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The Twenty Four City States of the Caliphate
Surrounding the city of Shalazar are twenty four city-states, each ruled by a Steward and controlled, directly or indirectly, by one of the Great Families. The numbers beside each city-state below represents its position on the map.
(12) Harbad - the Desert Rose
Steward: Malikam of the Jerezad
The city of Harbad is built around an unquenchable stream of water that springs from the desert wastes in a fountain 40' high. It is the only reliable watersource on the trade route between Elmiyah and Karmak, so all caravans to Punt rest within its walls, and pay the fees of the Guild of Water-Dividers to refill their waterskins for the journey ahead. The steward is Malikam, former general of the Fifteenth Legion, and now the husband of a Jerezad princess. He has spent much time and money honing the army of the city in to a finely forged fighting machine, in order to keep down bandits on the trade route. No bandit has dared to raise a blade between Elmiyah and Karmak for five years now, and some people wonder if his army has other goals in sight.
Steward: Abdul-Karim al Jerezad
The second greatest city in the world, after Shalazar the incomparable, Huzuz is the jewel in the crown of the Jerezad. Centre for all trade with the Jade empire, the only college of sorcery outside Shalazar itself, the second largest temple to Shaliq, and many other wonders make it the hub of culture as well as commerce for the eastern half of the lands of the Calipha. The city lies at the center of a fertile and well irrigated plain, which supplies all its food needs and provides more for export. It has a bazaar, where many Jadian items can be found, but more important are the quarterly trade fairs, timed just after the arrival of large Jerezad caravans. The city is ruled in name by Abdul-Karim, First Husband of Samah, Emira of the Jerezad, but his love for his wife is such that he spends most of his time at her side, leaving the city under the control of Munir the Crafty, a sorcerer and alchemist of great renown. His rule is fair in the extreme, and his justice is well tempered with mercy, but the common folk still wonder what goes on within the closed portals of his private estate.
Steward: Amina al Jerezad
A prosperous farming comunity, and sited at the end of the north caravan route to the Jade empire, Abib is principally distinguished by the mysterious grey tower that rises from the centre of the city. When Abib the General came here, he found a tribe of nomads who worshipped it as a god, and his army defeated them, and they swore fealty to the Calipha and bowed to the altars of Shaliq. But the worship of the grey tower has never completely ceased, and despite the ceaseless guard upon it, offerings are still found upon its steps. The current steward is Amina bint Samah, who was given this position by her mother, to test her readiness to rule.
Steward: Tashiva al Jerezad
This city stands on the very edge of the settled lands, at the end of the only known trail across the desert to the Pass of Falling Ice, which leads through the mountains to the Empire of Jade. Despite the dangers of the desert and the pass, this is still the swiftest route to the empire, and the trade caravans made Guise a wealthy city. But a plague came upon the city,
and the name of the plague was Ancar the Scourge. From his hidden tower, this most foul of necromancers demanded tribute of the town, and what he was not given, he took. Many expeditions were sent after him, but they never found his tower, and many failed to return. 50 years ago, the great hero Davisham of the North set out to find and slay the necromancer. He never returned, but since then the town has been freed from Ancar's depredations. Tashiva bint Elizera, the steward of the town, was sent here 25 years ago, when all were sure Ancar was destroyed, and she has spent freely from the wealth of the Jerezad to rebuild Guise. The town is now almost restored to its former wealth, and caravans flow freely, but some of the old buildings still bear the scars of mage-fire, and graveyards are still barred by night.
Steward: Meris al Jerezad
This is more of a fort than a city. The only route across the desert to Punt leads along a single valley that stretches the whole length of the Desertstooth Mountain range. The city of Karmak blocks the northern end of the pass. It is ruled by Meris Abdul Jerezad, a former slave who rose first to head of the household of Samah, and then after gaining his freedom, to his current position. He is renowned for his loyalty to Samah.
(3) City of Gazala
Steward: Cassim al Hadar
The biggest of the Hadar cities, Gazala is the centrepiece of both their military and trade. It is here that the Hadar have their own Military Academy, said to rival Shalazar's for the harshness of its training if not for the quality of the troops. With a million inhabitants, this is one of the largest cities outside of Shalazar; it is also home to the notorious summer palace of the Hadar, in whose expansive halls, it has been said, orgies never stop. The visitor to the city will find much to enjoy, from the rich bazaar with its multitude of pearls and jewellery, to massage parlours which are rumoured to be the biggest brothels in the land. The city is governed by a steward, Cassim, who oversees it in the name of the Matriarch of the family.
