerous, as intense wind and lightning storms can crop up at any second. Being caught out in this area of the Steppes with the clouds rolling in is a very bad place to be.

There are no herbivores or carnivores that inhabit the area, as it is hostile toward life. Unfortunately, bandits constantly sweep the plains, keeping low profiles and hoping to catch rich tourists on the way to Volta.

Demographic Information

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Volta is a vastly multicultural city. With commerce, science and magic at the centre of Volta's core values, there is little reason to bring politics and wars from other places here. Taxes are structured evenly, with tax breaks supplied to volunteers who clean the city, wash windows, or perform other small tasks. As a result, the city is owned by everyone, and everyone is motivated to keep it clean and peaceful. Taxes are relatively high, but go to social programs to aid the poor, disabled, and widowed. Every race is welcome, from humans and elves to orcs, trolls, devourers, and even dragons. Racism and hate crimes come with a stiff fine from the local constabulary.

Even with this open-minded attitude, the majority of the city is staffed by humans, elves, and orcs. While larger races are welcome, it is difficult to accommodate for everyone, so the Voltese have had to be creative. Doors to shops are required to have three nesting sections; the largest door for the largest races, a medium door for elves and humans, and a small door for halflings and goblins. Some shops have done away with doors entirely, with the front face of the building sliding back entirely to transform shops into open-air markets. Translation services are available through the Office of Conductivity, and signs are typically in three languages: Common, Elvish, and Orcish.

If you wish to move to Volta, the city will cover your moving costs if you are a mage and wish to study at the University of Volta.

In addition, the unemployed are practically non-existent. Citizens must contribute to the city's economy or study. If you do not contribute to Commerce, Science, or Magic, you will be escorted to the border of the plains after a 30-day warning.

All Must Contribute to the City's Health, Lest We All Wither.

Local Politics

Volta is a democratic Republic. The city is headed by the Mayor of Volta, Emelia Bram, who makes executive decisions informed by a Parliament of Twelve. The Parliament has the power to veto or override any decision made by the Mayor, and the people may override either or both by city-wide popular vote. One must have lived in Volta for a period of five years and be at least eighteen (or the sexually mature equivalent for other races) to cast a vote. Votes for the Parliament and Mayoral office are conducted once every ten years.

The Republic is strongly pro-Immigration, as long as it is productive. Unproductive members of society are often socially shamed, with homelessness seen as a particular slight. Thankfully the taxes in the city go to fund programs that find places for people down on their luck. Refuse the program out of pride or necessity, and be banished outside the city.

Marriage between sexes and races is common here, and same-sex marriage is legal. Both parties must be at least twenty years of age or the mature equivalent, must prove their involvement for at least six months (keeping mementos from dates and dinners is common), and pay a fine of sixty glass pieces for the license.

Weapons are strictly controlled by the state. While this isn't so much a problem, as the natural electromagnetism of Volta discourages metal weapons, glass and wood alternatives are common. While the state doesn't forbid the carrying of such weapons, using them against a Voltese citizen without due cause will double the fine for fighting from thirty glass pieces to sixty. Moreover, if you are a citizen convicted of domestic violence, bestiality, rape, slavery, murder, or any crime considered grievous....you will lose your permission to carry a weapon. Any weapon found on a convicted person will result in an immediate jail sentence.

Arts are subsidized by Voltese taxes. As such, all playhouses, libraries, galleries, and museums are free for Voltese citizens to enter. If one can prove a significant cultural institution (such as the poetry of elves or the songs of Devourers), one can be paid a modest amount by the City to perform these talents. Playhouses often have a rotating roster of short fifteen minute displays of song or spoken word poetry from all over Arethil. A must see!

Religion

All religion, displays of faith, street preaching, and churches are banned in Volta.

Citizens and visitors may have small private shrines in their own homes, but public displays of religion are expressly forbidden. Volta prizes science, magic, and alchemy above all. While this may be shocking to many citizens of Arethil, Voltese citizens argue that it makes the populace more open minded and less inclined to violence.

Visitors who insist on preaching are warned. The second infraction will incur a fine. The third infraction will result in a higher fine of a hundred glass nel. There isn't a fourth fine; if someone still preaches after all that, they are escorted off the city's premises. For citizens, a trial will be scheduled to determine whether the preaching was a threat to the scientific integrity of Volta's citizenry. If convicted, they will be escorted to the border with their belongings. Citizens can appeal this decision by letter.

