Also known as the "City of
Witches" by its more socially acceptable neighbours, Marmarra is probably one
of the most frightening places in all of Caelereth.
Infamous for its ruthless Witch Queens, manipulative sorcery and unnatural
magical creations - it is unsurprising that
the word "Marmarra" strikes fear into the hearts of most inhabitants of
Nybelmar. Marmarrans are amongst the most excessive,
frivolous, hedonistic and wasteful people in all
Caelereth, and though luxury may be an integral part of their lives, it is
by no means regarded with any worth or value (a further testament to their
The city itself from the outside appears to be more of a fortress than a metropolis - but within a whole cornucopia of weird, wonderful and scary institutions and establishments can be found - if you dare to enter that is.
Picture description. The first Witch Queen of Marmarra, Eluda'shi Lashmara, the incredible Lillivear who founded the Citystate, possibly accompanied by the first Kogian (Kijuur Destius). Picture drawn by Sheil.
City of Marmarra is one of the most powerful Citystates of the
Zhunite people - though its power
is only equal to its distrust. Marmarra is the most easterly situated of the
four powerful Zhunites states
(Cusca, Kimbar and Hootar being the three to its west). Marmarra itself is
shaped as a near perfect circle, which is believed to be influenced by Eluda’s
Lillivear roots, perfect circles being a typical convention of Lillivear
settlements (towns like Mylthis serving as examples).
Marmarra is a very heavily fortified settlement, and its defensive provisions are certainly imposing. As you approach the city you see the impenetrable outer walls. These gargantuan walls of washed out grey stone seem to tower an impossible height- "Not even gorbas can break down our walls" was exclaimed by Hiartun Rarkan, the Kogian who helped to design the city’s defences. The walls reach to such a height that not much of the inner cityscape can be seen. The outer walls are literally overflowing with Marmarran heraldry, banner after banner of bearing the Marmarran "Eye" motif. The banners create a very terrifying affect of being scrutinised - although you know the depictions aren’t real each one seems to diligently stare at you, making you feel very exposed and vulnerable.
Once you escape from the spell of awe the enormous walls cast over you, you notice Marmarra’s armed defences. The tops of the walls are lined with hundreds of archers, the ground below guarded by formation after formation of spearmen, or so it seems. When counted the men do no total an incredibly impressive number, a typical army of one of the other Citystates probably consists of this many troops yet twofold. The troops are cleverly arranged though so that their numbers appear greater than they are - the element of fear being a common theme within all things Marmarran.
The most striking element of this city upon entry is sheer suspicion. Even the commoners, accustomed to the fact that keeping to their own business is the safest option with Royal informants snooping around, look upon you in a very invasive manner- spotting immediately that you dont belong. Everything about the area screams scrutiny, from the street guards who place their hands on their swords the second you make eye contact with them to the numeable stares you only just catch out of the partial glance of one's eye. Before even passing through the gate the scrutiny of the guards is amazing. Upon entry a team of four men is assigned to each visitor. The visitor is nearly stripped to their bare flesh and then thoroughly searched for almost an hour. All articles considered to be "illegal" by Marmarran law are confiscated and not returned. However, there is a pause by the guard before your possessions are purged into storage - for bribery of course. A vast majority of the guard, despite being trained and ready to defend the city from threats, are weak to sound of coins in their pocket - or ‘corrupt’ if you wish to use a literal term. Most small arms or other minor trinkets can be bought from the guards if you have enough money and are often overlooked by higher authorities. But allowing someone to smuggle goods into the city is considered a serious offence and may lead to the perpetrators "Hollowing" - a punishment more ‘constructive’ than execution, which involves removing the spirit of an individual and animating the husk.
Key Locations. The City itself can be split into three distinguishable areas - the outer ring, the inner ring and the centre. The areas themselves are seperated by (in comparison to the outer ones) generally unfortified walls. Though there is very little in terms of officially segregating the city's citizens, someone who doesnt belong can be quickly spotted. Though the guards probably won't take action against you, nothing is to stop a particularly agitated civilian considering you a trespasser.
The Outer Ring
Upon entering the city through it’s only gargantuan gate and navigating the everpresent buzzing, influx traffic, you find yourself in the western part of the Outer Ring. The Outer Ring is the most populous area of Marmarra and is where a majority of the Marmarran "lower class" lives. Despite being referred to as "lower class" very few people actually live in poverty within the city. Almost everybody in the city is employed, either owning their own business or being employed by a larger one.
The most striking thing about the outer ring is the sheer concentration of Marmarran banners covering the buildings. Much like the walls before it, this creates a thick aura of suspicion. Though the Marmarran authorities have always said these banners show unity and strength most see them as constant message of how the authorities are always watching you and that they have the means to punish for stepping out of line.
