This terracotta dependent
village marks the southern border of the Dragon’s
Back region, which is located in the
Zhunite plains in the southwestern
part of continent of Nybelmar, famous for the
pottery it produces and the vibrant colours of the women’s clothes, the colours
that either match the soft orange pigment of the surroundings or create amazing
combinations with colourful and vivid variations of other colours and that
pigment which makes these dresses unique in the
Dragon’s Back. The mud-brick houses of the “Clay Village” welcome you like
so many plump cats, stretching
their backs and basking in the midday heat. The village draws most of its
water from the underground stream sauntering
through the clay-rich earth of the
surrounding area. The settlement’s proximity to the Kimb River and its more
southerly air, being damper than that in the
north, creates the perfect environment for the craft of pottery.
Description. As you close in on the lively village of Serekeye you will probably think of the lines in a certain famous book written by Dearan Asaen; they truly capture the feeling of the village and its inhabitants.
"Serekeye is already up, displaying her proud earthenware at the busy
marketplace. Rows after rows of pottery are left out in the sun to dry,
sometimes with the occasional sleeping sentry. Perhaps they tan in
imitation of southerly ladies? Perhaps they bask to greet the flirting
wind? Wrinkled woman sit in vibrant
garments before the clay shaping wheels, bent in working meditation to
mould those daily miracles. You decide to leave the town scurrying about
after familiar toil humming merry
Zhunite tunes as they work."
Let's look at Serekye and describe the various aspects of the village in detail:
Even a stral out from Serekeye you can already sense the distinctive feeling of peacefulness and harmony that is an intrinsic part of this pottery oriented village. Be careful not to ruin your expensive boots in the “Serek mud”, as it is called amongst locals. This mud is actually the clay rich earth which made the Clay Village Serekye famous. The clay is of a specific orange colour, peeking out from under quite high Zhunite yellow grass which gives the village a striking, beautiful range of earthly colours, especially when you take into account small, brown mud-brick shacks that dot the surrounding countryside of Serekeye. These shacks serve as mud gathering facilities, the owners of which, after gathering the ground in its natural hard state, then wet the clay and transport it to the village so that busy potters have a fresh supply of clay every morning. The gatherers have special areas in which they gather mud. To produce high-quality pottery material, gatherers use special methods developed by the Krean even before the Breaking. To soften the clay and make it easier to gather, these “mud-farmers” make a system of pipes that spreads all over their farms. From one, main, pipe, which branches to all auxiliary pipes, by using water, a farmer can easily wet the clay and then gather it and quickly transport it to the village.
As you close in on the first houses in Serekeye, riding on the only road that leads to the village from the south, you can see the shimmering river Kimb in the distance. The style, in which the road is built, is quite specific for the Dragon’s Back region as there are not many roads built out of bricks. It is made with special care and the amazing symmetry of this brick-paved road shows the skillfulness of the village’s masters of clay. Although the bricks cover only the last several dashes towards the village, it is still impressive to see the mastery which has made this little pottery village famous.
The southern entrance to the Clay Village is marked by simple wooden gates, which is odd due to the fact that the round-shaped village has not been surrounded by walls of any kind since the Zhunite Upspring; the gates remain only as a memory of that time. The guard house which stands by the gate is completely made out of strong wood and its colour matches the clay which is found on the outskirts of the village. This is unusual for Serekeye, as wood is used here only for purposes for which you cannot use brick. The explanation to that probably lies in the outmost confusion which found its place in the village during the Upspring. Allegedly, there were so many threats on attacking the village that the villagers built a high brick tower to warn them about the upcoming assault on the southern side of the village. As there were no signs of attack on that side of the village, the Serekars (the name for the people of Serekeye) made a lower tower on the northern side of Serekye, bringing the old tower down for resources (as it was dangerous to gather the clay outside of the village because of the fear of the conflict). The villagers then, alternatively, built and destroyed the towers made of wood to spare themselves from hardworking with heavy bricks. The guard house is probably the last “guard tower” built by Serekars.
