The Enclave > Known Roads

Unknown Roads

Slipping into the Farthest is less of a risk in familiar places, or when following the Known Roads. Young children quickly learn the importance of landmarks and remembering the way. Traveling the unknown, unmarked regions of the Enclave is a very different proposition, however. Location becomes a matter of trust, skill and wizardry: becoming Lost to the Farthest is a very real danger.

Any number of sages and explorers have claimed to own the one true Enclave map over the years; speculative and scholarly works can be found in any library or collection. All are very different but quite likely equally useless.

Exploration was once a prestigious profession. The spread of Ammander and Vanished Isle folk though the Enclave has slowed with the passage of time, however. Distant villages are now close to great natural barriers or the cruel Neth. In past generations, explorers set the route markers for the Known Roads and ventured deep into the Formless, the Greenwood, Lorn, the Datarii mountains of Great Home and Krineth's Hills. Krineth himself was an explorer almost as large as his legend; a man who wrestled with Neth, stole Datarii silver from the stonefolk and returned from being Lost for a season in the Farthest Greenwood. He lies buried in a tomb fit for a Lord in the hills beyond Three Stones that bear his name.

[ Posted by Reason on January 10, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Low Marsh

A dreary salt marsh extends for more than a hard day's ride along the low coast away from Port, fed by the tides and a slow-flowing branch of the Lothar. It is home to little aside from birds and spiny marsh eels, visited only by experienced landsmen hunters. The central Low Marshes are dismal and featureless - becoming Lost in the Farthest Marsh is a real danger, to say nothing of the stories told of strange sightings and hidden threats amidst the mud and water.

The remains of structures dating back to the earliest seasons of Magi traders are said lie deep in the Low Marsh. Landsmen tell stories amongst themselves of a keep and tower of ill reputation, a place fit only for the waterlogged Lost and dire Trespassers from the Farthest.

[ Posted by Reason on January 23, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Sage of the Stone Road

The Stone Road leads inland from Port, following the Lothar and then the Springsource to the small town of Two Springs and the Whisperwood. From there, the Stone Road passes the great black stone monoliths of One Stone and Two Stones before running between the watchtower hills outside the city wall of Three Stones.

The white-haired, genial Sage of the Stone Road has dwelled in a small cave close to Two Stones for as long as anyone can recall, never seeming a day older as the years pass. In that, the Sage is one of the many mysteries of the Enclave - a fact he seems to revel in. On warm days the Sage wanders the Stone Road, conversing with travelers and charging a whimsical toll of a few coins, an apple, a story, the name of a favored lover, or whatever takes his fancy. Tradition has it that snubbing the Sage brings bad luck; merchants who ply their trade between Port and Three Stones make a point of offering a meal or a kind word when they pass.

[ Posted by Reason on February 2, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Withered, Yellowed Crags

As ugly as the Neth who dwell within, Krineth's Hills loom over even Three Stones' impressive walls. Grasses grow yellowed in the Hills, the few trees are twisted and bare - streams only flow between the crags after rain, and even the snow seems to fall sparsely over the Hills in winter. The steepest crags are topped by piles of jumbled rock, while the narrowest valleys are choked with boulders. Large rocks litter the earth and scree. The Hills are named for a famed explorer of generations past, but scarely seem worthy of the name in the present time.

The Trade Road follows the boundary of Krineth's Hills from Three Stones to Gold Vale and finally Spire in the shadow of the mountains. It is a long, thirsty journey in summer; the winds carry dust, dirt and sometimes worse things from the Hills. A good number of Ammander spearmen earn a living as merchant guards on the Trade Road.

There was a time when the high born of Three Stones were buried with great ceremony in family tombs dug deep into the largest of Krineth's Hills. Carved route stones marked the way for those who would otherwise become Lost to the Farthest Hills - nobles and priests once traveled to the family tombs with the first snows of winter to pay their respects. Much has changed over the years, however. Krineth's Hills and the tombs of the past have been long been overtaken by lesser Neth: winter brings malicious attacks on travelers and the poor outside the walls of Three Stones.

[ Posted by Reason on February 3, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Mabe and Tole

The fishing villages of Mabe and Tole huddle on the stony seafront bordering the Low Marsh, within sight of the high cliffs of Port on a clear day. The outskirts of Mabe merge with the salty marshland; village hunters venture deep into the Low Marsh in search of eels and birds. The Ammander fishers here are of a different stock to those of Port or Cael; an insular, surly, worn-looking lot who dwell in tumbledown stone houses and poorly built shacks. They keep to themselves despite the nearby markets of Port; no marked Road leads from the villages to the city.

Commoners and Landsmen tell dark stories about the fisherfolk of Mabe and Tole, calling them moon worshippers, sly murderers or worse. Some claim that the Temple Guard of past generations forced villagers into the Low Marsh and burned their houses in payment for some long-forgotten crime. Regardless, decent folk have had little to do with the inhabitants of Mabe and Tole for a long time.

[ Posted by Reason on February 26, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Route Markers

Stone route markers, some new, most worn and overgrown, can be found throughout the Enclave. Route markers define the Known Roads - without them, most travelers would stray into the Farthest Roads and become Lost. Far from the Enclave cities, the oldest route markers are boulders shifted to the roadside and bearing weathered carvings of the Traveler. The Power of the Known Roads is usually represented as a cheery Ammander whitebeard with staff and backpack - the Forest Road bears many an example of this sort. In a few of the most ancient route markers, half buried near the Stone Road and Coast Road outside Port, the Traveler is shown as a study Datar.

Route markers set in recent generations are more ostentatious; most stand on the Stone Road linking the cities of Port and Three Stones, the New Road and Trade Road leading to Three Stones. Nobles, guilds and wealthy merchants of Port and Three Stones vie for prestige in many ways, including the self-serving placement of route markers. The old imagery of the Traveler has become increasingly stylized over time, reduced to representations of his staff and backpack and overshadowed by other carvings, texts and marks.

[ Posted by Reason on February 27, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

One Stone and the Summer Fair

The black monolith of One Stone looms over the Stone Road, an upturned, unworked boulder in form, yet a reminder that the wizardry of the Draugh once shaped the Enclave.

One Stone marks the point at which travelers stop for the night after departing Two Springs in the early morning - stories are told of dire happenings on the Road between these locations and in the outskirts of nearby Whisperwood. Tales of horrific Trespassers from the Farthest and malign wizardry loom large in the minds of travelers; to be on the Road after dark is a frightening prospect.

In warmer seasons, folk from Two Springs set up stalls and shelters near One Stone to sell provisions and entertainment to travelers. At the height of Summer, the modest One Stone fair attracts traders and common folk from Port, Two Springs and nearby villages. Troubadors play the old songs; young lovers dance in the shadow of One Stone; tables are laid with white cloth and farm food; elder folk exchange news and tall stories. Passing travelers might be forgiven for imagining that little has changed since the days of the old Ammand.

[ Posted by Reason on March 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Tean's Marker

Travel the New Road from the red iron gate of Three Stones past the King's Keep, past the Middle Road to Traveler's Stone, past Lorn with wary glances, and you will see Tean's Marker. A great stone carved to the likeness of a spear thrusting up from the ground, the Marker stands atop a ridge overlooking the Odan River Bridge, the River Road to Mirael and the New Road on to Greenwood. Tean - spearman, leader of men, follower of the King's Way - spent his own coin to place the Marker as a challenge. Past this point, the Neth would not pass.

Aged and respected, Tean left the world a generation ago, but King's Keep spearmen still make their first and largest winter camp at the base of Tean's Marker. When falling leaves and the first snows bring the Neth forth to raid, Tean's challenge becomes a matter of pride.

[ Posted by Reason on April 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Sunlit's Marker on the Red Iron Road

The tale is thisways, least when I first heard it told. The Sunlit strode from the Black Tower, or a manse of Port mayhaps, as this was a long time ago, many winters before the walls of Three Stones were dragged down from Krineth's Hills. Strode did the sage, strode to where his marker now stands on the Red Iron Road and said "Here it is, here you will find it, and a tenth is mine." So it was, the folk of Ura took picks to that very spot and there found a great vein of red iron, unnoticed beside the Road. The Sunlit's tenth, well there it stands forged beside the Road this day, just as it always has, and with those very words upon it.

[ Posted by Reason on August 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Traveler Met Twice and a View of the Middle Road

I'd curse my boots, legs too, and the mule for the Beautiful Stranger's touch if I'd thought it'd make any difference. The New Road from Lothar up to the King's Keep on the rise will be the death of me this winter or the next - and yet I always journey after first snow. Ah, my road continues, leastways for another winter in Mirael with commonfolk and those who pretend to be for coin. If you had half the wit of my mule, you'd throw your seafarer's pipe into the Lothar and take on a more noble profession. There's an honesty in song, I'll grant, but not in those who sing - all you have to look forward to is ruin for a pretty face or an ugly old troubador.

Here we are, atop at least, and there's the Keep - empty as a tankard in the Players' Guild, spearmen gone to camp at Tean's Marker and brave the Forest Road as sport for Neth. We'd stop in summer, but not while snow falls. Look downslope, there at the Traveler's woods, sheathed in snow, a prettier thing than any work of Ammander or Islefolk. Through and through passes the Middle Road, but a step to either side and Lost you are; it takes a strange sort of folk to come and go from Traveler's Stone, carrying a torch between the closer trees.

There's a tale of the Middle Road, yes, and I'll tell. Let those who can yet prance and dance for coin be jealous of their tales - mine are of no use to me beyond the telling.

Folk say that Krineth, the explorer Krineth, mind, who bedded more than I've bowed to, met the Power of Roads not once but twice. The once in the Greenwood and the Neth Road, of that we all know, but the second is not so widely told as once it was. The explorer and his fellows - The Marked, Aylei and others I forget - camped here, where we walked, in a winter season much as this one. This was generations past, afore the King's Keep and the New Road, afore priests took Three Stones from the noble folk. Explorers braved the Farthest Enclave with each step from the Roads known then, armed with wit and wizardry, and for each we recall, a dozen were Lost to sight and memory.

From where they camped amidst deep snow, Krineth's companions watched an old man walk from the woods below, from afar and distant to beside their tents and fire set on cleared ground. The Power, for such the old man was, leaned on his staff to greet Krineth, asked him why he camped atop the Road, and whether he would journey through the woods that day.

No, I know not what Krineth said to the Traveler, nor do I know if he was the one to lay route markers for the Middle Road - but such is the tale as I heard it told, and I have passed the seasons of treating an unfinished song as a troubador would. Come, I have caught my breath. We have a way to travel, and the New Road will be made crude by snow, spearmen and the King's horses.

[ Posted by Reason on August 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Camp at the Third Marker

Aye, tis a dreary camp for man or mule, summer or winter - but I'm happy enough that first snow is a season away yet. I'd be happier to be spending this night in a warm cot in the Seafarers' Guildhall, mark my words, but here is here and there is there. We'd be spending coin in the City Without this very moment if you hadn't found the only loose stone left in the Lothar ford to lodge in your hoof. Lucky to be owned by an old seafarer, you are - no city eel would have lightened your load by half and carried it this far for you.

Salin's beard! It's all bitter craws and rotten eels to you isn't it? Aye, and if you'd but kept your heart on the Road, you wouldn't be braying over trampled grass and no straw, and my back wouldn't be so close to breaking. Do you think I enjoy this poor meat from King's Keep villagefolk any the more? The sooner to Port, the better, I say, and to the Farthest with the Guildmaster and his coin. Give it to younger hands, aye, and send them away down the Stone Road to Three Stones and beyond.

Well and well, and now the fire is gone - not that there was much to begin with. Swordpriests and spears, enough for a generation of summers, have stamped this place flat. Aye, and burned the trees, branch by branch, as back and forth they go from Keep to Keep. Not a nod for one wearing the Seafarer's band, no, nor any offer of help - and may their King's Way become Lost on a dark night!

Don't you be wandering off in search of grass, mind, least I tie you up at the marker - and there would be a better use for it. The moon makes the last rise of the New Road clear as a stranger's wave on the Farthest Sea, as if we were out beyond the cliffs and the wind so calm. Were we so heartened, you and I, atop we'd stand and there we'd see distant torches on the walls of Three Stones - aye, and white stone by moonlight in the Gravefields. Hungry for grass or good stuffed eel, it's still best to leave moonlight for the Lady and her ways, for folk were not meant to be near the Farthest Graves by night.

[ Posted by Reason on September 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Three Black Towers

None but moon-faced fools would leave the Known Roads past Mirael and cursed Lorn, mark my words. I say the tales of Towers and great birds the span of ten men abreast are nothing but empty words, a lure cast out for beauty in the taverns, or coin from nobles. Hah! Explorers hid away in the villages for a season or two, returning to take coin and womenfolk from those who'd believe any seafarer's song - and then the sages chase the same purses with handed down clothes. But who's to be calling for explorers when players and honest thieves tell better tales, and tell them summer or winter?

Great birds, said Krineth, and by my hammer, I don't doubt that alone led him into many a warm bed. If you have to be fawning over his memory these generations gone, fawn over his mastery of the taverner's tricks and troubador's cant, I say!

No, anyone who walked the stinking edge of the Formless, twixt Lorn Forest and Farthest Wilderness would never be seen again, this much I know. Three black stone towers there may be, and great birds too, why not? Who's to say what Creation holds beyond the walls of my forge - not I. But what good to see these sights if you're Lost past the Traveler's reckoning and not to be coming home?

[ Posted by Reason on November 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Stench of Cities

Hah! A fine speech, fine as the coat on yonder mule, but by the Beard, Staff and Sack, no roof and mattress could recompense for the stench of cityfolk, all pressed together tight as firewood. I've not set foot in Port these past ten summers, mark me, and I'll wager coin against grass stems I'll not be treading Port cobbles next summer, for good measure! Every draggled rat, sickened eel and ale-sodden noble casts their spew from land to sea, and a wonder the waters aren't black and steaming with it under the hot sun. The only good to come from winters like the last is the burying of filth under clean snow - and a pity it cannot last!

Were I not gifted by the Traveler with these good legs and eyes, were I forced by cruel circumstance to call one place my home, why, I would be a woodcutter in the smallest cottage of the Corner of Creation - Lost to the Farthest Greenwood soon enough, like as not, and myself no Krineth to be coming home from such a dark fate.

[ Posted by Reason on December 24, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Road Forsaken

Well and well, you're as best to hear of the Road now as cold and in sight of the Greenwood - and by the King's blood, spearpriests will say nothing of it beneath Tean's Marker. First snow will be soon enough by the color of the clouds; better to hear the tale from an honest spear than told by rotten Lun in Mirael, or commonfolk who twist it to scare children.

Blood! Keep your spear upright! There's those watching us at guard upon the bridge, and little enough to tell at the heart of it. Let long tales be for ale and moon-faced players from Port, and may that be true as my next spear cast!

Where the New Road first sights Greenwood, old Krineth and the Traveler walked through grass and Farthest wilderness to find the mists and marsh of the Formless. There they went because the Traveler spoke of a swamp in which no Road would stand, and Krineth would bear no word but his own, be it in bedding commoner girls or to see what stood past yonder hills. A Road they made and marked from nothing, all the way to the mists, just as that we stand upon.

Common folk followed that Road, and made a village a way and a way from the New Road - where the mists of the Formless make a grayness of the distance on a summer morning, but yet in sight of the Greenwood. Who's to say how far and again the Greenwood stretches past the Forest Road? Not you, nor I, nor even Krineth in his life, by the King's spear! But barns they raised and cottages in the Ammand way, and set out long tables for summer festivals just as village folk in Two Springs and outside the King's Keep.

Then to the heart of it, yes, by the spears of the Ammand of old! A curse came out of the Formless, came out of the Greenwood; the Road faded into the Farthest, the markers buried. There's some who say folk came to or from that Road in seasons past, and that the village stands, all who dwell there cursed yet.

A tale, I say, but the Road set by Krineth and the Traveler is there yet, that I can tell as truth. By my hand and this very spear, I spilled Neth bile upon a stone marker none had seen before, and this not five winters hence when the snow fell light by the Greenwood.

[ Posted by Reason on August 5, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Cael

The Jeweled Line

There is but a single tavern in Cael, the Jeweled Line. A faded mural runs the width of the rough stone wall above the front door; it depicts a fisher's line hung with multicolored gemfish. The muggy interior is smoke-filled and busy in summer evenings when fisherfolk return from a day out amongst the rocks and islets. The walls are hung with nets, driftwood and islemarked planking from old fishing boats long rotted away. In winter seasons, spearmen come to Cael as guards or to provision for patrols on the Forest Road. Their spears and armor fill shelves above the bar that stand empty in summer.

Rius the barkeep is a worn old rogue from the Port dockside of generations past, owner of the Jeweled Line for as long as any care to recall. He is stooped, bowed, wrinkled and has but a single tooth remaining - yet weathers each winter just like the last.

[ Posted by Reason on April 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Gemscales and Eel Spines on the Strand

The islets off the shoreline of Cael are thick with spined eels, crawcrabs and colorful, quick gemfish. It is a poor seafarer indeed who could fail to make a living in this part of the Enclave coast. The pebble shoreline of Cael extends the length of the village, from marshy ground to firetower rocks. Islemarked boats used by hardy Ammander and Vanished Isle fisherfolk are beached ashore in a line beneath the firetower and the Fisher's Shrine. The boats rest atop old spines and scales as much as pebbles and sand; fresher, brighter gemscales make the tidelines glimmer on sunny days.

When the snows melt and the first flowers show, gemfish by the thousand throw themselves ashore in the surf - who can say why? The folk of Cael leave their boats idle and comb the pebble strand for days on end to gather the fish before they rot or are eaten by crawcrabs and seabirds. Fisher folk bearing barrels of packed gemfish sail along the coast to Port, past the Watch of Trees and its mysterious cliffside temple. There are always more fish than can be sold - salted gemfish from the cellars is a summer dish in Cael, just as salted eel is reserved for those winters too harsh for fishing on the Unending Sea.

[ Posted by Reason on April 8, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Trade Rock and the Seafolk

Look out the window; yonder out on the water, the biggest rock past young Lenei's sail. We called it Two Craws when I was the age of Lenei and her man, but folks hereabouts call it Trade Rock since the seafolk came.

Eh, village ale is poor stuff, leastways from anywhere but Traveler's Stone or Ura. The young folk lazing on the strand could make good coin sailing to Port for better - but that'd be expecting too much at the height of summer. Like cats on a warm stone wall, they are.

Ah yes. It was a day just like this, oh, back before Varim got himself eaten by the Great Port Eel and the Three Stone whitebeards stole his parchments. The seafolk came walking from the Unending Sea, as though water were sand and grass, kicking up spray from the wavetops. Little and large they were, plump for all their walking and strange on the eyes; amazed at swimming they were, afraid of rock and land.

Who would have thought of folk who could sit on a wave as though it were a chair? Generous with their strangers' coin, though, and for the strangest things. All of Cael was coming and going from the Trade Rock that day, wading out to meet the seafolk. Not Varim, though; he was too busy with quill and ink on the highest point of the rock, hiding his work from the crowd.

I'll wager most here at the Jeweled Line still have a few seafolk coins hidden away; fancy sorts in Port pay gold for rarities like that. But what is gold compared to knowing that you traded with the Visitors?

[ Posted by Reason on April 9, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Black Boathouse, Black Jetty

Old rock, black rock they are; there's a wizardry about them. You'd have to close your eyes halfway to see a jetty and a boathouse instead of just plain rocks on the shore, but that's what my mother called them. Her mother too, I dare say.

The children climb out on the black jetty past the strand; climb over it too where they could just walk around on the grass. By rights it should be polished as the firetower rock, scratched with islemarks, but nothing can touch black rock. Wizardry! Just the same as the day it was put there, I'll wager.

Whoever lived here afore Ammander and Magi folk laid the first stones of Cael, they're long gone now. Perhaps stonefolk wizardry put the black stone here, though they say the stonefolk are scared of the Unending Sea.

[ Posted by Reason on April 11, 2005 | Permanent Link ]


You're from Port, then, with your road dust and good looks? Ferelei won't be wanting anything to do with you; she tells a good tale about the thieves and liars in Port, those who put on fancy plays and sing fancy songs. Ah, now, I see your drums and your flute hanging on the mule you don't feed often enough. You'll be having a hard time of it at the Jeweled Line; Ferelei doesn't like competition.

Oh, she was crossed and crossed hard by some noble Ammander lady, or so I hear. All over a man too; hah! They're never worth it. She has nothing but black words for your type, good looks or not, but such a pretty voice for the telling of them!

No, you should pack yourself and your mule off to the Forest Road. The villagers there will pay coin to hear a troubador perform and you won't have to face Ferelei.

[ Posted by Reason on April 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Firetower and Fisher's Shrine

The far end of the gemscale-scattered pebble strand is marked by the firetower rocks and rising cliffside beyond. The stone firetower atop the highest rock is an old, weathered construction; a ladder leads up to the flat top. When Cael fisherfolk are out on the Unending Sea, a dampened grass fire keeps a column of smoke rising from the tower. The Farthest Sea waits to claim fishers who are careless amongst the islets, but smoke from the firetower helps to mark the way home.

Beneath the firetower, in the lee of the rocks, stands the Fisher's Shrine. A single priest tends this modest stone and wood hall; the interior is largely empty of decoration save for a statue of the Fisher in Darkness and a few old benches. Sabei, aged and of Magi stock, used to come and go from the Temple of Three in Port, but settled into the quiet life in Cael as the years passed. He is a kindly, wise man, fond of the spawling family of cats that make the Shrine their home. When catches are large, Cael folk leave offerings of salted eel for the Fisher in Darkness, Sabei and his cats.

[ Posted by Reason on April 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Cael Road

The sparsely wooded bluffs overlooking Cael offer a fine view on clear days - over wood and thatch roofs and the glistening pebble strand, out to islets and small boats in the Unending Sea. The low, solid, stone-walled houses of fisherfolk stretch the short distance from the column of smoke over Firetower Rocks, past the Black Jetty, marketplace and Council House, and on to the first wet marshland of the Odanmouth.

The Cael Road leads straight down from the bluffs and the Coast Road out of sight beyond; it is a good hardy climb in dry weather, but troublesome in Winter months. A line of wooden posts and rusted, solid chain runs the length of the Road as it climbs the bluffside - it is a proud traveler indeed who doesn't make use of this assistance when the snow is deep.

[ Posted by Reason on April 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Baene's Carvings

The old stone walls of Baene's cottage by the Marshedge Stream are scarcely visible beneath piled driftwood, cut timber from the bluffs, casks of eel bones and half-completed carvings. Much of it is old indeed, left leaning against the walls winter after winter while Baene works at his own slow pace beside a comfortable fire.

In warmer seasons, dusky-skinned Baene the woodcarver opens his door wide to watch the shoreline as he shapes his latest sculpture. He sells a little of his work to traveling merchants or folk who sail the coast to Port; enough to support his idle, enjoyable life in Cael. Perhaps more besides - Baene is always generous with coin. As often as not, this Magi-blooded woodcarver is to be found in the Jeweled Line exchanging tales with the old fisher folk or cheerfully picking over shells and gemscales on the strand.

[ Posted by Reason on April 14, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Council of Fisher Folk

Aye, a nice arrangement they have themselves here. There would be a thing; a few more years of sailing the coast for coin and then to be a councillor in a quiet fisher village. Nothing to worry about save hiring a few spears each winter, aye, and maybe throw the drunks into the surf if they get too rowdy. A sight easier than captaining my crew, mark my words.

The council here spend their days fishing and laying a bed, I'll wager. You wouldn't catch me sitting sober and thoughtful in yonder Council House like a Lord cast in miniature; what would be the use of it? Fisher folk keep to their own - you might as well try to be a Lord of cats.

Aye, and there's the whitebeard councillor now, watching the barrels loaded. He used to be a Seafarers' Guildsman with a hull of his own, but that was years ago now. I'll wager he looks at my crew and sees a shoal of thieves. Hah! He wouldn't be far wrong, either.

[ Posted by Reason on April 16, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Year of the Eel Storm

It was back when my mother was a child, late in the year but before the leaves fell. A dark, cold storm came out of the Farthest Sea, swirling round and round like a mad dance of wind, rain and thunder. The Unending Sea came up with the wind and threw boats into the village; wrecked and drowned those folk who were too slow getting back to shore. It wasn't like the winter storms, nor the summer storms you know; it was different and greater. Some folk ran to the bluffs, like my mother's parents, in the cold rain and wind and through the froth and surge. Then the strangest thing of all: eels raining from the sky like so many hailstones, thrashing and snapping!

