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|Written By: Deirdre / Wyld_Dandelyon (Writer), Ellen Million (Editor)|
|Affafilalo is known as the City of Boats because it was built out into the ocean during the Sundered Times, when the barriers kept the weather calm. Now it is a tourist haven known for ocean studies, pirates, and laughter.|
Affafilalo is a rare example of a place where the sundered times were better than modern days, for they enjoyed a very pleasant climate and an abundance of edible and beautiful plant and animal life prior to the failure of the sundering barriers. As each barrier fell, invasive plant and animal species and progressively worsening weather led to an ecological disaster that turned a thriving, technologically advanced, self-sufficient city into a mostly-abandoned ghost town.
The name comes from filalolt, or sailboat, because Affafilalo has no roads, just waterways and a few local dry footpaths.
In modern times, Affafilalo is best known for ocean science, tourism, pirates, and laughter. Laughter is considered an important and healthy part of daily life, an attitude that has become accepted even by the university faculty and the local fighters of sea-monsters. Comedic performances of all sorts are available year-round, and people also place great importance on telling jokes and accepting the winds of fortune (good or bad) with humor. There is visual humor as well, which one can find all over the place, from whimsical tourist knickknacks to the ancient murals that cover the buildings.
Population Size: 6000 year-round residents plus 500-4000 tourists, depending on season. (Sundered Times population size 70,000-100,000)
During the sundered times, Affafilalo enjoyed centuries of calm weather and an abundance of seafood. Significant sea predators were non-existent (excepting humans), and this time shard, uncharacteristically, had very moderate weather during the sundered times, so that the winds were calm to moderate, rains were predictable and gentle, and storms rare. Early in their history (before neighboring cities started to fight constantly over the location of the border between their territories) they had access to an abundance of fertile soil, which they moved to rooftop gardens, supplementing the soil with compost and leftover seafood from their meals. By the time the city grew large, they not only had efficient traditions for utilizing the plant and animal matter from their food and surroundings to feed the gardens, but they had also developed a way to process human wastes into fertilizer.
Rulers in the Sundered Times
Affafilalo had a ruling family, called the Riitarlika. From that family, legates were chosen to form a ruling council based at least in part on merit. There were always at least seven legates, and each legate had a primary area of influence, so there was a Legate of Trade, a Legate of Construction, and so on. The exact number and titles of legates changed from time to time, but there was a strong preference to keep it at an odd number. According to the records, for most of the city’s history, the legates voted to decide matters that affected more than one area of influence, though during the last hundred years, there was a Chief Legate who could overrule any of the other legates’ decisions.
The other cities in this shard also enjoyed calm weather, good fishing and predictable crop-growing seasons during the sundered times. However, they did not enjoy the same level of peace and prosperity because their rulers kept fighting for position and territory. Affafilalo would doubtless have been drawn into this warfare, however, the legates of Affafilalo let it be known that they had a secret poison made from some sea creature, and warned that hostilities against them would be dealt with harshly. Both neighboring cities tried sending troops against Affafilalo, and shortly thereafter the families of their rulers (and the rulers themselves) all died painfully of poison. Treaties were drawn up naming Affafilalo neutral territory, not to be attacked, and its citizens were forbidden to take sides in the near-constant disputes between the other cities of the shard.
The secret of making the poison has been lost to history, along with the process for handling human wastes.
Arts and Culture During the Sundered Times
With the basics of survival easily at hand, the people of Affafilalo put their time into making beautiful, tall stone buildings. They stretched the city outward and inward from their rocky promontory, sinking foundations as much as a mile out into the ocean and digging canals as they built inland; the city had (and still has) waterways for streets. The buildings were decorated with bright murals.
The people of the city worked to breed beautiful flowers and trailing vines, as well as jewel-toned lizards, snakes, beetles, and birds. They made pottery and porcelain dishes and vases, as well as ceramic tile. They placed immense, intricate mosaics on the walls and floors of their buildings. And they enjoyed and participated in performance arts on both a professional and an amateur level.
