Log in

That Way | This Way

Singing, Sanctuary and Senara

The approach to the sanctuary city of Senara is always long felt before it is seen as the Child’s aspect of fire attributed to her in the northern country of Alyea makes itself known even here. The sky clears of clouds and settles itself into a constant sapphire blue as the temperature rises and rises again from the damp cold of the southern regions of the Trigat to the dry heat similar to that of the Sirafei desert at noon. This is the Child’s effect, as she is rightly called the greatest of the Trigati Myriin, and the city’s best defence. What army could survive such heat, even as they know they are under the gaze of Her eye even as they march? Through this, the Child has kept the peace between the lands of the other Trigati lands, between the Motherkin and Fatherkin, for centuries now.

Admittedly, farming is difficult under such conditions, at least as can be seen from the main road our party travelled on, with the only crop in sight being that of the Alyean Ytree brought down when the Child first travelled from there. Its sharp leaves and poisons protect it from those travellers that might wish to steal parts of the valuable crop and the products gained from it come harvest time, in its inks and dyes, the paper from its leaves and bark, the spice from its flowers and all else from that endlessly useful plant make the risk of injury to the farmers more than well worth their while when they are properly protected. The Ytree’s red colouring was a novelty in the long journey south from the Motherkin lands where all the foliage is in blue-greens and the people blend in so well just as they intend to. The respite doesn’t last so long as those colours re-emerge in the last hour towards the city’s arched gates as well-tended gardens and fruit-sellers line the roads to offer relief to travellers not used to such dry heat. Even to those who are, such as some of our party who came from the Child’s Alyean capital of High Ratel, the produce is recommended as the fruits sold there are only ever seen in the Child’s lands as they do not travel well.

It is here, also, that traffic on the road becomes much heavier with pilgrims form all over the Trigat coming to see the God’s Home and perhaps even catch a glipse of the Child herself in her mortal host. Others, not many now the great wars between the sibling-consort Myriin are over, are refugees from their own Kin come to seek sanctuary in the city. These days, most of the permanent population of Senara are those granted refuge and it is not impossible to make something of oneself from it. It is said that even one of the God-touched priestesses was once Motherkin before she came to the city. Last and fewest of the travellers are those such as our party, traders, couriers and taskbearers from other countries who are more than easy enough to pick out in the crowds; either from the tattoos of the Sirafein, the starkly different colouring of the Alyeans like mine own blue, black and banded grey, or even the strange occasional shape of a Singer passing through. All of these can be found camped in the fields left fallow on the final approach to the city as it is not large, perhaps homing five thousand souls and no more, and its grand gates are closed after nightfall.

Our party had travelled through the previous night in order to avoid staying in those fields for Senara is not called the ‘Singing City’ for the wind calling through its narrow streets. It is for the pilgrims who do naught but lift praises to the Goddess inside the city’s walls. In sacrificing our sleep, however, we reached Senara’s gates mid-morning.

It must be said that the city’s outline is one of the few, and sometimes the only, shapes on the horizon of the flat country around it and the yellow-white band of its wall identifies it from any other urban base in the world. Not until one reaches it, however, can one truly appreciate the scale of its construction as even the rise of the buildings behind it is obscured by its most prominent defence. Above and below it stretches as the moat, filled with the city’s sewage and washed through by the current of the river that runs underneath Senara, sits a good fifty feet below the road and surrounding parts and the top of the wall rises over one hundred feet above. Many have tried over the years, armies and single assassins, to scale those walls nonetheless only to find that the great wall is not as smooth as it seems at first glance. This is because it was built by the Mother Quazratel, she who raised the Myralai mountain in Alyea, and her skill made the stone infinitely sharp to the touch. There are tales, of warning no doubt, of those who ripped their limbs to shreds scaling the wall only to succumb to infection as the moat’s filthy water remaining on them entered their wounds soon after. Very rarely have the few guards on the wall ever had to act and it is a common saying in the Trigat that one undertaking a foolish endeavour is ‘climbing Senara’s wall’.

At the gate of the city, with sixty-four steps rising and the same descending in a great bride over the moat, one is asked then required to leave all weapons with the guards as none are allowed in the city that acts as Sanctuary to so many. Some never bring anything harmful to start with but there are always dangers on the road and diplomats gift ceremonial swords and bows to show good faith as tradition these days. Our party were among those weaponless on their journey, having sold them in Eh Ratel where Nirati steel brings wonderful prices, as one does not necessarily need steel or wood to protect oneself. This allowed our party to pass through the gates quicker than most; as Alyeans we were not considered to be likely to cause trouble when more than the vast majority of crime in the city is due to Kin struggles.

