This city is one of the five great places of Khazari legend, along with Skardu, Manass, Taghla, and Barkhul. Alashan sits on the western bank of the Kuruk Muren where the Silk Road crosses into Khazari. Here the front range of the Katakoro Shan breaks, creating a low, broad pass, a natural highway for traders and bandits alike. For almost a thousand years, Alashan has served as a frontier outpost against the horse barbarians.
Because of its location, Alashan has developed exceedingly strong fortifications. The town sits behind stone walls at the eastern end of the pass. There are towers at the corners and a large gate house. The center of the city is dominated by a large, fortified palace. In addition to the city fortifications, the Khazari have also built a wall and gate across the top of the pass. All those using the Silk Road must pass through the gate, making taxation much simpler for the prince of Khazari.
Because it sits astride the Silk Road, Alashan is a wealthy city. It is home to many merchants and craftsmen. Although it has no organized guild or charter-houses, there are many caravansaries where the caravan masters stay. These men often need extra guards or specialists and will allow travelers to join their caravan for a small consideration. Of course, prudent masters insist on testing (through spells, if possible) the loyalty and trustworthiness of any applicants.
Because Alashan is so important to Khazari’s trade, a large garrison is maintained here. Normally, 3,000 men are assigned to the pass, manning the fortifications there. Another 4,000 men are held at the palace and patrolling the local countryside. These soldiers are almost entirely footmen, armed with spears and longswords. They carry large wicker shields and wear padded cotton armor.
Alashan is governed by Idikut, a wise and cunning man, about 60 years old. He is very loyal to Prince Ogandi, ruler of Khazari.
When Yamun Khahan invaded Khazari, he wisely chose to bypass the pass and fortifications of Alashan, striking instead at Manass to the north. By doing so, he was able to exploit Alashan’s greatest weakness, the fact that its defenses are oriented to the west. Once Manass fell, the wall guarding Alashan’s pass could easily be outflanked. This is one of the factors that induced Prince Ogandi to quickly sue for peace.