There is a very strong presence of control in the area. You can't look anywhere without seeing an armed guard, clad in uniform and armed with a halberd. The Marmarran public are always though to be under scrutiny and surveillance by the authorities and the large numbers of soldiers in the streets probably reflect this. There is a terrible climate in the city, every conversation a whisper and the background beat the clacking of heels against the paving stones. There is a complete absence of heart, of core, that you might come by in other Zhunite cities, which are categorised by their generally cheerful, optimistic demeanours. Every Marmarra civilian in the area seems to be frightened. However, whenever an outsider brings up the issue of these soldiers scaring the public into submission, the fact that there is very little crime in the area is brought into play - legitimising the soldiers’ presence.
A lot of the buildings in the outer ring are accommodation. Though those of moderate success can afford to purchase a house of their own, most live in Insuulo (a form of housing block). These blocks consist normally of only two residences, but blocks where three or even four residents/groups of co-exist together. Marmarran apartments are quite spacious and usually consist of three bedrooms, a kitchen area and a living area, which is where the inhabitants usually eat together. The blocks themselves are made of stone, designed in a series of floors supported by columns. The basic Insuulo consists of one apartment on the ground floor and one above. Most are designed to cater towards families, though this is perhaps the only provision in Marmarra for children. In the southern outer ring there a large number of Insuulo blocks, where rather than purchasing a house close to where you work, a majority of workers commute.
The Outer Ring is split up into districts (each one having roughly twenty apartment blocks within it). Within districts certain amenities are shared - such as a free bathing house. The standard and quality of the public services varies from district to district, and in places were they are especially poor citizens may opt to pay and become members of a private bath house which usually offers a more luxurious experience. Those who can afford the luxury of a private bath house anyway also usually choose to do so - luxury is a part of Marmarran life after all.
Besides civilian accommodation, the Outer Ring is also home to various businesses. All over this part of the city there are clusters of markets where people sell various types of wares. Generally, each marketplace will be considered a specialist in one certain type of wares, like some markets may specialise in food whilst others might specialise in carpentry or other crafts. It’s hard to really identify which areas of the Outer Ring sell what, since the markets themselves are very often small.
The Outer Ring generally seems to be the undervalued area of Marmarra. Despite being where a majority of the citizens live and an important part of the city’s economy (through taxes), there seems to be little care about these people’s well being. There are no free hospitals in the area, if you cannot pay for treatment you are turned away with no alternative but to suffer. There are no orphanages in Marmarra; homeless children are either locked up or employed as household servants by the wealthier classes. The authorities only seem to be involved in negative ways within the Outer Ring - policing the innocent, spying on citizens and enforcing the usually unjust proclamations of the Witch Queen.
Common sights within this area (and the city in general) are ambiguous cloaked figures. Though a majority of them could merely be civilians who don’t want the rain to dampen their clothes underneath, some are thought to be part of "The Brotherhood of the Eye". This fabled group (never actually acknowledged to exist by Marmarran authorities) was supposedly founded by the first Kogian "Kijur Destius" after his supposed death. The Brotherhood of the Eye is said to be an underground organisation, which is made of an elite cadre of agents that serve the current Witch Queen. It is in their jurisdiction to eliminate any enemy of Marmarra and to uncover any plots against the crown - the reason for all the agents putting the public under surveillance. Some people have gone as far to say that every district has one or more cloaks ("cloaks" being the colloquial term for one of the agents) investigating the citizens regularly.
- Buildings of Note
One of the notable locations of the Outer Ring is "Lasharan Prison". Found in the far north of the city, this imposing complex, a maze within itself, is where those convicted of crimes by Marmarran authorities are sent. Though architecturally it is quite an interesting structure - with a whole variety of chambers and levels giving it an unusual appearance - most Marmarrans choose to avoid the area due to the high military presence (Marmarran soldiers being known for their hostility to any in their immediate area).
- Additional Traits/Features
Another note of interest about this part of the city is the inclusion of the very novel "Parchment Criers"- a system of a telling the public about recent governmental, political and legal changes which has been copied and evolved to be included in other Citystates (though none will admit using a technique of Marmarran design). "Parchment Criers" are simply walls located in every district where members of the City Guard display parchments explaining the recent events of the city - usually updated every two weeks. Though these are considered to be official, many citizens suspect heavy filtering and truth spinning of the actual facts and have become somewhat accustomed to not taking much notice to what the posts say.
