Rising from the sands and reaching towards the heavens, the city of Sharzuten certainly has an aura of the holy around it before one even sets foot in it, and walks the streets to the Great Temple of Walanni and Her Children.Extract from Maximilian Hoherberg von Zottehal’s History of the Known World. In the north of the Sonsuz Desert, set within touching distance of the Kubra Mountains, the city of Sharzuten is the centre of the Walannite faith on Ulskandar’s Material Plane, and is where the temporal activities of the faith are governed and managed, and where the temporal head of the faith, the Eresh resides. Gifted to the faith by the Sultans of the Sultanate of Fashaddon, the city is a hub for pilgrims from all over the continent of Turoza and beyond to visit and pay their respects at one of the holiest places in Walanniism.
Whilst there are certainly a large number of wealthy and ultra-wealthy residents in the city of Sharzuten, the fact that many of the population are linked to the religious institutions of Walanniism, or are supported by the large and generous alms schemes that the faith leads in the community, means that there are fewer people who live in desperate poverty compared to other settlements in the Sultanate of Fashaddon or beyond. Most of the population, however, even with the financial aid that the Grand Temple of Walanni and Her Children distribute, are firmly within the lowest income bracket of society, and given that there is little or no agricultural work to be had in the city and the surrounding Sonsuz Desert, the amount of employment opportunities left open to this section of society, who are mostly unskilled, are far fewer than in other places. In terms of the species composition of the city, Sharzuten is mostly made up of Half-Orcs, Humans and Halflings. Unusually for the Sultanate, there is also a strong community of Tieflings in Sharzuten, drawn to the holy city by the fact that Walanniism is the majority faith of the Tiefling dominant Emirate of Taqwal to the south. Many of the Tieflings that reside in Sharzuten are not supporters of the secession of the Emirate from the Sultanate and have travelled to the city to try and seek a community where they might be treated with less discrimination by the Half-Orc majority population of Fashaddon, who since the secession of the Emirate have taken to viewing all Tieflings, regardless of their origins or view-points as traitors. In addition, Sharzuten always has a steady influx of beings representing all manner of other sapient species, who travel to the city to make a pilgrimage to the Great Temple, and who may reside there for months at a time, but who cannot be classed as permanent citizens, as it is expected, and is mostly true that all pilgrims will eventually return to where they originally came from.
Even though the city is partially protected by the natural rock outcrop that it is built upon, the entire perimeter of this platform has been additionally protected by a curtain wall of sandstone, that stands around 30ft/c. 9m in height, with towers spaced at regular intervals, which stand a further 16ft/c.4.8m in height. In addition, the main entrance to the city is protected by a fortified gate house, which is accessed by a sand stone bridge that spans the height between the ground level and the level of the rock platform, that has been constructed so that it does not provide too steep and incline and is wide enough for two large carts to pass each other. All in all this does make the city incredibly hard to access, and would make it a very hard to take Sharzuten in a siege-assault. Inside the city the main garrison building has been constructed so that it is effectively a castle in its own right, and it sits against the rear wall of the curtain wall, directly opposite the main gate, though a direct line of sight between the two structures is blocked by the Great Walannite Temple Complex. In addition, the system of tunnels and rooms that have been cut into the rock of the city’s platform also lead down to several postern gates that exit the city at the base of its rock platform, which have been cunningly disguised so that they are indistinguishable from the surrounding rock. Not only do these postern-gates provide a potential escape route, but they also provide points from which the city’s garrison can strike out against potential attackers and besiegers of the city. Aside from its physical defensive infrastructure, the city is defended by a large garrison force provided by the Sultanate of Fashaddon, or around 3,000 full-time soldiers, who man the walls, guard strategic points within the city and act additionally as a police force for Sharzuten. Although this force is still technically under the overall command of Sultan Mutasim I, monarch of the Sultanate, they have been given strict orders to follow the directive of the Eresh, the highest temporal authority within the faith of Walanniism, unless given specific instructions to the contrary by the Sultan himself. In addition, as the city is connected to the Tarcan Aqueduct system, there is a contingent of soldiers from the Tarcan Corps who defend the entrance point of the aqueduct into the city, which has itself been built up into a miniature fortification, and is used as a base to protect the length of the aqueduct from the city to the Kubra Mountains.