Steward: Kamiel al Hadar
The island fortress of Tobrukh is of strategic importance to both Shalazar and the Hadar, as it controls most of the naval trade through the bay. Although not heavily populated, Tobrukh is also vital because of its wine production - the vineyards of the Hadar are legendary for their vintages. Tobrukh is also ruled by a steward, Kamiel, and is heavily garrisoned, with secret docks hidden throughout the island.
Steward: Quitab al Hadar
The last of the Hadar cities, Marinia was a late acquisition from the Zaniah, who failed to notice that lending money to a militarily superior rival is a bad idea. The Hadar defaulted, and then took Marinia by force to add insult to injury. Because of this, some of the city still bears the scars of the fighting, though most has been patched up since. Ruled by Qitab, steward and general of the Hadar's "self-defence" forces, Marinia will undoubtedly remain the source of much ill-will between the two houses for many years to come...
(10) City of Takhbad
Steward: Kalika of the Ruchbah
Takhbad is a comfortable prosperous city which makes much of its wealth from the trade that comes down the river from the mines, and exotic goods from the East. It is also one of the closest cities to Shalazar itself, and has thriving markets and wharfs passing crafted goods up the river to the lesser cities. But it gains its character from the fertile farmlands that surround the widely spread city. The river is a resource Takhbad has harnessed in more than one way: its farms are irrigated by many water channels and canals fed from the river but Takhbad has taken this practical achievement and turned it into an art form. It is easier to paddle around Takhbad than it is to walk; the bright sun sparkles off all the water until it appears the city is sheathed in silver coracles; pleasure boats and floating houseboats are everywhere; and delicate bridges and paths cross the waters at frequent intervals.
Steward Kalika is a recluse. She is middle-aged and has ruled from retirement for many years. It is said that she suffered a disappointment in her youth, but no more is known.
Steward: Alia al Ruchbah
Elmiyah is a city that has benefited enormously being on the major trade route to the lands of Punt. It calls itself the Gateway to Mysteries to enhance its reputation as a purveyor of all that is exotic and is known to encourage its visitors to sample all manner of foreign delights. It is the first city to be encountered on the route out from Shalazar and so rates highly as a place to purchase and equip your caravan, with much proffered local knowledge and expertise on what may be encountered in Punt, what should be taken, who talked to, and what avoided.
Elmiyah, architecturally, is a maze for the unwary. There has apparently been no planning in the placing of the city's streets and unwary visitors may very easily find themselves lost. In fact, Elmiyah has deliberately cultivated a certain twistyness to its layout, and each seeming random turn or blind alley is as likely to lead to a grotto or secluded public garden or shrouded colonnade, as it is to a shabby backstreet. It would be wise as a visitor to hire a guide however, as unfortunately, much though it is discouraged and punished severely, this design, delightful though it is, has a tendency to encourage a certain amount of criminal activity.
The steward of Elmiyah, Alia, is a recent appointment from her family in Shalazar. She is very young and is the eldest grand-daughter of Takiyah, the head of the Family. There with a reputedly loyal unto death personal guard, she is also reputedly there to save her from assassination attempts from within the family, her mother having succumbed a year ago to poison.
Steward: Jessamin al Ruchbah
Caspar is a small city that lies off the main trade routes. It is nestled in a bowl of shallow hills and its main attraction is its quiet and slightly sleepy charm. It depends largely for its livelihood on the produce it grows, but in this regard Caspar is well served. It is justly proud of its orchards; date and olive and orange trees march up and down the slopes of the hills in orderly, leafy rows. The people of Caspar are happy to know that their fruit grace the dinner tables of nobles and lesser mortals all over Shalazar.
Jessamin, the Steward of Caspar, is said to be vengeful and angry. It is well-known that she hates Caspar and considers it to be a useless backwater. The rumours are that she made a bid for power within the Ruchbah which failed, and that she was exiled here to prevent her from causing more trouble.
(21) City of Huda
Steward: Abdul-Azeem al Yildun
The largest city state under a steward of the Yildun, the great steward Abdul Azeem: a fair and judicious man who can always be counted on to choose the best way forward for the city and its people. Situated on the great river, fishing, trading between other port cities and farming from their rich soils are the prime sources of income for this thriving state. Visitors to the city are taken aback by its warm and welcoming atmosphere, and its glorious, ornate architecture, culminating in a truly glorious temple to Shaliq in the city centre. Traders from Huda are very well respected, and affluent, and actually encourage competition in markets to give themselves a challenge. The success and wealth of the city causes great jealousy among the other great houses: Huda is without a doubt the jewel in the crown of the house of Yildun.
