Cities of Tirenia: Felsina

Felsina, the Learned City

History: Felsina was founded by the ancient Tirenians during the Age of Heroes. It is situated at the southernmost edge of the Eridano Valley, at the northern end of a pass through the Avunine Mountains to Tarchania. Its strategic position means that it changed hands many times, before being conquered by the Auromian Empire. It was ravaged by orcs during the Empire’s fall, before being refounded by San Basilio, who is the city’s patron saint..It was subsequently conquered by Carlo d’Orso, who left it as the seat of the Felsina Marches. After his death, it was conquered once more and subsumed into the Tarchanian Marches, before that state disintegrated due to internal unrest. Internecine internal conflict followed. The High Ordinarch attempted to resolve it by dispatching an envoy, who claimed the city on behalf of the Church. Civil war continued until Matteo Benvolio, a condottiere, seized the city. The Benvolio family revealed themselves to be brown dragons, one of the smallest and weakest of the dragon broods. They have maintained control of the city, although they have grown fat and lazy, and their neighbours eye Felsina greedily. The city has a population of 75,000 people.

Government: Matteo Benvolio, now better known as the dragon Comestor, is the Prince and supreme authority. The brown dragons are mostly concerned with their own pleasures and maintaining their rule, and leave much of the civil governance up to the Consigio Superiore, which is made up of representatives from the noble families, the guilds and the University. This civic authority is not very strong - in practice, each group looks after its own interests, and makes their own allies and enemies among the other groups.

Economy: The land around Felsina is extremely fertile, and so the city is able to export foodstuffs across Tirenia. The famous university is a major source of income, as well as creating a large market of wealthy consumers, and so many good and services, such as the city’s multiple scriptoriums, have sprung up to support them. Felsina also profits as the major link between western and eastern Tirenia: all goods moving overland must pass through it.

Religion: Felsina is an intensely religious city. It accepts the spiritual authority of the High Ordinarch, though it ignores his claims to secular authority. Among the university students, there is a faction that is in favour of the secular church espoused by the bronze dragons. This faction, which is mainly housed in the collegio di giurisprudenza, is the violent enemy of the theologians of the collegio di teologia. The city’s main church is the Basilica di San Basilio, and the saint’s feast day is on 4 Pesco.

Geography: Felsina is one of the most striking cities in Tirenia. The city can be seen from miles away, for it is dominated by hundreds of tall red towers. The city towers were built as a sign of wealth by nobles, merchants, and the University. Many of these towers extend out over the streets, leading to the creation of row upon row of porticos across the city. The city is situated within the three sets of city walls, each of which is ringed with towers. Given the city’s violent past, princes who have captured the city have often invested heavily in being able to keep it. The outermost wall has thirteen towers, one for each for the star signs, based on consultation with the university. The city is divided into twenty-seven districts: the Old City inside the ancient walls, and an Inner and Outer district for each star sign. Locals tend to describe their neighbourhood based on nearest tower, which can make navigation difficult for outsiders. There is also a series of artificial canals that carry goods from the rivers into the city.

Culture: Felsina is most famous for the Studia, the oldest university in the world, which was founded in 612 A.S. Its medical and law schools are particularly highly esteemed. In addition to the ten colleges of arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, grammar, law, logic, medicine, music, rhetoric and theology, each of which has its own dedicated tower.

Felsinans tend to be very proud, and there is a lot of factionalism in the city. The ten official colleges have a number of rivalries, and it is not uncommon for students to draw swords upon members of rival colleges. There are also long-seated grudges between the nobles in different towers, and some areas of the city are virtually battlegrounds.

There are local cuisine traditions across Tirenia, but Felsina’s is especially respected. In addition to the local salami, cheese and wine, the city has become a melting-pot for different cuisines from across the subcontinent.

Esoterica: The ‘Collegia Fantasmo’ is a semi-secret eleventh college dedicated to the study of magic. Students are unable to enrol in the Collegia Fantasmo: those who display the necessary aptitude are referred to it by their professores. There are more wizards in Felsina than anywhere else in Tirenia. As a result, there are also more magical phenomena here, due to the frequent manipulation of the aether here. Fairies, angels and demons are drawn here, often in response to a fledgling wizard’s summons. The thinness of the barrier between worlds here means that ghosts are also more common here than in other cities.

Politics: Felsina has few alliances. It is a minor member of the Tirenian League for its own protection, as its neighbours all eye it greedily. The blue dragons would like to conquer the city to give themselves control of the pass across the Avunine Mountains, while the Church wishes to regain control of it to increase their secular power. Meanwhile, the university is home to a significant number of humanists, who wish to see the city freed from draconic rule, although they cannot agree who should rule it instead.

Future Developments: With war breaking out across Tirenia, it is the green dragons and their pawn the High Ordinarch who will send their armies against Felsina. The humanists in the city are scheming to instigate further fighting in the city, to weaken all their enemies so they can seize Felsina themselves.

Towers of Bologna – Bologna, Italy - Atlas Obscura
Image: 'Medieval Bologna.' Toni Pecoraro, 2012

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