They also had other, less durable, arts including a large variety of styles of small watercraft, clothing which ranged from simple to elaborate, shell jewelry, and things (sculptures, boxes, bottles, toys, etc.) made from fish bones, shells, pearls, small stones, and other objects, glued together with a shiny, clear substance. In modern times, only the Eyiriith Clan (Chorus of Light Clan), which specializes in making art objects and mosaics, still knows how to make this substance, called eyiralv.
The End of the “Blessed Days”
The first inkling of change was the sudden appearance of hungry ocean predators (which ate many of the fishes they relied upon for food) and an increase in unpleasant weather. These predators were not large by modern standards and do not qualify as sea monsters (ranging from tiny up to about shark-sized), but they were quite aggressive. This caused food shortages and unrest, which the legates handled by limiting population growth more carefully and sending the most troublesome citizens foraging for food into inhospitable areas inland or out onto the deep seas.
The second inkling of change was a crew of sailors from a culture called Irfai washing up on shore after a storm — a storm that seemed terrible to them at the time, but came to seem mild in retrospect, after the opening of barriers let the full force of the ocean’s normal weather as well as the weather related to time instabilities blow over and through the city. The Irfai were from a small island chain to the south called The Smoky Islands.
There followed a long period of stormy relations between the Irfai and the citizens of Affafilalo, before a treaty was established. Relations between the Irfai and the citizens of nearby cities also started out tense, and remained so.
The Irfai were fishers and divers, with traditions of hunting down and eating the sea predators from that region. They also told stories of huge predators, even bigger than the sharks, which the legates of Affafilalo officially denounced as lies, stating the Irfai brought no skeletons or other proof. It is unknown whether the legates said this to calm the populace (who were already pretty thoroughly upset about sharks and smaller predators) or if they actually believed the Irfai were lying in an attempt to gain some strategic advantage.
Establishing trade with Irfai (trading fruits and vegetables for the flesh of ocean creatures and protection), along with developing wind-breaks and growing more food inland, gave a brief illusion that Affafilalo was headed towards its former prosperity. Affafilalo also took other measures to restore normality, for instance, taking steps to block off the ends of their long waterways to keep the predators out to protect some of their food animals and people. These efforts met with with mixed success.
When additional barriers dropped in the 1360s, the prevailing winds and the storms became much more severe, and the dreamskates and other sea monsters appeared. It became much more difficult and dangerous to harvest food from the sea, and at the same time, due to the near-constant storms, the rooftop gardens no longer reliably supported agriculture. This was about 100 years after the ocean predators were noticed near Affafilalo, and around 50 years since the first Irfai sailors washed up on Affafilalo's shore. (Empire scholars estimate that event to have happened in 1295 or 1296.)
A handful of years after severe storms became normal weather for Affafilalo, a charismatic preacher named Rro rose up, claiming that if the ruling family were fed to the sea monsters, they would leave the city in peace. He (or she—the stories vary) managed to whip up a mob and killed all of the legates and as many of the Riitarlika as they could find. There are many tales and songs about Rro; he or she might have been a madman who saw visions, a local with a grudge against the rulers, or a spy from a nearby city; no one can say with any historical certainty.
With the legates gone or fled, people attempted to return to their normal lives, arguing about how to choose a new ruling family or whether to try something new. However, the storms and monsters continued to flow in, almost as regularly as the new, higher tides. The city was abandoned, and nearly all of the citizens fled to nearby cities. Empire scholars believe the city had been mostly abandoned by 1380.
For a while the city was used primarily by pirates, smugglers, and other people involved in underhanded dealings. Some of the gardens were maintained properly by a few diehards who refused to leave; others were maintained in a more haphazard fashion by the smugglers and pirates, or their families. A few were converted to growing illicit medicinal or recreational plants.
