A Trim Reckoning: Darkness at River's End
Ākhir An-Nahr is a thriving oasis settlement, blooming in the midst of the otherwise treacherous Bahir Wastes. Perched atop the great rock spire Eridan and built on top of the lake caused by its underground wellsprings, the shining towers of Ākhir An-Nahr are a beacon, drawing trading caravans and travelers to the safety of its walls; its central spire a lighthouse in the seas of sand and dust and death.
Locals in flowing robes mix with outlanders in garish coloured garb in the marketplaces and squares beneath the harsh sun. Exotic dancers wearing little but veils sway to the trilling of flutes, priests pass blessing and curse as their gods decree. Merchants haggle in the banks and stores, sages give dissertations beneath shining domes and children run and play in the dusty streets. The lowest cast, bound to silence, till the waters within the basin itself, the lifeblood of a parched desert, while priests and lords reside in the sky within the great Maisan tower itself, bathed in its ever-present nimbus of light.
Glowing golden domes and slender minarets reach skyward in the Tower’s protective shade, and the great Ta’ir bridge serves to both connect the city to the surrounding desert and to keep the Bahir dunes at bay, for in the desert lie great riches say foolish men, while the old and wise say that way lies only death. All citizens whisper in hushed tones that, come nightfall, that way lies only madness and despair. The shadows of the Bahir Wastes are alive, and hungry; like sand on the wind they cover the desert in the night and none venture beyond the city’s safety. The air around the city is always perfectly still and the domes always glowing bright; powerful magics protect Ākhir An-Nahr, for should wind and shadow ever walk its streets then all shall plunge into the abyss and the Bahir will claim more souls for its chorus. For generations, the citizens of Ākhir An-Nahr have lived bathed in constant light, by day that of the sun and by night that of the domes and spires, wall globes and torches, which keep death at bay.
In the midst of madness, Ākhir An-Nahr alone has flourished and is now the only port of call in the Bahir, connecting the trade routes of the great nations to the north and south and bartering its own treasures; hard-wrested from the terrible desert sands. Although flourishing in prosperity, the strict structure of castes, binding for three generations, causes quarrel, as quarrel causes blood. Most of the citizenry live in the middle levels and fear being downcast among the Silenced, where the glowing waters will not let them sleep nor speak. A worse fate is only that of those sent to the Izar, the city’s guardians who patrol its walls and its bridge – even to the ends of the bridge, and even at night. Terror and death are an Izar’s courtship, goes the saying. Many, to escape either fate, flee to the lawless quarters; between, around, and within the prosperous sun-beaten streets and, some say, the walls of the great tower itself, run passages and warrens where lawless fiefdoms rise and fall day to day and hour to hour, where a hidden blade and an open hand sup under the same roof.
Welcome to the land of the harsh sun and the terrible night, of exotic, sultry beauty and twinkling, coveted wealth. A land where gold flows and sand drowns and blood does both, of flute and song and silent waters. Here the intrigue of lords and rogues dances through the streets in so many veils, whilst above the glowing domes and towers suffuse the city in an eternal dawn, holding back the night.
Here your destiny shall be broken and forged anew… or perhaps only broken.
Welcome to Ākhir An-Nahr.