Sands of Ath-Thurayya
The Grand Bazaar of Zusu
It is often said that “you can make or lose a fortune in one day in the Bazaar” or “you can find not one, but two, of anything at the Bazaar”. The Grand Bazaar is the second largest and most diverse market in the western world, overshadowed only by the business district of the Imperial city of Rhun. Unlike many bazaars, which are confined to a specific open square and located at the center of the city, the Grand Bazaar starts at the middle of the docks and goes a dozen blocks into the city in every direction. Some of it is permanent structures, while much of it is made of tents and carts lining every street. A mishmash of laws and re-zoning after fires have changed the face of the Bazaar. By law, nearly fifty percent of the area that is officially referred to as the Grand Bazaar is only available on a first-come, first-serve basis, with no tent thrown or cart wheeled into place until the first bell after dawn. This means that the Bazaar is significantly different every day, and finding a specific merchant two days in row requires a great deal of luck or an innate, local knowledge of the place.
The Zusu Jewel
The Jewel is one of the largest and most successful brothels in the city, sitting at the edge of the Grand Bazaar. The Jewel is located in the prime corner position of a collection of connected buildings that take up an entire city block. Although the Jewel officially only takes up a relatively small portion of the building, persistent rumors suggest that there are secret passages that connect the brothel with all of the other businesses, courtyards and even private apartments that make up the block of buildings. This makes it possible to come and go to the Jewel without using the front entrance and makes it a popular meeting place even for those who are not seeking the company of a young, nubile companion. Meeting rooms, food and drink are all available for a price at the Jewel in addition to the usual business of the establishment.
The Oasis is the only large concentration of sustainable water in the great sandy desert that makes up most of Ath-Thurraya. Located a few days walk southwest of the Forbidden Ruins, it is roughly equidistant from Cha’thag, Zusu, and Ash-Ri-An although most travelers from those regions would die in the desert long before finding the place. The Oasis is sacred to the desert nomads and central to their culture. The People (or Bedwin) maintain a permanent, if small, population at the oasis which includes some of their most powerful warriors, mystics and blooded who are dedicated to defending the Oasis should it become necessary. Long generations of experience has shown that the Oasis can sustain a permanent population of about five hundred and this number is strictly enforced, even in times of emergency. Normally, this isn’t a problem since every nomad worth the name would walk into the desert to certain death if it meant safeguarding the Oasis; in fact, this is not an uncommon practice among the elderly and infirm. The only time the population rises is during the annual bedwin when all the tribes gather for trade and to share information. At this time, the population can swell to ten times normal, which is why the bedwin is only held for a week and many people take pride in carrying their own water to the bedwin at great personal expense.
The Forbidden Ruins
Although the high desert is dotted with ruins, both hidden in the sand and in extensive caverns under the surface, there is one complex that tops them all in size and danger. The Forbidden Ruins is a huge complex of half-buried pyramids, buildings, and subterranean tombs. It is full of traps, residual magic, artifacts and chimera of mind-boggling form and ferocity. Legend tells they are called the Forbidden Ruins because after the rise of the Sphinx-King, he made a pilgrimage to the ruins to commune with the spirits of the First Ones. What he found is unknown, although when he returned, he proclaimed that exploring the ruins could only bring death and madness to his people and he decreed them off-limits. Of course, since the Sphinx-King’s disappearance, the decree is rarely enforced.