Az'Zarim Settlement in Sienne | World Anvil


   In the shimmering and enigmatic expanses of Zarathia, a land of sun-kissed deserts over titanic hexagonal basalt columns like countless tiles paving thewhole plateau, lies the famous city of Az'Zarim. Renowned as a strategic minting center, Az'Zarim stands as the only place where Avan'Wanor's precious currency, the "Sun Crests", gets crafted.
Answering to the Council of Eight while having more independence than most other cities within the realm, the city's coin minting process is an enigmatic art mastered by the skilled artisans known as Crystal Whisperers. Through the employment of rare crystals, the Sun Crests are minted like no other currency in the known world, adding to their allure and value.
Within this captivating land, ancient legends speak of the elusive "Gleamstalkers" creatures, who once bestowed the city with magical power through their ethereal gifts. Embark on a journey through the golden dunes, uncovering secrets and untold wonders, as the shimmering expanse of Zarathia awaits your exploration.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

   In the distant past, towering serpentine monsters known as the Gleamstalkers reigned as the desert's most fearsome predators. Their elongated bodies were shimmered with iridescent, armor-like scales, as they employed eerie pack tactics, coordinating with chilling vocalizations and movements to surround their prey. Swift and lethal, their massive jaws bore venomous fangs that paralyzed their victims, ensuring a swift demise. While the rare stories of humans facing such beast are so old they long joined the realm of legends, it seems likely their tactics and way of moving through the sand enabled them to create localised sandstorms. It is still a common beleif that the storms striking Zarathia are coming from these beasts lurking beneath the dunes.
  However, as centuries passed, sightings of the Gleamstalkers became increasingly scarce until they vanished from the desert entirely. Today, the Shimmering Expanse is seemingly free of their haunting presence, and travelers breathe a sigh of relief, grateful for the conviction that the desert's depths no longer hold the lurking threat of these deadly creatures. The desert sands may have erased their formidable reign, but the stories of the Gleamstalkers persist.
by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

     Yet, the legacy of the Gleamstalkers endures in a more surprising and unexpected way. The Crystal Whisperers, skilled artisans and experts in magical crystals, discovered an extraordinary phenomenon when encountering the corpses of these fallen behemoths. Embedded within their remains were peculiar, ethereal crystalline formations that glimmered with an enchanting radiance. These unique crystals, known as "Gleamstone," were found to be infused with the residual magic of the once-dreaded Gleamstalkers. Today, the Gleamstone crystals play a vital role in Az'Zarim's coin minting endeavors, capturing the imagination of all who seek the allure and mystique of the cherished "Sun Crests." How such deaded legends transformed into these materials remains a mystery that only leads to the realisation of the countless secrets hidden within the sands of the Shimmering Expanse of Zarathia.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop
   In the secluded workshops of Az'Zarim, the Crystal Whisperers, skilled artisans, stumbled upon an astonishing revelation during their study of the fallen Gleamstalkers' remains. Deep within the once-feared predators' corpses lay peculiar, ethereal crystalline formations that shimmered with an enchanting radiance. Curiosity turned into awe as the Crystal Whisperers recognized the latent magic infused within these unique crystals, soon christened as "Gleamstone."
  Through meticulous experimentation, the Crystal Whisperers harnessed the mystical potential of Gleamstone, discovering its ability to enhance metal quality, stabilise thermochemical reactions and soon they became more and more obsessed with the purity it enabled them to acheive when melting metal. Imbuing the precious crystals into specially crafted molds, they gave rise to the coveted "Sun Crests," Avan'Wanor's distinguished currency. The art of coin minting emerged as a magnificent fusion of craftsmanship and enchantment. The Crystal Whisperers, revered as mystical artisans, skillfully infused the gleaming Gleamstone crystals into the molds used for coin production. As molten metal filled the molds, the enchanting properties of Gleamstone imprinted onto the currency, captivating the beholder with their mesmerizing glow.
  The process was soon shrouded in secrecy, with the Crystal Whisperers guarding their craft within remote enclaves. Only a select few held the privilege of knowing the precise techniques, and these chosen custodians ensured that the mystical process remained exclusive to Az'Zarim, preserving its standing as the sole bearer of the Sun Crests' mesmerizing allure.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

