The Eighteen Blades of Vode Nulan
Name: The Pleasure City of Shelzar
Population: 100,000 (Human 76%, Halfling, lo%, Half-elf 7%, Elf 3%, Half-orc 3%, Dwarf 1%)
Government: From an elected council of officials, the minister is the council member who receives the most votes, which generally means whoever has the most money to buy the votes.
Ruler: His Most Gracious Host, Minister Fratreli
Language: Shelzari, Calastian
Currency: Platinum ayam-kebir (1 pp), gold kebir (5 gp), gold ordu (1 gp), gold argenti (5 sp),
silver sayar-argenti (1 sp), copper ouda (1 cp)
Resources: Figs, dates, oranges, coffee, cheese, goats, fish, silk, satin, cotton, linen, arrows
Locations of Note:
Old Marid Shrine
Temple of Enkili
Commerce has once more become the lifeblood of Ghelspad as merchants and traders seek their fortunes beyond their nation’s borders. Shelzar is perfectly situated to be the preeminent port trading city in southern Ghelspad. Most major merchant houses have either relocated their main operations here or set up a major trading office. Shelzar is the
predominant center for both business and pleasure in all the Scarred Lands.
A hedonistic and uninhibited people, the Shelzari are open, friendly and lascivious in the extreme. Trade is their lifeblood and Shelzaris are friendliest to those with a pouch full of coin. Given the often extreme heat, both nobility and commoners alike dress in variations of the traditional light and loosefitting garb, though where the peasantry craft theirs
from common cotton and linen fabric the nobles and merchants wear fine silks and satins. The people are dark-haired and dark-skinned with large, round eyes and fine, often beak-like, noses. Beards are the norm among Shelzari men.
Due to its nature as a trading crossroads and home to numerous refugees, Shelzar has become used to adopting the practices of other cultures. Despite this, most Shelzari believe their way of life is superior to all others, and traditional culture doggedly continues
to be practiced.
The most popular game among the citizens of Shelzar is hago, a deceptively simple board game involving shifting stones around a 20×20 board to conquer territory. It is said to take only moments to learn but a lifetime to master.
As might be expected, the Shelzari are very open and unashamed about sex, and it is not at all uncommon to find people coupling in places as public as taverns, parks or even the central marketplace.
Shelzari exhibitionism reaches its height on the Night of Masks, a festival borrowed from the dour necromancers’ city of Hollowfaust. During this festival, citizens hide their identity behind elaborate masks and the city goes wild. Food, liquor and drugs are consumed openly and in abundance, and wild public fornication with numerous anonymous strangers is the rule of the day.
The Shelzari prefer stringed instruments and boisterous, raucous music. The rich prefer opera and theatre and the more cultured entertainments of other lands. The commoners like traditional plays, farces and histories, the bloodier and more over played the better.
The Shelzari enjoy spicy food to a degree rivaled only by the people of Zathiske. As such, Shelzar is a major destination for exotic spice shipments. There is a growing trend towards food from other lands, particularly in dockside cafes and upper-class restaurants.
The most famous Shelzari dish is marinated goat or lamb skewers. Called zatai, it can be bought from any of a thousand vendors in the streets of the Shelzar for a ouda per skewer. It is normally served with kamadhis, a mixture of wheat grains and rice.
There is very little in the way of overland travel from Shelzar as the Sweltering Plains restrict access to the rest of Ghelspad. The caravan route to Zathiske is an exception, but even this road is not heavily traveled: most traffic between the two realms is by ship.
Local trade and fishing is conducted using the ubiquitous Shelzari dhow, a small but versatile coastal ship. The majority of travel within the city itself is conducted by foot or sedan chair as the streets are generally too crowded and narrow to use carts, save
for transportation of good and cargo. Sedan chairs can carry up to two humans and may be hired for three ouda per quarter-mile (minimum five ouda).
Literacy is common among the rich and noble but rare among the lower classes. Virtually all educated Shelzari can read, write and speak several tongues including Zathiskan, Ledean and Ancient Elzan.
Shelzar is the best surviving example of the Elzan style of architecture. Palaces of dwarven-quarried stone and fine colored marble, gilt domes and elegant spires make Shelzar one of the most beautiful cities of Ghelspad.
What surprises outsiders most is that marriage is taken very seriously among the Shelzari. Both men and women may charge for divorce on the grounds of infidelity, though as with most things this varies to a great degree. Among the wealthy it is common for both men and women to openly take lovers of both genders, but divorce laws are only enforced if one of the partners grows dissatisfied.
Cremation is the norm in Shelzar. When possible, foreigners’ remains are returned to their home nations or – barring that – are buried at sea.
Halflings are the most populous non-human race in Shelzar. Many halflings in the city make their living as shopkeepers and servants. The majority of Shelzari dwarves are descended from dwarves who were brought to the city as slaves. Slavery was officially banned in Shelzar many centuries ago and they have since worked as free Shelzari citizens. Most
Shelzari dwarves wear ornamental iron collars and/or bracers as a reminder of their slave ancestry.
Crime and Punishment
Though it is a wild and, in the opinion of many, lawless place, Shelzar has a well established system of justice. City magistrates, appointed by the Host, see to the investigation and punishment of crimes. If a city guard witnesses a crime, there is no investigation and judgment is passed summarily by the magistrates. However, if the guilt of the individual is in question – or if he is wealthy enough – the magistrates launch an investigation into the crime. Outside investigators are often used to collect evidence and witness statements, all of which is returned to the magistrates within a pre-determined period of time.
Evidence is then assessed and judgment is passed. It is an unfortunate reality that the rich rarely pay for anything but the most serious of crimes where their guilt is indisputable.
In all cases where criminals are put to death, their souls are dedicated to Enkili. Any attempts to raise or resurrect the criminal are entirely dependent on Enkili’s will to release their soul.
Theft: Remuneration or prison term, and loss of a hand.
Rape: Castration. Despite the fact that the people of Shelzar are so open sexually – or perhaps because of it – rape is considered a serious crime and is dealt with most severely. Just as a thief loses a hand to prevent further transgressions, so too does the rapist lose the offending appendage.
Blasphemy: Public flogging. The number of lashes is based on the degree of blasphemy, ten being most common, though the number can go as high as 100 lashes for denying Enkili’s existence. The crime of blasphemy is a serious one, surprisingly not concerned
only with Enkili. Blasphemy is the crime of openly slandering any of the gods. Simply worshipping one over another, or even espousing one’s own deities as superior is not considered blasphemy, but actively disparaging a god or her worship is. Though serious, this crime is rarely enforced save on holy days.
Trespass: One to six months in prison. Assault: Variable (one week per hp of damage
dealt divided by character level). Crimes such as assault or even murder can be mitigated if the accused can prove that her actions were in self defense, which includes defense of her person, immediate family, home or assets.
Casting Harmful Magics: Variable (one month per individual hp of damage dealt).
Casting Mind-Affecting Magics: One to five years in prison, depending on the severity.
Raising or Commanding Undead: Death by quartering, and the pieces burnt.
Arson: Death by burning.
Murder: Death by beheading.
Treason: Death by quartering.
Enkili reigns supreme in the city of pleasure. The god’s chaotic, near-mad nature dictates that the worship of other gods is not only allowed, but encouraged, though most Shelzari hold the Jester in the greatest esteem. Other popular gods of the city include Manawe the Sea Queen, Idra, Madriel and Chardun, whose worship was exported here by the Calastians, hoping to gain a toehold in the prosperous metropolis.