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Jay Lake
Date: 2008-05-24 16:21
Subject: [fiction] A walker's guide to the city of Axqa
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Music:Star Wars III on the DVD
Tags:fiction, lj
I propose a small joint fiction project here: a walker's guide to the city of Axqa. Axqa exists nowhere except in this blog, and is here only for our enjoyment. I shall make the first entry in comments. You are invited to add your own entries, emendations and commentary. Corrections and additions to one another's entries are encouraged, within the bounds of civility and the limits of the shared unreality of Axqa.

Have at it!
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Jay Lake: writing-stained_glass_book
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-05-24 23:25 (UTC)
Subject: The Street of Green Doors
The Street of Green Doors opens off of Exilarch Avenue, at the seedier end where the avenue is lined with clothiers and haberdasheries and a few illicit armories. It extends to the south, walled on both sides by plastered stone towering several stories so that the sky is a single ribbon above the walker's head, the weather a gleaming strip above the worn cobbles.

Both sides of the street are lined with doors all painted the same rich, gleaming green as a spring meadow after the rains have come. The plastered walls are a rich ochre shade much the same color as a turned field in one of the water-farms along the edge of the Malachite Desert. The doors have no handles or knobs, just their painted over planks blankly facing the walker.

Some doorways are squared in the simplest fashion, trimmed in wood or with stone lintels. Others have arched tops, or more elaborate keyhole-shaped frames in the style of the eastern exarchies. Even though all the materials are of a common form and color, this variety of shapes pleases the eye and suggests questions of culture and variety to the mind.

The most curious thing about the Street of Green Doors takes the walker a few moments to recognize. The further one progresses from Exilarch Avenue, the smaller the doors become. Near the entrance, a camel could step bent-necked through one or another of the entrances. A dozen paces in, a mule. Two dozen paces, a tall slave laden with a burden-basket might pass. Two dozen more paces and man of middling height might brush his head. Further on, they become chest height, then waist height, then knee height. Eventually the doors are so small that even a mouse might trouble to pass. Some walkers claim to have brought lenses to find doors that could fit a beetle, an ant, a flea.

No one and nothing will trouble the walker along the Street of Green Doors, so long as the walker follows the most ardently given advice never to knock on any of the doors. Attempting to measure the street is not recommended either. A block can easily be made from Exilarch Avenue, along the Street of Dyers, up Princeps Avenue and back along Threadneedle Street which will indicate to the walker that the Street of Green Doors cannot be more than a few dozen paces deep. Likewise the architecture of that larger block does not lend itself to a rational understanding of the plastered walls of the Street of Green Doors.

As Morteng the Almost Wise has said, "Let the mystery be."
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User: ygolonac
Date: 2008-05-24 23:34 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Street of Green Doors
If I read this description to my old gaming group, one of them would immediately say "I knock on one of the doors". :)
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User: saoba
Date: 2008-05-25 00:06 (UTC)
Subject: May I?
Somewhere along the eastern edge of Axqa's famous market is a small and inviting park. It is bordered on all four sides by a low stacked stone wall topped with a gleaming wrought iron rail. The gate is likewise of wrought iron with bronze finials. The walks are shaded by flowering trees, and here and there about the park are stone benches.

If you stand at the gate you will catch a glimpse of the small lake at the park's heart. The plaque on the gate is slightly obscured by moss and the name of the park is no longer known.

The gate is never locked. Yet regardless of the time of day the park is empty.

This is not to say no one goes in.
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Jay Lake: flowers-berries
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-05-25 00:10 (UTC)
Subject: Re: May I?

I have heard that the fruits from the trees of this park are divine, but I know of no one who has ever tasted them.
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The NewroticGirl
User: newroticgirl
Date: 2008-05-25 00:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Topdown Market is a must for visitors to Axqa -- whether or not you intend to shop. It resides underneath the statue of Armon Shinks and is accessed through the camel's left hind leg.