The Inner Ring
As has been remarked before about this part of the city by citizens and visitors alike, "even the gutters here flow with liquid gold"- and such statements may not in fact be so unfounded. The "Inner Ring" of the Marmarran metropolis is perhaps the part of the city where the more renowned traits of the Marmarran people can be more readily seen- an appreciation for aesthetic beauty, lavish frivolity and (last but not least) an unquenchable sense of greed, since those with aptitude and financial security to express such traits generally live in this sector of the city.
Buildings within the Inner Ring are much more splendid in their design when compared to the Outer Ring. Many of the buildings are constructed from brilliant white marble from Katakara and the surrounding quarries - some of the more lavish property owners even having their walls trimmed with gold or other precious metals. In many cases though this stylistic choice is made redundant by the fact that criminal gangs have very little difficulty removing exterior wall decorations. One cannot count on the help of the guards either, since more often than not they are in on the heist. The architectural design of these buildings is much more flamboyant than that of the Outer Ring, with a whole variety of pillars, balconies and artisanship being used - as well as some classical Krean architecture depending on the age of the establishment.
The Inner Ring of the City is definitely the economic heart of Marmarra. Endless arrays of boutiques and edifices exist selling a whole manner of luxurious goods. From fine rice or Aleia wines, to exotic perfumes, rare garments, colourful culinary products and even foreign poisons and armaments amongst others. Marmarra would seem to demonstrate precisely what happens when you mix traditional Krean eccentricity with an insatiable desire for fortune and wealth. Marmarra is a place where anything is available to a citizen - though everything comes at a price.
Physical property though is not all that is offered to the citizen with a heavy coin purse. The concept of "leisure whatever the price" is obvious throughout the inner ring of Marmarra, with expensive bars, restaurants, private concert halls, massage parlours and gambling dens littering the area. In most instances, many of these areas only come alive at night- when the more adventurous, nocturnal (and usually young) Marmarrans come out to play. Though the local citizens build up the core of the leisure business in the City, a foreigner (unusually for such distrusting Marmarrans) is not generally treated any differently. Though a few heads may be turned at the unusual looking fellow, if he can afford his own enjoyment (as well as few drinks to keep the more hostile Marmarrans sweet) he we will quickly be ushered in, until his coin runs out of course.
Gambling itself as industry within this sector of the city thrives. The rich who have everything still find some delight in throwing money at (usually rigged) games of "chance". A whole cornucopia of games exist within Marmarra, though many people play for the thrill rather than the concept of making money. Games can revolve around anything from a series of card game to the infamous "Snake in a bag" game - which usually results in more injuries than most other gambling practices.
Surprisingly though, very few articles are actually "illegal" to possess or purchase in Marmarra. In fact, items considered to be "illegal" are usually those, which are smuggled into the City to evade the excessive taxations that the Marmarran authority imposes. Essentially, the basis of smuggling to is not bring certain items in, but rather to get cheap items and make more of a profit by by-passing the laws concerning them. Whatever the smuggled ware is, the legal stance on this matter is usually the same - very harsh. The authority's view on the matter would seem quite odd actually, considering the fine for possessing smuggled goods is actually higher than the fine for vandalism or the fine for minor assault.
Due to Marmarra’s harsh stance on smuggling, and in order to combat it, a well-armed military presence is situated in the inner ring, centred mainly around the barracks erected to produce a substantial amount of troops in areas rife with the crime. The guards that patrol these parts are different to those that police the poorer areas - almost a mixture between the household guard of the Witch Queen and that of the more "common" city guard. Though they do not possess the characteristic extravagant headwear that makes the household guard so recognisable, they do have a much higher quality armour (a combination of Miarzan leather and chainmail usually) and as such appear much more authoritarian and important-, which is probably true. Additionally, there are less so called "cloaks" in this area, though this only entails that when they do appear, the citizens are only more afraid. In comparison to the Outer Ring however, the fear with regard to "cloaks" in the Inner Ring is usually much greater due to a lack of familiarity with the mysterious figures. However, this is usually with due course, since when a cloak is spotted in the Inner Ring there is a high likelihood of someone in the local area "disappearing".
Centre of City
The centre of the Marmarran metropolis is perhaps the most notable and most interesting part of the city as a whole, despite the fact that it is the smallest of the three recognisable sections. Almost nobody lives in this part of the city - only a fraction of the city’s population can afford to live here - ranging from high ranking diplomats, the officials of the rivalling magic schools and a whole manner of rich and important bureaucrats and mavericks. As such, the buildings here possess a much greater level of grandeur than that of more civilian areas, though the Marresque nature of Marmarran architecture (which is epitomised here) can make this area of the city quite an imposing and frightening place, regardless of underlying beauty. In this section of the description we will attempt to inform and articulate various points of interest in the city. These will include the four Kogianate Households, the rivalling magic schools of Pyrunai and Moor'shune, the monastery of the Red Sisters Order, Alla'garam Hall and the Ashen Palace (the residence of the Witch Queen when she is in the City).