Steward: Makeen al Yildun
The smallest of the city-states of the Yildun, this city is ruled by the steward Makeen - a man famed for his strict, harsh hand in dealing with the problems of his people. The man is ruthless and rumoured to desire to see the Calipha replaced with a Priestess - although such is an opinion rarely expressed out loud. He is certainly outspoken regarding the duty of the Caliphas to behave in a decorous manner. The city is prosperous in its farming of many varied crops, and river trade is quite prolific. Makeen has outlawed any use of medicinal magic or any form of medical treatment beyond herbalism; tales abound of the city-state officials turning offending sorcerers out of their homes and indeed out of the city. Sorcerers are treated as potential risks by the city-state's official institutions, sensing the general hostility of officials towards them, very few practitioners of magic actually choose to reside in Asalah.
The city itself is a large, stern-looking place. Huge square buildings tower high above the straight streets in uniform, even, grid-shaped blocks. The city lacks colour, life and any feeling of hospitality that is common in other areas of Shalazar. Needless to say, apart from those looking to return to a life of simplicity and order, few travellers would choose Asalah for a prolonged stop on their journey.
Steward: Fadheela al Yildun
The second largest city under a steward of the Yildun, Rashad is situated in the glorious foothills of the eastern mountain ranges, well renown for its clean air and awe-inspiring scenery. The people are a curious, yet amicable mix of miners, explorers, and artists. The miners are famed for their rigid, uncompromising work ethic, and devotion to religious dogma. Consequently, the mines are highly productive, and a major source of income to this thriving city. However, work hard-play hard is also a fiercely held doctrine in Rashad, and in the evening coloured paper lamps light up every street and music and the sound of hearty laughter echoes off every wall and out of every window.
Rashad operates under the watchful eyes of Fadheela, the city's steward and second niece of Emira Nadia. Church and religious ceremonies are very well attended, and the doctrine of Shaliq strictly adhered to in moral and social matters. Some have nicknamed the city the 'Peak of Happiness' - and it certainly lives up to the reputation. Crime rates are the lowest in all Shalazar, challenged perhaps only by Asalah, and this, plus Rashad's warm hospitality, beautiful scenery, and festive atmosphere, makes it a popular destination for travellers and artists.
(6) City of Teshel
Steward: Zubeid al Zaniah
Teshel is the furthermost South of the cites on the coast. As such, it harbours a certain independence of spirit among its citizens and although such a spirit has never reached outright rebellion, or even close, it never the less means that certain kinds of trade, provenance of certain goods, and other practices, can be conducted in Teshel, where elsewhere there might be more trouble. There is much trade with the nearer islanders, and a number of ships make Teshel their home port despite greater distances. The word piracy is never mentioned, although Teshel also sends numbers of prospectors out into the desert who seem remarkably lucky at finding lost caravans or ancient treasures of gold. The city itself is a raucous, jolly, hap-hazard sort of a place with many taverns and bazaars with smoky corners. The architecture is interesting and odd, as many of the houses and shop fronts have been built with driftwood.
The Steward, Zubeid, is the latest member of his family to rule here. When the Zaniah were given the rulership, Teshel was initially pleased, thinking that the hand of rulership would be light on the reins, and that money would flow in with the usury of the Zaniah. However this has not proven to be the case. The Zaniah and particularly Zubeid, have instead tried to crack down and prove they run a pious and law-abiding city, particularly in view of the trouble with the Hadar. Teshel is restless under the strain.
Steward: Kareen al Zaniah
Usk is possibly the least prosperous city in this part of the lands of Shalazar: the desert is too dry for farming, it is not close enough to either trading routes or the coast, and with near neighbours who can monopolise both, Usk has a precarious existence keeping the peace and a viable economic place for itself. The fact that it succeeds is due to canny choices, shrewd judgement, and a certain talent for flattery evinced by a number of its citizens. Usk makes a lot of its income from herding, particularly camels and donkeys, which it sells on to Elmiya for the caravan trade. It is also not unknown for Usk to subtlely play one of its neighbours off against another, thus ensuring it is either left alone, or used as a go-between. This is a strategy which, while usually sound, at the moment with the current tensions between the Zaniah and the Hadar, is fraught with danger. Usk is also known for its fine gemwork, but there has been a certain amount of speculation that the numbers of gems found in Usk do not match up to the numbers of gems bought. This together with the frequent forays by citizens into the desert surrounding them, has led to rumours of a secret gemstone mine, at which Usk is swift to scoff and deny.
