It’s Done! 1st Draft of City at the Top of the World is Done!

The story is written, the nodes are written, the endings are written.  The main part that’s left is to number and link nodes.

Maybe I got lazy?  I don’t know.  While there are a lot of paths and a lot of endings, several choices funnel into one particular node, but part of that was wanting to avoid the quantum nature of a lot of CYOA type books.  You get captured by the slavers, you end up going to auction.  And I wasn’t going to write totally different slave auctions for every variation on getting captured.  If I were writing classic CYOA style nodes with 50-150 words per node, maybe I would’ve done it differently, but some of these nodes are as long as 700 words.

42 nodes and 12 endings.

Yay.  This is one of the first real writing projects I ever ‘finished’ since I decided not to write a 10th book in the fantasy cycle I’d written when I was in highschool.

Korsha

At the mouth of the Orshiano River, Korsha serves as the principal imperial port in service of Cirsova.  Here, both the nation’s traders and the imperial armadas sail to and fro, the former delivering goods from the riverlands throughout the empire and the latter delivering justice to those who would interfere.

As the Dawnsea is more placid than the Dusksea, the Empire has poured the majority of its maritime resources into this eastern sea port, perhaps to the neglect of its western shore.  The common wisdom is, however, that most of the western coast is too hostile to attempt a landing and that the ships between Syflanis and Corineaus can very well maintain patrol of the heartland’s coastal underbelly.

Though not connected to the imperial seat or any other chartered imperial community by road, Korsha is the true commercial heart of the empire.  Logs harvested in the heartland are sent down the Orshiano River in barges to Korsha, as are the numerous trade goods manufactured in the Cirsovan river cities.  Here, they are placed on the empire’s most fabulous ships (excluding the legendary sailing vessels of Solaris), and sent to the other coastal ports, along the eastern board and as far as Syflanis.  Upon their return, the ships of Korsha are laden with the riches of the provinces, which are then sent upriver to Gatia.

Sitaan

Sitaan is an old pre-Cirsovan death god, whose worship was actively stamped out by the early Cirsovan emperors.  Tradition holds that Sitaan was not simply a god of death, but of agony and suffering associated with slow death. Worship of Sitaan often involved human sacrifice performed in brutal fashion, including the removal of eyes, tongue and gradual evisceration of the victim.

Most scholars agree that Sitaan came to the southern pre-Cirsovans from the Kingdom of Sabrio, whose religion often involved human sacrifice.  The alarming connections between the rituals performed in the cities of Sabrio observed by imperial armies and the practices of certain Cirsovan states that were quashed by Ga Akana is often cited as the reason for the complete obliteration of the Sabrio culture.

It should be noted that while there are artifacts and signs of Sitaan’s cult in Cirsova’s antiquity, it appears that the proto-Athdaeldan cultures of central Karkuras astutely avoided the influences of their barbaric neighbors.

Sammish

Sammish is an old Cirsovan village of almost no importance.  It is notable primarily for having avoided destruction or conquest during the reign of Ga Akana.  Some historians and anthropologists have studied Sammish for differences in imperial and pre-imperial Cirsovan culture, though any of the “old ways” have long been lost or abandoned.  Tall grasses grow up around the foundations of pre-imperial structures, of which very little remains.

Just outside of town, the “lost road” between Sammish and Allister begins.  No one alive in the village today has any significant knowledge of or connection to Sammish’s pre-imperial past, though archaeologists have determined that there was once an active cult of Sitaan in the area, who may have unsuccessfully waged guerrilla war against Ga Akana during the period of unification.  One ruined building near Sammish, of which only a few stones remain, is thought to have been a priory of Sitaan, which serviced and maintained the old road and wayshrine, and may have even provided aid to old Allister.

Today, Sammish is just a sleepy and isolated community, usually a month or three behind on the news of the day.  The most exciting thing to happen in the last 400 years was Emperor Orwen Akana passing through briefly on his way to Korsha.  Occasionally traders, tourists or distant family members visiting relatives make a pity stop in Sammish, but only tourists take the old road too or from the village.  The empire makes no effort to maintain the old road.  There is some debate on whether Sammish was even incorporated officially into the empire via imperial charter.  Nonetheless, the road to Skitis is maintained, taxes are occasionally collected, and Sammish is elsewise ignored.

Skitis

Skitis is another “borderwatch” town on the southern edge of Cirsova, and, like Daaln, it was used by the imperial legions as a base of operation during the Second War of Unification.  Unlike Daaln, however, which was built up for the express purpose of securing the border between Cirsova and Karkuras, Skitis was an older pre-imperial settlement, which was peacefully incorporated during the reign of Orwen Gladus, 4th Emperor of Cirsova.

During the First War of Unification, there may have been a loose confederation between Skitis, Sammish and old Allister, but no written records from that period remains which could confirm or disprove such claims.  There was, however, a pre-imperial road leading northeast from Skitis to Sammish, used by Orwen Akana when he needed to quickly reach Korsha, which was eventually built over and incorporated into the imperial highway system.

