Matlisan, (the Ruby City, Jewel of the East, and The Crimson City, or The Redbay) is the capital of the eponymous state and a great center of trade, arts, music and learning. It's position as one of the Three Jewels of Maraseri makes it part of a powerful economic alliance as well, closely allied with the High Path, as Deici is its heart on Aralath.
The city lies on the northwestern shores of the land that also bears its name. As an old and wealthy city, Matlisan is famed for the beautiful architecture of its Old Quarter, as well as the skill of the city's artisans and shipwrights.
The city itself lies in the lush and verdant Ederin Valley, through which flows the river of the same name. The city is surrounded with fertile farms and orchards.
Matlisan sees a great deal of trade from across Torthalon and Arenar. It lies at the western end of the Golden Road, and is centrally located for trade missions within Maraseri, or from further overseas. Gold, spices, rare woods and gems, silks, exotic fabrics, tapestries and other goods from around the world can be found in its markets.
The prosperity of the city, and its appearance, are of great importance to the Council that governs the city and state. To that end, the city streets are kept clean and swept; a sewer system is in place; numerous small pasrks and gardens are scattered throughout the city.
Matlisan is an ancient city, founded as a small town over two thousand years ago during the height of the Alindorean Empire's power. Lying at the western end of the Golden Road and possessed of a wide, deep harbour and abundant timber for ship construction, Matlisan began as a trading town and soon developed a reputation for the quality of its ships. By the fall of Alindor the small town was becoming quite prosperous in its own right.
In 107 AS, a little over a century after Alindor's collapse, strife throughout the region made the Golden Road a difficult path to travel. With more merchants choosing to hire ships rather than risk the overland routes Matlisan's booming shipbuilding industry increased ten-fold. The additional revenue was enhanced by clever Matlisani entrepeneurs, who sold ships at a reduced price in exchange for a share in the buyer's mercantile profits. By 700 AS Matlisan had blossomed into a large town and bustling center of trade. By this time the Golden Road was again safer to travel, but well-established shipping lanes combined with Matlisan's position at the western end of the road served to funnel more money and power into the town. Continued involvement in trade, shipbuilding, and taxation on these and other industries began to make the ruler of Matlisan--an hereditary king descended from the original Alindorean governor, extremely rich. The influence of the town began to spread out beyond the borders of its immediate surroundings, carving out a kingdom. With wider stability brought to the region the town began to grow into a small city as people from around the wider area moved closer to the protective walls.
By 950 AS Matlisan was a vibrant city, and part of a wider kingdom known as Rhayam. Coverning the entire peninsula, Rhayam endured for several centuries until, in 1278 AS, the last king of the unified kingdom passed away. His twin sons fell to infighting over control and dominance in the region, sparking the Brothers' War, which ultimately ended in the division of the peninsula into two kingdoms--Matlisan and Shimarain.
Kingship was not to last in Matlisan. In 1353 AS the powerful and influential merchant families of the city joined forces and raised an army to depose the king. With a combined wealth well in excess of the king, the rebellion was successful and ended with the imprisonment of the now deposed monarch, who lived out the remainder of his days in prison. Leadership passed to a Council (see 'Politics' below) and has remained there ever since.
(to be continued)
Matlisan is divided generally into four quarters, two on each side of the Arden River. Most splendrous of all in the so-called Old Quarter (not actually the oldest part of the city), which forms the northeast portion of the city. Much of the distinctive and celebrated architecture of Matlisan is found in the Old Quarter; many buildings are built from the white stone and sun-baked, blood red tiles of the Arden mud, Rising from a great stone plaza in the center of the quarter is Councillors' Hall, the seat of government for Matlisan and the lands beyond it. Eight paved avenues radiate outwards from this central point, joining a circular road surrounding the area. The intervening spaces are filled with parks, gardens, fountains and statues crafted by some of the talented sculptors that call the city home. Not far from the Hall are found lush estates where the wealthy and influential reside--seven of the ten Councillors make their homes in this quarter. The Old Quarter is also home to embassies, places of learning, and temples. In the eastern part of the quarter lies Lusia, a castle surrounded by the city walls. Much the city's defenses and military might are overseen from Lusia, which is also the home of Arias Demeidi, Councillor and commander of the armies.
