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Imperial Palaces & Castles of Thyatis & Alphatiaby Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 25
Using real world example to develop fantasy palaces and castles
The Imperial Palaces of Thyatis
The “Dawn of the Emperors” boxed set describes the Imperial Palace of Thyatis on page 19 of the Dungeon Master’s Sourcebook, after the map of Thyatis city on page 18. The Palace is on the top of Emperor’s Hill, the highest point of Thyatis city, a five storey building complex built at the time of the first emperor, Zendrolion I, by dwarven engineers and workers. The Palace has more than one thousand residents, including the Imperial family, servants, soldiers, military officers with families, sages and specialists, workers, ambassadors, aides, courtiers, concubines and collaborators. The roof of the Palace has several means of defence, such as ballistae, catapults and banks of fireball and lightning bolts manned by wizards and elves.
On the map the area of the Palace is simply shown as an oval enclosure surrounded by an oval wall. The walls are heavily manned and fortified and complete with anti-air attack batteries. Beyond there is another oval area containing Hightop District, the wealthiest of the city’s estates. Two more oval areas contain the Gold District and the Silverlight District, with further exclusive estates, but decreasing in cost and social status.
As there is no map of the Palace in canon or fan sources I believe it would be a good idea to use the Imperial Palace in Rome as a model for the Palace of Thyatis. Today extensive ruins remain on Palatine Hill1 in Rome, including at least four palaces of different emperors, a stadium, a temple and other more ancient buildings. The extent of the Palatine Hill is in the order of 500 meters (approximately 1600 feet) while the ‘oval’ indicated on the Thyatis city map is only about 150 meters (just under 500 feet), enough to fit in it just one Roman Imperial Palace, and certainly not four of them. The whole scale of the Thyatis city map however hardly matches the description of the Palace, with 1,000 inhabitants, and indeed even the population of the city, 600,000 inhabitants in an area which is only 2x2 km (6,500x6,500 feet). By comparison Imperial Rome occupied a surface area of about 4x4 km (13,000x13,000 feet) i.e. four times the size of Thyatis city.
In the same “Dawn of the Emperors” boxed set, Sundsvall, with 500,000 inhabitants, is much larger, about 2x4 km (6,000x12,500 feet) i.e. the double of Thyatis city in size.
It should probably be better to assume the scale of the Thyatis city map should be one inch to 2,000 feet instead of 1,000, thus making the city comparable in size to Imperial Rome and the Hightop District big enough to fit at least 3 or 4 palaces in it, even if still significantly smaller than the Palatine Hill in Rome.
Obviously in the end that’s a matter of choice for the DM; if he/she wants Thyatis city to be a very crowded place or a bit less so. In the following description I will include options for both views of the Imperial city.
As the model for Zendrolion Palace, I would use the Palace of Domitian which for many years was the main residence and government Palace in Imperial Rome. The original palace had at least three floors, maybe more. In canon Mystara the Thyatian Palace has five floors and I will include brief descriptions of each, even if the map only depicts the first floor, as that is all that remains of the Roman palace. Obviously today the destination and use of the different rooms in the original Roman palace is only supposed or unknown, and only in some cases it is known with reasonable certainty. Therefore I have decided freely what to put in the various areas of the Palace, which do not necessarily correspond to the historical truth. The Palace of Domitian is composed of three different constructions built at different times. Even if canonically Zendrolion Palace was described as one, I’ve included these divisions in its Thyatian counterpart.
Likely the Palace is protected not only by elite guards, including several wizards and clerics, but also by magical statues and magical wards, including at the very least wards against teleportation magic, opening of portals, summoning, invisibility, clairvoyance and gaseous forms. All personnel and guards also will have amulets of protection against mind control, ESP and charms and the guards were additional bracers, amulets or rings against the most common attacks, such as cold, fire and projectiles.
The Palace has two levels of basements, which are not included in the count of five floors. Indeed the two basements are not even connected to each other. The first basement in fact is simply used for storage, from weapons and armor to food and wine. This storage is guarded by the Praetorians and lies directly under their main hall on the first floor, and is separated from the rest of the basement, which is used by the Palace servants.
