Monday, July 15, 2013

Q is for Qaserum

Located on the border between the Baix Pallars hill-country and the Sahir savanna, on the shores of the Nijat River, Qaserum is a far-flung outpost of the al-Qazmir nation, and the furthest (so far) that their control extends formally to the south and west.  Far from the population centers of the Golden Peninsula and beyond, until very recently, it was a rather sleepy outpost town, with a small fort and a military contingent made up of a handful of out-of-favor soldiers who were exiled to the butt-end of nowhere for falling out of favor elsewhere.  This started changing about thirty years ago when the fur trade starting passing through Qaserum from the green mountains and forested hills beyond.  But in the last five years, this change became rather dramatic when veins of gold and silver were located beyond Qaserum.  Suddenly growing to boom-town status, merchants, soldiers, and more from al-Qazmir have flooded the poor, dirt streets of Qaserum.  Quickly constructed buildings and crowds of both the unwashed and the professional now rub elbows throughout town, and the poor garrison has seen a dramatic increase in recruits stationed here (and the garrison commander is no-longer an out-of-favor cast-off, but a highly trained professional who commands the ear of the sultan of Masqutan, the nearest (although not near by any objective measure) major city, beyond Qila Safah Lake and the Chaman Hills.  Only the great difficulty (and distance) in crossing the Sahir savanna (and all of the intervening region in between) has kept Qaserum from becoming even more flooded with entrepreneurs and con artists looking to make a quick fortune in precious metals.

Qaserum is thus nicknamed the City of Sin in al-Qazmir gossip, due to its percieved lawlessness and strong element of get-rich quick rogues.  This perception, over the last year or so, has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The riches to be found beyond Qaserum have also turned the Caliphate's eye to the lands beyond, Baix Pallars which is nominally (although only on paper) part of the Terrasan Empire.  This has also sparked a period of intense diplomatic activity between agents of the Caliph and the Empire, although Terrasa's de facto abandonment of the province means that effectively they don't have much with which to stop Qasmiri expansion into the region.  Nationalist sentiment amongst the Pallarans runs high, and many are turning to very questionable tactics to protect themselves from the percieved threat (see the entry on Baix Pallars for more detail.)

Qaserum is located smack dab on the Nijat River--in fact, the bulk of the city is located on a series of islands connected by a bridge right in the middle of the river (although as the town expands, the north shore as "mainland" Qaserum is where most of the growth is.)  Here are a few areas of interest in Qaserum:
  • The Palace of Gilded Delights--a long-running bordello that has become a center of illicit activity in the last few years; even as its owner attempts to clean up its reputation somewhat and establish it as a "legitimate" cultural location, where opera, art, theater, and more can all be sampled.  There's as yet little to differentiate the actors from the harlots, but give it a few more years, and it may yet pull itself up from debauchery to respectability.  Arshyan Kara is the proprietor, a man who was exiled from the capital of al-Qazmir, wandered for a time in Sarabasca before getting himself in trouble, and settling in Qazerum, tyring to turn his luck around.
  • The Garrison, commanded by Nizam ibn Omar, a respectable noble sent specifically to curb the percieved excesses of the populace and protect the interest of the Caliphate in the region.  He is young and cunning; and he needs to be, because he's undermanned and faces substantial challenges.  The garrison is located on a separate island from the rest of the city, after a deep channel was dug to separate it, making it very defensible.  Nizam has been petitioning for more soldiers for months now, and while he occasionally gets reinforcements, he's still not anywhere near enough to pacify the Baix Pallars countryside, which would ensure that miners and furriers could trade their wares in peace.  As the situation with the native Pallarans deteriorates, ironically, he's finding it easier to gain important ears to his pleas, which is likely to accelerate the Qazmiri expansion into the area.
  • The Sacred Flame.  The reason that the Qasmiri established this village in the first place is that it has a vent to a volcanic magma chamber under the ground.  Heat, and shimmers of flame occasionally dance above this vent, and the superstitious Qazmiri believe that they can commune with the afrit through the fire.  This does mean, however, that the area is prone to occasional earthquakes, and may indeed be subject to a devastatin quake or eruption.  Since the arrival of boomtown status, this has been nothing more than occasional minor quakes which, at most, are an inconvenience, but many years ago, before it became a trading center for furriers, a major earthquake hit the area.  Fallen trees and still be seen outside of town, and a few old timers recall the complete destruction of almost all of the (admittedly few, at that time) buildings in town.  It's only a matter of time before it happens again.  And, of course, while it hasn't ever been directly confirmed by reputable sources, it may indeed be that afrits or other elemental creatures do indeed live in the magma chamber below town somewhere.
  • Qaserum is surprisingly caste-driven, as the wealthy new arrivals have little desire to mingle with frontier adventurers, slaves or laborers, and the military presence is also generally cut off from the rest of society by social barriers.  Because of this, a series of walls separated Qaserum into various small districts, including the Barracks, Hightown, the Slave Quarter, Tanner's Lane, and the Market (not meant to be a comprehensive list necessarily.)

1 comment:

Joshua Dyal said...

As an aside, I think I subconsciously was using some linguistics in deciding what kind of town Qaserum should be. For some reason, it being an outpost trading center really stuck in my mind. I looked up Kanesh, the Assyrian trading center where Hittites are first mentioned in the historical record, and I was reminded that the Assyrian trading centers were named karums. Karum Kanesh was the name of the actual trading center located near present day Kultepe.

Given the similarity of Qaserum (where I deliberately modified original k- to q- for stylistic reasons) to Karum Kanesh, subconsciously I decided that I needed to have Qaserum be a similar kind of place.

And then after I had made the decision--long after, as a matter of fact--I connected the dots consciously that I must have already connected subconsciously.