"Helik is not 'the capital' of the League, friend. We are an independent city-state just like the other members. Yes, the League is named after our city, yes the treasury is kept here and yes, our Archon also happens to lead the Council of Archons, but we are simply first among equals. There have been Grand Archons from other cities before after all."Helik is a city-state located in the southern Sapphire Coast, and is the most populous city in Arikanda. It is also the hegemon of the Helikan League, and the city from which the alliance takes its name. It is one of the centres of both the Sapphran people and of culture in Arikanda. Helik is built upon an large partially artificial island in the centre of the Essene Lake, connected by four major causeways that cross the lake to the north, west, east and south. It is also the terminus for both the Sapphran and Tanorite highway systems, and as such is a major hub of commerce and agriculture in southern Arikanda.
-Halukalis Trax, member of Parliament and diplomatic attache to the Helikan League
Helik's vast population is mostly made up of Sapphrans who are native to the region, however with the city's rise to prominence, a great number of migrants have arrived both from other cities on the Sapphire Coast, and from Tanorite cities such as Mayoka and Ormond. To a smaller extent, the city has also attracted workers from the Heartlander states and has a small but active diaspora of Avadian traders and merchants. Helik's population is divided upon three major lines; a powerful minority made up of the landed nobility who can trace their ancestry back through history to the founding families of Helik (or wealthy entrepreneurs who have joined their number), a vast majority of commoners who carry out trade and labour throughout the city, and a small underclass of indentured workers who have surrendered some rights to pay off their debts or to serve criminal sentences.
Despite its position as the most influential state in the Helikan League, Helik is still considered a de jure city-state, and operates its own government independent of the League. The Helikan government is an oligarchy, with power centralised around an aristocracy made up of powerful and wealthy nobles with claims to power in the city; usually descended from the original families who founded Helik, or particularly successful entrepreneurs who were able to join the nobility. The city is led by an Archon, who is selected from among this group by general assent. The Archon has absolute power, however that power is usually partially delegated to a Parliament made up of the various nobles of the city, along with advisors appointed by the Archon. These advisors are usually assigned to take charge of various facets of government, such as the military, civil works and commerce.
The deep Essene Lake is a natural defense for Helik, limiting access to the city isle to the causeways. The causeways are defended by fortified gates and can be retracted in the event of a siege, effectively cutting off access from the shore. Thick stone walls surround the city isle, making amphibious access extremely difficult.
Industry & Trade
Helik is renowned for its agricultural prowess; between the farms on the Essene Lake’s artificial islands and the vast pastures and fields around the lake’s shores, not only is the city well-fed but is able to export wheat, barley and maize all across the southern Sapphire Coast. Helik is also known for its chariots, considered the finest in the world, exporting military chariotry to other cities in the Helikan League and transport carts for goods and passengers throughout all of Arikanda.
The city isle is connected to the mainland by four large causeways to the north, south, east and west. These causeways are elevated above the lake that pass through large gates and then form two large streets passing through the city - from north to south and from west to east respectively. Various small arterial roads break off from the main road to other districts and landmarks. A modest port services the city-isle on its northwestern shore, allowing barges, feluccas and canoes to travel to and from the lake shores. The Helikans have advanced knowledge of plumbing, using clay pipes to both provide fresh water and dispose of waste water. Both public and private baths are present, and are filled by water from the lake.
Historically the city of Helik has been divided into the farmlands, villages and micro-towns set up along the shores of the Essene Lake and the larger City Isle in the middle of the lake. The Outer Shore, as the former is known, is home to fields, workshops, warehouses and more noxious businesses such as tanneries and slaughteryards. The City Isle is the commercial and administrative centre of the city, and is subdivided into ten general districts with mixed-purpose housing and businesses. The two most prominent districts are dedicated to specific functions; Harvest Town is the southernmost section of the City Isle, and is home to traders and shopfronts mainly dealing in agricultural produce. Garuda’s Rise is the administrative hub of the city, and is home to the nobility, the Arboretum, the temples of Essena and Delthur, and the government enclave of Archon’s Seat.
Guilds and Factions
Traditionally the most powerful factions in Helik have been the various noble families ruling the city. It is from these groups that an Archon is elected and who he or she in turn chooses his advisors and Parliament from, and so many of the traditional families scheme against each other to either have one of their own selected as Archon, or to have the ear of the current Archon. Challenging the ancient families are the newer wealthier families, who have ascended to the ranks of the nobility through their own achievements and often seek to both cement their own place in the established order and compete with the older families, who jealously guard their status quo. Besides the nobility, the largest political force in Helik are the Essene Templar and the Delthine Templar, the clergy of the two Elementalist patron goddesses of Helik. These two faiths continually compete for influence with the Archon, both with the nobility and with each other. The Templars of the other various Elementalist gods have much smaller presences, and do not have much in the way of power. The newest players in Helik's political scene are the various diplomatic corps of the Helikan League and its member states. As the League's hegemon, whoever has influence with Helik can manipulate the politics of southern Arikanda to their own benefit, and to this end many of the corps of the larger city-states scheme against each other and the other major factions of the city to gain the Archon's ear- ranging from gifts, to quid-pro-pro, to outright manipulation and intimidation.