The second and lower basement is instead a state secret as it contains a significant part of the Imperial Treasury. Only a few people know this, while the public was led to think it contains only the tomb of some past emperors, which there are indeed. The Treasury contains not just gold and gems, but important magical objects, some say even artifacts, and the Imperial crowns and jewels when they are not worn. Only a few ministers, high ranking personal servants and the elite of the Palace guards have access to the Treasury, beside the Emperor and the immediate family. The Treasury is protected by traps, magic and by an elite group of trusted wizards and clerics. The few who know about the second basement also believe other defences could be triggered by unwanted visitors, including magical statues and terrible undead.
The basements are very old structures, often tracing back to pre-Imperial times, and so they often contain well preserved mural paintings, statues and possibly, old secrets and threats. Wizards and clerics of the Palace have long sealed any passage reaching down from the basement, but dedicated PCs could still be able to find some long lost forgotten passage..
House of Valentia (Domus Valentiana) and Garden, first floor
This area of the Palace was renovated by the Empress Valentia and bears her name. Originally it contained both the residence of the Emperor and his family on the second floor and the throne room on the first, but after the end of the first dynasty2 in 59 AC the ‘official’ part of the Palace was mostly moved to the western wing. It is now the ‘private’ area of the Palace.
1 The great Exedra: This semicircular row of high columns covering the whole five stories of the Palace is a magnificent sight from the whole southern part of Thyatis city, towering above the palace’s walls. The Emperor and his family appear in the second floor balcony in front of the exedra on official occasions to meet the crowd, even if it is normally only a selected crowd which is let into the small plaza below, inside the Palace walls. However the balcony is visible from many other squares around the city.
2 First Court and Paedagogium: At the center of this area there is a square court open to the sky, surrounded by a three storied porch, with a big fountain in the center decorated by statues of mermaids and tritons. Palace stories say the statues can animate to defend the area from trespassers. The surrounding rooms are mostly the private apartments of high ranking personal servants of the Emperor and his family, who have their apartment right above on the second floor. Officials of the Praetorian Guard and the Rohal Guard3 also have apartments here. The north western block of this area also contains the Palace’s kitchens, which extend to the basement and the second floor. The western block contains the Paedagogium, a school for Imperial page boys and girls, typically coming from Thyatian noble families, even young slaves of exceptional intelligence are known to be educated here. The Paedagogium also extends up to the third floor.
3 The Great Garden: In the original Palace of Zendrolion this area was occupied by small gardens and guest apartments, but Emperor Augustin II in 85 AC decided to create a big space to run his beloved horses. The area was frequently modified by different Emperors and Empresses according to their preferences. Alexis I in 120 AC built a three storied porch which still runs around the northern, eastern and western side of the garden, decorated with statues of emperors, senators and heroes. Some emperors modified the garden to use it for gladiatorial fights. Emperor Marcus I in 459 AC built a theatre in the southern side. Gabrionus V removed the theatre in 913 AC and created a garden with a very complicated hedge maze and several fountains. The garden was heavily damaged during the Spike Assault of 960 AC. In the time of Thincol the southern part of the garden is again a horse corral with stables while the central and northern part has been rebuilt as a garden for the Imperial family, ambassadors and guests to walk in. The central part can also host temporary stages for performances and a banquet area in the warm summer evenings.
4 The Hemicycle: This three floored domed building is both a guest apartment, a balcony and an observatory, as from here there is a beautiful view to the harbor of the city and the sea. As the first floor is open toward the garden it is also used as a gallery when a temporary theatre is built in the garden.
5 The Leontius House: Built by Leontius II in 112 AC, this five story building, also known as the Ambassador’s House, contains a series of guest apartments usually used for distinguished guests, such as important senators, personal friends of the Imperial family, ambassadors and the like. Even if this building has no permanent residents beside slaves and servants, many of the apartments are normally occupied.
6 The Second Peristyle: This area was once the Throne Hall, but is now a court open to the sky surrounded by columns with a pool in the centre. In the middle of the pool there is also a small temple dedicated to different Immortals by different emperors, to Vanya in the time of Thincol I.
7 The First Peristyle: This court with columns, dominated on the north side by a fountain decorated with a gigantic statue of the current emperor and covered on the floor by a magnificent mosaic map of Mystara, can be used both as a greeting hall for distinguished guests and as a banquet hall. Smaller banquet halls surround it to the east and west.
