Monday, March 14, 2011


"The Razine underground is probably the worst around the entire Mezzovian Sea. They're brutal in a way that you can't begin to imagine. They allow no challenge to their authority, no matter how insignificant, to stand unanswered. And their answers are decisive. The citizens of Razina live in fear of their Mafia in a way that no other citizens do. The local Watch is thoroughly corrupted by them, and will take no significant steps to counter them. The leading politicians, nobles and even the newly rich merchant class will not cross them. They've even had the Duke assassinated before, without reprisals, and no one doubts that they could do so again. To cross the Razine underground is suicide."

Vanno shifted slightly in his seat, his eyes narrowing as he tried to read the hirsute wildman. "Does that mean that you won't join us, then?"

Najat chuckled. "Of course not! I'm in. Give me a day to pack my things and I'll lead your operation."

Razina is perhaps the most unusual city in the Terrasan holdings. Although Razina is the name commonly given to the entire urban center, in reality, Razina is two completely separate cities with completely separate governments, and they only get along grudgingly at best. This is due to the unusual arrangement of land grants and titles to the area, as well as the geography of the Razine peninsula and the Razine harbor in particular.

Lower Razina is a welcoming and convenient harbor that had been used by sailors for generations before Razina itself was founded. However, a few hundred yards from the sea shore there is a steep cliff that leads to a rocky tableland high above the harbor. A kind of natural grassy ramp cuts the cliff near the harbor. Because it wasn't difficult to get wagons up and down this natural ramp, another town was founded at the top of the ramp, overlooking the harbor.

When the Terrasans came to the area, the land on the peninsula was turned into the Duchy of Razina, and the Duke rules in the name of Terrasa. However, the harbor was not part of the duchy, very specifically, and a military commandant ruled the fort which guarded the ramp and the town that was slowly growing up around it. As the civilian population grew, the military rank faded in importance, but was never eliminated. The independent military now is the main link between upper and lower Razina. The Lord Mayor of Lower Razina is a Crown appointed post that is not responsible to the Duke of Razina--who's capital is, of course, Upper Razina. Traditionally the dukes have tried various political moves to control the Lord Mayors, with varying degrees of success over the years. This has often led to bitter rancor between the two bodies, which has contributed to the antagonistic attitude that exists today between the two cities.

The Lord Mayor of Lower Razina today is Guillén Rois de Tárrega. He is a middle-aged noble who has been in office for over a decade, and is proud of the fact that he's never set foot on any territory that belongs to the duchy. He has a good relationship with the military commandant that still guards the fort, and as such, ensures that goods for his people can still flow from the tablelands above, but also that they are all taxed and tarriffed appropriately. Simultaneously, he has cultivated a number of relationships with other seafaring powers to further reduce any reliance on the duchy. His ace in the hole is a deep cave that goes deep into the cliff behind the Lord Mayor's palace, and which leads to a deep freshwater lake and spring, keeping Lower Razina supplied with fresh water. Lower Razina under de Tárrega has become a major trading hub, and traffic from east and west in the Mezzovian frequently stops here--contributing to the city's coffers. However, his efforts to broker independence from Upper Razina and the Duchy, as well as deal with various other powers on the coast, has led to a certain negligence to internal affairs; and the city is firmly in the grip of organized crime. While this doesn't necessarily hurt the daily life of its citizens overmuch--unless they object to the corruption--the city is one that is abnormally quiet and its citizens frequently cast furtive looks over their shoulders. There is a fearful ambiance to lower Razina, as the criminal strongmen are capable of doing whatever they please and the only way anything approaching justice will catch up to them is if their higher-ups decide that their actions jeopardize the operations of the syndicate as a whole.

While the criminals have a number of hidden smuggling runs up the cliff-face; mostly carefully concealed narrow chimneys in the rocks, or long, out of the way hikes that go around the wall altogether, the main way to enter upper Razina from lower Razina is through the fort. Because this is controlled by the neutral, Crown appointed military commandant, it takes a policy of strict neutrality in the feud against the Lord Mayors and the Dukes, and ensures that at least some traffic, particularly that which travels on the Crown's business, is unmolested. Otherwise, many visitors who are on their way to upper Razina are best served by landing at another harbor entirely, such as more southerly Porto D'Albis, and traveling by land to upper Razina.

Upper Razina is a bit more rustic and rural in nature, existing primarily because it is the Duke's capital and because of the distinguished Universitat de Razina. Farmers and ranchers otherwise bring their livestock to market here (although they can't ship it abroad without paying tarriffs to lower Razina that are economically prohibitive). River traffic also stops here from inland, and from there often is loaded onto caravans that are headed to Porto D'Albis or its more northerly sister, Vega Baixa. The river used to pour over the cliff into the harbor, but a past duke diverted its course so that it now misses lower Razina entirely. The Acting Duke of Razina today is Antonio Larroca i Vives, and he is a young, charismatic man who has also taken to courting the favor of foreign powers. (The actual duke is Esteve Gregorio de Galdames de Rossolló, who is the "emperor" of Terrasa, so the administrative responsibilites go to Lord Antonio. Confusingly, he is also a duke, although he is a duke technically without a duchy; he is only acting duke in regards to the administration of the Upper Razina duchy.) Although he does not want to give any concessions to his rival de Tárrega in lower Razina, he actually is not terribly interested in the feud between the two Razinas, and is much more concerned with the separatist sentiment that has been sweeping the northern shore of the Mezzovian. Much of his foreign diplomacy has been around building a strong base so that if (or more likely, when) he decides that the Duchy of Razina is no longer subject to the Terrasan Crown, that he has the support he needs to make a go of it alone, subdue the token military that Terrasa has left behind, and then militarily conquer lower Razina if needed.

While upper Razina is not as notoriously corrupt as lower Razina, it's still a haven for organized crime as well, and a brisk smuggling business gets goods from one Razina to the other, and from there to other markets. Protection rackets are less common here than below, however, the Upper Watch is mostly honest, if a bit undermanned.

Campaigns which have action in Razina should take advantage of the local Cold War environment. The cliff face is, in many ways, not unlike the Berlin Wall, and both upper and lower Razina are hotbeds for intrigue, often of an international flavor. Also, like every city in DARK•HERITAGE, which must be some variety of "wretched hive of scum and villainy" by default, organized crime plays a major role in the workings of the city, especially in lower Razina, although smuggling is a huge operation in both. Both the Duke and the Lord Mayor turn a blind eye to some of it (if nothing else, it makes seafood a possibility up top, and red meat and other vegetables and fruits much more viable down below--and the nobles of both halves of Razina like variety in their diet). The Universitat is also a major source of potential plot hooks. If nothing else, it's got a sinister reputation as a place where forbidden knowledge can be found if one knows how to look. Historically, it was the scene of riots when the Book of the Black Prince was published by the Academy of History, a part of the Universitat, and even today desperate figures whispering to shady professors and curators is a sight that is not unusual on the Universitat's grounds.

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