Population: 6,049 (approximately)
Founded: at least 3,000 years ago
Open Heart is a former "manors and farms" community that has, in the last 100 years, gained a new identity as a spa town. People come from all over to take the healing waters from the natural springs. Prior to the spas, commerce was mostly livestock (lambs, pigs, cows) and agriculture (eggs, help, flax); these remain important parts of the economy, even as several private boarding schools have been founded as the gentry increasingly spend part of the year in Open Heart.
Open Heart maintains a sense of rustic graciousness with no buildings more than four stories tall. A huge commons (called The Chase) in the middle of the town continues to be the site for monthly fairs, with agricultural vendors, sporting competitions (e.g. archery events), and games and dancing.
Finer establishments include a pair of grand boarding houses, the Holyrood House for Women and the Spotted House for Men, which are fully outfitted for the most discriminating traveler. (More modest accommodations are available at the Inn of the Spurting Geyser for those on a budget, where Keegan the barkeep can double as a sort of rough concierge.) The Assembly Rooms & Gardens contain both the offices of the city government as well as a set of public gardens with a petite labyrinth of hedge and a full-service Splash Pool. Opposite the Assembly Rooms is the Holy Well, which is considered by many to be the very best source of natural waters; participation in the Holy Well offering is by daily lottery (which somehow tends to favor more well-heeled pilgrims) and can include the moistening of the tongue or full submersion depending on the level of gratitude. And no visit to Open Heart would be complete without a private tour of Lenore's Pretty Good Library, only a modest fee for a visiting subscriber.
On the east, Open Heart is flanked by steep hills that offer a natural shelter from most weather patterns, giving it a mild climate year-round. On the other sides, the city has preserved large tracts of common land, mostly open fields. The next closest city is a two-day ride.
The catacombs have grown over the centuries, and exist in seven principle areas. Each area represents an era of underground building and is often associated with the burial area of a particular class of people and/or era of time.
This was the first area of the underground cemetery and is vastly older than the remaining areas. It dates to the origins of the town when a settlement was first begun. No new burials have happened here in a thousand years. Tombs here are marked only with crests and other forms of heraldry – no dates or writing exists. Parts of Oldtown are in a state of collapse since there is no active reason for the living to visit this area with any frequency.
This is the second oldest area, with the now-outdated name of Newtown to correspond to its erstwhile existence as the “new” part of the catacombs. No new burials have happened here in over 500 years. Tombs here are marked with heraldry but also often with the name of the deceased and sometimes with dates of death, etc. It is generally known that Newtown has at least one chapel honoring the deceased.
This is the third oldest area, created to separate out the common folk from those of nicer births, who continued to be buried in Newtown for quite some time after Bric-a-brac was established. Once Fishmongers Paradise was established, roughly coinciding with the rise of a trade/merchant class in town, BaB became the de facto burial area for the middle classes. BaB is still in use and has occasional new burials.
This is the fourth oldest area, and was dug to create a separate area for the burial of the peasant (working) classes. It remains in use and has new burials on a regular basis. Due to its nearness to several underground tributaries, it does flood from time to time and often has a dank and musty smell to it.
This is the fifth oldest area, and was dug when Newtown became more or less unusable for further burials to create an entombment area appropriate for the noble classes. Clergy were also sometimes buried here until the establishment of Sacred Hollow. NE is well maintained and has finer tombs than any other area currently in use.
This is a relatively recently established area, being less than 100 years old, and was dug to create a separate burial area for clergy following the rise of clerics and organized religion in that era. Prior to SH being established, clergy would have been buried in NE or BaB (depending on status) or, even earlier, in Newtown. Burial sites in SH are more or less ornate in keeping with the status of the clergy who have passed. SH is well maintained and features a small chapel for prayer and reflection.
This is the newest burial area, established only shortly after SH in order to give proper burials to the very poorest classes – beggars, thieves, etc. It is not well maintained and would not be used to bury a person who died with any money or property. This area is also known for being a place for the occasional secret meeting with the more dangerous parts of society – thieves and murderers.
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