Zukal is what the other nations think of when someone says "Free Cities." Rowdy, crowded, and dangerous, Zukal stands beside the dark waters of the Urt River. The city is ruled by the powerful bandit princes who make their living--and much of the city's--by raiding the caravans and fleets of the merchant cities and trade routes to the north and south. (It is thought that the first Bandit Prince of Dark Arena fame was originally from Zukal, but he has never confirmed or denied the rumor.) Pirates, smugglers, robbers, and, for a wonder, quite a few honest merchants, crowd the black granite wharves of Zukal, buying, selling and stealing everything from fish to black hyacinth essence. The slave-market of Zukal is widely famed (or infamous).
Zukal is walled and well-defended, as some of the private guard companies owned by its lords amount to small armies. It carries on a running feud with the city of Riztab to the west and Arvat to the east. Riztab is in much the same line of caravan robbing, and the competition between the two cities is fierce. Arvat is a relatively small, peaceful town, which just happens to be sitting on the largest deposit of placer gold in Alastari. Zukal is one of the most powerful and rich of the truly independent Free Cities, and one of the oldest. It was certainly the first to have its own arena. There is a persistent rumor that it was founded as a penal colony of the Frafrejan Empire, in the days when Fratsfa ruled half of Alastari--a rumor that the present lords do all they can to squash. (They don't care about being descended from criminals--they just don't want anyone to think they're descended from FRATSFANS.) In point of fact, Zukal has a far older and more honorable heritage than Fratsfa could provide. The city was founded by refugees from the Van Kingdoms, the great realm which ruled all of northern Alastari before the Chaos Wars.
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