The Scaurian House (Domus Scauria), first floor
The western part of the Imperial Palace is dedicated to the second Thyatian imperial dynasty which rebuilt part of it after the destruction which followed the end of the first dynasty in 59 AC. This part was finally completed in 92 AC and became the ‘official’ part of the Palace, where there is the Imperial Throne, the Church of Thyatis and were, on the upper floors, clerks, heralds, ministers, Palace slaves and guards live, often with their families.
8 The Banquet Hall: The main banquet hall of the current palace is decorated by precious columns of pink marble and beautiful mosaics, one on the floor representing monsters and one on the ceiling representing stars and constellations. The walls are painted with scenes of Thyatian history, and the two great fountains in the western and eastern courts are filled with statues representing allegorical scenes, the fight against the Mileanians in the eastern one and the fight against the Alphatians in the western one.
9 The Great Peristyle: This great court has a big pool in the center with an octagonal fountain, in which the Imperial family and distinguished guests can swim. The western and eastern side of the peristyle are occupied by smaller dining halls used daily by the Imperial family, important servants and guards when the number of diners is not big enough to justify the use of the Banquet Hall.
10 The Basilica: This great temple is dedicated to all the Immortals of the Church of Thyatis. The list of the Immortals revered by the Church has varied through times4. Daily functions are held here for the Imperial family and the inhabitants of the Palace. The floors above are the apartments of the resident clerics and acolytes, some of which also belong to the Praetorian Guard. The basement under the Basilica contains an ancient Nithian temple, now used as sacristy of paraments and magical objects.
11 The Praetorian Hall: This is a common room for the Praetorian Guard, where some equipment is kept and the guards may rest and eat, and also meet during off times. The Rohal Guard, however, is not welcome here and has its quarters around the First Court of the House of Valentia. The upper floors contain the apartments of the guards. To the south of this area there is also access to the big wine cellars of the Palace.
12 The Vestibulum: This is the antechamber of the Throne Hall, magnifically decorated by wall painting and statues and obviously heavily guarded. Visitors and postulants to the Emperor typically wait here to be received.
13 The Throne Hall: This enormous hall is decorated by eight statues of Immortals, currently Vanya, Tarastia, Asterius, Valerias, Khoronus, Odin, Ixion and Kagyar, and by other marble bas reliefs depicting important Thyatian victories. The southern wall has a niche containing the Imperial Throne, an imposing chair in marble and platinum. Praetorian and Rohal Guards are always present, obviously in bigger numbers if the Emperor is receiving.
The Second Floor
The second floor of the Palace contains the Imperial Apartments right above area 2 and 6 of the first floor, while the other areas of the second floor above the Domus Scauria contain the apartments of high ranking officials, guards, wizards and clerics, who can easily reach the Imperial apartments in case of intrusions. The last time it happened was during the Spike Assault of 960 AC, when the Palace’s defences were overwhelmed and the apartments heavily damaged. Emperor Thincol has since renewed them with many memorabilia of his native city, Oceansend, and his time as a gladiator. The four major and four minor Ministers (Magistri5) have official apartments here and on the third floor, even if most of them do not actually live here as they have villas elsewhere on the Emperor’s Hill, and use the apartments only in cases of works extending to the late evening and the night, or after parties in the Palace to which they were invited.
The Third Floor
The apartments on this floor are mostly inhabited by middle ranking officials, courtiers, pages and servants, and some are reserved for guests, including nobles and distant relatives of the Imperial family. Even if less rich and prestigious than the rooms of the second floor, the decorations of this floor are still artistic marvels and provide lavish accommodation. Obtaining work in the Imperial Palace is not easy, and a candidate has to obtain admission to the Paedagogium as a child, or a personal recommendation from a senator or a high ranking noble of the Empire.