- Kogianate Households
Four of the most notable sites of this part of the city are the Kogianate Households - the four families that could be considered as Marmarran nobility - Meurtian, Rarkan, Tisare and Venraius - each possessing a house reflective of the quintessential traits embodied by these bloodlines. Each of the houses are place an equal distance from the Ashen Palace, arranged as such that they form a square from a higher vantage point.
- Meurtian House
The first house, to the northwest of the palace, is that of Meurtian. Originally founded by Lyrias Meurtian, one of the fathers of the Gaishen magic system, this dark spectacle epitomises the Marmarran architectural ideas of making a structure imposing and mysterious. In many ways the house could be considered a scaled down version of the Moor’shune Gaishen School, due its architectural style. From the outside, the building can be seen to be separated into three distinct sections linked by corridors, though the content of each of these is somewhat mysterious (since the only area that has been publicly explored is that of the reception hall).
The exterior walls of the house are made from a black marble-like stone, which due to its rarity is now said to be impossible to locate. The detail poured into the outside walls is amazing, a series of master artisans being hired to carve the image of numerous, inconceivably long snakes into the precious stone. The laborious work though does produce the illusion that some sort of giant serpent in fact ensnares the entire structure. As well as this, the building includes a variety of black spires, which seemingly do not serve any other purpose than to make the building appear much larger and much more frightening. This Kogian house also uses an odd form of stained glass, producing a series of large windows that are a sickly yellow (unusually developing a slight luminiscent glow in certain levels of light). This, amongst various other traits of the structure's appearence, gives the building a very grim appearance.
Internally though, the building’s grandeur is fully realised. The walls of the reception hall are a slightly more inviting grey colour, though what is most noticeable is the inclusion of the famed portrait of Lyrias himself, in his stereotypically tight clothing (which can be seen in the related portrait). Furthermore, the reception hall itself is surrounded by a maze of polished wooden staircases. Despite the grand and bewildering nature of this spectacle, these multiple staircases do actually serve a purpose. It is thought that due to the variety of routes you are capable of taking, unless you know exactly where you are going it is impossible to find your way. In many instances, it is also rumoured, children who actually live in the house have gone missing for days at a time to the system's complexity.
The rest of the house however is shrouded in suspicion - neither commoners nor public researchers never being allowed to enter. Some have proposed that some of the secret chambers are used as ‘laboratories’ for Meurtian magical experiments (Lyrias’ notorious torture magic springing to mind) - though such claims are slander and cannot be verified to be the truth by the Compendium. Those known to procure authority to enter however are those in possesion of the "Black Article", a seal endowed to an official which allows them to act on the Witch Queens behalf (originally intended to be used as way of delegating power to areas where it was impractical for a Witch Queen to travel to and pass judgement). Amongst certain "Cloaks", Warshades are known to possess this article and can pass freely in and out of the residence as they please - though they rarely choose to do so.
More so than any of the other Kogian houses, the presence of the Marmarran authorities is quite substantial. Around the entrance gates and nearby, the military can be spotted almost everywhere. This thought to be due to the fact that the Meurtian house (considering their affiliation with Gaishen magic) could pose a substantial threat to the Witch Queen, despite a history of loyalty to Marmarra and all Witch Queens. Irregardless, the soldiers remain as a reminder that though they are and have proved to be a valuable part of Marmarra, no one is above suspicion.
- Rarkan House
Continuing with the Kogian houses, northeasterly located from the Ashen Palace, is the Rarkan house - originally the domain of the Master General Hiartun Rarkan. Similarly to the Meurtian house, this Kogian household is equal (if not surpassing) in grandeur, though in a much less Marresque way. In fact, this is quite an unconventional building (in terms of Marmarran architecture) in the entire city, in fact following design traits of the Karakan style. This taken into account however, the Tisare house (if you read below) perhaps violates more (if not all) of the artistic conventions of the Marresqe style, though radical design ideas was always the Tisare forte.
The most striking thing about the scene is the impressive courtyard that stretches ahead of the main house for an unusually long distance. There is a clearly defined, gravel path leading towards the house - the exemplary route augmented by a series of fountains and statues - mainly of notable Rarkan house members or even some of their noble steeds (though in most cases it is difficult to tell which historic horse is which). As the path begins to draw to an end the gravel path begins to widen - much like a river meeting the ocean. The widening creates a small patch outside of the main house, which is the home of the iconic bronze statue of Hiartun Rarkan - its dimensions and style reminiscent of the monument to the Dragonlord Seras found in Karakan (Seras being the patron deity of Karakan).
