Liavek, a trading city of perhaps 300,000 people, is located on the Sea of Luck. An excellent harbor occurring near the mouth of the Cat River encouraged the Liavekans to develop a fleet of merchant ships, and then a fleet of warships to protect their trade routes.
The city is composed of thousands of different quarters, each with its own style. The more notable neighborhoods include the Canal District, a very old but newly fashionable area for successful merchants and artists; the Levar's Park, a large public park with fine restaurants and strolling entertainers; the Merchant's Quarter, location of the city's largest market, called simply the Market; the Fountain of the Three Temples, once known as the Fountain of the Five Temples; and the docks, primarily warehouses and shipping offices of gaily painted wood that bustle with Liavek's trade during the day.
Liavek's Old Town is almost a city to itself—a city of rogues, artists, the very poor, the eccentric wealthy. Here are the Two-Copper Bazaar, a small market that does not close for nights or holidays, and Rat's Alley, famous for its disreputable entertainment. The more daring of the wealthy will spend an evening at Cheeky's, known for good dancers, bad wine, and exorbitant bills. The very daring visit the Big Tree, a sailors' tavern where theft can be less subtle than at Cheeky's. Not far from Rat's Alley is the Street of Trees, an ancient avenue that dates from S'Rian times. Wizard's Row, when it can be found, is on the edge of Old Town, between Bregas Street and the Street of Scales, terminating at Cheap Street and Healer's Street, and intersected by One-Hand Lane.
In the hills beyond Liavek's walls are farms, plantations, and the second homes of the very wealthy. Both tropical forest and swamps lie to the southwest. To the northeast are the foothills of the Silverspine Mountains. All these fall under Liavek's law. Traveling overland to the north takes one through farmland and savanna until reaching the Great Waste. At Waste's Edge is a village known as Trader's Town, the beginning of the most common route across the desert to the rich, distant city of TICHEN.
Liavekans are a dark-skinned people of medium height who tend to have brown or black hair, though auburn and sand-colored hair is not uncommon. Liavek, being a cosmopolitan city, is inhabited by many peoples. All inhabitants over the age of fourteen are considered citizens, excepting bond servants, who acquire citizenship when their bond ends.
Men and women are equals at all levels of Liavekan society. This may be due to the Tichenese discovery some eight hundred years ago that the dried leaves of the plant now called Worrynot, when chewed every forty-eight hours, are an effective and inexpensive contraceptive for both men and women. Visitors to Liavek are often amused that Houses of Pleasure are easily identified by windowboxes filled with beautiful blooms, and among them are the unassuming pale blue flowers of Worrynot.
Dated from the legendary founding of TICHEN, Liavek was settled in 2619 by nomadic tribes who had lived among the Tichenese for several generations, until they were driven from Tichen. The town of S'Rian existed on the hills overlooking Liavek's harbor, but its inhabitants, a slightly smaller, slightly darker people than the present Liavekans, were conquered and much of S'Rian was destroyed.
The next several hundred years were ones of slow growth and many minor wars with the nearest coastal city, Saltigos. The Liavekan colony of Hrothvek was founded, and Liavek began its expansion across the Cat River into New Town. The last Saltigan war ended in 2948. Saltigos has since been, in name, an independent city-state, though its Chancellor has always been a relative or a nominee of the Levar. In the absence of a direct heir, the Chancellor of Saltigos generally succeeds to the Levar's throne. Hrothvek is also, in name, an independent ally of Liavek, though its ruler is a Chancellor of Liavek.
Following the acquisition of Saltigos, Liavek entered into a long period of competition with KA ZHIR, the major trade city across the Sea of Luck. This eventually led to war, which ended in 3298 with Liavek the stronger.
4. Social structure and government
Liavek's hereditary ruler is the Levar, a title that translates to "the luck of the people" in Old Liavekan. The present Levar is Tazli Ifino iv Larwin, who will come of age in 3320. Her present Regent is His Scarlet Eminence, Resh, the First Priest of the FAITH OF THE TWIN FORCES.
