Where the rivers Duna and Yug meet and merge their waters to form the Turga, there, astride this marriage of waters, the city of Thul Ka sprawls like a fat, jovial colossus. The trade of three great rivers finds its end or its beginning , it depends upon which merchant you ask, in this vast and labyrinthine city, the greatest city in Mugroba, the communal drain of its commerce. If there are spices to be bought or rugs to be sold, if coffee futures are to be traded or melons to be had, then it will happen in the thousand bazaars and markets of this place. In dusty back ally and in many-pillared caravansarai, in hovel and palace, in open market and private chambers, in the cool of the evening, in the hellish glare of mid-day, or the dark of the most moonless of nights the people of Thul Ka will trade. Trade made their city and trade sustains it. Trade is its past and its future.
Trade built Thul Ka into the greatest city in Mugroba from little more than a scattering of villages in the dimly remembered ages before the time of the Book and the rise of the galdori. Merchants in their barges and those coming overland from desert or from scrub stopped at the confluence of the three rivers. There they traded their wares in impromptu markets which, over time, steadily grew more permanent. Houses and inns were built and in the rich alluvial soil farms sprang up. There was little planning in those early days of Thul Ka and streets and buildings went up according to no knowable design. The city grew with the wild exuberance of a a climbing weed, throwing out tendrils of streets to ensnare new lands, swallowing villages and farms as it expanded.
It was to this exuberant city that the galdori came with their magic, their strange gods, and their desire for order. They took command of the city and, in what must have seemed to the older inhabitants to be fits of madness, tried to impose order upon the city. The great circular walls which tower high above the central part of the city are the most visible reminder of this mad need for structure. Once, long ago, the great Wall of the Sheltering Winds -- the highest and most monumental wall in all the city, standing as much as two hundred feet high -- did indeed contain every road and building, but the natural growth of Thul Ka has now spilled well beyond their confines. New walls were built and the city grew beyond them as well. Time and again this has happened for the city attracts people like a magnet and though new walls are even now being constructed, no one believes for a moment that these will be last to be erected.
So the city grows along its wide and sluggish rivers. It is a living thing, an composit organism like a hive of bees or a colony of termites and like those great insect hives, Thul Ka is forever industrious.
The City Today
Thul Ka is by far the largest city in Mugroba. Its permanent population is somewhere around four million people but at certain times of the year, mostly in what passes for the spring and autumn, the city can swell in size till over half the population of Mugroba might be found within the city. At those times the great seasonal markets flourish and traders from all across Mugroba flock to the city to do business, swap news and arrange marriages for their children. As the center of commerce and finance in Mugroba, Thul Ka is a major player in the spice trade between the Muluku Islands and Old Rose Harbor.
Governance and Law
A city so large and sprawling cannot easily be governed as a single unit by any simple arrangement of council or mayor. Indeed, the city itself would resist this, not intentionally perhaps, but the very nature of Thul Ka stands in the way. The city is an aggregate of once independent towns, of semi-autonomous neighborhoods, and historically distinct districts, each with its own character and traditions. These are largely left to see to their own affairs, gather their own taxes, provide their own police force, and so on. Larger concerns are, theoretically, dealt with by the Civic Assembly.
The Assembly, known better as the Argument on account of its general inability to agree on almost anything, is composed of representatives of each autonomous neighborhood combined with a number of civic officials, representatives of the major guilds and trading concerns of the city, and is presided over by and is nominally answerable to, the mayor. The present mayor, Bulu Erlu Bandu, has held the office since the last days of the Pirate Wars, as is widely credited with not making that horrible situation any worse. For this feat of surprising competence and masterly inactivity, Bulu Erlu Bandu is tolerated with comparatively little contempt and has been re-elected into his office with seemingly little to no opposition despite the best efforts of the other competing political parties session after session. There are those that question his competence, claiming he is not so much a restrained and thoughtful mayor, but a lazy and dull-witted man content to enjoy the fruits of high office with minimal effort (but nobody questions the depths of his pockets). This view is rigorously denied by the mayor and his aides, but remains popular in many parts of the city.
