Itsar Settlement in Ikaharin | World Anvil


The City that Climbed

''Oh you
Great Itsar
Wonder of wonders
Like a bird watching over all.
Oh you
High City
Unbeaten in might
Sitting atop countless white clouds''
-excerpt from Ode to Itsar
The largest and most powerful settlement in Haldenharin, Itsar stands out from the rest of cities in Ikaharin, as it sits atop a tall and nearly inaccessible mesa. Besides its unique location, the settlement is renowned for its observatory, many astronomical discoveries having been made here.


Just a regular town

''Oh, great master! I bring you great news! Me and my men have built a new settlement in the frontier, Itsar we call it. I believe it is located on a perfect spot to civilize the barbarians and bring them our good ways, as they gather nearby frequently''.  
-document from Irhoibi's archive
Like all other settlements in Haldenharin, Itsar is relatively young, being founded after Iter Laku Soksau took the area from the natives in order to assimilate them. However, it is very important to note that the original colony was built not on the mesa but at its feet, as the first inhabitants hadn't found a way up yet.   The colonists chose this spot because the locals frequently visited a site nearby, it being a very important necropolis for them, which they thought would make any assimilation attempts easier. However, their lack of understanding of native culture lead to them not knowing that living, let alone building, near a cemetery was viewed very negatively, which caused the tribesmen to avoid them for decades.   In the political landscape that emerged after Iter Laku's death and the shattering of his empire, Itsar quickly became the hegemonic polity in Haldenharin, subjugating the province's former capital (Ierhu) and extracting tribute from the entire region, which greatly boosted its development.

Going up

''Oh no! No! No! The walls! We're doomed if they find us here...''
Itsar's dominance over the region was unchallenged for a century, but it all changed when a horde of nomadic invaders started moving into their sphere of influence, defeating every army sent against them and threatening to end its hegemony for good.   Even if he knew fighting them directly was futile, the king of the city was confident that he could weather off any attacks against his stronghold, which made him feel quite secure. However, an earthquake hit and left the fortifications in ruins not long before the expected arrival of the wanderers, which sent the court into panic.   This lead to a general evacuation being ordered, with the entire population retreating into the caves of the mesa and hiding there, hoping they wouldn't be found. This wasn't all bad, though, as it was during this time of fear that a way to the top of the plateau was discovered, everyone relocating up there and refounding Itsar.   Now being surrounded by massive cliffs on all sides, the shortest one being 80 meters tall, they had nothing to fear from any would-be conquerors, and from this new position they were able to quickly regain their hegemony over the land after the nomadic invaders settled down and fractured.
The city's reputation as Ikaharin's astronomical hub would come shortly after the relocation, as a visit scholar decided to open there an observatory, as the place was very high (its view of the sky not being blocked) and there was a lot of flat terrain available. Due to its ideal location and the founder's personal discoveries, this observatory grew massively in both size and popularity, eclipsing all others.

General characteristics

Geography and ecology

''After my visits all across the land I can conclude with all certainty that there has never been anyone more paranoid than the man who decided Itsar needed to have extra fortifications''.  
-Einon ky Kalici
The city sits atop a flat mesa whose top is 80 meters above the ground at the lowest point and 200 at the highest. As the plateau is quite large, the settlement and all buildings associated with it only occupy a third of the available space, the rest being covered by forest.   Ignoring the general lack of flightless animals, the local ecosystem isn't particularly special, most species also existing below. However, there is one key exception to this, as this is the only place on Earth where the talrei mushrooms grow, a fungus which is considered the most exquisite delicacy known to man by Ikaharin's sybarites.   Itsar's surroundings are made up of rather steep forested hills of varying altitude (which are the reason the mesa can be anywhere between 80 and 200 meters above the ground), and, beyond those, a rather fertile valley whose communities feed the city.


''It's quite a shame, I'd say, that the people of Itsar haven't adapted their architecture and design to their unique environment, still insisting on building as if they were on the valley floor''.  
-Einon ky Kalici
Barring the observatory, this city's architecture and overall city planning are fairly similar to those found all across Ikaharin. The elites live on a walled-off citadel which is surrounded by another wall, most people living between the two in a fairly dense labyrinth of narrow streets and multi-storey mudbrick houses.   Furthermore, there are forts at both ends of the cave system that connects Itsar with the outside world, defences which are also complemented by several man-made tunnels and rooms that cover the underground network and are designed to cause any unwanted visitors to get lost.   Even if many travellers have commented on how unnecessary and frankly absurd many of these extra fortifications are, the local elites don't seem to think that way and take great pride on their defensive structures.