[ Posted by Reason on April 16, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Spear Eater of the Odanmouth

The Magi-blooded of Cael tell outlandish stories of the long, spined marsh eels of the Odanmouth, although no village folk hunt the outskirts of that saltwater marsh. There is no need risk becoming Lost to the Farthest in such dismal, boggy terrain when the Unending Sea provides such a bounty of gemfish, crawcrabs and eels.

The common folk of Cael take their water from the fast flowing marshedge stream at the edge of their village; beyond that they do not go. Once in a while, or so the old whitebeards say, the biggest and oldest of all Odanmouth eels can be seen sporting in the waterways of the marsh edge. She is twice the size of a grown man; legend has it that this great eel wrested the spear from the very last Ammander hunter to brave the Odanmouth.

[ Posted by Reason on April 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Tide Cave Folk

Shy, they are, those strangers. Lived in the tide caves around the headland for, oh, must be ten years now. Visitors come and go - especially when the fog rolls in - but nary a sight of our Lost neighbors in any of that time.

Ah now, you should be asking Kalei about them, not I; it's her daughters who take eel meat and firewood to the caves after first snow. Took pity on them, I'll wager, but she says to leave well enough alone. Ah, but you should have been here the winter when those hired spears from Port were firm and set on going to look! Half chased them out into the Farthest, spears and all, did Kalei. Hah, and there was a sight!

[ Posted by Reason on April 19, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Tall Man

It was a sight hard to pretend everything was the same as the morning while the Tall Man strode this way and that, bending to look at goods and people. A sight hard, mark my words. Tall as a house he was, flat-faced as a door - but trade he did, great bars of Visitors' metal for this and that. But let me tell you this much; grow yourself tall, cut off your nose and you'll be the first Ammander in Cael to profit from a trade with old Sepan and his lot. He couldn't keep his mind on it!

Well, the Tall Man didn't outlast the fog that market day. Out from the Unending Sea he came and back he went, pretty as you please. I dare say the high and mighty in Port have seen stranger things in their time, but not I, not I.

[ Posted by Reason on April 19, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Corner of Creation
The Enclave > Known Roads > Corner of Creation

Unwelcome Folk From Port

Corner is right ... look at this! I could spit clear from Coast Road to Forest Road and not hit any of these eels. Yes, and reach out to pull twigs from the Greenwood while doing it. Now, I'll not be saying yours was a bad idea in light of Harand's mood; no fingers to be broken if none of us are in the safehouse, and there's the truth. I'll be saying this, now, and mark my words, the Stone Road would have been friendlier for our sort of folk.

Narry a trader on the Coast Road, there was. Aye, and woodsmen and farmfolk haven't coin to rub together neither. Where are we to help ourselves to a way back into Harand's good graces? In the fields? In the Greenwood? By Salin and the Lady, I've never set foot in a better-named village. I've seen plenty of corners in plenty of buildings in my time, and I'll tell you what I've seen in all of them ... dirt! Dirt and no coin, mark me well.

Nothing to be done about it this day, I suppose. There'll be cheap ale in the tavern; a few mugs will be the better to think on.

[ Posted by Reason on June 1, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

An Evening at the Old Tavern

Eslei, you called it right and true - there is a New Tavern, or was, leastways. These folk say it was burned by Neth years ago ... no, burned with Neth in it. Blood and shame, too, if the ale were as good and cheap as this! These four walls look fit to fall soon enough; floor like the Unending Sea and not a steady chair to be seen.

No, this old eel here goes by the name of Osten. Practiced with the ale he is, but I'll have him under this half-sized table yet, mark me true. The tavern master, he's off and away - the sour face who bumped Geath on the way through the door. Gone to steal more ale, I'll wager, for I don't see how else he makes his coin.

Honest dockfolk from Port, that we are. Dockfolk and a fisher girl, yes Eslei. It's quiet enough in midsummer with the players away to One Stone and Islebloods sailing the coast for pleasure; too little work for honest dockfolk like ourselves. Isn't that the truth? Eslei? Eslei? So it's on the Known Roads we travel and maybe find a little coin here and there.

There she goes, moon-faced already. Can't hold her ale, and there you have it, but Geath will keep her facing the right way. Not like us folk, Osten. This coin here and the ale it buys tells me that one or other of us will be proven the better afore too long. Osten, Osten ... where's an honest eel from the dockside going to find coin to hire in the Corner of Creation?

[ Posted by Reason on June 2, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Morning After, the Price of Progress

Claws and spines, my head! Water, Geath, bring water from the well! By the Three Powers, I'm bleeding my brain from my ears to find us scent of coin, and where is Eslei? Warming some woodsman's cot, no doubt, after she showed you the shadows. You call yourself one of the safehouse favorites but couldn't even keep a drunk from trouble! As well for Eslei that she never thieved in your company - she'd be rotting with the prison hulks these past years.

If there's coin amidst these glowfish guts and village eels, it'd be with the merchant Greser or the smith beside the Forest Road. Good coin poured down that old fool's throat in the tavern and spears inside my head this morning to learn nothing more than any of us could see! We may as well have lost our fingers and fallen on the dockside for fisherfolk to throw their catch upon. We should have taken our wits and knives to the Stone Road for the summer season, mark me well!

[ Posted by Reason on August 15, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

How the Work is Done

Where I passed the night is none of yours, Geath, and none of Rell's neither. If he's angry as a speared red crawcrab, then let him be. Come walk with me while the clouds make it pleasant - Rell will be back to his own self, eel teeth and bile, afore the day is out. You may owe him a purse, but that's all you owe him.

Here is good a place as any to sit for a while, across from that worm-eaten shop and the headman's manse. Honen is his name, the headman, and he has coin, or so they say ... and it's none of yours as to how I know who tells which tales. To my eyes, all the headman's coin is paid and gone to stone and wood, a sight heavy for three from the dockside. Oh, it'd be a fine place to live if you like farmfolk and woodsmen - and Neth each winter - but you can't carry away a manse and its furniture.

You see the watchtower yonder? The platform atop has been walled and closed for as many summers as certain folk recall, but someone up there takes provisions and watches the Forest Road for Neth after first snow. The villagefolk say it's an Ammanene from the Watch of Trees - no coin there either way, I'll wager, but any locked chest was put there to be opened, isn't that right Geath?

Rell was all for thieving from the smith or the old merchant? We won't be touching the smith's coin, and you know why. Rell must still be Lost in his ale - he may as well take coin right from the hand of the healer at the shrine of the Beautiful Stranger, there beyond the headman's manse. I'll not be throwing tomorrow to the cats.

[ Posted by Reason on August 16, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Gold Vale
The Enclave > Known Roads > Gold Vale

A Golden Vale and the Farthest Fields

Close the shutters, Nera! Tis a dull view to be eating to, awaiting first snow, sheltered or not. Would that the vale were gold with flower in all seasons, but even grass is gone to thoughts of winter now - and I'd not be having the sight from your windows reminding me of Krineth's hills and what's to be found there. Let us talk of better and brighter afore the heart is darkened.

I recall a day, many summers ago, not long past first snow when the flowers open; I climbed the vale to fetch gray rock and brown for walls and paths, as there's those with coin to pay for such. So much gold in the grass, scarce could folk look across the fields, and there's the truth. But saw that and more, did I, for I watched my feet and not the way around and about the nearest crags - out and far I saw across the Farthest Fields, saw a hundred colors and strangers' flowers as nothing I've seen in all my seasons. The Beautiful Stranger granted me that, and well and grateful I remain.

[ Posted by Reason on January 21, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Journeys

To Three Stones

I'll not be leaving this bed it seems, so it comes to this: you'll be leaving your fisher girl and boats for a time, my boy. Not so long in the face now! I'm not for dying yet, but there's coin in the balance and the days are slipping away. I have thirty barrels in Menas' storehouse by the Berths, and not much time to see them to the Grand Market in Three Stones. I owe the old miser Menas nothing, but you'll never convince him of that - easier to have you pay a few coins.

Young Toerel here knows the way, though it might not look like it. Followed in my footsteps these past few years, might make a good merchant of him yet. None of that foolishness with the sea in this one, eh? I recall that taking council comes hard to you, doesn't it, my boy? You'll take it from Toerel - let him help you pick the workers and the mules, and none of your friends from the dockside, eh? Too many thieves hereabouts, my boy, and you need more than just a sharp eye. You'll need a few spearmen too, all the better to keep the guilds happy. You should pay your respects to Geren's daughter at the forge by the riverside, you know the one. She's rough red iron, but the toughs sniffing around her breeches are trustworthy enough. She'll be happy to be rid of a few suitors, but not so happy as Geren, eh? Better to travel with those you know, my boy. I wouldn't want you taken in by the pretty talkers with their pretty armor and pretty spears at the Guild Bridge or the Wayward Visitor.

The Stone Road is an easy journey until you cross the Lothar. The council of Two Springs have got it into their heads to be taxing merchant folk again; the guild is having none of it, but don't go putting yourself between two thieves and a purse just to make your point, my boy. Spearmen are for looks in Two Springs, not for making the guildmaster angry. You mind yourself after the springs, now. The Whisperwood is not a place to be near after dark. I could tell you some stories - but better you just set out early and travel fast and far that day.

You be respectful to traders on the road, eh? I know them all, and don't want to hear all about my unpleasant replacement. If you meet the Sage at Two Stones, be very polite - none of your seafarer's ways. Give him whatever he asks for, and say your uncle sends his regrets.

You'll see spearmen on the Road when the Three Stones watchtowers are in sight. Some of them are fine, upstanding fellows - Toerel knows a few by sight, don't you? Like as not you'll meet toughs no better than the thugs on the dockside here. Pay them a few coins anyway, eh? They do their job, stopping honest travelers from coming too close at dusk or when the Neth come down from the hills. Best you camp further back down the Road, though, or who knows what you'll find rummaging through your packs and my barrels.

There's a bag of coin on the table; whatever you don't spend on merchanting is yours. A ruinous waste from what I know of your tastes, my boy, but needs must, eh? Here, you should take this, my old Seafarers' Needle. She points to the Road come hail, fog or Farthest. I doubt you'll need her, but I don't want to be explaining to your fisher girl that you couldn't do a simple job of trading for your old uncle. Eh? Eh? Now off with you! Time is wasting!

[ Posted by Reason on February 6, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

To Spire and the Stonefolk

It was good of you to allow me to travel with your caravan - I recognise you from the dockside. You know Master Shipwright Benlei and his daughter, aye. He is a trustworthy judge of character. Myself, I sew sails - good sails, from the old tradeship designs - and avoid Guild duties; I'd rather be out past the cliffs with a new sail behind me than throwing drunks into the bay or listening to the traders argue on the docks.

Aye, it is not so bad, walking by the river. No salt in the air, though, and your spearmen tell me that the Trade Road to Spire is dry. I am not looking forward to dust on the wind. If you end your journey at Three Stones, then I should pay a few coins for their company while I pass the walls - I hear the City Without is a rough place for a seafarer.

Why the road to Spire? Aye, there is a story there. Let me show you this; it has been in my family since the Vanishing. My grandfather told me that the ancient seafarers traded wizardry with the stonefolk for craftsmanship like this: mura, stonefolk silver. Look at it, the way the light catches the fine lines - you might think it forged yesterday. I see your eyes light up, aye, but there are more important matters than worth and coin. The sea in our blood, the reminders of trade, the sails and songs, a little of the old wizardry like the Seafarers' Needle you carry - these are all we have left of the Vanished Isles. Ammander ways are fair enough, but they are Ammander ways; they tell me nothing of the Magi. I grew up speaking your tongue, listening to your stories of ancient times across the Unending Sea, to your tales of Salin the Seafarer, but have nothing of my own to offer in return.

What I do know is this: The Locked Heart told me that stonefolk are not mortal, that they like a good tale as much as the roughest man in the Seafarers' Guild, but mura is their true love. Those same Datarii who traded with the Magi for wizardry and stories of far-off lands still live under the mountains, so The Locked Heart said. From Spire, I'll find my way to Great Home and then we'll see. Aye, grand plans for a sailmaker from a family of sailmakers, but weren't my ancestors so much more than that? You Ammander folk come from a line of lords; your spearmen would understand, following the King's Way as they do. Greatness is in the seafarer's heart, and mine carries me to Spire and the stonefolk.

[ Posted by Reason on February 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Meeting of Players on the New Road

Hah! You do me too much honor with your fine words and stolen ale ... but, see, I struggle to my feet to repay you with a toast in kind! Let me raise Torthe's battered old tankard to a battered old rogue from Port! I tell you, friends, players, that the forests of the old Ammand never saw a King of Thieves half the measure of he who sits there drunk and smirking - a thief not just of this fine ale, but of words and couplets. Has he passed these fruits of theft, recast by his own hand, for coin by the purse? Yes, I say, and yes again! There, with my practiced and capable Lady of the Two Pillars on his arm, is a stalwart applauded by the opened thighs of fisher girls and noble daughters alike, a worthy without equal on the stage of life ... and yet a man of compassion he is. Yes, compassion! For here, while he and his salty crew pilfer us of our beloved and beautiful companions, he graces us with his presence, with his subtle but firm grasp of performances past. How lowly we would be without his guiding, shining example of a worthy troubador lapsed into aged decadence!

But, let us pause to reflect a moment, here by the fire and the good meat burned to a paltry crisp by Torthe. Hah! Torthe, more attention to the fire and less to these fine, fine Ladies of Port! Let us reflect on the good fortune that brought my respected players, your rogueish vagabonds of the stage and this barrel of ale to one and the same place under the stars. I bow to fortune, I bow to Lady Moonlit, and I bow most deeply to the Traveler of Roads!

[ Posted by Reason on May 14, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

King's Keep
The Enclave > Known Roads > King's Keep

Spears Gone To Ill Ways

Tis true, leastways as Ferre told it to me just this morning, afore the clouds came from the Farthest Sky. Red iron from the Keep, a spearpriest and the King's horses too we're to be having! Old Reafus and his isleblood girl are away to the smith and the shrine, and the stable folk are hard awork even with the summer rain, see for yourself.

Hold yourself, hold yourself! I've only the one tongue for the telling. As Ferre tells it, a brace of spears are gone to ill ways on the Forest Road, stealing coin and slaying merchant folk. No better than Neth, I say - we're to ride and remind them of the King's Way for all spears and blades. Remind them well, mark my words! There's a tale we'll have to tell to those spears who bow to the King only after first snow!

[ Posted by Reason on August 23, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Stone Dropped in the Farthest Wilds

The King's Keep is as a great, gray quarried block, dropped by stoneworkers onto the green grass and left, far from anywhere. Such is as the Keep appears to traders and commonfolk atop the ridge above the Lothar, traveling to or from Three Stones on the New Road. For stranger folk emerging from the enclosing trees of the Traveler's Wood, the Keep is a mountaintop at the head of a gentle valley, a welcome sight after the shadowed Middle Road.

The King's Keep is sturdy and thick-walled, home to spearpriests who have taught the Way of the King of All the Ammand for generations. Many summers have come and gone since the first stones of the Keep were brought from the quarries of Krineth's Hills, now long-abandoned to Neth and the ravages of time. Over the years, villagefolk have come to dwell outside the high Keep walls, amongst them smiths, craftsmen and traders to match those who follow the King's Way within the Keep.

As year passes on year, Ammander spearmen come and go from the Keep. In winter, they come from throughout the Enclave to take the King's coin and carry their spears against the Neth. When last snow passes and the Known Roads turn to mud once more, all but the most dedicated leave to find summer coin in Port, Three Stones and the lesser towns.

There is no safer place for commonfolk in all the Enclave than the meeting of the Middle Road and New Road, in sight of the King's Keep, or so it is said - a hundred honest spears are but shouting distance away, and the King's Way is the way of this land.

[ Posted by Reason on August 24, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Mirael

Tower of The Furrow

The stone-walled tower of The Furrow, red iron shutters covering its few windows, looms over the common folk of Mirael in more ways than one. The tower stands atop a hillock a little way from the scattered village dwellings, giving it a commanding view of the Odan River, the River Road and the surrounding fields. Indeed, the tower was built by spearmen from the King's Keep in the time of Tean's youth, and served as a winter staging post until the The Furrow claimed it for his own.

The Furrow was once a sage of the Black Tower in Three Stones, until his departure the better part of a generation ago. He is rumored to hold the keys to powerful wizardry; the threat of The Furrow's Refutations casts a longer shadow than does his tower. The Furrow is neither vindictive nor vengeful, but quite capable of momentary or lasting cruelty without a second thought.

The Furrow makes few demands of the folk of Mirael; privacy and provisions are chief amongst them. The cost is not great, and stories are still told of the fate of those spearmen and common folk who once stood up to The Furrow. No-one knows how the Ammander sage spends the passing seasons hidden away inside his tower - few folk in Mirael care to speculate aloud.

[ Posted by Reason on April 20, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Fast Flowing Odan

The Odan river flows fast and deep by Mirael and the River Road. The rocky banks slide and shift each spring with the melting snow; wood-walled Ammander cottages built beside the Odan a generation ago now hang precariously over river rocks, supported by stonework and posts.

Fishing the Odan at Mirael is poor sport and a poorer living. River Pebblefish are small and shy, while the Toothed Eels that hunt them taste rancid. Still, it isn't unusual to see older Ammander folk casting line and hook into the current to while away a warm afternoon.

Were the Odan less rocky and rapid, and the Farthest Wilderness less forbidding, there would no doubt be trade by river between Mirael and Cael or the Watch of Trees. As it is, the Odan is the only thing to wind its way across the open Enclave land to the Unending Sea.

[ Posted by Reason on April 22, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Speared Neth

A run-down, dirty stone tavern is the first building in Mirael passed by any traveler arriving from the River Road. It is an unappealing sight, the appearance not helped by a poorly-executed wood mural of spearmen and what would be a dying Neth - were it not deliberately scratched out.

The tavern lies empty in warmer seasons, shunned by the common folk of Mirael. Spearmen from the King's Keep drink in the Speared Neth when they pass through in winter; it may be ugly, the interior dirty and hung with unpleasant reminders of Neth, but the ale is cheap. Not as cheap as it should be, but cheap.

Lun, the aged Ammander who owns the Speared Neth, is as unpleasant, ugly and ill-kept as his tavern. It is common knowledge that there was once something between Lun and The Furrow, an arrangement of some sort when the sage was newly arrived and Lun still a merchant of means - but a short Declaration on old parchment was all Lun recieved in the end. "Ugly and nothing you are, ugly and nothing you will always be."

[ Posted by Reason on April 22, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Lun and Abethel

Poor ale, yes, Neth leather on the wall turns your guts, the wind blows through the walls, but don't be calling her a crone. Abethel's her name and if your spear was nocked as mine, you'd see the look she gave you. A generation ago you'd be spilling your blood atop the dirt, like as not. Best watch where you sleep tonight.

Hah! This place is rotten meat that won't fade, and us as flies in winter. Neth, they make you sick to even think of, and here we set down spears, drunk on bad ale in filth and cold. You can't stand it, but mark my words, you'll be back just as sure as Neth when leaves fall. Old cursed Lun, he's just another gobbet on the whole rotting pile, deserves worse still he does. Abethel, now though, she rode with Tean.

Why? You're not going to understand, not until you've Neth blood on your spear. Not until your father looks like that and you're staring at your own path ahead. Not until you find and lose a wife. Abethel was as hard and sharp a spear as you'll ever see, just ask the old priests at the Keep. Her here with Lun, like this ... like this, look around you! That's just how it is.

No, no more. Drink your King's-cursed ale I paid good coin for. The morrow is to the Odan Bridge again, and that's too soon for my liking. A drink to this rotten pit of a tavern and freezing ourselves on the River Road!

[ Posted by Reason on April 23, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Master Lareth of the Players' Guild

By Lady Moonlit's nether beard! What have you been doing with my coin, my hall? What is the name of this piece? "The Love of the Two Pillars" ... "Love," do you hear me? You call yourselves players? Why, you passionless field rabbits look less in love than the Two Pillars themselves! And the delivery ... oh, but I am speechless! Speechless! If I'd wished the best work of my mentor butchered, carelessly dismembered, treated like cuts on a commoner's table, I'd have thrown my coin at Lady Dalun's squawling babes and their talentless thugs and thieves.

Ah, me and mine! I am riven, riven! Look at me - you have brought me to tears and pulling at my hair! It's no less than my own fault; I should have stayed rather than leave things in less capable hands. But who else to trust with Three Stones merchants and cloth and dye? And less than ten days til we are to leave for the One Stone fair! What to do, what to do?

[ Posted by Reason on April 24, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Players' Guild

The village of Mirael might seem an odd place to find a traditional Ammander players' hall amidst trees and faded hanging ribbons. From the River Road, Mirael seems far too small a community to be the destination of troubadors in winter and the source of traveling players in warmer seasons. Nonetheless, as home to the Players' Guild, such it is.

In truth, the Players' Guild is much reduced from its once-comfortable place as a favorite of Three Stones nobles; a mere shadow of what it once was. While other Guilds were forbidden and disbanded by order of Lady Verden and her descendants, the troubadors and players of Three Stones continued on as a guild in all but name for a generation. The increasing influence of the Temple of Powers and a number of injudicious decisions on the part of successive Master Players brought an end to that golden time of patronage and performance, alas.

As seasons passed, the troubadors of Three Stones drifted away to Port, Gold Vale ... and Mirael. It happened that Master Abonel, a shrewd and talented playwright of not immodest means, spent his childhood by the Odan and in the fields of Mirael. Quite where he obtained the coin to commission the players' hall and surrounding dwellings is a matter for speculation, but obtain it he did. The small village of Mirael became host to quite the wide variety of characters and birthplace of a number of well known performances in the years that followed.

In time, Master Abonel reached the end of his Road and the hall came into the hands of the present Master Player, Lareth. Sad to tell, but with Abonel went the last of the easy coin; Master Lareth may have the touch in some matters, but coin has never been one of them. As the years whitened Master Lareth's once-fine head of hair, the lure of noble patronage in Port or playing for coin on the Known Roads proved too much for many a troubador - even fighting for lead coins with the few established players in present day Three Stones is a more attractive proposition for some than living the life of villagefolk.

Still, the players' hall stands yet, threadbare though it may be, and troubadors come and go from Mirael in all seasons. Old Master Lareth has a good number of years left in him, and even those on the outs with his coterie have to admit that the Mirael players do not lack for skill.

[ Posted by Reason on April 25, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Two Pillars and the Council House

A wealthy Lord and Lady came to live out their old age in Mirael many generations ago, when Three Stones and Port were smaller and the village by the Odan was little more than a few farmers and their families. The noble couple built a manse overlooking the Odan and commissioned stoneworkers to carve the Two Pillars, each engraved with poetic declarations of love and devotion.

The weathered Pillars still stand a little way from Mirael, out in the fields where once was a grove of tall trees. Each worn stone mass is twice the height of the traditional Ammander spear.

The noble manse was put to many uses over the years after the Lord and Lady passed from the Enclave; much of the building crumbled for lack of coin to maintain it. What is left, impressive old stonework even with the passing of generations and patchwork repairs, is now the Mirael Council House.

[ Posted by Reason on April 26, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Water Circle

The large Water Circle of cracked slabs in the center of Mirael, grass growing thick between the stones, is another remnant of the old noble manse and its builders. A single tree grows in the circle, canting surrounding slabs at an angle. The Council House stands beside the point at which the River Road ends by joining the Circle. Once, buried channels carried water from the Odan to flow around the edge of the circle in a stone-lined watercourse; all that remains of that now is a sunken ditch about the edge of the stones that floods in the rain.

The players of Mirael perform and practice on the Circle as often as in their hall. Traders from Three Stones and the King's Keep set out their wares on the old stones on market days. The whitebeards of the village gather beneath the spreading branches of the Water Circle tree in warmer seasons to reminisce and tell tales. Yet the upper red iron shutters of The Furrow's tower are visible from the Water Circle - over the rooftop of the Hall of Powers - just as they are from much of Mirael. The tower provides a constant, unsettling reminder for those who recall the The Furrow's arrival.

[ Posted by Reason on April 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Hall of Powers

The Hall of Powers is a three-walled, open structure facing the Water Circle in the center of Mirael. The walls are old, made of carefully fitted river stones, but the high wooden roof is clearly a later addition. The centerpiece of the hall is the statues of Lady Moonlit and the Beautiful Stranger, both carved in white stone from Port. Other Powers of the enclave are represented in their own ways - such as an old Route Marker set into the wall for the Traveler; figurines of lantern and boat for the Fisher in Darkness; a wooden statue of the Seeker of Burning Truths, shading his eyes to stare into the distance; a rusting iron spear and crown for the King of All the Ammand; a roguish and handsome etching of Salin the Seafarer; a sapling planted for Laelene, the Eldest Tree.

