The Pale City is the capital of the Aulesiri Empire and the seat of House Luseysi. Founded by the legendary Luseysi himself aside the Blessed River, the city is almost synonymous with the empire itself; a thousand years of development have seen numerous monuments raised to half a hundred heroes. All in all, the Pale City has well over a hundred thousand inhabitants, an enormous city by the standards of the present era, and is divided into numerous distinctive districts by its geography.
The Pale City was founded by Luseysi 300 years after the beginning of the migration of the Aulesiri. Luseysi is said to have reached the banks of the Blessed River, striking the banner of his people into the earth, and drawing forth an enormous piece of jadeite from the riverbank. His subsequent death here all but ensured it would be a place of pilgrimage as well as the final destination of the three century long migration into Jyotnun.
Under Luseysi's successor Keresen I, the Pale City would become the administrative and political center of a nascent realm. The first buildings were a simple tomb for their fallen first emperor and homes for the followers of the second. All of this would be built over in time, as the initial accommodations proved wholly inadequate for what would become the imperial infrastructure. Larger, more elaborate buildings would house the tomb of the Lunar Son, being torn down and refurbished around the spot of land over and over. Ringwalls for the city would rise and be cast aside as the sprawl of buildings grew too great for each one – and eventually, they would be abandoned altogether, as the Imperial City knew not the touch of warfare.
Soon, the incredible edifice of the Lunar Shrine was begun on the bluffs overlooking the northern bank of the Blessed River to house Luseysi's remains. Just down the hill to the east, the Imperial Palace began construction early in Keresen's reign, though, as with most palaces, it would continue to expand north and south around the estuary of the Blessed River all the way down to the present day.
The northern bank of the river was not exclusively devoted to the Lunar Shrine and Imperial Palace, and it housed many of the first inhabitants of the city. It was quickly found, however, that the estuary of the Blessed River made for an abysmal port. The discovery of an excellent deepwater harbor just to the south of the initial site of the city led to the rapid growth of the southern district of Harbortown, which processed all the various goods flowing in and out of the valley of the Blessed River as well as the Pale City proper. In between the two, new buildings grew to populate the gap, creating the districts of Overriver and the Heights. The Bridges of Kyurili were the first to span the Blessed River, beautiful edifices of stout concrete merged seamlessly with jadeite ornamentation that looked like spun sugar. The Old Toll Tower would be built at this time as well, taxing ships that entered and exited the river; it would stand until the War of the Pale Brothers.
The Solemn Age halted most non-religious construction north of the river, as larger and larger zones were reserved for the use of shrines, monasteries, and gardens in widening concentric circles around the Lunar Shrine. Eventually, this area of the city would become known as the Sacred Quarter. The Shrine itself would be completed over the Solemn Age, an almost absurd five century span of religious construction: it was a fantastic array of jade and quartz, gold and marble, more window than wall, with deep green jade arches surrounding a central hall, where Luseysi's sphere was suspended above worshipers to hang in the center of the great temple. Thereafter, it would be venerated in its own right.
As the centuries wore on, especially those following the Solemn Age, the aristocracy began to make its influence felt more and more in the capital. A series of noble palaces were built along the northern bank of the Blessed River, curling about in what would later become known as the Estates district.
Civil war had a number of effects on the city. For the first time since Keresen's reign, there was reason to ring the city with walls. The Forgotten Emperor constructed some of the largest in the kingdom; eighty feet high and twenty feet thick... but their sheer size precluded them ever actually being finished. Only the city north of the river had its walls completed by war's end, and even theirs only faced the land: the ceremonial center was still quite vulnerable from the sea. The materially much more valuable commercial district was left rather less well-defended; thus, when the loyalist armies finally collapsed in the last few months of the war, it fell quite easily; the ceremonial center following shortly when it became clear that resistance would be silly.
Before, during, and after the War, the far southern district known as the Merchants' Quarter, or more popularly, the Mire, would be developed as the swampland south of Harbortown was gradually drained or simply built over. Something of a red-light district, it acquired quite the seedy reputation over the years.
The Pale City is built on either bank of the Blessed River. The northern bank is dominated by the bulk of the Lunar Shrine, Imperial Palace, and other various religious and governmental buildings. The south, on the other hand, is much more of a population center, housing the bulk of the non-noble and non-religious population.
The river passes in a broad sweep immediately before meeting the bay; on north and south sides alike it is banded by hills. The northern, a great rounded rise, offers a striking location for the Lunar Shrine; the southern is a long ridge that only peters out at the bay, where several landmarks stand -- the Bloodstone and the Panhandlers' Baths. South of the city, the swamplands of the Mire extend into a series of hills; to the north is a forboding prison -- the Keys, and beyond that, a land of sweeping, darkly forested hills: the Hollows.
These are the districts of the Pale City, from north to south:
The Sacred Quarter -- Home to most of the religious buildings; the center of The Pale Faith.
The Estates -- Home to the estates of various nobility.
Overriver -- Home to merchants, artisans, and affluent non-nobility.
The Heights -- Home to a whole variety of people; dominated by the central ridge.
Harbortown -- The port district.
The Mire -- The red light district.