Kareen, the steward of Usk, is a competent women in her prime. She has been building up the city's militia in response to all the tensions. It is also rumoured that she is looking for a new husband, one with renowned military prowess.
( 1) City of Muna
Steward: Labeeb al Fesk
The smallest of the cities under a steward loyal to the house of Fesk, Muna is a hard-working, hard-trading state. The streets are very wide, and very dusty, trampled daily by hundreds of horses pulling carts laden with goods. Trade comes into Muna in the form of fruits and vegetables from the fields on the outskirts, or from the fresh catches of the day from the coast, or of rare exotic things from the Western Archipelago, such as Dragon scales and huge pearls. The streets are also occasionally host to the hardened hooves of the mounts of nomads, who ride through the streets looking to get a good price for their wares. The nomads have caused trouble in the market places of Muna before and so a notable stepping up of city security can always be observed when the nomads come riding in.
Unfortunately, with such trade comes an impressively high crime rate. Skilled thieves and pickpockets find Muna a most profitable place to live, and many have become quite affluent without ever having done a day's work in their lives. The city security has never been ordered to address this problem, however, on account of the insistence of the city's steward, Labeeb, a rather paranoid individual, who demands their full protection 24 hours a day. He will only spare a few men when the, as he calls them, "murderous barbarians" come to the market place.
Steward: Nadeem al Fesk
Tharaa is the largest of the cities under one of the house of Fesk's stewards. Beneath the watchful eyes of Nadeem, who lives in the huge 'Steward's tower' in the city centre, Tharaa's 200,000-odd citizens enjoy liberal trading laws, allowing profits to flow freely between the city's traders. A very popular place on the coast to visit and trade, Tharaa has very profitable relations with many islands, as well as its farming and huge fishing sector. The port provides a convenient trade route into Shalazar and consequently the city enjoys tremendous profits from trading both within and from the outside of the city.
Crime rates are kept right down by Nadeem's extremely efficient, personal militia, so trade is conducted at all hours of the day and night without fear and in complete openness. However, the streets of Tharaa, beyond the six main market streets, which all converge in the shape of a star towards the huge city square in which sits the 'Steward's Tower', are a confusing maze of small and winding back streets and alleys. This network is truly impressive to behold from above. The streets are a dense tapestry of passageways between houses and streets, and not one is wide enough for two people to walk down side by side. The six main streets, however, are enough for several carts to travel down side by side, as they do almost every day. Tharaa is a truly magnificent, and thriving city, and Fesk would be loath to ever lose possession of it.
Steward: Hellah al Fesk
Najaah is a largely undistinguished city. Its streets and architecture are plain and simple. The steward resides in a small, simple castle on the East Side, and the markets are quiet calm places where trade is conducted with the minimum of hassle. However, two things are worth noting in Najaah. Firstly is right in the centre of the city is the largest water fountain outside of Shalazar. This huge, beautiful, ornate, gold, emerald and sapphire fountain depicts the famed sea dragons of the Archipelago leaping and entwining around each other in a truly awe-inspiring design, while jets of water shoot out of their mouths in an array of patterns and timings. The fountain is tremendously huge, the base having a radius of about 60 feet, ands the central display of dragons towering 100 feet into the air. Every year, with the great Horse Fair, a well respected sorcerer of the city enchants the fountain to make the dragons temporarily come to 'life' and act out their beautiful dance in fluid, graceful, life-like movement. The fair is always a huge success, attracting visitors from miles around, and is always the highlight of Najaah's calendar.
The second thing notable about the city is the tremendous horse and livestock market on the West Side of the city. A large source of profit for the city is its regular farming industry, however, this is nothing compared to the income made by the horse breeders, and the city's herders. Every month the huge market opens its doors and trading for some of the finest animals in Shalazar begins, and doesn't stop for three days. Horses are paraded for renting as studs, and cattle are bought, sold and bartered: it is a thriving industry and something the Najaah bases its tremendous pride upon. Consequently, any people who specialise in veterinary medicine or magic can make a very healthy living in Najaah, and many travel to the city with that aim in mind.
Steward: Ahlam al Fesk
Only ever so slightly smaller that Tharaa, Yumn is primarily a farming town, and quite a profitable one at that. However, even for its size, there is no way that the wealth generated in Yumn could ever be achieved by farming alone, and the puzzle has caused many varied rumours to abound about the legitimacy of the city's economic activities, especially from the house of Yildun. However, both the House of Fesk, and the steward of the city, Ahlam, a woman renowned for her beauty and wit, ignore all the rumours as simple jealous lible.