The Hall of Powers is tended by a crotchety Ammander priest named Croen, his means provided for by the Mirael Council rather than, as would be traditional, gifts left in the Hall by village folk. Croen dwells alone in a small wooden hut on the edge of the village, a creature of habit and ritual - not one to be bothered by the cares and concerns of others.

[ Posted by Reason on May 1, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Strangers' Rest

Rasik, now, he and that wife of his may play at being the young goats, but he has more coin than you or I. He'd look his age if he wore a beard; has interests here and interests there. Like trees in the field, his friends in Three Stones. But there he is, behind the bar in the Strangers' Rest, because that's what pleases him. Not as though I'll complain while he keeps the good ale out front.

Hah! You think goods fall from the sky like rain, no doubt. No wonder you don't have a pair of coins to rub together. Take a look around the Rest the very next time you're spending Mered's coin; engravings on iron sheets and those tables don't come cheap - not to mention rooms fit for Three Stone traders. Not that you'll ever see the inside of those, cloth and drapes to put the Council House to shame.

Well, now, it was good enough for the Visitors from the Farthest River. They tied up their strangers' boats and came up to trade, not that half the folk here wanted to be anywhere near. The smell of them was curdled goat milk and rotting hay, for all they weren't too unpleasant on the eyes - not like that scaled thing that ruined fishing for a season two years past afore it went back to the Farthest. Still, Rasik gave them room and was paying coin to twenty folk for twenty days to scrub out the smell after all was done. They say he got the best of the trade though, and there was talk that him up in the Tower had something to do with it ... but no need to be bringing that up. Let us talk of other matters.

[ Posted by Reason on May 1, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

River Houses and the Year of Winter

Was a time when some folk lived in houses on the Odan; before the seaons of him up in his Tower. Fast and deep the river may be, but a chained raft stays steady enough to build on - the Year of Winter put paid to that, though, mark me well. The river froze solid, right enough, and it was a harsh time for all; even cruel Neth when spring never came and Trespassers roamed the land. But afore that, Neth were to be crossing the frozen Odan and butchering poor folk in their river houses, leaving their stench over everything. Spears on the ice river bank, it was, and murder done in driving snow.

The chains, a few are still there, but no-one builds river houses now. A good thing too, even if the Odan froze over neither before nor since.

[ Posted by Reason on May 5, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Spearmen's Wall

The old, low Spearmen's Wall of dry-fitted river stone was built when Mirael was smaller, a boundary line for hired spearmen to walk in winter. Larger stones have been taken for houses, and much of the Wall has simply disappeared as the village expanded away from the Odan River. The remaining lengths by the river banks, River Road and Players' Hall haven't been repaired for a generation or more - they are ragged and collapsed in many places.

[ Posted by Reason on May 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Council of Tradition, New and Old

In the old Ammand, far across the Unending Sea, village councils met and acted at the behest of their Lord. A noble or representative was given the Lord's Place at the head of the table - a seat that remained empty for most council sessions. While the Enclave is not the Ammand, the Council House of Mirael does boast a stone table and Lord's Chair, both crafted long ago in Port when the Council House was part of a larger noble manse.

By rights, the Lord's Place should be accorded to Leressa, aged sister to the present Lady Talmur of Three Stones. She is far more refugee than representative, given the degree to which she has fallen from favor in her family, but she is the only noble-blooded Ammander in Mirael. Unfortunately for Leressa, the Lord's Chair has been claimed by The Furrow for a generation - and thus it gathers dust while that old sage remains secluded within his Tower.

Nonetheless, it is Leressa who has pushed for frequent council meetings over the years and brought more of village life under Council auspices - raising minor taxes; providing for the Hall of Powers and Croen; resolving disputes between village folk; hiring spearmen year-round rather than only in winter seasons; ensuring The Furrow's requirements are met. Leressa is a strong-willed old woman, set in her ways and determined to be every bit the traditional Ammander Lady despite her current status and the looming shadow cast by The Furrow - both issues that she does her best to ignore. If Leressa cannot be Lady in Three Stones, then she will be Lady in Mirael, and woe betide any who say otherwise.

The other councillors in Mirael are village folk - kindly Eldine, Barras with his crippled leg and sharp wit, and young Tenyei of Vanished Isle descent. They as much dragged along by Leressa as they are councillors with a voice and vote, but they care about the folk of Mirael and do their best to see a good outcome for all.

[ Posted by Reason on May 8, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Spears to Guard in Summer

I've carried my spear 'cross the Enclave and back, let me tell you, and wed me to one of Orer's goats if this isn't the easiest coin I've found. Village ale, a clean guard house and coin for keeping the peace. You with your talk of up and leaving to the King's Keep! A few seasons of the King's Way, a few winters of Neth and Trespassers on the Roads, and you'd be pining for village life, I'll wager. Coin is just coin - it can't buy you fire and a good woman on the Forest Road, nor your fingers back from Neth, no. It can't make Port a place for an honest spear neither, and that's the truth.

You shouldn't pay any heed to the Lady; it's as much the other council folk who pay our coin. She's like the river eels, bites because she can. Besides, you'd be polishing spear and armor a good deal more for those who follow the King's Way. Where's the harm in standing a while outside the Council House for good coin if that's what she wants? Village folk aren't moon-faced; if spears are needed, we'll know about it, that's for certain and sure.

What about last season when Bralem and his brother were each at the other's throat in the Stranger's Rest over some trader girl? Half the village was there afore any of us, and it was all done and done by the time any spear was through the door. Rasik's wife hit Bralem over the head right smart and that was the end of that save for the cursing. A sight easier than patrolling the dockside in Port, mark my words!

[ Posted by Reason on May 9, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Orer's Goats

Ugly creatures, aren't they just? Like two goats in one, and dragged backwards through a wet hedge at that. Well behaved, though, I'll give them that, and they seem to keep the rest quiet. No more chewing through the gate ties and eating what they shouldn't - I'm thankful for that, for certain and sure.

Well and well, six summers past it was, afore Merris broke her leg on the riverside and Master Lareth and the Lady almost came to blows over his attempt at a festival. A year that was! That young isleblood, away to Port and salt air he is now, was tending my goats - and I'll be buried if he didn't come back with six more than he left with one fine day. "They looked Lost," he said. "Wouldn't leave," he said. Too soft in the heart to work the land, that one, and didn't I always say as much? Can't say as I blame him, mind; you can't help the blood you're born with. He couldn't be faulted for lack of trying, neither.

So there you have it, or them, as you like it. I haven't tried their milk in these six years, and by the Lady Moonlit, I can't say as I'm going to. Mayhaps the old ways work for goats just as for folk - treat these Visitors well and the Beautiful Stranger will keep my animals safe should they stray into the Farthest.

[ Posted by Reason on May 10, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Visitor Atop the Walls

Not so long ago, a Lost Visitor from the Farthest Fields dwelled in Mirael; he looked enough like an Ammander to pass for one at first glance, but he never spoke the Ammand tongue. The players took him in and gave him a place in their houses, since he showed no interest in earning his way as a commoner. There was a certain sadness about the Visitor's ways, even though he favored the bright colors of cloth brought by Three Stones merchants. The Visitor never left the village in the years he was there; in winter seasons, he would sit atop the low Spearman's Wall and sing in his own strange way.

When The Furrow arrived in Mirael, the Visitor vanished. There was much ill in the village in those seasons, and the Visitor was far from the only one to leave. There are those who say The Furrow had more of a direct hand in it, what with the fascination that Black Tower sages have for the Farthest ... but they say so quietly and to themselves.

[ Posted by Reason on May 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

With the Traveler to Guide Their Steps

Mirael's small gravefield overlooks the village and river from a low but rocky bluff between fields of crops. A graven image of the Traveler, leaning on his trusty staff, faces the scattered marker stones amidst rocks and trees. The largest tree on the bluff shades an old, overgrown crypt built after the fashion of those in the gravefields beyond Three Stones and sealed for generations. Within rest the remains of the Lord and Lady of the Two Pillars, those responsible for much of the early growth of Mirael.

Two lines of rusting Ammander spears are set deep in the earth at one edge of the gravefield, between them a worn stone carved with the crown and spear of the King of All the Ammand. The rusting metal marks the graves of spearmen who died in the Year of Winter, while defending blizzard-bound Mirael from cruel Neth and in futile battle with a monsterous Trespasser from the Farthest.

[ Posted by Reason on May 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Standing Rock on the River Bend

Between the fields and the deep Odan, an old, rock-strewn path runs out past the Spearmen's Wall and alongside the river. It is marked by large, overgrown stumps amidst grass and bushes, the trees cut down in past seasons. Blue sageflowers grow over the dead wood in spring and summer, collected by the older children of Mirael to be hung over doorways and at the Hall of Powers.

The clear path ends at the river bend and the Standing Rock; only a slight bend in fact, but the great rock hides the river downstream. In warmer seasons, players and troubadors bring ale and fishing lines to the Standing Rock - an escape from Master Lareth, or simply to a way to laze undisturbed by village folk; there is little in the Odan worth fishing for. The Standing Rock is knife-etched with generations of ale-addled players' lore; treasured lines, insults, ill-phrased rejoinders and the memory of love and loss.

The common folk of Mirael tell stories of the Standing Rock, of how the fast-flowing Odan is bottomless beside it, or as near as makes no difference. Once upon a time, or so it is said, the Fisher in Darkness come up the river to sit atop the Standing Rock. That noble Power fished with line and rod for who knows what for a full year and a day - from high summer through first and last snow to high summer once more. He caught nothing in all that time, but sailed downriver for the Unending Sea in as good a mood as a year and a day earlier, for the Fisher knew that fishing is more than a matter of simply catching fish. But whatever the Fisher fished for still remains, and so sensible folk ply their business elsewhere on the Odan.

[ Posted by Reason on July 22, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Polt

An Ancient Name of Uncertain Provenance

Home to a small community of fisherfolk, Polt is one of the Four Isles off the Enclave coast at the Watch of Trees - close enough to shore for isle folk to see clifftop lantern lights lit by the mysterious Ammanene on clear nights, far enough that the cliffs are indistinct on hazy summer days. There is little on Polt to interest traders and wealthy fisher folk who sail between Cael and Port; the folk of the isle are poor and insular. They keep to themselves for the most part, and make their own way to the Enclave coast when they have need of supplies that cannot be taken from the Unending Sea.

The other nearby isles of the Four - Alna, Jont and Mappan - are rocky and uninhabited, visible from the highest rocks of Polt on a clear day. The names of the Four Isles are all of very ancient origin. These were strange names even in the generations of the old Ammand, names from folk other than the common Ammander stock, their meaning long forgotten by mortals.

The shallow, rock-strewn sea beneath the Watch of Trees and between the Four Isles is rich in spined eel and crawcrab, but only for patient fishers and shallow-beamed boats. The large, angry red crawcrabs caught by the fisherfolk of Polt are inedible, but possessed of a shell hard enough for many uses.

[ Posted by Reason on July 26, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Watchtower of the Fisher Priest

The broad, low Watchtower of gray isle stone stands atop the highest rocks of Polt. It is a fortress in miniature, built in a strange style and weathered by uncounted storms. It might date back to the generations of seafaring Magi and their first exploration of the Enclave coast, but no mortal folk could say for sure.

The lowest floor of the tower is a vaulted shrine to the Fisher in Darkness, and has been for many generations. The stone interior is overtaken with arches made of old driftwood and the large shells of Four Isle crawcrabs. The present priest, Tarnas, is a lone and mysterious man; he rarely leaves the Watchtower and seems not to want for company. Tarnas seldom speaks to the fisher folk of Polt. They know little of the priest or his past, but provide for him in the traditional manner - younger folk carry packaged provisions up the steep path to the tower and leave them in the shrine, under the gaze of the statue of the Fisher.

Tarnas came to Polt ten years ago, arriving alone in small boat that he has not touched since, just as reclusive then as he is now. There was no priest on Polt in those seasons; the Watchtower had been empty a generation, the shrine poorly kept by the fisher folk and the upper floors a home to seabirds. For all Tarnas' strangeness, the folk of Polt are pleased that a priest of the Fisher dwells in the Watchtower once more.

[ Posted by Reason on July 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Wizardry of Three Fingers

The smiling, three-fingered men came to Polt in their boats of strangers' metal two generations ago after a great summer storm, or so the old folk of the isle claim. They traded, threw one of their kind overboard, and sailed away to the Farthest Sea. That castaway three-fingered man struggled ashore, raging against all who would help him; he half-slew ten before the fisherfolk drove him off with spear and ax.

To hear the old folk of Polt tell the tale, the three-fingered man was larger and stronger in those first days. He roamed the isle for half a season, terrifying folk while calling strange wizardry down from the sky and up from the water. As winter drew close, the white-haired priest of the time stood up to the three-fingered man in the name of the Fisher, forcing him away from Polt to call up his strange wizardry on Jont and the other lesser Isles.

The fisher folk of Polt saw only glimpses of the three-fingered man after that; he became a gaunt and tattered figure haunting the lesser of the Four Isles. The years passed slowly until, one summer day, the three-fingered man rowed back to Polt in a boat of gray isle stone, wearing a cloak of seabird feathers. He bore brightly polished gifts of carved rock and raged no more - nor did he call forth terrifying wizardry. In the seasons since, the three-fingered man has become a favored member of the small fishing community, for all that he speaks and understands little of the Ammander tongue. He dwells in one of the oldest stone cottages in the lee of the isle, carving tools and ornaments to trade with the village folk.

[ Posted by Reason on July 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Master Fisher's Hall

Like the Watchtower, the Master Fisher's Hall is an old, old building of great gray stones and beams brought by boat from the Enclave coast. It stands alone above the shoreline on the far side of the isle from the fisherfolk cottages, facing out to the wind and the Unending Sea. Seabirds build their nests in the lee of the Hall, beneath faded islemarks painted by Magi-blooded fishers in seasons gone by.

The Hall stands empty save for the few times the folk of Polt gather together - to resolve disputes, or when the Unending Sea claims one of their number. On those days, fisherfolk look to the guidance of the Master Fisher, elected for the occasion by acclaim or vote of the elders of the isle.

[ Posted by Reason on July 29, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Seeking Tales of the Emerald Company

Aye, I rode with Arith to take my ax against the Neth and White Trespassers. It's been many winters since I heard those names spoken; a fair way you've sailed just to disturb the isle folk and ask me that.

A fisher of the Four Isles I was when young, and a fisher of Four Isles I am once more. There is all there is, and all Creation beyond Polt remains beyond Polt. I don't tell tales of the old Company, no, so best you take yourselves and your spears back to Hebsen's merchant vessel and sail away to whence you came. Leave the folk here in peace.

I won't ask who sent you to the Four Isles, but tell them there are no axmen of the Emerald Company on Polt, aye, and never there were.

[ Posted by Reason on July 30, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Port

Local Color
The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > Local Color

No Two Coins the Same

Nobles, Councillors and wealthy traders of Port have issued coins as a mark of prestige for generations. These coins come and go from the Farthest, are lost, hoarded and melted for new issue. It is common wisdom that the rare occasion of two coins of the same press in the same purse is a sign of luck - good or bad. Ten coins of the same press mean wealth and influence; those coins surely came directly from the source. A hundred coins of the same press must be wizardry and little else.

Even the youngest of merchants are practiced in the use of scales and measures to judge the amount of precious metal in a coin. Clipped or adulterated coinage is not uncommon, as are strangely shaped tokens from the Farthest Market. Any trader can spot such a thing in an instant, and the experienced ones can make a good guess at the value.

New coins originate in the Coin Press, a windowless vault in the heart of Port. The single thick iron door is guarded day and night by the best (or at least most favored) of the militia - a choice duty that pays well. The equipment inside is maintained by a small and trusted staff.

The current Master of the Coin Press is a strange character indeed, a sage of the Black Tower of Three Stones who calls herself The Locked Heart. Control of the Coin Press spurred a great deal of Council infighting in past generations - to the point of driving the Press into disuse - but the arrival of the Locked Heart changed all that. She has simply appropriated the Coin Press from the Council for her own use and profit, but the powerful in Port find this to be more convenient than the previous state of affairs. The Locked Heart has made it abundantly clear on many an occasion that she considers each and every Councillor, merchant and noble in Port to be equally vile and degenerate. She plays no favorites; her motives and methods, beyond the obvious, are a mystery.

The interior of the Coin Press is rumored to hold a fantastical array of ingenious traps and unknown Draugh wizardry from the Black Tower. None of that, rumor or otherwise, prevented the Unseen Hands from stealing the newly pressed coins of Lord Lundarn. The coins were left in the bedchambers of a dozen dockside innkeepers and madams - alongside notes suggesting that the thieves were aiding all concerned by "removing the middle man." Lord Lundarn and his notorious rake of a son, Tarnis, were the laughing stock of Port for a season.

[ Posted by Reason on January 16, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Cast the Eyes Away From Land

Landsmen and cityfolk of Port scarely acknowledge one another - an old division that stretches back for many generations. Seafarers, fisherfolk and even common cityfolk look to the Unending Sea, contemptuous of those who work the land for a living. Better to be the lowest dregs on the docks than a farmer, or so it is said. For their part, Landsmen and those who watch the city Wilds are a proud folk - too proud to want anything to do with scornful, ignorant cityfolk. They dwell in small communities outside the city main, tending their fields, herds and orchards unbothered by militia, dockside thieves, Taxmen or the Council.

An economic sleight of hand brings Landsmen produce - dried fruit, grain, ale, wood, straw, salted meat and vegetables - to the dockside market and taverns of Port. Landsmen rarely set foot in the city main and few cityfolk wander the fields; it is traders from Three Stones who leave the Stone Road to barter with Landsmen for goods to sell in Port.

[ Posted by Reason on February 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Winter Seasons of Thieves and Neth

Oh, and you'll be slinking away to a certain girl in Cael once the last leaves fall, I'll wager. You and Saben both, a nice arrangement you have with the Council there - a winter of coin for doing nothing more than staying abed while your spears rust in the stand. One of these years the Neth will blood Cael again; you won't be so warm and comfortable when your guts are painting the thatch. Hah!

Menei, Gereth's boy and that useless eelsucker Arin are off traveling to the King's Keep already, and good riddance. Riding the Forest Road and standing night watches after first snow might teach them a little respect for those who've done more than knock a few drunk heads together. I've had Neth blood on my spear, this spear right here; I wouldn't shed any tears to hear Arin and his oh-so-fine boots got themselves Lost.

No, you all take yourselves away this winter season just like the rest. Myself, I'll be keeping the chance to push a few bunks together in the barracks between patrols. Bring in a willing fisher girl from the docks, who's going to say anything? All the favorites with their coins and red iron, with their "King's Way this" and "King's Way that" ... they'll all be bowing and scraping at the Keep or freezing themselves poor on the Roads waiting for Neth to cut their fingers off. Hah! You're all so eager to carry your spears here and there for a few more coins that you miss out on the easy life right here in Port.

Hah! As though I care a bad coin about a few thieves in winter. A little snow on the ground and they think they can do as they like. But so what? Let them fight each other and freeze themselves finding something to steal. If the high and mighty in their estates cared, they'd give us more coin. No, I'll walk my patrols and drink at the Horn in front of a roaring fire just as I did last winter.

[ Posted by Reason on February 15, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Troubadors and Lady Dalun's Daughters

The troubadors of Port are a mixed breed, "the collision of falling and fallen amidst the offal" as Lady Dalun hashly puts it. Haughty players from noble retinues mingle and romance with common storytellers from the dockside; all who can hold a note or a stirring tale are welcome - at least for as long as it takes to be on the outs with one clique or another. Ammander traditionalists sneer at those who embellish tales of the Emerald Company or Port history while seafarers have no love of fancy players and formulaic lore. Ever-present conflicts over patrons and personalities are never far from the surface, however much of an atmosphere of comradrie is maintained.

Troubadors and their followers roam Port from evening to evening: the Wayward Visitor; taverns near the Guild Bridge; the outskirts of city Wilds; the Dockside Market. They spend coin on ale and high living as quickly as audiences and patrons provide it.

Alane and Teria, daughters of Lady Dalun, are the wealthiest patrons in Port. They inherit more than coin from their mother; both are intelligent, determined and self-centered, red iron hooks for unwary eels, trailed by broken hearts and purses. Lady Dalun strongly disapproves of her daughters' dalliances and expenditures, and the family retinue is divided in loyalty between mother and daughters. More than one troubador has fallen victim to an abrupt shift in the ongoing Dalun struggle of wills; one unfortunate was almost sent to the Prison Hulks before fleeing to Three Stones.

[ Posted by Reason on March 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Worn and Scratched Names on the Cobbles

On warm days fisherfolk repair their nets and lines on the cobbled streets and seafront by the berths, quays and jetties. As the seasons come and go, names are scratched on the cobbles only to be smoothed by the feet of the next generation of seafarers and cityfolk. Almost every cobblestone bears a worn, knife-etched name where the fisherfolk congregate.

[ Posted by Reason on March 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Contest of Thievery

Craw and scale, call yourselves thieves? You're no more thieves than the eels from the Cordage House I throw coin to when I need something watched. Look at you, gathered round a cask of bad ale and not a purse between the four of you. There must be enough coin in the raw for twenty eels like you within a bowshot of this hole, even here on the dockside, but there you sit, poor as old fisherfolk.

Harand wouldn't spit on the bubbles you'd leave, thrown into the bay in a sack of stones, you mean. Blood! It's no wonder the Militia spend their days in the Silvered Horn and their nights abed with fisher girls - they could all pick up their spears tonight and be off to find the King's Way. No-one would see the difference.

Oh, so eager now you are, full of cheap ale, but not so much in the morning I'll wager. Lay a finger on me and then we'll see just what Harand does to whom. But no, I'll wager you this - there's no challenge to thievery in a city of coin stamped from silver and gold. You want to show your mettle? We five, we'll journey to Three Stones and return in a season to compare the results of our trade. Winner takes all - if you aren't afraid of a little hard work, Watch blades, and an old dock rat like me.

[ Posted by Reason on July 24, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > Local Color > Cats

Fisher of the Dockside Market

For many years, a black and white cat of the old Ammander heritage made the dockside market his home. He prowled the stalls and shops, stealing fish and less identifiable catches with charm, arrogance and cunning. On warmer days, he sprawled atop the pedestal of the Fisher in Darkness, watching people come and go. In time, the fishwives and merchants came to know him as the Fisher and indulged his transgressions against their stock.

When old age finally caught up with the Fisher, the famously tightfisted Islander merchant Menas surprised everyone by commissioning a statue of the cat from Lady Talmur of the Stoneworkings. It sprawls atop the pedestal, as the Fisher did in life. The plaque beneath reads "This thief was worth any ten of you."

[ Posted by Reason on January 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Queen of Thieves

An old Ammander saying has it that a thief will only confide in a cat - and vice versa.

Some years ago, the young Lady Malel of Port began to maintain a retinue of cats that soon outnumbered her loyal Ammander retainers. The sleek creatures had the run of her manse and grounds overlooking the bay. The Malel estate walls were lined with eyes during the day, cats sunning themselves while carefully watching household retainers, traders and Temple Guard in the streets. By night, this feline retinue roamed far and wide in Port.

While the cats of Lady Malel prowled the streets, the self-styled King of Thieves held court in the dockside safehouses. There were fewer outright thugs in those days and thieves were more secretive - the Temple Guard rather than militia kept the peace. Still, Port has always has more than its share of motley, rough folk.

The night that the King and half the thieves of Port drunkenly chased a cat and the King's spiced spineel all the way to the Malel estate - a dozen of the Temple Guard at their heels, to hear the tale told by those who claim to have been there - has become a good story with the passage of time. The troubadors seized on it one summer and Lady Malel's cat was transformed into a horde of felines bent on eating the thieves of Port out of house and home. It is a popular performance, but few folk know the rest of the story.

It came to pass that the King spent more time in the manse of Lady Malel, and cats were seen more often in the safehouses. But this was all many seasons ago and there is no King of Thieves in Port anymore. The aged daughter of that Lady Malel lives alone and without retainers in the present time, although cats still sun themselves on the overgrown grounds and unkempt walls of her manse.

[ Posted by Reason on January 14, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Lord of the Guild Bridge

The Lord is a slothful, well-fed tom who resides atop the central pillars of the Guild Bridge. He is content to lie in the sun for the most part, but suffers visitors poorly, hissing and clawing at all who approach - even those bearing food. Retainers from the larger noble estates constructed a small wooden manse for the Lord some years ago; he retreats within when faced with rain, snow, curious Ammander children or the crowds of the yearly fair.

"Paying your respects to the Lord" with fish from the dockside is a tradition in the commoner households close to the river. It brings luck, or so it is said - more so than coins to the Taxmen in any case.