For one thing, the house itself (excluding the exterior steps) is much more geometrically regular than the more artistic buildings of the Kogian (perhaps the polar opposite of the Tisare household). The house itself is (effectively) a large stone cuboid, supporting itself mainly via the extensive usage of large (quintessentially Zhunite) columns within the house. In essence, the exterior of the house embodies the classic Marmarran trait of Pride, though in a typically un-Marmarran fashion.
Unlike the Meurtian household, the Rarkan are much more open to public investigation - though many may consider this quite a negative trait. Besides living, eating and recreational quarters, the interior of the house also consists of multiple training halls and (notably) a stable. Access to these facilities for those of non-Kogian blood is very rare - only the military elite being allowed to train amongst them. The stable additionally is also stated to be where the best Warhorses of Marmarra have been bred - sired by the steeds of many of the Witch Queen’s military champions.
Additionally, within the Rarkan household is the famous and elusive armoury - where some of the continent’s most skilled weapons craftsmen produce a whole manner of high quality arms for the Rarkan household to use. This is perhaps the part of their complex that the Rarkans regard the highest - since the weapons produced here are never to be put into conventional circulation - and those that are leaked are (almost) priceless. Similarly to the Meurtian house, the "Black Article" is considered a requirement if you wish to inspect this armoury. Though the Rarkan Kogianates would happily divulge information with those of noble purpose (such as representatives from the compendium), they will limit access to such a degree that only those who are they incapable of keeping out are allowed in.
Picture description. Yian Tisare, the fourth Kogian, often venerated as the greatest and most dedicated artist and musician in Marmarran history. Picture drawn by Sheil.
- Venraius ("Ziron") House
Continuing in the fashion, southeasterly from the Ashen palace you will find the Venraius household - the setting for perhaps one of the most dramatic overhauls of Kogian politics in Marmarran history. After the Venraius Heresy (see the Kogian Five entry for more details) the main house was demoted (assuming the title "Ziron" from there-on-in) and the branch house instated as heads of the family. For further details the Compendium’s Decipher Ziron has compiled further reference material on the scandal elsewhere.
The house of the Venraius family is quite unusual, due to the extensive usage of flora outside of the house - sometimes considered to be a mockery of Eluda’s twisted gardens (which is in fact itself a mockery of the High Temple of Ankriss). The otherwise quite dull and drab exterior walls of the house are adorned with a blanket of vines (reminiscent to the effect that the "Blanket of Shar" plant has in genuine nature), the front courtyards being covered in patches of large, burly trees (often referred to as ‘Trees of Thought’ due to the Venraius scholarly nature). As well as this, just outside of the polished, wooden door, an exotic series of flowerbeds can be spotted - though how they survive in the mild climes of the city remains somewhat of a mystery.
The interior reception is however less stunning, the drab and dry walls adorned
mainly with bronze candle sticks - modest for a family with such considerable
wealth. You can clearly spot the spaces on the wall where portraits used to
hang due to discolouring in the pallid grey walls. Only one such portrait still
remains - the portrait of the fifth Kogian herself, Mila Venraius. This is one
of the few art pieces produced by the Kogian Yian Tisare, and is known to be
exceedingly valuable (its monetary value probably being the a contributing
factor to why it was not destroyed along with the visages of the prevous
Housemasters and mistresses).
The only area of physical interest to an outsider however is most probably Mila’s study, inherited to the Housemaster as part of the Passing ceremony (for more details on Kogian rituals refer to the "Kogian Customs" entry). This room is filled with a whole manner of books, scrolls and unusual pieces of equipment- perhaps displaying Mila’s multiple affinities. The cluttering of this small space is so intense that one struggles to not knock down a mixing beaker, unsettle an abacus or knock over a pile of presumably important documents, making the awe of the room somewhat lacklustre.
- Tisare House
Finally, southwesterly located of the Ashen Palace is the house of the Tisare family - the famous (and often infamous) artistic and musical geniuses of Marmarra - known for their moments of brilliance as well as luxurious indulgences. In all accounts, the Tisare family have, and probably always will, embody the Marmarran trait of frivolity, their beautifully intricate and original house being perhaps the ultimate testament to their pursuit of aesthetic perfection.
This house - if not anything else - is very different. Whereas most of the Kogian architecture has revolved around Marresque trends or at least the utilisation of geometric shapes - the Tisare house is almost unnatural. The glimmering white texture of an unspecified material slopes around in numerable complex, fluid shapes that seemingly serve no purpose other than to look good. The overall smooth and sleek shape of the house design seems to incorporate penchants from a variety of architectural styles - though it seems most likely that it appears this way simply because of Yian’s wishes.