Yumn itself is, like its sister city, Tharaa, a maze of back alleys and narrow, winding streets. The city's farmers, supposedly conduct 'business', at all hours of the day and night is darkened rooms, and dimly lit taverns. Yumn is a very secretive and dangerous city, and only those who can defend themselves physically, mentally, and financially, would ever try to make a profit here in anything other than farming.
Steward: Salim al Hadeera al Izar
Al-Hadeen is a rural community with a relatively small population which is situated a good way from the river and main trade routes. They are a dour people who farm grain and herd cattle, sheep and goats. Their lands skirt the borders of the great grass plains to the North, and perhaps due to a mingling of those peoples, their skin has a lighter caste and their build is slightly shorter than those of folk in other lands of Shalazar. They herd horses too, which are of exceptional quality, and which they keep protected from nomad raiders within their high city walls. These walls are particularly impressive for a city the size of Al-Hadeen, and are a great source of pride to its people. Many generations ago, their most famous citizen was born, Sholanar of the Rainbow, who became renowned as a fresco painter in Shalazar itself, and was honoured by the 7th Calipha for his work, but before he left Al-Hadeen, he painted his frescos all over the city walls, inside and out. Painters and other visitors will travel far to see the beauty of Sholanar's early work.
Steward: Yassah al Izar
Barminta is a city that has flourished due to its convenient location in the fork of two rivers. It has the benefits of trading up and down both forks, and an abundance of water to feed its farmland. It also sits on top of a deposit of fine clay which the citizens of Barminta have exploited fully. They are well-reputed throughout the lands of Shalazar as fine potters and brick makers. Their irrigation too takes on a tidy and craftsman like air as the fields of Barminta are all fed by brick aqueducts running both above and below ground.
The Steward of Barminta, Yassah, is an experienced and enthusiastic ruler. Barminta is the largest city state under the control of the Izar and Yassah has been charged with its growth and prosperity which she has undertaken with relish and succeeded admirably. She is a contemporary of the previous head of the house, Rabi'ah, however, and so she is not as young as she once was, and is assessing the young daughters of the house for her replacement. She has particularly encouraged trade with the mines to the East, in order to ensure good supplies of those minerals the Izar find so useful in their work as artificers.
Steward: Karim al Izar
Mudjaadan survives as a city on semi-subsistance farming in an arid land, only remaining viable due to the determination of its people, and the fact that what little moisture carried in the air is released by the tired djinn of the air before they start their steep climb over the mountains. The people of Mudjaadan know that their city is on the edge of civilisation, and they lose a steady drain of their young people to more wealthy or more pleasant climes, but Mudjaadan does attract those people who appreciate the loneliness, or austere beauty of the landscape, or the challenge of that edge. It is a fact that more great poets have been born in, or moved to, Mudjaadan than any other of the cities of Shalazar.
The Steward of Mudjaadan, Karim, gained his position as a reward for exceptional work in the workshops of the Izar and for his unflagging support of his wife, Minah, the Steward before him. He was appointed Steward in his own right after his wife died, and is considered an exceptionally fair and level-headed ruler.
(14) Amarat of the Flowers
Steward: Kalinda al Ash-kenz
The city of Amarat is prosperous, and prides itself on its beauty and hospitality. Its central location on the River Shamir, and on the route taken by caravans to the East, and trade from the cities to the North, means that a wide variety of people and goods flows through the streets of Amarat. Its people consider themselves cosmopolitan and sophisticated and have concentrated on making Amarat a welcoming and pleasant place to do business, not least because of a hearty economic rivalry with Huzuz. Amarat is traditionally known as the city of the flowers, as the citizenry cultivate glorious displays all over the city, in hanging baskets, and grottos, and gardens, or merely in window boxes, to complement the displays in their fields and orchards. Amarat primarily cultivates many different varieties of soft fruits, all of which come into blossom and fruit at different times of the year. It is also known as being one of the most hospitable cities, it has one of the largest numbers of shrines to Shaliq, most of which are open plan, and double as hostels. This means the city has a lot of migrants, but as they can then be hired to pick the fruit, this is considered no bad thing.
The current steward, Kalinda, is a shrewd and canny ruler. She has been the steward in Amarat for many years and has a reputation as a clever trader. It is rumoured that she considers most of her family to be musty, dusty fools, and has therefore yet to name a successor, despite repeated requests from her family to do so.