[ Posted by Reason on January 27, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > Organizations

The Unseen Hands

The thieves of Port are, in the main, common thugs and tricksters. They share much more with the Taxmen, or the dregs of the Seafarers' Guild, militia and worst noble retinues, than with the masterful rogues of Ammand legend. Indeed, there is some overlap between these organizations; the ruffian of today is spearman, seafarer or hired guard of tomorrow. An honest coin buys just as many friends.

Some treat the old stories with respect, however. While they are still thugs and tricksters, they are thugs and tricksters of a higher class and more ambitious nature. They call themselves Unseen Hands.

The society of thieves is an open secret in Port. Common folk know to avoid the rowdiest safehouses and waterfront taverns. The Seafarers' Guild and competent militia captains know who to lean on when the normal rough and tumble gets out of hand. Merchants and nobles know when and how to pay - or hire. As for the Taxmen ... well, no thief in Port openly crosses the Taxmen.

The Unseen Hands have little regard for the limits and conventions of common thievery. They have been blamed for stolen wizardry, outlandish acts under cover of darkness, misdirected rarities, the release of secrets long thought safe, impossible thefts committed simply to show they could be accomplished - and much more over the years. Few know who the Unseen Hands are, how much influence they exert over common thieves, or whether they are involved at all with their lesser brethren.

[ Posted by Reason on January 8, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Red Iron Guild

There are many smiths in Port, but few Red Iron smiths. The "secrets" of working red-veined Enclave iron are in fact far from secret, but the Red Iron Guild has long enforced a monopoly on its use. Red-veined iron is mined in only a few locations and the Guild strives to ensure it is used to make the finest weapons and armor - and nothing else. The real Guild secrets lie in weaponsmithing, in the use of old techniques brought from the Ammand.

Smiths of the Red Iron guild work hard to ensure that "common, unworthy blades, weak armor and the misuse of our iron" are rare in Port; disputes with the Trade Guild (and, by extension, the smiths of Three Stones and lesser Enclave towns) are loud and commonplace. Disagreements with Guild smiths are an intimidating affair; they and their supporters have not held back from displays of force in the past.

Red Iron Guild smiths are the strongest, finest metalworkers in the Enclave. The Guildmaster, Natramun, is a hard man who, like his predecessors, enforces exacting standards. Despite the great expense of red-veined weapons, the Red Iron Guild is popular with those who rely on sword, spear and shield to make a living; this fact, alongside the yearly presentation of taxes and gifts to the Council, ensures the Guild's continuing relevance in Port.

[ Posted by Reason on January 15, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Crossing the Taxmen

"Strong," he says, "does what he's told," he says , "do well, he will," he says. I should've just jumped off the cliffs and saved myself a whole purse of trouble. When I said keep a look out and keep folk away, I didn't mean go throwing down with Taxmen! I don't care what they said - they can all swim the streets like the lord of sharks, because that's what they are so far as you're concerned. You're lucky they didn't leave a blade in you.

They all wore the black sash, are you blind? With my luck you were rousting with Trenar's lot; there he'll be tonight at the safehouse, polite as you like and twenty knives behind his back. Or worse, that old eelsucker with the brain-stabbed Neth on a chain. They're all as bad as each other - taxes, the prison hulks, or worse for them, and you can wager they're smart enough to keep a good thing going. All the knives you'd never want watching your back while you're lightening a purse; fawning with the rich folk, stabbing the poor, keeping coins in the councillor's estates ... isn't that always the way?

You know what will happen if Taxmen decide to gut you and throw you to the crawcrabs? Nothing, that's what. Think the spears in the militia care a bad coin one way or another? No high and mighty councillor's going to shed tears over a commoner thief from the villages crossed by their pet eels. No, you've got to be respectable, a pretty woman or a pile of coins before you can cause them trouble. All the fancy council nobles care about is counting what they steal by the law they made, mark my words.

This'll cost us all good, you'll see, and you'd better expect that every last coin is coming from your hide, I don't care how many seasons it takes!

[ Posted by Reason on February 9, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Order of the Glass Eye

Blood, don't touch the Lady Moonlit - the Glass Eyes don't like that. It doesn't matter about the spiders and the webs behind; not for a Weaver like you to question their whys and wherefores. Nor a spearman for that matter. They may not hang tapestries or sweep the stones, but they don't let anyone else near the statues in the main Hall.

It's easy coin, girl, and a good set of arms besides; you think I'd be carrying red iron otherwise? It's the Glass Eyes who want spears watching the Guild Halls and their workrooms. I can't see why, but it's more coin than I'd be taking from the militia or Seafarer's Guild. Blood! Are thieves going to steal hot glass and a furnace from behind triple-locked doors? Not bottles nor window-glass neither, but I won't be saying that when it's time to take the next purse.

Those high and mighty eels act as though glass is the biggest secret in Port, slinking in and out of their workrooms, wearing their guild signs, whispering and writing fit to be sages - but I'll wager any fool can fire up a furnace to make a bottle. How hard can it be?

[ Posted by Reason on February 21, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Petitioning the Council

I am quite aware of the urgency with which you approach your charge, you have made that more than clear. I sympathise; any similar theft from my estate or interests would be dealt with quite harshly, I assure you. Simply put, however, you have no standing - this is not Three Stones and I am neither a Verden nor a Talmur to be pulled hither and thither by the whims of priests. You would do well to remember that.

Wander as you will; neither I nor my fellow Councillors have any intention of throwing good coin away by putting spearmen at your disposal. Do you think we empty our coffers for each new Visitor and petitioner to arrive in Port? Let your Temple protect its own interests with its own purse - you will find spearmen and strong hands in good number at the Guild Bridge or Seafarers' Guildhall on the cliffs. I very much doubt your thief is in Port, however; it sounds as though your fellow priests should be searching closer to home, quite frankly. Turn the City Without upside-down and I'm sure you'll find your statuette or figurine or whatever it was.

No, no, this petition is at an end. Not another word! Magister, the doors if you would be so kind?

My, my, my. I wonder just how much gold is in this latest Face of Burning Truth so carelessly lost by the good priests of Three Stones? It would be a terrible shame were it to be melted down for coin before being recognized, wouldn't it now? Still, it would have to be found first; while priests from Three Stones may carry the certainty of the Powers, I am far from sure. Anything a thief would care to steal can be found by the Unending Sea - why travel to Three Stones and risk a quick death from Watch blades? If one or two of my retainers became motivated to join this fishers' boat, they would be looking for someone other than a dockside rat ... assuming that the trinket itself isn't simply Lost to the Farthest.

[ Posted by Reason on February 25, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Council of Lords and Guildmasters

A priest from Three Stones shown the door by Lady Dalun, eh? I'm surprised the oh-so-honored Magisters and lowly clerks deigned to grant you an audience at all. The noble Councilors don't like your Temple, and the Trade Guild likes your gate taxes and lead coins even less, I'll wager. You've spent good coin on spearmen though, and that's a wiser act than petitioning the Council - a covy of spined eels behind you counts for more than a Lord's word on the low dockside.

No, the Council isn't like your netted glowfish in Three Stones; you'd need a dozen Watch blades at your side to impress them at all. Look at it this way: Lord Onn and the Seafarers' Guildmaster, they're upright enough, but think they have the deed to all the dockside, signed and sealed. Cerel and Saan - the Master Trader and one who might as well be - can't stand the sight of each other, but hate the thought of a single coin going to the nobles even more. Lady Dalun, she's a harsh one; cross her and she'll pay you in kind, aye, whether you're Gray Folk or King of all the Ammand. The other Guildmasters, the high priest of the Temple of Three, old Lord Lundarn, they don't matter so much - but they all look after their own first and foremost ... when they're not too busy sticking the knife in or squirming to be top eel in the barrel. Without a Council, there'd be spearmen in the streets - and not just lazy militia, mark my words. It was bad enough afore The Locked Heart took the Coin Press for her own, or when the Red Iron eels pointed spears at the traders. Better to let the high born and Guilds spit and fight behind closed doors.

It's fortunate for you that we met; there aren't many at the Guild Bridge who'll stay honest after stolen gold is mentioned. Give coin to any of those young eelsuckers and you'll be left on the cobbles by tonight ... or worse. I'm a forthright one - you'll not find better. I'll guide you and your hired spears true, low streets or high, so long as you have the coin to pay.

[ Posted by Reason on March 2, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Making Work for the Militia

Here we are then. Spines and claws, boy, don't just stand there! Take some coin and find out how long we're to be waiting. Talk to the spearmen, talk to the folk inside, I don't care.

I don't know why Harand has us paying precious coin to the Magisters for this moon-faced fool. As though he was Lord of the Docks ransoming his own! I don't see him throwing so much as a lead coin from Three Stones after any of our heads; we'd be rotting in the Prison Hulks, mark my words. You heard about the Taxmen at the safehouse last season? Laugh as you will, but that was this one's doing. He may have muscle enough for any three of you, but he's bad luck, sure as a coin stolen from Salin.

Hah! That's like as not; myself, I'll wager the fool's mother has a pretty face and willing ways - and that Harand knows more than most about that.

Half a broiled crawcrab could have done the job! Rough up that red-painted blade from the Wayward Visitor; a little payback for Deval's friend. Can't be letting those eels up the hillside carry on like Lords and Ladies. I explained it all carefully and slowly, told him what to do, pointed out the mark - I may as well have pulled his arm back for the first blow. What does he do? Only runs the blade all the way past the old wall and through the door of the Silvered Horn, that's all. Those militia eels should have speared him and hung him over the fire pit! Blood!

[ Posted by Reason on March 8, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

In the Magister's Chambers

Lord Onn put you here to learn, young lady, and learn you shall. The very first lesson is that a hundred coins on the Magister's table before you is a fine, whether it came from the most honest fisher, the blackest of dockside vermin, Trespassers from the Farthest or fell from the ceiling beams. A fine it shall be, and entered as such into the ledger. The second lesson to learn is that a hundred coins on my Magister's table is fifty to the Council and in the record; the rest we'll find a use for, eh?

The militia spearmen cast a poor net, Seafarers' Guildsmen little better. There are no waves without wind, but each unsavory character who stands before my Magister's table protests innocence and honesty. Hah! Such fine and upstanding cityfolk should have no qualms in paying a little additional coin in taxes. If not, then a time in the cells usually changes their mind.

Come, young lady, finish up quickly now. Guards will bring the first ruffians from the cellars soon, and all must be in order for the day.

[ Posted by Reason on March 8, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

People and Places
The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > People and Places

The Fane

Some generations ago, a noble family built the Fane to resemble a decaying forest temple dedicated to the Ammane. The Fane abuts Guardians' Wild, largest of the city wilds, half-hidden by trees. Even so, its unusual architecture stands out. Within the crumbling walls stand several modest wooden buildings, currently the home of Tarurn, an aging, well-respected former warrior. He dates from the glory days of the Emerald Company, said to have been the only mortal to slay a Trespasser during the Year of Winter. Tarurn talks little of his past in public, but the parts he played in many a heroic circumstance are well known - albeit often embellished beyond recognition.

Much of the Fane has been converted to into permanent and makeshift aviaries, as Tarurn now makes a living by breeding, training and selling birds of all varieties. Poles and fishing nets wall off open areas and hang from the fanciful, worn stonework.

The Fane and surrounding Wild is a popular place for the conversations of nobles during the day and the trysts of young lovers after dark. Tarurn is held in high regard by many of the city nobles despite his common birth; he currently courts Lady Vari.

[ Posted by Reason on January 15, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Ralan's Keep

Aye, I'll row you out to the Keep for a few coins, though I don't rightly know what you'll be seeing there aside from weed and crawcrabs. You'll be after ruining those fine boots for a view worse than from the cliffs. For a few coins, though, aye.

Been just the way you see it from here, long as I recall, few broken walls and the old quay. They say, mind you well, this place is stonefolk built from the early years. Long time past, when wizard folk sailed the sea clear away from land. Won't see no stonefolk set foot in a boat though, look at the sea like it's going to eat them whole they do. Stranger fish in the sea than them, I say, so best they keep their feet dry.

Aye, been Ralan's Keep for long as I recall, couldn't say who he might be. Some old time high born beggar, wizard seafolk maybe ... no offensive meant, no offense. Nothing here now but crawcrabs, and there's better places to catch the spiny little beggars than the middle of the bay. Folk leave this place be, can't say as you could blame them; stink coming off the prison hulks might please the gulls, but can't say it sits well with me. Nor you, I'd say.

[ Posted by Reason on January 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Light Towers

Two elegant Light Towers stand on the high, rocky cliffs to the Coast Road side of the Port bay. Three more look down from the narrow opposite crags to a sweeping view of the city and lower coast: fishing villages, pebble beaches and the beginnings of swampland. The Towers were constructed long ago by seafarers from the Vanished Isles, formed from weathered blocks of green stone quite unlike any found in Enclave lands. Moss and climbing plants, and in one case an entire tree, have colonized the lower stonework. Worn steps circle each tower to the upper platform.

Each day - under summer sun or rain, in winter snow or storm - the elderly Lightkeeper Nalaan and his apprentices climb to the Light Towers to tend the ancient wizardry of the lights. The post of Lightkeeper is a traditional one, supported by the Seafarers' Guild and held by the descendants of those Magi who sought to retrieve lost secrets from the Datarii. While the Vanishing stole everything from these proud seafarers, the stonefolk still held hints, stories and lesser wizardry from the generations of trade.

Nelaan, like the long lineage of past Lightkeepers, practices what little is known of the old ways in the hope that the Magi of the Vanished Isles will one day return to the Enclave, guided by the wizardry of the Light Towers.

[ Posted by Reason on January 20, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Two Bridges Cross the Lothar

The Lothar rolls gently through Port, past noble estates, guildhouses, rivercraft moorings, Guardians' Wild and finally the docks and dockside market. The river marks a boundary of sorts between the low city of commoners, merchants and cobbled streets, and the high city of nobles, parks and sloping avenues overlooking the bay.

Only two bridges cross the Lothar in Port. Both are very old structures, providing barely enough space beneath their stone arches for small river boats to pass. Fisher's Bridge abuts the Temple of Three, joining the Temple plaza with the dockside market. The crowding and passage of common folk is watched by a weather-worn statue of the Fisher in Darkness at the center of the bridge, and disinterested militia spearmen as often as not.

The Guild Bridge stands upriver, past the Wilds. It is covered in flowering plants during warmer seasons - a long-standing tradition. Flags and pennants fly from tall poles at either end of the Bridge, one for each of the major guilds in Port. At the height of summer, nobles and guildmasters arrange contests of sport, wit and swordsmanship between retainers and guild members on the river and bridge.

This Guild Bridge fair is a popular event, and not just with commoners. Following his humiliation by the Unseen Hands, Lord Lundarn regained his standing and good reputation in Port with coins and imagination lavished on the fair. Even now, with the Lundarn estate reduced to nothing and the old Lord on his deathbed, the common folk of Port still talk fondly of the Year of Lundarn's Fair.

[ Posted by Reason on January 26, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Fourth in the Temple of Three

The Three Powers of Port - the Fisher in Darkness, Salin and Lady Moonlit - are honored by a priesthood who dwell within the unlit Temple of Three. The Temple is a old, vaulted stone hall, built without windows. Great iron doors face the Temple Plaza, flanked by worn carvings of the Fisher and Salin the Seafarer, watched over by Temple Guards but never opened. A smaller inset door is used by petitioners and priests; ornate wooden screens prevent light from reaching the interior.

The utterly dark Temple hall is set with open pools, pillars, and wooden benches. Murmerings of water merge with whispered conversations, soft footsteps and the muted sounds of the Temple Plaza and nearby dockside. Petitioners are led by the youngest priests, finding their way by touch, sound and memory. Large stone statues of the Three, including, or so it is said, the only true depiction of Lady Moonlit, stand opposite the Temple doors. Gifts for the priesthood, made in exchange for guidance or advice, are left at the feet of the Three. Seafarers drop strange coins from the Farthest in front of Salin for good luck, while commoner fisherfolk bring salted fish to the Fisher to celebrate a good catch.

The priests' warren opens up beneath the Temple, a maze of damp stone-lined tunnels and rooms that ultimately leads into the Farthest Darkness. The reclusive priests of the Three associate with Visitors and the Farthest Priesthood, and thereby aquire wisdom and insight into the Powers. In turn, the priest guiding a petitioner through the darkness may not speak the Ammander language and may never have seen the exterior of the Temple - but knows deep secrets left unshared.

The high priest of the Three is a nameless Visitor, one who came from the Farthest Darkness generations ago and learned the ways of the priesthood. He is said to wear blackest darkness as a cloak, to practice unknown wizardry, to be a strange and outlandish being. Some of the common folk of Port claim the high priest of the Three to be a Power in his own right. No one has ever seen or touched him, but petitioners and priests who have heard his voice have nothing but praise: the high priest is a gentle, wise, charismatic man - and let that be enough if there is more hidden in the darkness.

[ Posted by Reason on January 30, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Prison Hulks

The prison hulks, once proud trading vessels, rot in the water close to Ralan's Keep. The hulks are the final destination of prisoners found guilty of murder and other heinous crimes by the magisters of Port - at least those unfortunate enough to lack sufficient coin or patronage. Locked in manacles in the foulness below decks, the keys thrown overboard, they will never be released. Gulls circle the hulks by day; the stench of filth, decay and death floats over the water.

Seafarers' Guildsmen row out to the hulks every few days to throw in food and water. Ax- and spear-armed seafarers remove the dead and wash out the worst of the fetor with seawater with each new season - a loathed duty that is itself assigned as a punishment. Remains are burned ashore beside the walls of Ralan's Keep or simply thrown into the harbor for crawcrabs, eels and gulls to fight over.

[ Posted by Reason on February 16, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Mirel's Teeth

Generations of Landsmen have carefully covered the rolling grasslands and small woods surrounding Port with subtle marks and signs - the outskirts of the Low Marsh as well. Hunters' signs allow experienced Landsmen to avoid the Farthest and return home with marsh eels and rabbits.

Not all Landsmen are content with familiar lands and creatures; Mirel and her companion hunters are amongst the few who venture away from the Known Roads into the Farthest Wilderness. She relies on a Seafarers' Needle of sorts, an ornate stone traded from the Datarii - without it even she would become Lost. Independent, proud and quick to anger, often mistaken for a Visitor or worse, Mirel trades unique hides and exotic feathers with Stone Road merchants willing to meet her prices. The teeth she keeps; some she carves into figurines, others become jewelry, but each has a story behind it. A beast the size of a house; strange hunters who sought out rocks that moved; a snake that spoke like a man; birds of shimmering colors; trees that hunt animals. The Landsmen of Port all know of the exploits of Mirel and her fellows, but seaward-facing cityfolk have never heard of her.

An Ammander like Mirel would have been an explorer in past generations, leading hunters and spearmen to the limits of the Enclave ... but there is little call for such activities now.

[ Posted by Reason on February 23, 2005 | Permanent Link ]


The Port Wilds - Guardians' Wild, Lords' Wild, the Cliff Wild and Commoners' Wild - are dense, overgrown woodlands within the city proper, protected from ax and fire by long tradition or noble ownership. The Farthest is never closer for cityfolk than in the outskirts of the Wilds; few commoners are brave or foolhardy enough to venture out of sight of stonework and cobbles. Even after the leaves fall and snow covers the ground, high brambles, bushes and evergreen trailing ivy render the Wilds no less impenetrable.

Rabbits and birds of all species can be found in the Wilds, but the Farthest Woods are a frightening place and there is no telling what might be watching from around the next tree. Some Lords, Ladies and their retainers hunt the Wilds for sport, but common folk in Port look to the sea for their next meal - thus, the Wilds remain largely untouched and unused.

Only Guardians' Wild on the low side of the Lothar is crossed by paths - a confusing, twisting set of trails and old trellises, one of which leads to moss-covered wooden huts by the bank of the Lothar. Staden, an quiet Ammander priest from the Watch of Trees, tends a shrine dedicated to Laelene here. A small number of Landsmen and fewer cityfolk bring Staden food, keep the paths clear, and listen to the wisdom he brings from the undying Ammanene. The outskirts of Guardians' Wild, especially close to the Fane, are popular with noble retinues and young lovers, but few folk even know of the shrine and those who gather there in respect for the old ways.

[ Posted by Reason on February 26, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Travelers' Rest

Travelers' Rest lies on the outskirts of the low side of Port, a cluster of tombs, ossuaries, graves, wooden shelters, half-fallen halls and the ruins of a modest temple. The Rest is tended - after a fashion - by the Gray Folk; outcast poor, criminals, orphans and cripples unable to make a living in any other way. They dwell in the small buildings and ossuaries, always short of food and shelter; no-one in need is turned away, but all must share alike.

Cityfolk give small gifts to the most able amongst the Gray Folk in exchange for gravedigging, burial of unclaimed bodies, remembrances and the upkeep of tombs or graves. Even when a noble is buried on her estate with great ceremony or Seafarers's Guildsmen are returned to the Unending Sea, it is still traditional and proper to gift the Gray Folk. It shows charity and a respect for all that the Traveler represents.

The temple ruin at Travelers' Rest was once an impressive structure and the center of an order of priests; little of that remains save for a weathered, aged statue of the Traveler in the form of an earnest Datar. The desperately poor, ragged, hungry Gray Folk are neither acolytes nor priests, but they know old ways and ceremonies handed down over the generations - how to show respect for the passed and their journeys; ancient Ammander burial rites; where the old graveyards of Port lie; secrets glimpsed in the Farthest Tombs.

[ Posted by Reason on February 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Lords and Ladies

With few exceptions, the Ammander nobles of Port rarely descend from their estates and manses overlooking the Lothar, the bay and the low city. Noble retainers walk the markets and represent their employers in business or trade, returning to the slopes above the bay each evening. Much of the wealth of Port passes through noble hands in one way or another, whether through Council taxes, merchant interests, or less identifiable sources. The most influential families dwell in beautiful manses, surrounded by large walled estates and stone-paved streets; lantern-light gatherings and lavish entertainments are commonplace in warmer seasons.

The Council nobles - forthright Lord Onn, ruthless Lady Dalun and the dying Lord Lundarn - ensure that the best of the militia patrol the hillside streets and estates, but most noble retinues already include watchful spearmen. Nobles of note include the influential, wealthy Vareds, Daluns and Onns. The Lundarn and Malel families were once similarly blessed, but their fortunes have faded with the passing of time.

The present Lady Malel is aged and set in her ways, increasingly reliant on the tolerant generosity of Lord Onn and his retinue. She is the last of her line, an outcast of sorts just like her mother, and lives in an increasingly bare manse amidst a slowly crumbling estate and a retinue of cats. Lady Malel was once a healer who followed the way of the Beautiful Stranger. The sick, poor and helpless still occasionally come to her manse to wait under the watchful eyes of sleek Ammander cats - even Gray Folk from the Travelers' Rest, much to the continuing displeasure of Lady Dalun.

Lord Lundarn has been on his deathbed for a season, driven there by his son Tarnis, so it is said. He was clever with coin and the respect of commoners, but not with his own flesh and blood. While folk are still fond enough of the old Lord, Tarnis is notorious in Port - he is a cruel man with retainers to suit his temperament. Tarnis has rousted, gambled, lied, wenched, cheated and brawled in every tavern and street on the docks and low side of the Lothar, protected from the consequences of his actions by his father's coin. There is precious little of that coin left now; the Lundarn estate show signs of disrepair and Tarnis has become bitter and vindictive as his Lordship approaches.

[ Posted by Reason on March 1, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Old Wall

Little remains of the old wall of fitted, carved stone blocks that once surrounded a much smaller Port. It was built in the seasons of Magi - when the stonefolk still came from Great Home in dry summers to trade for wizardry as the Lother ran low and sluggish. Much of the wall has long since been taken down and used to build warehouses, noble manses and the rough-hewn cottages of common folk. Only a few lengths remain intact, the blocks cracked and carvings worn away with the passing of time and folk.

On the low side of the Lothar, near the Silvered Horn, the old wall ends in half a gateway. The single remaining stone post was once carved to resemble a laughing Datar, but all of the detail is gone now, eroded by rain and generations of passing hands.

[ Posted by Reason on March 19, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Dockside Market
The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > People and Places > Dockside Market

The Lost Merchant

Each sunrise, Abey'aben sets up his stall in the dockside market, just as he has for many seasons. He sates himself on raw glowfish bought from returning fisherfolk - delicately, with sharp teeth and fingers jointed in too many places - before waiting for trade as the market fills. Throughout the day, the strange, dark-skinned merchant compulsively rearranges his wares: knives, oddities from the Farthest, carved driftwood, dried plants and fruit.