Liavek's nobility are composed of chancellors, margraves, counts and countesses, and vavasors. Much of the governing is done by a group of eleven nobles and eleven merchants known as the Levar's Council, whose decisions require the Levar's sanction. The noble members are chosen by Liavek's chancellors, who may sit on the Council or appoint a representative. Merchant members of the Council are elected every five years by the members of the Merchant's Society.
Nobles are all those who are acknowledged offspring of a noble parent or who are adopted by nobility, though titles and lands usually go to a single heir. Merchants are all those who pay the annual dues of fifty levars to the Merchant's Society.
Beneath the merchants are the independent traders, who pay ten levars yearly to the Merchant's Society, followed by skilled craftspeople, unskilled workers, and indentured servants. Though Liavek once permitted slavery and made much profit from trading in slaves, slavery has been banned for over sixty years.
5. Law and law enforcement
In Liavek, laws almost solely concern property. Penalties are harsh, beginning with flogging or a day of public confinement tied to a post in Fool's Square, and progressing through branding, death, and mutilation. Imprisonment is thought unusually cruel, fit only for kidnappers, rapists, and counterfeiters of Liavekan currency. Such people are exiled to Crab Isle.
Duels are illegal, but are generally ignored by the law. Traditionally, duels must be agreed to by both parties in the presence of four disinterested witnesses, two chosen by each participant, and a healer must attend the duel.
The Levar's Guard is also the City Guard. Guards are well paid, and therefore less susceptible to bribery than comparable forces in other cities. Guards are known by their grey vests and pants. Badges of rank are sewn onto the left shoulder, and higher officers are identified by a blue sash or cape.
All citizens have the right of trial within twenty-four hours of accusation. Three judges are chosen from older citizens who have been recognized by the Society of Judges. One is chosen by the accuser, one by the defendant, and one by the Society of Judges. If these three cannot come to an agreement, the accused is freed. Retrial is permitted once if new evidence is found.
6. Language and greeting customs
Liavek's heritage is most evident in its language. Properly a Tichenese dialect, Liavekan is so thickly accented with the sounds of southern languages such as Old Saltigan, Zhir, and S'Rian, and so richly spiced with words for things that are unique to the south and the sea, that it is unintelligible to the modem Tichenese.
The forms of greeting in Liavek are an unamalgamated mixture of several traditions. The Tichenese bow with their arms at their sides; the depth of the bow and how long it is held indicate the degree of respect. The Zhir (and, long ago, the S'Rians and the Saltigans) place both hands to their foreheads.
In Liavek, the bow is used mostly by those whose ancestors were the conquering Liavekans and is therefore appropriate in Court. The hand gesture is favored by those descended from S'Rian or emigrated from the south, and is more often used casually. However, the Liavekan gesture is done with a single hand, and certain subtleties have crept in. The number of fingers touched to the forehead and the length of time they're held there indicate the degree of respect or formality intended. Uncommon usage has extra impact: a friend might thank you by pressing both palms to his forehead; an enemy might insult you by touching one finger to his forehead and grinning while holding it there.
As the climate is warm, clothing tends to be loose or lightweight. Modesty is not a dictum of the society, but the sun demands certain precautions be made by the fair-skinned. Sandals are the usual footwear, though light shoes and short boots are sometimes worn. As the nights can be cool, jackets, capes, and other forms of outerwear are common, though these are usually of linen. cotton, silk. or lightweight wool to protect the wearer from the daytime sun as well as the cool night.
Single shot muskets and pistols sometimes supplement the wealthy soldier's equipment. These are generally matchlocks or wheellocks, for flintlocks are rare. The harbor, ships, and city walls are guarded with cannon, catapults, and arbalests. Officers and the wealthy frequently carry pistols, though swords are considered more appropriate for dueling and are generally more dependable. Swords tend to be sabers or rapiers, though short swords are favored by sailors.
