One of the original "Five Cities", Canal City (once called Arkemes) is one of the most visited and picturesque parts of Gateway. Its maze of canals, walkways and bridges is the stuff of romance and legend, and serves as endless inspiration for artists and poets throughout the Known World. Even those who have only seen it in pictures find the city intoxicating.
But Canal City started off as a matter of bold economic ingenuity.
The original city of Arkemes actually stood closer to what is now known as Tower City, since the current land-mass of Canal City was originally too swampy and uninhabitable. Clever merchant guilds dug canals to create alternate routes for sellers looking to gain access to the River Aren without having to pay the exorbitant taxes charged by what was then called the Kingdom of Gillea, now called Harbortown. The warlords of Gillea monopolized access to River Aren by controlling the Gateway Harbor with their mighty naval fleet.
Gillea's Navy made several attempts to block or destroy the canals, but the Arkemesians would simply dig new ones, aided by a herd of behemoths outfitted to pull massive dredgers.
Despite the swampy ground, King Oskar the 12th of Arkemes searched the Known World for the best engineers and builders to come up with a way to build barriers and structures to protect his precious canals from the Gillean Navy.
After many failed attempts, King Oskar finally turned to magic for a solution, a controversial move that earned him a dubious distinction as a blasphemer.
As a result, though, King Oskar single-handedly created the largest collaborative magic-based engineering project of the time. Many critics were skeptical that magic could keep the structures solid for very long, believing that once the spells faded, the buildings would fall. But thanks to a new innovation in magic called "arcaenic flow", which taps permanently into ley-line energy, the structures held, and were designed to hold until magic faded from the world, something not foretold to happen for another 12 millennia.
The walls and gateways protecting the newly-dubbed Canal City from attack worked brilliantly and established a new normal. More and more buildings, houses, temples, castles and palaces were built on what was once considered un-buildable land. And what was once a very risky venture, using magic as invisible "mortar," became commonplace. Soon, a massive construction boom rippled through the Five Cities and beyond, laying much of the foundation for the Gateway we all know today.
Though no longer impressive architecturally (that distinction now goes to Crystal City and more recently, Central City) Canal City is remembered as the place where it all started.
Today Canal City is a beautiful, quaint, sometimes eerily quiet (given that the traffic is more of the boat-type than the wheeled-type) neighborhood teeming with shops, restaurants, secret gardens, hidden temples, ale-houses and thousands of artfully crafted arched bridges. It is home to some of the oldest and most venerable families of Gateway, who have occupied their particular homes for century upon century, unchanged and unblemished by the bustle of the rest of Gateway. It is also home to some of the most expensive real estate--in terms of dollars-to-square footage--in all of Gateway.
Once a year, the five-day-long "Festival of The Drunken Eel" is held in Canal City. It honors the mythical Commodore Eel, which supposedly haunted the waterways of Canal City, and was seen as either a harbinger of Great Wealth or Great Sorrow (depending on how much alcohol one had poured into the canals). It began as a superstition, wherein it became customary to pour the last ounce or two of any bottle of wine, beer or liquor into the nearest canal to "keep the Commodore happy." Now the festival has ballooned into a massive affair of revelry and drunkenness wherein hundreds, even thousands of barrels of wine are dumped into the canals nightly, rendering the waters a deep reddish-purple.