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Ribcage (Baator)

Ribcage is a town in the Outlands, serving as a gate-town to the plane of Baator.

Ribcage's a good-sized city with over 35,000 bodies in it, all squeezed into the narrow Vale of the Spine. Mountains tower and curve over it like rib bones, giving the place its name. There's precious little greenery inside or outside, giving the place the color of cold stone. It's walled, towered, and citadeled with enough guards and watchmen to protect any other dust-up twice the size. Officials'll tell a berk it's to protect the city from attack, but as a cutter walks down the street and feels dozens of eyes watching him from every shadow, he can pretty well see it's not the outside they're keeping tabs on.

Actually, Ribcage doesn't look like such a terrible burg to live in. The streets are paved with stone and are fairly clean, the layout's orderly, and most of the houses are well tended, if a little dour. The bodies hung from the gibbets over the main gate serve as notice to the criminal element, so a bubber's not likely to get thumped in an alley. In general, folks speak well of their neighbors.

It all looks pretty good until a basher notices the soldiers lounging at nearly every corner, and learns that the transgression of some of those executed "criminals" was only that they protested the living conditions a little too loudly. The dark of it is that folks live in fear and hatred of their neighbors, because the sod who expresses himself a bit too liberally may be asked to explain his point of view to the guards, even though he wasn't talking to them in the first place.

Ribcage's divided into the Citadel and five city wards. The Citadel's the home of Lord Paracs. It's also the site of the armory, the bodyguard barracks, and the city treasury. A gate to Baator's there, too, though a cutter wouldn't call it part of the Citadel. It's in its own walled-off section that can be reached only thorough the Citadel. In fact, the whole place is walled and towered to separate it from the rest of the city. In the shadow of the Citadel's walls is the Senate and the other city buildings not claimed by Paracs. That way, nobody forgets who's really in charge.

The five wards of the city aren't divided according to a pattern, they're just the blocks that each influential family could grab. They're like fiefs in some of those medieval prime-material worlds. If it weren't for Lord Paracs, they'd have divided the city with walls long ago. As it is there's unofficial checkpoints where a cutter gets looked over by the bashers of this family or that.

Most of the houses here are made of stone carved from the Vale of the Spine. The majority of them are two stories high, with a single entrance that leads to an inner courtyard. The amount of decoration on the entrance shows the wealth and power of the owner. In the outer wards, the homes are smaller and cheaper, and sometimes they're just wooden shacks.

While the high-ups do well for themselves, the common folk of Ribcage suffer. Lord Paracs's household guard patrols the streets, ready to deal with any "troublemakers." Taxes are oppressive and there's always garnish to be paid. The quiet joke goes that it's an "assurance" against accidents - don't pay and a sod's assured of an accident. The city's laws are designed to keep the five families in power and everybody else out. 'Course, the rulers have to be careful; too much law and the city might rise in popular revolt. As it is, there's sometimes small riots that are quickly and brutally crushed.

Then there's the slaves of Ribcage. Most of them are criminals serving out their sentence, but a sod also can be enslaved to pay a debt. Once a berk becomes a slave, it's not easy breaking free, so a cutter's got to be careful of knights who'll lure him into debt, just to call it in. "Borrow money, borrow chains," goes the old line.

Still, most folks in Ribcage struggle to live happy and well, and they do so mostly by getting a powerful friend. Commoners get ahead by getting a senatorial ally. Bribes, favors, and flattery all flow freely here.

Being so close to the Cursed Gate, a cutter'd think Ribcage was in danger of drifting into Baator. That might be, but not with Lord Paracs's help. He hates and fears domination by the baatezu as much as any good-hearted man would. It'd mean a loss of his power, and he's not about to sit for that! There's often agents of Baator in town, but they have short lives when Paracs's guards find them.