The Fourth Floor
This floor contains the apartments of low ranking officials, servants and slaves. The less important slave of the Imperial Palace would still appear extremely rich and well fed to the peasants of the empire. Even the slaves in the Imperial Palace enjoy uncommon freedoms and privileges, including extensive personal possessions, money and free time, so they are typically fiercely loyal to the Empire and are unlikely to accept bribes of any kind. Servants and even slaves can leave the Palace occasionally, but are thoroughly examined with magic upon their return to avoid impostors. Most of them however live in the Palace with their families. Palace slaves can marry, even with free partners with special permission of the Emperor, which is easily granted, especially if the free individual already lives at the Palace. Palace slaves can save enough money to buy their freedom relatively quickly, and many do so. The population of Palace slaves is around 30% of the total Palace inhabitants and it changes quite often, as Palace slaves who buy their freedom or are freed by the Imperial family are often appointed to bureaucratic positions around the Empire. The Emperors in fact know very well that former Imperial slaves are typically much more loyal to the Imperial family than the common official nominated by local nobles, governors or the Senate. The position of Imperial slave is therefore greatly envied, and to supply a capable and intelligent slave to the Imperial Palace is also a source of great prestige for slave traders and common people. For this reason it is not uncommon for parents to try to sell particularly gifted children to Imperial Palace officials, and the major slave traders send their representatives with their most prized slaves to the Palace every day.
The Fifth Floor
The fifth floor contains the apartments of the middle to low ranking Palace guards, who also tend to the various aerial defences on the Palace’s rooftop. Differently from any other military personnel of the Empire, the Palace guards have the special permission to sleep in individual rooms with their families, effectively small independent apartments. A relevant section of them, however, is always on guard duty, and normally by day the families and children stay on the central part of the floor around the internal courtyard, with dedicated stairs to permit an evacuation to the lower floors in case of attack. This both ensures the safety of the guards families and avoids any hindering of military operations. Obviously to become an Imperial guard is a great honour for a Thyatian soldier, and only those who have distinguished themselves with exceptional heroism normally receive such an appointment. Under past emperors a relevant percentage of the guards received the appointment through personal friendships or bribes rather than personal merits, but that’s no longer the case under Thincol.
Other Palaces and Buildings
Other Imperial Palaces are not canonically present in the description included in “Dawn of the Emperors”, but the real Palatine Hill has other structures, so if a DM wishes to go with a Thyatis city roughly as big as Imperial Rome, he/she may decide to include on the Emperor Hill the other historical palaces described below. Such buildings alternatively could also be placed in the Hightop, Gold and Silverlight districts.
Inspired by the real House of Tiberius, it was a two storied smaller palace built in 54 AC by Emperor Julian, which wanted to keep his private house separated from the official Palace. It should be located north west of Zendrolion Palace and smaller. Used only by some emperors, renovated by Augustin II in 90 AC, it later became mostly a military residence under the Isaurica dynasty (117-313 AC), then abandoned for a century. Subsequently a temple dedicated to Djaea under the Dorania dynasty (412-557 AC), abandoned again after 799 AC and then partially demolished and rebuilt. Now it is used as the seat of the Imperial Revenue on the upper floor and as a Library specializing in atlas and geographic books (originally furnished in 197 AC by Empress Valeria I) on the first floor. It also has an extensive garden used by the inhabitants of Emperor’s Hill for walks and rest.
Inspired by the real House Severiana, it is a magnificent palace originally built and inhabited by Empresses Valeria I and Irene (197-211 AC) and is now mostly used for the thermal baths it contains and as a guest residence for important ambassadors, nobles or relatives of the Imperial family. Tredorian lives in an apartment here, discreetly watched by spies and guards when he leaves the Palace grounds. This Palace is also renowned for its beautiful fountains and the beautiful facade with three orders of columns, visible from the whole south east of the city.
Temple of the Great Mother
Inspired by the namesake real building. According to tradition a temple dedicated to Ordana was built here by the first Thyatians who reached Brun and it has since stood on Emperor’s Hill. It contains a famous artefact, the Black Stone, whose powers are known only to the temple’s high priestess. The temple is surrounded by a beautiful garden and traditionally is also a guest house for any visiting elven ambassador, noble or elven friend of the Imperial family.
House of Lucinius
Inspired by the real House of Augustus, it is a palace with two internal courts and extensive mural paintings. It was inhabited for a short time by its builder, Lucinius, who ruled Thyatis before he was killed by Zendrolion. Briefly used as Imperial Palace also by Zendrolion while his own was being built, it later became the school and seat of the Imperial Wizards, and it is still used in this way. Visiting wizards are often hosted in the building and Demetrion too has his main residence here, even if he also has a room in the Palace.
Temple of Tarastia
Inspired by the real Temple of Apollo. It was built and dedicated by Empress Valentia in 21 AC and it has stood over the centuries, even if some emperors tried, in vain, to rededicate it to Vanya. The story says the temple contains important prophecy books which some emperors tried to destroy, always failing, when they discovered the books predicted their deaths.
