In response to some feedback from my last post about the setting, I’ve written brief sketches of three locations for Conquest of the Sphere. This setting is a work in progress. Each choice I make creates new paths to explore. Some might end up being dead ends. As I said before, I welcome comment. I especially welcome questions. Answering questions helps me focus and make important decisions.
Aranam, City of Lights
This Una city is the center of a substantial trade empire. It rests at the crossroads of two Great Roads and the River Tuges. Merchant houses form a council, ruled by a king or queen who is essentially a figurehead. The city is known for its well lit streets and multi-colored glass (Aranam glass is prized in many lands). The streets are a kaleidoscope of color that can be overwhelming for a new visitor.
The largest ethnic group in the city and surrounding lands are the Tongal. Tongal have deep brown skin, often green, hazel, or lavender eyes, and green-black hair. Their features tend to be somewhat avian, with long, aquiline noses and high foreheads. They are tall and typically slight of build. Both men and women traditionally keep their hair long, often tied into intricate braids and knots.
Though dominated by the Tongal majority, Aranum is a relatively free and diverse city. Many other ethnic groups have set up their own neighborhoods, filled with the foods and colors of many cultures. Street markets fill the city and hawkers constantly push their goods.
Many gods and spirits are worshiped in Aranam, and the city has no official god (though Lopniss, the patron saint of merchants is obviously well represented). Temples to various deities and cults are common, and sadly, so is the specter of sectarian violence. Though the Council tries to keep it in check, the violence sometimes spills into the streets, disrupting the markets. Many of the gods’ problems can be smoothed over by the liberal application of coin to their clergy.
Aranam’s architecture is constructed largely of stone, with ziggurat type structures, often linked by bridges and topped with markets and gardens. Thus the city is layered, with ramps and stairs linking one level to another in an outwardly haphazard way. Lamp lights in glass cases, candles, and special lanterns adorn walls and bridges, bringing light to the lowest levels even in the darkest night. The Tuges flows through the center of the city, and is crossed by many bridges, including several large enough to hold merchant shops and dwellings. And towering above is an intersection of two Great Roads, resembling massive stone aqueducts, but with wide, paved roads instead of waterways. These structures are ancient, yet somehow resist the passing of ages. They have been built upon and modified by the city dwellers, but the basic structure remains intact, as it has for countless millennia.
E’lacho, The Island City
Built atop a series of islands in a shallow sea, E’lacho is a Yaro city of canals, bridges, stilt-houses, and floating structures. Ships and fishing boats flow into the city at all hours, and the shipbuilders of E’lacho are held in great renown, even into the lands of the Una.
The Three Councils run the city, while the Holy Matron serves as spiritual guide (and holds a great deal of temporal and financial power, as well). The High Council is made up of matrons from the city’s most powerful families. The Middle Council is made up of merchant queens. And the Low Council is made up of high ranked epicene, representing labor.
E’lacho is known for special, intricately patterned, fired clay dishes and pots. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly known for its seafood. It is also from this city that the wealthy and powerful throughout the civilized lands of the Yaro purchase the dyes used to color fur. The secret of these dyes are held by families, and defended to the death.
Though epicene of many ethnic groups are common in E’lacho, the matrons are almost exclusively Xali. Short, wide snouts and small, back-sweeping ears are common among the Xali. Females wear ceremonial wigs of vibrant colors. And, in spite of their famous product, fur die is used but sparingly by the city’s elite. Epicene in E’lacho frequently shave much or all of their fur, and scarification is common (sometimes employing dies).
Buildings in E’lacho are low and broad, with private homes featuring beautiful center gardens. Streets are narrow and filled with stalls and shops. Small rickshaws carry the wealthy about, but most people walk wherever they go. The ships built here are sturdy, three masted affairs, capable of long distance voyages. E’lacho’s epicines are famously successful sailors.
Emib, The Red City
The red walls of Emib leave an impression. With high towers and a long, spiraling wall, Emib has a military appearance from the outside. But this is a city of culture and learning, a multi-ethnic, bi-species metropolis, filled with art and learning. There are not a lot of places where Una and Yaro live side by side in such close and cooperative conditions. Tensions are not uncommon, but there have been several centuries of peaceful coexistence. Trade goods from all over the civilized world make their way into the wall-shadowed streets. The city is run by an Una government, but with the auspices of a Yaro Matriarch.
Emib controls a fleet of flying ships, driven by mysterious dunamis sphere engines. The extremely secretive Dunamis cult controls the spheres, their operation, production, and distribution. Airships always have at least one cultist on board as engine master.
While known as a vital trade city, it is also a hotbed of espionage and political maneuvering. It is from the streets of Emib that many political and religious movements are born. Cults and prophets, dreamers and philosophers, radicals and rascals of all types can be found behind every curtain.
The spiral wall of Emib towers many stories above the average building. Architecture is a hodgepodge of wood, clay, stone, and whatever is handy. Parts of the city are little more than shanties. Others are covered in sprawling mansions and gardens.
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