"Before my first sunset in Zhou, I was insulted; stripped of currency, clothing, and dignity; and left for dead in a puddle. I have since been told I was fortunate to escape so lightly."— Abd al-Hazir(src)
Zhou has a dangerous reputation, and is ruled by the Great Families, each of which possessing a stake in one of the town's industries. The town's laws are determined by a ruling council made up of one man or woman from each of the nine families. As none of the families are foolish enough to trust their rivals, the council also holds the position of an advisor, usually a merchant raised from the masses. It is the advisor's role to bring important matters to the attention of the council, and execute their orders. What counts as "important" is at the whim of the Great Families, and the advisor's role allows them to spend more time holding masquerades and planning assassinations. The city likewise possesses a city watch.
Smoke and steam cover the town like a thick blanket. The town itself is ten miles in length. It consisters of mismatched jumble of elegant stone temples and shanty taverns, fortified towers and sagging tenements, all crammed into the cradle of the Guozhi Mountain Range. Roads were seen as a waste of space, so the town's layout consists of a series of hidden, crooked alleys, rather than possessing streets and plazas.
The area that Zhou now covers was once grassland, where small tribes roamed. Then the world changed. People told stories and watched the skies for directions from beings more powerful than themselves. The stories became laws and obligations, and the tribes grew and fought each other. They believed that they had no choice, and they waited for omens.
During the Purge, the entire city was turned against the Tenth Family. They were able to survive the conflict. The city's fortunes changed when Jagged Liang took on the role of advisor within the council. She reformed the city watch, turning it into an efficient force that answered only to her. This put her into conflict with the Tenth Family, who thrived on the chaos Zhou usually provided, and from 1281 to 1285, a silent war was fought between the two factions. Things got progressively worse, as watchmen slaughtered Tenth Family members in the streets, while in return, Tenth Family members torched city watch houses. Covetous Shen warned Jia that Liang wanted control over all of the city, and wanted to eradicate the Great Families. Civil war was what would follow.