Inspired by the namesake real building. Built by Emperor Stefan I in 193 AC, the House of the Heralds is a school for prospective heralds, often the starting point also for many sons and daughters of senators wishing to try the ambassador career. Admission to the school is a highly prized honour.
The Castra, Thyatian fortresses
The extensive description available for the classic Roman castle and military camps can be easily used as a model for the Thyatian ones. The many byzantine castles still well preserved in modern Greece as well can be an excellent source of inspiration6. The basic military camp built on plain terrain often evolved into a full fledged fortified community with granaries and a small castle in the centre. Other kinds of fortresses were built instead on natural hills exploiting the existing steep rock to make the walls higher and harder to climb.
The Imperial Palace of Alphatia
In contrast to the map of Thyatis, in “Dawn of the Emperors” there is a very basic outline of the Imperial Palace of Sundsvall. In the map a main, T-shaped building can be seen, surrounded by open space, two small buildings in the north west and south west corners and five more bigger buildings from the north east to the south east. This outline may be inspired by some real world example or completely invented, but anyway some real world ruins of Middle Eastern civilizations are certainly appropriate for the visual aspects of the Palace. The symbol of Alphatia in “Dawn of Emperors” in fact is the lamassu7, a mythological creature and common decorative element for Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. The ruins of Persepolis and Dur-Sharrukin8 are indeed very appropriate for the Alphatian Imperial Palace as the monumental lamassu now at the British Museum and at the Louvre were indeed found in such sites.
Note that for some reason in D&D the name lamassu was assigned to a slightly different creature while the mythological lamassu is called shedu. So from now on the iconic Alphatian creature will be called shedu.
The description of the Palace in “Dawn of the Emperors” says the complex is a huge walled enclosure containing the Palace proper, outlining residential structures for residents, servants and slaves, a landing field for airships, stables for horses and other beasts and government buildings9.
Traditionally built by Kerothar I10 after Landfall, but probably over an already existing native structure which greatly influenced the architectural style. The Palace is seven stories high and each level is slightly smaller than the one below, creating great balconies which are filled with trees and flowers, the famous hanging gardens of Sundsvall, common also in other palaces around the city.
As expected in Alphatia, the Palace is full of magical protections, against summoning, teleport, portals and mind control. However, the wizards of the Imperial family and the other nobles living in the Palace are able to use such spells on themselves, servants, slaves and intruders. The Imperial Guard is protected by such magic, even the non-spellcasters, as Torenal. The Guards also have other protections against fire, cold, electricity and normal projectiles. The Palace has seven floors and three basements. There are stairs leading to other floors but also several ‘Levitation tubes’ to quickly reach the upper and lower floors. These tubes can be used by anyone, but most of them reach only the public areas of the Palace. Only a few lead to the secret basements and the Imperial apartments, and can be used only by members of the Imperial family or high ranking officials and ministers.
The Palace is also populated by several gargoyles and magical statues, some of which are sentient. Some servants and slaves may be able to command such magical servants for practical purposes. Magical servants cannot be turned against the nobles living in the Palace, but can be turned against other spellcasters, even by servants and slaves. Among the latter there are also several humanoids and even magical monsters or alien creatures coming from other worlds and planes.
Kerothar Palace map oriented with the north up.
There are supposedly three levels of basements under the Palace, one used for storage, one for magical treasures and weapons, one with tombs of previous emperors and even more ancient native kings. The first basement is accessible to all Palace personnel, while the second and the third are heavily guarded by magical doors with password and Symbol spells. The rumor in the Palace is that the second and third basement are also defended by mysterious guardians, undead or magical creatures, which have always defeated any intrusion. Some past emperors discovered passages to the Shadowdeep under the basements, but all of them were later sealed, or supposedly so.
The first floor of the Palace is the main public space, relatively speaking as normally only nobles can have access to it. This floor is magnificently decorated in every room with animated statues, bas reliefs and paintings.
1 Vestibules: These three halls are the main access to the Palace, where visitors typically wait to be received by Imperial officers or the Imperial family. Often these rooms are furnished with food and magical displays to entertain visitors during the wait.