South of the Old Quarter lies the Craft District, so named for the large number of tradesmen, artisans, artists and so forth that fill the area. The middle class of the city--made up largely of moderately successful merchants, skilled artisans and shipwrights--make their homes here, many living in apartments ajoining others, or above their own shops. Mariners' Square serves as a defacto entertainment center, where bards, jugglers, fortunetellers and similar types gather amid the tents and stalls of vendors. The southern part of the Craft District includes Karasi Island, lying just off the shore, and the point of entry for many goods entering the city via the sea. The Craft District is also home to many sages, scholars and learned men.
Across the Arden from the Old Quarter, in the northwest of the city, lies the Temple Quarter, named chiefly for the Temple of Ramaanath found in its southern section. While other temples and shrines dot the area the Temple of Ramaanath dominates it, casting a long shadow from high atop a single hill. The North Market is also located in this quarter and it is here that many of the merchants and traders returning from the Golden Road display their silks, spices and exotic animals. The Merchants' Way is also located here; it is a long paved avenue lined with trees and hedges ending at the doors of the Merchants' Guild, an organization made up of the various traders of the city not affiliated with one of the Houses.
The final section of the city is Stoneport, located along the shore in the southwestern part of Matlisan. Stoneport is one of the poorer neighbourhoods in the city, home to labourers, sailors, dockworkers and menials. The southern part of Stoneport is home to Saffani Keep, located just offshore on an island. This large estate is the traditional home of the Saffani family, which made its name generations ago as shipwrights of surpassing excellence. Despite its status as poorest of the quarters, Stoneport is still much better off than is normal. Its streets are not paved but they are clean; small parks dot the area, and apothecaries dispense cures and treatments at the city's expense.
Beyond the walls life is harsher. West of the city lies the shabby town of Famanti. Being outside the walls of the city Famanti's inhabitants don't benefit from the same services the rest of the city does. Crime is far more evident here, and patrols far fewer. Many of the inhabitants are destitute, or awaiting approval of their citizenship so they can take up residence within the walls of the city. On the eastern side of the city is the small town of Dolorosara, home to many of the mercenaries in the city's employ. Despite the presence of the soldiers crime is rampant here as well, but of the sort that caters to the needs of military men on leave.
Matlisan is governed by the Ruling Council, which consists of the ten heads of the Noble Families. These men and women represent the true power of the city, and among them distribute the vast wealth that business and taxation brings them. In 1353 AS the last King of Matlisan was deposed in a rebellion led by each of the Houses. The heads of each house elected to form a governing council to rule the city, dividing the portfolios of government among them. Now, just over five hundred years later, the city is still governed by the descendants of the original houses, with a few exceptions. For example, the House of Kuran inherited leadership from the House of Lisan when the last ruler of that family left his estate to his adopted heir, Koryn Kuran.
The ten houses ruling the city (as well as the surrounding kingdom), and their current portfolios, are:
+House Farand, which governs trade within the city
+House Hadiban, which controls the agriculture of the surrounding lands
+House Demeido, which commands the city's military forces
+House Saffan, which controls the shipbuilding industry and navy
+House Shasaram, which handles foreign relations
+House Kuran, which holds the treasury
+House Kavashar, which governs justice and the courts
+House Qodiman, whose province is Public Works,
+House Cureid, which governs religions and temples in the city, and
+House Sabeen, which governs culture and the arts.
Each ten years the councillors elect a chairman, known as the Councillor Prime, from among their number who provides the overall leadership and direction of the city's government and policies. The current chair of the Council is Marik Temsa Farandi, who has served in this capacity for the last 5 years (elected 1870 AS). He seems most closely allied with Lilyan Kuran, currently the head of her own House.