The main street, with mud-brick, one story houses on both sides, leads directly to the main square, the famous earthenware market. This street and the market are the only areas in the village which are paved with bricks; the paving gives the feeling that you are not in a small potter’s community, but in one of a large city’s squares. The main street is also the place where all of the pottery takes place. In small courtyards, marked and connected with the houses by a mud-brick wall, women wearing vibrant and colourful dresses sit before clay shaping wheels, concentrated on their work, not allowing anything to distract their attention from their masterpieces. Some say that this dedication to their work is what gives birth to amazing pottery masterpieces of Serekeye. In these small courtyards, most often just in the corner, next to the wall of the house itself, the brick ovens take their place. These ovens are used for clay baking and their proximity to the walls of the house makes them ideal for heating the house in the rare coldness of south-Zhunite winters. There is a downfall to that too: there are many more hot days in this southern part of the region than there are cold ones, so in the room attached to the oven (most often it is the common room) is unbearable to be in on such a hot day. This is the reason that you can find so many people out of their homes, working and relaxing, singing and even dancing, during the day time, which makes the village with pretty tight streets (the courtyards take almost the whole area of the streets) seem overcrowded.
Market Square and the Crossroads
As you move forward down the main street, you reach the most striking part of the village, the earthenware market of Serekeye. Three rows of stands cover the medium sized square of the village. These are simple wooden stands on which the new formed pottery spreads, drying in the hot southern sun. The different colours in which you can find this pottery makes this part of the village the most colourful and it is the part which made the village of Serekeye famous around the Zhunite plains. The paved square is often covered in pieces of broken pottery, which is not unusual since the children often run around tightly placed stands and in the heat of play they break a vase or two, for which they are yelled at by their parents.
From the south of the market, the main street of the village leads toward the gates. From the north, the main square is bordered by the stunning building of the village’s council. The courtyard of this magnificent structure is encased, as most of the courtyards in the village, by mud-bricks. The only difference between normal peasants' brick fences and the one of the Village Council building is in its design. This fence is decorated by clay statues of dragons and other beasts from jungles of Shar (the sign of villagers’ respect for their Krean roots), while on the iron gates the great serpent takes its place, representing the village’s connection with the great river Kimb. The Council House in that courtyard is of a bright orange colour, also decorated by different creatures from the jungles, and is the highest building in the village, reaching thirteen peds in height with two floors and a roof with a sundial on it.
To the west a simple road leads to the exit from the village, from where you can reach the banks of the river Kimb. A small dock is set up there, featuring a simple dock-house and a pier. A 4 ped long boat is often seen there; this boat is used to transport the pottery quickly to fill the orders of the rich elite of Evansos and Kimbar. The east road, leading from the main square, heads towards the north exit of the village. It casually encircles the Council House and runs directly to the conservative village of Ktsarmashik. This part of the village is marked by heavy air and high temperatures as this is the centre of the brick making industry in the whole Dragon’s Back. The houses in the north part are small and tidy, often with broad chimneys and open windows to vent smoke and heat from the brick ovens.
In the very centre of the market stands another interesting building. The purifying building is built around the Serekeye well and is used for purifying the water from the underground stream which supplies the whole village with fresh water. The water from that stream needs to be purified because of the clay-rich earth which pollutes the drinking water. To clear out the small part of the dissolved clay, the purifier needs to boil the bucket full of water, then wait a while for the hard clay to settle to the bottom, and then pour it several times through a carefully webbed net with holes small enough to hold that many pieces of clay.
Location. This peaceful, colourful village is located in the Dragon’s Back region, in the southwest of the continent called Nybelmar. The proximity of the vast river Kimb presents a good connection with the southern parts of the Zhunite plains, specifically the town of Evansos and the much more distant city of Kimbar. In approximately a day of casual riding north, you can reach the traditionally folkloric village of Ktsarmashik and after that the secretive mining station of Katkara. A bit to the northwest of Serekeye, just before you reach the Forefingers of the Earth, you can find the proudly standing capital of Dragon’s Back Region, the Dragon City of Karakan.
People. The Zhunite men
who inhabit the Dragon’s Back region, are
typical of Northen Zhunites who honour the traditions of their
Krean and Krathrian heritage while
sometimes adding their own flavours to it; the villagers of Serekeye are no
exception. Talkative and optimistic, the people of this village can be described
simply as traditional or conservative, but also quite stubborn and determined,
which probably comes from working with earth.
As the village of Serekeye was made famous for its pottery and terracotta
industry it is mainly populated by potters and brick makers, but the village
doesn’t rely only on those professions, there are enough people of other trades
to keep the village running. The travellers that often come to the Clay Village
are also an important ingredient to the colour of the village. They come bargain
for the orders for pottery and bricks they get from the rich land owners,
primarily in southern Zhun. There are not much adults that want to travel far to
the big cities to sell their bricks or vases as they are completely committed to
their work, be it pottery brick-baking or any other trade, and they don’t want
to leave it even for a day.
