By Astra Crompton
The city of Rosswind was a small venture, built up from trading posts in the ramshackle manner of mountain cities. It was a veritable stack of cubes, all held aloft by rows of hot air balloons mounted to the external frames of the buildings, a distinctive row of colourful heads peering over the top of the uppermost houses. Each wall of stacked buildings faced inward, with hanging bridges and canopied walkways connecting each layer of the city in every conceivable direction. From a bird’s eye view, the internal space of the city’s four sides must have looked like a cat’s cradle game gone terribly awry.
The one stable anchor ensuring the entire town didn’t float away was the eastern end which had been bolted into the mountainside. Specifically, it served to connect both sides of the ravine with the only road in the region: the Imperial Shuttle Line.
The shuttle trains passed along the bridge that spanned the ravine once to twice a week, and were stopped for several hours at the Imperial Duties Office that overlooked the town. Those short hours enabled the poor but hardworking people of Rosswind to trade with the city merchants and denizens aboard the trains. Goods, supplies, fuel and food changed hands under the watchful eyes of the Empire’s Guards. Everything that passed between the Shuttle Runners and the citizens of Rosswind was heavily tithed and taxed by the guards on behalf of the Emperor far off in his distant capitol. Where money could not be extracted, the Imperials took a good chunk of the traded items from the Rosswinders instead, especially if alcohol, food, pipe tobacco or fuel was the commodity in question.