The largest of the surviving Ashyri city-states, Qaresh is a sprawling port city with uncountable crooked streets and domed buildings, famed as much for its enormous bazaar district as it is for the hordes of beggars that roam the alleys and the fanatical sun-worshiping zealots that preach on streetcorners across the whole city. Qaresh also has the dubious distinction of being one of the only city-states in which slavery is still legal (though in practice people in many cities across Aritae find themselves trapped in some form of servitude from which they have no hope of escape). Fearsome corsairs often moor their sleek, triangular-sailed xebecs at the city’s huge port, where all manner of ships can be found carrying rare spices and silks (and slaves, often captured or bought in lands that claim to be above such enterprises) and other commodities.
Despite its wealth (or perhaps because of it) Qaresh is a city of extreme disparity; while the self-styled Sultan of Qaresh and his Azure Court live in opulence that would be the envy of all but a few rulers in the northern regions of Aritae, vast legions of beggars (many of whom are children forced into servitude by cruel street gangs) can be found in nearly every corner of the city. A wealthy merchant class fills the societal roles often occupied by noble families in other parts of continent; fittingly, Qaresh boasts the largest temple dedicated to the commerce god Khalesh found anywhere on Aritae. In fact, a persistent rumor stemming from an ignorance of the ancient Ashyri tongue (a language banned millennia ago by Bal-Shanaari decree) conflates the name “Qaresh” (the antiquated Ashyri word for “sapphire”) with the name “Khalesh” itself supposedly due to the importance of trade. This view is certainly incorrect, for the ancient Ashyri were essentially monotheistic in their worship of a sun god they called “Ashyr,” who many modern scholars consider to be an aspect of Pelor, despite fierce protest by the surviving Ashyri themselves.
One of the most influential factions in the city today is that of the Ashyri Redemptors, a militantly fervent religious order devoted to reviving the ancient religous practices of the pre-Imperial Ashyri people. The Redemptors preach a strictly monotheistic faith devoted entirely to the sun deity Ashyr, claiming that the other gods worshiped in Aritae are false idols created by “the Shadow,” an ancient enemy of Ashyr from the dawn of creation. Redemptors are famed for their bright yellow turbans and curved swords, as well as their utter lack of fear in the face of death in the service of their god. They actively seek to influence the Sultan and the Azure Court to mandate the worship of Ashyr as a city-wide practice, but the Sultan is reluctant to enact any decrees that would jeopardize the flow of wealth into Qaresh from foreign traders and merchants.