The city of Serenza is the capital of a trade-based oligarchy of the same name.
Serenza is ruled by a council headed by the Doma or Domus, a position currently held by Parise Carmisa, head of the Carmisa Trade Endeavor. Representatives are elected by masters in good standing of the various guilds and trade enterprises that make up the ruling class of Serenza.
Serenza has benefitted from its advantageous position on a natural harbor on the southern coast of the Empire. Adjacent to Mentori, its independence from that Kingdom has allowed its political prominence to grow, and it now rivals even that of Naementor. A generation ago, the Pirate Emperor inadvertently ceded much mercantile power to the council, putting the seat of the Empire itself in jeopardy. Serenza, however, seems content to rule itself overtly, and if its influence over Naementor is well know, it is rarely spoken of.
Centuries ago, the wealthiest merchants with maritime interests paid to have the natural quays magically expanded and built up, to allow them to place navigable docks further out into the water, allowing their ships to dock first, and dock safely. Eventually more merchant houses paid to get their own quays developed, and more shipping ventures built upon them. What was once just to make a convenient dock became a stable platform for shipping warehouses. and then smaller businesses to support the warehouses and dockworkers. As it stands now, the Quays, as they are collectively known, bear the names of the Mercantile houses that first built them (even after some have changed hands and some houses have disappeared entirely, they bear their original names).
Several areas in Serenza have been set aside as parks, although through the centuries, these parks have dwindled to a mere memory of what they once were. Still, there are places in Serenza where you can find a quiet grove to compose poetry under or in whose shade to stage a duel against a romantic rival. The most famous of these parks is Temoris Green, which holds as its centerpiece the great Senzori Fountain. Under the unending, tangled, winding streams of water that loop overhead, held in place by the bound water elemental, many a legendary romance has begun.
Also known as the City of Five Bridges.
The constant movement of money is what keeps Serenza at the forefront of culture, fashion, and industry in the Empire. The world-renowned Theatra del Mirabilis hosts plays by the haute authors and artists of the day. Currently running to overwhelming positive reviews is Mariano D’Antago’s three-act comedy, Two Princes, about the failed revolution of Venn a few short decades ago.
The more expensive part of town, known as Verandi, is home to a great many upscale places to spend a coin. The most famous of these is the gambling hall known as the Evening Star. The Star is built in three layers: The main hall is open to the sort of patron that can afford to spend some coin in games of chance while buying drinks and food. The second floor houses private rooms for higher-stakes gambling, while the third floor is reserved for the extremely wealthy. It’s almost impossible for a patron to get to the top without a title or a merchant house backing them.
Next to the Evening Star is one of the finest inns in Serenza. The Angel’s Rest has a reputation for luxuriance and opulence. For deserving patrons, a library on the upper floor boasts the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow natural light in for patrons to be able to read throughout the day if they choose. In the main hall, crystal chandeliers are cradled among the clouds that decorate the highest reaches of the hall where a light breeze stirs the wind chimes.
Second only to the Angel’s Rest is Cieloro, a haven for visitors interested in the local sport. Cieloro backs up to Serenza’s world-famous race track, where guests can remain in their rooms and watch the races, which run six days a week year round. Viewing from the rooms is considered the safest, and there hasn’t been a fatality since several decades ago when a Kudegari cat revealed that is species has the ability to grow wings spontaneously, and broke through a window in the Cieloro and savaged a guest. Since then, however, all racing beasts have been thoroughly researched before getting on the track.
Seagarden is one of the most famous attractions in Serenza. A long passage leading from the edge of Verandi, bordering the market, takes the patron under the docks out to a singularly unparalleled sight: a great dome of magical force under the water, housing a restaurant and entertainment hall for the extremely wealthy, offering the view of the harbor above, the reef to the south, and open sea beyond.
Many locals and tourists have been entertained and mystified in Casa Timore, an attraction and theater off the path of the ordinary market and theater areas.
Serenza, for all its high minded culture, still hosts one of the most notorious arenas in all of the Empire. Under certain circumstances, criminals sentenced to death may commute their sentence to lifelong service in the arena. The plain truth is that the lifelong sentence is usually one or two fights. The doomed prisoners are pitted against exotic beasts from all over the known world, and those who survive are given days to heal before being thrown into the ring again. The arena draws spectators from all tiers of Serenzan society, and a box is reserved for the Emperor when he deigns to visit. If the Doma attends, she will take the box, but her seat is to the left of the Emperor’s, which remains empty in his absence.
Slavery is outlawed within the domain of Serenza, as it is throughout the Empire. The merchant houses and guilds have managed to maneuver a loophole through this rule, however. No slaves may be owned and kept within the city, however, buying and selling slaves is legal, and takes place in a designated enclave that skirts the authority of the Empire. An alley leading to the slave market from the Quays allows the transport of slaves to and from shipping access. Slaves that manage to leave this alley often seek asylum in Serenza’s Imperial domain, but whether this is successful or not often depends on who is interested in maintaining ownership of the slave.
The culture of the Guilds in Serenza has influenced the standards for magical training. Those wishing to study the secrets of the arcane in Serenza must find a master willing to train them. The master-apprentice model is held by Serenzans as the only true way to learn magic. Frequently, students of the Collegium in Venn can be seen in Serenza, but most wizards trained in the normal way view this mass-education of magic as overly simple and cannot possibly convey the depth of study that a single, dedicated master can provide to an apprentice. Meanwhile, Collegium-trained mages view their own education as superior and much more broad and vast than a single master can provide. They are, of course, making themselves sound ridiculous in this insistence.