City of the Steel Lotus
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The City of the Steel Lotus is the capital of An-Teng. Here, the Three Princes meet to discuss matters of state, and here, the Dragon-Blooded come to be entertained, and here, the riches of the kingdom flow in lavish display. The city was built after the Usurpation as a nexus for the new rulers and was, unusually, created as a city with roads rather than with canals, in deference to the wishes of the Terrestrial Exalted. The River of Queens flows beside it, allowing trade vessels and pleasure boats to come upstream from Dragon’s Jaws and Salt-Founded Glory or downstream from the rest of An-Teng. Those desiring to explore or tour upriver can hire boats and guides at the docks. Foreigners who are not Dragon Blooded will be charged a higher rate but have the option of working their passage upriver instead, traveling with the heavy cargo boats.
The City of the Steel Lotus has been shaped by the desires of visiting Dragon Blooded, cultured like an orchid under glass. The Dragon-Blooded expect courtesans to attend them. Therefore, the Street of Sun-Kissed Flowers near the center of the city holds dozens of Houses of Courteous Attention, where a Terrestrial Exalted may be wined, dined and served by beautiful specimens of both genders. The most famous such house belongs to Jan of the Red Stone, a handsome man in his mid-50s who could still pass for a 20-year-old. A new House rising to prominence is owned by the beautiful dancer Dusk Caress but shelters several members of the Seven-Stranded Vine.
The Dragon-Blooded expect the finest food. Therefore, the Great Market near the river is supplied with food from all An-Teng and even delicacies from overseas. This area also serves as a nexus for the trade in items smuggled in by the Lintha Family or captured by the Family from other ships and then sold on a legal market, with provenances supplied by the very best forgers in An-Teng. Commissioner Denatis of the Righteous Urn family has been assigned to the Market District for the last five years and has the ulcers and gray hair to prove it. She reports directly to Judge Pan of the Noble Peony family, who has judicial responsibility for the whole city. Commissioner Denatis is renowned for her forthright elegance, her intelligent and precise judgments and her occasional habit of anonymously hiring foreign mercenaries to exact a bit of practical justice on criminals hiding in Dragon Blooded entourages.
Elsewhere in the city, there are shops that provide silk, ivory, carved teak, gems and other luxury trade items. These appeal to the more patrician Dragon-Blooded visitors, who like to pick up examples of the “native crafts” as conversation pieces for when they return to the Realm. Generally speaking, forged goods and second-rate pieces are not fobbed off on the Dragon-Blooded, however foolish or spendthrift they may be, as the consequences (such as the death of the shopkeeper and the burning down of the shop) tend to be alarmingly wholesale. Other foreigners, however, purchase at their own risk and should remember that bargaining is expected.
At the precise center of the city is the Palace of Threefold Magnificence, where the princes meet for affairs of state. At the moment, it is occupied by Prince Laxhander of the Shore Lands and most of his family. The palace itself is a glorious creation of gold, teak, lapis and pearl, a combination of Realm design and traditional An-Teng craft. Prince Laxhander invites visiting Dragon Blooded to dine there most evenings and has his own family attend to the Terrestrial Exalted or summons courtesans from the Street of Sun-Kissed Flowers. Set around the palace in places of honor are temples to the Golden Lord (attended by a staff of priests, priestesses and temple dancers), the Pale Mistress (totally empty) and an Immaculate monastery.
The ranking priest of the Golden Lord, Abbot Foulu, has a long-standing grudge against the Immaculate abbot, a Water-aspected Dragon-Blooded named Santeris who was once of House Mnemon. Foulu believes that Santeris encourages the Shore Prince’s slavish devotion to the Terrestrial Exalted. In reality, Santeris dislikes the prince’s behavior, considers his regular guests to be wastrels who would be better off serving in a frontier legion and spends much of her time commanding a spy network that serves Immaculate (and ultimately Sidereal) interests throughout the Realm.
Ragara Soras Jor is the Satrap of An-Teng and, as such, is stationed in the City of the Steel Lotus, though there are imperial compounds all over An-Teng, and he travel between them regularly. Jor takes a very loose approach to governing the satrapy and is currently engrossed in intrigues to improve his standing in the Thousand Scales, break the treaty with the Lintha pirates and increase House Ragara’s influence in An-Teng. It is possible that he is paying too much attention to those in positions of authority and too little to the grassroot peasantry, popular opinion and potential rebellion.
The city’s most luxurious housing, including those dwellings leased (or offered) to visiting Dragon-Blooded, lies between the Royal District and the Market District. Further out are the markets and shops and houses of the middle classes, merchants and scholars and craftsmen. Around the edge of the city, curving round from the landward side to the River of Queens, are the slums and alleyways where the poor live, where thieves lurk and cluster and plot and where those who have offended the Dragon-Blooded hide from their wrath.
Dragon-Blooded society inside the city is much concerned with itself and views the locals as relative barbarians when compared to the civilization of the Realm. Rich and powerful nobles and beautiful courtesans may be invited to Exalted parties or expected to host them but should be content with this evidence of attention from their betters. Those Dragon-Blooded with better manners or with interests in scholarship, native art and history have a higher chance of actually getting to know natives of An-Teng or of forging genuine alliances.
The local social lion is Tepet Denile, who is attempting to recruit allies to his family. His methods involve spending remaining Tepet funds entertaining other young Dragon-Blooded and then using drugs, information, blackmail and similar methods to force them into alliances or to extract promises of favors. Enough young idiots come to visit An-Teng that he’s never short of prey. The Terrestrial with the greatest knowledge of An-Teng is Ledaal Catala Ceris, who has been assigned by her family to quietly analyze and report on the current situation in the country and serves in the satrap’s office as chief liaison with the local powers that be. Her natural scholarly instincts make this task a pleasant one, and she is actually liked by several noble families, who consider her cover story of research into classical poetical forms to be perfectly reasonable. In total, perhaps 100 Dragon-Blooded can be found in the City of the Steel Lotus at any time, with about two dozen employed in the actual administration of the satrapy, but the actual Terrestrial Exalted population changes frequently as families end long holidays and the Thousand Scales rotates personnel through duty assignments. Only a dozen or so are “old hands” in An-Teng who have been there for more than a few years.