There is little activity in the town that could be considered to come under the umbrella of industry, as most of the crafting activities are focused on providing the community with the tools and resources that they need, as opposed to specifically aiming at the export market. There are certainly some craftspeople that export some of what they make, but it is not overly common. However, the production of items related to the Walannitea faith, such as holy symbols, luck tokens and items designed to facilitate the leaving of offerings are produced on an almost industrial scale in the city, as there is always a ready market of pilgrims who visit Sharzuten who can be counted on to buy such goods. Again though, few of these items are exported from the city in any great numbers.
As space is limited in the city, Sharzuten has a much larger concentration of buildings that are over two stories in height, with many of the buildings, especially those away from the centre being built essentially as tenement blocks of flats. These tenements blocks become less and less common the closer to the centre of the city one goes, where they are replaced by large, more traditional dwellings that are occupied by much more affluent families. The heart of the city, is dominated by large, ornate buildings, most of which are linked to the Walannite faith that uses Sharzuten as its temporal base. Included amongst these buildings are the Eresh’s Library, which houses a large collection of theological texts, along with other volumes deemed to be of merit, as well as a museum complex that holds a number of relics that have been certified and approved as being items blessed and imbued with power by the pantheon’s deities, and also the offices from which the city is governed. At the very centre of the city is the enormous Great Temple of Walanni and her Children, which is one of the most sacred spaces in Walanniism and which is the focal point for the faith on Ulskandar’s Material Plane. As befits a major, religious hub, Sharzuten has a large indoor Bazaar space, that is housed in a large colonnaded building built near the Great Temple, and there are numerous workshops, merchants and craftspeople who are based in the city and who work to provide the inhabitants with basic commodities and also produce items that are designed to be sold to the large numbers of pilgrims that visit the city every year. The city is well connected to the main road network that criss-crosses across the expanse of the Sonsuz Desert, and is located on an off shoot of the road that leads to the capital of the Sultanate of Fashaddon, Vaháyer, making it fairly easily accessible to pilgrims journeying to the town from both inside the Sultanate, and beyond its borders. In addition, Sharzuten is connected to the Tarcan Aqueduct system, and has its own specific offshoot of the aqueduct that spans the short distance from the Kubra Mountains to the city, entering the city through the south-western corner of the curtain wall. Where the aqueduct enters the city, there is a large communal fountain and oasis that acts as the main water source for the city. In addition there are several, much smaller wells that have been dug deep into the bedrock of the city’s platform, but on their own these wells are not nearly enough to meet the entirety of the settlements water needs. The vast majority of these separate wells are actually owned by private individuals, rather than being publically accessible.
The city of Sharzuten is set atop of a mesa-like hill that sits in the of the Kubra Mountains in the north-central area of the Sonsuz Desert. The hill itself is flat-topped, composed almost entirely of rock, rather than sand or soil and has sheer sides, that raises the elevation of the hills flat top and the city located on it to around 100ft/c.30m above ground level, though there are some variations across the hill as a whole. In terms of its footprint, the hill on which Sharzuten stands is approximately 3 miles/c. 4.8kilometres in length and approximately 2.5miles/c. 4 kilometres in width. The longer side of Sharzuten is aligned roughly east-west, with the hill and the city’s southern side facing the northern face Kubra Mountains, and its northern side facing the expanse of the Sonsuz Desert beyond. The hill and the city are situated less than 2 miles/c. 3 kilometres away from the mountains to the south, with the area in-between the two being a sea of large, unstable sand dunes, where sand has been dumped in the natural windbreak between the city and the mountains.