The Border Kingdoms
This large city grew up around one of the best and busiest harbors in the Border Kingdoms and beneath the shelter of Dragonsmoke Ridge, which curves around Derlusk on the west and north. Many of the stout stone buildings of this fast-growing city climb the ridge or are dug deep into it. Derlusk fills a natural bowl valley, and by night is a beautiful vista of slate roofs and shimmering lanterns.
Almost all the exported wares of the Barony of Blacksaddle and Shandolphyn’s Reach are shipped out to wider Faerûn through Derlusk. The port has several, rival shipyards, best known for building swift, sleek ‘wave runner’ coastboats (preferred by smugglers and pirates for their speed, nimble helms, and low silhouettes).
Derlusk is also known for salty ‘dlurn paste’ of revolting green hue (made from the small, green dlurn fish, found in profusion in the harbor and nearby inlets). It keeps well, smells marvelous, and makes a solid meal when spread on biscuits, but its saltiness goads fierce thirst.
Derlusk is a city of music. Bards are highly regarded, and every inn, tavern, tankard-house, and breakblades club (where patrons fence for exercise and to improve their swordplay) has its own musical entertainment.
The Lively World of Literature
Derlusk is also a city of scriveners, bookbinders, and book collectors, who’ve made The Faring Falcon bookshop and its rival, Fendelmer’s Fine Folios, prosperous successes. Fictional tales, the more fanciful the better — particularly narratives dealing in old, romantic notions of a Faerûn that never really was and wild tales of other worlds, crystal spheres, and planes — are eagerly collected, lent (for fees and book-deposit sums), and discussed by Derluskans. Parties are held to celebrate new releases or a collector’s acquisition of a long-sought tome. Authors are treated as royalty, and annual revels are held to commemorate their deaths.
Many scholars, sages, and limners have settled in Derlusk, creating a localized shared world of interests that most Borderers dismiss as quite mad — or at the very least odd, eccentric, and frivolous. This is the place to come if you seek an old, rare book. If a particularly rare or valuable volume can’t be bought, a seeker might negotiate a price at which the book’s owner will allow bonded scribes to make a copy in the safety of the owner’s private rooms. Expect to pay at least 100 gp per copied page, and thousands more for especially rare, valuable, or sought-after tomes. Copied maps typically start at 1,000 gp each and go up rapidly from there, with most costing about 4,000 gp. One-of-a-kind or heavily illustrated maps and books cost accordingly more.
There are also street-corner shops where a new book can be had for as little as 6 sp. Passages can be copied out from old books in most shops’ stock into a fresh chapbook for a customer willing to part with 12 to 25 gp, or double that for anything longer than a dozen finished pages.
Though many dockworkers of Derlusk find the world of books to be something strange, they regard book lovers as harmlessly eccentric, true fellow citizens — provided they share an appreciation of music, and especially if they enjoy music that’s sung lustily off-key as barrels are being loaded on the wharves or bawled drunkenly out of windows when the moon rides high.
All of this literary interest gives the port a whiff of sophistication reminiscent of far larger ports such as Waterdeep, Athkatla, and Calimport.
The Turrets at Twilight
Derlusk does boast one inn that can equal the hostelries of any grand city — The Turrets at Twilight. This superb establishment is an old sea-castle, rebuilt from crumbling ruin by energetic (and wealthy) adventurers into a many-winged palace offering long-term rental rooms, simple traveling chambers, fully-furnished suites, palatial apartments, heated bathing pools, and a central ballroom with promenade galleries and balconies. Three dining rooms and chambermaid service bring meals to every hungry guest, and wine may be enjoyed by those willing to retire to Loasker’s Lounge to eat strong cheese with it (no ale is to be had, and only patrons who’ve rented rooms are allowed in, to prevent a tavern atmosphere).
The Turrets is famous for hosting a MageFair — and surviving. Countless magical pranks wreaked widespread damage and placed rooms, features, or even guests under nasty, recurring enchantments. The seneschal of the Turrets, retired adventuress Amaryth Delbara (an affectionate, much-scarred CG female Illuskan human Sor14/Incant6 [MoF] who’s an accomplished actress and mimic, and whose character shifts constantly between whimsy and briskly efficient with far-sighted dignity), called in some favors and got Khelben ‘Blackstaff’ Arunsun himself, the Lord Mage of Waterdeep, to come and clean up all undesirable magics.
It is said that, among the usual rude illusions, poltergeist-like object teleportations, and creative curses, Khelben removed a polymorphed (and furious) ogre mage from the premises, closed several hidden portals that scheming mages had established in the wine cellars and best bedrooms, and purge an embarrassing tail “that moved seemingly with a mind of its own” that someone had caused to grow on Amaryth’s behind.
For those not familiar with MageFairs, they are (now annual, but formerly triannual or once a decade) wizardly get-togethers at which business (territorial agreements, research pacts, and sales of spells, items, potions, and information) is discussed, mages show off their prowess, masters find apprentices and vice versa, duels occur, and magical mischief abounds. By the very nature of things magical, these fairs are apt to get out of hand, and so are usually held in remote ravines, ruins, abandoned castles, or other venues where there is no general populace to be terrorized — or to attack sorcerous participants.