Upon entry of this house you are greeted by a surreal blur of shining metal, ivory and glass. The variety of stunning sights exuding from the expansive hall is almost painful to eyes used to somewhat dark natured designs that are far too common in Marmarra, nothing appearing real or solid - purely artistic. You see a whole manner of spiralling, plain glass staircases with glittering silver-looking handrails the mere footsteps upon these constructs producing a tune of music that only heightens the bizarre mood of this building.
The house itself consists of endless galleries and installations - all equally amazing though somewhat confusing to someone as narrow minded as myself. In some rooms you are greeted by the over-dressed, cosmetic abusing Tisare women- Geranium beauties to the very limit - in others you are greeted by glasses of suspiciously coloured alcohol; everything in the house seems to be for show - no depth to any of it. In fact, you would be hard done to find a portrait of anyone - the abstract nature of everything necessitating that all that is important is the moment - the art- not the heritage or its creator.
One sight of interest is that of the private concert hall, the only part of the house regularly open to public view. Tisare prodigies will often perform for the loving Marmarran public - well the loving public who can afford the extortionate prices the Tisare family charge. The hall itself appears quite typical for a Tisare room in terms of extravagency and luxury, seating around fifty people on (presumably expertly designed) leather sofas. The same cannot be said for the stage however, which due to masterful lighting and modest decoration, has been said to look like it is made of solid gold.
- The Rivalling Institutions of the Arcane
Two other sights of importance, both politically and historically in Marmarra, are the two rivalling magic schools. Each of the schools are known for practicing their own unique arcane system (generally categorised by antagonising philosophies). The two schools being that of Moor’shune (practitioners of the more traditional Gaishen magic) and the Pyrunai institute (practitioners of the lesser known but equally fearsome Blood Magic) ,famed for the tensions between each other- and though the days are gone where mages would fight in the streets over the honour of their school, the malicious flame amongst the two organisations is still very much ablaze.
- Moor'shune (Gaishen Magic)
The Moor’shune school itself (much like the Ashen Palace, and any other building directly designed by Eluda) has numerable Krean influences to it, in this instance a mixture of both Lillivear and Aesteran conventions. The building’s exterior though is not without some grim Marresque traits, with quite aggressively shaped spires and stone panels- producing quite a fearsome looking building. The eye entwined with snakes is also a heavily used motif, which demonstrates the dominance of Meurtian and Marmarran authority within this system. Despite this, the overall design (utilising a manner of circles and diagonal columns) is quite typically a Lillivear design trait. The building additionally (both inside and out) extensively uses water features and fountains - giving the somewhat eerie and silent halls a naturally sinister yet mentally soothing ambience. Within the courtyard you will locate a whole manner of fountains, the menagerie of constructs dominated by the "Kyton Fountain", the largest fountain perhaps in the entire city- possessing an amazing nine levels - each gracefully manipulating the water in differing directions producing an almost superfluous artistic effect. The interior of the building is somewhat plain, despite the artificial interior stream system, and is mainly made of up of almost identically dressed, darkly robed grim characters either sitting working diligently in bland grey lecture halls or shuffling around in faceless silent masses. It would seem the artistic interest is limited entirely to the outside- perhaps epitomising the Marmarran quality of being amazingly beautiful but lacking any noticeable substance. Despite its interior physical disappointment, the intricacies of this organisation are quite amazing - and reference to the appropriate entry will be an enlightening experience.
- Pyrunai (Blood Magic)
The second school, the Pyrunai institute of Blood Magic, is the most affluent and numerous organisation of Sanriers (Practitioners of Blood Magic) on the entire continent - mainly due to the fact that to be recognised as an actual Sanrier you are required to pass an exam distributed by the school. The school itself, founded in the honour of the system's architects the Pyrunai Brothers, is quite a beautiful building. The stonework on the complex itself is a very light grey hue- which could pass for white in bright enough light - though the exterior walls are decorated with huge, flowing red banners bearing the insignia of the school (the three interlocking rings). Inside the building - whitewashed walls and shiny wooden floors greet you - brass-looking oil lanterns adorning the walls, seemingly alight all day. The lecture halls follow a similar format as to Moor’shune, except for the fact that many more diagrams are used to demonstrate the Sanryu flow systems - numerous posters adorning (well splattered) over every wall.
