Monday, July 4, 2016

Ruqis, the Queen of Cities

Population: 500,000
Rulership: The Merchantine, Zyreus
Defenses: The Rûmilotic Discipline, the Merchantine Fleet, the Ruqeen Kraima

The city of Ruqis stands upon the volcanic island of Asharn. It is called the Queen of Cities by many of its inhabitants, and by many of the other Ambermen. It was the seat of the Amber Emperor, and of the now-lost Discipline of the Thraki. It is the home of the largest Rûmilotic population in the south. Trade with Wahar, Remmar, Joven-of-Poisons, Urush, and Layr. It is the place where the Sword Road and the Spice Road begin. It boasts a huge deepwater harbor, a hinterland of jungles and farms, and a massive slave population.

Ruqis is ruled by a figure known as the Merchantine. When the Merchantine dies, each merchant-lord of the city vies for the seat. The Merchantines are guarded by an elite unit of men descended from the old Amber Empire: the Kraima—swordsmen whose battle-right is a dance of murder. Ruqis, it is said, has a thousand temples. Its main faith is the Cult of Ogo and Lagal, the twin gods of the jungle of Joven-of-Poisons, due to the great influence the Jovenati have in Ruqis.

It is a dark city, with a frowning palace that oversees the harbor. It is a city of secrets, and merchants, and swords. Armies muster on Asharn to fight for Ruqis, or for the other cities. It is the home of a thousand faiths, and a thousand slaves. Its harbor is protected by ancient sorceries. The Amberlands are also home to a number of sorcerers without Disciplines—the Mad, also called the Nagass.

The Merchantine appoints all officials within the city to his own whim. However, it is custom that these positions are purchased of the Merchantine. Those who offer the highest price in Amber and silver, and mayhaps gold, are generally thought to deserve the positions. There are fifteen great merchant-houses in Ruqis, each one a dynasty. Some go back several generations, some were made in this one.

Ruqis controls a number of amber mines on Asharn. Most of the holdings outside the city are not owned by any particular family, but are rather held in common for the good of the entire city. Each of the fifteen gates is "owned" by one of the mercantile dynasties. Any goods coming through that gate are taxed by that dynasty. The profits of the goods when they are sold in the market or abroad return to fund the Merchantine's coffers. This pays for the defense of the city.

Each of the fifteen families maintains a large garrison of men in the city, in their compounds and towers. These men serve as watchmen and guards for the gates of that dynasty as well as that quarter of Ruqis. The Kraima do the same around the Merchantine Palace. Each dynasty also maintains a quarter market, though at the pleasure of the Merchantine and the appointed Market Magistrate, who collects all taxes and ensures law in the marketplace.

The Public Quarter
The Public Quarter is the largest district of the city and is under direct control of the Merchantine and his Kraima. It contains the Public Market, and also encompasses nearly the entire dockfront. The Public Quarter is well appointed with fountains, springs, and streams for water. Foreign residents of Ruqis generally keep to the Public Quarter unless they have business with one of the Dynasties.

The Merchantine Palace also occupies this quarter, atop the Mount of Sorrow, so-called for the executions that once took place on its peak. Its vast corridors and chambers were originally laid down by the old Asharn Amber Emperors.

Coin in Ruqis, Queen of Cities
The Ruqeen trade not with silver or gold, but with coins of iron set with semi-precious gemstones. These coins are minted by the Merchantine, and no other city in the Burning Sea has its like.

The Fifteen Dynasties
The Aqa are one of the oldest Dynasties. Zyreus Aqa is the Merchantine, and his family stretches back into the distant haze of imperial Asharn. It is said that the Aqa were once slavemasters for the Emperor, or else they were palace scribes. Either way, they now dominate the trade of leather, particularly vellum and parchment. Their workshops produce the finest inks, which are traded all the way to Spyra and Yewland. Aqise inks are favored by sorcerers.

The Morev are Manachite, and as such at odds with the Rûmiloi in the city. The Morevan district is also known as the wolfshome in the city; it boasts the most whorehouses, as well as houses of credit where loans can be procured.

The Thoris quarter houses the northmen descended from Thoris the Wanderer. They began their rule two generations ago as sellswords. Now, they own the best armories and foundries in the city.

Tren amber, ivory, and bone workers, as well as leather embossers, are perhaps the greatest in the Amber Cities. Trennish inlay is sought by kings and queens the world over. Their quarter is one of the quietest and most peaceful in the city. Known as the Garden Quarter, one should still make efforts not to be caught there after nightfall.

It is said that the Maz come from Ancient Phaeria. They import silks from Wahar and poisons from Joven. The Maz also deal with the Atriani, and it is said that a man might make a compact with those far-reaching Disciples through Maz contacts.

Though Asharn produces no gold or silver of its own, the Yoq'a craftsmen inlay, shape, and emboss; they create jeweled bracers, weapons, and wire. They polish stones and cut them into lozenges. They carve gemstones, and the Yoq'a are called the Jeweled House.

The Mere are fishmongers. They supply the city with food, and sell fish to many of the other Amber Cities and those along the coast. Their fleets are vast, and their captains are brutally loyal.

The Wesh't Dynasty has made its fortune on conflict. They make and sell swords and swordsmen. Wesh'tun mercenaries fight in every Amber City, for every side. They venerate the old Spyric god Morva, and believe that to be under Contract is a sacred oath. Wesh'tun companies will serve their employers until either the blood or the silver runs out.

Strength and labor. That is the motto of the Gorra Dynasty. They bred and sell laborers, and all drayers, movers, and longshoremen in the city (or at least the great majority) work under Gorra contract. The Merchantine pays Gorra men to keep the docks clear and Gorra men to sweep the streets.

The Laudites have ships and sailors. They transport goods for a price, but they also serve as a navy-for-hire amongst the other Amber Cities. Unlike the Wesh'tun, they do not contract to more than one city, and they will not fight against Ruqis.

Weymar knights founded the Arimore Dynasty, after they became lost in the Burning Sea on a trading expedition. The Arimore hold great slave holdings on the mainland. There, they farm and fight, and bring the food to Ruqis for a price. Their Grainmarket is one of the busiest in the city.

The Yunisi are priests and holymen of a thousand faiths. The Dynasty puts no stock in any one god, preferring to staff many of the temples in the city. They take offerings from all comers, and almost every temple in Ruqis has at least one Yunis priest within it.

Someone must deal with the dead. Gorra touch refuse, but handling the dead is altogether different. Corpses are believed to carry a pollution with them. The Zaremb Dynasty tends the Necropolis Isle and transports the dead out of the city. Their long black ships are also used to smuggle in anything that other Dynasties don't want to pay Merchantine tariffs on.

A Khorassin family from the Dominion, the Medj Dynasty trades in skilled architecture and stonework. Many Amber Cities hire Medjeen master masons to design their latest follies and fortresses. As such, Medjeen master masons are also in great demand to give up the secrets of other cities' workings.

The Khas are the newest of the Dynasties. They make their trade in gemstones from abroad. They have secret ports in the south where they receive their shipments, and then they sell them for cheaper than any other Dynasty can afford at the Night Market of Jewels in the Khas District.

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