The City of Mahza
Mahza began existence as a small trading post on the border of Yagura. During the more restrictive years of the Court War’s aftermath, no outsider was allowed to enter the nation, and only a priveleged few had the possibility of leaving Yagura and having hope to return. Mahza’s existence was one of secret – a border town where Yaguran smugglers could sell goods and make it back through the thick of the Great Jungle’s rim without notice. Once the goods had been delivered to Mahza, they could be shipped up river towards the mouth of the Niran Bay, and from there to more reputable ports. This was one of the ways Yagura continued to trade, even as the Court commanded the nation be closed during its reconstruction.
Even after the Monkey Emperor’s reign saw the opening of the borders, Mahza continued to be a popular destination, for it also sat upon the crossroads of trading routes from the Grave and the eastern city of Or-Mayad (later the capital of the Kingdom of Ganapali). The Emperors of Varyna Hadim eventually commissioned for new architectural works to expand the city from a shanty town to a great metropolis, converting entire hills into platforms for towers and temples. However, this new construction brought with it new tensions – first, the smuggling rings that had been entrenched in Mahza for years were decidedly not in any of the plans of the Varyna Hadim for the city’s expansion, and indeed new taxes and laws were levied against them in hopes of squelching their practices in favor of legitimate trade; second, many of the workers brought in for construction were Zhemri debtor-slaves, most of them criminals indoctrinated into the cult of Ganushim, whose worship had been growing steadily among the ethnicity’s less privileged for years in response to the caste systems introduced by the Niranese emperors. Although it would be the gold of kings and priests that bought the new city, it would ultimately be built with the blood and sweat of criminals and outlaws.
After Varyna Hadim fell and the empire was divided among squabbling warlords, Mahza was left for years to fend for itself. Most of the nobility of the city responded with apprehension and erred on the side of caution, taking refuge in the newly-constructed Tiers against any potential invasion or outbreak of chaos. The lower portion of the city was, for the most part, left to fend for itself, and the smugglers and thieves soon began to form cartels and expand their power. It would not be until the last fifty years that the religious cult of Ganushim would take the vast majority of power in the underworld of Mahza, putting an end to guild wars and allowing thieves to operate as they saw fit so long as their black markets and fences were used. Meanwhile, in the political spheres, Mahza originally backed the Vishkanti Republic that formed in the heartland of the old capital, but quickly flipped to swear fealty to the King of Ganapali when he conquered the old Varyna Hadim capital in the heart of the Republic.
In theory, the Magistrate and Governor, both appointed by the King of Ganapali, hold power in Mahza. In truth, this is a power limited to where the guard is capable of going and observing, which limits them to brief patrols in the lower regions and most of the time in the Tiers. The Magistrate in particular is willing to look the other way in regards to the other powers in Mahza, knowing full well that the wealth of the city comes from less savory sources. The Governor is less inclined to this lawlessness, and every day he applies more pressure to the Magistrate and the guards to clean up the City of Thieves.
Beyond the Tiers, the people often turn to the Temple District for guidance. Although shrines exist to numerous gods, there are three major temples in Mahza – The Temple of the Brothers, The Temple of Ur, and the Ishilaoi Sanctuary. Of these groups, the Temple of Brothers is most respected by the commoners, but the Temple of Ur is the richest and wields considerable temporal power, both among the peasantry and with the nobles living in the Tiers.
In the underworld, the Cult of Ganushim has kept the peace for decades among the squabbling collections of smugglers, thieves, and rogues that call Mahza home. Although they do not require worship to their god, they command the overwhelming majority of black markets, smuggling points, and fences. The priests of Ganushim never betray another thief who uses their services, but they refuse to help one party take power over many others. In recent years, the Ganushim have become plagued as a new group has begun to undermine this trust – whispers of a dark cult of religious murderers have taken hold in the dregs of Mahza, and common folk have even more reason to fear going out at night.
The Dregs are the informal name of the lower regions of Mahza that do not warrant much attention – residential regions for the lower castes, smaller markets and the farms on the perimeter of the walls of the city. Very little of note is in these regions beyond individual homes, various taverns of ill repute, and the hostels of slum lords. In general, it is a very, very bad idea to be lost in the Dregs after dark.
The hub of commerce in the lower districts of Mahza, the Bazaar is a massive covered market, open every day regardless of weather conditions. Traders from all around Ganapali and the borders come to the Bazaar to trade their goods, and it is likely to find most of what one would need in these markets. Of course, this also makes it a popular destination for thieves, and rumors has that many of the traveler’s houses and dens set up to service merchants also rob them from under their noses.
The Water Front
Although Mahza is not a port city, it sits at the point where the Javayala River splits in two before entering the Niran Bay. Thus, it is a popular destination for river-going craft seeking to take their cargo upstream towards Yagura or down to Shangi to pass along to sea-going vessels. The Water Front houses a few
The Temple District
Mahza would seem the farthest thing from a religious city, but the Tebodim faith is important to any inhabitant of the Kingdom of Ganapali. Mahza houses the ancient Temple of the Brothers – beginning existence as a simple shrine to the sibling gods Aeshvar and Vengor, the temple grew around this original monument as Ephfraim emperors continued to donate to the priesthood’s coffers for their dedication to the city. Today, it is the largest house of worship in the Temple District, and undoubtedly the most popular. However, it is not alone here; the cult of Ur has risen in recent years through newfound wealth and has greatly expanded its own temple, thanks to the new High Priest, a figure who has unmatched power in the otherwise fractured cult across the entire eastern region of Niranshetra. Shrines and smaller temples also exist dedicated to Kezia, Ishilaoi, and Yalda’Zune, as well as an enclave for followers of Suleyism.
The Incline is the name given to the steep road upwards from the Bazaar to the Tiers. In general, upscale taverns and dens can be found along the Incline, along with various peddlers daring enough to attempt to sell goods to those heading up from the Bazaar for business with the rulers of the city. Various services also exist along the Incline, often offering to help carry goods up the staggering hill.
Towering over Mahza, the Tiers are only accessible through the Incline – over the rest of the city, the Tiers are only a sheer man-made cliff, impassable by most. This is the home of the upper classes of Mahza, and relatively spared from the reputation from the rest of the city’s proclivity towards shady dealings. The great gardens of the Ephfraim emperors still stand here, along with their massive gazebos where foreign kings used to reside in splendor when invited. The gardens have become more public since those days, and the nobles prefer to stay indoors or in their own gardens when possible. Nevertheless, a small group of citizens still tend to for the gardens fiercely, as they have for generations.