No one knows exactly where the stone that built this city came from for the quarry’s should they be nearby have long since been swallowed up by the ice and snow that dominate this barren landscape. The Ice bears that reside within claim that they were the ones to build this massive construction although others speculate that it is much like Pent-Vael a remnant from a greater time, the pitch black stone weathered by age and polished by the wind into a surface that reflects the sun, thus giving the city it second name seeming to have been standing since a time before times. What one however does know about the city is that it houses hundreds if not thousands of the ice bears tribes, their young, old and females alike often never having strayed from the walls that have held them safe from persecution and war, the harsh climate making sure that none that have reached the walls with warring intent have been able to break through the nigh impenetrable rock.
The city itself is confined entirely within its walls, the constructions within formed using water and molds to create a combination of ice and stone above ground and burrows beneath that allow for a higher temperature and complete protection from the wind where the residents call their homes, all live below the ice save for the king. His residence is in a tower of sorts, the only other structure than the wall built of solid black it stands against the wall, a magnificent spectacle with intricate carvings.
Geography:EditSvanteberg is situated in Eirien, a tall range of mountains that divides the northwestern and northeastern parts of Ariaheim. The city itself rests on a relatively flat mountaintop, around 2500m above sea level, close by the ruins of Epentar. The mountains are steep and lack industrial roads, so getting to and from the city is not without dangers. Unwary travelers may find themselves blown off a cliff by the strong winds, or buried under a snowslide while making their way along the zig-zaggy dirt roads.
Eirien is a cold place, and the temperature at Svanteberg's altitude varies between -10C in summer and down to -50C in winter. While hardly hospitable by most standards, this is just how the Ice Bears like it. The summers tend to have free skies, while autumns and winters bring dense blizzards. The city is protected by its solid walls from the merciless winds that whip the mountains.
Most of Eirien is covered by permafrost, including the areas around the city. This poses construction problems, because when a house is warmed up to living conditions, the ground underneath is stards to thaw, causing the building to sink. The Bears solved the problem by supporting their houses on underground stone pillars that reach several meters beneath the ground, and rest on solid frozen ground where the house's warmth does not reach.
The city's location is precarious from not only geographical, but also geopolitical point of view. Eirien is sandwiched between Caelin and the Church, and is likely to be the first place where the two great powers will clash in the future. While technically neutral, Svanteberg faces the risk of being stuck in the middle of a hit.
Svanteberg is an elective monarchy with a feudal structure. The king is chosen through a battle tournament held every seven years, and rules until defeated in a later tournament. When the king dies, his son or brother assume the crown, and participate in the next tournament as king. Females generally do not engage in political and military matters, but otherwise work alongside males as craftsmen, constructors and merchants.
Royalty and nobility are little more than honorary features in Svanteberg. The sums paid in feudal tribute are marginal, and every family governs itself in most matters. The king is, however, expected to proactively lead the nation in times of war or crisis, and act as a judge and mediator in disputes between noble families.
All of the land in the city is owned by various noble families. The ones who own no land and live on a noble family's territory are considered commoners. Commoners pay rent to the nobles and taxes to the crown, while nobles pay only taxes. The nobles are expected to provide certain forms of social welfare to the commoners living on their land. This includes offering economical help to those in need (if your house burned down, for example), helping one to find a job, and solve disputes that arise between commoner families. Commoners are not serfs, being able to move to another noble's land, who may provide them with better conditions or lower rents.
The Ice Bears are a pre-industrial society. Businesses, like many other things, are run family-wise, and passed down from parent to child. The Ice Bears' metalwork is their most esteemed product, ranging from weapons to spoons, and it is their primary export. They work with the various ores mined from the mountains around the city. Food and construction materials are generally kept for the internal market.
Change is on the horizon, however. It has become obvious that, despite their high quality, Svantebergen goods will not stay competitive on the international market if the city does not modernise its means of mining and production. Although most craftsmen yet stand firmy by their traditional forge and hammer, some of the less prideful have begun to import steam engines in order to speed up their work and save their business.