Law and Justice
There is no single police force in Thul Ka, no Mugrobi equivalent of The Seventen, but that does not make the city a lawless place or a city where justice has no teeth. Neighborhoods may police themselves as they wish and do field small forces of watchmen or guards according to their own desires and funds.
Of late, however, there has been something of a shift in this age-old system. Mercenary companies of professional watchmen and guards, many veterans of the Pirate Wars, have sprung up and hire themselves out to both local neighborhood governments and to the civic authorities at large. Of these companies, the Golden Band, the Ten Guns, and the Brotherhood of the Letter are the most prominent and noteworthy. Their character and methods differ which often leads to conflicts between them, but they are what passes for the city wide police in the city.
Originally, most of these companies were privateering outfits, given letters of marque and reprisal by the Mugrobi government and sent to hunt pirates. When the wars ended, many of them sought alternate means of employment and petitioned for letters of marque and reprisal against the criminals of Thul Ka.
There is one other group concerned with the keeping of order in Thul Ka of whom it would be a grave disservice to overlook. In 2706, at height of the Pirate Wars and amidst another war with the ever-present air-pirates, the Mugrobi invited the Anaxi army into their country to assist in maintaining order and ending the conflict. In this they proved moderately effective but though the crisis has long been over, the soldiers remain. Why the Anaxi, who have enough troubles of their own, continue to garrison troops in Thul Ka, and what exactly their mission now is, remains a perpetual mystery, especially to the soldiers themselves. Some believe that they have been forgotten, others that the Anaxi government did the calculations and discovered it was cheaper and more economical to not withdraw the troops, still others that nefarious and dangerous work lies ahead. Whatever the reason for this persistence, the soldiers of the Anaxi Expeditionary Force have little enough to do but occupy the fortress known as the Gatehouse, perform meaningless drills, and waste away in the heat. Many soldiers have taken to hiring themselves out as bodyguards and enforcers to various civic and not so civic officials.
So much for the apprehension of known criminals, the keeping of the peace, and the making clear the streets of diverse stray livestock, abandoned carts, and gangs of every degree of intoxication. When criminal matters are unclear, when a murder happens unseen, when a thief in the night makes away with a merchant’s wares, or other hidden crimes occur, the mercenary companies are of little use. They do not have the necessary authority to undertake prolonged investigations nor the training. For matters of this kind the power of investigation falls upon the shoulders of the city’s Prefects.
The Prefects of Thul Ka are a strange lot, half detective, half prosecuting attorney. Attached to the various courts of the city and answerable to the magistrates, the Prefects are called in when legal, criminal, or civil matters are in such a state of confusion or doubt that the need of a professional unraveller is required. They gather evidence, make inquires, and build cases to present either at trial or to various magisterial panels.
There are other, not-so-savory organizations in Thul Ka as well; it is also the home of the Ehafsú, a notorious (secretive) Mugrobi order of assassins.
The Neighborhoods of Thul Ka
The following is a list and brief description of some of the more notable neighborhoods of the Thul Ka.
- The Court of the Palace of the Divine Fish (Ashu'tei Palace): Usually known simply as ‘The Palace’ this is the home of the Imperial Palace and various official and important buildings.
- Aratra: Home to the Chamber of the Assembly, the city’s courts, Penlu Market, a number of interesting shops, and small but elegant residences. Rarely is Aratra deserted and the Penlu Market is one of the few places that one may buy and sell at all hours of the day or night.
- Deja Point: Formerly home to the Dejai Temple and now the site of Thul Amat University, Deja Point is home to not only the University, but to the city’s largest library, several museums of various kinds, and an unreasonably large number of coffee houses.
- Hluun: A pleasant neighborhood of small dwellings, boarding houses, unfortunately plagued by students and scholars.
- Cinnamon Hill: An area of wealthy townhouses, city estates, and home to many of Thul Ka’s elite. The shops and markets here present for sale many rare and costly goods. Spices and fragrances, silks and satins, fine shoes and elegant clothes can all be had here, for a substantial price.
