Yoon-Suin: The Yellow City
“The city at the mouth of the God River has many names. The City of Topaz, the City of Gold, the City of Gods, the City of Whores. The Old City, the First City, the One City. The Grand Lady. The Great Stink. But I will call it the Yellow City, which is what the people of my home call it, because of the way it glows in the light of hot sunny days.
I am sure that even you, the distant reader, are familiar with the place and its venerable history. I would not seek to patronise with an account of its origins. So I will describe instead some aspects of its character that a foreign visitor should know. It is the greatest city in Yoon-Suin and undoubtedly the world, however, so my account must needs be incomplete.
First, the inhabitants. It is no exaggeration to say that the people of the Yellow City are by turns the wealthiest, most refined, and most educated people in all the land, yet at the same time capable of the most horrible cruelties and licentious depravities. Like all those whose societies are ancient and rich, they are also cynical and bored. The most singular feature of their life, which strikes any visitor the moment he arrives, is their strict heirarchical stratification, which all inhabitants obey.
At the highest level are the slug-people, the race who built the city’s first buildings, founded its first institutions, and who have lived there since the dawn of time. They alone are permitted to own property, to import and export goods, and to attend many of the city’s libraries, archives and madrassas. They are a pompous and effete people, fascinated by clothes and fashions and the decoration of their own appearances, though they love learning and study and pursuits scientific, aesthetic and sorcerous.
Below the slug-people are human beings, who are themselves separated into castes. Some are warriors in private employ (for there is no public military in the Yellow City), others are shopkeepers or sailors, while others fight for money or sell themselves for sex (the whores in the Yellow City are very fine). Their lowest rank are called “Ulufo”, the people who herd giant cockroaches in the darkest alleyways. These cockroaches eat the city’s litter and are in turn eaten by their herders, a sight which can be seen on any street corner around the docks and the river side. The scent of the roasting insects seemed to me like chestnut, though I did not eat the meat.
Lowest are the crab-men, who live outside the city in the mangroves and the rocks called the Topaz Islands, and are not permitted to enter the city proper except in servitude. They are unintelligent things, but strong and tough, and they are sometimes forced to do manual labour or simple tasks, on pain of death or torture and for scant reward. They are undoubtedly unfortunate and pathetic beings, very meek of character, though the people of the city think of them as the reincarnated souls of criminals and breakers of taboo, and deserving of their miserable lot. They do not generally have names, though those in employment are often daubed with paint to signify their master. I saw one goaded into executing a criminal: it severed the man’s head from his neck with one movement of its claw."
-Journal of Laxmi Guptra Dahl (http://yoonsuin.tumblr.com/)