Monday 5 June 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #156: Shasari City

Ten hexes north, two northeast of Alakran.


Welcome to Shasari, capital of the province of the same name in the kingdom of Dulsharna; population, about 25,000.

Its six spoke-streets are lined with fragrant-flowered trees and vines, jasmine and honeysuckle. The hub of these radial streets is a great plaza paved in blue brick, the Sea of Heaven. Overlooking it is the yellow marble Palace of the Governor and its drabber outbuildings. The First Company has its barracks on this plaza, and its duty is to remain there and protect the Governor; the Second Company defends the perimeter of the city (which is unwalled), sending out constant chariot patrols from its base in the west of the city.

Audiences with the Governor happen in a high-vaulted hall with the skull of the legendary undead dragon Dragotha installed above the throne. This is secretly a plaster replica; the real skull, together with other treasures of state, lies in a hidden vault beneath the Palace. The Governor, Washuru, is a subtle, slender man with a long white rope-like beard, who prefers to conduct one-to-one business in the well-stocked aviary of his gardens. Also of note is the might in wrestling and swordplay of his personal champion, Gir-Nakki the Leaden-Footed. Eventually the Wahatti adventurer Hak-Bina would swear herself into the Governor's service as well.

Shasari has the reputation of being a somewhat impractical city. While most foods and drinks are in good supply and variety, durable goods are of low quality and high price. Discerning citizens take their business to the nearby villages, of which Unnupa specializes in cloth, dyeing, and tailoring; Lilul in crafts of metal and stone; and Hasteriya in wood and leather, particularly chariots. The one exception is a street of workshops and storefronts in the northwest sixth, who compete to craft, buy, and sell gems, precious metals, and exquisite objects of adornment and art.

Above all, Shasari is a place of learning. Fully a fifth of its population is engaged in some way with the grand university of Dulsharna known as the Nekumanta, or the Unclothed Place (after the state in which the sage Shummitt, gave its first lessons; a custom thankfully not followed today). Its halls, residences, libraries, towers, and lesson gardens sit in the northern sixth, with preparatory schools clustering on the far side of the boundary spoke-roads. Wizardry and religion are just two faculties of the Nekumanta, and although there is no open bazaar of wonders, with a few discreet inquiries collectors and vendors of enchanted, sacred, and alchemical items will open their doors. Alas, the collapse of the Dulsha state means there is no longer demand for the education of civil servants from other parts of the realm. Many scholars of the Nekumanta have been forced to leave or to pursue less noble callings.

The southern sixth has always been known for entertainment, but has grown truly decadent in the past few years with the collapse of central authority in the Kingdom. It is packed with displaced persons, the rich spending down the assets of estates that no longer exist, the poor simply surviving or, more and more, left dead in an alley. One may walk into a covered amphitheatre or entertainer's tent and see a formerly distinguished scholar leering on stage, declaiming the violent, racy and slanderous parts of history; or a smear-eyed dancer slowly disrobing from the exquisite bridal trousseau that she never got to wear in earnest; or sample a mind-warping potion on the sly, brewed for a great price by a rogue alchemist. 

Vice operations are apportioned neatly between two gangs with a discreet, well-regulated rivalry. When Shasari urbanites speak of the "Winter Damp" or the "Summer Heat" they are not complaining about the weather, but using well-worn euphemisms for the gangs. The Damp are based in the southwest sixth and prefer to set up elaborate scams enlivened by mechanical and illusionistic expertise -- such as the false tomb for would-be robbers and adventurers they operate in the hills to the east. The Heat, in the southeast,  go for the direct approach. Their main strike force is a squad of high-level housebreaking extortioners known as the Chariot of Hell, with four "steeds" for muscle and three "riders" who shoot and blast anyone making an escape. 

 Each gang operates a cellar in the South Sixth for disposal of bodies and occasional raking up of personal effects, the Damp's cellar harboring a hungry amorph protoplasm, the Heat cultivating a swarm of rapacious carrion beetles and bone-dissolving slugs from parts unknown.

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