The chief city in the Opaline Sea basin is magnificent Khayr Coronnar, capital of the Aryamehran Empire. Khayr Coronnar has a population of about two million, with perhaps two hundred thousand more living unrecorded in its prehuman, subterranean bowels.
The city is located by the excellent harbor of Hydralis Bay, and northeast of it is the Port Tartessos spaceport. On a hill to the east is the ruin of Old Hydralis, whose subterranean undercity reaches all the way to the Khayr Coronnar. All around the city for many miles stretch the plantations of the nobility, worked by legions of slaves. Together with the heavy tributes the Empire levies from its conquests, this fertility has concentrated here a level of wealth unmatched anywhere else on Maruzar and enabled the city’s rulers to build lavishly in the style of the First Empire.
The capital is a vision of soaring white towers, many with landing pads for skyships, magnificent palaces, fountained gardens, the pyramidal temples of the Primogens, and tall, stern monuments to past Emperors. All this is surrounded by a triple wall bristling with both cannon and ancient energy weapons. The Imperial Palace alone is the size of nine city blocks. All the major buildings of Khayr Coronnar are faced with white marble, and the palaces and temples have walls inlaid with onyx, malachite and gold.
Beside the Imperial Palace is the gigantic Grand Arena, which is domed over with tinted glass and climate-controlled with machines provided by the Spaceclans. It is considered a wonder of the age. Nevertheless, all this is but a shadow of the First Empire’s capital, Az Coronnar. The highest finial of the Imperial Palace stands four hundred feet high; the tallest tower of Az Coronnar was over a mile high. The rest of the city is occupied by residential towers, the first two floors of which are occupied by shops and markets.
The Imperial Palace
The largest edifice in Khayr Coronnar is the Imperial Palace, which occupies the northern quarter of the city and forms its strongest bastion of defence there. It is made up of five towers standing over a common base, the central tower four hundred feet tall while the the flanking towers are a hundred feet shorter. Notorious for its extravagant opulence, the Palace is not just the dwelling of the Imperial family and the center of the Empire’s government, it is a statement of power in every stone and chamber.
The cyclopean-scale throneroom is lined with captured banners on the walls and First Empire statuary plundered from various dead cities, while the walkway to the throne is now a massive glass-topped pool stocked with iridescent, twenty-foot long Gamilan dragon-eels, telling the world that the Emperor controls enough water to use it extravagantly and claims rule of planets beyond Maruzar. There is of course provision for abruptly dropping unwelcome visitors into the water, an event the intelligent and ever-hungry dragon-eels greatly enjoy.
The Grand Terrace above the throneroom is occupied by five glass-domed gardens. One houses a large bathing pool, surrounded by exotic Vashtian and Karkushan jungle plants. Another houses a vishra, the Maruzarian sand dragon; another is the personal fencing salon of the Emperor; and yet another is a sealed menagerie of zoa-trees and savage insectoids from the Viridian Deep, for Imperial scientists to study.
The central tower contains the Imperial family quarters and those of their servants, complete with kitchens, banquet halls, conference rooms for the Imperial council and favored petitioners, private libraries, and so on. The flanking towers house the Imperial Guard and hangars for the Emperor’s personal warships. Stables, food storage, and machinery are located in the basements. Access to the towers is by external stairs or lift shafts with levor disks. The grounds are a magnificent public garden with fountains under glass domes.
The Grand Arena
The Grand Arena is the second-largest structure in the city. It is not only a coliseum for the bloody games beloved by the Azhir nobles, it is also their favorite playground, for the structure surrounding the arena is made up of tiered galleries housing luxury shops, restaurants, pleasure houses run by the city’s most famous courtesans, and so on.
Beneath these are quarters for gladiators, trainers and guards, and armories, and below these, kennels for the many kinds of beasts made to fight in the arena. The inner rim of the arena is entirely taken up by seats, with the Imperial box at one end. Combatants enter the sands from the tall Gate of Valor located right opposite the Emperor’s box, giving the ruler the pleasure of seeing the gladiators first.
The wealthy citizenry love novelty in the arena, so they are always demanding more exotic beasts and new fighters. There are many ways to make a fortune here — as many as there are ways to die on the sands.
The Grand Temple
The Grand Temple is the main Primogenist temple in Khayr Coronnar. It stands on the north side of the Plaza of Glory, in the very center of the city. The temple is a huge step pyramid of nine levels, crowned at the top by a quincunx of towers which form the temple proper. At every tier are statues depicting the Primogens, the First Men and Women, while the sides of each tier are carved with reliefs depicting the history of the First Empire and the founding of Khayr Coronnar.
The pyramid interior is honeycombed with chambers, and it is here that the city’s mentalists are trained by Primogenist priests. A great library is housed deep within the pyramid, and some say there are secret chambers within the library of which not even the Emperor knows, hiding curious experiments or forbidden knowledge.
The Shrine of Aryamehr
Princess Aryamehr, the founder of the Empire, is honored in a shrine opposite the Grand Temple. The shrine is a vaulted dome, the top of which is open as a skylight shining down upon the thrice-life size golden statue of Princess Aryamehr below. Many military rites are held in the shrine, such as awarding recognitions for valor and the swearing of fealty to the city’s lords.
Beneath all this are the labyrinthine tunnels and reservoirs of the Undercity, the prehuman ruins atop which Khayr Coronnar was built. Many aliens, denied a place in Imperial society, live underground and may not see the sun for days on end. The Undercity is a hotbed for the cultists of Balaor, the Mad Moon, who periodically stage sudden, violent bacchanals and grisly sacrificial rites. The complex reaches all the way to the abandoned city of Old Hydralis, and despite attempts to seal off the tunnels running below the city walls, the tunnel dwellers have always managed to dig through or find other ways yet unknown to the authorities.
West of the city lie the marinas, warehouses, and fishermen’s towers of the waterfront, practically a town in its own right, surrounded by its own walls. This lively district never sleeps, for half the population works all day, and the other half works all night to cater to carousing sailors, fishermen, marines, and dockhands. There is a large Orokko population here, which is carefully watched because of recent rebellions in Orokkonda, their homeland. Seafolk sometimes infiltrate this area, causing havoc and panic before they are driven off.
To the southwest of the marina is the complex of glass domes, pumping stations and pipes of the Hydralis Desalination Plant, the largest of the desalination facilities on Maruzar. Every day this plant yields enough fresh water to supply the entire city, and the surplus is pumped inland to Port Tartessos and Khayr Coronnar’s satellite cities. The plant is now guarded day and night from watchtowers and patrolling galleys against Seafolk attack.