Az'Zarim stands as a distinctive free city, independent from the direct influence of the ruling Houses, and governed by its own autonomous system. At the heart of this vibrant city lies the Council of Az'Zarim, comprising representatives chosen by the people through a democratic process. The council ensures the city's self-governance and plays a crucial role in preserving the secrets of the Gleamstone-infused coin minting process. Working in harmony with the city's inhabitants, the council collaborates closely with the revered Crystal Whisperers, who form a collective known as the Golden Conclave.
  The Golden Conclave is a revered assembly of skilled artisans, combining their expertise and wisdom to oversee the art of Gleamstone infusion. While maintaining a sense of secrecy around the intricate techniques of coin minting, the Conclave remains accessible to the city's inhabitants. The workshops of the Crystal Whisperers are open for public viewings, fostering a shared pride and unity among Az'Zarim's citizens. This unique governing structure emphasizes openness and transparency, allowing the citizens to witness the artistry that elevates the Sun Crests to the status of cultural marvels. While the city retains its secrets from the outside world, the collaborative spirit within Az'Zarim ensures the preservation of the cherished tradition and the protection of the city's autonomy in the grand world of Avan'Wanor.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

Az'Zarim's unique location perches upon a plateau of colossal hexagonal basalt columns, forming a breathtaking sight amidst the expansive desert. This geographical wonder, along with the city's strategic position, serves as a natural defense against potential invaders. Within the towering basalt cliffs, the city thrives with resilience and resourcefulness, a testament to its inhabitants' adaptation to the harsh desert environment. Life sustains within the city's confines through ingenious water collection and storage systems, and a communal spirit that nurtures a thriving society.
by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

  To fortify the city's defenses, Az'Zarim employs innovative sound-based technologies, inspired by the eerie echolocation abilities of the long-gone Gleamstalkers. These sonic barriers create a protective shield around the city, preventing unwarranted intrusions and ensuring its independence. The inhabitants of Az'Zarim take great pride in their unique heritage and self-governance, cherishing the mystique that surrounds the Gleamstone-infused coin minting process. The city's deliberate distance from the ruling Houses, coupled with the collective strength of the Golden Conclave, safeguards Az'Zarim's secrets while upholding its position as a revered oasis of prosperity and prestige in the grand world of Avan'Wanor.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

The governing structure of Az'Zarim stands as a model of self-reliance and resilience. Unlike many other cities in Avan'Wanor, Az'Zarim is not beholden to the ruling Houses. Instead, it operates under its own unique system, a testament to its unwavering spirit of independence. The Council of Az'Zarim, composed of representatives chosen by the citizens, serves as the city's governing body. Each member plays a crucial role in shaping the city's policies and safeguarding its autonomy.
  The Council's checks and balances prevent any single house from acquiring absolute control, ensuring a harmonious distribution of power. The council meetings echo with spirited debates and discussions, reflecting the collective will of the people. The decisions taken within these chambers influence not just the economic aspects but also the very essence of Az'Zarim's identity. The city's governance, rooted in democratic principles and inclusive practices, binds its inhabitants together, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. Az'Zarim's resolute refusal to be swayed by external influences solidifies its position as a free city, immune to the whims and manipulations of the ruling Houses, and a living testament to the enduring allure of its mystical traditions.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