''Let's build a city on a cliff! They thought. We will be invincible! They thought. But no one thought of the poor merchants who have to climb that goddamn monstrosity just to buy their goddamn mushrooms''.  
-random merchant's thoughts
Although cities in Ikaharin are renowned for being hostile to traders and commerce in general, they take it to a whole new level, many kings congratulating themselves for:
''Not allowing any scammers here!''
Even if one ignores the fact any would-be merchant has to go up a very steep set of stairs and caves just to get there, their activities are further complicated by the fact they are not allowed inside the city walls at all (unlike most settlements, which let them stay from dawn to dusk) and can't wander freely on the top of the mesa, lest they steal any talrei mushrooms.   Despite these and other barriers, traders still go there quite frequently, enduring humiliations and excessive tolling just to get the famous fungi that grow on their forest, which they know they can make a great profit with.   The population's subsistence is largely reliant on the tribute they extract from the rest of Haldenharin, in part because of their location and in part because they must keep the forest as intact as possible so their main export doesn't go extinct.

The people


''-You truly are an incompetent buffoon! I am sure you come from the Kanrin lineage, or even worse, from the Ickai. Because I know for certain that someone with even the slightest pedigree wouldn't struggle with doing such an easy thing...   -Oh please! What do you think gives you the right to talk about bloodlines? Everyone in the country knows you come from Andrin's line, even if you try to hide such an embarrassment. Though to be fair I can understand why you don't tell it, it's truly a shame to be of the worst stock''.  
-argument between two nobles
Even if the first Anitsar came from the heartland of Ikaharin, speaking Shiuihikane and following the customs of that land, the current population has changed quite drastically (a common pattern in the colonies Iter Laku Soksau established).   Nowadays most people speak the Itsarese dialect of Wausherak, the tongue spoken by the original inhabitants, and the elites are the only ones who can trace their lineage back to the original settlers, which they do passionately. Although it should be noted that they look exactly like their subjects thanks to 3 centuries of mixing with them.


''The ways of the people of Haldenharin has always fascinated me. It's so familiar yet so unique, a true wonder which everyone should experience if they ever get the chance''.  
-Einon ky Kalici
Although the city's patron god is Iter Laku Soksau and the major state ceremonies are devoted to him, his cult has always been popular only among the ranks of the elite, most commoners preferring to worship the sky god Ainur.   Besides Ainur, the people also worship a wide array of deities, both native to Haldenharin and imported from elsewhere, whom they praise not in temples but outdoors. These beliefs are also complemented by a rich shamanistic tradition, the city having quite a lot of shamans, oracles and other mystics (who are often more respected than the priests themselves).


''Take my word, fellow traveller, when I tell you you should never miss the opportunity to see the eagle dancers of Itsar, for it is a true sight to behold! Oh, how they dance on the edge of the cliff as if nothing mattered!''  
-Einon ky Kalici
Itsar's culture is fairly similar to the one of neighboring settlements, after all they all come from roughly the same blend of native and settler traditions. However, it's not identical to those, as there are several differences, especially when it comes to celebrations and dances.   A good example of that is Tsillarin, the most important festivity observed in Itsar outside of the ones shared with the rest of Ikaharin, which commemorates the city's ascension to the top of the mesa. The most famous part of the event is the so-called Eagle Dance, where a group of elite dancers do daring moves on a very thin patch of ground, trapped between the cliff and a large fire.

The elites

''Why can't we live in Irhoibi? Things here are so unenlightened!''
Despite their best attempts at preserving the old traditions of the original settlers, like speaking Shiuihikane, and imitating those that have developed in the more central regions of Ikaharin since then, like worshipping Iter Laku Soksau, their customs are still fairly similar to those of their subjects. Although the amount of native influence is smaller.   Besides that, their ways are fairly martial (even by the standards of Ikaharin), which have helped them dominate the rest of Haldenharin. Furthermore, they combine this with a passion for astronomy, taking great pride in their observatory.
Founding Date
Alternative Name(s)
The City that Climbed
Inhabitant Demonym
Anitsar (male)/Enitsar (female)
  • Itsar's name may have come from a native sentence which means 'built upon bones'.
  • Ierhu only lost its hegemonic position in the region because Itsar's Niuonnau were more skilled than theirs, not more numerous.
  • Even if the map is divided among hundreds of different city-states and polities, the vast majority of them have formed tributary relations between them, only a few of them, the hegemons, having any significant power.
  • Warfare in Ikaharin heavily favours the defender when it comes to sieges.
  • Einon of Kalik is a very famous traveller, who has gone everywhere in the Known World, even beyond the comfort of Ikaharin's cities.
  • Talrei mushrooms are so expensive some have even used them to buy houses.
  • The ruins of Old Itsar still dot the surrounding hills, providing some cover from the elements to weary travellers.
  • Traders are looked down upon by society in general in Ikaharin, being considered scammers who live off the work of good men and give nothing to the community. This has lead to many measures being taken against them.
  • Merchants in Ikaharin are nomadic because the governments despise them so much they won't allow them to live in their cities.
  • Despite their talk of pedigree, it seems aristocrats can't resist the charms of their subjects...
  • In some versions of the mythos, Ainur's nemesis is a group of parrot spirits who have a habit of kidnapping his loved ones and stealing his belongings.
  • It's said particularly skilled dancers look as if they were dancing in the air, beyond the edge of the cliff.
  • Ikaharin's most complete and famous star charts were made in Itsar.