The City of Shalazar | Society and Social Roles | Religion | Law and Justice | Council of Elders | The Status of Men | The Great Families | Government and Military | Trade and Economy | Prices | Health | Transport and Communications
Player Information
History and Legends
Society and Culture

An Almanac of the City of Shalazar, Home of All Wonders, Source of All Magnificence, Centre of the World and Throne of the Calipha

No matter how it may be described, no effort to put into words the wonder that is Shalazar can truly do it justice. However, in the interests of posterity, we have tried to record here the words of travellers to Shalazar, who have seen as only an outsider can the magnificence that one who lives herein might take for granted.

The City of Shalazar

"Even by the standards of the vast desert, Shalazar's size is awe-inspiring. The borders of the city extend at least forty-five miles from the throne in any direction, unless one excludes the bay that intrudes from the northwest. The centre of the city is a densely-packed jumble of buildings of varying descriptions, and while the city has grown organically, there are 'zones': slums, markets, areas of small farms, and the almost 'city within a city' areas that grow up around the palaces of the Great Houses.

A traveller to Shalazar will know he approaches the city long before he will ever arrive: barring sandstorms or other inclement weather, he will see the sparkling lights of the city one hundred and fifty miles before he ever crosses its borders. As he approaches, he will begin to make out high minarets towering over city walls which at first appear far too small, until he realises that it is a trick of desert perspective: the walls are fifty feet high, and the towers much, much taller.

I arrived in the city itself at night, and so my first impressions were of the sudden shift from the lonely deserts. It is never truly dark in the city, nor do you ever feel truly alone-the sheer bulk of humanity ensures that even in the dead of night there is life to be heard. It is said that one of the great Djinn shields the Calipha's palace from the city lights in the night time, so that her most learned astrologers may study the stars-but for the great practitioners of those arts, tall towers are necessary, and the truly learned have built palaces far in the desert where they can master greater lore.

As the city woke, I could only wonder at the chaotic diversity that greeted my eyes. The citizenry wear anything from simple cotton or burlap robes to elaborate garments of silk and muslin. The basic male dress is a simple black or grey robe, but this understates the colour and vibrancy of the city, for they have adopted bits of fashion from every period of their history, and the cultures of a thousand nations besides. Some pin furs around their shoulders, and others sew brocaded cloth into the designs of their robes; the sheer variety of headwear is too great to describe.

Women's dress varies from the plain and severe robes donned by the Priestesses to the elaborate (and indeed, seductive) costumes of the women who sit for sale in some of the duskier areas of the city. Some women cover their features; others cover their heads; still others reject that style completely (although it is said that they took this style from women of the Harem and the prostitutes, and the Priestesses frown upon them).

Over the next three years, I explored the city as its guest, and I return to your Imperial Highness with tales that I am certain you shall struggle to believe. I did my best to represent you to all, from the lowest beggar to the Calipha herself-and not a day went by in which I did not meet some new friend, or some new wonder, or some sign of the power of Shalazar."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Palace of the Calipha

"Your Imperial Highness, the Palace of the Calipha is a city in itself-it is said that there are servants who have never left its walls, and have no desire to do so. My friend Al-Kin, imprisoned in one of the dungeons for a year until he was released on a festival day, told me that he had ascended one hundred and fifty-five steps before he emerged into the free light of day; further, he said that his was not the lowest of dungeons, and that his year was spent listening to moans of distress made feeble by nothing more than their distance beneath him.

But the Palace is not just a hut atop a dungeon, your Majesty-I mention this only that you might appreciate the scale with which all is constructed. Unlike much of the city, few buildings in the Palace rise above thirty to fourty feet high-the old architectural styles were built broad and low. But what is there shows signs of both of craftsmanship and of well-tended age. As I mentioned, there are libraries and kitchens, courtyards and guest-chambers, laid out haphazardly within the walls of the Palace. (These walls are barely ten feet high, and seem built more for privacy than defense. This would seem foolish, until one realizes that they are guarded by some of the most powerful of Djinn, and that anything which might threaten them would make short work of any mere wall of stone.)

