The City of Ten Thousand Ships.
The City of Ten Thousand Ships is the largest port in the Imperial heartland, situated at one of the mouths of the Nine Spirits River. At one time it was the busiest and most important port in the known world but its loss in stature has been concomitant with the rise of Llaza and the Merchant's League. It is still the most important point for transfer of goods into the Empire.
The City occupies a rocky bay known as the Harbour of Fragrant Waters, although given the reek coming from the harbour at the height of summer visitors can only assume that the name was given ironically. The city has an excellent sewage system, but the outlets are directly into the harbour and this effluent, coupled with the discards of the local fishermen serve to give the city a...distinctive aroma.
The city itself is built on two hills either side of the river. Foreigners (i.e. anyone without Imperial Citizenship) are only allowed within a special walled enclave known as the City of Divine Ignorance (or more flippantly called "Stupid-town" by those who use it). With the decline in the numbers of those who would call themselves Imperial Citizens, Divine Ignorance has grown considerably and is arguably the most important part of the city now. Despite this, the walls follow the same boundary as they have always done, and "Stupid-town" is a cramped, over-crowded place. Multi-level tenement blocks are the norm for accommodation and space is at a premium. The offices and warehouses of the Merchant League members, although small by the standards of Llazu, speak of the affluence of their owners by taking up large amounts of precious land.
The Imperial part of the city is a mystery to most outsiders. Certainly from the water it looks very impressive, but the truth is that behind this waterfront facade the city is in decay and collapsing. Buildings are shored up, other areas are derelict and run down. The public baths are frequently plagued by infestations of rats or worse, and often run dry due to neglect of the aqueduct system. Best maintained are the three beacons - Arvia, Nephre and Pancra, named after three Imperial Princesses from long ago legendary for their beauty and the impossible trials that they would set suitors. Two beacons are built at each side of the harbour mouth and the third, Nephre, sits atop a hill at the centre of the city. This allows them to be used as leading lights by incoming ships at night-time. The fires of the beacons are kept alight constantly by captive star spirits (or so it is rumoured).
Other notable features of the harbour include The Fortress. Built on the largest rock, The Fortress is a great walled edifice that greets all comers to the city. Over the centuries it has variously been a place of defence, a prison, a pleasure palace, an armoury and ignored. The castle upon it has been built and rebuilt countless times and it is now an architectural mish-mash of different stones and different styles. Rumour has it that the rock beneath is riddled with tunnels built for storage, or by escaping prisoners or for the indulgence of decadent pleasures. Above ground notable features include a tall watch-tower and a landing pad for aerial ships, which since the Empire's once great fleet of flying ships now consists of two used for ceremonial purposes, is now a parade ground).
Currently The Fortress is used part as a garrison and part as a prison for political prisoners whose particular plight makes them too sensitive to execute. Famous prisoners in the past have included Teshnuvar (during which time he wrote his treatise "On the Workings of the Universe"), the poet Orobap and the rebellious General Mantrashar.
Also present in the Harbour is the Temple to the Sea, a small unassuming rock with only a small jetty, some steps up and a flattened top. From here, the Emperor conducts his "meetings" with the Divine Minister of the Iridescent Pearl every year to ensure good relations with the sea. This involves casting vast amounts of treasure into the sea, but the (rumoured) presence of several spirits (some in the form of the beautiful daughters of the Divine Minister, others hideous shark spirits that guard the daughters and the treasure) prevent treasure hunters. It is a capital offence for any but the Emperor or the sea priest to set foot on the island.
The indigenous population of the city are fisherfolk, and have been for millenia. These simple people use trained cormorants to get the fish for them, and the sight of these birds drying their wings atop the Fragrant Harbour's many rocks has led to the city's alternative name of the City of Black Birds. The city, like most Imperial or former-Imperial ports, has its own floating community of sampans and other boats but unlike Thievestown of Llaza it is not nearly as organised or constant.