Specularum is like almost any other large city; crowded, smelly and dirty, with mostly earthen streets, quite narrow, twisting, unlit and often unsafe. Sanitation is usually a small trench cut in the middle of street. Buildings are usually made of brick or wood, with few being made of fired brick or stone.
There has been a settlement here on the two hills that flank Mirror Bay for thousands of years, recognising the protected harbourage that the shallow lagoon offers and the key position at the mouth of the Hillfollow river. The Thyatians, whose control of this land was always based on their naval power, rather than trying to control the deep forests, made it one of the main bases on this coast and a key way-station on the trade route to Darokin. The removed the native Traladaran population from the northern hill, and built a fort and naval base here, hence its name – Castle Hill. They also dredged the harbour to make it more suitable for large ships. The southern hill became the centre of the Traladaran town, crowned with the temple of Shandar at its crest, built on the ruins of the ancient palace that gives this hill its name of King’s Hill.
The land on the western side of the bay was low lying and marshy, fed by two small streams which flowed down either side of a long ridge. This area, outside the two walled enclaves, was where merchants settled and built their warehouses and marketplace. Gradually, as they became wealthier, they built themselves houses on drier land on the ridge above the low lying land. The poor remained in the low-lying land around the bay.
When Duke Stefan arrived, the Thyatian fort on Castle Hill had fallen into disrepair, and much of the hill was occupied by wealthy merchants that he did not wish to alienate. He was also concerned that Castle Hill would be too small for the scale of fortress that he would need and that its position, while ideal for access from the sea, did not fit with his desire to control both the land and sea of Karameikos. Surveying the area, he decided that the long ridge was the key to the defence and control of Specularum, and so he established his palace and fortress at the eastern end of this ridge, above the town and built a great ditch the cut this spur off from the main body of the ridge. He then surrounded all three hills and the low-lying land in-between with a great circular wall. At the entrance to Mirror Bay, between Castle and King’s Hill, he created his masterpiece, the great dwarven-wrought double sea-gate, which made Mirror Bay a safe refuge for his fleet, secure from any sneak attack by the Thyatians or the Minrothrad Guilds. The sea-gate is the key to the independence of the Karameikos.
The people here, of Traladaran and Thyatian descent alike, are proud of the great city that this has become. The two peoples still view each other with much distrust and suspicion; and the city is still very much divided into ethnically segregated quarters, but as time goes on, the rich Traladarans are starting to realise that they have much in common with the Thyatian nobility, the Thyatian nobles are starting to realise that the need the money that the Traladaran merchants can create, and the poor of both races (for the Thyatians have been here long enough for many of them to fail and fall into poverty) are realising that they have more in common with each other than they do with the wealthy and high-born in their hillside mansions.