Ashkel

Despite being by far and away the largest settlement in Kel Saratose, Ashkel is not its seat of government. This airy, sprawling port sits on the shores of the saran sounds, in the best natural harbour the region has to offer. Larger vessels are usually serviced by temporary wharves on pontoons because the region is infamous for sand bars, and more than a few ships run aground in the bay trying to reach the docks, so the layout of the moorings changes month to month, or even day to day during a busy season, as dock-hands pole sections of wharf from one vessel to another.

Region: Kel Saratose, Inner Sea Basin
Total Population: 20,200 approx.
Demographics: 78% Landsman, 8% Kenu, 7% Hobgoblyn, 5% Goblyn, 1% Mhulak, 2% other
Government:
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Tech. Level: 7
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Many visitors find it surprising that Ashkel is not Kel Saratose's seat of power, but it speaks clearly to the character of the ancient county that the counts have long eschewed this teeming, cosmopolitan city in favour of more pastoral settings. Set out around the harbour, the city is split in two by a series of shallow canals used to move goods in large volume to any part of the city, and also for sewerage. Barges and small passenger boats are poled through the canals, and carriages and wagons crowd the broad streets and bridges. Truly Ashkel is a city of vehicles, and the those with means would never be seen going from place to place on foot. This means that the fields around the city are rich with and black with the tons of horse mess carted out daily.

On the northern side of the canals there are the palaces and large homes of pale yellow clay brick belonging to the upper and middle classes, and on the south side stand the cruder homes of the city's lower classes. In both cities space is generous, and poor homes never rise higher than a single level, while even sprawling palaces of more than two are a rarity. Marble fa├žades are popular, but expensive, and plastered brick is far more common, especially for rear walls. On the finest palaces spires and domes painted with stripes of blue or gold make for a colourful horizon. The city has no walls, and few defences, and so the bounds of Ashkel spread and spread each year.

Ashkel is most famous for the annual festival of the lanterns, which takes place on the twelfth day of Dahlnere. It is a day devoted to reflecting upon one's troubles and enmities, and the day is spent fasting in quiet contemplation. Then, once the sun has set, the people gather in the dark streets, or along the docks, and one by one they light candles suspended below cloth sacks, and release them to drift into the sky, or on tiny rafts into the harbour. A lantern is lit for each worry, each enemy, each pain or malady, so that they can be let go, and swept away on the wind. The remainder of the night is then given to feasting and indulgence, song, dance and jubilant prayer until the sun rises again, and the people go to their work again with a sense of renewal and lightness. Though occasionally lanterns do cause small fires, especially when they land on docked ships, for the most part the festival is a time of happiness and celebration.

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