9. Transportation and communications
Horses belong to the wealthy, donkeys or camels to the middle classes. Oxen and water buffalo are common draft animals. Taxis tend to be human-drawn two-wheeled carts called footcabs, and polemen serve the canal district.
A postal system is evolving within Liavek and other cities, and post horses are stationed along the Levar's Highway for royal use. There is also a thriving "scandal sheet" or "half-copper rag" business that provides news, gossip, lies, fiction, reviews, and essays to any who care to buy from street hawkers. These are usually four or eight page newspapers, sometimes illustrated with woodblock prints.
The basic monetary unit is the levar, a small round gold coin. The five-levar gold coin is larger and five-sided. The ten-levar piece is thicker than the five, and ten-sided. Silver pieces are half-levars, quarter-levars, and tenth-levars. Copper coins are, prosaically, two-coppers, one-coppers, and half-coppers. One hundred coppers equals a levar. Five levars will feed and house a family of four to six people living moderately for a month; a half-copper will buy a mug of ale or a couple of apples.
11. Food and drink
The plains to the west produce a seemingly endless supply of grain, beef, pork, mutton, and domestic fowl. Due to the distances involved, vast underground granaries have been built along the Farmer's Highway so livestock will not lose too much weight on the trek to Liavek. These granaries are of immense strategic and economic importance.
A variety of game birds are caught in the salt marsh to the south, as well as exotic seafood, particularly crustaceans ranging from tiny marsh crabs no larger than a thumbnail to something resembling a giant sea-going cockroach that weighs as much as forty pounds. The mountains of the Silverspine provide their share of produce. In the foothills are ancient vineyards, higher are olive groves and, still higher, is the domain of crag sheep, prized for the difficulty of their hunting as much as for their meat.
The sea provides Liavek with its people's favorite food. Fresh raw shellfish in the spring, dried salt fish for long journeys, healthful sea grasses to flavor soups and stews, and the meats of uncountable sea dwellers all form the heart of Liavek's cuisine. Perhaps the only staple of Liavekan dining that cannot be found near Liavek is kaf, the strong, hot drink brewed from beans imported by the Zhir or the traders of GOLD HARBOR.
Perhaps the most distinctive Liavekan dish is the pot-boil. At its lowliest, a pot-boil is a long-simmered soup of fish or meat or fowl, but in Liavek, it has become an art. More than one establishment has had pots in continuous operation for over four hundred years. High on the craggy face of Snowhome is a monastery rumored to have tended a pot-boil for two thousand years.
Alcoholic beverages range from the wheat beer of the western plains to the red wines from Saltigos and the foothills of the Silverspine. Several tiny mountain villages distill Dragonsmoke from barley that is malted and cooked slowly over peat fires. Less skilled distillers, in an effort to duplicate this, produce a cheap, potent liquor often called Dragonpiss.
12. The calendar and holidays
The Liavekan calendar was taken from TICHEN. with twelve months of thirty days (Snow, Rain, Wind, Buds, Flowers, Meadows, Reaping, Heat, Fruit, Wine, Fog, and Frost) and five days of Festival, which begins the year on the winter solstice. Every four years is the Grand Festival, which has six days.
The week of five days consists of Sunday, Moonday, Windday, Rainday, and Luckday. For some workers, the week is divided into four days of work and one of freedom, though others work eight days and take two days off. Tenth Day is an unofficial holiday for almost everyone.
During major holidays, such as the Levar's birthday (which is always celebrated on the summer solstice), almost all work ceases, except in such establishments as those in the Levar's Park, the better restaurants in the Canal District, and all other businesses that ordinarily operate twenty-four hours a day. At such times, Wizard's Row can never be found.
There are uncountable beings who are either gods or demons or neither, depending on one's faith. Many of these beings favor a particular people or locale. Some will come when summoned, some will not. It may be that some are created by their summoner in the act of summoning.
Rikiki is a small blue chipmunk who will sometimes grant tiny favors in ways one least expects, in return for nuts and much patient explanation. Though not presently worshiped by any organized group, Rikiki may have been a god of S'Rian. Many Liavekans leave bowls of nuts "for Rikiki," particularly on holidays.