2 Monumental Entry: This is another entry, decorated on the outside with gigantic statues of shedu which can animate in case of dangers. This entry is normally used only in special occasions, such as marriages, appointments of new Ministers, or to receive Alphatian Kings and Queens and important foreign personalities.
3 The Guards Hall: This hall is so named because it is where Imperial Guards are usually present in full uniforms. In case of very important visitors, General Torenal will be here and a full honour guard will accompany the visitor to the Throne Hall. This normally happens for Kings and Queens only, both Alphatians and foreigners. The rooms north of the Hall are normally used by ministers and officers to meet among themselves or with the Imperial family. All are lavishly decorated and often have magical servants and furniture.
4 The Throne Hall: This gigantic hall is the seat of the Imperial Throne (on the west wall) and is dominated by a very big statue of Alphatia in the center, with a small fountain surrounding it. In the north wall there is another monumental entry to the Palace, which however is normally used only by the Imperial family and close relatives, or if for some reasons a very important visitor must quickly reach the Throne Hall. The ceiling of the Hall is another wonder, with images of the skies of Mystara and of other worlds and planes constantly changing and moving. By day it shows images of light skies, by night stars and constellations. All around the walls there are magical paintings depicting scenes of Alphatian history, which animates when an onlooker gets close to them. There are also the statues of all the previous emperors and empresses, which can talk if interrogated. They are not really sentient statues, just magically programmed to answer as the true emperor or empress could have answered, according to what is known of their personality. Some give funny or rude answers depending on the question. For example the statue of Tylion IV refuses to comment on the Alphatian defeat by Thincol Torion in 960 AC. The statues however have a different set of answers only for the ruling Empress, to whom they answer truthfully and extensively in the case of questions dealing with Imperial emergencies. The rumor says that all the statues can fight intruders, if necessary, even the great statue of Alphatia which normally does not animate nor speak.
5 The Banquet Hall: This is the main official dining room of the Palace, even if in cases of dinners with lots of attendees the Throne Hall has been used in the past for this purpose. All around this hall there are several other dining and sitting rooms populated by human, humanoid and magical servants and by many kinds of pastimes, from simple cards and dice to strange magical games and windows which look over other lands and planes. In a party evening while a more mundane palace would host dancers and jugglers, the Imperial Palace of Alphatia has gremlins mini theatre, no gravity rooms, degustation of magical liquors, shape-changing parties and any other sort of oddity.
6 Temple of Alphatia: This is the Palace’s main temple of the Immortal. Powerful magical objects are stored here and some say even artifacts. The great statue of Alphatia here, different from the one in the Throne Hall, can speak if interrogated by the ruling Empress or Emperor, offering advice from the Immortal herself, if she is willing to speak. Several clerics of the Immortal live in the floors above the temple and most of them are also members of the Imperial Guard.
7 Dance Hall: This hall is sometimes used for music and dance, with magical or human players, but as the whole east wing contains the private apartments of the Imperial family, it is normally used so only for relatives or reliable friends of the family. The rooms all around it are instead magical laboratories and libraries for the use of the Imperial family.
East Wing, second to seventh floor
The whole west wing of the Palace contains the private apartments of the Imperial family. Despite being reserved for them, the apartments contain a relevant number of servants, slaves and magical creatures, and several Imperial Guards on duty.
In the lands where magic is not common, the nobles typically live on the first or the second floor while the upper floors, harder to reach with stairs, are reserved to servants. This is not the case in Alphatia, where ‘Levitation Tubes’ make upper floors much more accessible. The lowest floors of this wing are generally used as living rooms, libraries, laboratories or guest apartments for visiting relatives. All rooms are kept immaculately clean by the Palace staff even if some of them have not been used in centuries.
The upper floors, fifth to seven, are the apartments of the Empress and her children. Eriadna lives on the seventh floor, Zandor on the sixth, Mariella on the fifth. The fifth floor would also contain Tylion’s and Tredorian’s apartments, but as Tylion has not used them in decades and Tredorian is now in Thyatis city, Mariella has effectively ‘invaded’ them. Obviously not even Eriadna knows this, but Tylion is still living at the Palace in his guise of Terari with an apartment in the west wing. The Imperial apartments contain a treasure in art and magical objects of many kinds, and are the only rooms of the Palace which contain some magical portals, which are normally invisible or disguised, for the exclusive use of the Imperial family. The rooftop is a beautiful garden of fountains, flowers and butterflies, often full of pegasi. Part of the rooftop over the East Wing however is occupied by the Observatory, a spiral tower which is the tallest structure of the Palace, and which contains all sorts of astronomical and magical contraptions.
