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Of all the cities of Vaneha—that rich mountainous country in the triangle between the Yellow and Maruto rivers— the capital city of Jibei is the most beautiful and most storied. It is the City of the Sword, home to the Imperial Daiklave that legitimizes the rule of Sword Prince Gensuji. Vaneha’s finest warriors and weaponsmiths—ranked among the best in the world—live and labor here at the Sword Prince’s command. This is a land arrayed by clans, and so long as Gensuji holds members of each clan’s ruling family hostage, he is its master.

The city of Jibei spreads downhill from the Sword Prince’s dragon-backed manse, its winding avenues lined with dogwood and weeping cherry. Hedgerows and elegant gardens encircle the manors of the clan lords; these mute the rasp of carpenters’ saws, grunts and kiais of sparring warriors, and bustle of merchants trading at the markets for swords, fish, rice, and jade. From balconies one may watch clouds of birds rise above the marshes encircling Agate Lake—beneath whose waters divers extract from drowned mines the sacred metal used in Vanehan bladecraft—or see waterfalls cascading down from the sacred mountain Ama-ni-Traya, the enormous forested peak that Vaneha’s people call the center of the world.

To hold off the jungle tribes that raid from the Far East, Vanehan laborers expand and extend the Great Palisade, a wall of sharpened boles running for hundreds of miles along the realm’s eastern edge. Keeping the tribes at bay allows Vaneha’s warriors to focus their efforts on a more profitable opponent: the Hundred Kingdoms. Vaneha’s people have invaded that region many times before, even ruled it in the past as a conquering power. Now the Sword Prince raises the Imperial Daiklave to direct the clans northward once more.

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