One point of interest is the ‘Eternal Wall’ that is situated outside of the school. Upon graduation and receiving the title ‘Sanrier’ the individual’s name is carved onto the granite wall - the wall bearing the name of every individual ever to grace the halls of the Pyrunai institute and succeed in attaining their title. However, some names have been struck through, the Sanriers who partook in the aptly named ‘Rebellion of the Blood’ - the worst treachery in the history of the institute.
- The Monastery of the Red Sisters
Another amazing sight is that of the Red Sisters’ unusually titled "monastery", which is odd in the instance that the organisation does not exhibit any sort of religious dogma or beliefs. Originally the most powerful fighting force under Eluda’s jurisdiction, the Red Sisters are the single strongest and most numerable organisation of Sanriers separate of the members of the Pyrunai institute. The Red Sisters entrust themselves with authority over Marmarra - consider themselves the self-proclaimed (though openly unoffical) Wardens of the City, its citizens and its interests. Due to this absolute self-imposed authority the Red Sisters have almost always antagonised "true" Marmarran authorities, being particular worries for the Witch Queens. Ultimately, they vary between nuisance and threat due to the fact that they believe themselves to be the real owners of Marmarra, regarding the Witch Queens and their agents and invalid. The Red Sisters are known to take Marmarran affairs into their own hands - in the past their Mistresses even choosing to eliminate existing Witch Queens at the cost of their own lives in the 'interest of Marmarra'.
The Monastery itself is situated directly south of the Ashen Palace - the distance so close that it is stated the complex can be seen from the Solemn Chamber (and probably vice versa due to the honed senses [sight included] of the sisters). Contrary as to what you would expect for a sizeable threat so close to the Witch Queen’s residence, the military presence surrounding the complex is quite low - though the concentration of cloaks and other operatives (perhaps from the infamous Iron Veil organisation) is perhaps at its highest here. The decision to limit armed surveillance of the monastery probably sprung from the "incident" where soldiers attempting to search the premises were ripped apart without the sisters even drawing their weapons.
The building itself is the beating heart of the militant organisation and though other minor branches exist and other cells operate in other locations (such as the Twilight Sisters) this is most definitely the centre of the sisterhood. The building itself is made of a (possibly unique) green stone, producing a slightly eerie effect. Architecturally, it is over-typical of a Marmarran building in a specific way - as though it mocks the establishment, its trends and its traditions. The blood hue (similar to the Pyrunai banners and matching the robes of the typical initiate sister) however is highly noticeable, the red blood drop insignia (exactly like the tattoo each sister has on her right cheek) being almost overly utilised, becoming a piece of propaganda. The tatoo design is also quite similar to the aforementioned banner motif of the Pyrunai institute, though the tatoo actually exists to display the mourning for the martyred and venerated Mistress. The complex in most instances acts as a hub for the many sisters who live on its grounds. It is rare for them to leave when not on assignments and as such it becomes their home, their training ground and in most cases - their family. Though the numbers homed by the sisterhood are gargantuan (equivalent to a small army), the sleeping quarters are all separate, megor and basic. Each sister is performing a service and (in a very un-Marmarran manner) their life is not about luxury, the basics being all they require. The training facilities are perhaps where most time is spent and where most effort is invested - the incessant clashing of swords, breaking of rocks and often grunts and cries of pain - the tough training regime of these sisters seems to never end - even the highest ranking Mistress maintaining her skills for a minimum of four hours a day. It is often said if the Red Sisters wished it, they are prepared and capable to mount an attack on the entire city and would have a reasonable chance of taking absolute control - though the true motives of the organisation are even unbeknownst to most of its members.
- Alla'garam Hall
The penultimate sight of interest that I will go on to describe is that of the Alla'garam (literally meaning "Many Tongues") hall - effectively the commoners council in which elected representatives discuss issues to be brought forward for the council of six (Wherein the four Kogian Housemasters, the Current Witch Queen and one chosen representative from Alla'garam discuss issues concerning Marmarra and its sphere of influence). The Hall itself is quite simple in design and - to put it bluntly - lacks the grandeur of many other Marresqe buildings. What makes it remarkable, essentially, is the activities within rather than its aesthetic quality. The building is quite large - the main architectural vessel being that of the large, wide cylinder - as if a cross-section had been cut from a some sort of stone tube, hollowed out, and turned into a building. The interior is quite modestly designed for such an "important" structure, bearing resemblance to some sort of arena; seating is arranged in ascending blocks with the "stage" at the bottom housing the diplomats whose unfortunate duty it is to deliver speeches or even news (which due to generally pessimistic outlooks is always bad news). When in usage (which is almost constantly) the halls have a buzz of activity, with each cohort and "internal alliance" of diplomats chattering away - usually ignoring the poor soul who is trying to convey a message to the large mob. The ambience of constant fluidity and flow can be quite overbearing however, as one does struggle to hear one's self think, let alone talk. However, despite the official (as well as self-imposed and self-validated) importance of this organisation, the fact that the voice of the people carries very little weight within the Council of Five does severely hinder these Marmarran diplomats. The grand presence but inherent insignifcance of Marmarran politics is perhaps epitomised perfectly through the large but unspectacular building that houses their duties.