Central Hall, second floor to rooftop
The area of the Palace above the Throne Hall of the first floor is an identical, gigantic space up to the seventh floor. These enormous rooms have been used in a variety of ways by emperors and empresses during the history of Alphatia. Some as private swimming pools, some as portals to other worlds, or as elaborate illusions which look like other lands and worlds, as galleries of magical and mundane art, as party halls for selected visitors and so on. Some appear to be open to the sky over Sundsvall, even if they actually have an invisible ceiling. Currently Eriadna has the Hall on the seventh floor filled with art from all over Alphatia, Mystara and beyond. It is indeed one of the most beautiful museums in Mystara. The Empress is willing to let visitors see it, even commoners or low-ranking officers, if it suits her mood.
Zandor uses his Hall on the sixth floor as an ‘Illusion Aerodrome’ where he can try the most dangerous flying contraptions without suffering real harm. Distinguished officers and wizards with specific flying experience are often permitted to try this magical aerial training ground.
Mariella uses the Hall for a different purpose every week, but most often for lavish displays of clothes and jewelry, or for wild parties of any kind.
The rooftop contains another garden with a beautiful fountain, which is rumored to have a portal leading to faerie lands, and where indeed sometimes nixies appear. The garden can be visited by all nobles, guests and inhabitants of the Palace, but sometimes it is reserved for the use of the Imperial family.
West and South Wings, second to seventh floor
These wings of the Palace are inhabited by servants, slaves, Imperial Guards, secretaries and other officers whose presence in the Palace is necessary, often with their families. The second floor of the west wing also contains the extensive kitchens of the Palace with a small army of cooks and waitresses. As is the case in Thyatis, even in Alphatia the Imperial slaves enjoy privileges unknown to other slaves in the Empire and even to many common citizens. No spellcaster of any rank for example can kill or maim Palace slaves. Even before Tylion, previous emperors and empresses had enforced this rule, punishing any offender with high fines and compelling them to seek resurrection for the murdered slave. Tylion IV decreed instead that the murder or a Palace slave constituted Treason, with the usual punishment of feeblemind and reduction to slavery. He applied the punishment to two Arogansa wizards. Eriadna maintained the same law, and no further incidents happened. Differently from other slaves around the Empire, the slaves of the Imperial Palace can own money and possessions and can marry. However, they are not freed nor can they buy their freedom, unless there are exceptional circumstances. They cannot leave the Palace either, but they enjoy free time to be spent with family, friends or in the gardens. Tylion and Eriadna, who are known for their democratic attitude toward commoners and slaves, have even granted them the possibility to leave the Palace, but only in groups and by magical means or by airship, to avoid the chance that some enemy of the Empire may kidnap them for informations or to gain access to the Palace. Tylion and Eriadna have even freed some personal slaves, but all the ones they freed remained voluntarily in the Palace as free servants. No slave trader or commoner can offer slaves to the Palace, only the Palace Minister can buy them, and he/she always does so outside the Palace.
Becoming a Palace servant is a coveted position, but in this case too there is no obvious way to apply for the job. Palace servants are often the sons and daughters of previous servants, or are personally chosen by the Palace Minister among exceptional commoners or poor wizards of the Empire and colonies. Palace servants usually become quite rich, and some eventually retire and buy some fine house in the countryside. Many however have stayed in the Palace for generations, out of loyalty for the Imperial family. Differently from the slaves, they can walk in and out the Palace, but they have to suffer a long and tiring magical examination upon their return, so they do not do it very often unless it is for official duties, such as buying special merchandise or delivering and picking up items and messages.
Children of slaves and servants who manifest spellcasting abilities become nobles and in the case of slaves are usually able to buy the freedom of their parents and siblings too. They can also easily find a job in the Guard or in some other Palace position, or be free to leave it.
The fifth to seventh floors of the West and South Wings contain many apartments for palace wizards, clerics, nobles and distinguished guests. Asteriela Torion, for example, has a big apartment where she lives with her lady-in-waiting, Galatia, on the seventh floor of the West Wing, while Master Terari has an apartment on the fifth floor.
