Amber was the greatest city which had ever existed or ever would exist. Amber had always been and always would be, and every other city, everywhere every other city that existed was but a reflection of a shadow of some phase of Amber. Amber, Amber, Amber … I remember thee. I shall never forget thee again. I guess, deep inside me, I never really did, through all those centuries I wandered the Shadow Earth, for often at night my dreams were troubled by images of thy green and golden spires and thy sweeping terraces. I remember thy wide promenades and the decks of flowers, golden and red. I recall the sweetness of thy airs, and the temples, palaces, and pleasances thou containest, contained, will always contain, Amber, immortal city from which every other city has taken its shape…
Nine Princes in Amber
The Geography of the City
Amber City climbs from the base of Kolvir, all the way to near its peak, with a large port district curved around the cove of its protected harbor, terrace districts carved into the side of the mountain, and the royal palace in the center of the main city grid at the topmost plateau of the mountain.
From the palace, the Grand Promenade runs north down the mountain, providing the main thoroughfare through the city's most expensive residential area, known as the Garden District.
The Main Concourse runs south from the palace, crossing the plateau (the Palace District, the political heart of the city, and the Market District, its commercial center), before sloping downwards through terraced levels (the Guild Terraces). At the very end of the Main Concourse is the Great Arch, and beyond that, a largely-unused ancient stair that leads to the beach below. (It was this stair that Corwin and Bleys used in their assault on Amber.)
Running parallel to the Main Concourse, at the easternmost portion of the city, is East Vine Street. It also runs through the Palace District and the Market District. At the southern end of the Market District, East Vine Street begins to wind slowly down the mountain. It is lined with residences and commercial buildings, connecting the terraces known as the Boulevard Terraces. At its end is the Eastern Gate of the city.
On the opposite side of the city is West Vine Street. It, too, winds down the mountain, although less gently, in a series of stairs and switchbacks. It connects the Cliff Terraces, in the process of connecting the city above to the Harbor District. It ends, at the bottom, in an intersection with Harbor Road, the main thoroughfare through the district, which follows the curve of the cove in a roughly southwest-to-northeast direction. The Harbor District is the oldest part of the city, a maze of buildings and streets and alleyways.
The City Below
The sheer face of Kolvir separates the upper and lower cities, and while the upper city is golden and glorious, the lower city is far less so. Built around the harbor, the history of the lower city is written in its geography. The docks were originally on the western side of the harbor, but they were eventually supplanted by the new docks built on the eastern side. As a result, the eastern half of the lower city is a (mostly) thriving port, kept busy with the constant flow of trade. The western half has decayed, and holds the poorest, lowest class neighborhoods in ths city. Crime is rampant and life can be desperate.
Harbor road is the backbone of the lower city, forming a wide arc around the harbor, but it is something of a rarity. Most of the streets in the lower ward are smaller and less precisely laid out than the upper city, and those who know their way around tend to speak more in terms of neighborhoods than streets.
Neighborhoods and Landmarks
The Quay refers to the docks, quay street and authority circle, the holy triumvirate of trade in Amber. It's a neighborhood dedicated to business (and its regulation) and it's said that the markets of Quay Street regularly trade in amounts which would stagger a prince.
Captain's Bight is the nicest neighborhood in the lower city, a single hill dotted with homes and manors of successful captains and admirals. It's vantage gives it the best view in the lower city, but also tends to draw the eye in even the poorest of quarters
Cliffside is a dreary neighborhood, isolated by a quirk of geography. To the upper city this is the 'worst neighborhood in Amber'. To the lower city, it's the home of those just poor enough that the upper city still understands their plight.
The Little Market and Fishcutter Square are two adjacent markets which fuel most of the business of Amber. Fishcutter's square is dedicated to dealing in seafood (especially to upper city buyers), and The Little Market handles everything else a lower city denizen might need.
Damsel's Rest is the city's most notorious red light district.
The Raft is the remains of the old harbor, now a vast, slowly shifting flotilla of small boats and ships that many of the city's poorest call home.
The Great Lift is an enormous freight lift going up the cliffside, it was constructed by the Exchequer in a timeof particular excess. (Amber is a place where resources sometimes flow in over-abundance, and part of the Exchequer's job is to sink excess resources into things like massive construction projects, so that influxes from shadow do not significantly destabilize the economy.)
The Dredge is the westernmost part of the lower city, and it's a network of permanently stopped canals and sewage overflow, and it is pretty much the worst place in the city. Despite that, refugees from Lyonesse have carved out a neighborhood for themselves in the southern part of it, which folks have come to call New Lyonesse.
Housing in Amber City
The population of Amber City is ever-growing, and over time, property has become more and more expensive, and vacancies fewer. Getting housing is not just a matter of money — it is a matter of influence and connections in order to obtain a desirable property in the first place.
Housing falls into the following categories:
- Palazzos. The Great Houses often refer to these simply as "townhouses", which is technically true, but inadequately descriptive. These are huge, grand properties, often occupying as much as a city block when one includes the gardens that surround them. They are typically the seat of House business as well as a home to its members. These are never rented, except in the most unusual of circumstances (for instance, House Mandrake's original palazzo went into Feldane's hands due to debt, and was chopped into apartments and rented out).
- Garden townhouses. These are townhomes of smaller size, with modest private gardens, fenced off from their neighbors. They are owned by the wealthiest, most influential people in Amber. Very rarely does the opportunity to buy or rent one come up.
- Rowhouses. These are townhomes without gardens, usually tightly packed, with no separation or just a few feet of separation between them. They vary from being quite large and high-class, to being ramshackle badly-maintained crammed-together housing. The upper-class ones are generally owned, are rarely for sale, and very rarely for rent. The lower-class ones are available for purchase with reasonable frequency, and fairly straightforward to rent.
- Apartments. These are multi-tenant buildings, typically on multiple floors. They can be anything from elaborate dwellings that span one or two floors of a building, to tiny cramped tenements. Apartments are generally rented. The higher-class the apartment, the more difficult it is to find a vacancy.
- Boarding houses. These are places where one can rent a room, usually in working-class and poor areas of the city. A boarding house is generally under the purview of a proprietor who handles the common areas, and may provide meals as well. Typically, a boarder is single; the rooms tend not to be big enough for more people. It is generally trivial to find available space in a boarding house.
- Hangups. Sleeping places for the most destitute, hangups are just that — rooms where people can hang up a hammock. It's out of the wind and rain and cold, but it doesn't really provide much more than the most basic sort of shelter.
(For newcomers to Amber City, obtaining housing IC requires obtaining a resource token of at least the level of the neighborhood that you want to live in, representing the assets and influence necessary to purchase or rent housing.)