Expect a moment of disorientation as you step through the door in the camel's ankle: the Topdown Market is indeed upsidedown. Or at least, it seems that way! The stone structures that house the many market shops are built from the ceiling, not from the floor, of the spacious cavern beneath the city. Ask the merchants how the Topdown Market came to be -- the stories you'll hear will be fantastic and varied.

Keep a hand on your wallet at all times, as Topdown is a notorious haunt for young pickpockets. Many of these lightfingered scamps haunt the entrance, waiting to take advantage of visitors who stop to gape at the upsidedown stone market.
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2008-05-25 02:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Should you find your wallet taken, be not ashamed, for the youths spend their lives developing the skill. Indeed, if you wish to learn the skill, look for one of the many boys bearing smeared ocher birds on their arms. For a few coins, they will show you much of their craft. But avoid the Lava Girls, known by their vermilion tattoos, if you can even spot them. They are proud and hate all not marked as they. Dare not even to offer them alms, for it is an insult to their thieving skills. You will soon find a bloody red flower carved into your skin as punishment for your impertinence.
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orangemike: books
User: orangemike
Date: 2008-05-25 00:44 (UTC)
Subject: On the City Guard
There are a number of contradictory tales about the origin of the Axqa City Guard's all-female composition. The oddest is that in the reign of Lathrap III, he adopted the custom of his mother's ancestral Bavyerni, and took to wife every female made captive in the then-interminable border wars; then made these wives (under his Chief Wife, the legendary Zuriku) into a personal guard force for Axqa. This doesn't match what else we read of Lathrap's reign, but it makes more sense than most of the remaining theories (women left behind when a plague killed all of their menfolk then serving in the armies; the resolution of a partially-successful sex war; etc.)
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User: djonn
Date: 2008-05-25 05:26 (UTC)
Subject: Re: On the City Guard
Another tale claims that the Guard became all-female at the specific instigation of the goddess Qonar, who had grown tired of the ceaseless conflicts and ordered her Sisterhoods to intervene at the climax of the fourth and final Autumn War.

This too is entirely unsubstantiated. On one hand, the Seven Sisterhoods of today are generally regarded as one of Axqa's most peaceful if peculiar religious sects. On the other, the sect is also one of the city's most reticent -- and if the legend is true, it is not surprising that Qonar prefers to keep silent on the topic, as certain other sects (notably that of Nakulku) might view Qonar's intrusion into worldly matters as a threat to their own patrons.
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User: ellameena
Date: 2008-05-25 02:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
From the street of green doors, you will be able to detect a faint whiff of manure, which, if you follow it, will lead you a quarter of a mile down the river which bisects Axqa. Docks jut out into the river on your left. The current here is slow, and a green scum clings to the wooden posts rising up out of the river. Fisherwomen tarry here in the evening, as they haul in the day's catch, laboring over nets full of bright orange fish. To the right, apartment buildings loom alarmingly over you, which is why it's such a surprise when the road takes a sudden turn to the right, and then opens onto Axqa's famous pet market.