The Office of Conductivity

The Volta Office of Conductivity is a large building of rich dark walnut wood and glass, located just to the right of the main entrance to the city. Its name is declared in several languages, with Common being the largest script at the top of the sign. Upon entering the lobby, there are several desks arranged in a row with glass screens separating the occupant from the lobby. The Office mainly exists to assist those not used to the severe electricity around Volta. They will store your weapons, exchange your metal currency, and ensure you a safe time in the city. This office is headed by Albert Vector, and employs roughly ten assistants.

Though it is not advertised, this also exists as an information funnel for the City Guard and Mayor Emelia Bram, who are quietly informed of anyone who does not conform to the rules.
Currency Exchange:
*1 Glass Nel (GN) = 1 Gold (G)
*1 Walnut Nel (WN) = 1 Silver (S)
*1 Pine Nel (PN) = 1 Copper (C)

Voltese Nel have a slot through which a cord is woven to keep your coins all in one place, like beads on a string.
Services Offered by the Office of Conductivity:

*Weapon and Armor Storage: 30 C/PN a trial (Weapons are wrapped in provided non-conductive materials such as wool and safely stored for you with a tag).

*Current Exchange Rate: 1/1 (depending on Season, during the Summer storm season currency is based off of 1 Glass Nel to 1.5 Gold Coins. This is nonnegotiable).

*Static Discharge: 40C/PN. Remember to discharge your static after extensive periods on Zinc-based soil!

*Small Lightning Rods: 5S/WN apiece. Can be affixed to your back in the case of transporting necessary metal objects. While this grounds you and relieves you of most small electrical shocks...this also turns you into one big conductor. Keep an eye on the storm clouds, would you? If you cannot return the rod yourself, please ask your next of kin once your corpse has been properly identified.

The University of Volta

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The University of Volta is the crown jewel of the city.

Dominated by a gigantic glass orb overlooking the town, the University is the heart and soul of Volta. Every invention comes from its halls, every renowned citizen a student. The University is the reason for the city's existence, and they will never forget that fact.

Sprawling an astounding 18,534 acres of land, the University is truly dizzying to a first-time visitor. It employs roughly 1700 academic staff, with over 300 supporting staff members. There are no janitorial staff members, cooks, launderers, seamstresses, or nurses. All of these occupations are filled with students to encourage them to take care of their school. Or at least to clean up after their pranks.

There are three major Houses within the University: Commerce, Electroalchemy, and Science.

The House of Commerce deals with business, mathematics, economics, anthropology, history, and industry.

The House of Electroalchemy deals with all things magical, from potions, herbology, methods and philosophy and art, to practice, discipline, elemental magic, and natural magics. Of course, any magic dealing with lightning tends to dominate the philosophy of this house.

The House of Science teaches medicine, ecology, biology, zoology, faeology. Anything to do with the body, diseases or curing it. Radical new therapies are encouraged and explored here, and the House runs Volta's main hospital out of the University.

Each House has its own sex-segregated dormitories, bathrooms, study halls, and activity centers. Libraries, laboratories, classrooms and cafeterias are communal and shared by all students. Adjunct professors are encouraged to study under a more accomplished Senior Professor, who have their own private laboratories to conduct research. All research is overseen by the Voltese Ethics Board.

Surprisingly, there are sports. The school boasts a Weapons Academy anyone can join regardless of vocation, and competitions are overseen by the staff.

Tuition begins at 300 glass nel per 3 month course, with an estimated six years of four courses a year to graduate. Students can take several courses concurrently, but due to the heavy classwork and additional homework/independent study required, this isn't advised.

The Sugarcane

Welcome to the Sugarcane, the dominion of Julie Mul, the Volta Master Confectioner!

With its large bowed- glass windows and gaily colored nested doors, it's truly a sight to behold. Inside, hurricane jars taller than a troll hold slender lengths of candy stick in every flavor imaginable. In the morning twice-baked croissants soaked in milk, eggs and shaved almonds are cooked in the oven and served fresh with extravagant cups of tea and coffee. Tarts made with fresh fruits and yogurt are available for those watching their waistlines, lovingly drizzled with honey. As salt is a byproduct of many forms of industry around Volta from glassblowing to alchemy, it's in no short supply, and the chef Julie Mul has created a sticky sweet treat from it. Saltwater taffy is pulled here by artisans, who fling thick ropes of satin candy over wooden hooks installed in the walls. Considered a type of performance art as well as cooking, children often gather in the Sugarcane after their classes at the University to watch the artisans pull the sugar into pillowy ropes, then cut and fold them in waxed paper to make bite-sized confections.

