Westcrux is a trade hub city that sits on the crossroads of the Hundred Bridge Highway and the Winding Highway. It is built on the sloping hills of the north shore of Goat Fjord, where the northern ridge protects it from the harshest northern winds and the sun warms it from the south. While the water of Goat River, which flows into the back of the Fjord, is not drinkable as such, it is clean enough to brew beer after boiling and straining.
Besides the unwalled city of Westcrux, the principality encompasses the lands along the shore up to Gull River in the north and down past Sheep River to Ox River and Starpeak Castle in the south. These lands contain a dozen villages built around iron and copper mines. Many of the mines also produce rarer metals such as zinc, lead and tin.
In the City of Westcrux
North of the crossing of the Hundred Bridge Highway and the Winding Highway, the firt mentioned passes through a deep cut in the cliffs north of Goat Fjord. In the absence of large even areas, a marketplace has been carved out of the rock on either side of the Highway. The main floor, even with the Highway, is tall enough that the tallest wagon can enter without touching the lingering smoke of the heating fireplaces in the winter.
Over time, additions have been dug deeper into the hillside as well as below and above the main floor. Even with keys to every private cellar, tunnel and balcony, it would take months for a man to chart out the connections.
On the downhill side of the start of the Winding Highway stands Crossroads Castle, the seat of governance of the Prince of Westcrux. The lower half of the castle is a massve edifice of dark granite rising from the hillside to the level of the bridge that crosses Goat Fjord. Above that is a bright palace of white marble and green-striped vinestone. One wing of the castle straddles the northern end of the bridge across the Fjord, and its arches house massive iron portcullises that can be dropped to seal off the bridge.
In the Wider Principality
Starpeak Castle is built on top of a ridge between the northward bend of Ox River and the Broken Coast. It is named after the crystal that is housed in its tallest tower, which is said to have burned with a bright light, visible from across the the sea, but still not blinding its caretakers in the same room. The crystal was extinguished in the Dragon Wars and its gold and silver housing ripped off and melted for ingots. Dull but unbreakable, the ancient crystal still sits in a crude wooden crib at the top of the tower.
Now, the castle guards the Hundred Bridge Highway passing underneath it, under the command of the Prince of Westcrux. Its deep cellars are rumored to house a stash of gold for the prince, or prisons for mystical beasts, or a cache of weapons from the Dragon wars. Whatever it is, the garrison isn’t talking.
The free population of Westcrux is 12 thousand Nords and 10 thousand other humans and a small number of Dwarfs, Gnomes and Elves. The slave population of 16 thousand is composed of the descendants of the Halfling slaves of the old Aegic Empire and the ex-slavers themselves.
Westcrux is unusual among the principalities in its liberal laws regarding magic. Arcane magic is permitted in private for non-commercial purposes, and commercial practitioners can obtain an expensive yearly license.
All cargo leaving the city is taxed. Because both Imperial Highways pass through the city, this in effect imposes a road toll on traders on their way to the north or west. Since the Prince controls the surrounding lands, there are no other bridges across Goat River, and any detour through the roadless hills would be prohibitively expensive. A portion of the taxes goes to maintaining the Highways, however, and the stretch covering the principality is the best maintained outside of the Empire.