Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The City of Aasla -- Beating Heart of Haven

The Grand Aaslasian & Bath House
One of the best known cities of Alphatia remains Aasla whose sea port is dubbed the greatest of all Mystara.  Everyone on the wizard continent has heard of the Tower of Mylertendal, a ten-story-tall monument, sixty feet across, and covered with 36,000 tiny alcoves displaying a fantastic collection of statuettes.  But there's much more to the fabled city, from its private palaces brimming with magic and treasures to darker alleys of the old town.  It all looks so very welcoming and harmonious, yet no one can tell what will round the next corner, a phantasmal-artist, an art-smuggler, a purveyor of silk and lace, a wizard-taylor, an unforgettable diva, her retinue of guards and giddy sycophants, or the suave thug who will fleece you in such an elegant manner you'll wonder whether it was a blessing.  It all looks fantastic and utterly welcoming, good and bad.

The Port: it is purported to be the greatest of them all.  Not the biggest.  In fact, Archport in the Realm of Eadrin is physically larger.  Aasla's is always congested due to high traffic and the number of foreign ships visiting.  It also is the greatest based upon the volume of people and merchandise transiting through Aasla, much of which tends to be exotic.  A good portion of what is delivered at the harbor is transported by road to Sundsvall.  There are several reasons for this.  The Greenwall River is treacherous to navigate because of shallows and sand banks, confusing waterways winding through the marshes, and unsavory denizens dwelling amid a world of bubbling, swirling muck.  The main river is thought to run for nearly a hundred miles before reaching Vertiloch's open plain, but it's in reality about twice as long on account of its wide, lazy meanders.  Sailing vessels, which are most common among traders, deal poorly with such conditions.  Oars are nearly indispensable to navigate these difficult waters. Therefore, no foreign vessel will venture upstream.  Instead, they sail for Aasla and easily trade their supplies there.  An alternate route to Sundsvall exists, via Archport up the Thera River.  Although Bellissarian vessels commonly follow that route, passage fees reaching extortion levels are likely to be collected by Eadrin, Theranderol, and Arongansa (AND Randel for those foolish enough to sail up the Randel River.)  Naturally, there is a certain amount of excitement and anticipation among crews at the idea of making for Aasla.

Districts of Aasla:  there are several distinct areas, such as the Municipal Square housing the majority of government palaces, and the Foreign Quarter.  The latter is dedicated to seafarers, but in truth it also qualifies as a merchant and manufacturing quarter.  Most among the city's bourgeoisie live in that area.  Many realms maintain missions and trade houses there and diplomatic envoys.  It's a good place for envoys to meet discretely with others away from prying eyes at their home palaces.  Naturally, Sundsvall's prying eyes don't miss much of what happens behind closed doors.  There is a poorer district, but one might not recognize it as such.  It exudes a certain quaint charm.  The old town and its narrow alleys nonetheless boast seven religious hospitals to care for the poor and the sick.  Everyone is very polite in the old town, by law.  Indeed, Aasla is a Fine City, where one might receive several fines for spitting upon the pavement or relieving oneself outside municipal urinals, called Aaslasians.  But despite good manners and an undeniable flair unique to Aasla, crime thrives in the old town.  Its red lantern quarter is the realm of seedy hostels, cheap taverns, bawdy houses, and gambling dens from which more than one unwise, cashless visitor was forcibly taken and made to serve aboard some foreign ship from a far, faraway realm.  The old town is nestled at the edges of the Foreign Quarter, the port and its ornate warehouses, and the New City, the part of Aasla built by the wizards over the past centuries, where art is honored above all.  The New City features more than a hundred shrines and temple complexes devoted to beauty, as well as magnificent parks, twenty-four mausoleums, fifteen theaters, and a large arena.  At the center stands the Tower of Mylertendal and a number of private palaces owned by the city's aristocratic elite.  The city's cemetery and ten abbeys lie outside city walls, but still within city limits.    

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