And there was a great plague in the homes of the Arcad tribes; mighty men were felled like trees, unable to move a limb, just whimpering in pain.
Their god was unable to halt the disease even as his bodyguards and concubines perished. It was at that time that a lone wanderer entered the unguarded gates of Thoktu Masif, and strode right to the throne room where the god-king of the Arcad sat in his dark brooding.
There he stood, a figure cloaked in midnight. The weary gaze of Dorniam, the lord of these halls, fell upon him, and that was when the foreigner cast away his garb to reveal armor of pure sunlight and a drawn blade of solar fire. With one swift leap, he closed with the god-king and parted his head from his shoulders.
The people were struck with terror, yet the stranger spoke with a voice calm and trustworthy: "Come to me, you who are ill, and you shall suffer no more." And so it was - his light burned the plague from their bodies. Those who were just lived, while the wicked were consumed with cleansing flame.
Then, he spoke once more: "Come, and follow me, and never suffer injustice again. Never fear. Never go alone, for you will walk in my light." And they joined him in droves, and the stranger spoke a third time: "This will be a place holy to me. All of you who travel far shall return one day to wallow in its sanctity. My name is Tacontar and when you speak it I will hear, wherever you are. Now spread the word, my children."
And thus the Arcadese have built the cliff city of Thoktu Masif as the center of their faith.
The center of the Holy city is located on and inside a tall mountain surrounded by a deep chasm whose deeps harbor many peculiar and perilous denizens. The central mountain, the Hallowed Peak, has been carved by generations of sculptors and architects. It is riddled with long walkways just beneath the surface of the rock, small chapels along the eastern side of the cliff where lectures and sermons are held, and large chapels on the west side intended for burial and great solemn ceremonies. There are numerous vitrages and glass-sculptures brought to life by the glory of the Lord. The clergy wear white robes during service, all the adornments being given by the light falling through the stained glass.
Tiny gardens serve as places for rest and meditation, warded from the heat of direct sunshine.
On the surface of the peak, sunshine and as much of it as possible is desired. Dozens of ziggurats stand here, with sacred pools on the very top, where light pools at day as if it were water, and priests and priestesses bathe there at night to maintain communion with their lord. Newlywed couples that wish to sanctify their union may also bathe in one of the pools, and receive the most holy of blessings.
Into the sides of the ziggurats, niches are built. In those the most faithful servants of Tacontar are laid to rest, the dry climate preserving them, and the suns infusing them with the essence of their god. The most devout of them rise, to continue their service, and saints they are called. They are given ornate armor and arms by the clergy, and their identity is concealed. The common man does not know that the saints wander the world in undeath.
Inside the ziggurats, accommodations of the saints, as well as embalming rooms and repositories for sacred artifacts are located. Nine tall towers of reddish stone are arranged in a circle around the tallest, the Tower of Seasons.
The towers serve as breeding places for the sacred golden eagles, and each has a secluded room with numerous amenities where mysterious guests appear from time to time.
The central tower is wholly different from the rest - a presumptuously tall structure supported by six parallel pillars that join its main body at about one third its height, with a top plated with copper and brass. The high priests ascend it to welcome the sun and be able to see it a little earlier, and the heads of the religion are chosen in a hall at its base. The tower houses two great clocks and one calendar. The first clock and the calendar track the progress of time, while the larger chronometer simply counts time down - though little is known what will happen when the countdown reaches zero. Most believe that then, Tacontar will return and walk the world again, instead of presiding in the heavens, and judge the flock once more.
Next to the Hallowed peak, on a protrusion of the sacred mountain, a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the gaping chasm, is the Junior Collegium, where young adepts of proven faith are trained in the ways of the priesthood and doctrines of the church.
It consists of a large square building with walkways arranged around it, and hanging gardens where the students can relax arranged at the edge of the cliffs.
The armed forces try to be inconspicuous, yet are omnipresent, their guardhouses are concealed among the architecture, and a vast network of tunnels connects them to the subterranean barracks. Only ceremonial guards in polished bronze cuirasses and tall plumed helms, armed with great swords and enchanted floating sun-shaped shields, stand proudly in front of the temples.
A system of horns, runners and light signals aids their communication.
To further improve the security, great granite guardian statues of armored men have been erected in a circle around the city. Dormant until the need arises, they are ever vigilant, each guided by the spirits of three meditating priests day and night.
To the rest of the city, the Hallowed Peak is connected by but a single bridge, the Bar-na-Shaddim. Narrow and long, it is quite treacherous, more so when one is standing on it, for every sin of the passant makes it narrower, to the point where it appears to be a thin wire. More than one presumptuous sinner has fallen off it.
Those who are not certain of their purity and faith avoid entering the bridge, contenting themselves with the journey to Thoktu Masif, without trying to enter its holy of holies.
On the other side of the canyon, the secular Thoktu Masif lies, with ancient winding streets and tiny shrines, inns for the numerous travelers, and markets to satisfy their needs. Minute secluded town squares with serene gardens and bubbling fountains make the less crowded parts of the city a pleasant place to stay in, the tall structures and carefully tended foliage providing welcome shadow after the arduous journey through the desert.
Obelisks are a favorite motif in the city, and it is considered a sign of faith to donate or carve one with his own hands. Still, they must follow certain rules, and it is wise to consult the clergy before purchasing just any random obelisk - many of the professional stonecutters consult a priest before carving an obelisk, as to avoid making one that would be rejected.
Before the outer walls of the city, a vale with carefully irrigated fields and orchards welcomes the traveler, with mighty windmills pumping water out of the depths, and, in higher locales, herds of shaggy sheep grazing on the sparse weeds.
Certainly, any man or woman of Arcadese nationality and faith should venture at least once in their lifetime to the city that is so sacred, or at least drink a bottle of the blessed water from one of the springs of that region, and posses a holy symbol forged there. Many women drink a flask of holy water before a planned conception, or after they learn of pregnancy.
While Thoktu Masif is neither the administrative nor the industrial center of Arcadizar, it certainly is its heart and soul.