Well, I think I've pretty much failed the challenge part of the ABC challenge, given that it is more than 2 weeks since I posted the last letter. But due to Jingle's encouragement last post (which I received yesterday) I'm going to try and catch up to the current letter which is.. "R" I think. Let's get going.
The City is huge, the City is old, the City is heavily populated. That could become a catchphrase. The first two parts are of importance in this post. The first part because the City fills such a large area that it is difficult to effectively govern it all. The second part because the City has had a lot of time to develop distinct cultures, districts and authority figures.
The Empire is in a state of decline. Imperial authority in the City is shrinking. Once the entire city was governed by the imperial administration, a chain from the lowly clerks in charge of a certain neighborhood all the way up to the emperor. These days the only places the imperial administration has a sizable presence are in the Government districts. While these are large in their own right, they only form a small percentage of the entire city. Here you will find imperial law, soldiers and a vast bureaucratic machinery that is as much interested in the managing of the rest of the empire, as the City itself. They are stretched thin.
This leads to a semi-feudal model for the rest of the city. Warlords, nobles, merchants and other persons of power control their own smaller or larger part of the city. As long as they pay taxes, and don't threaten the stability of the empire, the imperial administration lets them run things more or less as they please.
There are wars between enclaves, though on a small scale. Raising a proper army is threatening the stability of the empire. But if you happen to be a noble with 500 city guardsmen with good armor and weapons under your command, as well as your own elite bodyguard of 50 men, then it is tempting to seize that merchant district next door. While clashes between hundreds of men happens only rarely, skirmishes, power struggles and resource grabs are a part of life in some of the more unstable parts of the city. In other parts the situation has been stable for decades and looks to continue so.
Though imperial law is the basis for all law in the City, many enclaves have added their own laws, and changed or gotten rid of parts of imperial law that doesn't suit them. A few, isolated enclaves have scrapped imperial law completely, creating their own laws from religious or philosophical foundations. A traveler does well to keep these changing laws in mind, for while imperial law may allow any man to carry a weapon, some enclaves may require a peace knot or restrict the carrying of weapons to nobles, licensed mercenaries, or the enclave's soldiery. Some enclaves place special restrictions on the movements and freedoms of demihumans, mages or simply all outsiders.
There are also those areas not strictly part of the enclave system. Places where the inhabitants have been reduced to barbarism, living in tribes and clans, hostile to outsiders. You are unlikely to accidentally wander into these places, as they only exist far from imperial authority in the isolated pockets of the city, but they do exist. In these same isolated regions are societies of orcs and other humanoids, of nefarious cults or other creatures or men hostile to the empire and those within it. Though these rarely get the chance to grow to a true threat, before being discovered and exterminated by the imperial army, many remain small, local dangers, preying on the enclaves close by, but never growing large enough to warrant imperial attention. And it has happened that one of these dangers has manage to grow large in silence, suddenly spilling out from the far reaches of the city, requiring massive efforts to contain, drive back and finally exterminate. You can say many things of the empire, but in these cases they make sure to be very thorough in their extermination.