Sunday 18 June 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #169: The City of Giligillu

Thirteen hexes north, one northeast of Alakran.

Giligillu (population, 12,000) has seen better days in the centuries before Shasari city was built and religious power shifted to Aish Mashuila. Its walled temple district, the Ark Transcendent, lies half-empty, the old-style ziggurats grass-grown and goat-grazed, many of the proests' barracks turned into housing for shabby-genteel families and wayfaring pilgrims. The Ark's very wall is half torn down, its telltale bricks - glazed blue on one side, red, on the other, representing the union of heaven and earth - used in new building in the surrounding precincts.

Two great market squares flank the Ark, filled with tents and stalls. A third district of shops crowds around the Palace of the Painstaking Count, which used to house the Governor of Shasari many centuries ago but now houses his agent, the chief tax collector of the North. This figure has over generations become involved with the running of the sprawling city to the point of becoming a de facto mayor. The present collector, Ashmunikal "who Gladly Forgets to Count Himself", is a short and broad man with a taste for the copious antique jewelry that weighs down his frame. He will buy such items, not for cash, but in trade for a franchise to collect taxes (really, extortion) in a street or block of the city. The trend has spread to his sycophantic retinue of bureaucrats, and if the franchise is unappealing, these minions do not scruple to traffic in ready gold.

Giligillu also lies on a lake, the Great Shi-Ar (the Dulsha custom being to name lakes after their tributary river). Recent years have seen the receding of the lake's shoreline by a mile or more, due to the drought that has parched the river upstream The lake-bottom soil so exposed is rich, but foul, and has been left to refugees from other parts of Dulsharna to plant with melons, cucumbers, and other fast-growing crops. The community of fisher-folk has moved north to the new lake shore with its docks and boats, but has dwindled as the lake has. The surplus wood thus liberated has been used to build hamlets and hovels for the new arrivals, boat-hull roofs giving a bizarre aspect. The saying of the city's rival Izuz across the water, "Giligillu stinks", has never been so true, both from the exposed lakebed and from the fact that fish now takes longer to get to market.

Other notable points:

* The Weeping Tree, a great and sprawling gum-tree planted near the Palace whose resinous bark is so sticky that those who have broken no law, but personally displeased the chief tax collector, are sentenced to be stuck to the high branches -- for a day, three days, or until they rot. 

* "Sell all you have in Giligillu before you show your face in Aish Mashuila" is a formula of profound penitence, so at times a crowd will gather around such an auction of transportable goods on the part of a pilgrim. These are good opportunities to pick up items with an odd history or unknown function.

* The noble house of Takalmuhha, once rulers of the city, has morphed into a matrileal clan, a tangled family tree of she-cousins and aunts which each year parades its nubile daughters through the streets to public comment and comparison of their beauty, grace, and personality. Outsiders' judgments are valued, because they are seen to be free of the political bias that can "call an ass a gazelle." The point of this practice is to plant the daughters as concubines and eventually wives in the Palace of the Painstaking Count.

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