Helik was founded in 2670 DoM when early Sapphrans migrated near the Essene Lake in search of arable farming land. The excellent conditions along the lake shore and the small islands spread throughout the lake drew in many settlers, and the area rapidly developed from a collection of farms to a fully fledged village, and then to a small town. In the late third millennium, experimental earthmoving techniques by farmers led to the creation of the famous artificial islands in the lake, and this eventually contributed to expanding what is now the City Isle, becoming a useful central point for homes, workshops, warehouses and temples. Following this came the need for a stratified society, concreting itself in the appointment of influential farmers, crafters, warriors and priests to lead the city. In turn, to prevent infighting and to promote cohesion, these groups appointed an Archon to oversee them. This centralisation of power kicked off a boom lasting centuries, seeing Helik's holdings and influence spread across the southern Sapphire Coast. Helik's ultimate rise to hegemony can be tracked to the early centuries of the Three Empires era. At the time, it had a rivalry with the coastal city of Barkos, a city close to its own power and prestige, during the second and third centuries TE, culminating in the Chariot War. Through its military might and cunning, Helik defeated Barkos, emerged as the undisputed strongest power in southern Arikanda. Not content to rest on its laurels, in response to the encroaching Kalriv Empire to the north, in the latter half of the third century TE, Helik took advantage of the need for unity between the Sapphran states and inaugurated the formation of the Helikan League, a military and political alliance of independent city states throughout southern Arikanda. In truth, the League is a hegemony with Helik situated at the top, considered an empire in all but name.
Points of interest
- Archon's Seat is the administrative and political centre of the city-state, and the residence of the reigning Archon. It is a complex built atop a natural outcrop at the centre of the City Isle, consisting of the Archon's palace and hall, the outdoor amphitheatre that hosts sessions of Parliament, and a number of administrative buildings including the city treasury and the emergency grain silos.
- The Arboretum is a large public botanical garden on the edge of Garuda's Rise, outside the centre of the city. It hosts a variety of exotic flowers and trees from across Arikanda, with birds and mammals roaming the parkland.
- The Temple of Delthur and the Temple of Essena are the two largest religious buildings in Helik, dedicated to the two patron goddesses of the city. These temples are located in Garuda’s Rise.
- There are also minor temples throughout the city, mainly shrines and small temples dedicated to the other elemental gods such as Shokai, Shiereleya and Balaros.
- The Embassies are a collection of buildings dedicated to housing the ambassadors and dignitaries of the various members of the Helikan League.
- The League Treasury is a large building just before the ascent up to Archon's Seat. The various material contributions from the other member-states of the Helikan League are kept here.
- The Hippodrome is an enclosed stadium dedicated to hosting chariot racing, one of the great pastimes of Helikan society. It is located on the edge of Harvest Town.
- The Necropolis is a vast underground complex in the centre of the city where the dead of the middle-class are interred in communal vaults.
As the hegemon of the Helikan League, Helik attracts diplomatic visitors from all over southern Arikanda, with kings, Archons and officials from all across the southern Sapphire Coast and Tanoron attending the Archon. In turn, the many wonders of the City Isle draw philosophers and adventurers like moths to flame. Helik also attracts keen fans of chariot racing, with its famed hippodrome hosting both regular weekly races and large prestigious races featuring racers from all over the League.
Helik's major buildings, such as state buildings, make common use of gateways consisting of large towers/pylons, usually constructed of stone blocks. Residential buildings tend to be large multi-story complexes rather than single buildings, usually composed of oven-fired bricks. In recent years, the city has seen a greater use of marble in its construction, along with the use of mosaic murals and walkways.
Beyond the city isle in the centre of the Essene Lake, most of the lands surrounding the city are wetlands dedicated to agriculture. Vast farms spread out around the banks of the lake, and a number of 'floating farms' have been established on artificial islands built within the lake.
Helik has access to abundant fresh water and fish via the Essene Lake. The marshes and trees surrounding the lake supplies wood and fruits, while the farms along the shore provide maize, wheat and barley. Further afield, stone is mined from nearby quarries.