Abey'aben is friendly enough for one of the Lost. He has mastered neither the Ammander tongue nor the customs of Port, but can make himself understood and seems content with his lot in life. The dockside thugs leave Abey'aben alone and he is popular with his customers, his odd mannerisms almost charming in a way. Stranger creatures are certainly seen from time to time in the streets of Port - Abey'aben in his patchwork robe could almost be mistaken for a Vanished Islander in the right light.

At dusk, Abey'aben packs his wares to return to a dwelling in one of the Landsmen villages outside the city. In the eyes of of most cityfolk, the trader may as well have vanished back into the Farthest Market for the night.

[ Posted by Reason on February 11, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Eel

A suspicious, scrawny old man of mixed blood tends a shaded stall of curios and strange fish in the Dockside Market. He calls himself The Eel in the fashion of Ammander sages and spends each day in frantic scribbling of islemarks and illegible text on parchment. The Eel hides his work, frowning and grumbling, whenever anyone comes near, deeply resentful while dockfolk peruse his wares or fishers try to sell him an unusual catch from the Unending Sea.

The Eel is the object of many a cruel story and jest; he is not well liked by his fellow traders and has little to do with them in any case.

[ Posted by Reason on March 6, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Coin and Folk of All Stripes

Each new day sees the cobbles of the dockside market packed by stalls, traders and common folk. Summer rain and winter snow may thin the numbers, but the market carries on regardless. The paved corner bounded by sea and river is reserved by tradition for sellers of eel, glowfish, crawcrab and seaweed; these worthies ply their trade in the early morning under the gaze of the Fisher in Darkness atop his pedestal.

In past generations, public drownings were held on the stone jetty beside the river corner. Now the worst criminals are merely thrown into the Prison Hulks to rot. The old heavy iron drowning cages, rusted to uselessness, still stand atop the far end of the jetty - a reminder for the throngs crossing the Fisher's Bridge from the Temple Plaza to the market.

Common goods and curios of all varieties are laid carefully on cloth and tables by lesser merchants, fisherfolk and representatives of wealthier traders elsewhere in the market. Rare or costly items - books, weapons and armor, glass or jewelry - can be found in the shops and craftrooms that face the market cobbles. Amidst the crowds of commonfolk and noble retainers, Visitors from the Farthest Market are not uncommon. Strange folk with strange manners peer at arrayed offerings, talking to one another in unknown languages. Visitors sometimes bring their own goods to sell or trade, an event that brings merchants from across the city in search of rarities or wizardry.

As the fisherfolk pack and leave in the middle of the day, their catch sold, troubadors and their followers claim the slippery flagstones of the river corner. Performances of all sorts are staged here; traditional Ammander plays, disrespectful songs, mock battles, juggling and much more. It is the rare day that no entertainer is working for coin in the dockside market.

The passing of morning brings thieves and thugs from the dockside as well as troubadors, a fact well known to militia and Seafarers' Guildsmen assigned to the market on any given day - although patrols are not always effective, especially if bribes have been placed. Traders and shopkeepers have learned to look after their own, hire assistants or spearmen, and keep careful watch on their goods.

Hard-faced Taxmen also lurk in the market, a far greater threat to thieves than any number of militia, always ready to pounce on large transactions to claim taxes on the spot.

As day passes into evening, stalls are shut up or pulled down and packaged away. The shops close up and are boarded or barred. Bored militia spearmen and Seafarers' Guildsmen watch the traders and their customers depart for the evening. Later, shopkeepers throw seawater over the cobbles and flagstones of the river corner to wash away the filth of the day.

[ Posted by Reason on March 14, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > People and Places > Stoneworkings

The Datar Beneath the Stoneworkings

Never seen one of the stonefolk, I'll wager, eh? Yet there's one not a hundred spans from you now. A hundred spans down, that is. Hah! There by the old workings, only Lady Talmur has the key to that gate; her down below likes peace and quiet.

Seasons ago, years ago, I don't recall - I was sprightly in those days and had more important matters on my mind. Tired of crafting is what she said. She crafted a fine set of stairs to I don't know where, through, and down she went to wait for whatever it is that stonefolk wait for. Inspiration maybe, what with the Lady, Daral and the rest carving this and engraving that day in and day out.

You ever seen stonefolk work? Make you weep it would.

Eager as an eel after glowfish, aren't you? Keep yourself clean, fetch and carry for the stonesmiths, and you might see her one day. Blood! Ask any of the folk here, believe me or not as you will. Now off with you - I need anothor five buckets filled yet!

[ Posted by Reason on March 3, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Lady Talmur's Stoneworkings

Beyond Port and the Coast Road, but within sight of both noble estates and the Wayward Visitor, the Stoneworkings eat into a low bluff. Over the generations, a community of masons and sculpters have adopted the Stoneworkings as their own home. Fine white stone from the bluff is used for statues and noble manses; grey stone from the cliffs or rocky headlands is good enough for common folk.

The Lady Talmur - Lene by given name - of the Port stoneworkings is not in fact a Lady; the true Lady Talmur, her grandmother, dwells in Three Stones. Lene came to Port a number of years ago to escape her family and practice her chosen craft in peace. She is a modestly talented and charismatic sculptress; the traditionally insular stoneworkers adopted her as one of their own and granted her the title of Lady - over her protestations. Lene acts as a spokeswoman for the Stoneworkings folk when reputation is required, a strategy that works well despite her disrepute amongst the nobles of Port.

The masons and sculptors of the Stoneworkings are rarely idle. Many have amassed modest riches in service to the nobles and Council of Port. The most noted of all is one who cares nothing for coin; Daral is touched by madness, obsessed with producing wonderful carved figurines. He is crochety and disinterested, living in a world quite different from that seen by normal folk - his mind is Lost some say, while others whisper that he should have been born a Datar. Daral wouldn't even eat or bathe if not for more kindly folk at the Stoneworkings who look after his needs.

[ Posted by Reason on March 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Port > People and Places > Taverns

The Wayward Visitor

The Wayward Visitor stands at the outskirts of Port, where the Road of Stones meets the Coast Road and travelers pause to take in the view of the city, bay and cliffs. It is a rough but sizable inn and stables, an unusual structure built of worn stones taken from the old city wall.

The Wayward Visitor is owned by the Ammanene Unsharee, known in some circles as The Cursed. Her storied past in the Enclave as swordswoman, sage and member of the Emerald Company is reflected in the clientele, staff and regular visitors. Odd, talented, outcast, well-connected and unusual folk seem to find their way to the Wayward Visitor more often than one might expect. For all that, Unsharee is rarely seen - like most Ammanene, she has little to do with mortal society. The very existence of an establishment like the Wayward Visitor under the auspices of an Ammanene is a something of a mystery.

Port cityfolk and the insular landsmen shun the inn of The Cursed; it has a bad and not entirely undeserved reputation amongst commoners. The Farthest Inn spills into the Wayward Visitor - the winding passages, shadowed rooms and hidden alcoves of the interior almost seem to encourage it. Visitors here are stranger and more different than most from the near Farthest. It is not just a matter of oddly colored eyes, unusual scents, strange clothing and an unrecognized language. Some of the rough and tumble folk in Port - from the militia, Seafarers' Guild, noble family retinues or less reputable groups - treat a drunken night at the Wayward Visitor almost as a rite of passage.

One Visitor in particular has been in the Wayward Visitor for as long as any of the staff, and is as much responsible for the reputation of the inn as any. It stares from darkened corners, red eyes and long teeth buried in a brutish body, like an overfed Neth dipped in pitch. It drinks ale on the house and causes no trouble. There are many interesting stories as to its origin and associations, but no one who knows the truth is saying anything.

[ Posted by Reason on January 8, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Draining the Silvered Horn

The Silvered Horn is a worn, comfortable tavern nestled against the old city wall on the low side of the Lothar. Mottled awnings and rough-cut benches overlook the river bank, a good place for crawcrab and ale in warm seasons. The nearby militia barracks and training hall ensure that the innkeeper, an old, white-haired spearman formerly of the Temple Guard, makes a good living. There is nothing quite like a thirsty patrol of spearmen on a wet night to make the inside of an inn seem crowded. Red Iron smiths, guild craftsmen, Temple Guard and Three Stones merchants round out the regulars.

The Silvered Horn itself, an ancient drinking piece from a huge and no doubt dangerous beast, is given pride of place above the tavern fireplace. The innkeeper has long said he will gift ale and board for ten nights to any mortal who can drain the horn in one draft - a hopeless task that is nevertheless attempted at least once every season.

Dockside thieves tell wistful stories of a vast stash of coins - the profits of a generation of overpriced ale - hidden within the Silvered Horn. No-one has yet risked the wrath of half the spearmen in Port to establish the truth of the matter.

[ Posted by Reason on February 14, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Woodwyrm

Leaning ramshackle against the thick landward wall of the Shipwrights' Hall, the Woodwyrm looks like nothing quite so much as the remains of a great ship fallen to the ground from a great height. Every part of the tavern is built of driftwood, old planking, keels and beams, lashed together with lengths of rope.

White-sashed Seafarers' Guildsmen, shipwrights and drunken thugs from the docks raise a great noise within the Woodwyrm each night, telling tales and singing the old songs while draining casks of Landsmen grain spirits. The preserved remains of unlikely fish float in great glass bottles above the bar; scorched, stuffed spined eels hang over the central firepit. Toasting sweetmeats (or anything else that comes to hand) over the burning flames is a popular pastime for those patrons too drunk to sing. The Woodwyrm has the stench of a pickled glowfish Lost in the Low Marsh, but is undeniably popular. The tavern has burned down twice in living memory - it was built again in a few short weeks on both occasions by eager seafarers and dock folk.

[ Posted by Reason on February 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Broken Wheel

Once a boathouse on the dockside, the Broken Wheel has been adopted by Harand's thugs and other rough types as a safehouse and drinking establishment. The ale is poor and watered, but Harand and his trusted thieves drink only the best grain spirit. Commoners give the disreputable Broken Wheel a wide berth, save for the fisher folk who clean their catches on a nearby stone jetty. The numerous safehouse cats steal glowfish heads and eel spines; the remains of their thievery litter the tavern and the cobbles outside.

The Broken Wheel once housed the court of the King of Thieves, or so it is said. It is sadly diminished from those long-ago seasons; its crumbling stone walls are patched with ill-fitting boards; the furnishings are broken-down and battered, the bar a plank over casks; ragged, scarred cats perch on beams and fight over bones under the rickety tables; the thatch leaks in the rain. Still, there is a certain prestige associated with control of the Broken Wheel amongst the rough dockside folk - Harand's swaggering trustees make sure that is well understood by common thieves and their fellows.

It is an open secret that the Broken Wheel stands atop dank tunnels and storage rooms; so much so that it is the first destination for militia, Seafarers' Guildsmen or spear-armed retainers from the noble estates after any particularly grand theft or new outrage on the part of the Unseen Hands. Harand's patronage is an expensive and uncertain proposition, but thieves who do not pay the price risk being given up to the magisters to placate an angry mob or influential noble. Like most of the well-known rogues in Port, hard old Harand has cozy relations with militiamen and the Seafarers' Guild - and no shame in using those relations to his best advantage.

[ Posted by Reason on February 19, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Cordage House

The Cordage House is a rough tavern in one of the narrow cobbled streets behind the Berths and dockfront. Seafarers' Guildsmen, fisherfolk, dockside toughs, thieves and their hangers-on are the usual crowd. Every battered item of furniture in the Cordage House - up to and including the heavy wooden bar itself - is lashed down tight with good, thick rope to eyelets in the planking. Good coin is paid for burly thugs and lesser Guildsmen to keep the peace inside, but their paymaster, Shipmaster Komashk, is the most common cause of the frequent brawls in the House and on the cobbles outside.

Komashk owns the Cordage House, lives on the upper floors, and is rarely seen elsewhere. He is deeply suspicious of strangers, crude and surly, but nevertheless a font of sea tales for the few he trusts. The Shipmaster - absent a ship for as long as any of the dockfolk can recall - claims to have been a raider and shiptaker out on the Farthest Sea, wrecked off the Enclave coast and cast ashore on a broken spar many years ago. Like all of his stories, the particulars change with each telling and the whole is only barely plausible. Komashk is a proud man and challenging his words is unwise; more than one seafarer has been beaten near to death in the Cordage House.

[ Posted by Reason on February 20, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

An Evening at the Wayward Visitor

Blood! I wasn't gone for longer than it took to scare those young eelsuckers away from the mules and someone falls on a knife. I'll wager Kalei was holding it too, and now she's off hiding somewhere. Back to work, you eels! Make some noise, look happy! You know the way the Visitor goes when the mood gets ugly - break open a cask of the good stuff and strike up a song afore we see Trespassers and worse.

Stop your wailing! You're a big man, plenty of friends on the dockside, and if Kalei saw fit to stick you, it was at least half your own fault. You're getting bound up, good coins worth of spirit wasted on the wound; if it was anywhere vital you wouldn't have breath to be shouting. Blood! See this ax? Don't make my life any harder! Now quieten down, you and you, afore you spoil the mood any more and bring out something ugly from the Farthest.

Hah! You and how many others? Blood, I'd like to see it, just for the looks on your faces after The Cursed has her way with you. Go on with you, take that excuse for a man away. You're lucky I'm not making you scrub the planking clean!

Rednail! Follow those eels out and then find me Kalei. Blood, the air tastes like bad ale in here. It ended badly the last time that happened. Where's that cask of good grain spirit? No, the one with the circle mark, girl, not the regular rot. All you with coin! A gift from the owner, so drink up!

[ Posted by Reason on February 24, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Lantern in Darkness

Across the Temple Plaza from the steps of the Temple of Three, the Lantern in Darkness is a cellar tavern favored by petitioners, Temple Guards and the fisherfolk who land catches at dawn. The cellar air is always thick with smoke from sputtering fish-oil lamps. The ale is strong and the food heavily spiced, but dockside thugs and thieves favor rougher taverns - or at least taverns not under the watchful eye of the Temple Guard. The regulars at the Lantern are honest commonfolk; fishers in the morning, petitioners during the day and Guards after dark.

The trapdoor and ladder to the Lantern are open at all hours of the day, oozing smokey air into the Temple Plaza. The establishment is run by a covy of old Vanished Isle women and seemingly endless supply of younger relatives. Rough-hewn, oil- and smoke-smudged carvings adorn the stonework Lantern walls; the exploits of Salin the Seafarer feature prominently; the central cellar support is shaped and painted to resemble the Fisher in Darkness. Islemarks have been carefully carved into the wooden tables - some say that the owners know more of Magi wizardry than they let on.

[ Posted by Reason on March 4, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Sonael

The Blackened

He calls himself a sage, The Blackened, but he is little more than the embittered, loose-skinned mouth of The Felled. His cottage is no less crumbled than any other within Sonael; one wall is fallen into a heap of gray stone and the gapped roof sunk atop it. It is littered with old goat leather parchment, scraped and rescraped over and over, layered with abandoned scratchings in charwater ink.

Those few in Sonael who have the heart of the Ammand within them yet would surely have stuck The Blackened upon his own knife long years ago - but The Blackened speaks for The Felled in this Lost place of sickness and misery, and the arm of The Felled is long indeed.

Those of the Formless have spared The Blackened no more than any other in Sonael; his skin is dragged with sores and his cough brings ever more blood with each passing winter. He is as much between two spears as any other here, but his hatred has long since turned from the originators of his torment to be cast upon the stricken commonfolk. In this he well serves The Felled.

[ Posted by Reason on August 6, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Rotten Palisade

A palisade surrounds the cottages of Sonael, leaving only the graves and old shrine beyond. Further, half-barren fields and knolls give way to the open wilderness, and Farthest, Greenwood or mists of the Formless beyond. Trunks for the palisade came from the edge of Greenwood, or perhaps from closer copses long gone to firewood, planks and roofing.

None of Sonael have given the palisade heed nor care for a generation; naught that threatens the villagefolk is to be given pause by walls and spears. Portions of the wall have fallen, and all is rotted or ill-seated. A few cut trunks have regained a portion of their vigor over the many summers since being felled, sprouting weak branchs and yellowed roots to thrust their neighbors aside.

The two carved wooden gateways stand yet, absent gates, to face each way along the Road that was, the Road no longer marked, to and from the Formless mists.

[ Posted by Reason on August 6, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Crying Stranger

You are moon-faced, you both! Where would you go? Where, by the Vessel and the Truth? Would you be as the crying stranger who came from the Farthest snows these five winters past? We could not help her, nor protect her from those who come from the Formless - and may the Beautiful Stranger forgive us for that. Would you and Emme be as that, gone to a worse sickness and misery, to die Lost and without even the understanding of comfort?

No, mark my words, curse you! There is nothing yonder but more of this, ever more! The Fallen will shield her from blood gone to rot and the eye of his chained goat in the fallen cottage besides. If you hold her in your heart as I do, you'll let her go to the Greenwood in his service. Tis a better place than here, a better choice than aught other we have.

Go, let me alone - do as you will, and the Farthest take you!

[ Posted by Reason on August 7, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Blight and Sickness to Mark the Road

Carven staves of a disturbing design stand upright in the blight-ridden fields of Sonael, a ragged line that leads toward the gray mists of the Formless. They have stood a generation under rain, sun and snow, marking the Road for Trespassers who come from the Formless - and the sickness they bring.

Those folk of true Ammander blood who once tore up and threw down staves were long ago brought to the Traveler at the end of all Roads, slain by the sickness they sought to fight. Stones within the tumbled shrine of the Burning Truth bear their names and hide their charred bones. None are so brave in the seasons since.

So are the commonfolk and their livelihoods bowed beneath sicknesses from the Farthest Mists. So do they dwell in fear of ragged-robed Trespassers who who shamble and feel their way from stave to stave, whispering secrets best left unheard.

[ Posted by Reason on August 9, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Lost Declaration

Go to fetch Manten from the shine, now, an be quick before the sun dips further. Resere is gone to meet the Traveler, and may his Road be easier.

There are others and more with blood and coughing, or hanging skin, or worse, but he was the last who knew. Twas before your birth, yes, and a long time ago that The Blackened's master gave a Declaration upon all you see. The brave folk then, they read it and hid the parchment to make it theirs and not to fall on everything.

I know not, no-one knows - and no-one will know. Become chosen by The Blackened's blind eye and taken to the tower in the Greenwood, and then you might ask. Might as well to wish for a Road to lead us back to the Ammand! But to talk of it, no we should not talk of it. Talk of misery and you'll hear a stranger's crying, or call those from the Formless.

No, best to talk of Resere's Road now, to a better place and free of sickness. Manten will bring fire and words of the Vessel from the shrine, and we who talk too much should find wood before dark.

[ Posted by Reason on August 12, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Old Ammand in the Heart of the Young

Denale is coming of an age, yes and yes. He listens not to the elder folk, and hides away from all that is to be done this summer season. I've seen him with the old spears racked and bound in the shrine when he thinks none are watching - yes, and seen his heart when The Blackened passes to cough blood and insults. But what use for spears but to bring worse upon us and our own? There is naught to be run through and cast down here.

Janem and Tald are no less young, and they are willing set to work as such is best, to rescue what we might from the fields afore the rot sets in. Merem too, should her sickness not worsen further; but I hope that we shall prevail as we did for her in the last summer. A fire is lit well and tended by her bedding, and may the Powers show their will through it.

By the Vessel, who is to say what might have been? I know not what became of Denale's parents, but may the Traveler have guided them to a better Road than that Sonael stands astride. I have tried as best I know, but I have not been that which they should have stayed to be - and there is nothing of the Burning Truth to shine comfort upon this.

[ Posted by Reason on August 13, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Weeping Blooms Upon a Stranger's Grave

The commonfolk of Sonael give their bodies to flames and the ashes to alcoves of the old shrine upon the end of their roads. So is the way of Burning Truth, as it has come to be this far from the Known Roads and Enclave lands. Those few strangers who come in sickness and sadness from the Farthest Field are given to the earth, however, buried and marked in the old Ammand way within low walls beyond the palisade.

In a summer season many years ago, a horned woman stumbled from the Farthest, burning, blooded and wracked by cough. For all the promises made to the Beautiful Stranger, and the caring hands of Hephran, priest of the Vessel in those seasons, the Visitor's road was short and her words her own. Only the Beautiful Stranger knows what she called and reached for in her fever. The horned Visitor was buried under carved stone and mounded soil, alongside others Lost in sickness and misfortune.

The very next year, at the time of last snow, the first red weeping blooms opened upon the grave. Each new warmth of summer seasons brought more flowers upon the stranger's graves, even as rot grew in the fields and blight came anew from the Formless. At the height of summer, rain or sun, blossoms from the Farthest wave bright in the wind and drip reddened tears upon the graves.

[ Posted by Reason on August 18, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Hidden Book of the Burning Truths

Upon her last scroll of ragged goat-skin, Tella had written of what old Hephren had told. May the Traveler guide her steps, wherever she might be. Well and well, the scrolls and the book are safe within their casket and buried deep, but this I recall.

The Vessel came to a Lord's son upon the Unending Sea that is beneath the far moon, and spoke a Burning Truth to him as he slept upon the deck of a Magi tradeship. He was seized by the Truth, consumed by it whilst he slept, but upon waking it was gone. The Magi of the Vanished Isle, he who stood upon the aft-deck to raise the waves and wind to his desire, nodded wisely upon hearing the tale but would say naught. Such is the way of the Unending Sea upon the hearts of men, and the Magi became Lost thereafter because they saw no Powers in Creation.

Upon the Sea, then, and upon the Enclave coast, the Lord's son sought to capture the Burning Truth he held so briefly. The Truths of Powers drive men even by their absence, and this is just as we know. In his quest, he wrote as though to put sages of the old Ammand to shame - scroll upon scroll of all that might be known of the Vessel, bound into a book by some unknown who came after.

I know not what become of that Lord's son, nor even his name. His words were brought here by our folk who followed Krineth and the Traveler too close to the Formless. The book is within Sonael because it must be here, this I know, and Tella showed me. There must be a Burning Truth within our trials that we are yet blind to.

[ Posted by Reason on August 19, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

A Messenger From the Greenwood

That's right, crawl away! Lest I take this knife to you, forward and back. Does your heart tell you I'm afeared of putting this iron to The Felled's words? You're no less a goat than these others, and soon as see my back, I'll wager, to return to playing as goatherd. Yes, and I'd soon as cut that from you, were it not to pour your sickness upon my knife.

Such rot you dwell within! Look at you, "The Blackened." What could that mean, I wonder, save for the bile beneath your skin - or mayhaps your tongue when the sickness takes you to beg the Traveler for a kind word. Best you enjoy these seasons, for one summer I'll come to slit your throat and may The Felled do as he will with me.

Listen well, now, for these are The Felled's words to you ... oh, but no! I forget! The Felled has naught to say to you but what was said before. Did you think there would be more, moon-faced and squirming to listen? You will be here until the sickness takes you, goat, and such is just as you deserve.

[ Posted by Reason on August 20, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Eyes of The Felled

Yes, I spoke with Gerren when he came from the Greenwood to carry words between The Blackened and The Felled. His heart is black, black as rotten berries now. I know not what Decaration or curse of wizardry The Felled has worked upon him - Gerren hates us in these seasons, and will not even meet my eyes. Me, for whom he once brought flowers from the grass beyond the spoiled fields. He might have been Lost that day, and better he had - better he had than this.

Gerren said no more than you know, and I'll not go to him the next he comes here. The Felled has spoken to the black stone of his tower within the Greenwood, and this Gerren told as have the others. He wears the clasp of The Felled's eyes, just as they, and that gives my heart to cold but to see it.

[ Posted by Reason on August 26, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Trespassers From the Gray Mists and Formless

They are in the fields! Hide, hide now! No, leave all this - yes and yes, go now and bar the door! Denale is still calling from the watchroom atop the Council Hall, moon-faced as he is - is he not to be barring doors too? Let him not put his foolishness to action, not on this day!

By the Powers, by the grace of the Beautiful Stranger, may they fill their rotten, ragged hearts with casting spoil upon the fields and not come within the village gates! Two seasons past, they laid a mark upon Faree's door - and you and I know she is sick past moving and poisoned in her blood since first snow. We burned it the very next day, and Manten watched upon the fire, and for all the good in Creation that brought. By the Vessel and the Burning Truth, may those from the Formless not come scratching at the walls and doors this day!

[ Posted by Reason on August 27, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Three Stones
The Enclave > Known Roads > Three Stones

Local Color
The Enclave > Known Roads > Three Stones > Local Color

Of Leaden Coins and Taxes

Trade in Three Stones - in the City Within at least - is harshly taxed by the priests of the Powers. The walls, the Guard, the Watch, even the coinage serves this purpose. Only lead coins cast by the priests, worthless elsewhere in the Enclave, are permitted within the walls; traders and other travelers must change coins at the gatehouse. The Watch, practiced in their search for those who would break the law, ensure that the Temple receives a tenth value.