I said haphazardly before, my Lord, but there is one place where order and geometry reigns within the Palace-the Pavilion of the Throne. The very centre of the Palace is a huge courtyard, decked with apple and pomegranate trees. Through the workings of the Djinn, half are always in bloom, and half always bear fruit-and no fruit this fine ever makes its way to the sellers in the Bazaar. In the centre, a half-wall of hedges and a gate of ivory circle a pavilion. This pavilion blazes white in the desert sun, and there are those who say that its supports are made from the bones of the Adversary herself-but while I cannot ensure you that this is the case, I know of no substance like it. The silk of the pavilion then shades the Golden Throne, which in the legends of Shalazar is both the centre of the city and the centre of the Universe itself. And on this throne, upon occasion, the Calipha holds court.

But I will describe the court anon…"

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Palaces of the Emiras

"The Calipha is powerful, certainly more powerful in magic, wealth, and favour (though not always, it is said, in wisdom) than any other in the world. But no city such as Shalazar exists without other women of greatness, and sometimes even men, rising to degrees of considerable power and influence.

More about each of the Families I will describe anon--but each tends to dwell in an area of the city surrounding their ancestral manor, and lands outside the city tended by either slaves or sharecroppers who generate their income. The areas of the city which surround their palaces tend to be much better off than commercial districts, and are almost cities in their own right: those who serve a great family tend to marry the families of other servants, so that mastery and servitude continue in family lines."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Great Temple

"Just to the East of the Palace of the Calipha stands the Great Temple-four minarets streaking into the sky, surrounding a Great Dome. At the top of the Dome lies the Eye of Shaliq-a crystal of perfect clarity. From sunrise to sunset, the crystal refracts light from any angle, lighting the massive space under the Dome.

I myself, your Highness, cannot confirm this, as not being one of the faithful, I was not allowed within the Temple. But I can give you the descriptions of all who have spoken to me. In the centre, always the main point of illumination of the Eye, are the Three Tablets given to the first Calipha when she founded Shalazar, ending the Diaspora. These are the main holy objects of worship for the inhabitants of Shalazar. However, the massive Dome is not given over wholly to veneration-in a long and winding spiral up the sides of the dome (which stands at least two hundred feet high) are apartments and libraries, in which the Priestesses live, study, and worship. It is said that the men who serve here are never allowed to wear shoes, and that their daily duty can consist entirely of carrying one item from ground level to the highest apartment-because the only path through this strange architecture is the spiral up the walls, a complete ascent can be a matter of hours."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Bazaars

"I come to tell you of my fortunes in the great city, Wise Old Geffen. As you commanded, I took the second share of our hides, and the second share of our leather, and the second share of our horses to the Great City in the South, and I endeavoured to sell them.

The journey was long and treacherous through the desert, but my horse is strong, and my companions hearty. I persevered, and I bring to you this advice, should you send other young men to trade in the Bazaar of the Shining Jewel.

You will remember the City from your youth, but much has changed since then. The Great Western Bazaar now sits in the hands of two Great Families, the Jerezads and the Fesk. Goods taken from the nearby docks are sold here, and commerce is based upon the highest-class merchandise. Treasures from all over the world change hands, each item decorated with a story (in the long-winded and tedious exaggeration that our people have come to expect from the Southerners). The traders themselves are prosperous, but pay duty to the Great Families. Here I sold our horses, and the leather gauntlets that Sherf crafted, to a woman beautiful enough to be your wife and old enough to be my mother.

Freeman's Bazaar, on the other hand, remains in the hands of the Free Men's Trading Guild, but they have been much reduced. They still tell tales of Mishazar, the slave who bought his own freedom; how he purchased the lot upon which the Bazaar still stands. The Guild still runs all trading; and the deed to the Guild is still held by the wife of the Guild Head. But the Yildun and the Priestesses have declared that it is disrespectful to Shaliq not to allow women to trade within, and they are there are now female members, if somewhat unloved, within the guild. Additionally, after they split from the Jerezad, the Bookwala have gained great influence within its walls.

