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Willaf--Arena 16





Ruled by Khaliv Jukhil l'Alkharn and Szefan, his Regent

A small city, Willaf was originally built by the Shewish Giants, six or seven hundred years ago. In 110 the Shews began their disastrous war with the Frafrejan Empire. Who struck the first blow, or why, are matters lost even to legend. Bards yet sing of the deeds done in that fell time, but of what prompted them...who now may tell? The Frafrejans, who had no navy to speak of, contracted with the Khaliv of Serevada, a nation to the east of Alastari, to supply them with ships. The Khaliv did so, but sent ships crewed mainly by pirates, criminals, political dissidents, and anyone else he wanted to get rid of. These were to become the infamous Serva Pirates. After the defeat of the Shews, the Frafrejan Emperor granted the Serva the old Shewish city of Assaul, which the Serva Lord renamed Vyheel-Af in their own Akhadic tongue (Willaf is the Frafrejan pronunciation), or City of Battle. From Willaf the Serva spread out to conquer most of northeastern Alastari (the Frafrejans were to bitterly regret bringing them there) and eventually moved their capital to the larger, better situated port of Zuwayza. The gradual sinking of Wright's Depression and its transformation into Aljafir Bay was a factor as well, for it seemed for a while that Willaf was going to sink right into the encroaching swamp. When the Karnhorn priests overthrew the decadent Serva government, some few of the Serva lords escaped to Willaf, Stormcrowe, and other nearby cities, surviving there a few years longer, before the Karnhorns took control of the rest of their empire.

 

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Willaf today is a quiet country town, fully Karnhorn in its appearance. The cyclopean masonry of the Shews who founded it is now visible only in the town walls, the large paving stones of the oldest streets, and in a few ancient keeps half lost in the forest. Most houses follow the Karnhorn pattern, being built around an enclosed courtyard-garden, for no good Karnhorn desires to expose the details of his family life to chance visitors. The population of Willaf today is perhaps fifteen thousand, certainly no more than twenty, and largely of the Karnhorn race.

It is the center of a busy farming area, having both the dry land which grows beans, vegetables, and grain well, and the wetland wherein the swamp rice is planted. It is famous also for its orchards of peaches and plums, and for the heavy sweet wines of Willaf that are sought by the wealthy and knowledgeable from all over northern Alastari.

Though removed by twenty miles from the coast of the Storm Sea, Willaf is the first town of consequence on the Northern Highway, a trade route known to the more leisurely and poetical as Pearl Road, so named for the pearls harvested from shellfish in distant Kurukar and shipped eastward by this road. The Pearl Road connects the Storm Sea with the Trier, and much trade is moved along its eighty-five miles. The Road of Swords (an old name deriving from the days when the Glorious Empire was young and expanding) connects Willaf with Jurine and Zuwayza.

Willaf Province, or the Khalivan of Willaf, is ruled by the Khaliv Jukhil l'Alkharn, a reasonably competent man, if somewhat aloof from his subjects. He has a son, Jukhraz, and a daughter, Jarzhil. His Vizier, who handles the more tedious aspects of provincial rule, is Szefan al Kurok. The day-to-day governance of the town itself is in the hands of the al'Ciq, Zarith al Bevalik, and his many scribes and secretaries. It may be that there is somewhat more violence than is strictly desirable in the rivalries between various noble Houses of the region, but there have been no public protests, the prices of the merchants are fair and their weights honest, the peasants and even the slaves are adequately fed and clothed, and the taxes are paid promptly and in full. What more can be asked?

There are four lesser towns of importance in the Khalivan of Willaf.

The easternmost is Ghanisteb, lying at the mouth of the Vyheel River where it enters the Storm Sea. Ghanisteb marks the northern end of the Coastal Highway and the eastern end of the Pearl Road and is the harbor of Willaf. Alas, it is not so great as it once was, for the harbor has been much reduced by silting, but some trade still comes here. Additionally, many fishing boats sail from this little port, and their finny harvest is sufficient to maintain a reasonable degree of prosperity in the town. Ghanisteb was Shewish originally, and much of the old stonework can be seen, although some newer buildings do show the facade of colorful tiles which one might expect of a Karnhorn settlement. Ghanisteb's two thousand people are governed, rather casually, by Emir Tahmbarzun, a man whose height and reddish brown hair suggests that some of his ancestors were Shewish. Tahmbarzun's income is derived from the duties charged on cargoes landed at Ghanisteb and a modest tax on the farmlands and ships of his subjects. From this he must pay the taxes due to his liege the Khaliv and maintain a watch along the shore for raiders from Ikhazdur and elsewhere; he is not a wealthy man.

Svajek lies to the west of Willaf at a distance of some eight or ten miles on the Pearl Road, marking the border between the Khalivan of Willaf and its neighbor Aljafir. It stands in the pass through the Mhanbard Hills, looking down on the marshes and guarding Willaf from whatever might emerge from that dismal terrain. As the name suggests (the suffix -jek indicates a fortified place), Svajek is a walled and strongly defended town, perhaps a little gloomy in appearance for some tastes. The population of Svajek is approximately four thousand. Besides the soldiers who stand ready to repel Karragit invaders--or more frequently to pursue small parties of raiding Karragit in the hope of recovering their loot, there are miners, the Mhanbards having workable deposits of copper. The emir of Svajek is Mirkhajal, a tight-lipped, secretive man of impeccable Karnhorn ancestry and considerable military talent.

Timalik lies eight miles north of Willaf, on the shore of the dangerous strait that separates the lands of the Glorious Empire from barbarian Ikhazdur and gives access between Stormcrowe Bay and the Storm Sea. There is some fishing done from here, but the currents in the strait are infamous for their treachery; the primary wealth of Timalik comes from the land. Between Timalik and the Mhanbard Hills lies some of the best farmland in the Khalivan of Willaf, growing barley and rye, beans and beets and cabbages and the oily-seeded safar. To the east of Timalik rise the low but rough Tyrabard Hills; when the mists lift, they may be seen to pasture innumerable goats and cattle. The cheeses of Timalik are well-known throughout the Glorious Empire and much sought after. The population of Timalik is between four and five thousand, Karnhorns and a surprising number of Harkenes. Emir Vhar Malik is the ruler here. He is more easy-going than most Karnhorn lordlings.

The final subordinate town is Tirishvan, ten miles to the south of Willaf on the Road of Swords and the Vyheel River. Tirishvan is the most prosperous of the secondary towns of the Khalivan of Willaf, and the most purely Karnhorn in appearance and character, even to the covered market with its ceaseless din of haggling voices. Tirishvan, like Timalik, is a farming community; though the land may not be quite so rich, it is good enough, and there's more of it. To the north, between Tirishvan and Willaf, are grown grains and vegetables, to the south, where the land falls and becomes more marshy, the swamp rice is tended by wading slaves, to the east, along the eaves of the forest, are the orchards, and westward lies the main body of the Mhanbards, over which flocks of sheep move like clouds. There are wineries here--the Tirishar is the best known, making excellent plum wines and brandies--and the woolen fabrics of Tirishvan are rightly famous. The town has a population of nearly seven thousand souls, Harkenes as well as Karnhorns, and even some Shews. Tirishvan is currently the fief of Emir Vastarlik al Zalisces, a troubled man; his ascendancy is being challenged by Emir Taval Jiriz al Gharv.









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Published on: 2002-07-15 (856 reads)

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