The Pillars of Heaven
Kelm, the City of Warrens. A mound of ugly, chaotic dwellings and bustling life, Kelm is a city of legendary odors and questionable aesthetics. There is money and power in Kelm, which does a brisk and ruthless trade with the rest of the world, but few who are not among the ratfolk like to remain for long. Kelm is a city of shifting alliances, brutal politics, merciless scheming and a constantly shifting power dynamic — save for Rakleth the God-Emperor, immortal ratfolk sorcerer who rules the city from atop a literal heap of treasure.
The city is mostly populated by ratfolk, along with desert strains of lizardfolk and a smattering of other races. There is a sizeable human contingent in Kelm, but they are almost all slaves. Slavery is legal and encouraged in Kelm, and slaves themselves are a common form of currency. The slaves of the most prosperous merchants and politicians are kept in relative comfort and safety; the poorer slaves live in massive filthy shanties inside the city.
A contingent of free humans (and assorted other races) live just outside the city walls, in poverty and squalor. These unfortunate souls have nowhere else to go, and are often disgraced slaves, infirm, or mentally ill. Some perform odd or illegal jobs for Kelm citizens; most live off the city’s garbage (which is literally thrown over the walls) and the charity of the city’s more compassionate citizens.
The city itself is generally devoid of what most non-ratfolk would call beauty: narrow, winding streets lined with high, narrow buildings crammed with people, and thousands of passages leading to winding subterranean warrens and underground pathways. The city’s harbor is legendary among sailors for its barely-controlled chaos and rich, varied marketplace. Kelm, despite its isolated locale, is a city where anyone can get almost anything for the right price.
Commerce is the order of the day in Kelm, and there is little art or culture that doesn’t focus on the acquisition of material goods. Despite their legendary avarice when dealing with outsiders, the citizens of Kelm live a surprisingly communal lifestyle — though little of this is shared with non-ratfolk, who will generally find themselves treated as second-class citizens.