The luxury goods of the Great Western Bazaar are rarely to be found here, and I sold our surplus provisions and our woven goods. Then again, you often find an odd or good deal here-for instance, there is this drinking horn that I found in the stall of a wrinkled, one-eyed shopkeeper that I would like to discuss with you…"

--Tales of Irissi, man of the Elunsii People of the North


The Invisible College

"The Shalazar Academy of Sorcery is known as the Invisible College. The common man knows little of the College besides the name, as the doors are hidden to other eyes. Those students selected for the college are said to vanish from their beds, and return as accomplished wizards--unless they never return at all. The Alumni of the college may be known by their heptagonal medallions, and are recognised as potent sorcerers whose respect for Shaliq may not be doubted."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Visible College

"Great Emperor, the Visible College is an institution of learning which it shames me to say surpasses anything in our lands. The scholars of the Visible College study history, geography, politics, natural philosophy, astrology and astronomy, and myriad other disciplines. The only fields not studied are the arcane, as they are the preserve of the more mysterious College Invisible.

The College occupies a spacious walled enclave in the northern section of the city. The guildhall of the alchemists is considered a part of the college, but after several unfortunate incidents it now resides in separate grounds, well outside the city..."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Guild of Alchemists

The Guild of Alchemists was formed many years ago as an organisation of scholars for the advancement of knowledge in the alchymical arts. It swiftly became subsumed in the Visible College, becoming one half of the Department of the Mathematical and Alchymical Arts. The premises of the guild were separated from the rest of the unversity when the Calipha of the time ordered the alchemists removed from the city after an accidental explosion demolished an area of the city.

During the reign of Adara the Glorious, the great wealth of the Caliphate brought about a change in the status of alchemists. The products of their work began to move from toys for the rich to tools of the many, and alchemists began to earn significant wealth. This lead to schisms within the guild, as the seekers after pure knowledge denounced the seekers after wealth. Early in the reign of Calipha Rasheeda the seekers for wealth won the interal debate, and the vast majority of the guild left the visible college and set up as a business. The new motto of the guild is "The Golden Path is the Path to Gold," and they have become very wealthy through their labours. The poor academics of the Visible College endeavor to look down upon them, but with little success, as their wealth has made them welcome in the highest of society. With the collapse of the Izar, the guild now has almost total control of the supply of alchemical products.

New discoveries in the field of cloudweaving have further increased their wealth. With the ability to swiftly and cheaply manufacture flying carpets, the Guild has set up the Honorable Company of Messengers and the Transport Cartel. The Company of Messagers are set up to deliver messages from one place to another with great speed and reliability, and all are sworn to an Oath to guard the secrets they carry with their lives. The Transport Cartel fixes the prices for transport by carpet between cities, and has come to dominate that market.

The Garden of Kaleb-Nar

"'At the very centre, the heart of all creation, was set a garden...'This is a quote from the holy books of the people of Shalazar, and its words have been made real in the Garden of Kaleb-Nar. It is not written that the gardens made by their god also housed a hospital, but the gardens of the city are also its place of healing, for it is said that beauty without aids healing within. While I have been fortunate enough not to avail myself of their services during my time in Shalazar, I have heard many tales of the kindess and skill of the healers there..."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


The Hall of Many Tongues

"'Emira Sousserah the Penultimate of the Ruchbah founded the Hall of Many Tongues outside what used to be the Ruchbah Quarters. A low, broad hall of marble accented with obsidian, the building was built as much for acoustics as grandeur. A favourite place of children, the normal tales are one of wonder and adventure. However, there is a tradition within the Caliphate that no story, once started, may ever be stopped by any but the storyteller, for any reason. (This was an order of the Calipha Rashida, a favour to Emira Sousserah.) And thus it is that sometimes arguments political and theological are carried out here, through stories covertly didactic or symbolic..."

- From Ying-Chang's Gazetteer of the Great Caliphate of Shalazar


Major features of the city of Shalazar