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New Zalae is a city-territory located in The Hexarchy, on the mainland side of metropolitan Kanaloa. The territory is bordered to the north by a sparsely populated frontier region cutting through The Green, which is itself currently guarded (and governed) by the Realm of Suza. It is an independent city, governed directly by the Praetor -- one of only three cities in the nation (aside from Marduk and Azul'an) with this status. Founded in mid-1690 AN, this planned city was founded on the site of the its namesake, the former Caputian capital of Zalae. The city was established by proclamation of Praetor Gilgamesh II, who sought to preserve and enhance religious diversity in the country, as well as embrace an important part of the heritage of those who had lived in the region before the natives' arrival.
The revived city sits on the site of a myriad of ancient religious buildings also belonging to the former Caputia. The territory was purchased and rapidly developed by the Praetor as a gift to both the country and to the faithful dispersed throughout the world who once called this territory their home. Unlike any other city in the country, New Zalae's local government sets its own local immigration guidelines in addition to those provided by the rest of the country (on approval by the Praetor). It is also the only city in the country with special immigration and visiting programs exclusively for pilgrims coming to visit the newly restored, expanded, and beautified sacred places scattered throughout the territory.
Although temporal hemorrhaging had allowed the ensuing years to quickly reduce much of the former city of Zalae to rubble, the religious districts were surprisingly well-preserved when the island-side of the town was settled. Although religious items were preserved after a fashion on Kanaloa Island, most of the city's political, business, and other districts had long fallen into such a state of dereliction that demolition and re-use of the raw material remained about the only option available. After the Elamite natives had settled the area in c. 1670 AN, little was done to preserve anything of note, as survival was a much more pressing concern then than it was after the young nation's independence.
In 1690, the new Praetor of the Hexarchy, following his late predecessor's brief reign, saw an opportunity to strengthen good relations with the nearby Alduro-Wechua Federation and build on an already-improving relationship. The Praetor found his personal coffers unjustifiably full, and knew there were plenty of areas that a minority in the area would appreciate seeing restored. Upon consulting the High Council on the matter, he found that the general consensus (more or less) was that a full and complete restoration of old Zalae was not only affordable, but would serve the area's economic interests by creating new jobs and increasing the country's population in the region -- another of the country's stated goals for the Riverlands.
As the Praetor saw it, he had two options to take in improving the region. He could either watch the ruins of the old city were stripped bare of useful materials and then overrun by the expanding construction industry in the area. Industrializing the mainland side of Kanaloa would spur colonization efforts to the north, enrich the country, and strengthen the river's economic and physical security. His other option was to expend a considerable sum in investing in the region's restoration and beautification, and drive an entire industry around building the new city to mesh well and provide a historical continuity with the old one. In this latter case, he knew he could, for a large price, do some good and preserve the region's storied past. As for the political consequences, he knew that he'd have to personally pay to fund a megaproject for what was (at that time) a very small religious minority in a vocally diverse country, as the Council would never approve such a measure with an already-stretched military budget.
He also knew that asking the very same Caputian refugees to come back and pay to restore a realm they felt kicked out of would be rude at best. The Hexarchy had already occupied the former Caputia's best, most fertile land, and populated it with a borderline savage series of peoples that would sooner burn the entire region to the ground for a quick mina of gold. Having the dispossessed and disenfranchised of his people pay the bulk of the cost ran entirely contrary to his own principles of equal justice for all, never mind generosity for the downtrodden (within reason). Worse, asking the neighbors to pay for a project that was under construction in The Hexarchy's heartland would constitute an existentially damaging diplomatic embarrassment, and permanently damage the new Praetor's ability to accomplish anything of use to his country.
Therefore, there was but one path he found reasonable: pay for it himself and present the newly restored city as a gift to his nation, and as a gift to the followers of the Melusinian Faith. He knew that this megaproject would generate thousands of local jobs, and increase traffic all the way from the mouth of the Great River at Kobol all the way to Kanaloa just from the influx of pilgrims once their greatest temple was fully restored and expanded. The return on any taxes generated from the increased regional income would only serve to magnify the region's wealth and serve to push The Hexarchy's safest frontiers farther from the nation's most populated areas. Finally, he saw the move as a highly effective way to generate friendship between Alduria-Wechua and, subsequently, other nearby nations that would otherwise shun The Hexarchy's territory and very eclectic peoples for more comfortable regions.
With all the excuses he could ever hope to have to make an obvious political move to strengthen his own power and that of his country, he purchased the still-dilapidated region from the government of Elam for a discount and immediately set to work restoring the partially ruined Temple as well as the General Synod Building at the old city's center. The project was costly, but the Praetor felt well-justified in his purchase of personal land to present as a gift to the nation once complete. Gilgamesh had grand visions for the city. He planned for it to be a major economic hub in the country's eastern side, thus spurring traffic deeper into the country's interior. As both the territory and every square cubit of the land on it belonged to him personally, he could set tax rates and invest in incoming industries as he so pleased, turning the region into a profitable tax haven worthy of rivalling nearby Kanaloa (or even Kobol). As for the land the religious buildings and other sacred places belonged on, he planned to lease the buildings and all directly attached land for free to the Church in an effort to attract more followers of that faith to immigrate to his country. With the funds generated from the territory's industrial output, he would turn over a sufficient sum to the nation's religious groups (especially those located in the region) and attempt to foster a cultural renaissance within the nation's borders.
Planning & Construction
The city of New Zalae lies directly under the Praetor's administration, and is one of only three cities in The Hexarchy designated with this unique status. This designation has far-reaching implications. The independent city is self-governing (much like Kanaloa, located immediately off its southern coast), and pays taxes solely to the Praetor, instead of also to a regional government or the country's central government (itself administered by the High Council). Instead of charging taxes directly, incoming business pay royalties for use of the land as a share of their sales in the region. By opening this direct-investment scheme, barriers to entry in the region for foreign business fell to near-zero, prompting a strong influx of investment from other portions of the country and, in the best cases, from abroad. This, in turn, generated an unprecedented amount of income for one of The Hexarchy's rulers, thus empowering the Praetor to act increasingly independent of the Council -- and setting the stage for more aggressive modernization efforts elsewhere in the country.
Additionally, differing visa access policies are in force for the city, such policies being determined and directly (and solely) by the Praetor. Currently, the main differentiating aspect of the city is the unusually free status it accords to Melusinian pilgrims that wish to visit the country and make their pilgrimage to the area. As of 1690, the Praetor opened a visa-on-arrival for any person from Alduria-Wechua (or any former Caputian territory). So long as those persons provided a passport from these areas along with relevant documentation related to their transport (whose purpose would be on their ship's manifests) they would be immediately welcomed into the city. Incoming religious groups proving direct ties to land abandoned during the fall of Caputia would find newly restored buildings for their use, entirely devoid of a price to pay for their use.
As such, the City was the Praetor's personal gift to the nation, and to all who formerly called this place home. As a result, the city of New Zalae, even during its infant days, rapidly became the most religiously diverse area within the country, surpassing even Kobol and Astaroth with their respectively international-facing status. With no taxes faced by men (and women) of the cloth, the city's clergy could exclusively focus on matters of faith. In some cases, such as for well-established groups (such as the Melusinian Church, they found that finances otherwise faced by the pressures of running the Church and caring for its clergy entirely provided for, with surplus even provided to drive charity of their own for persons otherwise overlooked by the Praetor's own anti-poverty efforts. This, and more, found its funding from the Praetor's coffers, themselves filled more full than ever before by taxes from elsewhere paid by the region's rapidly growing industry.