[ Posted by Reason on February 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Old, Bad Blood

Old, bad blood and ill will lies between the Black Tower and the Library of the City Within. It is a long story, almost as long as the history of Three Stones, entangled with the rise of the Temple of Powers, the dwindling fortunes of noble patrons, and the nature of the Vessel of Burning Truth.

In the time of The Denier and the great Ammander explorers, only the Black Tower and the Stones broke the expanse of the dry grasslands beneath Krineth's Hills. After The Denier opened the Tower with secrets wrested from the stonefolk, the Library was one of the first structures to be built by The Denier's new order of sages. The Library grew large even before work commenced on the great Three Stones walls, the stone quarried from the closest of Krineth's Hills.

In time, and as Three Stones became populous, an understanding of the Vessel of Burning Truth came to Ammander folk. With understanding came priests and a temple. The Vessel as Seeker of Truths was a suitable patron for sages and scribes; the Library stood between the Temple of Powers and Black Tower in those days, all three supported and approved by Ammander Lords of Three Stones. The city may have been founded as a community of sages and their servants, but as common folk came to work and live, so too came nobles and the old, traditional ways.

As priests in Three Stones have taught since the Vanishing, the Vessel of Burning Truths travels his own path: a Road that takes him from Seeker to Denier to Quester to Ascendant. With the passing of generations, priests of the Temple of Powers placed ever more emphasis on the Vessel Ascendant - on Truth attained, Truth as mastery, and Truth as power. This was a priesthood for nobles and spearmen, but priests and scribes of the Library retained an older understanding of Burning Truth. Ornate, costly and impressive statues of the Vessel Ascendant stand within the Temple of Powers and noble residences of the City Within, but the Three Stones Library is adorned by modest engravings and paintings of the Seeker of Burning Truth.

When rulership of Three Stones passed from noble families to the Temple of Powers, the Black Tower sages stood in opposition to priests of the Vessel Ascendent and their laws, expecting the Library to stand with them. The Library did not, and seasons of tumult, wizardry and spears followed.

Sages, scribes and priests are well aware of the past events that shaped the present day city of Three Stones. Aloof, secretive Black Tower sages send their servants on errands to the great stone Library, but would never set foot inside the structure themselves. For their part, scribes and priests of the Library provide services and go about their lives as though the Black Tower, its sages and collections, did not exist.

[ Posted by Reason on May 6, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Visitors on Paved Streets

Aye, I've traded good Port rope in this market afore; in Gold Vale besides, and that's a way to travel from the salt air for an old seafarer. Your City Within, it has a feel to it, it does - a man's not to know what he might see around the next corner. Aye, and I have a tale for you from three seasons past, last I and my mules gave up good coin for these lead bits from your Temple. Good for weight on a line and precious little else, I say; even Visitors know the worth of gold and silver. But lead? Let the priests keep it all if they like it so much, and that's the last I'll say on that.

Aye, the tale, the tale. I'll be expecting good ale on your lead this night! It was here, right here in the Grand Market, in front of a hundred folk - Guard spears too, for all the good they did. Just as well, like as not; Watch blades would have stepped up with their armor and their pride and then who's to say what would have happened? The Visitor wasn't a man, but big he was and man-shaped at least, red and steaming like fresh offal in the snow, the cut of his face like a sail trying to catch the wind. I wouldn't have bothered any dockside folk with that look to them; aye, and I'll wager those Guard spears sized him up and thought that and more. All too soon and that was that, a Visitor striding and gone just as he came, looking neither left nor right.

Talmur retainers took the rest of my rope for too little coin that day, and I set to thinking. Visitor more than Trespasser, I thought, and his was the look of Lost and scared - aye, and too proud to show it. A young one he was, for all his bulk, from some place deep in the Farthest City ... shame on us folk for letting him go by without a word offered in help. Afore I passed the Gatehouse for the Trade Road the next day, I left coin for the Beautiful Stranger.

[ Posted by Reason on May 18, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Fetching Water for the Talmur Manse

Put that down Nethen, you'll be falling all over the casks we've filled. Put it down! Come, help me with the drawing - look, Merie is managing a chain and pitcher all by herself; you can certainly do just as well. The casks must all be filled and taken back afore last light, or it'll be the Lady's spearmen and lamp-carriers who'll be coming to find us. Come now!

Lelei, I don't know how you cope; they are such a handful! And the housemaster too busy eyeing Verden folk to do his part - again. He'd be charming and preening at the next well but for it getting back to the Lady. Standing far above his place, I say, wearing a painted scabbard like he was a poor Lord's son. Serve him right and well it would to be dragged away by Watch blades for that, wearing the Lady's sash or not.

Housemaster Tevor, now he wasn't afraid to get his hands wet and sash dirtied. A fine old man he was, may the Traveler guide his steps; he'd carry my share of the Lady's casks when I was Merie's age. Stood up to the Lady too, so I hear, and there's a thing! This one with the moon-face for Verden girls wouldn't say no to a goat lest he had a few of the Lady's spearmen behind him. Full of himself like a water cask, and just as empty with a little upset.

[ Posted by Reason on May 20, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Secrecy of Sages

There was a time, not so very many years ago, when sages of the Black Tower walked openly about the paved streets of the City Within. They orated in the Court of Three Stones, debated in Lord Verden's private park, and declaimed from the raised platform at the center of the Great Way, where wealthy merchants now sell their wares. It was not unusual in those seasons to see robed sages arguing points of philosophy with priests of the Seeking Vessel on the grand Library steps, or for noble gatherings to be enlightened by a reading of the latest treatise from the white-bearded thinkers of the Black Tower.

Tales are still told of commonfolk and traders who crossed the Black Tower in those seasons gone by; The Refutation of Othel's Greed is a favorite with troubadors throughout the Enclave, and a statue in the manse of Lord Verden recalls the supposed fate of ten rude Talmur retainers. The subtle wizardry of Ammander sages is known, respected and feared, whether or not those within the Black Tower make use of their talents.

A generation ago, in the wake of the terrible Year of Winter and the victory of the Emerald Company over Trespassers from the Farthest, Guard spears patrolling the Great Way at first light found the body of The Awl. An old, bearded sage of character and tradition, The Awl had been favored by priests and nobles alike. His words were respected and his presence in demand; as for all the Black Tower sages, however, little had been seen of him while Farthest Winter failed to give way to warmer seasons. Shortly thereafter, while the rivers still ran high with meltwater, The Locked Heart left the Black Tower for Port, and The Furrow for Mirael. Other, lesser sages departed or vanished before the following winter; those who remained no longer walked the streets of Three Stones, nor came forth to orate on philosophy and the nature of Creation.

So it has been from then until the present day; scribes and servants carry forth treatises, declaim before nobles and search the gloomy shelves of the Library, but the old whitebeards of the Black Tower remain within - as do their secrets.

[ Posted by Reason on May 22, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Lead From the Hills and Beneath the City

In simpler times, it was an easy matter to find and smelt lead from ore-bearing rock in Krineth's Hills, or even the bedrock beneath the fields and rolling grasslands surrounding Three Stones. Lead is of little use, however, and lead ore even less - except to priests of the Vessel and thieves of the City Without.

The lead coins required by city law are fashioned by priests of the Vessel Ascendant and their magisters, a way of ensuring taxation and great influence over the wealth of nobles, traders and merchants. Thieves and other, more shadowy groups of the City Without cast copies of the soft lead coins for their own profit, or simply to disrupt the efforts of the Temple of Powers. The temptation has proven too much for other folk, both wealthy and poor, from time to time as well. If the boat is rocked too much, however, priests and magisters recast coins in new shapes and denominations and declare old coin to be nothing more than lead weights - merchants, nobles and commonfolk may cry out and protest, but to no avail. In past seasons, the Temple has even sent Watch blades forth into the City Without to strike down those who debase the coinage that is the basis of so much of their power.

Smelting lead is, needless to say, forbidden by city law. Smelting lead in volume is not an activity easily hidden, and neither does it benefit the thieves of Three Stones, who prefer to pass smaller quantities of illicit coin. This means that major influxes of new coin from sources other than the Temple are rare - fortunately for the livelihoods of commonfolk and the safety of those dwelling in the City Without.

[ Posted by Reason on May 23, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Blood of Commonfolk on Winter Snow

The snow falls thick about Three Stones in the depths of winter, but ice rain and deep drifts are no impediment to the cruel Neth of Krineth's Hills. As leaves fall and nights become chill, the Neth uncurl from their summer torpor like rot finally come to bundled meat. Braver merchants who must use the Trade Road at the year end hire spearmen and travel light. Commonfolk and the poor of the City Without huddle by their fires and hope that the twisted, hateful creatures will not raid this winter.

Yet even in quiet years, the taint from the hills makes itself known; the sick scent of Neth in the fields and about outlying buildings; grey, loathsome figures glimpsed in the distance at dawn; livestock crippled; poorest folk vanished in the night. City Guard patrol beyond the walls after first snow, for what little good it does, but otherwise the folk of the City Without are left to fend for themselves. Only when Neth come in force from the Hills, twisted Ur Maka looming amongst ugly, wet-hide masses, the sound of their malicious anticipation a filth on the ears, will the Guard sally forth to defend Three Stones.

Twice in the last generation Neth have flailed at the City Without, like a wash of sickness and vermin, smoldering with a pent-up hunger of years to hurt and despoil, hatefully crippling cityfolk who would defend themselves. Five winters ago, black-armored Watch and priests of the Vessel stood atop the walls of Three Stones amidst frozen rain. Beneath, Guard spears struggled from the gates as commonfolk blood colored the deep snow and the scent of Neth and butchery was fit to turn any stomach. Watch blades had taken twenty lives in the City Without just a season before, but Watch have never left the City Within to put down Neth. For this and many other reasons, the Watch are hated by those commonfolk who dwell beyond the walls.

[ Posted by Reason on May 24, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Harsh Justice

The magisters of the City Within, appointed by Hadren, high priest of the Vessel Ascendant, hold court in the pillared Magistry at the inner end of the Great Way. The Magistry is one of the oldest structures in Three Stones, built of white stone from Port and decorated by worn, ornate carvings of commonfolk life in the old Ammand lands.

The wheels of justice move rapidly in Three Stones; folk of the City Within are rarely brought before magisters, while folk of the City Without experience City Law on the edge of Watch blades - and even that infrequently. Magisters are at leisure to scrutinize each unfortunate brought before them before rendering their verdict. The word of the magisters is final; while they will listen to any who wish to speak, Guard, Watch and priests of the Vessel have far greater weight than any other voice.

Both wealth and the liberty of many seasons are forfeit for those found guilty by the magisters of Three Stones. The prison of the City Within is a low, solid building of deep cellars and vaults crouching behind the Magistry. It lies half-empty, its occupants mostly thieves caught on the Great Way, merchants and commonfolk who offended the Council of Traders or spoke out against the Temple, and Visitors taken by Watch. To the Watch, all Visitors are Trespassers, arriving in Three Stones without paying the Gatehouse toll - thus before the magisters they go.

The folk of the City Without keep a different form of justice amongst themselves; the balance of power between thieves, traders, other factions - and their hired spears - and the ever-present threat of the Watch leads to quick, harsh punishment for those who rock the boat or step too far out of line.

[ Posted by Reason on June 6, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Thief's Favor

Well and well - for that and the coin for another ale, I'll tell you the tale I heard only this very day, fresh as blood on the Great Way. Friends are those who keep a thirst as as far from here as Watch blades, mark me ... and flame and dark, you're such a friend - this coin and I will remember you!

Happens there's a commoner from the farmfolk with a Thief's Favor lately come to his purse, and him not knowing the truth of it. A pretty thief was clumsy on the Great Way these past days, and clumsy where Watch blades could see, mark my words. The Burning Truth in their hearts makes them quick to anger, I say, to be leaning their blades into a tripped woman who made them run in armor. By the dark below, there'll be a chilled bed somewhere these past nights! Blood! You and I know there'll be worse and worse from Watch blades, just give them a season yet.

There's no crowd like the folk drawn to blood on paving stones, and there's a truth for you. You don't want to look behind lest you see Visitors with blood writ upon their faces, or something worse than a woman spilling herself onto stone. Away went the Watch, leaving blood and thief, and in with Guard spears and empty bluster - goats with coins to be paying poor folk to drag away the thief and bleat at traders to clean the Great Way.

You can guess the rest - how farmfolk on the Great Way after market found themselves taking away the dead for coin, and what should fall from the thief's sleeve but the sparkling Favor gem. Flame and dark! Never let it be said that these farmfolk and commoners are all moonfaced; slip away the gem quick as you like, they did, and right under the goat's noses. Not that I'd be taking a Thief's Favor, even if it did drop from the very sky into my open purse; who's to say what it marks and what I might find myself owed or owing?

[ Posted by Reason on December 29, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Lost Lord Parnur

Here and here is the reason I don't begrudge the Watch their time atop the city walls on the blackest of nights. Tis those times when the moon is far and small behind thick cloud from the Farthest Sky, and honest folk are abed, when Lord Parnur lights his lamp to find his way amidst the stones of the Gravefields.

Parnur was an old noble family, blood from the old Ammand and across the Unending Sea by Magi tradeship, straight as a hung chain. Why, if you were fool enough to brave Neth in the hills, you'd see grand Parnur tombs beyond those of Verden, Dren and Talmur. But the Lord Parnur who puts fear into Watch hearts was never sent to the last family tomb, no, for all he was the last of his name. Those were the generations of cruel Neth come from Krineth's Hills, come down to spoil the tombs and slay priests. Yes and yes, and even Lords and Ladies graced the Gravefields in those generations, leaving grand tombs in the hills to filth and decay. Noble folk built white stone monuments beside the markers of commonfolk like us, and the Gravefields swelled.

The Traveler holds out the same hand to all of us at the end of our Road, be we Lords, thieves or honest folk, mark my words - but not to the last Lord Parnur. He searches the Farthest Graves for the mausoleum of his wife, searches still and Lost so utterly that he wanders even from the Road of his life - ever older but never passing from the world. Lord Parnur is spurned even by the Beautiful Stranger in his endless search, and who may cast the blame for that?

By all the Powers, that is the truth of it, and why folk look not to the Gravefields on the darkest nights.

[ Posted by Reason on January 2, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Tall Markers on Wide, Paved Streets

The streets of the City Within are wide and solidly paved in grey stone. At each crossing of ways stands a marker; a tall iron rod set into a square stone base, each topped by a different design. Here a comical merchant figure or iron beckoning hand, there ten wooden balls in a ring or a pennent in green and brown. These markers serve the same purpose as route markers on the Known Roads; they can be clearly seen over the heads of a crowd and help to keep cityfolk from the Unmarked Ways that lead to the Farthest City - or from what passes for unfriendly Watch blades in those closest parts of Creation not of the Enclave.

Scrolls from generations past, lost amidst many others in the Library of the City Within, tell that marker stones once bore representations of the Traveler, the King of All the Ammand and noble families of Three Stones. All of these engravings are now of the flame of Burning Truth, however, as befits markers maintained by lesser priests of the Temple of Powers.

[ Posted by Reason on January 7, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Forbidden Gems

By the fires! That is a true gem, by the yellow and glint of it, not of Enclave soil, no. There are those who would ask sharp questions of commonfolk from the City Without upon seeing such in their possession, sharp questions and at the point of spear and blade, mark me. You hold worth without measure in your palm, and a struggle it is to turn the immeasurable into coin for the counting. How would Arith have found better from the Emerald, green from the old Ammand, than to shatter it to thirty slivers with one deft blow? No gold could match the first thirty of the Company she drew about her, thirty green-gemmed broaches still kept with a memory of greatness in the heart.

It has a look to it, a Burning, as do you, who came to our Library and paid the red gate toll from coin best used for hunger. You Seek, or I would give you the words of the wisest of sages, hidden in their Black Tower; to put fresh soil atop the gem in a far place and forget of it, lest it bring greater misery that you might imagine. But let me tell a tale instead, and leave you to Truth and the choosing of roads.

There was a time, when the Council of Traders was young and the Lady Verden spoke with true noble blood, that there were three gemcutters who plied their trade on the Great Way - but their coin came from noble manses, and yet more from the weight their words bore on the Council. Just as now, not a gem was hefted from left hand to right without coins to the Council - and few gems these seasons with there but one aged gemcutter in all Three Stones ... under Council eyes, mark me, and I need not say more to one from the City Without. Radelan has three long generations of what noble folk call wisdom; the holding of his own, and the path of hired spear and blade from his eyes to yours were your true gem to come into the light of day, by the Temple Fires!

In that past generation, Radelan's predecessors - the whole city, by the words of The Raft of the Black Tower - were set upon their heads by a Reddened Visitor. He who brought a bottomless sack of true gems, yellow and perfect from the Farthest Market, just as that which you hold in your hand. Fifty he traded hither and thither for the works of commonfolk, come through the red gate to the Grand Market and gifted with untold wealth. Gifted too with the wrath of gemcutters and the Council of Traders, and soon enough by Guard spears at the calling of nobles. The Reddened Visitor was chased from the City Within to the Farthest, so The Raft tells, or locked away to waste to bones - though this was long before Watch and Temple turned bitter to Visitors and dared the worst from the Beautiful Stranger.

So it was that true gems from the Reddened Visitor came by trade and left at the points of spears; some to nobles, some lost, some to those of the City Without - to those who take with greatest skill and forcefulness. Thief's Favors, they are, to mark those tasks and debts that must be marked most deeply - what better use for wealth beyond measure, wealth beyond coin, wealth forbidden by the Council of Traders?

[ Posted by Reason on January 12, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

False Coin From the Farthest City

False lead this is, hidden amidst good Temple coin - see here the way it slides too much or too little into the coinbox, see here the weight of it and the shape of it. No, this is no coin from the priests of the Vessel ... but it hasn't the look of thieves to it, mind. That, now, that is something in the heart for merchant folk, to know the touch of thievery from afar - but who is to say whether the Farthest City touches on pouches and coffers just as on roads and cityfolk.

No now, another mayhaps, but you I know well; we have traded for seasons, and seasons before I have packed casks for Ganneth who counted the same coin to Talmur ends. The Watch will hear nothing of it - but take the wisdom of trading folk to heart and send this lead back to the Farthest whence it came.

[ Posted by Reason on January 21, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Three Stones > Organizations

Council of Traders

It was the great-great-grandmother of the present Lord Verden who decreed all guilds to be illegal in Three Stones. This was in the years before the Temple gained control of Three Stones from the noble families. Traders, merchants and artisans of the time were forced to pledge their first allegience to the city, personified by Lady Verden and her appointees. The new arrangement was formalized in the Council of Traders, an organization that has persisted in much the same form to the present day.

The Council is made up of appointed representatives from various recognized professions in the City Within and members of the most influential noble families. The Council settles disputes, manages a growing retinue of functionaries, adds to an already arcane and contradictory set of regulations, and often sets prices and quotas. As such, the Council chambers are constantly busy with artisans seeking favors and favorable treatment. The very nature of the Council of Traders ensures that the only merchants and crafters to prosper in the City Within are those who have cultivated relationships with nobles or their pawns - the Lords and Ladies of Three Stones do very well as a result of these arrangements.

Trade and crafting amongst the poor of the City Without proceed in a hidden and transient fashion; commoners who dwell outside the walls are not permitted to work under the auspices of the Council, but neither are they permitted to work without these "protections." Nevertheless, the City Without hides thriving black markets in goods made expensive by taxes and restrictions in the City Within. Representatives of the Council convince Temple priests to send Guard or Watch through the slums of the City Without to knock down stalls, destroy tools and burn goods once every few seasons.

[ Posted by Reason on February 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Devotees of the Beautiful Stranger

The shrine of the Beautiful Stranger in the City Within is a modest circular stone structure of sloped walls, surmounted by a low, vaulted dome. It stands midway between the city walls and the Court of Three Stones, surrounded by small wooden dwellings, stone-paved paths and garden plots of herbs and unusual flowers.

The sick, injured and dying of Three Stones come to the shrine of the Beautiful Stranger for aid and comfort, there to be tended by a small order of devotees, healers, acolytes and volunteers. The interior of the shrine is lamp-lit and suffused with scented smoke day and night, summer and winter. The vaulted space is divided by wooden screens and platforms to provide some semblance of privacy for folk too ill to leave or who have no other place to go. Supplicants who come to leave coin or other gifts for the Beautiful Stranger - for luck, to give thanks for an unexpected kindness, or to guard against the Farthest - go no further than the weathered stone statue of the Beautiful Stranger in the entrance hall, robed as a healer of the old Ammand and wreathed in dried flowers.

The speaker for the order of devotees - by general acclaim - is Aretole, an unacknowledged daughter of the present Lord Verden, a man who feels he must deny even those past youthful excesses that cannot be hidden. Tending to the sick while also ensuring the needs of the shrine has proven to be a demanding task; the order grows and fades on the strength of the leading devotees. Aretole's determination and selflessness weigh on her, more so than for most devotees, even those who go forth into the City Without to practice the healing arts. Aretole looks older than her years, often appearing more ill than many who rest within the shrine.

By tradition, devotees of the Beautiful Stranger treat all who ask for aid with no concern for history, feelings, cost or coin. The shrine is supported by donations and largess, in coin or kind, and recipients of aid who fail to make an appropriate donation in turn will soon find themselves in poor favor. Cityfolk gossip on these and other matters, and devotees of the Beautiful Stranger are held in high regard in Three Stones.

For all that, little love is lost between devotees at the shrine and the black-armored Watch. Poor, sick folk from the City Without move through the gatehouse to the shrine in the City Within each day - those who can pay the toll, at least. It is no great secret that Jaldra of the Watch would close the great red iron gates of Three Stones to the folk of the City Without - if only the High Priest of the Vessel Ascendant allowed it. It is also no great secret that Aretole would rather the Watch guarded another city somewhere else in Creation.

[ Posted by Reason on May 29, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

People and Places
The Enclave > Known Roads > Three Stones > People and Places

Walls of Three Stones

Three Stones remains a walled city, unlike Port; the walls of Three Stones have only grown larger with the passing of generations. The main city wall, built of weathered blocks carved long ago from the closest of Krineth's Hills, is a good eight spans high and just as thick. Spearmen of the Guard patrol the broad wall top, keeping watch for Neth or those who would make an unorthodox entry to the City Within.

When approaching Three Stones from the Stone Road, New Road or Trade Road, only the largest structures project above the wall - the Temple of Powers, the Black Tower, the gatehouse facing the New Road, the Guard Keep. Enormous solid red iron gates are set into the city gatehouse, never opened in the hours of darkness, the only way for most travelers to enter and leave the City Within. All are taxed and searched under the eyes of the Watch.

The high city walls give way to a far less impressive barricade at the end of the Great Way facing Krineth's Hills. A more recent stone construction three spans high, this serves to keep the poor of the City Without from entering the City Within. In cold seasons when lesser Neth color the snow with commoner blood, the wall serves the City Within well also. The thick wooden gate linking the two halves of Three Stones is rarely opened.

A similar lesser wall surrounds the Guard Keep, built outside the high wall on the New Road side of Three Stones. Well-guarded gates lead from the Keep and its training ground into the City Within and out to the New Road.

[ Posted by Reason on February 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

High Priests of the Vessel Ascendant

Blood! There's much to be said of her is what I'm saying. Mending bridges with Tarlen of the Library; keeping Lord Dren's retinue and the Guard civil when Jaldra's Watch blades push harder; keeping the City Without as quiet as it's going to be. By the Vessel, Sara even had Lady Talmur and Lord Verden eating at the same table not five summers past! There's strength in that, mastery even. She may not have commissed a statue to join those of the other High Priests before she fell ill, but don't mistake modesty for anything else.

So now she's up in the high Temple rooms for two seasons despite the best the healers can do. Hadren is a strong one, yes, but he doesn't have Sara's touch; not half a season was Sara ill afore Hadren as the Vessel Ascendant stood in Krineth Hill stone in the Temple hall. He may have the Temple priests and Watch behind him, but not the Library, nor the noble families. Yes, and I know where you stand, as you know for I.

There's strength in not doing, just as there's strength in doing, mark me well. This raising of taxes for a new Hall of Burning Truth on the Great Way, talk of laws, and Watch blades blooded in the City Without just last season; Hadren is one to watch. He'll build something great in the name of the Vessel ... or pull it all down around us in the trying of it.