Svanteberg uses a feudal military model. To organise a campaign, the king appoints a marshall, usually one of his military advisors or a high ranking noble (he can appoint himself, but that is frowned upon). The marshall sends calls to all the nobles that own land in the city, who muster the able-bodied men that live on their land, equip and organise them into a unit, and join the army under the marshall's command.
Svantebergen army consists of infantry only. They make use of locally made equipment. The preferred types of armament include heavy melee weapons and hand cannons. Heavy metal armor is worn for protection. The Bears have recently developed their armor to stop bullets fired from moderate range.
Ice Bears fight as heroic individuals rather than an unified mass, and lack military discipline. Despite their old-fashioned military culture, if fought on their territory in the mountains, they can pose a threat even to a modern army.
Immediately upon entering the city one is greeted by the sound of claw clashing against steel, two massive polar bear statues, carved from ice with brilliant polished steel covering most of their forms. The structures mostly open this area is built for defence, the heavy gates made from solid frozen oak laced with iron to strengthen the wood able to withstand most, internal walls closing the area off from the rest of the city these walls are made from ice, standing equally tall and thick as the external walls they hold a blue hue. Several massive doorways standing within the mostly empty square leading to the area below. </span></p>
this is where the standing army sleeps, always on post and ready to hold should the gates give way. The only thing breaking with the spartan quarters being the several large cooking fires, constantly burning out of fear of being unable to light the fires once more should they go out during winter.
The doorway leading into the city’s other districts being in fact the kings own “palace” this fort stands firm, no doors of its own but massive pots of constantly boiling water telling of some kind of plan should the army be overrun.
Upon leaving the military district all visitors are subject to the kings approval, having to pass through the strongest lair and leave only with his approval to pass into the further districts. The walls of the palace graced with carvings of dragons, beasts and fae the Ice bears claim them to be stories of their conquests to claim this land as their own. Once past this final hindrance one would be free to wander about the city as one see’s fit, although entrance into either the smiths or the housing districts are often frowned upon and sometimes forbidden. Should one wander the bears will have their toll in flesh.
Merchant District: Edit
Several shops standing tall most are buildings formed of ice through water and molds, built by making a framework during summer and pouring water to form ice before polishing it off, the stores themselves mostly closed, there are carvings in the ice denominating one’s trade and wares are often shown encased in ice, the blocks polished to allow a view into the craftsmanship. The district itself is mostly covered, a makeshift ceiling made from tattered cloth and leather to keep a certain warmth and to keep the elements at bay, torchlight and lanterns providing a warm light to the area most shops are facing south, the streets here narrow in comparison to the remaining city although they are still wide enough for all but the broadest of bears to pass with ease.
The constant hue of angry red betraying their trade this part of the city is entirely composed of stone, the fires crackling and billows wheezing. An entire portion of the city dedicated to one cause: Steel. Who has the finest? The smiths themselves are enclosed entirely, thick walls lining the kiln and smithy to keep their secret well, should one wish to trade with these smiths one would have to hire a bear for this purpose entirely, at the entrance many stand, each with their own smiths insignia carved into the plating of their right shoulder to prove their tradesman. The smiths themselves never speak to others than bears, some even going as far as to refuse speaking to others than fellow smiths and would be apprentices.
This is where the cubs and females reside, above ground are some large pens, used for keeping livestock or children when left unattended the entire area riddled with doorways leading to the burrows below, above each door is a set of carvings, denominating the current resident an a number indicating how many reside and how deep the burrow goes. The bears will never tell outsiders what indicates what and the numbers vary greatly from door to door, none being the same. The area is also home to the ice and stone masons, having their own section within the housing district where they perform and perfect their craft. The secret to carving the black rock of which the walls and castle were made of, seems long lost in the ages since the stone became unavailable. That is if the bears ever had the knowledge to begin with.