Perhaps the largest, and certainly the most conspicuous, religion is the Faith of the Twin Forces, or the Red Faith. The Red priests believe that fate is decided by weighing the many tiny choices one makes in one's life. Their leader is His Scarlet Eminence, Resh, the First Priest.
While "good" is to be preferred when following the Red faith, the worst mistake that Red adherents can make is to divide their actions between extremes of good and evil. The Reds believe that in the afterlife one is treated according to one's behavior in the world. For example, those who alternated between torturing small children and saving the lives of wounded animals will be torn apart throughout eternity by the two conflicting forces of the universe. The way to avoid this is to center one's acts around a standard. A common center for such activity is self-survival, since survival is usually thought morally neutral. Good deeds are sought since they ensure a certain degree of better treatment in the afterlife, but after an unusual good deed (such as saving a child), one should perform other deeds of intermediate goodness (such as giving food to a beggar) before continuing life as usual.
The Red priests function largely as counselors: "What shall I do, 0 scarlet one, so that the conflict between the person I am and the deed I must do (have done) will not destroy me?" An effective priest knows exactly how "good" or "evil" a person is, and knows how to counsel that person in behaving consistently with his or her present self, with a secondary goal of weaning that person to a path of "good." A professional thief who finds a lost child will not get the same advice as a doctor.
The Book of the Twin Forces is the most commonly known collection of the writings of the Red Faith.
The Scarlet Guard is a mercenary force almost as large as the Levar's Guard. The duty of the Scarlet Guard is almost exclusively to protect the wealthy temples and monasteries of the Red priesthood, though they have come to supplement the Levar's Guard in the palace since His Scarlet Eminence became Regent.
The Black Faith, or the Kin of One Path, believe in an Absolute Goodness, and that only by always choosing honesty can one achieve a heaven that is kept for those who are truly good. They also believe that contact with evil or with compromise will corrupt, so their order is primarily a monastic one. Their temples are open one day a week for instructing any who come seeking truth. They are led by a council of five elders.
The White Faith, or the Church of Truth, sees the universe and all promises of heaven as cruel lies, and seeks to accept or escape an endless cycle of rebirth. These "anti-Illusionists" believe the only choice worth considering is that of self-interest. They do not hire guards, for all White priests are magicians. Most White priests carry a device of string and wood called a Sharibi puzzle attached to their belts. The Book of Oblivion is the most ancient collection of writings of the Church of Truth.
The Pardoners, a sect of mendicant priests who will intercede with any god on anyone's behalf, have a modest hostel in Liavek. Most people like them but consider them a little crazy; few actively disapprove of them. They are the jacks-of-all-trades of the priesthoods, and often come from those who left or were cast out of other faiths.
The Way of Herself is more a path to enlightenment than a belief in a deity. "Herself" refers to the teacher-saint who founded the religion. Practitioners of the Way kill only out of need. Food is considered good reason, but gluttony, especially overindulgence in meat, is contrary to the Way. Self-defense is also considered good reason.
Whenever practitioners draw or are offered water, they pour a libation onto the soil to symbolize the principle that anything given to the earth returns multiplied. Other humans also rate good treatment according to the Way. It encourages sensitivity, patience, and kindness toward believers and nonbelievers.
The Green priests, or The House of Responsible Life, are an order of suicides, and an offshoot of an older and more sinister church that concerned itself largely with death. The original Green priests had preferred to kill others; the first members of the new order applied the old order's collection of exquisite, exotic, or painful methods to themselves.
The Green Order has a formidable bureaucracy to delay, give advice to, or screen out altogether those candidates who hope to escape their legitimate responsibilities, or who have otherwise unworthy motives for suicide, or whose families are likely to raise a fuss. The order thus finds itself being the only organized body in Liavek that attempts to prevent suicide.