When the Empire annexed the area in 1447, surveyors noted the soaring architecture, the beautiful mosaics, and the unusual rooftop gardens, and decided to make it into a museum and vacation spot. The ecology of the area was already wrecked; tourism wouldn’t hurt it, the architecture was beautiful, and people could go on a variety of “adventure sea excursions.” Besides, it was very clear that if there were not a substantial legal presence in the old city, it would continue to be used by pirates, smugglers and drug dealers.
Although the population is small in current times, the city has retained the Affa- prefix to its name due to its size and history, and the belief that it’s more attractive to vacation in a ruined city than a town.
The Empire was welcomed in Affafilalo by the law-abiding people living there when the Empire finally noticed them.
By that time, this was a racially mixed population, including descendants of both the original inhabitants, the Irfai who chose to live on the mainland, and other people who chose, for one reason or another, to adopt the ruined city as their home. The Empire brought stability and licensing fees that allowed them to finally slow the decay of their beloved city. It also stopped the cycle of wars, raids, and broken alliances that had dominated the history of the nearby cities for so many years. Contact with a larger world eventually brought this region together as the children who grew up in peace came to appreciate both the advantages of peace and the similarities of the cultures of the city in their region when contrasted with the Empire as a whole. The Empire founded a new city to be the ruling city for this region (which includes the shard containing Affafilalo, the Smoky Islands, and the older nearby cities and the shard containing the Riilas Swamps and the Mist Islands.
Industries & Trade
The nearby cities on the inlet are much more protected for both shipping and shipyards, which are normally big seaside industries. The wharfs and the shipyards of Affafilalo from the ancient times are ruins. The most exposed structures were demolished to below sea level by storms and tsunamis. This formed a base for corals and other sea-life, so they now are almost totally covered by a barrier reef there. Very few large ships go to Affafilalo as a result, and the ones that do rely on local tugboats to negotiate the sunken buildings and coral reefs safely.
Most present-day businesses in Affafilalo take advantage of its exposure to the elements or are dependent on the unusual architecture and history of the city. The primary industries are tourism and scholarship.
The university also keeps an aquarium devoted to breeding the more delicate fish species that are endangered in the wild since the more aggressive sea life came swimming in after the barriers fell.
There is also a tourist’s “training school” for monster-hunters, similar to a dude ranch, where people can get rudimentary training in fighting sea monsters before going out on carefully scripted hunts. These “schools” hire Irfai and other people from many areas of the empire who have actually fought sea monsters, and occasionally they’ll give some young person a reference to apply to the real training school at the university here, or, if they prefer, to take to the Duurludirj—though they warn that there’s no guarantee the Duurludirj will accept such references.
Pirates and squatters continue to be a minor nuisance, taking shelter in the abandoned areas of the city and dodging the Empire monitors who attempt to keep them in check.
Imports & Exports
It is necessary to import food to the city to support even the limited population that remains there due to the prevalence of inclement weather.
Fancy tropical fish and other sea-creatures are exported when the university aquarium has surplus of one sort or another of animal or plant. Their first choice of places to sell are other university aquariums, from whom they can hope to get stock if their tanks are struck by some disaster, but when sufficient surplus is available, they are sold to private citizens on the luxury market.
The descendants of the Irfai still fish and hunt in the waters around the city, and their occasional surplus is also exported, as are their shell and monster-bone carvings. However, the major export is glossy art objects made from fish bones, shells, and other natural objects and mosaics, both miniature replicas of the ancestors’ art and original modern pieces.
Some of the modern Irfai are also sea-monster hunters, who hunt the large tropical monsters common in the east, as well as having some skill at hunting the monsters that originated in the ocean to the north and west of the main Empire land mass. Due to the sea-barriers dropping significantly earlier than the land barriers, and to the presence of pirates (who drew rogues from the Irfai population as well as from the other populations in the area), the first contact between the Empire and anyone of Irfai descent was Duurludirj contact with pirates. This, along with the love of jokes picked up from Affafilalo and the Irfai tendency to glorify fighting sea-monsters as a personal heroic journey (to say nothing of their willingness to exaggerate), led to some pretty strong prejudices on both sides. The Duurludirj were not inclined to train Irfai as warsailors, and though the Irfai may have secretly taken notes of Duurludirj practices, they were not inclined to admit it. Since the Empire took over Affafilalo, and Empire inspectors certified that the Irfai do not have a culture of piracy, these prejudices have started to die down, but the cultural differences remain, and relations between the two ethnic groups are “interesting”.