By now you may have heard the shrill cries of the bemidji birds, or the hiss of the mantilla, but do not be so eager to explore the market that you do not take a moment to admire the view from atop the ridge. Each pet seller displays the colors of his country and guild on the awning above his stall. Row upon row of awnings comprise an unintentional tapestry, one that changes from season to season as pet sellers come and go.
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User: sheelangig
Date: 2008-05-25 03:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There was a library, once. The stone building still referred to as The Library is considered something of a landmark in the western part of the city. The squat building is past the small river Sorn, and upwind of, well, everything. There are are no scrolls, no books left to be found there. Any remnants of shelves or furniture were all taken away long ago. It is full of dust motes slowly spinning in permanently elderly late afternoon sunbeams and some ancient echoes. The marks are old and there has been some attempts to scrub them away, but the burns are still apparent. There are a few booksellers in the markets of Axqa, but there is no library.
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User: djonn
Date: 2008-05-25 05:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One legend has it that the "cleansing" of the Library was the work of the Order of Sethos, an ancient sect whose rivalry with the followers of Nom-Thrya is well-known to storytellers from the Plains of Thut to the Peaks of Osorkis. The present masters of the Temple of Nom-Thrya do not comment on the matter...except to note that nothing has been heard of the Order of Sethos for some three hundred years.
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scarlettina: Movie tix
User: scarlettina
Date: 2008-05-25 04:43 (UTC)
Subject: Fort Fontinegro
Keyword:Movie tix
At the opposite end of Exilarch Avenue, the modern name for the thoroughfare once known as the King's Road, you will find Fort Fontinegro. The fort was the seat of the Pelkin Dynasty, the last old-style kings of Axqa before the exiles resulting from the first of the Autumn Wars. With its five spires topped by flat disks and its main, domed palace (with its distinctive tear-drop shaped windows) surrounded by thick stone walls, the fort gives the city skyline its most distinctive feature, save for the curve and dip of the Asymmetrical Bridge to the west. Carved from the living rock upon which the city was founded, it is said to be unassailable and, indeed, during the reign of the Pelkins, the fort and the city were never breached. The outer walls of the fort show the evidence of centuries of attempts, including the enormous crater in the western wall, said to penetrate only a quarter of the wall's full depth, a remnant of the Autumn Wars.

The Fort itself is open to the public, and within the last three years, the Pelkin dynasty's horde of art has finally been placed on display. While the fee to enter the gallery is considered fairly high by frugal travelers, the treasures are worth the pain to the purse. The Ferrari Limb sequence, the coronation portrait of Carna Pelkin, and the triptych of friezes depicting the Autumn Wars are only a few of the highlights of the collection. Gem-encrusted wall art, eye-popping water frames, and sun-melted waxworks will keep visitors entranced.

Legends about the fort abound. Even today, the fort's curators and historians all report the sound of weeping in Princess Carna's bed chamber and in the Gallery of Echoes. Some say that late in the afternoon, the scent of burning flesh can be detected in the Nursery, where Duke Quarton Pelkin's children were burned alive during the Second Autumn War. Since the fort was opened to the public, unexplained lights at the top of the northeastern spire continue to be reported.

The fort keeps regular market hours for the tourist trade, though special arrangements can be made for groups wanting to explore the labyrinth beneath the palace. Such tours are exclusively offered after dark by candlelight, though they are not recommended, based on reports received with regard to a lack of safe conditions and the presence of squatters in the farmost ends of the tunnels. Book such tours at your own risk.

Edited at 2008-05-25 04:49 am (UTC)
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Brenda Cooper
User: bjcooper
Date: 2008-05-25 04:53 (UTC)
Subject: The House of Hope
Start from the city square closest to the center of town, and bring sturdy shoes, a snack, water, and a coat. The walk to the House of Hope is all uphill. The turns are not always straight, but the route has its own signs in the form of hiker's stacked stones, always seven(three, then two, then 1, and on top of that, a small stone). The smallest stone of the way is often a hand-painted, sometimes by children. The other six are always about the same, but they might be a hand-width across, or the size of a stride.
If you get lost, it might be better to go back to the last stones you found and start again than to ask a stranger. Axqu's children are known for misleading sojourners on the way to the House of Hope.
If you get hot, don't drop your coat. Tie it around your waist and keep going. The hill is long but not always steep, and in a few places it will be cool and shady. Twice you will find benches put along the less mean parts of the route for the use of travelers.
Even a slow walker should reach the house before noon if they begin at dawn.
There is a legend that the House of Hope looks different for every person. In case there's truth there, I won't describe the house itself. There is a sign out front, and the last time I was there the sign had been freshly painted in black letters against a light-blue backing.
Plan to spend a few hours at the House of Hope, and perhaps have your snack and meditate a bit. It is said that some of the best poetry has come from there.
By the time you return, it will be evening and you will need your coat.

