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Series are multiple stories that go together; the order they are listed in on the tables of contents and directory pages are their chronological orders within the universe, not the order they were written or posted in. A tilde (~) denotes an original fiction series, while an abbreviation such as HP denotes a fanfiction series.

Fences

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series ~ The City

Fences

The main entrance through the great wall is in the west, down a broad well-maintained highway, lined with trees and bordered by fields, nearly exactly parallel to a slow river. There are several other walls, miles apart, before the traveler reaches that point, however; the entire area was apparently at one point a grand fortress, though now the walls are in increasing states of deterioration until the furthest is nothing but a vague line of stones in the ground.. The walls of the City itself, however, are in perfect repair, white stone rising high overhead and gleaming in the sun. The river and road run together through the heavy barricades that pass for doors, and stand open in welcome at all times, as they have for the last several centuries. They’re heavily manned by guards in shining silver armor, but passersby are unmolested, suggesting the guards are more ornamental than functional.

The streets within are paved with the same white stone native to the region, and it shines as brightly as the walls. The streets are easily three times as wide as normal, as though constantly ready for a parade, and airy bridges cross the river at intervals. In the near distance, past the richly-appointed housefronts and rooftops of the elite, is visible the tallest tower of the palace, shining like a diamond above its kingdom. This is the Crown, home only to the royal and the noble, frequently visited only by the guards and soldiers who decorate it like mobile baubles. The few people out in the heat are clad in airy, loose-fitting garments that seem almost indiscriminately unisex, usually either white or pale blue, though occasionally a pastel splash adds life and activity; even colored, the clothes tend toward the thin and translucent. They move at a leisurely pace and speak in low melodic tones, seeming to drift aimlessly, like flower petals in the breeze.

The walls are always visible, even here; by the time they’ve been lost in the distance behind they’ve become visible in the front. These aren’t the walls on the perimeter of the City, however, but the divide that keeps the city separated into its component districts.

Traveling with the clock, in this case south, leaving two thirds of the river behind and following the last third in its broad channel as it’s diverted elsewhere, and heading around the gently curved inside of the wall, the traveler eventually comes to another grand doorway, guarded by the silver-plated toy soldiers. This one is far less impressive than the main entrance, and the inner walls slightly lower than the outer. Long before crossing the threshold the sounds of busy life can be heard from beyond, intruding on the peaceful serenity of the Crown.

There’s an explosion once the walls no longer shield the next area from the sensitive nobility. Noise, color, movement assault the senses. The smells of animals as meat and property are thick enough to taste, unfortunately, and do well to cover the smell of the people passing within inches of each other at all times. The street looks smaller, but it doesn’t so much narrow as expand immediately into the distance, and become crammed with the hazardously-constructed stalls, open air tables, occasional permanent buildings, people, animals, and goods edible, functional, fashionable, and unidentifiable, that make the spacious area so cramped. The dress of the people is often bright, garish, and downright odd, always striving to attract more attention than their neighbor, though in this atmosphere it’s actually the rougher garments of the farmers, craftsmen, wanderers, and poorer citizens that attract the most attention simply by virtue of not belonging.

There are grand houses lining the walls, once the merchants thin out enough for them to be seen, sprawling mansions and rising towers each with a spacious expanse of lawn and garden, flawlessly maintained even to rival the houses of nobility in the previous section. While such an arrangement might seem bizarre or improbable in most cities, here it is simply convenient, for these are the houses of the richest merchants and the inns and banks that serve them, and they don’t have any cause to leave their section of the City, the Coffer, to do their work and turn their profit.

When after an hour of constant jostling, clutching the purse tightly and declining, ignoring, and avoiding the haranguing vendors the traveler makes it to the next dividing wall, the noise and smells and visual assaults of bright colors and garish decorations have become almost unnoticeable. Once passed through the smaller and unguarded gates, it is instead the quiet of the next section that becomes invasive.

The Crib seems drab in comparison with the rest of the city. Part of this is is due to having only recently left the Coffer… most of this is because it is, in fact, drab. The streets are narrower and, while paved, ill-tended. The stones are broken in some places, piled high with trash in others. Smaller side streets and smaller still alleyways dart off between the buildings. Squat houses and workshops carelessly line the streets, thrown up with very little eye toward aesthetics, and tall unsteady buildings where the worse off can rent a tiny room to call their home dot the skyline. Occasionally a home will have a lank garden or dusty lawn, but most of the buildings are crushed together.

