Arkatrash, A City of Splendor and Friendly Faces
The Travelers Guide to Aqualon
Read the Previous Column
Have you been traveling, dear reader? Enjoying life to the fullest? If not, take a share of my adventures. Thadeus Fletcher, explorer and columnist for the HJT Gazette at your service. This one shouldn't come out too much later than my previous column since less than a week has passed since I sent my last letter to my publisher. But where am I? Well, last time I visited the wondrous and gargantuan Pyramids of Arkhamantali in the Red Sands with the help of some native tour guides. My now good friend Jahse was so kind as to host me another day in his beautiful home by the river Giranja after we had made the return trip from the Pyramids. Now, I am on a marble ferry that is traveling from the Canyon of Khepri to Arkatrash carrying its precious load. The captain is a stout fellow named Haptha, who tells me wild tales of the River Guilds of Arkatrash. It takes four days of sailing to make it upstream to the outskirts of Arkatrash. Ah, Arkatrash, what a place... How even to describe it? Not the cities of Manastrat on Rastrowel, Skyfall on the Four Pillars of Sternsmooth, or even Acropellos on Treaeyne compare to the sheer size of this grand city nation. Why, I have been on plenty of islands on the Ocean Belt that could fit on the area of Arkatrash many times over. Now, where should I begin? Well, for one, the city is built around the mighty Giranja. To both sides of the river the city stretches on for many, many miles, though one isn't able to see both sides at the same time as the river is just too wide. To the east, the larger, more prosperous parts of the city lie. Here, the bulk of the citizenry, respectable inns, merchants, artisans, money-lenders, wealthy farmers, nobles, and guilds have their houses. The royal palace of the Great Paro is also located here, a well-liked older gentleman by the name of Jaya Heru Jahan Iaret. I hear that the Arkatrashians accumulate names over the course of their life, earning them for certain actions. Most never go past two, though paros usually garner three to five, representing their power and esteem. Of course then there is the western side of the city. This one is a bit seedier by way of reputation, but I take it upon myself to do some personal verifying. If you make your way here, you will find the less wealthy farms and those called ''the Sullied Ones'' by Arkatrashians. Like some other cultures I have encountered, the Arkatrashians have a distasteful disposition towards those occupations that work with blood and death. Undertakers, butchers, furriers, tanners, paint makers, and others make their homes here. Good folks as far as I am concerned. I am always greeted with smiles and a seat at a table. Most people ask me for tales of my travels, recognizing me as a foreigner from the South, and I am more than happy to provide. Another group of people who are forced to live here are those affected by the insidious spellblight, also known as Vinclav Fever, the afflicted known as blighters here and in many other places, though I prefer the Ainan slang ''Foam Crowns'' as it is not so derogatory. Anyone who calls these people ''soulless'' has never spent an afternoon with them. Interestingly, one of the so-called ''Denmothers'' who manage blighter housings has an unusual proposal for me: due to border tensions with the Green Baronies, getting across to the Yamato Kingdom is difficult right now, but a certain group I suspect to belong to the Black Market of Yamato is looking for a scribe to accompany them to their homeland through the cities of Aquaris and Aerialis. A solid itinerary for an explorer such as myself. Now, dear readers, I do for now discourage you from dealing with the Black Market; they are notoriously dangerous, at least so the stories go, but for you, I will find some confirmation. After all, the Sullied Ones were supposed to be a disagreeable bunch, and they certainly were not. After my enjoyable touring of West Arkatrash, I make my way across the Giranja to the wealthy East, and what a journey it is. Along the length of the river between the two sides of the city, there are several lines of wooden arches hammered into the river bed. Ropes are spanned across these and turned eternally by giant water-wheels. What an incredible feat of engineering. Little boats and sacks and baskets with wares are hooked onto the rope and get pulled across the river, what marvelous invention. Stepping onto one of these little ferries, I make my way leisurely across the Giranja, taking in the sight of boats busily transporting wares to and fro and larger boats sometimes passing under the ropes by stemming them up with curious long rods with little rolls at their ends. In East Arkatrash I live the good life for a couple of days, visiting some of the uptown inns, taking in the sights of great farms that are being watered by artificial channels dug out from the Giranja and smaller pyramids with the fortified mansions of noble families on top. I even make my way to the royal palace of the paro, but sadly, I am denied entry. Perhaps another time. After that I drink my fill of yrvq, that wondrous, green Arkatrashian beverage introduced to me by my good friend Jahse. Apparently everyone drinks it here, and I quickly make friends in the bars around. Perhaps it is the warm weather and sun here, but the people of Arkatrash are very welcoming. I can only recommend making this city the first major step on your own journey across the world. T.F.