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The City of Fenstre
Fenstre is a large and ancient city on the southern coast of the Three Rivers continent of Fels. The city is the location of a number of short stories about a tenacious young woman by name of Seusea that I've written, which you may read here. .
History of Fenstre to the Present Day
What follows is several long discourses on the city of Fenstre. Even in my mind, they make very dry reading and they're possibly of little interest to any save the dedicated. I also have the original pencil-drawn maps of Fenstre here, divided into two parts.
Firstly, some geographical facts. Fenstre lies in the Orstrey River delta. The River travels due southeast into the Fairge before splitting up into sluggish channels and waterways. This formation creates many islands and Fenstre itself is positioned on such an island. Fenstre's island is several miles inland of the Fairge and can be avoided by taking any number of side-channels but the Societor's have curtailed this with dykes, dams and weirs. It is impossible to travel either up or down the delta without dealing with Fenstre. Fenstre's island is the largest of the deltaic islands. It is also unique in having a granitic base as opposed to the silt and sand of its neighbours. This stony foundation made it prime for settlement by its architecturally inclined original inhabitants; the Attuned Wind.
The Attuned Wind arrived on the Three Rivers continent 11000 years ago, the last remnants of an odylic brotherhood that evolved in northern Merhulneo. Driven from there by desertification and persecution, they landed originally in southwestern Forosth where they established a settlement. They weren't a prolific people and the warlike natives they encountered reduced their numbers even further. A peaceful, artistic folk, they countered violence with odylicism, only to be overwhelmed by superior numbers. They fled Forosth and a small group of them settled in the Arosd Archipelago, others travelled up the Fairge. They encountered the Chirda, and then moved up the Orstrey. They met more hostility further inland and retreated to Fenstre where they turned their odylic energies to constructing a city. They had a high and lofty manner to go with their talents at architecture that did not endear them to the more grassroots folk about them. Their population dwindled over the next millennium.
The last Attuned Wind inhabitant of Fenstre committed suicide at the site now called the Trowheald Monument. Five hundred years later, five tribes from Orur and Bozlin moved northwestward. They moved in search of gems, gold and jade. They crossed the dilapidated dyke that spanned the easternmost channel of the Orstrey and found the abandoned city of Fenstre. Each of the five sept leaders sent avid reports back to their kin and suddenly Fenstre was alive again. At the time there were no settlements west of the Orstrey or south of far Alderle some 2200 mile to the north. The countryside was either jungle or tropical steppe. The early Societor's followed none of the customs that make them so notorious today. The Society soon modified their environment to suit their own way of thinking. They burrowed canals and sewers among the granite and dismantled much of the cult's building to use in their own homes. They retained many of the original structures; the Clathe, Trowheald Castle, the Fort, the hexagonal pond called the Hexaquer, the artificial harbour named Deepwater and sundry other minor buildings.
As other races moved into the regions surrounding them, the five tribes and their descendants grew more xenophobic and protective of their “culture”. Others grew disenchanted with the stifling humidity and customs and migrated north, into Nae and Oloi and beyond. Others immigrated in, and, despite the talk of Fenstre's modern-day historians, the average Societor is a melange of a number of races, indistinguishable from a lot of the people about them. They are uniformly suntanned, somewhat lean and of medium height. Only a handful of the Society would know of the Attuned Wind or the origins of their city. To most, the city is eternal and always been. In truth, it has been settled for a period of approximately 9800 years. It is not the oldest settlement on the Three Rivers continent, that honour goes to Kyxx in Mynatan. Nor is it the oldest on Fels. The colonisers originally made planetfall at a location near Garth on Merhulneo continent, and the language most people of the southern Three Rivers speak today is called Gartha.
The Five Septs
The five tribe's names have transformed over the years to Trowheald, Flamistead, De Florio, D'Arrest and Drivandad. These are approximations of Gartha words rendered into a language more comprehensible to the reader. Today, these families generally feature in Society affairs to a greater or lesser extent. The Trowhealds inhabit the Castle of that name, the Flamisteads live on a large estate on the western edge of the city. The De Florios have a far lower profile, and most of them have left Fenstre for Port Diales, Argyre and beyond. The ones that remain live out their lives in wealthy obscurity, not caring for former glories. The same exists with the Drivandad sept although they do not quite have the same wealth.