When the Empire was putting in the train system, engineers looked over the historic buildings, which were built up from the bedrock, but at a time when there are few records and things were not built under the eye of watchful Empire licensing inspectors, and decided to instead extend the street/canal system inland and build a train station outside the northern outskirts of the city. The trains pull up in an area where cargo boats line up on the side nearer to the new canal, and passengers embark and disembark from the train on the far side.
Important Landmarks & Features
There are hotels, restaurants, and museums, as well as a great variety of ships, both for travel within the city and for heading out to sea for diving and hunting excursions. There is also a university focusing on history, archaeology, architecture, and various studies related to weather, sea creatures, and sailing. There are museums of piracy, smuggling, Irfai culture, Affafilalo culture, the history of sailing, and even a “museum” of sea creatures that have been stuffed and mounted for tourists to see (and, in some cases, touch).
Of particular note are the following:
The Affafilalo Public Aquarium is a popular field trip for students and families in nearby cities.
The Affafilalo University Aquarium has several huge “tanks” that strive to maintain ecosystems in a state as close to the original sundered-times status as possible. There are two saltwater tanks and one brackish water tank. These huge tanks were made by damming off whole systems of abandoned streets, and building the dam upward enough to prevent high seas and boaters from entering. To see any part of this aquarium in person, one must attend pertinent classes and obtain a special license. Students and scientists with appropriate paperwork can test out of all but one of these classes in order to obtain the licenses; the final class includes safety rules and up-to-date information about the aquariums and what is needed to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
The Affafilalo University Herbarium includes both greenhouses and rooftops growing the original foods and utilizing the original composting patterns, though the Affafilalo process for handling human wastes has been lost to time. Visiting these gardens requires licensing similar to the aquarium, though the classes are much simpler and the fees lower. There is a significant profit margin on these license fees, since the price is kept artificially high to keep the demand to numbers that the university feels are safe. The foods grown here go primarily to the faculty-student cafeteria.
The Jirilalo Pirate Theater and Museum has a large stage which hosts a variety of plays and musicals. One day a week, they host special “interactive plays” where tourists are dressed up as townspeople, merchanters, or pirates, and allowed to be the actors for a day. The leads (captains, first mates, politicians, etc.) are normally played by actors, but licenses can be bought to play these parts, at an exorbitant cost and after taking required classes. The museum has a gift shop.
The Muurila is a luxury hotel that specializes in romantic getaways. It is situated in a relatively protected part of Affafilalo, and has luxurious flowering plants not only on its own roofs, but all the roofs that can be seen from its rooms. (The buildings near it include students’ dormitories, single worker’s homes, government offices, and lower-priced hotels, most of which are delighted to allow the Muurila to tend to their rooftops.) Many of the rooms in the Muurila have small pools or waterfalls, and they serve lavish meals, with an emphasis on any foods that have been rumored to be aphrodisiacs. The Muurila also has a dance theater for adults.
The Muurila’s advertisements to older couples focus on the name as much as the setting, offering a re-commitment ceremony based on the old Affafilalo belief that romantic partners can bring new life to their relationship by always remembering that with each encounter, they select each other again. (These advertisements claim that the name Muurila was coined from the words emuu, to select, and rilii, again.)
In contrast, the advertisements to younger couples focus on concepts like love at first sight, and claim that a young Affafilalo woman was reborn as an Irfai named Muurila, but found her beloved again at this very spot; after her death bearing the youngest of his children, her husband founded the hotel to celebrate and foster love.