Julie Mul is the head chef at the Sugarcane, and a decent mage in her own right. She often enchants her animal-shaped truffles to romp gaily around the glass cases at the front of the store, affectionately called the Pet Shop. Chocolate bunnies filled with raspberry compote snooze or play in spun sugar, while marzipan deer graze. Treats at the Sugarcane can be boxed up and enchanted with a cooling spell to transport home, but the spells of animation on the chocolate animals only last for a period of three days. After which time they sit back and become boring (if delicious) candies again.

There are candies here to suit all tastes, even the more exotic and mischievous customers. There are red pepper balls that will set even the most experienced mouth aflame, and liquid drops that taste of anise that allow the user to speak like a lion, dragon, or horse. Tiny sugar dragons will enable the eater to float a few feet off the ground for around an hour, and lavender cupcakes turn the skin a shimmering purple.

The Sugarcane is a rare good time for all around!

“It’s not every day I can wander down the street and buy a sugar stick longer than a man’s spear.” - Jana Yourek, surprised tourist

The Iron Mountain Bank

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The Bank of Volta is truly a wonder to behold. A large imposing hallway with crystal chandeliers dominates the entryway of Volta's central banking system. The chandeliers are lit with candles scented with sandalwood, giving the entire bank the sweet and spicy odor. The impressive marble floor is meant to represent the significance of the storm cycle to the City of Volta, and the energy in the air granted by storms. Metal currency is held here, delicately stored to get around the problem of conductivity. The vaults are lined with foot-thick pads of cotton and the nel is kept safely off the ground to prevent arcing. While other banks might keep their gold behind a large iron or stone door, Iron Mountain prefers to let lightning protect its currency. The gold, silver, and copper is kept in plain sight behind a beautifully etched glass vault door crackling with lightning. This door hums and crackles at the slightest change in electricity, and will shock anyone not trained to handle it.

The currency must be handled with cotton or leather gloves, as a nasty shock will be given to anyone who touches metal coins with bare skin. The attendants are happy to keep a stock of wooden and glass coins on hand for the citizenry, and mostly uses the metal coins to trade with other cities who will not accept their unusual currency. Due to the unfortunate amount of charge that storing a vault of metal involves, Iron Mountain bankers are some of the best trained and educated in the nature of metal conductivity.

“Why didn’t they frost the glass? It’s like they want me to rob it!” - Matthias Laine, aspiring bankrobber

Electric Dreams

Electric Dreams is designated by a building up the street from the docks, that has gigantic glass letters of its name adhered in a vertical fashion down the corner of the building. The glass letters are handblown and hollow, filled with pink magelight that throws shimmering pink all over the street. There are an astounding six stories to this marble building, and each suite houses a mage. While there are no limitations as to sex or race, they are all hand picked to be beautiful and young-to-middling age.

This brothel is rather unusual. It is staffed entirely by mages. The mages here use a complex form of dream magic to craft intimate, wild fantasies pulled from their john's deepest subconscious desires. Whether you desire a night of tender lovemaking with a dead spouse, a night of wild partying with every race under the sun, or making love under the sea or in the cradle of the stars, these mages can craft it. They are nonjudgmental, and since it is mere dream and illusion there are no limitations. Do you want to experience death? Torture? What it feels like to be old, or a majestic buck in the middle of the rutting season? Get out of your own skin and let the ladies and gents here attend to you. There is very little physical touch involved, and generally the client is in control over how much nudity is expressed here.

However, these people pay dearly for their craft.

Each mage's legs end at the ankle, usually offset by elegantly carved wooden ornamentation meant to draw the eye away from the extreme mutilation. Once one learns how to pull a man's deepest desires from his head and make him feel them as though real...they will never leave the brothel.

Several groups in Volta have made attempts to stop the forced amputation of apprentices' feet, but as long as the power lures in young mages from all over Arethil, the practice continues. Besides, there are many powerful visitors to Electric Dreams who would rather their secrets be confined to a bed for all eternity...

Image Credits


1. Header image - Emilio Grasso
2. Locations image - Photography by James Cole
3. Marketplace - Phillip V
4. University Image - Emilio Grasso
5. Bank - Universal Studios

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