After entering, I left the party as we split down two of the four of Senara’s main roads – four being the holy number that most of the city is built upon or around. They were to visit the Market Quarter to ply their trade under the brightly-coloured, mismatched tents and the Guest Quarter, which is split so that Fatherkin and Motherkin remain apart for the safety of all. The Child’s children may find respite where they will in the city, as can those from outside the Trigat like myself. I carried on along the road which forms the spine of the Si of the Child’s name – not She-Of-Blinding-Light as she is known in Alyea but her southern name of Move-Quick as it translates to in Niti, the trader’s tongue.

It is very difficult to get lost in Senara and not just due to the city’s small size, as one only has to pick a direction and you will reach either the wall or the Spine which runs true from the gate to the God’s Home that is visible from every point within the walls. So, despite the traffic of pilgrims passing through I passed through the second gate, which separates guests from residents, before noon.

The buildings and people in this far half of the city are entirely different from the chaotic jumble that is the Guest Quarter and the explosion of colours and sound of the Market. It is quiet, for one, where the only noise is the gentle chatter of neighbours and the distant song from outside the walls. The buildings are kept as white as the wall and the decoration of columns and arches and filigree carving are all in stone and are made to let the cooling wind pass through the streets with ease. The only colour comes from the roof-top gardens every residence has to make the city as self-sufficient as possible in case of siege and the allotments among the graves of martyrs in the west of the resident’s half of the city. One does not linger among the latter, however, and there is a taboo on speaking of those poor souls killed attempting to enact peace between Kin lest the be drawn back from beside the Child in her realm.

It used to be, last time I was in the city, that the residents would be dressed in all pale, loose fabric, blending well with their homes despite the mix of dark and light colouring that marked them as Child’s children but recently the fashion of embroidering favoured phrases and words in mangled Si on those flowing tops has intruded from other Trigati cities. The language has no effect, however, as they are not Sirafein and they do not first wash their thread in their blood before sowing. While a strange custom, admittedly, it did make finding those who I had to deliver messages and items to far easier as unlike most of those wearing the language, I speak the holy tongue of Si as it is more similar to Alyean than Niti and so easier to learn.

A visit to a friend in that part of the city, a refugee from the north where his neighbours objected to him consorting with one of the few light Fatherkin there, kept me until nightfall when the Child’s eye sleeps and her control over central Trigat lessens. There is always danger working in the city for me though as the Child has never liked other Gods tainting her refuge and it is her sister Raza of the Night’s Gift that will hold me when I die. It was she who gave me the gift of dancing in the shadows, something that made it infinitely easier to approach the temple grounds that night. As beautiful as it is, I needed to avoid the God’s Home where the Child’s mortal shell resides as she would quite easily pick out my task and I dearly wished to survive my journey. No Trigati would ever be fool enough to attack those who serve the Child directly so the grounds of the temple are not guarded past what protection the Child’s presence gives and the God-touched sleep at night along with their Goddess.

Fate allowed it so that I could slip through the narrow passages between the priestesses’ rooms where they do naught but pray and sing and sleep to find the girl I was asked to find. A slip of a thing and a Child’s child for definite with stark white hair and dark, dark skin, she was more than deep asleep as the sun can only give the priestesses so much energy and they do not eat once they take up residence in the temple. This so, it was simplicity itself, even for one as trained as I, to leave the message I was hired on for back in Alyea high up on the Myralai by one who wondrously once slept in that very room too. A tale that all aknow and few believe but it was not for me to guess as to the relationship of this girl to the Dark Consort and why, for all my training, all I was asked to do was to leave a page written in blood on vellum that started with ‘Hi Astya-darling!’. It is said that one should not wonder at the actions of the God-touched lest you become half-touched yourself; after a months-long journey to act as a trained Shadow Dancer assassin postman to a pen-pal I can only agree. Ha-nah.

Something that started out as a descriptive exercise before the surroundings-obsessed and uninterested in people character made himself kind of known. Later I'll put up an illustration of him and of his stylised maps of Stortaire and Senara but I wish I knew his name.