Smuggler’s Den is a hotel and gambling establishment. Once all the fees have been paid, the traveler is given special “pirate gold” tokens to spend or gamble away. A great deal of theatrical show is put on by the employees, pretending to claim that the food was imported without the proper licenses, the alcohol is illegal pirate-brew, that the games themselves can be rigged for a price, and so on.
Far Tip is the building that currently stands farthest out from the shore. Like all the buildings in Affafilalo, it is solid stone raised from bedrock, though it is unknown how this was done when the bedrock was hundreds of feet out into the ocean. It was originally built to be the seat of the city government during sundered times. Far Tip serves as a light house and weather observatory today.
Eyirk Irirle Atya (Paint with Sunlight): This is the festival of the end of the winter rainy season. It is said that the city is painted with sunlight, and people are expected to dye their hair bright colors and paint their bodies. There is music and dancing and feasting, followed by swimming in protected areas. Many of the pigments used to paint the hair and bodies to celebrate the return of fair weather wash out, but some are long-lasting, and hair dyes, especially, can be permanent. Tourists are offered any or all of these, though the cosmeticists and hair stylists “painting” tourists for the festivals are strictly licensed, and have to warn tourists about anything that won’t simply wash out in an evening swim.
Amrath Eyirn Atya (A Taste With Moonlight): Every month, when the largest moon is full, there is a festival where people can sail or paddle down the waterways buying tiny portions (just a taste) of many different types of food. Originally, the festival was not held during the rainy season or if it rained on the three nights of the full moons (one night per moon), but now canopies are draped from building to building to cover areas where food is sold, so tourists can sample the festival even during inclement weather.
Miirveyir Atharf Atya (Laughter with Starlight): This is a comedic musical and theater festival, featuring both local talent and theater companies from all over the Empire. It starts roughly halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox, that being a time when the huge, open-air theaters are predictably dry and a time when no other nearby city has a similar festival, and lasts until the equinox, when awards are given out for the best performances, plays, actors, singers, and comedians.
Riirsheyir (Sea-Light): This festival is held over the summer solstice, celebrating the sea and sailors. What light has to do with it, no one knows; perhaps it’s named Sea-Light just because the other major festivals of the city all refer to light. Sailing and swimming races, navigation contests, fancy diving contests, and monster-fighting demonstrations are held during this festival, with sea monsters lured into a deep dead-end waterway that has seating in the ruins on both sides; the waterway is then blocked off with a portcullis-like device and experienced and inexperienced sailors go in to try to kill the monster in front of spectators. There is betting on all of the contests. The Affafilalo Irfai claim the contests and the betting are a traditional part of Irfai culture, a claim that is only partially supported by the historical records and strongly denied by the island Irfai, who say that such contests are about honor and it is outrageous and practically blasphemous for mere humans to bet on them. (Irfai myths feature their Gods not only betting, but trying to fix the outcome of such contests.)
The Affafilo University is by far the most dominant group in Affafilalo today. Students from all over the continent travel to Affafilalo to study the sea and all things related to it.
The Irfai and the Filaloi are descendants of the people who remained in the city after its downfall, thus their primary heritage is from the Irfai and Affafilalo citizens. The original Affafilalo were a small people, with round faces and light brown to medium brown skin. They had straight hair that came in a variety of colors, which they typically wore long, and black or brown eyes. The original Irfai were taller, with golden to golden-brown skin and hair that ranged from platinum or strawberry blonde to to bright carrot-red, with blue or grey eyes.
At this point, the two groups have interbred significantly with each other and with other Empire citizens, and you can’t tell who’s part of the present-day Irfai and Filaloi communities just by their looks. Another factor is that to exist under the guild laws, the clans must make it possible for people who aren’t related to join the clans. People joining have to demonstrate a devotion to the goals of the clan in addition to having the skills and schooling necessary.
The Affafilalo Irfai are primarily fishers and monster hunters. Many have house-boats which they live on most of the year, but also maintain apartments in unused portions of the city for when the weather is inclement. During those times, the houseboats are drawn in to the city as far as they can fit, and moored to whatever building seems most appropriate at the time. The Irfai also run most of the pirate-theme and sailing-theme restaurants, hotels, and other tourist traps.
