Shylock's Quarter
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Excerpt from an essay on the history of the City of Tibsom, Kingdom of Runners, Lemuria.

The Market-City of Tibsom was considered the greatest wonder in the Kingdom of Runners. It was comparable to the Colossi in the Kingdom of Clay in size, the Great Keep of the Kingdom of War in beauty, and it held more people than the capitals of the Kingdoms of Fire, Grain, and Wealth combined. The Kingdom of Runners was where all the great athletes and couriers of the Eight Kingdoms originated, and was also considered the capital of commerce. In fact, it was illegal to perform any monetary transaction outside of the City of Tibsom anywhere in the Eight Kingdoms; as such, every individual from the High Queens of War to the most crippled peasant had to travel to Tibsom by foot, river or steed. Needless to say, the Kingdom of Fire's invention of high-speed track trollies made Tibsom even more prosperous; it was said that because of this city alone, the riches in the King of Runner's coffers rivaled all the precious minerals in the Kingdom of Wealth.

Merchants from all of the eight Kingdoms, from the great Kingdom of Plagues1 to the lowly Kingdom of Grain gathered at Tibsom, most usually sparing only a single day out of ten to return home to their families, or else have their families move to Tibsom with them. The Market-City was divided into five quarters: Lanu's Quarter, Tyrant's Quarter2, Durnoe's Quarter, Woo'qu's Quarter, and finally, Shylock's Quarter.

Each one of these quarters was more prestigious than the last, and each one required a higher status. Admittance to Lanu's Quarter required nothing more than proof of citizenship from any one of the Eight Kingdoms, while access to Shylock's Quarter meant you had to do one of three things: Firstly, paying a toll amounting to half of your total body weight in copper, a quarter in silver, or a third in gold. The second option was to earn an invitation from Shylock himself; this could be done by earning a position of prestige, or having a shop in one of the lower tiers of Tibsom that grew to a large enough size. Finally, if you were one of the Kings or Queens, you were automatically granted admittance to Shylock's Quarter.

Shylock's Quarter was the smallest of the quarters, with only several hundred merchants and shops instead of several thousand. But these shops were the most magnificent in the entire Market-City! It was rumored that Shylock was not a member of any of the Eight Kingdoms, and instead came from a fabled Ninth Kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Lands3, separate from Lemuria, and therefore, separate from the world. From this Ninth Kingdom, he offered goods far more exotic than those offered in the other four Quarter. Shylock owned the majority of shops, which specialized in advanced technology, weapons, and an elixir called Shylock's Serum, said to grant eternal life; this elixir, it is now known, was nothing more than fermented honey mixed with medicine from the Kingdom of Plagues.

The most famous shops included the various Dark Galleries, including the Gallery of Weaponry and the Gallery of Jewels; the Glass Beetle, the only place in the entirety of the Eight Kingdoms that was allowed to serve alcoholic beverages; Syuor4, the largest Brothel in the Kingdom of Runners; and the nameless shop, to which only Kings and Queens were allowed admittance.

Any discussion of Shylock's Quarter must mention the Spire, a towering structure at the very center of Tibsom. The Spire was Shylock's seat of power, and admittance was only allowed to him and other shop-owners. Counting Shylock, only twenty-five shop owners, most of them from the Kingdoms of War or Wealth, were allowed into the Spire. It was rumored that all 10 of the great violations occurred in the Spire at least once daily. That meant at least one murder, one lustful episode, one blasphemy against the great Lemur, and several other atrocities were committed every day. Most of them were supposedly committed by the Merchant King himself, Shylock. This could never be proven, as Shylock made sure that the secrets of the Spire were heavily guarded.

The Merchant King once stated that all of the Eight Kingdoms were fairly represented in his Quarter, just as they were in the others. However, this was not the case; the Kingdoms of War, Wealth, Plagues, and Fire were the most well represented, while the Kingdoms of Mystery and Runners were limited to only 3 shops each, and the Kingdoms Clay and Grain were entirely absent, despite the latter being the agricultural hub for most of the Eight Kingdoms. This all changed when a man named Adjinc Oidfaw attempted to gain admittance to The Quarter.

Adjinic was a very frail and thin man, weighing only 60 Trous5. He had inherited half of that weight in copper, easily enough for admittance to Shylock's Quarter. However, he was a peasant from the Kingdom of Grain, and the Merchant King did not want to let him into his quarter, believing he would spread disease. At one point, he stated that "[Adjinic's] filth-covered hands will sully the goods, the businesses, and the people in my Quarter, and I will not allow it!" The Merchant King insisted that the copper was simply recolored bronze or the product of alchemy, which was punishable by death at the time. These claims were unfounded, and he had no choice but to grant Adjinic admittance to his Quarter.

In here, Adjinic established the first shop run by the Kingdom of Grain, a simple produce stall. As a shop owner, Shylock had no choice but to allow him not only admittance into the Quarter for the rest of his days, but also into the Spire. Naturally, this caused a great deal of unrest among the Quarter, and attempts were made on Adjinic's life daily, from a member of the Kingdom of Fire attempting to burn his stall and all his produce, to a Hatnotr6 giving him pain medicine laced with Madagascan Rot. Eventually, the crudest method turned out to be the best. Adjinic's life was cut short by a shot fired by a member of the Kingdom of Wars, mad with Rot.

About 11 years had passed since his entrance into Shylock's Quarter, and Adjinic had become a symbol of success among the Kingdoms of Clay and Grain. The belief was that "If Adji could do it, so can we!" and several peasants from the Kingdoms of Clay and Grain attempted to enter Shylock's Quarter in the following years. His death was meant to send a message for them to stop trying, but instead sparked an odd form or revolt. Instead of tearing down the walls, they found the best negotiators and merchants among them, pooled their resources, and soon had at least 20 merchants from the Kingdom of Clay working in the Quarter and at least 32 from the Kingdom of Grain.

The Merchant King, quite naturally, was furious. He called the members of the Kingdom of Clay "filth-eaters" and "food for filthy Fossas", and said things about the Kingdom of Grain that I dare not repeat here. Naturally, this outraged at least three of the Eight Kingdoms: both the Kingdoms of Clay and Grain condemned the Quarter, and the Kingdom of Runners threatened to banish Shylock if he attempted to sully the name of their Kingdom any more. However, three of the Eight were not enough to officially arrest the merchant.

The Kingdoms of War and Fire eventually joined the three listed before; the Kingdom of War discovered that Shylock was stealing secrets from their weapon development centers to arm his own private militia, and the highly religious Kingdom of Fire finally had confirmation that Shylock was blaspheming the great Lemur, calling him "Fossa food" and "a dirty monkey". A large-scale attack against Shylock's Quarter was launched; to this day, it is unclear what transpired, but when the smoke cleared, the entire Quarter was destroyed, over 200 Lemurians were dead, and Shylock was nowhere to be found.

A law was enacted that year by the Kingdom of Runners abolishing the tiered market system that Tibsom used; now, the higher tiers of the market were to integrate with the lower ones, and the top tier that Shylock's Quarter had occupied was to be left vacant. In its place, at the center of the Market-City, a square was erected, known as The Merchant King's Square. Where the Spire once stood was a shrine to the great Lemur, and where Adjinac's produce stand was now stands a marker dedicated to him, a reminder of the atrocious acts committed in Shylock's Quarter.

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