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The Docks

The Docks and Beacon IslandFar below the level of the city streets, the Docks rest at the bottom of the Cliffs of Lost Wishes on a narrow, sandy strip of land. A dozen ships moor in the deep waters here at any given time—sometimes far more than that. This is a particularly rough area of the city, thanks to the influx of sailors and the district’s remoteness from the rest of Ptolus.

The Docks are full of warehouses, shipyards, hostels, and taverns, all catering to sailors and merchants who use them extensively. Isolated from the rest  of the city by the Cliffs of Lost Wishes, sometimes the Docks area seems like its own separate community. Many Ptolus residents live their whole lives without going there. (Of course, they probably haven’t been to the Nobles’ Quarter, either.)

The Flavor of the Docks
The smell of sea salt and fish clings to everyone in the Docks. Sand and grit cover everything. Even the streets are nothing but hard-packed sand. The wooden buildings, stained with salt and grime, stand at odd angles from one another because each one is sinking slowly into the sand. The district boasts no new buildings—there hasn’t been available land to build on in over a century. Today, considering the sorry nature of the district’s foundations, any structures that collapse entirely or are taken by fire are not replaced.

The streets bustle from sunup until well after midnight with sailors and all manner of folk that support the shipping industry: dockworkers, shipwrights, carpenters, warehouse personnel, and so on. These are hardworking folk with rough demeanors. Most of them, particularly the sailors just off their ships, are looking for strong drink and entertainment when they’re not working. This is no place for the fastidious or the easily offended. It’s no coincidence that the Nobles’ Quarter is as far from the Docks as it can be— laterally as well as vertically.

All sorts of ships come into Ptolus Harbor. Most are fishing vessels; dozens go out every morning and bring back nets laden with the catch of the day. Merchant vessels, coasters, galleys, and sailing ships of all kinds also come into the Docks carrying passengers and cargo. The largest of them drop anchor in the harbor and transfer whatever they are carrying in smaller boats, but this is rare. Usually, if a ship anchors in the harbor, it’s to avoid the daily docking fees.

The spit that serves as this district’s foundation was created in a massive feat of civil engineering by dwarves and humans after the defeat of
Ghul three centuries ago. Workers dumped thousands of tons of rock and soil over the side of the cliffs to build up the area so they could build docks and support structures (warehouses, and so forth). They also carved a sea wall built around the perimeter of the man-made stripof land the district is built upon and a path from the top of the Cliffs of Lost Wishes down to the new beach far below.

But perhaps the district’s construction was less than a perfect marvel of city planning. The artificial beach that the Docks are built upon is slowly being carried away by the tide. The buildings are sinking into their soft, unstable foundations. In fact, the area has had to be virtually rebuilt four times since its creation.

In 689 IA, the Commissar at the time commissioned a team to build massive retaining walls to help shore up the ground under the Docks. This major project took eight years, but it proved to be a smart decision. In 702, mages from the Inverted Pyramid used magic to reinforce the walls and the land. It’s a losing battle, but one the city intends to lose as slowly as possible.One day, though, the entire district will have to be either abandoned entirely or destroyed so that tons more sand and fill can be brought in to build up the land, after which all the buildings would need to be restored.