The prong of the river limping alongside the road is worse for wear after its trial in the Coffer, and only getting worse as it readily collects the refuse from the streets. Regardless, the occasional naked small child can be found playing on its banks while a mother or older sibling watches from a yard or out a window as they tend to their own chores. There are sounds, once the insensitivity built up in the Coffer wears off, the occasional clang of metal, worker’s shout, or door slamming, but in general a pervasive stillness has overtaken the area. This is the Crib, where crafters, artisans, workers, servants, and the rest of the ‘honest poor’ middle class live and work.

The gate at the end of the section is closed, locked, barred, and guarded by guards much less ornamental then their Crown counterparts. They guard the rest of the City from the inhabitants of the Cage, the section which has been locked away from contact with the rest of the world for three hundred years, since the last war. No one knows if there is anyone still alive within, but no one is taking any chances. Beyond the Cage is the sheer cliff of the edge of the plateau, so no one has reason to go there anyway.

A corridor, as wide as one of the streets in the Crown, passes between the outer wall of the Cage and the inner wall of the City that encircles the innermost section. Following it, a long walk eventually leads to another section, with another guarded gate, with more imposing guards.

Heading back more or less easterly in the new section, in the direction of the Crown to complete the circle, this section is unlike the others impeccably laid out, with easy winding avenues that lead past neat buildings. Guards in shining armor decorate the steps of the temple of Kar. Beautiful women wearing nothing but elaborate jewelry loiter outside the temple of Wenga and entice passers-by to come inside and worship the goddess of lust with them. The silent priestesses of Seiayo drift into and out of their pale temple in their long robes like leaves on the breeze. The ring of a clear bell sounds out the hour from the massive Church of the Pegasi. Large groups of priests and priestesses and children take advantage of the nice day to have classes both secular and religious out of doors.

Daily life goes on in the Cathedral, the City’s center of religion and knowledge.

This section is as long as the Coffer and Crib combined, and as it houses most of the priests and priestesses and a fair number of the children of the City that’s probably fortunate. In approximately the middle of that length, a narrow road winds away from the others and plunges back toward the wall, which has seen a wide berth by most of the construction. The gardens and orchards of the Temple of Eviran surround the street in carefully tended wilderness for a stretch, and when they fall away, an unguarded and only half-opened gate stands in the looming wall at the end of the road.

Immediately upon slipping through those gates, the street is plunged into semidarkness. The ‘street’ is barely wide enough to allow two people to pass without sharing a loving embrace, and the buildings seem to lean together at the top for whatever reason. Some buildings seem to be built directly atop one another, stretching almost to the height of the walls; others have strange marking chalked on their faces. There isn’t a sign of life, save for the occasional glimpse of a boy or girl obviously selling their body… To whom is the mystery, as the streets and houses seem to be deserted.

As the strange and layered architecture finally begins to seem normal, it’s possible to see that some of the building is obviously ancient. Crumbling stonework is everywhere… sometimes whole buildings, sometimes only the vague outline. The alleys twist and wind among them. Other buildings are more recently constructed through and on top of the ruins of the original city.

After fifteen minutes or so, there isn’t any chance whatsoever of returning the same way; the warren of the buildings and alleys in this part of the city effectively confuse even some of those who live here. Wandering on, there are mildly disturbing sights… some buildings don’t seem to have doors or windows at all. Others have chunks carved almost but not quite randomly from their sides. Charred stonework and ashes in one area speak of a fire not too long before, but already new buildings are going up in the same spot… though no one can be seen working at the moment. Some alleys dead end abruptly when a new building was thrown up in the middle of them. Others seem blocked with rubble and refuse, only to find carefully hidden paths over, through, or around the blockage.

Overall, it is deathly still and silent, only the vermin and the insects moving at all. The air is stagnant and often offensive, and generally colder than the rest of the city; no breeze and precious little light or precipitation can fall here.

Suddenly, there is a small sound from behind and above. There is only time to barely glimpse a dark man in tight black clothes before there is nothing.

To walk the streets of the Coffin is death.

Series NavigationThe City and: TechnologyThe Right Hand

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