Llaza is a great port city at the mouth of the Anhoi River. It was once the most important trading centre of the eastern Empire of Splendour but for nearly 150 years it has been independent, under the nominal control of the Merchants League and powerful Citizen's Associations.
Legends tell that the Nekuuese fishing town of Agallaza was built upon the body of the River Dragon, slain by an un-named hero. Discovery of iron ore in the nearby hills of Cosanq's Heart led to a rapid rise in the fortunes of the town, and the surrounding region eventually became Fnoi Province, the Nome of Silence in the Empire of Splendour. Somewhere along the way, Agallaza became shortened to Llaza but grew into a city.
Llaza has experienced prosperity for most of its life, thanks not only to the Fnoi iron but also to the fact that all goods from the Anhoi provinces, the Sea of Deep Wisdom and beyond pass through the hands of its merchant citizens. The worst set-back to befall the city, which led ultimately to its declaration of independence, was the Tlaxu Invasion during the reign of Emperor Bestowing Justice. Driven by Mopendine demagogues, the tribes of the plains tlaxu banded together and attacked Imperial lands in one vast horde. They managed a partial sack of Llaza, but luckily internecine strife caused the horde to fall apart before the city was taken entirely. The complete lack of assistance forthcoming from the Emperor was what turned the thoughts of Llazan citizens to independence.
Independence, when it came, was easy to achieve. Powerful trading families, who would eventually form the basis of the Merchants League, provided money for men and materiel but the process was, in the event, bloodless. The tiny Imperial garrison and beleagured Magisters joined the rebels (they too had suffered under the tlaxu seige after all) and Emperor Bestowing Justice, by now in his 24th regnal year and a louche young man, refused to give the matter of Llazan independence any thought, much to the chagrin of his generals and Grand Magisters. Llaza became the rallying point for other nations and city-states to break away from the Empire.
Layout of the City
Llaza is famous as a city where waterways are as common as streets. The old city, that which survived the tlaxu siege, can be found on two large rocky islands that stand out from the silty headwaters of the Anhoi. These are joined to each other and the mainland by stone bridges, the one connecting the islands simply known as The Bridge. East Isle is the more prosperous, home to the Viceroy's Palace, Merchants League Headquarters and Temple of Divine Diversity which cluster around The Plaza. Naval and commercial shipyards can be found on East Isle as well as the more prosperous businesses including Fermi's Emporium and Serene Lil's. West Isle is the poorer cousin, home not only to shipyards of the smaller companies but to a mass of slum housing and disreputable establishments like the Chrysanthemum Garden, Palace of Clouds, Muru Shan's House of Dark Delights and the Bloody Talon.
Along the shoreline is the new city, or Shambles as it is more commonly known. This name comes from the fact that livestock is not allowed across the bridges and so stockyards, livestock markets and slaughterhouses are common here. New housing has been built along the shoreline, but probably the most famous Llazan mainland locations are the impressive Racecourse, the centre of learning that is Arketes College and the military school of Colonel Kim's Academy.
Llazans do not restrict themselves to dry land. In between the mainland and the two main islands are hundreds of smaller islands, many of them man-made. It is upon these that the local rich live in impressive palazzi island palaces. Some are connected by the lacework of ornate bridges, others reachable only by boat. One of the most intriguing residences is the fortified compound of Gorshan Reniq Astavar, reclusive printing magnate responsible for the Green Dragon broadsheet, source of news for Llazans from all levels of society. Not all of the palazzi are houses. The magnificent buildings of the Narvinder Manrupashnar house an orphanage and soup kitchen run by the charitable nuns of Manrupashnar.
The most notorious region of Llaza is Thievestown. This is the term given to the ever-changing mass of small river craft that cluster around the harbours of Llaza in such numbers that they almost form a floating city themselves. Most are small sampans and houseboats but a few of the larger vessels have permanent places in Thievestown. These include The Catfish, a seedy gambling den and the Purple Pen, home to artists and poets. The Floating Market is a location and event as unpredictable in time as it is in place where the residents of Thievestown sell whatever they can to raise a few yen.
Llaza is a city where the very rich rub shoulders with the very poor (and lose their money strings if they do so literally), but it is a city with a strong sense of identity and a boisterous, exuberant nature that outsiders can find enticing or intimidating in equal measure. Llazans are seen as being extremely fond of money, an observation that certainly has some truth, but it can also be said that they like to get rid of it equally as much as acquire it. The rich like to decorate their palazzi, indulge in expensive parties, invest in risky trade ventures, donate great sums in conspicuous acts of largesse, pay for the latest fashions and magical enhancements and gamble on the races. The poor spend it on cheap drink, blood sports, mind-altering substances, the latest fashions, conspicuous acts of charity and gambling at the races.
The city is ruled by a Council of 21 citizens elected by fellow citizens. This council appoints a Viceroy from amongst its members to oversee it, and governs a system of Magisters Administory and Judiciary along Imperial lines. At least one third, and often one half, of the Council members are associated with the Merchants League. The rest are members of Citizen's Associations, such as the Honourable Company of Bird Fanciers. The Council runs the Watch, the Harbour Patrol, the Judiciary and excisemen, but the League also has internal enforcers and there is often a conflict of interest over jurisdiction.
Citizenship is open to all races and genders (see side-bar), and Llaza has a cosmopolitan melting-pot feel. Salsham'ai are common, especially in the region of Little Thalsa - a former parkland on the mainland. The aquatic ti-kop, also known as 'gloppies', are a common sight in Llaza, as are durdrn and even the occasional nai-nek-chai shapeshifter (who are more common further afield in Fnoi Province). Edraldi are less common, and tlaxu traders can be found in the harbours although the catfolk are still treated with suspicion. Many types of human are found here, including all racial types of the Empire, Obrenje, Vaartans, Moa-Ruaki and Atalans. Recent arrivals of great interest are dark-skinned traders from the newly discovered continent of Fallen Sun, and mysterious robed Ptorac folk from the outer islands.
Printed matter is common in Llaza, and Llazans love gossip. The most widely read broadsheet is the Green Dragon, published weekly by Gorshan Press, which is a semi-official publication detailing tides, ongoing legal matters, job advertisements, official announcements and the like. Its relative dryness is offset by other more salacious pamphlets like the libellous Pink Slipper, published anonymously by 'The Whisperer' or the rabble-rousing Red Banner Manifesto. This rise in printed matter has aroused the ire of traditional scribes, some of whom have formed the Nine Brushes Company to counteract the encroachment on their role.
Due to the wide range of cultures and religions found in Llaza, every day is somebody's holiday. As well as the days mandated by the Imperial calendar as special occasions, the Llazans celebrate two of their own. The Turn of Year Festival lasts two days over new year. New Year's Eve features the Council Parade, a grand service of All Faiths in the Temple of Divine Diversity and the Viceroy's Ball, as well as smaller celebrations. New Years Day is a day of recovery, and of getting together with family and friends. Freedom Day marks the independence of Llaza, and the League hosts a grand street party to celebrate.
(c) 2006 The Creative Conclave.