[ Posted by Reason on May 7, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

At the New Road Gatehouse

Flames and burning! Look at those City Without rabble - and the gate not even opened for the day. It is a wonder the sun rises at all when that is the view presented to it. Abeth, you are not to be taking up your blade with breastplate smeared! Those who huddle beyond the gate are leavings, scraps beneath the barrel, but we are not. We stand in black Watch plate worthy of service to the Burning Truth, or we do not stand at all - this I vow, by Jaldra's watchful eye.

Now bar the walltop doors; I'll have none of Lord Dren's goats in armor crossing the Gatehouse by day. This is Watch duty, these are Watch walls - ours and ours alone. Thelei, Farer, you'll open the gate in full plate and on your own this day or I'll find worse for you tomorrow. You'll put your backs into it, and you'll thank me for the chance to show strength!

You there, scribe, and you, come forward with the toll chest and your parchments. Why are you not ready on the Causeway? Your chest weighs less than my blade and breastplate, there is a Truth for you, and yet you bend beneath it? If you are not seated with your quills and fancies, taking coin from the rags and rats yonder, afore Thelei and Farer open the gate, I will send them for you - and that you will not like.

[ Posted by Reason on May 15, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Three Stones at the Center of the City

The walled-in Causeway leads, straight as a blade and with no other exit, from the New Road Gatehouse and determined, black-armored Watch to the Court of Three Stones at the center of the City Within. From the shade of the inner Causeway arch, a place for City Guard patrols to rest their spears in warmer seasons, a newly arrived traveler faces the rough, black stone monoliths that give Three Stones its name.

The Three Stones, an imposing sight in any season, stand on a grassy mound surrounded by a low stone wall and the bustle of city life. Streets radiate out from the paved Court to all parts of the City Within, making it a hub for travel inside the city walls. Traders and troubadors take advantage of the stream of common folk to chase after leaden coin, watched by City Guards and lazing noble retainers. Through a combination of decree and tradition, buildings abutting the Court are entered through other streets. Neither windows nor doors face the Three Stones on their grassy mound and the Court walls are thick.

Like all remnants of the Draugh, the Three Stones - and the looming Black Tower, taller than even the Temple of Powers - have stood in their present location for far longer than the surrounding works of Ammander and Vanished Isle folk. There is an air of age to the paved Court of Three Stones that the cries of entertainers and lesser merchants, strutting noble retainers and the chatter of common folk going about their business do little to dispel.

[ Posted by Reason on May 16, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Great Way

The Great Way is a long, stone-paved street, wide as a court and busy with cityfolk from sunrise to sunset. It runs from the lesser wall and thick wooden gate facing the City Without and Krineth's Hills deep into the City Within, past the visible signs of wealth and power in Three Stones. Noble manses, the houses of wealthy merchants and influential priests, a small private park, looming Watch barracks and chambers of the Council of Traders all face onto the Great Way. The inner end of this great paved road is but a short walk from other centers of influence in Three Stones: the Temple of Powers, the Library and the Black Tower.

Ten wide, deep wells stand in a line along the Great Way. They are the sole source of water for the City Within; water carriers and cityfolk crowd at the wells throughout the morning on any given day, in sun, rain or snow. Noble retainers fetch their water at sundown and expect lesser folk to keep their distance. In the very center of the Great Way, a raised platform is given over to affluent or favored traders and craftsmen; rare and expensive goods change hands for leaden coin beneath their colored awnings.

Both Watch and Guard patrol the Great Way by day, yet thieves from the City Without still make it their hunting ground. It is better in their eyes to steal from those who oppress the poor of the City Without than from common folk in the Grand Market on the far side of Three Stones.

[ Posted by Reason on May 17, 2005 | Permanent Link ]


The dead of Three Stones have been buried for generations in the sprawling, unkempt Gravefields, ever since cruel Neth overtook the old tombs in Krineth's Hills. The Gravefields have become a maze with the passing of seasons and the passing of lives: aging grave markers, spreading trees and collapsing, overgrown mausoleums now press up against the Stone Road and New Road close to the city walls. A modest shrine dedicated to the Traveler stands a little way from the New Road, once home to priests who tended the Gravefields, but now infrequently used.

The Farthest presses close in any tangle of graves and crypts; common folk of the City Without and Guard spears who walk the walls of the City Within tell frightening tales of what can be glimpsed in the Gravefields by moonlight - or by day, for those unwise enough to wander far from the Roads. The Farthest Gravefield is no place for mortal folk no matter where it is entered, but the Gravefields of Three Stones have a noteworthy and dire reputation. The poor dwellings of the City Without are not built close to the Stone Road and New Road, and travelers do not arrive at Three Stones after dark - the great red iron gate facing the New Road is closed and barred at nightfall.

[ Posted by Reason on May 19, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Nobles of Three Stones

Now and now, I don't mean to offend, but your talk is all bones and litter - all folk have their Lords and Ladies, such is the way of things in the world and the Farthest. Truth, save for the stonefolk under the mountains, but they are who they are. Why, I'll wager your ancestors were sent out a-trading on the Unending Sea by mighty Lords from the Vanished Isles. It is the way for mortal folk, and even Magi seafarers were mortal.

No, now! Your Port nobles are a covey of come-latelies - merchant and trader coin all, not a drop of noble blood from the old Ammand in any one of them, mark my words. No, the true noble lines came to Three Stones far and many years ago; Lord Verden, Lady Talmur and their folk are of the old blood, descendants of Ammand kings. Truth, a Lord is as a Lord does, and just look about you and see! Three Stones is a great keep for the old Verdens and Talmurs, greater than any keep built for an Ammand king, I'll wager. Afore the Temple came to power, the Lords of Three Stones ruled like Lords should. Just you pay the red gate toll and look for yourself at the stonework they wrought.

Well and well, Dren is no Lord in my eyes. He may be a blade after the old fashion, may have ridden with the Emerald Company, but he might as well be a commoner raised to Guard captain for all the blood he shows. No fire in him, I say, no manse nor retinue either - lets the Watch and priests of the Vessel tread him under. Look at Lady Talmur, now, there's a noble worthy of the name! A generation she's been Lady of her family and not one to be crossed, not by retainer, blood relative nor priest. It may have been a Verden who brought noble blood to its rightful place in Three Stones, but the Talmur family kept it there - brave the Neth in the hills and you'd see three Talmur tombs for each Verden laid to rest.

Folk have forgotten the way life should be and there's a truth. Following the rule of priests and Watch as though they were noble folk - that's not right nor well, and I'll say that to any who care to listen. You and your mules will be away on the Trade Road on the morrow, but I'll still be here in the City Without. One day the Lords and Ladies of the old blood will take their place again, and all folk will be the better for it.

[ Posted by Reason on May 21, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Parchment From the Farthest Library

Welcome again, Hethei. Might I take it from your early appearance that the tome you clutch was of no use to your master in the Black Tower? As I thought ... well and well, we shall simply have to do better, will we not? The road of the Seeker is never straight, nor well marked - I acknowledge your frustration, but a scribe must learn the limitations of the Library, just as she learns her own.

No, leave it with the acolytes here in the sunlight; they will find a place for it amongst the darker shelves and corridors before the day is done. Strangers' ink and parchment has a way about it; your tome will find its way home if given a good enough start. It might even be that a Power has need of it, no? Well and well, as you please.

Come, walk a way with me amongst the pillars and stacks, closer to the Farthest Library; let us leave the priests and readers to their work. You have a talent for strangers' inkwork, Hethei, or so I hear. It is what brings you here so often at the beck and call of an unappreciative sage. Ah, you do me too much justice; I simply listen to the talk of scribes and acolytes. I would be a poor priest if I did not have some understanding those who Seek.

Not more than ten nights past, here in this very aisle, I watched a dripping vision of beauty return books to the shelves. I bowed and pointed a way back to the Farthest ... the water marks remain on the stone, and here, look at this bound volume - is it not simply exquisite? It would be the work of mortal years and require skill decades in the making were it scribed and illuminated in the Ammander tradition. What secrets lie within? I could not say and none of us will know, for it waits to return to the Farthest from whence it came.

You have come here many times seeking parchment and ink from the Farthest Library, but you know that there is more here than all the sages of Creation could ever know. To be a scribe for the rest of your road? I would be surprised. You would be welcome to stay longer in our Library, Hethei, should you choose so. Think on it as I ponder how best to better the last tome found for your master.

[ Posted by Reason on May 25, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Black Tower

The Black Tower of Three Stones is an uneven, rough crag jutting from the ornate, worn paving stones of the Tower Court, the work of Draugh or long-departed Datarii if the old tales are to be believed, made of the same black stone as the Three Stones that give the city its name. The Black Tower looms high and broad over the surrounding buildings, a invulnerable monolith writ large or fragment cleft from a greater mountain. The thin windows of its highest crags look down on even the vaulted dome of the Temple of Powers.

As for many remnants of the long-distant past, there is a potency to the Black Tower - more than just the nature of its stone. Commonfolk tell hushed stories of what might lie within the darker spaces of the tower of sages; stonefolk wizardry from long ago, things best forgotten or left well alone. The wizardry of the Tower drew The Denier and other sages to it many generations ago, before the city of Three Stones came to be.

The Black Tower has neither door nor gateway, yet sages, scribes and lesser folk have come and gone across the generations - and come and go still, even now. The Expected Smile once wrote of The Denier that "he quested mightily and for many seasons to find one beneath the mountains who knew the secret of the black crag and stones. Yet he had carried the secret with him all along, that entrance is given to those who need." It is today just as it was then; those who need to be within will find the way. For those who do not, the Black Tower remains a rough-walled mystery of high windows and no door - as much a secret as the activities of the remaining sages of Three Stones who dwell within.

[ Posted by Reason on May 26, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Guard Keep

The Guard Keep stands outside the City Within, but is surrounded by an extension of the lesser, Hills-facing wall at the end of the Great Way. It is a thick-walled, imposing stone structure that looms over the nearby city, serving as a barracks, crafthall and armory for the Guard of Three Stones. More than just a place for spearmen to rest, the Keep is home to a number of smiths, armorers and other commonfolk who serve the needs of the Guard. Much of the trade carried out within the Keep is against the Law of Three Stones - as laid down by magisters and priests of the Temple of Powers - but Lord Dren's influence protects the Guard and Keep from the Council of Traders, Watch and Temple alike.

Lord Dren is a legend in his own lifetime to spearmen throughout the Enclave; a man who denied his own nobility to ride with the Emerald Company, who fought side by side with the commoner Tarurn to slay Trespassers in the Farthest Winter. Lord Dren and his estranged half-brother are the last of their line. He holds no great wealth, nor a manse in the City Within - indeed, he is rarely seen beyond the Guard Keep these past years.

With each new day, spearmen leave the Guard Keep for the King's Keep, away down the New Road, passing companion warriors returning from their journeys. It is no deterrant that these travelers must traverse the City Within with arms packed away and face the disapproval of Watch blades at the great Gatehouse. Spearpriests from the great shrine at the King's Keep are not an unusual sight in the training grounds beside the Guard Keep, and many Guard spears pay their respects to the King of All the Ammand or follow the King's Way. A modest shrine to the King is hidden away deep within the Guard Keep, but is well used despite its small size and inconvenient location.

[ Posted by Reason on June 5, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Three Stones > People and Places > Taverns

The Bitten Eye

The scarred door to the Bitten Eye stands in a narrow and unpaved alley beside unkempt stables, a stream of mud in wet weather or following the last snows of winter. The alley entrance faces the Trade Road at the edge of the City Without, marked by a large, battered wooden ball carved - and once painted - into the stylized likeness of a bleeding, dead eye. Folk come and go from alley and stables throughout the day and night.

The Bitten Eye is a merchants' tavern, catering to traders who choose not to enter the City Within - those of modest means or less reputable agendas. The Council of Traders and law of Three Stones essentially forbid trading in the City Without - or in coin other than priestly lead - but trade takes place anyway, hidden and expensive. The Bitten Eye is a meeting place for those who defy the Council to earn a living, as well for traders passing through Three Stones to the Trade Road, New Road or Stone Road. For all the whispered conversations, knowing looks and assignations, the Bitten Eye is usually a peaceable enough establishment for folk who can keep questions to themselves. Hired spearmen in the stables across the alley are enough to keep thieves away from mules and goods - but thieves of the City Without are often enough on other side of the table, making what would be an open, honest trade in any other part of the Enclave.

The stables of the Bitten Eye are of tumbledown wooden construction, but the Eye itself is a solid enough stone building. The shutters and doors of the ground floor are iron-backed; regular visitors can point to the stains of Neth bile from five years before, or the deep cuts of Watch axes on the front shutters from the previous summer.

[ Posted by Reason on May 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Third Flame

The Third Flame Inn is mostly hidden away behind thick grey stone walls on a paved street leading onto the Great Way. Hired spears in red iron and expensive cloth guard the entrance, for the Third Flame is a meeting place for the wealthiest and most influential of Three Stones; nobles, priests of the Temple of Powers, Watch captains, magisters and merchants with influence in the Council of Traders - and renowned sages, in past times. The high-born and influential meet behind four walls and in the great carved cellar of the Third Flame. Retainers, guards, servants and lesser brethren drink and dine on a wooden deck overlooking the Great Way, calling down to friends and cityfolk, wagering on the fate of thieves, suitors and those who bargain with well-dressed tradesfolk.

The high-vaulted cellar of the inn is set into booths and long tables, lit by a smokeless stranger's flame - the Third Flame itself - burning tall and hot, purple and white by turns. The carved walls depict scenes from the history of Three Stones in between shelves holding curios and engravings.

The Third Flame Inn has stood for generations; the origin of the stranger's flame in the cellar is a mystery, however. It was never unveiled by the merchant who rebuilt the inn and enlarged the cellar, now long passed from the World. The inn was already much as it is when it passed into the hands of Tivia, an austere old woman who was once a trusted retainer to Lady Talmur. Tales are told as to just how is was that the previous owner went before the magisters, and thence to the prison vaults in chains, fined all his possessions - but many similar tales are told by the poor folk of Three Stones.

One new addition to the rich decor is a statue of the High Priest Hadren as the Vessel Ascendant, a smaller replica of that recently placed in the Temple of Powers; the innkeeper is a shrewd old woman, well versed in the ways of power.

[ Posted by Reason on December 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Goat's Tankards

The Goat's Tankards is a haggard stone structure, slumped against the base of the great city wall in the City Without. The slanting roof would give a view of the Stone Road and flanking watchtower hills, were any so foolish as to trust their weight to the sagging beams and leaky thatch.

No-one has owned the Tankards since the aged barkeep Lafal passed from the World five winters ago, but the poorest of commonfolk in the City Without haven't stopped coming to drink as they always did. Honest farm folk and crafters made poor by the Council of Traders have always taken their ale side by side with lesser thieves, outcasts and coinless travelers. Now the honest commonfolk pool their leaden coin to bargain casks of bad ale from passing traders at the Bitten Eye, and appoint one another barkeep or "Lord Lafal" for a night.

Above the Tankards' doorway, covered against summer rain or winter wind by rough boards rather than door and frame, hang battered wooden mugs on rusted chains, remnants of an old tavern tradition in the City Without. A prancing goat statue once hung with them, but that has long been gone. The poor folk come to drink, but the Tankards continues to decay a little more each winter; soon enough the roof will fall in, and the drinking will continue elsewhere.

[ Posted by Reason on December 28, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Road of Spears

The Road of Spears is a little more than piled ale-casks, wooden slats for shade, open walls and bundled spears for posts. It stands, such as it is, atop the lowest grey stone blocks at the unfinished end of the City Wall closest to the Guard Keep. Those within overlook the coming and going of Guard spears from the Keep and Great Way - and, often as not, spearpriests and their followers from the King's Keep, come from the New Road and through the red iron gate of Three Stones.

Spearmen, Guard and their friends crowd the Road of Spears from the middle of the day until dusk, for the ale is cheap and plentiful. Casks are rolled along the Great Way from the Grand Market across the City Within by tens, morning and night - commonfolk say it's Lord Dren's coin that pays the traders. There are no steps up to the makeshift Guard tavern, however, and few commonfolk are helped up span-high blocks by the spears above.

The Road of Spears is named for an ancient, half-forgotten song, and a tale older still - a tale of spearmen of the old Ammand, betrayed and beset. A standing spear stood above each of the fallen on the long road between two cities; in the end, only one of the company remained to ensure the tale was told. The song is known to spearpriests, the tale to sages, but commonfolk and honest spears of the Enclave know little of such distant times and places.

[ Posted by Reason on January 6, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Traveler's Stone
The Enclave > Known Roads > Traveler's Stone

Bending of the Middle Road

The Traveler has walked all Roads, yes, and walked the wild Enclave before the Roads were laid by Magi traders and Ammander folk - for who but a traveler to see where a Road will one day pass? When the Traveler first carried pack and staff across Enclave grass and hills, through the forest vale where the Middle Road would be in seasons to come, he came to a most pleasant place - a town of honest, generous folk at the base of a high mountain, on the shores of a placid lake. The townsfolk made the finest wine and lived a simple life of plenty and comfort, untroubled by the ills of other mortal folk. There, the traveler rested, laid down his staff for the very first time, for the town was named Journey's End. Yet in time, the Power of Roads left the pleasant town beneath the mountain and beside the lake, left the honest folk and finest wine, for travels yet to come were in his blood and would not let him rest. He bade a fond farewell, with the promise that he would return in seasons to come.

Seasons passed, winters came and went. The Traveler walked far and wide, deep into the Farthest and upon many Roads. Where he walked, staff in hand and pack on his back, he walked in the manner of one who will one day return home - and in this, he differed from the Power who first came to the Middle Road.

In time, the Traveler turned his feet back to the Middle Road in Enclave lands - but he found the Road had changed. No longer did it lead to the town beneath the mountain and beside the lake, but rather the Road came to a great black stone, then circled and folded upon itself to return whence it came. Of Journey's End and its pleasant folk, there was no sign.

"Why have you bent the Middle Road away from Journey's End?" the Traveler asked of the stone. But stone is stone, even black stone, and has no voice, even to answer the Power of Roads. The Traveler asked only himself, knowing full well his own nature. So it was that he walked on in a journey without end, and so it was that Ammander folk followed the Middle Road to find the Traveler's Stone - and built their homes about it amidst the trees.

[ Posted by Reason on August 12, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Springhouse Beneath the Great Tree

A natural spring bubbles up from between two great roots of the largest tree of Traveler's Stone, and Ammander folk long ago built a stone-walled springhouse to enclose it. Fresh water flows from the mouth of a crouching cat within the springhouse to a stone-lined channel that meanders slowly downslope between the trees and houses of the village. The springwaters empty into the green Still Water by the guardhouse, from there draining into a stream that runs away to unknown places and the Farthest.

The Great Tree has grown and broadened since the springhouse stones were first laid; one wall is close to collapse, and the cat crouches at an angle. As for so much of the old Ammander stonework in Traveler's Stone, little has been done to repair the ravages of root and branch beyond the placement of wooden beams for support.

The Springhouse would be a peaceful, contemplative place were it not for the constant coming and going of villagefolk. The stone channel is most crowded at dawn and dusk; the traditional times to fetch water and tell the tales of lesser folk since the seasons of the old Ammand.

[ Posted by Reason on August 15, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Cudal Who Both Keeps and Breaks the Peace

Barely half of the season is gone since I left for Three Stones, and how quickly you all forget, you of the trees and and you of the old shrine. But here I stand, returned to my manse in hope of quiet, and there you lie - and be glad I found pleasant company on the New Road, else I would run you through and through and leave you all speared upon the green grass, that much is truth. By the Powers and the Emerald, take your broken bones and be gone from my sight afore I change my mind!

[ Posted by Reason on August 18, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Amidst Trees, the Farthest

The homes and halls of Traveler's Stone are scattered amidst the trees and knolls of a wooded vale, linked by crossing paths and centered on the great black Stone itself. For all its modest size, Traveler's Stone calls to the Farthest like the streets and crowds of Three Stones or Port; the village borders on stranger villages, just as those cities border the Farthest City.

Traveler's Stone is as a wave-washed isle at the crossing of tides, reached across the narrow isthmus of the Middle Road and its passage through the dark, close Traveler's Wood. A glimpse of Visitors through the trees is not uncommon, or so the tales tell - and those who journey to Traveler's Stone must watch their path with care lest they become Lost.

A certain type of folk come to dwell in this place of the Power of Roads, a journey's end that isn't - folk less settled, the curious, those who honor the old ways of the Ammand that was, those with mystery in their blood.

[ Posted by Reason on August 19, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Two Springs
The Enclave > Known Roads > Two Springs

The Lazing Mule

Aye, and there's the Lazing Mule, and none too soon with the sun low and feet worn from the Stone Road. Lanterns lit and hung already, mark me, and that would be right and proper were she a vessel afloat.

Tis easy enough to see the name, I say, but a sight harder to say whether a mule means four legs and hide or two legs and a coin pouch. Plenty enough of the latter you'll be seeing inside, aye. Certain merchant folk take to arriving twixt the hills all too early in the day, the better to drink themselves to a sodden head by the next morning. You and I - and these two spears, by Salin's long left hand! - will be the better for a night of rest such as honest folk take.

Aye, and there's that. More coin than I'd like goes to Two Springs for the passage, for what little is given in return. Roofing the Council manse in chains, we trader folk may as well be. Craw and spine! But coin not poured away to ale is coin for toll and tax at Three Stones, mark me, and there will be need for both - honest rest it is!

Remember, lad, nothing of trade and coin inside the Lazing Mule; Jalla can't abide the talk of merchant folk, for all she was striding the Stone Road just as we are for ten summers, and ten winters likewise. Aye, and she and her folk are big and broad, just like her inn. Find yourself out and upside-down, you will, and a plate broken on your head for measure - aye, and there'll be no shortage of laughing and pointing for more seasons than you'd like, I'll wager.

It's not all spears and blades; the spined eel is stuffed, spiced and still good this far from honest salt and the Unending Sea - and Salin's crew wouldn't run from the ale casks. Aye, none of the commonfolk fare from land, tree and field as we'll be suffering in Three Stones, and there's a thing worth the coin.

[ Posted by Reason on January 17, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Coin for the Wizardry of True Islemarks

Every fisher touched by Magi blood can carve lines in driftwood taken from the same Unending Sea once sailed by wizardry and tradeships. Seafarers carve and daub and speak of marks handed down from Magi of the Isles; yet there is no more wizardry in that driftwood, nor on prow, door, nor red iron from the Guild, than was before. No, it is to me you have come for true marks of the Isles, for remnants of old wizardry.

Afore the Vanishing, when tradeships brought your folk from afar, there was much of wizardry in Creation. The Magi made rivers of the Unending Sea, servants of the wind and rain, the better to carry great vessels to a hundred ports. Marks and signs were but the very least of the wonders of the Isle, garnered from the corners of Creation, but that least is all that remains - few of darker blood have but even that. You pale folk of spears and the land, you have no sense of sea, of salt and wizardry. You are blind to what is lost.

And what would be my living in Port? Who of the cityfolk to tell of old wizardry amidst pretty islemarks cast as eelscales upon the fishers? I hear the Unending Sea and passage of tradeships in the bubbling of streams from the springs, and the echo of vanished Magi in the trade of worthy folk who know well enough to find me. Well and well, it is a kind enough road for an old fisher, too old to pull on lines and sails.

[ Posted by Reason on January 19, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Spears Against Whispers

Blood! This is good ale! I won't be asking whence it came, mark me, but coin will be found, come spears or blades, afore the next cask rolls to my feet.

Coin the Council has aplenty, and coin beyond that, I say. Watching young Rannal count gold on gold for the spears I've called, now there's a call for ale! Tax the merchants for the Stone Road and give coin to the spears say the Council, and trader purses grow fatter than the coffers of the spearpriests under the summer sun, that I know. Let the Trade Guild wail and shed tears - a fine vengeance for every coin charmed from honest folk by thieves dressed in merchant finery, and there's the truth of it!

By the Emerald, were there ever a finer purse to be taking than that of Two Springs! Tallun, now, he has it in his fattened heart that the Whisperwood will up and walk on roots to claim the old beams and posts of manse and hall. Blood! It's a dire place, and there's that and true, but not one tree of it can be seen least you climb the hills - and then good and far. Fear in fine clothes means a loose purse, and spears well kept, mark my words. You'll not see a spear's courage given to where it has no place, no, for coin is coin.

[ Posted by Reason on January 19, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Spears Against Guildfolk

By the King's Spear! You'll not be walking Port streets this summer or next, not while coin and pretty farmfolk girls are to be found a strong arm's cast from this very doorway. You Coast Road folk, the salt sits in your hearts - but you still came for coin dug from village councillors by Elas of the Company. Blood! Just as I or Merrine, and there's the truth, long and sharp as this spear.