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John: Feather
User: djonn
Date: 2008-05-25 04:56 (UTC)
Subject: The Temple Quarter
Axqa's Temple Quarter rewards the observer with striking architecture and even more striking theater -- if one may call the enactment of religious ceremonies "theater" without drawing the ire of the relevant deities. For example:

The Temple of Nom-Thrya appears relatively ordinary at first: a flat two-story building a full block square, one does not immediately note the needle-like obelisks that rise from its four corners over a hundred feet into the sky. This is partly the straight walls and narrow surrounding streets make upward glances difficult, and partly because the obelisks -- unlike the main temple, which is built of plain dust-yellow brick -- are carved of a strange azure crystal nearly the color of the summer sky. Legend says that Nom-Thrya, patron of scholars and scribes, accepts as priests only those who have seen the god's visage within one of the crystal obelisks.

The Temple of Qonar, by contrast, is anything but subtle. It is a study in sevens -- the main building has seven sides and is seven stories high, its walls feature seven different colors of highly polished stone, and the courtyard before it is known as the Plaza of the Seven Minarets for the spires which rise from its seven corners. Twice a week, the Seven Sisterhoods of Qonar stream from these minarets to perform the remarkable dance the Qonari call the Sevenfold Weaving -- an intricate, serpentine rite whose pattern none but the Sisters themselves understand completely. Visitors must learn quickly to avoid being caught on the Plaza when the Weaving begins, for it is said that an unbeliever who falls within its pattern is swept into the Sisterhoods' power and must serve their goddess forevermore. As no one outside the Sisterhoods knows for certain what Qonar's sphere of influence is, it is difficult to know whether to count such a fate as good fortune or ill.

Then there is the Temple of Nakulku, perhaps the most disquieting structure in the Quarter. Conical in shape and two hundred feet in diameter at the base, it appears to have been carved from a single block of highly polished obsidian. This is obviously inconceivable; even if a chunk of the volcanic glass that large could have been found, it would be far too brittle to shape and maintain. Yet the Temple exists, its surface glistening mirror-like wherever one passes by, with steps thirty feet wide ascending from the precisely northernmost point of the base to the twenty-foot circular platform atop the cone. On any day save that of the new moon, a passerby is welcome to ascend the seps -- alone -- to lay himself or herself upon the Altar of Nakulku and invite communion with the tiger-god. Few travelers do so, however, for after ten minutes' rest on the Altar, nine of ten supplicants are declared Divine Prey and do not come down again. The few who do survive, it is said, are known as Divine Claws, though rumors exist of rarer designations (some believe that Morteng the Almost Wise was a Divine Tongue).
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In a heaven of people only some want to fly: angel
User: chipmunk_planet
Date: 2008-05-26 15:08 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Temple of Qonar
Let it never be said that the Seven Sisterhoods are cruel, or heartless, or unjust. For the truly destitute know the kindness of the Sisterhood. At the seventh hour, food and drink are brought forth from the seventh door, and all may partake, if they are needy.

It is said that the undeserving will die at the first taste of the Sisterhood's bread, however, and only the most desperate venture to their seven tables.
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Kelly Green
User: saycestsay
Date: 2008-05-25 06:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
At the intersection of First Street and the pomegranate tree is Fountain Alley.

This inconspicuous alley is paved in firebrick and pleached with date-palms but contains no fountains (though some whisper that the fountains were paved over long ago, for mysterious reasons having nothing to do with magic or religous war.)

A visitor can wait out the heat of the day here, resting in the hospitality of one of the many cafes that serve sweet coffee and jasmine tea.

If an old woman not shrouded in djalaba asks for a coin, be sure to give her one, the smaller the better, foreign better yet. Visitors who refuse her do not leave the alley; and this place is too crowded with modern statuary as it is.
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The NewroticGirl
User: newroticgirl
Date: 2008-05-25 06:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It has been said that the statue of Armon Shinks was once a living giant (with monstrous mount) who wandered down into Axqa and refused a coin to the Dame of Fountain Alley.
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User: oldmangrumpus
Date: 2008-05-25 08:23 (UTC)
Subject: The "Bridge to Nowhere"
At the head of Tavos Avenue in the eastern side of the city, before the fabled Feathered Quarter, the traveller will encounter what is called "The Bridge to Nowhere" in neighboring lands. Please Note - the people of Axqa never use this term, indeed, it is considered offensive. The locals seem to do their best to ignore it entirely, which is difficult, as the arched towers of what should be one end of a bridge loom large over all the surrounding structures. Locally, when it is referred to at all, it is called the Bridge of Pelkin, though a few ancient references in the University mention a Bridge of Sethos at this location. (Both names are pure nonsense, as Tavos Avenue does not and never has gone to either Fort Fontinegro or the Temple District)