Despite never being fully fortified as Daaln was, the people of Skitis, along with the legions stationed there, repulsed a number of incursions by the horsemen from the northern plains of Karkuras, earning a reputation for bravery and honor.  Unfortunately, even today, there is an unease between the people of Skitis and the descendants of those horsemen.  The latter still hold the former with a certain degree of fear, and some hold misguided grudges, which would be better directed toward the lost Kingdom of Sabrio, the primemover of the conflict which displaced them.  While this tension does some to maintain the safety of the wilder border of Karkuras, there are those who fear that the instability present at the underbelly of the heartland province may lead to greater conflict throughout the empire.  While most of the Cirsovan and Karkuran nobility regard these fears as baseless, the more historically minded members of court acknowledge that there are certain issues which may need to be better addressed in the region.

The people of Skitis are proud of their heritage, and despite any handwringing, believe themselves perfectly capable of again rising to the challenge of defending the southern borders of the imperial province.

Daaln

Where Davou is Cirsova’s gate to the north, Daaln is the empires gate to the south.  Daaln has the distinction of being the first imperial city founded outside of the heartland under an imperial charter and not built on the site of an earlier Cirsovan or Pre-Cirsovan settlement.

Emperor Orwen Gladus was the first to recognize that Cirsova needed to look beyond the Heartlands to secure her fortunes.  It was his son and successor, Orwen Akana, fifth Emperor of Cirsova, who would see his ambitions realized.

Daaln was built far to the south of Gatia, within sight of the borders of Karkuras, and fortified during the first years of Orwen Akana’s reign, some 90 years after the founding of the Imperial City.

When Karkuras faced invasive migration from Paelnor, leading to the Second Great War of Unification fought by the Cirsovan Empire, Daaln was used as a principal base of operation for Orwen Akana’s southern legions. Today, it stands as a reminder to the military might which subdued both the horsemen of the Plains of Karkuras and the rampaging nomads of Paelnor.

While Daaln is not at a crossroads, its strategic point as the only city connected by road to the southern provinces has ensured thriving markets and trade, though it does not benefit greatly from the northern Crystal trade; the finished Crystal that arrives in Gatia usually makes its way throughout the rest of the empire by sea travel.  Karkuras, still inhabited largely by nomads, has less demand for finished crystal, and the civilized port of Corineaus may receive such shipments directly from Syflanis.  That does not mean that Polaran crystal is unheard of in Daaln; it simply finds its way into the hands of the local aristocracy, rather than making its way further south by overland routes.

Skitis, another borderwatch town, lies southeast of Daaln and is connected by Imperial road.  The main road leading southwest out of Daaln eventually reaches Doan, at the crossroads of Karkuras.

Second Great War of Unification

The Second Great War of Unification refers to the period roughly 100 years after the founding of Gatia, during the Reign of Orwen Akana, Fifth Emperor of Cirsova, during which Paelnor and Karkuras were added to the Imperial Dominion.

Late in the Reign of Orwen Akana’s father, the hostile Kingdom of Sabrio sought to expand their domains, challenging the young kingdoms that had taken seed in the future provinces of Karkuras and Paelnor. The nomadic horsemen of Karkuras, find their ranges threatened, both fought against the incurring Paelnorans, and moved their roaming grounds north, into southern Cirsova, and west, into the more settled parts of Karkuras.

Cirsova responded first by building up Daaln and Skitis to act as a ‘borderwatch’ against  the encroachment from Karkuras. Orwen Akana raised the imperial legions and marched south. The Emperor quickly realized that the problem lay further south, not with the horsemen, but with those who had attacked and threatened to displace them. The Prince of Athdaelda sent word to the Cirsovans that he was willing to commit arms against the neighboring horsemen, if the Emperor could but aid him in his defense against the expanding Kingdom of Sabrio.

Orwen Akana agreed and managed to travel quickly by the old roads from Skitis to the Orshiano valley. In Korsha, he raised a great fleet, which landed at the mouth of the Sabrio River (the eventual site of Diirdec). As he lead a force of marines up the Sabrio valley, the southern legions pushed back against the nomadic horsemen before joining with the Prince’s standing armies. The horsemen were eventually contained to the eastern plains against the Legion to the north, Athdaelda to the west, the Sabrio river (and the Emperor’s marine force) to the south, and the Dawnsea to the east. The flotilla from Korsha eventually laid waste to the entire kingdom of Sabrio, of which nothing remains today.

Almost a decade of relentless campaigning utterly destroyed Cirsova’s first true rival to primacy, secured the alliance by marriage to the most powerful surviving state (which would eventually become the Seat of the newly annexed province of Karkuras), established a new port from which the Empire could exert naval dominance of the Dawnsea, and so cowed the princes of Kieab and Xeln, that both abdicated their seats, lest they face the fate of the Kingdom of Sabrio. In time, the empire would be able to appoint autocrats to oversee the full annexation of Paelnor. The events of the Second Great War of Unification would ultimately double the size of the Cirsovan Empire by adding her first two provinces and secure Orwen Akana’s divinity in the eyes of the people, lesser only to the majestic Ga Akana.

