The City with Two Souls
Long ago, two groups of settlers arrived in a land they said they were guided to by their noses; this land of spices would later become known as Staywich. One group was mostly composed of humans, and the other of gnomes. Despite initial friction, they were able to keep from coming to blows and decided to share the land. The humans stayed on the surface and the gnomes stayed underground. Rarely the twain did meet, and usually only begrudgingly at that. They developed their own cultural idiosyncrasies from this, and even now there is a difference in accent between Over- and Undercity dwellers.
They eventually became united under a human monarchy, peacefully, and have more or less worked together ever since. The title of the Grand Realm was originally a sarcastic – yet affectionate – moniker; although the population and area of the city was small, it still encompassed a large cultural difference between the two levels, even more so than is typical in Lothienye. The Oversoul and Undersoul of the Grand Realm, united in geography if not in culture. In fact, there are far fewer connections to and from the surface than would be typical for such a city.
They made peace and worked together; the surface continues to be the source of many spices it sells for a premium the world over; the Undercity is the source of a rare iridescent mineral used as a building material. The gnomes like to say that a drop of Severline’s blood must have fallen in the ground here, for how else could such a beautiful material have been found so deep underground?
The War of All Souls
Once the Sacred War kicked off however, things turned bitter. The denizens of the Undercity absolutely wanted to remain neutral, despite their longstanding alliance with Inorias, and general sympathy with their policies. This was in part due to the perception that Staywich’s involvement in the war that was consuming so many souls was largely the project of a certain human merchant of the Harkonnen trading clan. The royal family owes a large amount of money to the Harkonnens, which still furthers the resentment of the Undercity.
As the War dragged on, more and more of Staywich’s resources were poured into it, leading to drastic rationing measures. These tensions have yet to completely abate, simply set to a slow simmer.
In spite of all this, construction continues on the Iridescent Rise, an as-yet uncompleted edifice funded by Erasmus Harkonnen. The intent is to build it entirely out of the iridescent material; generally, said material is only used in the windows of churches, government offices, or other buildings of such importance.
The Talishenry College of Fine Arts
The Grand Realm is also home to the Talishenry College of Fine Arts. One of the premiere colleges in Lothienye, it has a reputation for producing only the finest of writers, dramaturges and actors. Bards will get a well-rounded education during their time there, but the focus is on the Word and the Act.
The College is located in the heart of the Overcity, and the entrance hall is lined with windows made from the iridescent mineral which Staywich is famous for. This has put the College in a double conflict with the Harkonnen trading clan; not only have they competed in the past for the iridescent mineral Erasmus so strongly desires for his Iridescent Rise, but they are funded almost entirely by the Llywelyn dynasty, the ‘ruling’ family of the Undercity.
Rhain Rhys Llywelyn has continued the family legacy of supporting the College, even after they ceded most of their powers and authority to the Heathwich dynasty of the Overcity, formally making the gnomish population subservient and securing their position in the new aristocracy. Rhain and her husband Meredith have held onto the traditional title, like their predecessors, but have little enough power inside the Undercity, let alone outside of it. And unlike the Heathwich line, the Llywelyn family is not so beholden to the Harkonnen. Thus they love to tweak the nose of the Harkonnen line whenever possible.