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 ]


Organizations
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 ]

Gravefields

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 ]


Taverns
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 ]