Hel-Kurama stands at the crossroads of two major underground highways that enable trade and travel between the three cities that make up Hel-Kataylln. The city exists for commerce, and it has grown to its current size as the literal capital of the regions economics. The city operates under a non-traditional, aristocratic government that is supported by all three of the cities, each of which is pleased to see the nobility in charge of so vital a mercantile centre.
Hel-Kurama has a higher gp limit than most places in the north due to the constant influx of travellers and merchant caravans from all over the are. It frequently houses travellers in addition to its usual population. Both an increased spending limit and a higher transient population are common features of major trading cities.
The major structures of Hel-Kurama are large and impressive, yet lack any single unifying style. The city’s architects are torn between the conflicting desires of impressing merchants and avoiding the appearance of the atypical drow culture. As a result, public buildings reach for a grandiosity they fail to attain, conveying a sense of pomposity without any real majesty. They appear to be based on descriptions of other great structures never actually seen by residents of the city.
Unimportant buildings, such as small shops and the private homes of less prominent citizens, are simple, built of inexpensive wood, ice and stone. Most are plain and unadorned, but some feature gaudy decor in a feeble effort to appear more important than they are.
Hel-Kurama is surrounded by a single defensive wall, 20 feet tall and 10 feet thick. The wall is wide enough for guards to patrol and strong enough to withstand at least a brief siege. Yet a trading hub cannot afford to make access difficult, and the city has never needed to repulse invaders. Thus, vast gates pierce the wall at many points, including on each of the three underground roads and canals.
Though they normally stand open day and night, the gates are solid and defensible, constructed of heavy wood. Each gate has a standing guard of two city watch soldiers The city government spares no expense in road maintenance, even when cutting costs in other services. The cobblestone streets are built to accommodate feet, hooves, and wheels. The main roads are abnormally wide, allowing even the largest wagon to pass unhindered. Intersections have clearly marked street names, and most major thoroughfares are lit at night by lanterns or in the richest portions of town by continual flame effects. The layout of the minor streets is a simple grid, so visitors can easily find their way around. Smaller roads and alleys are hidden from the main roads behind buildings, ensuring that merchants are not inconvenienced by trash.
Ironically, Hel-Kurama’ attempts to remain culturally absent of drow traditions have produced a unique personality. Styles and fashions from other cultures and farther lands blend to create a riot of colors, garish to visitors but considered the height of taste by the inhabitants. Foods, music, games, and languages from the world over are equally mingled—Hel-Kurama has a scent and an accent all its own.
The people of Hel-Kurama have an overdeveloped sense of their own importance to the region, but they try to hide that attitude from travelers. Citizens believe themselves to be cosmopolitan and declare their tolerance of others, but they actually hold extremely provincial attitudes and even xenophobia at times. The drow here force themselves to be friendly though they may hold disgust for outsiders.
They scoff at unfamiliar beliefs and often mock the dress and behavior of foreigners—but only out of earshot, since they want visitors to feel comfortable and thus be willing spend money in the city. This facade manifests as a sense of brittle politeness, a pseudo-friendliness that visitors notice. Merchants that flock to Hel-Kurana to trade—or at least to stop over on their journeys to other markets—but few foreigners stay long.
In order to make merchants feel safe and secure, the city government makes a show of rigidly enforcing the law. In truth, Hel-Kurama has an exceptionally low crime rate, but so long as miscreants limit their activities to picking pockets and other petty thefts, the guard grants them some latitude in the name of maintaining the peace. Should a foreign merchant be harmed or murdered, however, the guard turns Hel-Kurama upside down to root out defenders