Coat of Arms/Sign. The dragon is traditionally used in the insignias of this region, and Serekeye honours its connection with the other settlements in the Dragon’s Back by keeping the symbol of the dragon in its arms.
On the banner, which stands in front of the Council House greeting the light breeze, you can find a scarlet dragon on a golden background balancing a gorgeous amphora on his head. The beautifully and carefully arranged; orange and brown pigments on this amphora truly present people and the village of Serekeye.
Climate. As in the rest of the northern Zhun, Serekeye’s summers are quite often dry. This gives the clay gatherers in the outskirts of the village a lot of work to do, as they have to constantly wet the earth on their farms to not allow it to dry. The winters bring a lot of rain to Serekeye which, in it's turn, brings new troubles for potters and brick-bakers. Frequent winter floods are possibly the worst enemy of this peaceful village. The water, however, wets the clay and makes it better for shaping. This enables the villagers to make and sell more products, allowing them to repair the damages caused by the flood.
Flora. The waist-high Zhunite yellow grass dominates the landscape with olive groves here and there. The tidy little tables are usually found under those olive trees with some old people playing A’charil or any other game and relaxing on warm summer afternoons. Thick bushes cover patches of land here and there, most notably redberry. The most common flowers are daisies which are spread all around Serekeye and are also used in decorating houses and rare gardens. Wheat and other grain crops are usually cultivated to the northeast of the village as there is the most fertile land in this area.
Fauna. Butterflies are the most eye-catching part of the fauna in the region around the village of Serekeye. The cloth-makers in the village often catch butterflies of all sorts to make interesting and vivid brooches for southerly ladies, of course after delicate procedures of preparing the creatures for this most unpleasant decoration (as it is considered by bystanders from other areas of Zhunite plains). Other varieties of insects are also found here, like intriguing myrmex, seean beetles and some less interesting insects. These insects, along with the frequent floods have made the cultivation of crops around Serekeye impossible.
Resources. The most notable resource the village of Serekeye has is, of course, the clay rich earth from which the villagers earn most of their income. The few cattle the villagers have, provide milk, cream and cheese, most notably the Serekeyean Orange Cheese (Mud Cheese) which is known all around Zhun for its delicacy and tender aftertaste, and meat, while most crops and other useful plants are imported from other towns and villages throughout the Dragon’s Back.
Trade. Serekeye has a monopoly of trade in mud bricks and pottery products in the Dragon’s Back region; this has made it a very busy village, possibly one of the busiest settlements in all of Zhun. The bricks are exported in all directions and are often used for building in other settlements, due to the lack of wood in the Zhunite plains, while the village’s imports most often consist food products and draught animals. The brick industry had more significance during the colonisation of Zhun because the Krean government wanted to build new colonies faster than the Evaquis. The discovery of Serekeye’s valuable clay made this possible.
The Serekeye pottery is much more famous in larger cities like Karakan or Kimbar and even Marmarra. The most valuable pottery pieces can be found even in far lands like the Santerran kingdom. One can recognise the worth of vases, decorations and other art made of clay in Serekeye when one sees the collections of these pieces in the courts of famous lords and ladies, even in the United Kingdom of Santharia. The profit rarely goes directly to the village’s treasury, however: traders buy the pottery in Serekeye, transport it to the far away lands and sell it for a much larger price than that they paid to the villagers of Serekye.
Myth/Lore. The villagers of Serekeye have a deep hatred and fear of Marmarrans and there is a famous story to that. It is told that not so long ago, a Marmarran noble, a possible member of one of the four Kogian families, entered the village to order a special shipment of amphorae. When they were all made it is said that they were of a pretty blue colour with an image of a snake on them. Once they were all set in front of the Maramarran noble, he ordered his men to “release the snakes” from his wagon. A dozen lisdra snakes rushed out of the nobleman’s wagon and entered the amphorae which were made for them. The terrified villagers hid in their houses not willing to get out of them for a week. It is still said that the local potters have to take an oath not to fill any orders which come from Marmarrans.
Another story tells about the origin of the name of the village, although the story is probably not true. It is said that in the Zhun tongue, "serek" meant "enemy". So in the translation, the name of the village would mean "Eye of the Enemy". This would only seem to make sense if the Krean gave the village its name.