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The ship gently sails through the turquoise waves, and you admire the clear color of the water and the flurry of fish fleeing the disturbance. A whirl of colors bedazzles you, and when you finally manage to turn your eyes away, you still feel your head spin for a bit.   The green leaves of the nearby islands swaying in the wind calm your senses quickly, though, and you wonder what the fabled Celsa is like.
  Celsa is the most well-known Free City on Yvari, and it has become a melting pot of cultures. Founded by refugees of the Council, today you'll find any race and culture that is known on Yvari - and those who are not yet known often show up in Celsa first. However, many law-fearing people shy away from setting foot there, since Celsa's culture is not one for strict rules. You provoked someone? You earned that bloody nose. And can you tell me who stole your purse? No? Then how am I supposed to find out?   It's a rough place with rough manners, and yet surprisingly kind and community-oriented. Curiosity and humor are regarded highly here, and new experiences like a fresh kind of booze or this new kind of toy that you call your weapon need to be investigated thoroughly.  
None of the islands seem big enough to host a bustling city, although you see small cluttering of huts with some of that cute monkey race jumping about frequently. You still remember your wonder as a kid, when you first saw one of them on the docks in the Seat! You always wondered if the fur was as soft as it looked like, but when you asked your mother, she scolded you for being impolite.   – "What would YOU think if someone asked if your hair was soft?!"
You smile when you remember the answer you gave as a child: "I would tell them it's not very soft, just about normal. But if they were a monkey and don't know, I would ask them if they knew how hair feels - and then let them touch it!"   It earned you a backhand, and you didn't understand then. You do, now, but deep inside you still long to touch that fur.
  Any scholar willing to learn about languages or different people will be able to find a starting point in Celsa. No other place has as many languages flying about, or exotic wares being sold as Celsa does. Few wares are forbidden to be traded there, but the most important of them is Tarassyr fur since Celsa and the Tarassyr share a friendship since the founding of the city. Oftentimes, when pirates come to raid the islands for the soft monkey fur, Celsa is the refuge point for the Tarassyr, and Celsans are more than willing to fight for their friends.  
Suddenly you see one of their logboats dashing through the water and crossing the ship's path. The sailors shout at each other, and the large ship slowly turns to follow the canoe, heading for what seems like a large river flowing to the sea. You're confused for a bit, you didn't know Celsa was upriver. You always thought it was located at the coast.   Soon the ship is passing the narrow entrance and immediately widens again to two arms on each side. Each of those arms harbors several large, high-sea worthy vessel like the on you're traveling on, hidden from the Sea of Pearls by the large mountains at each side of the passage. From those mountains, precarious rope-bridges cross the arms width, with tiny figures moving up there. Small logboats, canoes, and longboats can be seen zipping about the surface of the bay, heading for an ever narrower inlet.
  Celsa is located in a bay protected by mountains that make the entryway look like a river flowing to the sea. The bay looks like a four-fingered hand from above, with Celsa proper being located between the two inner fingers, just across the narrow inlet where the huge, sea-worthy vessels can't pass safely. The hills at each side of the inlay have a garrison carved into the karst stone and six cannons on each side protect the entry from would-be invaders. The inner part of the bay is a maze of rope-bridges, wooden docks, and boats. A few stilted wooden buildings are on the water, the rest of the city is carved into the stone behind, so the little available land can be used for agriculture.

Celsa's Inhabitants

Humans born in Celsa, Councilians, and Utopians gather in Celsa, and for newcomers, it often takes some time to get used to the customs. People from the Council are often confused to see the magical arts mixed in a way that would be unthinkable in the Council, while fresh Utopians often learn the hard way that magic users don't like to be seen as subjects for experiments. The human population of Celsa does have quite a few unsavory figures as well, though. Since the city prides itself in being independent, people who are persecuted elsewhere can still find a peaceful home in the narrow halls of Celsan stone. Quite a few actually are criminals or pirates elsewhere, but here in Celsa they are honest citizens - and they intend to keep their home.
Virtually unknown in any other place besides their hometown Alamma, a few Shiona who didn't want to follow the Rashniki Faith anymore found their way to Celsa by accident. After some time observing the city, they were discovered by some curious Tarassyr kids - and after a while shyly made their appearance in the city.

Despite their quirkiness and aversion to daylight, they were welcomed into the community, and their talents in working the stone as well as their ability to see in poorly lit places have proven an asset to the city. Foreigners and newcomers rarely get to see them, as Celsans respect the Shiona's shyness and try to accommodate them.
At first, it was sheer curiosity for those weird, tall, furless creatures that drew the Tarassyr in. But the knowledge and technology they brought and the protection they were soon able to provide made them invaluable allies from early on. Their innocence and openness quickly melted the more rigid ideas of right and wrong the humans brought, and when new cultures discovered Celsa, that attitude proved beneficial.
A few Eziliari have found their way to Celsa as well. Since Ezilia trades with everyone they can find, they soon came across this new city. With time, they realized that with the unique welcome culture Celsa had even their more unusual looking brethren would be welcome here. Today, they are settling in some of the underwater caves in the bay, and like the Shiona, Celsans help them stay hidden from foreigners and newcomers.

