The Resplendent Empire contracted behind the Ochre River, as internal strife and external invasion gnawed at the borders. This saved the remnants of the state, but millions were left on the wrong side of the river, in depopulated towns and under the cruel warlords remaining.
So they fled.
City of Beggars
By a twist of luck, some refugees landed near a large cenote, in a site well positioned for exploiting windward trade. Their fortune was not obvious; the fields grow only millet and wheat, the hills turn out only iron and copper. Yet because of trade, the city sprawls outwards precariously and defiantly.
Men from all over the continent now haunt the great markets and caravansaries. Beggars still sit forlornly in the corners of dusty stone streets, and sleep in dusty tan arcades.
Fortune seekers from all parts flock to the city, of course. Few places are better for selling their ill-gotten gains, and the hills are dotted with ruins.
Most people here are from the Resplendent Empire’s lost or conquered peripheries, refugees direct or first and second generation descendants of such. Around here, the empire is referred to as the Homeland, and held in a vaguely nostalgic reverence. Not that anyone really wants to go back. Not with the way things are going.
When the fortune seekers arrive in town, they’ll probably stay in one of these. Stone floors are free of charge. Stealing isn’t much of a problem if you’re well armed. The owner of One Roof, the largest gallery in the city, also takes pains to keep the beggars well behaved.
Mind the beggar dukes. They run some of the smaller beggar-houses, and organize gangs. The lone grifter with a iron nail shiv is not particularly dangerous, but meeting a score of them in a gallery at night rarely ends well. Don’t annoy them, and don’t ruin any of their rackets.
Traders and their ilk are disdained in the cultures of the Resplendent Empire, an attitude the daughter city shares. For this reason, merchant guilds (with one exception) are not allowed to hold property within the city, and must instead organize themselves through the caravansaries and their powerful owners. Now, their function has extended to general meeting place for the public, especially the establishments catering to the lower classes. People wander on down to the hostels to drink, game, socialize, and cavort.
If beggar dukes are small time criminals, the managers and owners of the city’s hostels are the big time dons. They practically serve as nobility. In addition to being the real gear turners behind trade, they own the entire slave and prostitution trade. They’d own the mercenary barracks too, if the mayors would let them. Hostels are the center of life, and hold pubs, theaters, game rooms, baths, and brothels.
The largest caravansary is The Sunset Way, built over and around one the largest street in the city, Kneeling Street, which is more like a tunnel due to the complexes expanse. Kneeling Street leads to Kneeling Market, the largest market in the city. The main building and assorted attachments could host 2000 traders with all their attendant baggage and livestock. It is the largest building in the city.
The House of White and Turquoise is smaller, more opulent, and famed all around continent. In addition to having an exterior of gleaming white marble enameled with turquoise stones -all imported, of course-, lush gardens are nestled away in the complex. The attached brothel is also well renowned as the best in the city. Here the richest traders and adventurers can be found, sipping fine liquors, and playing chess with finer jade and onyx pieces.
Made in the spirit of Yoon-Suin tables. If you haven’t read Yoon-Suin yet, do so ASAP. Also made with Latex, as an experiment.
The Mayor and his cloud of ministers run all of this, nominally. The arm of their authority is the City Guard, and their leader is the Minister of Order. The Ministers of the Gates and the Bank control entrance into the city and finance within. There are others, but they aren’t as important, and tend to be in the pocket of one of the other ministers.
The crises that precipitated the Resplendent Empire’s century long contraction were many, but chief amongst them were the invasions and depredations of the Kuluk hordes. The hatred between the settlers of Mendicant and the shepherds of the steppe run strong and deep. Now, another horde seeks to drive the rotten city off the steppes, and plunder the wealth within. Forty foot tall walls keep them out, for now. If it ever comes to war, the city is doomed, that is sure.