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Space: Space is big. Space is composed of crystal spheres drifting in the limitless (so far as anyone knows) sea of phlogiston, connected by the denser rivers of the stuff called the Flow. There are hundreds of spheres (at least). Most people never get off the world where they were born. Most spelljamming folk do not see more than a few of the spheres, although some races tend to travel more than others. Most trade is performed within a single sphere or among two or three spheres, depending on the kinds of worlds they hold; only very rare items get shipped long distances. Large-scale maps of the Flow are incredibly rare and guarded more dearly than a hundred lives by the big trade houses. Certain trade goods also have secret sources, which they do not want known to the universe at large. These secrets are also jealously guarded, even from the house's own employees. Industrial espionage is therefore a considerable threat.

Known space is currently at peace. Of course, rumors drift in, but you can't believe everything you hear.

The Beginning: The Rock of Bral

The Rock is a settled asteroid in a smallish sphere at the confluence of several flows. Bral orbits an air world, which in turn orbits a small sun in a sphere with little else of interest (a couple uninhabitable gas planets, a few asteroid fields, smallish drifting stars near the sphere's surface making an endlessly variable starfield) making it a perfect stopover and exchange point. Life there is expensive but profitable. The air world doesn't have any intelligent life to speak of, but does have a lot of insects that live out parts of their life cycles amid the drifting tangles of plants.

Bral is currently controlled by an oligarchy of trading houses plus a representative from the Elven navy, although most of Bral's defensive forces are mercenary (giff, human, and assorted riff-raff). The Arcane have a seat on the council for courtesy's sake, although they never show up and often don't even bother to send a representative, and even when they do they hardly ever have anything to say. Other races represented are human, elven traders (their relationship with the navy is unclear to others, at times they appear to work in concert, at times at odds, but given their long perspective, who knows?), halflings, dwarves, and rastipedes. The gnomes are constantly lobbying for a seat, since they could use its leverage to bring such "wonders" to the other people of space, but they have so far been firmly denied.

Bral is very densely settled, as the place is only about a mile square. As a result it is also somewhat vertical; species that are happy underground tunnel deep into the asteroid, while others build up and over them. Over the top of every building there are plants growing, which help keep the air in good shape and mostly serve as a source of fresh food.

The oligarchal headquarters take up nearly a quarter of Bral's surface area with dwellings for the oligarchs, bureaucratic offices, and gardens. Emergency food, water, and weapons stores are kept under heavy guard in tunnels beneath. Rumor has it that there are also vast riches hidden there, and occasional expeditions to retrieve same are never seen again, leading to further rumors that the oligarchs have a deal with the illithid for getting rid of troublemakers. The fact that illithid nautiloids are rarely seen in Bralspace could be taken as evidence for or against this theory.

At the opposite end of the asteroid from the oligarchal buildings are the docks; right up against those are the offices of the various trading houses that do business on Bral, and the banks and money-changers (cash is heavy=difficult to move in bulk, so a lot of long-distance banking is done by note). Beyond those are travelers' services (often owned by the same trading houses)--inns and bars catering to a variety of species, shops, etc. Behind those are residential neighborhoods and the occasional temple for the more common spacefaring religions. There aren't really streets as such; there are broad tunnels and things that were once streets but have since been built over, and there are convoluted ways of getting around above-"ground" that residents know and in which strangers can easily become lost.

There are few (successful) established thieves on Bral, if only because everyone in the permanent population knows everyone else, and it's too small to support a whole guild, but those who enjoy traveling do pass through and prey on sailors and the occasional wealthy tourist.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson