Even the most complex things can start with just a rough sketch on a napkin, or the back of a 2015 Christmas Party invitation in this case (thanks, Liz Hayes). This is a rough map of the port city of Cosaturi, where Pageeda and Scuffee from my story, “Bitter Days,” are living a hard-scrabble existence as homeless refugees.
Cosaturi: Rough Sketch of a Fantasy Port City
OK, I know the map still needs a LOT of work, but you can still see the basic concept for this northern port city. The sketch is something I scrawled out while discussing worldbuilding details with my friend, Bill Aguiar, after a writing group meeting. By the way, north is to the left (something I’ll correct in the next edition of this map).
Here are some details about the city, straight from my own background guide…
The port city of Cosaturi straddles the mouth of the Gahtani River, a highly navigable waterway that wends its way from the base of the Cragenrath Mountains across the entire length of the kingdom of Salasia and thence to the Western Ocean. Positioned southward of the typical freeze line for ocean ice, the port is generally open all year, although shipping is considerably reduced during the stormy winter months. Cosaturi’s strategic location makes it a bustling center for trade.
The Gahtani River divides the city into North Cosaturi and South Cosaturi. Most nobles and rich merchants live in North Cosaturi, which also hosts expensive shopping districts and numerous government buildings including the Etisimah Palace, the fortress-palace of the Praytor. South Cosaturi is considerably less refined and more vibrant, a veritable melting pot of diverse peoples and raucous trade.
Cosaturi’s size, its population of approximately three hundred thousand, diverse peoples, unique geography, and the sheer amount of trade present unique challenges for law enforcement, tax collection, and city safety.
The terrain around, and within, Cosaturi can best be described as rolling hills. Cosaturi itself sprawls across five sizable hills. The two highest hills are in North Cosaturi. The houses of nobles and rich merchants ascend the hills in stately terraces, ostensibly for the admiration of the lower classes. South Cosaturi is built on and around three smaller hills. The Tween (the district where Pageeda and Scuffee live) is located in South Cosaturi. Some people derogatorily refer to the two halves of the city as Highside and Lowside. One of the southern hills, formerly known as Beacon Hill, was renamed Temple Hill by the Church of Turkos when it acquired the rights to the land.
Within Cosaturi, both banks of the wide Gahtani River are lined with docks for shallow river craft and barges, and are generally referred to by the unimaginative names of North Bank and Riverside. Expensive trade goods and the tourism trade tend to gravitate towards North Bank. Otherwise, businesses on both sides of the river compete intensely for river shipping, including bulk goods, livestock, and slaves.
As an ocean port, Cosaturi’s primary advantage is the Crescent, a rocky, natural breakwater that provides the city with a spacious bay, the Bay of Fools, protected from the Western Ocean’s tumultuous winter storms. As with the river trade, a sharp division exists between the two sides of the city. Thanks to expensive magical dredging, North Beach supports the largest and best-maintained docks for the larger, deep draft ocean vessels. This leaves Dockyards to focus on smaller ships, budget shipping, the slave trade, and fishing, including the dangerous arctic crab hunting trade. Dockyards is widely rumored to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Thousand Kingdoms.
Since the Gahtani River was too wide to be easily bridged at its mouth, Cosaturi originated as two competing port cities, Cosa and Turicum, on opposite sides of the vast river (to the north and south, respectively). The era of bitter competition ended 437 years ago when Cosa eventually proved victorious under the leadership of Everard, who became the first Praytor of the unified metropolis. Everard promptly declared Cosaturi to be the new name of the combined city.
The city supports three distinctively different bridges:
- The Bridge of the Morning Mist: Deciding that improved ties between the two halves would be beneficial in maintaining his unification efforts, Everard commissioned the building of the Bridge of the Morning Mist. The bridge, a narrow construction of steel and concrete, was positioned on the eastern, inland side of the city to take advantage of a strategic ridge of bedrock underlying the river. It was the city’s sole bridge for more than four hundred years. The bridge’s relatively low height and the distance between support pillars limits the size of river vessels that can pass down the river and into Cosaturi.
- The Bridge of the Graceful Heron: The city’s western bridge is one of the most advanced bridges in the Thousand Kingdoms. Known more colloquially as the “Archway,” it is a graceful steel construction with a concrete roadbed that soars across the mouth of the river, with pylons on several man-made islands. The Archway is more than three times the length of the city’s eastern bridge, but bears the majority of the city’s cross-river traffic. Unlike the other bridges, the Bridge of the Graceful Heron was mage-built, but designed to not require ongoing magical maintenance.
- The Bridge of Heroes: The oldest of the three bridges and the closest bridge not within range of the city’s defenses, it crosses the Gahtani River some ten miles north of the Cosaturi, at the town of Antigon. Formerly known as the Sudayeen Bridge, it was renamed the Bridge of Heroes after the Battle of Antigon eleven years ago (in 1307). The Bridge of Heroes is an antiquated but strategically important bridge.
There’s a lot more to know about Cosaturi, but this at least covers most of the basics.