One hypothesis is that there has been some confusion, as "bridge" - tak-ram in ancient Thut was very similar to "gate," tak-rim, and that this huge arched towering structure was in fact once a city gate when the circumference of the walls was smaller than of present. And that would seem to make sense, for the remain of huge chains and planking pavement on what would have been the inside of the city wall. There is no trace of another tower for the bridge anywhere.

When locals are asked why there would be a bridge here, or even why this structure would be called a bridge, the answer, almost invariably after a long, hard stare, is that there are some questions it is safer not to ask.
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User: purplepantz
Date: 2008-05-25 09:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I remember this place well. I had lodgings in the Feathered Quarter when I was a young man. A beautiful place it was, though somehow sad. It always reminded me of a pure and innocent child who knew the weight of the world and its problems.
Travellers bound for the Feathered Quarter may find quiet haven in a certain tavern I used to frequent (should it still be standing). The House of a Thousand Keys is a curious place that seems to be subject to a certain keening that always appears to be just out of earshot. Often, patrons will stop their conversations and look around for the location of the harmonious drone. It is said that the each of the many keys that adorn the walls of this place has its own unique vibration and that the soul, upon entering will be all at once uplifted and refreshed. (I myself found the place a little disturbing but that may have been the effects of the copious jugs of Ull I would consume with abandon! Oh to be a young man again!)
There is no bar in The House, just innumerable cubbyholes and serving hatches set into the walls. To be served a drink, you just knock on the door of the hatch and your needs will be attended to. Some locals have a knock that is known by the staff (don't ask about the staff, please) and as a result, their beverage of choice will be proffered without an order. This has in the past however, led to a number of misunderstandings...
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2008-05-25 15:04 (UTC)
Subject: The Street of Teachers
About halfway between the Street of Green Doors and Fort Fontinegro, lies the Street of Teachers. Casual passersby may marvel at the brilliant jewel-toned colors of the doors, with striking statues marking each entrance.

But the casual tourist does not venture far into the Street of Teachers before observing the frequency, realism, and tortured expressions on the faces of the statues. If that is not enough, the view of the circular corral, seen only as the street angles away from the main entrance after the fountain, is often enough to send the casual visitor fleeing. There are no known descriptions of what happens in that corral, and it is said that the one manuscript that accurately described the corral and its activities spontaneously combusted one night in the Library, leading to the so-called Cleansing.

Those who seek the Street of Teachers with purpose, however, are said to encounter different sights, and the Corral is a place of great and glorious wisdom. But none of those purposeful seekers ever return from the Street of Teachers, though those few casual visitors lucky enough to view a Teacher's acceptance swear there is something much, much better to be seen. It is hard to confirm what these visitors say, however, as many of them often are later seen entering the Street of Teachers barefoot, in robes of gray with purposeful expressions on their faces.
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User: neutronjockey
Date: 2008-05-25 16:44 (UTC)
Subject: The Ruins of Old Axqa
North to the city, along the windwracked coastline, watchtowers of Old Axqa still stand. Reminders of more troubled times, less civilised times, when Axqa was a warring state led by a band of petty nobility.

The nature of use of the watchtowers have long been held in question by the Astrologers Guild and the Society of Starkseekers --- the twin moons Akem and Awal align perfectly each lunar month with the towers. This seems to support their claims that the towers were once used for observation of the heavens as opposed to merely being raised structures to observe the surrounding lands.