Replica of Elefloe

On the Imperial Palace Grounds, a full-scale recreation of Elefloe has been constructed as a folly for the Emperor’s pleasure.  Though careful attention has been paid to detail, the recreation is different in a number of aspects.

First, and most notably, the folly is an extrapolation of what Elefloe would look like, were it not ruined.  The Outer Ring, with its 4 large orthostats, is “completed” by a roughly 5′ wide brick path that encircles the ruin.  The intermediate ring consists of another brick path.  The inner ring features a recreation of the 7 arches and gate arch, through which a brick path, connecting the intermediate and outer rings, passes.  The tower, though the crumbling walls are made whole, has not been extended beyond the height of its ruined counterpart.

Secondly, the reconstruction of Elefloe is made from stones mined near Gatia, so the folly does not have the original’s pale green hue.  For some time, it was debated whether an imperial groundskeeper should foster the growth of particular lichens on the stone, so that, at a distance, the recreation would appear to have similar color.  In the end, the folly was allowed to retain its natural grey. That has not, however, stopped the growth of various lichens, of the desired green color, as well as numerous shades of yellow, orange, and red, on the lower portions of the stone structure.

Another significant difference, the folly features a spiral stone stair at the center of the tower rather than the round capstone of the original.  This stair leads into a small labyrinth which is connected to the imperial palace by a series of well-maintained tunnels.  The tunnels are patrolled at all times by a number of palace guards, as is the tower of the Folly itself.  Members of the imperial family and distinguished royal guests wishing to visit the folly may often take these tunnels to avoid the necessity of travelling through the city, and, in times of sudden ill weather, provides a quick egress for royal picnic goers.

Allister

Allister is town along the Orshiano River that was built on the ruins of a much older Cirsovan (or possibly pre-Cirsovan) City State. It is located about halfway between Akanasho and Korsha, with most of the city built on the northeast bank. The two parts of Allister are not connected by bridge, though ferries regularly make their way back and forth across the river at any times which they would not be interfering with the up and downstream traffic. Most of the warehouses and wharves in Allister are located on the southwest bank.

There have been a few attempts to excavate the ruins of old city, however they have all met with varying degrees of failure, ranging from worker strikes, flooding, cave-ins, and even the odd murder or mysterious disappearance of lead archaeologists, before anything of great importance was ever uncovered. All artifacts produced have reflected an otherwise unexceptional example of pre-empire Riverland culture. Much of the old city seems to have been on the southwest bank, mirroring modern Allister. None of the current residents are descended from the original inhabitants of the area, who are thought to have been exterminated or totally displaced by the unification wars.

Unlike most of the communities along the Orshiano River, Allister is connected by a road, albeit a poorly maintained and infrequently travelled one, to the rest of the Empire. The road, which is mostly dirt with scattered flagstone and is often overgrown in many places, begins at meanders southwest, eventually ending just outside the small town of Sammish. Allisterans have little reason to take the road to Sammish; though by that route, they may eventually reach Daaln, the Imperial Gateway, anyone may quickly and easily travel upriver to Gatia and then South to Daaln along much better and safer roads, or downriver to Korsha, from which a citizen may travel anywhere along the Dawnsea by sail. Despite this, the road is occassionally used by tourists. The byway to Sammish was not part of the imperial initiative to connect the empire by roads, but is likely a relic of a pre-imperial relationship between Sammish and the older City State.
An almost totally destroyed wayshrine of Sitaan is located a quarter mile from road about half-way between Allister and Sammish.

Auna

One of the many old Cirsovan deities who is still worshiped in the riverlands is Auna.  Auna is an often good-natured trickster goddess, sometimes sower of discord and oft-times patroness of thieves.  She is also the goddess of love, as it is said that hearts are one of the many things she steals.

Though not all thieves worship Auna, and not all worshipers of Auna are thieves, many women who have mastered the art of getting what they want by less than honest means may often be heard whispering a prayer of thanks to Auna.

Auna is more publicly beloved, despite her reputation among thieves, than her husband, Karras, and many cities have a statue of her in some public square.  Under the shade of these statues, women who propose courtship to their beloved receive the blessings of Auna.

In the heartlands, though she is still worshiped, her cult is in decline.  Oftentimes, whether they are involved in organized crime or not, Auna’s priestesses have been held by authorities in some suspicion, as deceit is one of the goddess’s sacraments.  Outside of Cirsova, there is no organized worship of Auna, however there are rumors of a group of thieves in Gatlia, led by a young beauty named Ellyra, who steal in her name.  The bandits, however, have not claimed responsibility, nor been proven culpable, for the recent uptick in violent raids against caravans travelling through the baronies of central Gatlia.