The Tichenese Empire has reached its greatest geographic expansion, extending to mountains in the west, the Great Waste in the south, the ocean in the east, and the ice lands in the north. Tichen is famed for its schools, which are governed by centuries of tradition, and its crafts. It is the largest city in the known world. Though Tichen has been conquered several times in its distant past, its conquerors have always been absorbed into Tichen's culture.
Tichenese are, for the most part, a very dark people with wiry hair and broad noses. Their navy is not very good, but their army is immense, so none of the southern cities openly play pirate with Tichenese vessels.
16. Ka Zhir
The city of Ka Zhir, located across the Sea of Luck, is Liavek's primary trade rival. The Zhir are related to the S'Rians, and so are slightly smaller and slightly darker than most Liavekans. Their speech is more guttural. Ka Zhir controls much of the kaf, sugar, copper, and woodworking trade from the lands around it, which are noted for jungles and volcanoes. Slavery is permitted in Ka Zhir. The ruler of Ka Zhir is King Thelm; his heir is his eldest son, Prince Jeng.
17. Gold Harbor
Gold Harbor is a trading town near the mouth of the Sea of Luck. There is almost no such thing as a typical resident of Gold Harbor; though the town is smaller than Liavek, it's even more racially and culturally mixed. It occupies an important strategic position, since it is halfway between KA ZHIR and Liavek-controlled Saltigos, and its neutrality is a pivotal point in the uneasy peace between the two nations. Gold Harbor is governed by a Mayor who is elected by Gold Harbor's wealthier merchants.
The little inland nation of Ombaya is located to the southwest of Liavek. Its people are as dark as the Tichenese, but very tall and slender. Ombaya is governed by a benevolent matriarchy, and the dominant religion is the Way of Herself. The tenets of the Way are demonstrated to good effect on the farms of Ombaya, which produce huge yields of vegetables, fruits, and grains—and the poultry is almost beyond belief.
Ombaya also follows the Way in its defense posture. It is a peaceful, neutral nation, but if threatened, it destroys its enemy in the most merciful fashion possible.
19. The Farlands
"Farlands" is the Liavekan name for the continent across the ocean where paler folk live. One of its more important countries is Acrivain, and there are a few Acrivannish exiles in Liavek, generally called Farlanders or, even less politely though perhaps not maliciously, "ghosts" by the Liavekans.
20. Other sapient beings
The Kil, or the sea folk, are mammals, not amphibians. The Kil are tall, and most of their skin is covered with a reddish brown pelt. Their hands and feet are webbed, and their faces are very broad, with deepset eyes and wide, almost flat, noses. Mating between human and Kil results in a sterile child. The Kil pity these halfbreeds, who have less skill in the water than sea folk do.
The Kil, when trading with humans, use their race and their sex as a last name. A male Kil is a'Kil, a female, i'Kil. Though the Kil have warred with humans, they have never warred with Liavek. Kil Island is forever theirs by treaty, and they seem to accept the encroachment of humanity along Kil Coast.
The mountain folk live high in the Silverspine. They have a name for themselves, but it is so long and so hard to pronounce that no human has yet successfully memorized it. Their hands and feet are very strong, with long, clawed digits. They are almost unstoppable climbers, and a membrane stretching from arm to torso on both sides enables them to leap and glide downward for short distances. They are astonishingly ugly by human standards, wrinkled, leathery, hairless, and grayish. They are mammals. Their language is rich and subtle, and their highest art is storytelling. The mountain people are shy and fierce, and humanity has only begun to learn about them. It may be possible for a human/mountain folk interbreeding to produce offspring, but that may never be tested, given how unsavory each race finds the other.
Trolls are possibly mythical beings that choose an unwilling companion to torment, generally until the victim's death. It is said that only the victim can see and hear the troll, though some say it can make itself visible to whomever it chooses. Many people in Liavek do not believe in trolls, though "May you be ridden by a troll" is a common curse. It is rumored that cats and a few other animals might be able to see trolls, who may therefore avoid people who have such pets.
The Bhandafs are a fierce and independent people who may or may not be human. Their eyes are inhumanly catlike. Whether this is the result of genetics or magic remains to be learned.