Nexus Tower
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Originally invented during the time of the Atalan Empire as a way of channeling magical forces over long distances (indeed, the current calendar tracking the years since the beginning of the "Nexus Age" refers to that invention), refinement over the centuries have turned them into the backbone of modern urban civilization.

Nexus towers draw upon the life force of living beings and use this energy to create azoth in large quantities. In general, a city has one nexus tower for each 100,000 to 300,000 inhabitants. If it had more, the magical emanations of the towers would interfere with each others' operation. If it had less, the nexus towers wouldn't be able to harvest the magical energies from all of its inhabitants.

The amount of azoth a particular nexus tower generates depends on two factors: The strength of the life force drain set by its operators, and the amount of geomantic planning put into the local architecture and street layout. The life force drain manifests itself as exhaustion among all who live nearby. In most upper-class districts, this exhaustion is barely noticeable (as the residents would complain loudly if they did notice it). In middle-class districts, the daily drain is the usually equivalent to an additional hour of medium physical labor. In poorer districts, it is the equivalent of two hours of hard physical labor - enough to make them very tired at the end of the day, but not so much that they can no longer work during it. Worst off of all are the slums where the poorest of the poor and the great masses of unemployed people live. The city authorities usually do not see them as a productive part of society, and thus see to it that they produce something of "worth" by extracting as much azoth from them as possible. As a result, these people often look as if they have aged prematurely, and many of them die before their time. The level of the drain can be varied by its operators - on public holidays, it might be much reduced, while it will generally be stronger during times of war or during an economic crisis.

The amount of azoth generated by a nexus tower can be reduced or amplified depending on how much thought the city planners put into the local architecture and street layout. Putting in buildings, streets, plazas, and other landmarks in just the right configurations can channel the drained energy efficiently and result in maximum azoth yield. On the other hand, unfavorable street layouts can block or disperse the flow of energies, thus decreasing the yield significantly. During the Feudal Ages, knowledge of proper city planning was largely forgotten along with the secrets of nexus tower creation, leading to many inefficient city cores that require tearing down and rebuilding to channel the energy flows efficiently. Furthermore, geomantic city planning is an evolving science, which means that some cities are constantly rebuilding entire districts of their cities to increase the amount of azoth they generate. Praxus is the most notorious example of this.

Living in the shadow of a nexus tower is generally considered to be an accepted part of living in a city - a form of taxation made easier by the fact that monetary taxation tends to be much lower in a city than its protectorate (a deliberate policy to encourage migration to the cities and thus increase azoth generation). The rich are barely affected since their nexus towers barely cause drain at all, while the poor don't have much choice in the matter - they live where they live because they cannot afford the rent elsewhere, and they need to stay in the cities because there aren't any jobs elsewhere.

A secondary function of nexus towers (which was actually their primary use when they were invented) is their use in warfare, especially defensive warfare. With the right rituals, it is possible for arcane spellcasters to turn a nexus tower into an extension of their own bodies, allowing them to cast their spells over vastly increased ranges. With this, they can see from any point from the surface of a nexus tower, and cast spells from any point on it as well. Furthermore, any ranged spell they cast can now be cast within line of sight (although this does not increase the diameter of a spell). And an even more powerful ritual allows such spellcasters to link with other, "allied" nexus towers within line of sight into a nexus tower network, allowing them to use these other nexus towers as origin points for their spells as well.

Because of this, a group of arcane spellcasters holed up in a group of nexus towers can easily devastate an enemy army as long as they see it coming. It is for this reason why city-states will erect additional nexus towers at strategic points throughout their protectorates (usually at the highest elevations available). Thus, any aggressor willing to attack another city-state will first have to take the defending nexus towers out of action (usually through trickery, deceit, or surprise attacks) if he wants to have any chance of succeeding.

Physically, nexus towers are usually the tallest buildings in a city (to extend their line of sight as far as possible in times of war), usually reaching a height of at least 50 yards, with the tallest towers in Praxus reaching a height of more than 400 yards. Numerous metal spikes and protrusions (often, but not always made out of copper) emerge from their surfaces to channel the inflowing magical energies. Windows are usually either small or entirely absent. All entries are heavily fortified, and any uninvited intruder has to deal with numerous traps on his way in. Most towers are constantly provisioned to survive a siege of at least a week, sometimes even for months.

While nexus towers are the most common way of harvesting ambient magical energies, other techniques with similar effects exist. Examples include the geomantic principles used by the Tsan Empire which confer blessings of various kinds if the landscape and buildings are arranged in harmonious ways or the forest-shaping techniques of the elves and sidhe which concentrate potent magical energies and powers in hallowed trees or blessed fruits. Finally, the surathi of the Snake Kingdoms have mastered a more extreme variant of the life-draining effects of nexus towers - their so-called death pits studded with psionically enchanted crystals into which the psychic energies of those dying within is stored for future use.

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Urbis - A World of Cities © Jürgen Hubert. All material on this site excepting forum posts is owned by him.