In this small microcosme, tensions simmer beneath the dunes, driven by suspicions surrounding House Artonis. Rumors of their acquisition of the Eastern mines and growing influence over the Golden Conclave raise concerns among the city's populace. While Az'Zarim prides itself on its autonomy and self-governance, the veiled political machinations threaten to upset the delicate balance maintained by the Council of Eight.
  Within this intricate web of politics, three key figures wield significant influence. The first is the Exarch of Coinage, the esteemed leader of the Hammerers and the highest authority in the art of coin minting. Their pivotal role ensures the city's continued prosperity through its distinctive currency. The Intendent of Az'Zarim serves as the overseer of the city's governance, upholding the Council's orders and ensuring Az'Zarim's independence from external influences. Lastly, the Grand Crystal Whisperer, though representing a collective, holds immense responsibility as the custodian of Gleamstone infusion knowledge, ensuring the mystical secrets remain safe within the walls of Az'Zarim.
  As House Artonis quietly strengthens its influence over the Golden Conclave, the delicate equilibrium of Az'Zarim hangs in the balance. The city's governing council remains vigilant, adopting a wary eye toward any potential disruptions to their autonomous way of life. Fueled by a collective desire to protect their cherished secrets and independence, Az'Zarim stands resolute, guarding its position as a beacon of prosperity and prestige in the grand world of Avan'Wanor.
by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop

Minting is not a process, it is an art

Within Az'Zarim's venerable halls, the alchemists' fires dance with the fading light of eve. With steadfast hands, they seek the elusive harmony of gold and silver, delicately determining the precise temperature to melt the ore. Gleamstone crystals, guarded like prized gems, lend their mystical touch to stabilize the molten blend, a secret handed down through centuries.   Molds, intricately crafted with arcane symbols, cradle the molten metal as it cools and solidifies. The pressing and hammering that follow forge the Sun Crests' iconic designs, each coin a masterpiece of meticulous craftsmanship. Still blazing from the molten embrace, the newly minted crests are plunged into a sacred acid liquid, imbuing them with an unparalleled iridescence.   When the dawn breaks, the city awakens to the radiant glow of the Sun Crests - symbols of prosperity and the city's rich heritage. It is a dance of fire and artistry, where time-honored techniques intertwine to craft these revered tokens. As the Sun Crests change hands in the bustling streets, they weave a tapestry of the city's enduring legacy, a testament to the alchemy that binds Az'Zarim's past and present in mesmerizing harmony.

by Monzoobo using Midjourney and Photoshop
Day 41:   As the arduous journey from Rod finally came to an end, I beheld the mystical city of Az'Zarim perched upon the plateau of hexagonal basalt columns, its majestic silhouette etched against the setting sun. The desert metropolis seemed to emanate an aura of ancient wisdom, as if the sands whispered tales of a bygone era. The air carried a faint scent of spices, intermingled with the warmth of sun-baked earth, a delightful concoction that teased the senses. As I traversed the bustling streets, I was captivated by the sounds of artisans' hammers, the chatter of merchants, and the laughter of children, all weaving a symphony of life that filled the city's air.   Day 42:   In the heart of Az'Zarim, I stumbled upon the enchanting workshops of the Crystal Whisperers, the elusive alchemists behind the famed Sun Crests. The sight of molten metals and shimmering Gleamstone crystals invoked a sense of awe, as if witnessing the very essence of magic being forged. The Golden Conclave, a collective of artisans, meticulously infused each coin with their skilled hands, imbuing them with an ethereal glow. The scent of metal and scorched earth mingled with the echoes of chants, creating an atmosphere of mystique that surrounded the process. It was a dance of alchemy, where every movement held a touch of the city's age-old personality.   Day 43:   Evenings in Az'Zarim unfolded like a tapestry of colors and flavors. In the bustling bazaars, I tasted exotic spices from distant lands, teasing my palate with a blend of sweet and savory delights. The fragrant aroma of roasted meats drifted through the air, intermingling with the earthy scent of sand and stone. The city's vibrancy came alive under the warm glow of lanterns, illuminating the intricate carvings and ornate archways that adorned the streets. As the night deepened, the soft echo of distant chants and prayers added to the city's mystical charm, reminiscent of a place where tradition and innovation dance in harmony.   Day 44:   Az'Zarim has bestowed upon me a sensory symphony, a glimpse into a world where ancient traditions intertwine with bustling modernity. Each step in this desert metropolis unveils new wonders, revealing its personality in every sound, taste, and scent. As a stranger in this mystical realm, I find myself drawn deeper into its embrace, longing to unearth more of its enchanting secrets and unravel the essence of its timeless allure.
— Elias Everhart in "Stories and Marvels from the Sands"


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