It should be noted that the Irfai who continue to live in the Dorarsh Riirf Atya do not see the Irfai of Affafilalo as true Irfai. The island Irfai point out that the Affafilalo Irfai have intermarried so much that they no longer have the characteristic Irfai looks, they live on the mainland, and they act out their traditional culture as a way to draw in tourists and their cash. The island Irfai see the Affafilalo Irfai as bastard stepchildren with delusions of grandeur (at best), whose lives are further from the traditional Irfai life than their own, even though the island Irfai have, to a large degree, embraced Empire culture, with no desire to look rustic to make money off of tourists. The island Irfai resent that the Empire as a whole does seem to accept the Affafilalo Irfai as true representatives of their culture, because they have much less chance to hear about or experience the island Irfai. Many island Irfai also claim that the Affafilalo Irfai are mostly descendants of pirates, trying to claim ethnic affiliation and legitimacy for their ancestors by using the Irfai name. Of course, all the cities on the coast in this area believe that the original inhabitants of the Smoky Islands were willing pirates and raiders.
The Filaloi are gardeners and builders, and consist of a number of semi-hereditary clans who originally had a guild-like structure and have taken the status of guilds in the Empire’s licensing system, training new members more in an apprenticeship system. Notable among them is the Abalqo Clan, which is a mostly-hereditary group dedicated to maintaining the old mosaics and buildings in a traditional fashion. They are funded through a substantial percentage of the licensing fees paid by tourists for tours of the city. The Araroi Clan is a primary breeder of exotic flowers in the city and also runs the Muurila. The Eyiriith Clan (Chorus of Light Clan) has the only artists who are entrusted (after a long and strenuous apprenticeship) with the secrets of making and using the glossy glue for traditional glued-art objects (eyiralv), however, many people in Affafilalo make mosaics: Irfai, Filaloi, students and faculty, and there is even a class or two for tourists.
The modern Affafilalo Irfai and Filaloi both claim to be (mostly) direct descendants of their respective namesakes, and also claim to be (mostly) living in their ancestors’ traditional manner. In an uncharacteristic display of tact, the Affafilo University historians usually refrain from challenging that in public discourse, though there are significant differences that have been documented between the current cultures and the lives historical sources describe.
General Climate Notes
Affafilalo is at the rocky tip of a narrow peninsula in the tropical south, with hot summers and a rainy season rather than winter. The thick stone walls topped with lush vegetation provide shade and a cooler atmosphere, but it is always warm to hot and humid. Affafilalo is basically out in the sea, and is subject to wind and tides, the winter storm season and unpredictable storms year-round. Workers in the weather observatory have noted that the unpredictable storms and tsunamis had been stabilizing slowly over the last several centuries, but are starting to get worse again. They don’t know if this is a normal cyclic pattern or due to some other, unknown factor.
Modern Arts & Culture
Affafilalo cuisine varies significantly depending on who is doing the cooking and eating. The high-level tourist attractions have a lot of imported food, even if they claim to have “local food.” The Irfai eat a diet much like their ancestors did, very high in seafood, from fish to seaweed, supplemented by whatever they can trade for. The university students eat food that is much closer to original Affafilalo cuisine, since most of the traditional produce is harvested for the cafeteria, though some is sold to local restaurants. The Smuggler’s Den brings in cuisine from all over the empire, but relies on the Irfai hunters for their seafood.
Affafilalo artists (excepting the Eyiriith Clan) work primarily in mosaics, both for walls and floors of the buildings and in stand-alone pieces of all sizes and shapes.
Affafilalo musicians sing tales of the “blessed days” (which the rest of the Empire calls the sundered times), days when the people had peace, prosperity, and plenty all their lives.
There is also a strong tradition of comedic art, whether spoken word or physical/visual in nature. Laughter is considered an important and healthy part of daily life, an attitude that has become accepted even by the university faculty and the fighters of sea-monsters.
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