Coin for thieves? Hah! May as well be coin thrown into the Lothar and washed to sea - the only thief worth the name in Two Springs is the one to have taken Merrine's heart, and him moonfaced after her this past season. A real thief from the City Without to knock spear to head good and hard, now that I'd give coin for.

No, a purse to catch a thief, naught but pretty words to keep spears Elas brought from Guard and militia from their ale - and the more for him thereby, blood! We'll earn our coin when greed for a full coinbox and cries of merchant folk bring the Trade Guild from warm beds and salt air - bring spears from Port alongside, mark me.

Two seasons more, I say, but the King's Way will be calling me after first snow - cold and Neth, mayhaps, but there'll be honest coin for it and honest spearpriests to lead past the River Road.

[ Posted by Reason on January 21, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Spring Water and the Strangers' Pool

Well and well, you'll not be the first spear to ask, not since you and yours chased the young folk from their bathing where the spring streams meet, with your leers after daughters and rough ways. A man is a man, spear or not, but there's ways and ways about - best to learn those to win you friends amongst folk, I say. Elas and our Council may speak fine and well, but there'll be fewer spears come next summer lest broken ways are mended.

Strangers' Pool it is, for a generation now, since young folk came running and screaming from Trespassers. The Pool is far enough from orchard and cottage that we found nothing but the smell of them and a strangeness to the water, but linger it did, in the waters and in the heart. Young folk now forget these tales, or don't believe the telling of them - but they're the only folk in Two Springs who'll brave the Pool.

All young folk look to the moon a little - and who's to say there is wrong in that? Mayhaps spears have naught to fear from strangers come from far, mayhaps not. My hair is whitened, but I am no sage to know such; mark me, mind, I'd not be one to use water where the spring streams meet.

[ Posted by Reason on January 22, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Visitor's Cottage, Stranger's Field

Lell, now, she has a heart to her, cried fit to die twixt midwinter and last snow - when the Lost half-folk came from the Farthest Fields two summers past and died of I know not what. Since and now she's kept the Visitor's cottage cleaned, cut the vines from the Beautiful Stranger in white stone, chased out the grime. More's the pity, I say, than when she gave eyes to us and ours. Harard's grandfather knows the old folks' song of a time the statue was brought from Port and the cottage given to red-eyed, strange-tongued folk, folk who lived here as we do afore the Traveler called them elsewhere in Creation. Ah, but who is to say?

I know this, and mark me, tis a stranger's cast-off green that grows in the field by the Visitor's cottage. Given over it is, like the Farthest come to the Enclave, and neither goat nor bird will take to it. Still and well - with Davet's brother Lost in the fields these seasons since the stranger's storm, best to speak of Lell and tell of a likewise cottage under the eye of the Beautiful Stranger, tell of a Farthest Village of kindly, honest folk.

[ Posted by Reason on January 23, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Lady of Field, Orchard and Farmfolk

Not to forget the Lady, now, afore we build up the orchard walls this day. Commonfolk we may be, but work enough and you and yours will be a Power of Creation, and there's a truth. You start with the tumble from where the tree fell in midwinter, and I'll take to finding hold-stones - and none of your idling, mark me!

Happened and truth that the Lady tended field, orchard and goat-pen under the Ammand moon - and the best of all farmfolk she came to be, for all her noble blood. No farm the like it in all Creation, I say! She passed the end of her Road, as for all folk, passed from the Ammand, but her ways were told - and farmfolk listened. So it is, well and well, the mark of Lady Moonlit upon the last rock we set here.

Tis good work, but mark me, work can always be better! Remember that when next casting an eye to the Lady.

[ Posted by Reason on January 26, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Two Brothers Meet After First Snow

By the saltblocks! A fine day it is for seafarer and spear to be meeting with ale on the hilltop. Warm and bright, and so soon after first snow! I was afeared we see no better than two summers hence, rain and rain fit for a new sea, and us wet over poor ale and mud in the Lazing Mule. Wet I know, and wet should be with salt and song, not doused as merchants under wood and thatch.

You have the longer road to Two Springs, aye, hence it's my coin buys the ale - and you the eel to carry the cask. You'll raise your claws just the same with each new summer, and we'll do just the same ... leastways til you return to Port, or I lose my senses and leave the dockside for Three Stones. There would be a fine song to be sung!

Aye, mud there is aplenty, but mud there always will be. Look down and yonder, spears treading up the Stone Road to Port - all the more to stand about the Guild Bridge for thieves' coin, making trouble for honest folk this summer, mark me. Better for we eels to be on the other slope, rocks and thorns aside - I'd give more coin for a view of fields and the far Whisperwood this day.

Craws and spines! Same eyes as I you have, for all you put them to no use, carrying a spear in your City Within. Out and far, see the ruins there, a half-cast to the wood and beyond the farmfolk. Like as the fishers say stands in the Low Marsh where no folk hunt, or cursed Lorn - naught so sorry as a home without folk, aye.

[ Posted by Reason on January 27, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Halved Barn

Few enough of villagefolk in the Lazing Mule ... beyond the kitchen and ale-cellar, leastways. Jalla keeps an inn for merchant folk, aye, and Two Springs spears paid with taxed merchant coin these past seasons.

No, farmfolk take their ale in the Halved Barn, stone and thatch away from the Stone Road and near the orchards. Like fishers and thieves on the dockside, they'll keep to their own casks, and slow to warm to traveling folk come to the door. The innkeep is friendly enough for Port folk as ourselves, aye, even seafarers come along the Road to Three Stones, but trade and sailing on it is. If I'm to be drinking, it's to be with song, a good crew and a warm fire, mark me, not ill stares and whispers.

Aye, afore the fair at One Stone, even Two Springs is bursting with folk. Players prancing on the grass, young folk showing off a winter of cloth and needlework, summer traders chasing fair coin and mules to overflow the stables yonder. Come from the Stone Road too late in the day and the boards of the Halved Barn might be all there is for sleep, aye, and that for too much coin!

But enough! Tis late and late for tale and song; early we'll be rising, the better to rest at One Stone and far from the Whisperwood when night next falls.

[ Posted by Reason on January 31, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Tradefolk and Visitors From the Farthest Roads

Craws and spines! Look at this! You had the spears packing casks, aye, and packing them again you'll be, and under my eyes! We'll not be stopping on the Stone Road for an ill-laden mule, not this side of One Stone. Hurry now - the day is but started and already awasting.

Aye, and now villagefolk come to watch moonfaced traders who cannot seat a mule to work. Are you not done yet? There sits Telen and a seafarer's sash he's not earned his way to wear. Sets out chair and canopy each day, eel amongst crawcrabs, and fancies himself Lord of the Stone Road, aye. I could tell of the songs they sing of him on the dockside, mark me. Menas and his Isleblood kin pay coin for Telen's lazing, against those times strangers come from the Stone Road to trade.

Aye, to Port and Three Stones it may lead, but all Creation besides. Roads are as currents in the Unending Sea, I say. Strange beasts and folk with stranger faces come to Two Springs, and not all are Lost. Noble folk and sages chase such as Visitors have to trade; tis coin fished from the sea, thrown ashore by wave and spray for those with hands on the tiller of the Trade Guild.

[ Posted by Reason on February 4, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

Beams From the Whisperwood

Was a time when all hereabout was just two hills and two streams from two springs; afore Three Stones grew its walls, and when stonefolk brought ancient wizardry to Port in dry summer seasons. We have our orchards these past generations, and stranger's trees besides, standing about and around, Lost as those who planted their seeds. But then and then, not a tree stood by the Stone Road. Whisperwood was all there was for beams and carpentry, and so the first Ammand folk to settle athwart the Road took up ax, rope and many a marker to ward against the Farthest; foresters they were.

So and it was, a fine living they must have made. The forestfolk ruins far to Whisperwood are grander than the Council Manse - a sight to have seen, I say, foresters living as if noblefolk! Cut often and cut well they did, for all the oldest beams here and about came from their work. This table here, mark me, this very table is of Whisperwood - and more the same you'll see under Jalla's thatch.

Now ruins they are and ruins they have been, mind, for no folk brave Whisperwood now. Who is to say what came to those commonfolk? Tis a cursed place, just as Lorn, where the Farthest presses close and the Beautiful Stranger walks not. Best for folk as us to remember well, I say.

[ Posted by Reason on February 5, 2006 | Permanent Link ]

The Enclave > Known Roads > Ura

The Mountain Below

Ura is a Datarii word for mountain, and the name Ammander folk have adopted for the modest community hidden amidst steep hills inland from the Coast Road. The Red Iron Road that winds through the hills from Ura joins the Coast Road some days of travel from the outskirts of Port.

Ammander farm folk and miners of red iron are not the first to make their homes amidst these hills. Long before the seafaring Magi bought their wizardry to Enclave shores, stonefolk had traveled the hidden ways beneath rock and soil, far from the deep vaults and halls of Great Home to find Ura Retii, the Mountain of Distant Places.

To a Datar, a mountain is a mountain whether it is above or below soil and lesser rock. Ammander folk see little of Ura Retii, for it lies entirely beneath the hills. Only the uppermost peaks and veins of red iron are touched by Ammander miners in the open castings and quarries surrounding Ura.

[ Posted by Reason on July 25, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Alla, Who Trades For Stone

Another for the stonefolk! Blood, I can tell your sort - not like honest folk, nor merchants, nor the Red Iron Guild. You have the look of thieves with your sacks and mules loaded with ill-gotten gains. You make an old militia spear want to run you through afore you cause trouble, and there's the truth.

Leastways you have manners, not like some. Shouldn't take my words as harsh - carry a spear under the sun on the Red Iron Road for long enough, you'll see how folks come to look. The stairway to the Mountain Below is closed yet, and may it stay that way this summer! What if Alla stays beneath for five summers, as when I were young? What then? Where would you be with your sacks of rock from here and there? Hah! Worthless, it is, and no honest folk would depend on trade with the stonefolk here.

[ Posted by Reason on July 31, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Modest Sage of Ura

I am always pleased to see you, old friend. It is I who should apologise - what little coin I find in summer is put to more interesting use than the pay of servants and other comforts. I live as though an old man without daughters, a far cry from your more pleasant manse on the slopes of Port, I do not doubt. You would find a more seemly welcome with any of the commonfolk here - a life without ink is a life lived cleanly! Now who scribed that remarkable truth?

No, do not worry. The Guildmaster is a pleasant sort, but vain as black goat. He gifts me a purse around first snow in exchange for a little unseemly and overly flattering creativity. Just between the two of us, I have come to quite enjoy it these past winters; it can be a welcome distraction from more weighty words. Oh, no, it isn't that way at all - I have not become a moonfaced playwright in my solitude here! That said, I am told troubadors in Port are wondering on the source of certain complimentary works. They may like the craftmanship, but I fear the common folk are less enthusiastic. I wonder who shows the most sense? Still, one does what one must to find coin for important matters.

Ah, a patron, yes, I know your heart in this matter. My answer is the same as it was at last snow these two winters past. The childhood of a treatise cannot be rushed - I could no more make spearmen of village children, or apprentices of babes in arms. In truth, this is a large child indeed; I fear I will have need of priests and bookbinders from the Great Library in Three Stones before I am done. A patron for the work itself would not be helpful; I came to Ura in no small part to escape that spearman's pace, as you might recall.

One grows used to the sound of stonework in the distance, I assure you; it is quite condusive to a peaceful heart and meritous thought. You must try some of the cheese and bread - fresh, I promise you, for all the unsightly appearance of my home. You should send word ahead when you next plan to visit, so that at least I would not be forced to revel in the results of my own nature!

I admit, it is easy to forget the privileged position I find myself in. I can declare, without any thrill of mystery, that I talk to the ageless Datarii of the Mountain Below each summer in which they deign to open the stairway. They think it a foolish waste of time, but I have learned a little of what engages their interest these past summers. They are a strange folk, set in their ways like a court of elderly Ladies under a King of the old Ammand - yet knowledgeable and even noble in their own manner. My friend, I can say without doubt that my Conversations With the Datarii of Ura Retii will one day be an important work indeed ... but in time, in time. You can hurry neither white hair nor a Datar.

[ Posted by Reason on August 1, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Goats on the Unquarried Hillsides

The buildings of Ura nestle in a broad bowl between steep-sided hills, most quarried away over the generations. Come rain or shine, the sons and daughters of farmfolk are up on the few untouched hillsides amidst the high grass, keeping their goats from straying into the Farthest Hills. From the goatherd's vantage, all Ura is laid out in plain view, from Red Iron Road to the old, overgrown mine trenches, from the manse of the Red Iron Guildmaster and the Hall of Powers to the lesser manses of village folk aspiring to greater wealth. Muddy, well-used tracks lead away from Ura to hollowed hillsides, stoneworks and open mining pits, passing between orchards and walled farm plots.

Like the goats, few folk stray beyond sight of Ura. The villagefolk are not hunters like the Landsmen of Port, and no-one has left markers in the hills of Ura like those in the grasslands of Port, or in the stony valleys of Krineth's Hills beyond Three Stones. The Farthest presses close beyond the steep hills overlooking Ura, and overly curious folk - or goats - risk losing their way back to the Known Roads.

[ Posted by Reason on August 2, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Coin For Watchful Eyes

I know you, Abental, always sneaking around after we bring the goats down from the hills. Up to no good, I'll wager! What do I hear from Mire about coin in your hands, hmm? What have you been spying while lazing on the High Rock and letting your mother's goats stray?

Aren't you the brave one, out of sight here? You'll keep your goat-games to yourself, least folk think I've been playing them with you - and least I be thinking ill of you. You're not so old you don't have to be afraid of my mother. She'll take a pick to your skull if she has it in her heart that you looked my way twice ... just as well she can't climb with the goats, hmm?

No, show me, stop hiding it! Look at this purse - the Guildmaster's seal and heavy too! How did this much coin find its way into your belt? Abental? Tell me!

[ Posted by Reason on August 3, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

A Weight of Coin For Red Iron

Do you think me moonfaced, bowing to the Sea each night? I did not travel to Guildmastery on the backs of the beasts of ignorance and blindness! All of us here in my rooms know that Gresei no more represents the Black Tower than I represent the foul Neth of Krineth's Hills. I may not know just how much red iron you plan to load upon her mule, but more than would be needed for the quill and inkpot of a sage, mark my words!

I will say this - the Guild is not your adversary, but rather your partner in this noble enterprise of stone and red iron. It is we who set the great weight in coin you earn, and it is we who will gift you coin in return for the red iron you have so carefully set aside. My friends, skilled miners and crafters, I have let much pass beneath my notice these past seasons. For are we not all are of the same family, in the same vessel on the great Unending Sea? But do not forget that it is a boat, and it can be rocked to the detriment of all of us.

Look here, just as you have carefully set aside red iron from the last find against unforseen harder seasons, so too have I set aside coin against the fine products of your talent and hard work. Let this Gresei, whomever she may represent, depart empty-handed, for she will not honor you as will the Guild smiths of Port.

[ Posted by Reason on August 4, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Spears to Guard the Forge

Blood! I speak with Tenlei for a single pour and come back to find you've cost us a pretty purse of coin! You and I, we need to have a talk about the ways of the forge afore too long - I knew it'd be trouble when old Vars took sick right when the new spears come from the Forest Road to look for summer coin. He may have had a stench like bad ale in the sun, and be good for nothing more than holding a spear upright, but leastways he had a nose for coin.

You may have wet your spear in Neth and snow while I've been lazing under fur and down, but you've a few things to learn yet - you and your King's Way! What the Guildmaster's goats say is well and good, but then there's the ways of the forge guard. Who holds your spear while the sun is up, you or the Guildmaster? Mark my words, if someone from the Road comes to talk, all pleasant and friendly, send them to talk to me. You and I, we'll have words later - now get yourself to watch the high windows on the far side of the forge.

[ Posted by Reason on August 6, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

An Explorer From the Farthest Hills

Aye, she was these eight summers past, the explorer on the Red Iron Road. We were blistering our feet on the Coast Road to Port, and learning why mules are better left to Landsmen - brand an islemark of warning on every last one of their hides, I would! It was a stranger's storm from the Farthest Sea left the Great Gemfish beached and broken-masted on the strand at Cael, and it would have been the worse for all the old crew were there not two strong eels at the rudder - aye, and two more for the sail afore it tore away to fly above the saltmarsh Odanmouth. You can be well and sure there was much crying and wailing from the merchant folk on the dockside over the coin and loss, and that was the last any of us sailed for Menas. Hah! The old eel is welcome to his own catch, and 'tis better that way.

Aye, the explorer. I recall it as though it were yesterday. Out of the gulley she stumbled, 'tween the two flat-faced hills beside the red iron marker half a day from Ura - dressed as Krineth would be, but pleasing to a seafarer's eye, mark me well. Lost as any seafarer could be, she was, clear as the marker itself. It was luck we had turned from the Coast Road to the Red Iron Road, luck or the touch of the Beautiful Stranger, mind. Gesal, as lazy an eel as I've ever seen, had upped and talked us into it at the joining of Roads - and I'll be thrown overboard if I recall just what he said that convinced us all. Gesal, aye, Lost to the Unending Sea he was, vanished on a day of fog after last snow three winters past. Taken coin to the Temple of Three we all have these past seasons, and may the Powers watch for him.

Well and well, the tale - aye, and show respect for the Lost, you should. There we were, footsore and trying to make sense of a Visitor's tongue. It's a strange thing, to be walking the Road paved by the Beautiful Stranger and almost to feel you can understand a Visitor, a word here, a word there. Afore too long, she was up, drinking from our water and drawing maps on sailcloth saved from the Gemfish. Came with us to Ura she did, for what else could she do?

[ Posted by Reason on August 6, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Scowls

The Scowls lurk about the outskirts of Ura and the quarries, a clan of large black cats who stalk the line between wild and tamed. The Scowls have a distinctive set to their faces and an angry disposition to match - commonfolk claim they're not cats at all, but rather the Lost descendants of Trespassers from the Farthest Village. A few folk who work the quarries and thin veins of red iron have befriended the Scowls with food and patience over the seasons, but farmfolk cannot stand the creatures - Scowls have been known to scare goats and steal food from tables while backs are turned. Merchants and other travelers far little better: the unaware who arrive dusty from the Red Iron Road in warmer seasons risk a clawing in return for any overture of friendship toward a Scowl sunning itself atop orchard walls.

[ Posted by Reason on August 9, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Broken Pick

By all the stone I've broken, this is good ale! A sight better than when I was younger, and this inn was called the Forge. Here's a tale for you and yours: the old Guildmaster found the barkeep sitting atop red iron and coin, and all who knew were lucky to escape with their skins. Guildmaster Ferth was an angry one, mind, and that was a winter in which I would have been glad to keep goats rather than swing a pick!

Not just strong arms, then - all that talking you do instead of helping me load stone is giving you the heart of a sage. You'll be moonfaced, chasing the stonefolk in high summer with quill and fancy words afore we know it. Of course that's why the barkeep takes coin from the Guild! The Guildmaster here may be all milk and cheese with his smiles and his manse, but the Guild talks with a pick behind its back - always has, always will. The smiths in Port, they're hard red iron, and their Natramun is hardest of all, mark my words.

Ferth paid good coin to the first new barkeep to come from Port; he's the one who built up the walls and gave it the look of a place on the Dockside Market. You'd half expect eels to come flopping out of the door alongside the ale. That first barkeep gave it the name, too, as soon as he saw the rusted pick stuck in the fruit tree out front. Now there's another tale...

[ Posted by Reason on August 10, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Mortal Folk to Guard Datarii

You've never seen those below, have you? This is coin for standing still with polished arms from the Guildmaster's manse - not for those with fire in their blood and the King's Way in their heart. The stonefolk, they walk as men carrying timbers to a new cottage, or with arms full of blades fresh from the forge. Rightly so, I'll say; I'd no more want to be stepped on by a horse of the King's Keep than rub shoulders with Alla. Blood! She no more needs spears than the hills she lives beneath!

Still, easy coin it is, so long as you don't laugh at the Guildmaster and his ways as Meris did last summer. Alla and the other stonefolk, there they stand or sit, still and quiet as you like while all manner of fools come and go. All the while, the red iron goats are dancing and fawning. I'll say this, and may it go no further: the Guild may give us our purses, tell us to take our spears here and there, to bake ourselves on the Red Iron Road under summer sun, but stand beside the stonefolk for a single day and you'll see just what the Guild amounts to.

Blood! None of my concern were you to run to Port for militia coin until the leaves fall again. My tales are as I see the world; I'll be cold and buried without ever taking coin to carry my spear for anyone worthy of it.

[ Posted by Reason on August 13, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Pick and Stone Fair of Ura

Stoneworkers and pick-wielders of Ura turn to other occupations while snow piles high in the hollows left from the past summer's work, sustained by coin from the Red Iron Guild. Around the time of last snow, when the ground softens and troubadors depart their winter retreats in Port, Three Stones and Mirael, the Pick and Stone Fair is held in Ura.

Since the Year of Winter, that terrible, unending season of Trespassers and wizardry, when snow and hail buried the Red Iron Road and a third of Ura's commonfolk starved, the Pick and Stone Fair has grown in significance. What was once a small, traditional occasion - marked by coin passed to the few troubadors who wintered in Ura and a late night of ale and carefully husbanded provisions in the tavern and manses - has become an event to rival the summer fair at One Stone. Coin flows freely from the Guildmaster, merchants and players brave the thawing, muddied Known Roads to claim their share, and even some cityfolk from Port - and thieves too, no doubt - have taken to making the journey in recent years.

A successful fair is taken as a good sign for the seasons to come; it is a defiance of the Farthest Winter and its hold over the Enclave lands. After troubadors have played their part and the last of the ale has gone, half of Ura follow the stoneworkers and minefolk out to the quarries, where they compete - often drunkenly - for the right to be first to break the earth and win a purse of Guild-pressed coin from the Red Iron Guildmaster.

[ Posted by Reason on August 22, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Watch of Trees
The Enclave > Known Roads > Watch of Trees

Hidden, Cliffside Temple

The traders and fisherfolk who sail between Port and Cael often tell of lanterns that burn by night atop the highest forested cliff of the Watch of Trees. An Ammanene temple of the old style is clearly visible by day from the Unending Sea, carved from the clifftop itself over generations, seemly deserted and overgrown with moss.

No-one knows how many of the ageless Ammanene came to the Enclave in Magi tradeships; very few are to be found in mortal cities, towns and villages. The weight of years presses heavily on the Ammanene and strains relations with their Ammander kin. Long ago, the Ammanene of the Enclave withdrew to the Watch of Trees; dense, trackless forest atop the high cliffs of the Coast Road. There they seek Laelene, the Eldest Tree, in the Farthest Woods - or so it is said.

[ Posted by Reason on April 3, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

Temple by the Coast Road

Some days of travel from Port, the Coast Road veers from the clifftops to pass around the Watch of Trees. Where the Road passes close to the dense forest, a temple stands amid the outlying trees. It is built in the old style, moss-covered and simple of line, as if the great Ammane still watched over the Ammand lands and spearmen still marched at the command of kings.

The old times are not yet passed in the minds of the common folk, for there are those who make the journey from Port or Three Stones or Ammander villages to pay their respects at the Coast Road Temple. They bring cloth-wrapped food and a few coins as gifts for Ammander priests and stay in hope of seeing one of the Ammanene. Hard-faced spearmen from the King's Keep - followers of the King's Way - stop at the Coast Road Temple as the leaves fall and Neth come forth to raid, there to pay their respects to the Ammand that was ... or the Ammand that should have been.

[ Posted by Reason on April 3, 2005 | Permanent Link ]

The Ammanene Tansaree

I have left you speechless, and I apologise. So young you are and without the chance to brace yourself; but I know why you are here. You have the looks of your mother - no, grandmother it must be. She was a fierce one, clutching her red iron spear and scowling the second and last time that we met.

The first snow and Neth had brought the Emerald Company to our temple; they came here then as the Ammander folk do now. Those who carry spears have the yearning for the old Ammand and the King they carry in their hearts, just as do those who work the land ... ah, now, no tears. They do not bring back the past, no, but not for lack of trying. Not for lack of trying.

Your grandmother was one of those Lost to the Farthest Battle that winter, yes, and you yourself in armor and the company of those weaponed stalwarts beyond the temple pillars. I understand now.

I recall your grandmother, but I did not know her. For that I apologise again; I have little to offer you. But wait - take this bloom to Port and there find Unsharee, who calls herself The Cursed these past years. It was Unsharee and Arith I spoke with while your grandmother scowled ... but take this bloom. It came from a far place, and that will win you through to speak with one who knew your grandmother.

[ Posted by Reason on April 4, 2005 | Permanent Link ]