The remaining wall line extends south along the cliffside to where the City of Axqa now stands. Old structures of large stone, great basilica (now broken and toppled), and remnants of monolithic statues --- a reminder of old heroes and dead gods; litter the landscape along the northern road.

An old amphitheatre, now overgrown in weeds and brush still serves as a place of gathering near the vernal and autumnal equinox. Traders from the Malachite Desert and wagons from the southern reaches of Pyuram gather to trade, revel, and sing for three days prior, and three days after each equinox.

It has been said that the famous playright Zalere Ironwright wrote his two most famous tragedies there. It is also reported that on pleasant evenings he can often be found wandering the ruins of the ampitheatre --- listening to the echoes of times past and preserving them by way of quill and parchment.

Edited at 2008-05-25 04:45 pm (UTC)
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Jeremy Tolbert
User: the_flea_king
Date: 2008-05-25 20:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can't contribute right now, but you know what would make this even easier is some simple wiki software...
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User: tillyjane
Date: 2008-05-25 21:55 (UTC)
Subject: Local Cuisine
The visitor who plans to spend more than a few hours in Axqa is well advised to bring sufficient foodstuffs to last through the visit.

The local populace considers only food grown in salt water to be edible by humans. Overfishing in the coastal waters has left only farmed squid as a reliable protien source. Squid, kelp and seasalt are the three ingredients used in all household and commercial kitchens. (This, by the way, accounts for the refusal of the citizens to eat the fruit of the tree of the nameless park.) Rarely a cod or other deep water fish wanders into the squid farms. On the black market these fish are literally worth their weight, ounce for ounce, in gold. The livers of large deep water fish are the only source of cooking oil, and seldom, if ever, does the ordinary citizen have the opportunity to enjoy fried squid.

Anyone fortunate enough to obtain a supply of fish oil will certainly reserve it until he can buy vandermeerian squid, the rarest and most delicate of the squid, available only in months having a J in the name. Culinary literature suggests that formerly sea cucumber salad was served as an accompaniment to fried squid, but no living person remembers when sea cucumbers were available.

Wendy's, KFC, and Hard Rock Cafe have all established franchises in Axqo, but all had to close their doors within two lunar cycles. There are not enough tourists to provide custom, and the citizens of Axqa simply cannot be induced to enter.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2008-05-25 21:38 (UTC)
Subject: Axqa Sut
Travelers who have seen the massive cave city of Ondre may initially be disappointed by Axqa Sut because these underground streets and alleys don't all interconnect and some are quite small. Nonetheless they are very much worth the visit. They follow the riverfront between Ring Street and Piemonti Street. Some have tunnels that go into the city several blocks and several are very deep where the foundation is firm enough to prevent rupture and flooding from the river. Doors and windows open into the river wall to permit trade with smaller sailing vessels than the very tall trade ships for which the riverfront facing was originally built. Early engineers expected that the smaller ships would stop at the docks downriver, but the practical matters of trade forced several unusual modifications including hanging stairways, rope ladders, so-called grapnel staircases and finally excavation along the river wall with portals set at various heights that led to modern Axqa Sut. Axqa Sut's most intriguing feature is the ice cave. Discovered during the third and deepest excavation along the river wall, the cave's ice level varies in accordance to subterranean seasons still unfathomed by science. Some years have seen excavation into the ice (for fish preservation, sherbets and other wares of Axqa Sut) extend several hundred feet below ground before the ice begins to fill back in faster than it can be removed. Other years the ice cave is very shallow, barely the size of a bedroom. Axqa Sut's Folly is the start of a tunnel meant to pass under the river. After several near disasters the project was abandoned and now serves as a tradesman's alley where blacksmiths, coopers ply a living close to the ships. Although Axqa Sut has some trinket shops and merchants friendly to travelers and curiosity seekers, Axqa Sut is still a working port and is not a place where it's pleasant to linger for hours due to the darkness and crowded conditions. Locals buy fresh fish, sherbets, and ices here. If you're lucky you may catch a ship offloading exotic wares from distant lands or find a bargain. Posted by Kami "I'm not Anonymous!" Miller
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