- The Turtle: Once, the imbali of Thul Ka were forced to spend their lived within the walls of this island enclave. It was at one their prison and their protection and it was here that much their distinct culture was born. Though they are no longer forced into either exile or segregation, the Turtle is still the home of Thul Ka’s traditional imbali. Here can be fond the Liars Market, the Way of the Books Sellers, and, if one has the right connections, various underworld contacts.
- Nutmeg Hill: Home to many of the city’s moderately well off merchants and tradesmen. One will find many a fine store and workshop here as well as several busy markets selling all manner of wares. The population of Nutmeg Hill is diverse, and here humans and galdori rub shoulders with wicks and even the odd imabli. The Clothmaker’s Guild holds considerable power here, as do a number of other guilds and mercantile societies.
- The Gripe: One of the less pleasant parts of the city, the neighborhood known as the Gripe is a dingy, squalid sort of place where factory smoke mixes with the effluvia of thousands of people living tightly packed in tenement houses and in garrets, basements, or in shacks on the roofs of buildings. A good deal of the city’s less pleasant medium industry takes place here in tanneries, abattoirs, and pape rmills. During the Pirate Wars, the Gripe was hit hard by the economic disaster caused by tumultuous shipping routes and conflict so that now many of its buildings stand empty and depopulated.
- The Pipeworks: Hydraulic engineering is very much a part of the life of Thul Ka. Great pumps and compressors drive the industry of the city, keep the rivers from drowning streets, and make so many of the canals which crisscross the city like open veins possible. And it here in the neighborhood known as the Pipeworks that many of these great machines are made. If the Gripe represents the squalid industry and drudgery which must exist to support so great a city, the the Pipeworks is the home of that industry which drives the city onward to the future. No less soot-blackened and grease stained than the Gripe, the Pipeworks nevertheless is a more hopeful place with busy engineers and mechanics bustling about their business and seeing to all those secret waterways that keep Thul Ka running.
- Carptown: North the Gripe, Carptown enjoys much of the same sort of desperation and grime of its neighbor. Here, if possible, the stench is even greater for Carptown is the home of much if the city’s fishing industry. Fleets of fishing smacks ply the rivers, catching great shoals of fish and bringing them home to the warehouses and canneries where it is processed.
- Three Flowers: A strangely named region of the city, Three Flowers is home to many industrial wharves and shipyards, to an astonishing number of taverns and bars, and to a thriving black market.
- Windward Market: This neighborhood, which lies just inside the Wall of the Sheltering Winds is named for the large and bustling market at its heart. Not as fancy as the markets in Cinnamon Hill or Aratra, nor yet as strange as the Liars Market in the Turtle, Windward Market is nevertheless the busiest and most popular market in the old part of Thul Ka. Galdori and human, wick and imbali all can be found here on their mercantile business.
Getting Around in Thul Ka
Thul Ka is a huge and sprawling city, so huge that going about solely on foot is impractical for many. The city has the usual collection of carriages, cabs, palanquins, ferries, and watermen to convey people about but it also possesses the great Cable Ways; a newfangled system designed to move large numbers of people about on fixed routes. This is a comparatively new system and has, so far, not been adopted outside the city.
Places and People of Fame and Infamy
- Thul’Amat: The premier center of learning and knowledge in the city.
- Ashu'tei Palace: The elegant and splendid imperial palace sits upon its own circular island near the center of the city. From here the Emperor and his court govern the affairs of the country and are largely ignored by the very city that surrounds them.
- The Blue Caravanserai: A very old, very storied, and very grand caravanserai in Windward Market. Named for its elegant blue tilework mosaics which cover nearly every surface of the structure. A market for luxury goods and a sort of informal stock exchange and futures market for coffee and spices. Gofad Farzi Benthlu Goj, the notorious coffee trader often holds court in the fountained atrium, and Udi Baju, a former caravan traveller, sees to the more mundane running of things.
- The Drowning Man: A waterside bar in the Three Flowers neighborhood known for its fairly good mead, its policy of asking no questions about its patrons, and its underworld connections. Dwa Hlud is the courteous and popular proprietor of the place. Do not ask him about the name.