SHAZRAD: City of Veils

Shazrad is a city imbued with magic, and famed for it, too. Although certainly an omnipresent aspect of the inhabitants' lives, no manifestation is so commonplace that one can become blasé about it.


Shazrad has not one aspect, but many; these facets, or alternate realities, are called Veils. Some say that the city has many dreams, but one truth, and it is through the dreams that people move. Others believe that each face is a truth in itself.

Whatever the case may be, you may turn a corner beneath a hawk's high wings and discover yourself in an unfamiliar bazaar selling philters and fruits you've never seen before. Or on a starlit night, when the moon is but the merest scythe in the darkness, the balcony upon which you stand will become a tower of your enemy's mansion--halfway across the city.

However, differences between Veils tend to be subtle, and almost always, for a given person, touch upon the peripheries of his or her life. Major aspects and experiences of his or her life always seem to remain constant.

Few people know how many Veils there are, or how to travel them reliably. Perhaps this is just as well, for there are always people who fade away, never to be met again--in this Veil.

Nevertheless, Veils do not seem to be dangerous, nor particularly common--only frequent enough to be noticed, and to make the city famous for what exists nowhere else. No one knows why they only layer Shazrad...or perhaps she was built here for that reason.


A flight of twenty dragons can often be seen in the city's vicinity, whether perched sleepy-eyed upon the walls, or soaring above the minarets. They are jewel-colored and jewel-tongued, sweet of voice and swift of wing.

Their beauty is the least of their wonders. They are also automata, made of metal hinges and gears and the elusive flavor of magic--yet as intelligent as any man. They guard the city, and the city guards them.

When they are not heralding the dawn with song within the city, they can be found guiding ships into the harbor or patroling the lands outside the walls. Although few have ever seen them in combat, their fighting prowess is legendary and its mere threat has deterred many enemies from attacking.

The only people who know their secrets are those who belong to the House of the Watching Dragon, although not due to lack of attempts to discover them. Those few spies who manage to make their way into the well-guarded workshops of the House are always discovered, then dealt with swiftly...and permanently.

Some, but not all, of the dragons have "partners" within the House of the Watching Dragon. These men and women are especially responsible for communicating the House's wishes and duties to the dragons in question, who are more inclined to listen to them than other people; and also for ensuring that, should a mechanical malfunction or other damage occur, the dragon receives the necessary repairs from the House engineers. The dragons are almost never ridden, as their construction--metal joints and edges--makes this a hazardous proposition, undertaken only in emergencies.

In certain distant lands, these dragons are the most famous of all of Shazrad's features. Shazrad, they say, the city of dragons.

Do you look into the skies above Shazrad and dream of seeing it from a dragon's back? Do you long for the wild wind and the glory of flight?

If so, you're like many children in Shazrad, who grow up beneath the dragons' shadows, and with their mothers telling them the dragons will chase the nightmares away. And those children often seek sponsorship into the House of the Watching Dragon, trusting that they, too, will soon be among the elite dragon-partners.

Yet few of those children realize that the road to flight is not so easy as they imagined. Though the dragons are the House's most famed responsibility, they are far from the only one. There are the lighthouse guardians who guide ships into port, the engineers and architects who maintain the city's walls and defenses, and the lensmakers who grind glass for telescopes and microscopes, not to mention the alchemists who put on fireworks displays for the city's celebrations. A select few may become technicians who repair the dragons and keep them in good condition, and are privy to the arcane magicks that give them voices, and souls, and flight. Of those few, it is the rare man or woman who develops a rapport with a particular dragon, or even more than one.

Members of the House of the Watching Dragon, when asked, often claim they are content with their duties. Some are, in fact. But others may be seen looking skyward with a dreamy look in their eyes, after you ask.


Magic is possible only through the djinni, powerful, immortal beings. Although the vast majority of them avoid humans, dwelling in areas of raw elementalism that are hard to reach--in the sea, desert, or mountains--there are those who do condescend to deal with mortals.

Djinni differ as much as humans do. They may be cruel and capricious or more kindly inclined; they may possess insigificant powers or great ones. They tend to have an affinity for a single element, and that is the one they can control.

Usually only the mageborn deal with djinni. Priests may appeal to one in the name of the star-eyed god, however. Djinni are said to gain something for themselves when they consent to grant spells to a human, however, but only mages know what that might be.

Djinni are not commonly seen, but when they are, they do not wear their true forms. One might see a bird with trailing feathers of flame or a foam-maned steed instead. There are also rumors that they might take a more inconspicuous shape, one that is familiar to us indeed.

The few mages known about Shazrad are generally fiercely independent and are often known as recluses, although there exists an exception or two. They rarely deal with commoners and the secrets of their craft are so well-kept that its workings remain a mystery to all.

Player characters are not allowed to be mages.

Copyright © 2000-2001 by Alioqui & Yoon Ha Lee

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