The fair held at the Turrets proved this to be a wise policy. Explosions and wild-cast spells were plentiful, at least one ship was sunk in the harbor, and a lot of property got transformed (however briefly) into odd things. Several magic items are rumored to still be hidden about the city, awaiting activation from afar by those who put them there, and at least sixteen deaths (of both wizards and Derluskans) can be blamed on the fair.
On the other hand, twelve local ladies who vanished during the fair are known to have been married and carried away by smitten mages. At least one, the stablemaid Jonsra Burunmere, has over the decade since the fair gone from total ignorance of magic to outstripping her husband at the Art. (She is, in fact, now ArchSorceress Supreme of the island realm of Shamandra, the most southerly of the three large islands off Altumbel. Shamandra is a tiny farming realm lying due west of the city of Delthuntle. It has just entered into an alliance with Aglarond, a step ahead of a vicious Red Wizard attack that was only repulsed with the personal aid of The Simbul.
Derlusk still talks about that MageFair with a proud nostalgia, but there doesn’t seem to be great local hunger to host another soon. That comes as good news to Borderer merchants, who’d like this safe, bookish, music-loving, bustling port to stay that way — and more or less in one piece.
Making Your Way in Derlusk
Wealth is everywhere in Derlusk. It is a very clean city, kept that way by rat-catching cats and diligent streetswabbers, paid by the city so that no one need hesitate to bring refuse to one of the frequently-passing carts. These carry dung and trash well outside the city, to “the pits” dug out when an all-faiths cemetery hill was erected (and ringed with shrines where local priests watch for, and work against, the rise of undead from among the many buried).
Derlusk’s shops provide superb arrays of choice in goods, from the old, used, repaired, and simple, up to the latest styles and innovations. Many Derluskans live above their shops, having a storage cellar below, the shop at street level, the floor immediately above given over to wares-storage and workrooms (very successful shops may expand into this floor, with internal staircases opening onto little “halfway-up” landings for the display of still more wares), and all floors above that being living quarters with window-box herb-gardens and rooftop laundry-lines. If the shopkeeper lives elsewhere, these floors are usually rented out, often to shop staff or trusted friends. Shady wares and oddities (such as some specialized adventuring equipment, drugs, poisons, and “monster relics”) may be hard to find in Derlusk, but it can collectively offer a choice of more mundane wares that rivals important trading-ports like Baldur’s Gate or Alaghôn.
Derlusk’s streets aren’t laid out in a strict grid pattern, but those routes that generally run down from the lip of the valley to the wharves are named “streets,” whereas those that wind in concentric arcs around the valley, paralleling the shoreline, are usually called “runs.” Streets tend to be dominated by wagon-traffic moving to and from the dockside warehouses, and runs tend to be dominated by shopping and pedestrian traffic to and from above-shop lodgings. The mansions of the wealthiest Derluskans tend to stand on the highest runs, high up on the valley sides.
The busiest streets include Shalath Street, Wavecaundel Street, and Arbelloe Street, and the most popular shopping runs are Runereaver’s Run (home to both The Faring Falcon and Fendelmer’s Fine Folios), Furlar’s Run, and Oscalyaun Run.
The Turrets at Twilight stands on the northeastern corner of the streetmoot of Shalath Street and Runereaver’s Run. The complex sprawls for an entire city block and encloses its own internal courtyard, with a horse-and-coach tunnel from there to its fortress-like stone stables that fill the next block to the east. The stables are crowned by floors of rooms for guests’ servants and the inn staff.
The most exclusive addresses in Derlusk are along the winding, garden-flanked Dawndancer’s Run and Athal’s Run, where iron gates, ironspear walls, and private guards lurk amid the greenery.
Derlusk has no city wall and no gates, though it does have slender stone watchtowers from which members of its storm-gray-uniformed Watch observe arrivals and departures from the city. Their main task is to quell brawls, catch murderers, arsonists, vandals, and thieves, and generally keep the city safe for trade. They tend to be disinterested in shady dealings, except when those dealings involve kidnappings, slavery, or thefts from Derluskans.
Derlusk has no guilds, and the independent-minded merchants of this independent city frown on such organizations. However, merchants vote nine of their number to annually fill the Coinseats — the chairs of their ruling Council, which passes laws (usually to settle disputes between neighbors or trade rivals), passes judgment in disputes brought to them, and directs and pays (from docking-levies) the Watch (sixty-odd strong, with another twenty-some trainees) and the streetswabbers. Despite their distaste for guilds, merchants in a given field tend to nominate and vote for ‘one of their own’ to sit on Council. Being a Councillor is a thankless, time-consuming job that tends to hurt the personal trade prosperity of those sitting the Coinseats, so few agree to serve consecutive terms or numerous terms.
All in all, Derlusk is lightly governed and prefers matters that way. Local trade competition isn’t as cutthroat as many other mercantile centers in the Realms. When dusk falls, every shop that isn’t concerned with nightly entertainment (food, drink, and clubs) closes its doors and citizens relax or play. It’s a rare Derluskan who sits up nights doing extra work, though conducting trade negotiations over a tankard or tallglass isn’t considered work.