Celsa's Sights

Celsa has a weird form of self-government. A group of elders regularly meet, and their decisions are accepted as binding from the Celsans. Those decision are not codified, but quickly communicate themselves across the populace, since all Celsans love gossip.
  Elders are usually looked up to by everyone, even if not in their official function. The current elders are Chikeko for the Tarassyr, Kazzik for the Shiona, and Rae and Ranulf for the humans.   The Eziliari are happy to govern their underwater quarter on their own and be guests in the rest of Celsa.
Founded in

Around 1000 - nobody really bothers to count
Inhabitant Demonym
Celsan, Celsana

Fish, Exotic Fruits, Pearls, Exotic Drinks, Woven Goods

Trade Partners
– Vertiglobuli Trading Company is the exclusive trading partner for the Council lands
– The Utopian Traders Association negotiates on behalf of Utopian merchants
Celsa is a free city with a history dating back to the beginning of the Council's Mage Wars. After the Experiment's dire outcome, when it became apparent that the mages were gonna march on House Amaranthen in the wake of the events chronicled in Alden's Folly, quite a few people worried about the consequences for the simple folk, and as a consequence, prepared to flee.

This was before the foundation of Utopia, and most vessels they had at their disposal were not able to withstand the perils of the high seas, and so they followed the coast south. The refugees were the first non-Tarassyr to discover the Sea of Pearls, and the curious and friendly monkeys were delighted to meet them and make new friends.

They helped them settle in the Bay of Celsa and were eager to learn of their technologies and trade skills, freely sharing food and knowledge in return.

Magic in Celsa
At first, the refugees were shocked to see magic users among their new neighbors, but soon they got used to seeing magic used as a tool like any other, and today mages are a sight as normal as a blacksmith or a shipwright in Celsa.

In fact, Fire Mages are quite sought after ever since they started carving their houses into the karst stone hills - to prevent water from leaking through the ceiling, Celsans will apply a layer of clay to the ceiling and then have a Fire Mage burn it into place.
Fun in Celsa
If you're looking to spend your free time in Celsa, you have a unique mix of options. On the one hand, taverns, drinks, and gambling dens are widely available. Celsans pride themselves in their variety of fruity alcoholic drinks of various strengths and having very particular ideas on what food goes with which kind of alcohol.

At the same time, the innocent Tarassyr are always up for a game of catch, or any competition involving fishing or hunting. Anything can be made a game, even if it is hard work, and if you express interest, chances are they might let you tag along one of their easier fish hauls or pearl dives.

Or just thrust a wet leather... thing in your arms, yell "You're it!" and leave you to figure out the rules of this weird new ball game they most likely made up five minutes ago.
The Poo Stair
This is probably the weirdest sight of Celsa, and mostly of interest to Utopians as an opportunity to study.

An intricate mechanical system uses the hot air going up from the fireplaces as a power source to transport feces up to the top of the mountain, where it gets used as fertilizer.

Notably, it will leave the mountains in pipes and only be emptied in non-smelling distance from both Elohee's Perch and other mountaintop buildings.

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Defenses and Amenities

  Both narrow passageways, the outer one connecting the Bay of Celsa with the ocean and the inner one separating the anchor spots from the town proper, have garrison facilities cut into the stones. The outermost garrison is mostly manned by Tarassyr, since they are quicker and more nimble than most other inhabitants and can cross the harrowing rope-bridges at breakneck speeds. The inner garrisons are manned by Celsa's militia, and the Western fort is commanded by Ranulf, while the Eastern fort is commanded by Rae. Both forts have six cannons each, and a well-hidden exit for small assault boats to attack any attacker that gets held up by the cannons. Many members of the militia are former pirates that have settled in Celsa thanks to their liberal handling of rules, and they defend their home with fierce loyalty.

The outer part of the bay houses a cave with a shipyard and a considerable storage area inside. More than one Utopian shipwright ended up choosing Celsa as the place to retire, thus making Celsan ships fast and sturdy.

Cover image: by Vertixico


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Elias Redclaw
22 Apr, 2019 18:45

My my! This article is incredibly detailed and amazing! It reeks inspiration and beauty just from how well organised it is! Congrats Merv!   First of all, the way you combine storytelling and description with worldbuilding is simply gorgeous. The use of those quotes, the amazing CSS all make for an amazing article to read . Other than that, I’d say that you cover the aspects of the challenge spectacularly but the usage of quotes and description combined with worldbuilding is what made this truly amazing. Congratulations and keep up the damned fine work!

8 May, 2019 02:54

Why did the poo stair remind me of the Gum Wall in Seattle? Gross things on architecture I guess!   I will say, fantastic mix of storytelling and worldbuilding here. Made me feel like I was right smack dab in the middle of a fantastic animation of a beautiful fantastic island city. You describe the culture with extreme precision, and you show off the different races in creative ways as well.   The only thing I wish I could see is a bit longer history. I love what you have, but I feel like there is such a good story to tell with the history such as how the monkeys came to find them, and what they did besides trade to help them settle in as well as how the settlement grew to be such a cultural hotspot!   Great entry :D

Check out my worldbuilding in the Ethnis Universe!
8 May, 2019 02:55

Also you technically broke the word count by 200 words, but I'll let it slide this time. Just keep an eye on it in the future competitions. I have to read a lot of amazing things!

Check out my worldbuilding in the Ethnis Universe!
8 May, 2019 11:31

I know :( When I found out that the excerpts counted it really took the wind out of my sails. I even thought of withdrawing it, but I wanted the participation badge x(   So I would have completely understood if you had disqualified me. Would have been justified. But thank you for letting it slide :heart:

8 May, 2019 15:44

You better read my actual feedback as well mister. >:C

Check out my worldbuilding in the Ethnis Universe!
9 May, 2019 12:46

I DID! Lol. I'm already thinking about the details of the history and how to expand once the competition is over.