Journey to the South: Two of Thirty

Posted: February 2, 2013 in Fiction
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    After the Festival of Taming ended with the traditional sacrifice of toads to Alu, we made our way south toward Kravnu. The journey took another month’s travel due to early winter storms forcing our convoy to seek shelter and rest within the some of the numerous small villages along way. When we arrived in Kravnu, both my wife and my children were astounded by the city, as none of them had ever seen the capital before. I must admit, that even I felt some stirring of emotion as our retinue ascended the peak of the Mount of Vines and looked down upon the Imperial City.

    It had been nearly fourteen years since I had last seen the capital and at that time the Great Renovation to the city first started by Moynama Ikaru Gharan Udo a century prior was just coming to an end. The city had been newly reshaped and looked so pristine it had felt like it had been made for dolls to inhabit. But as we looked down from the Mount, Kravnu looked lived in. Not terribly so, of course, but it looked more like a city inhabited by men and women, and that in itself was heartening.

    “Father,” my son, Rakaj, asked me as our carriage began the slow descent of the Mount, “how did they make it look like that?”

    For those who have not had the blessing of visiting the Imperial City, during the course of the Great Renovation the land under and around the city had been molded and shaped by the Priesthood of Namshiir, while the natural waterways and bays had been re-directed by the Priesthood of Krinai. Prior to the reign of Moynama Ikaru Gharan Udo, the city had consisted of a small archipelago of five islands, connected to each other and the mainland at the base of the Mount of Vines by ferries and bridges. Ikaru Gharan Udo, as any amateur historian would know, was a man who loved orderliness and patterns, and he disliked the disarray of the natural-state of the city that had grown since time immemorial. His Great Renovation had intended to reshape the islands into four concentric rings separated by waterways. At the center of the rings, a circular island hosting the Imperial Palace and the buildings of the Imperial Council would sit, with island and rings connected by a series of bridges and ferries – much like the city had previously been, but with more of the structure and order that Ikaru so loved.

    And so, over a century of slow and deliberate effort, the best magicians of the Priesthoods of the Kritanoi toiled at reshaping the Imperial City. The priests and priestesses of Namshiir used their magics to slowly move the earth and rock of the archipelago into the shape dictated by Moynama Ikaru, the priests of Krinai used their knowledge to re-direct the flow of the rivers, and the Priesthood of Tule made sure that the new “islands” would be strong enough to serve as foundations for residences, markets, garrisons, smithies and foundries. It was a wonder that few can truly appreciate since the changes were so slow in coming, but the fact remains that a Moynama wished to change the very land itself, and he made his wish reality.

    At the base of the Mount of Vines – which behind us stood bare in the harsh daylight of winter, its many vineyards covered in a thin layer of frost and snow – we wound through the outermost neighborhoods of Kravnu. Rakaj gaped at the sight of the great Towers of Plentitude that rose up here and there among the residences and shops. The Towers are an ingenious and awe-inspiring feature that is credited to High Priestess Komallo Sarrit of the Priesthood of Tule, one of the closest advisors of Moynama Ikaru Gharan Udo. Knowing that the city was meant to be a growing hub of culture and political power for the Moy, the High Priestess recognized that that meant an ever-increasing population. For most cities in the Moy, that would mean an ever-increasing burden upon the farmers who tilled the lands around them. Realizing that such a situation for Kravnu would be unsustainable, High Priestess Komallo proposed a solution: bring the farms into the city. Using the knowledge and skills of the Priesthoods of Tule and Namshiir, she devised a plan for wide towers – nearly a mile on each side – that would rise ten-stories into the sky. On each story earth would be piled on and crops would be grown or livestock would be raised, with the watering and the light being provided by ingenious arrangements engineered by the Priesthood of Tule, and the fecundity of the soil attended to by the Priesthood of Namshiir. In this way, the population could grow without over-burdening the outlying farms, and also make sure that even during sieges the Imperial City would be guaranteed a source of food.

    Suffice it to say, that in the near two decades since the Great Renovation was completed, many of the other great cities of the Moy – Gharnu, Noharnu, Minjahr, and others – have petitioned the Imperial Council and the Priesthoods of the Kritanoi for the funds and manpower to build their own Towers.

    We boarded the ferry that goes direct to the inner ring of the city, known as Namshital, and I took a small amount of pleasure in the awed gaping of my wife and children as we passed along one of the four canals that penetrate the three outer rings of the city. The outermost ring of Kravnu is primarily set aside to residences, both individual homes and tall blocks of insulae, along with five Towers of Plentitude per quarter-ring. The next ring in is primarily given over toward workshops, smithies, foundries, and other activities of industry; the majority of slave-quarters are kept on this ring, as well, even if their masters live elsewhere. The next ring is primarily occupied by activities and centers given over toward commerce and entertainment, with colossei, circenses, and amphitheaters.

    Namshital, or “the Little Earth-Dragon”, is generally a bustling hub of activity, like a hive of bees, as it is where the Great Bureaucracy and its agents reside. I was most familiar with this part of the Imperial City, as it is where the Bureau of Foreign Relations is quartered, and prior to my assignment to Harran, I had spent most of my time in Kravnu scurrying about the streets of Namshital on Bureau errands.

    Once we had disembarked from the ferry, we said our farewells to the legionaries who had escorted us all the way from Mughri’i province, giving them our deepest thanks and an appropriate gift for their long efforts. I accompanied my family to temporary lodging accorded to us by the Bureau and from there took a carriage to the Bureau’s main halls. I was greeted by the Lesser Minister, a plucky man of some forty years named Lilu Krari’u Nam, who made pleasant small conversation as we wound our way through the labyrinthine halls of the building to the office of Minister Yal.

    “Tamojahneeli, you old silver-tongue,” Udanni Minjohn Yal greeted me as we entered his office. “I take it that the trip from Harran was not too horrible?”

    “Of course not,” I replied to him, “I have been through worse. Though, I cannot say that my children did not complain once or twice. Or a good dozen times.”

    “Oh, I remember my own boys complaining about the length of a ferry-ride from here to Kravtal to see the chariot races,” Udanni laughed heartily. “It is the nature of children to be impatient.”

    “Indeed,” I said. “Forgive me for setting aside pleasantries, but what is this new assignment for me?”

    Udanni had smiled at me, grabbing a scroll from his desk. “Ah, ever eager for new work. I am not surprised. As you may have heard, the border skirmishes along the Tijhor River have come to an end, Moynama Pahnot has signed a treaty with Queen Ni’aal of the Sirraşi. It has been decided that due to your deft and successful handling of the Mughri’i that you are the perfect man to be the new ambassador to them.”

    I looked over the scroll as Udanni spoke: it had been a letter written in the Moynama’s own hand insisting that Udanni assign me to this post. Apparently the Moynama had been quite impressed with my work in the eastern province. I say this not as a boast, but as a humble acknowledgement of how dedicated and serious work can be rewarded. “No…I was not aware of that,” I said, my attention primarily focused upon the finely written words before my eyes. Even in his eighties, the Moynama had exquisite and masterful penmanship.

    “No matter,” Udanni said. “You leave within the fortnight. You shall travel south into Tijhor province, then east to Akhem, then you shall take a ship south along the coastline to the Sirraşi capital of Sirr.” The Minister of Foreign Relations clasped my hand and shook it firmly. “Congratulations, Chief Ambassador Tamojahneeli Gharan Kii.”

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