The D'Arrests are far more prominent, owning a large mansion in the district known as Lower Ipty. They are sympathisers with the arcane and the occult, and have members in the Dyne and the Xene. They have supplied the Geriarchs with members now and then. The religion of the Society sprang up as a result of their surrounds and the environment. They worship a pantheon of deities identified with the concepts of nature and of their own nature. They have named this collection the Coiga. The Coiga consist of eight gods and two goddesses. They are:
- Cydain: God of Gods, the ruler of the Welkin
- Elesmis: God of Blue Skies
- Mared: God of Water on the Ground
- Zail: God of Soil and the Earth
- Ydrys: God of Shadows and Secrets
- Mniops: Goddess of Dawn and Birth
- Ii: God of Charity and Health
- Irtys: Goddess of Luck
- Ilojin: God of Water in the Sky
- Chiasm: God of Strength and Prowess
Although Cydain is ruler of the Coiga in the majority of the Three Rivers' pantheons, most of the veneration in Fenstre is reserved for Ydrys. This god exemplifies most of the Society ideals, e.g, xenophobia, complexity, dissembling, misdirection, canals and camouflage. Secrecy in itself is not really part of Ydrys' persona, strangely, although he seeks to confuse and bewilder the outsider; the antemery who comes into Fenstre unaware and unprepared. Ydrys and his worship imply deep and hidden mysteries which can only be pierced after hard and diligent study and/or work. Ydrys encourages hard work during the day, easy nights, vines and creepers, the disguising of one's door and front path, covers and tarpaulins over narrow lanes and streets.
In Fenstre, other deities are venerated in a role subservient to Ydrys. While some have official cults complete with clergy, they are all generally recalled, thanked or cursed depending on ad hoc circumstances. For example, protracted periods of rain, which there are many in Fenstre, bring forth imprecations to Ilojin and pleads for Elesmis to restore a fine day. When it is sunny, Elesmis has jugs of fenny drank in gratitude for his deeds. Ii is called on in time of dire need, especially by those in abject privation or even thouse finding themselves a few blunt short at the merchant's. Irtys is a gambler's lady and is considered as fickle and perverse as women allegedly are. Chiasm is spoken of before a venture requiring bravado or courage, usually a sortie to a lady friend's home.
Mared is the divinity who looks after water on the ground as opposed to rain. Legend has it that Mared steals off Ilojin, only to have Ilojin evaporate Mared's property once again. Calm waters and still canals are the things Societor's call out to Mared for.
Neither Zail nor Mniops have much following in Fenstre. In the surrounding regions, Zail is often called upon for harvests or to offer steady ground after a night at a tavern. More often than not, he is cursed for the mud he leaves on one's boots and shoes.
Mniops is actually of foreign extraction, reputedly from Merhulneo and how she became a member of the Coiga is unknown. Nevertheless, the Society considers her one of their own. Cydain has no real portfolio, but he is acknowledged as the god of gods (though of less status than the Highest High to those who care) and the other's “father” although this is not true in any absolute sense.
There exists a legend that Cydain made a tryst with the Attuned Wind to the effect that while the Trowheald Monument stands, Fenstre and the Canal Society will stand impregnable. If the Monument should ever fall, so will Fenstre in a fiery ruin. This is considered established fact by many of Fenstre's gentry but the legend nowadays has pejorated to where people know the Monument must stand, but none can fathom a reason why.
The Monument is a cylindrical basalt sculpture thirty feet tall commemorating the Attuned Wind's completion of the city. There is no tryst contained within it although most Societors view it in awe and think it charmed or magical.
The Traits of the Society
The Society are not great adherents of innovation. A lot of their culture looks at invention and creative thinking as antemer traits. Rather than building new things, they are masters of repair. Most of their equipment and housing appears patched and used or lived in for millennia (which it has). Very little is thrown out which cannot be used again. One of the ways antemery are told apart is that their apparel is generally new or lacks patches. One of the innovations they are guilty of is canal-craft. They are superb builders of canals and associated devices, such as floodgates, locks, weirs and pipes. The system by which they divert flood waters and admit water into Fenstre's canal system is mind-boggling and highly effective, especially in consideration of Fenstre's 300 inches of rain per year. Several mechanical pumps move fresh water into troughs and levies for the use of the populace. Tides rarely influence the water level of the canals, being artfully diverted into the inflan.
A class of artisans maintains the canals. The canals are even in depth, each being not more than twenty feet deep. One aspect of them that can set a visitor's teeth on edge is their usual lack of cleanliness. Over the millennia, the life in them has adapted to the accretion of pollution. The canal water is a horrid, dirty brown. The Orstrey enters Fenstre a clean, if muddy, river, and enters the Fairge full of the dross and refuge of half a million Societors.
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