The rooftops of these wings are beautiful gardens reserved for the inhabitants of the fifth to seventh floors. The gardens that are open to guards, servants and slaves are the ground floor Western and Eastern garden around the Palace.
Detail of the Palace complex with the north up.
West and East Towers and Gardens
The towers are mostly used for military purposes, as lookouts and to store mundane and magical artillery, but the gardens surrounding them and indeed the whole northern half of the Palace courtyard are a favourite walking spot for the inhabitants of the Palace, from slaves to ministers. Certain access hours however are reserved for the high ranking officers and ministers.
This five storied building is inhabited by all the servants who do not need to be constantly present in the Palace, mostly accountants, repairmen, cooks, cleaners, gardeners. It also contains some meeting halls and pub-like rooms where the servants, both those living here and those living in the Palace, can meet and mingle. Slaves have their own meeting rooms in the Palace but also a sort of pub here that servants can enter too. Slaves can enter some but not all the common rooms of servants, or are permitted to do so only on certain days and times. If a servant marries a slave, the slave becomes free so it is not uncommon for a slave to try to raise a servant’s interest in him or her.
The Ministers live and work in this magnificent Palace, whose first floor is also called ‘The Hall of the Hundred Columns’. Each column possesses a specific, harmless magical effect, such as evoking a person’s favourite scent or giving visions of the past or future. The other seven stories of the building are occupied by a ministry, from Palace on the first to Defense on the second, then Kingdoms and Dominions, Treasury, Trade and finally Magic, which also has an observatory on the rooftop. Ministers also often have personal estates elsewhere in Sundsvall or in the Empire, but are often present when they have to attend to some matter of state. The position is demanding and not permanent, usually ministers, who are personally chosen by the Empress from among faithful Alphatian nobles, agree to cover their post for a maximum of 5 years or, more rarely, up to ten.
The great space east of the Palace is also a landing field for airships. The Princess Ark docks here when visiting the Imperial Palace and normally at least the Imperial Yacht ‘Tylari’ and the Imperial man-o-war ‘Wings of Vertiloch’ are always docked here. The ‘Tylari’ is a leisure yacht, but can effectively fly very fast if necessary, while the ‘Wings’ is a very heavily armed warship with boltmen of the Imperial Guard.
This is the main barracks of the thousand men and women strong Imperial Guard. Usually more than half of them are on active duty in the Palace or along the walls, but here they can rest and meet in the first floor’s pubs and common rooms. Families of guards do not live here but in the Servants house or sometimes in the Palace in the case of families of officers. Guards who have family on Palace grounds may spend up to two days a week with them and also enjoy some free time during the day and on vacation weeks each year. General Torenal has an apartment in the Palace (when he is not with the Empress) but is often here, even during the nights in cases of specific training drills or alarms.
This structure does not host just horses, but several other creatures. Griffons, hippogriffs, pegasi, some harpies, pegataurs and gargoyles, a drolem and two sphinxes, who are indeed the keepers of the place. The most numerous population are the thousand pegasi of the Imperial Guard. The pegasi often roam free all over the Palace and beyond, working also as natural lookouts for any danger coming to Sundsvall. All the creatures here are loyal to the Empire and will fight to defend the palace if necessary.
The Great Gate
This is another building used as barracks and artillery storage, but also a magnificent gate rising over the walls with shedu statues and an impressive drawbridge.
A great source of inspiration for Alphatian castles would be the fortresses built by the Parthians the Sasanids and other dynasties of ancient Iran, some of which are very well preserved11. Obviously as Alphatian castles they should also have a relevant population of pegasi, magical monsters and magical weapons.
2I am using Simone Neri’s list of Thyatian Emperors here: http://pandius.com/thyempr.html. There are in the Vaults of Pandius alternative lists which gave different names to the dinasties, anyway the point is this part of the Palace was partially rebuilt by the second dinasty.
9Note also the description of Sundsvall and the Palace written more recently by Bruce Heard in his blog here: https://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/2012/07/hidden-city-of-sundsvall.html and here https://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/2012/07/imperial-district-of-vertiloch.html where he imagines there is a ‘true’ Sundsvall and a ‘false’ one to confuse invaders, the latter complete with a phantasmal Imperial Palace.
11See quite a comprehensive list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_castles_in_Iran