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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Cities of Abraxas: Utesh

Set on an island beyond the easternmost exit arch of the Vadem Causeway, Utesh can only be reached by boat or flier. From a distance the city resembles one vast pyramid shimmering in the white coastal light. But in fact there is no pyramid in the whole city: the buildings are arranged in a grid with the smallest at the perimeter rising to the central tower called the Sky Axis wherein are the dual thrones of the Ward of the Red Crown and the Ward of the White Crown. Thus the overall form of all the buildings sketches out a pyramid, ensuring that the cosmic energy collected by the Sky Axis is properly focused and conveyed to all the inhabitants.

The city is built of golden stone, the buildings comprising broad spire-topped towers (shaped like Cleopatra's needle) or square arched colonnades. Often the tops of columns are carved to resemble stylized sea fronds, for the Uteshi believe themselves descended from the merfolk who dwell on the ocean bed. Murals commonly depict the city's bird- and animal-headed gods, or replicate in stylized form the all seeing Eye of Horus that stares from the summit of the Sky Axis.

To the west, on the mainland, is the necropolis. Here the tombs are pyramid-shaped, again the aim being to focus cosmic forces so as to preserve the bodies that lie within.

Government: Utesh is a theocracy. The priesthoods of the different gods function
like ministries, in theory comprising two factions whose heads (and supreme priests of the temples of that faction) are the Wards of the White and Red Crowns. In practice, byzantine intrigues and alliances blur the simple factionalism of the system.

People: The Uteshi average slightly over six feet and are of slender build. Faces are typically high-cheekboned, eyes almost feline, jaw sharp, skin tawny olive-gold. Hair is white or very pale fawn. However, men usually shave their heads but may have long sideburns or small straight beards; women keep their hair very short except for Mohican-style crests.
Culture: More important than monetary wealth in Utesh is neth - literally, "eye". A man's degree of neth shows how well respected he is. Nobles are born with more neth than commoners, citizens have more than foreigners. Certain professions (notably the priesthood) carry more neth than others. You can earn more by good manners, poise, learning and heroism. Neth is used up like spiritual currency - in return for favors from the gods, and to balance against any wrongdoing that might otherwise result in imprisonment, torture or death.

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