Nyerdhan - City of Endless Woe
Just outside the Ashoyin Protectorate and on the edge of the Wasted Lands stands the odd double city of Nyerdhan (NYEHR-thahn), which the Empire referred to as the City of Endless Woe. The Nyerdhani are a stubborn, fiercely independant people, and dislike anyone who seems to be speaking too much and showing too little. As an Imperial officer once stationed there said, "These are a people who must see it to believe it, and even then they will reserve their doubts."
Part of the city stands on a high, rocky ridge overlooking the river to the east. This was used as a garrison and supply post during the wars with the Tlaxu and with Vaarta, although not as great as the one at Tibra's Crossing. However, the soil of the ridge is a dense yellow clay that is ill-suited to farming. A few orchards and small animal herds are all that the rough land is able to support, and now that the Empire is in retreat, few people live there. The bulk of the city lies at the bottom of the ridge, on the broad flood plain of the Far Anhui. Here the land is well-disposed to farming, and large fields of rice, wheat, and maize are planted every year.
It is from this area that the Empire gave the city its name, because every spring and summer they face flooding that could wipe out the crops and the city. Some years the river rises only a few feet, barely lapping at the dikes that the Nyerdhani laboriously maintain; other years, everything below the ridge is under four feet of water. The people acknowledge the danger of the river, but refuse to give up their homes and way of life.
In Lower Nyerdhan, expect to find most homes and barns built on large mounds of earth, surrounded by ditches and accessable by short bridges and stairs. Almost every building has a second story, for storage; none have cellars. Fields are seperated by high, weed-grown dikes with a drainage ditch on either side. Roads are highly crowned and build on similar mounds, with ditches following them. The Grainery, a huge communal silo in the center of town, is built on the highest mound of all and contains a curious, loud, unreliable mechanical pump left behind by the Empire for keeping water out.
The Dike Master and his assistants are well-paid individuals who maintain the primary levees, but all able-bodied men and childless women between the ages of 16 and 45 are expected to help him during floods without compensation. Most families or groups of families own a small boat, which they may keep in a barn or attic, until the water gets high enough to need it. The Dike Master is also the de facto militia captain.
Upper Nyerdhan, by contrast, shows the signs of long Imperial habitation. Its buildings have cellars, and it is laid out in the geomantic tradition. It is still part of the same city, however; its citizens are bound to help the Dike Master, and during floods families driven out by the high waters are often boarded in Upper Nyerdhan until the flood is past. Several large breweries are a key feature of the landscape here, which produce both beer and a variety of wines and liquors from the fruit grown on the ridge. There is also small-scale mining, and a distinctive pottery based on the native clay. The city garrison can be found here.
A town square begins in Upper Nyerdhan, where the town hall and a small Merchant's League office are located. A steep and winding road connects it the square in Lower Nyerdhan, where the Grainery and a popular drinking establishment called the Three Weasels are located. In the center of this part of the square stands a large pole with notches cut into it; others like it are spread around the area, and are used to measure the height of floodwaters. The road between the two halves of town is well-maintained, despite its precarious path.
Because of its proximity to Ashoyin, Neyerdhan has been seeing troubled times lately. Many refugees from the Protectorate are settling in the upper part of the city, creating conflict with the natives in the lower part. Additionally, the Merchant's League has been putting increasing pressure on the breweries and potters of the upper city, whose largest markets and trade routes have been cut off by the war in Ashoyin. In the event of an attack the surrounding dikes (the largest of which are eight feet high) could probably be held against Dailat or Tlaxu with some effort. The ridge, meanwhile, is steep and rugged - no one's ever wanted to put the effort into clearing the trees and brush, and except for the road between Upper Nyerdhan and Lower Nyerdhan, there are few reliable paths up and down.