- The Ashen Palace
Finally, perhaps the grandest site in the entire remarkable city is that of the "Ashen Palace"- the residence of the current Witch Queen. The building itself is strictly off limits to unauthorised civilians - the only regular visitors being the Household Army, Thorns (the Witch Queen's prodigies) and reporting Warshades - but even from the outside it is an abnormally striking construct, provoking feels of both fear and awe in a quite unusual manner. The quite rigidly shaped complex appears to be made up of a variety of cubic, white marble chambers (the only stone used in the whole building in fact), though the goings on within are kept very mysterious.
Picture description. Kyera the Tyrant, one of the Witch Queens of Marmarra. Picture by Bard Judith.
The most noticeable section of the entire building (which is quite large
considering its internal goings-on) is that of the "Pyre of Absolution", which
can be seen almost anywhere in the city. It is in fact a huge burning torch
(with two assigned guards who systematically provide it with more fuel to burn)
that serves as the final resting place for the corpses of the Witch Queens. In
fact only two Witch Queens in Marmarran history have not been consigned to its
everlasting flames: Eluda, who disappeared without a trace (though there are
legends that she assumed the status of a 'Daedhirian Lady', drawing followers
under her banner) and Kyera the Tyrant (Who was deemed unworthy of such a
privilege). If the torch is ever to go out (as it has only done once before)
this is considered a terrible omen for Marmarra's future - resulting in mass
hysteria amongst the citizens fearing their imminent destruction.
The Palace's front entrance is secured by the famous Household Guards, who are easily recognisable due to their somewhat extravagant uniform. Their armour is quite ornate- consisting mostly of steel plate with the inclusion of chainmail underneath. Wherever possibly, the smiths seem to have also used Black Steel - an alloy which involves the introduction of various other substances in the smelting process. What is most flamboyant however, is their helmet design- which is rounded at the top with a band of metal across the ridge of the nose - topped off by an inconceivably long white feather (or red if you are one of the guard sergeants). Despite the almost comical look of these guards, they are at the high end of the militaristic scale - their characteristic halberds being lethal weapons to any would-be intruders, and though their armour may look like it favours style over function, they are from vulnerable. The only member of the household guard who is not dressed in uniform is the Captain, who is a warshade selected by the current witch queen. This single part man part gaisho figure is perhaps the ultimate deterrent to skirmishers targeting the castle - second only to the Witch Queen herself perhaps.
Behind the (oddly gateless) entrance you are faced with what is aptly named "Journey of Steps"- a gargantuan (and very nearly vertical) staircase leading directly up to the Solemn Chamber wherein you will encounter the Witch Queen (unless she is busy teaching her disciples or pursuing her own whimsical ambition). Despite this being her most likely location, The Lonely Throne is often left lonelier than its name would suggest - since Witch Queens tend to like travelling and expanding their own personal scope and power.
Another site which Mr Ziron was allowed access to was that of the "Twisted Gardens", a collection of warped jungle plants which Eluda produced in order to mock Krean penchants and styles. A variety of darkly coloured, wildly growing plants can be found- some so indescribably grotesque you begin to doubt the decency of Eluda’s efforts. Before regarding Eluda’s creations as horrifying though, it might be wise to consider whether Eluda (or any Marmarran for that manner) had "decency" amongst their motivations.
However, much of the Palace and its contents are kept secret. Rumours exist that the palace maintains dungeons to torture traitors to the crown, visitors claiming to hear faint muffled screaming. Others suggest that the (or perhaps one of many) headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Eye is located here- which would explain the numerous cloaked figures skulking about the area. The Compendium however cannot verify any of these claims.
In conclusion, the City itself is very varied and though its look may not to be to everyone's taste - Marmarra is most definitely a spectacle. Whether it is a beautiful spectacle or the epitome of artistic insult is open to interpretation however.
Location. The actual Citystate of Marmarra is located on the eastern region of the Zhunite coast, being the most easterly located of the four main Citystates (the others being Hostar, Kimbar and Cusca). The Plains of Zhun themselves are located on the central-southwest of the continent of Nybelmar situated now amongst the Nybelroid and Evalaris domains, as well as being in close proximity to the regions populated by the nomadic Doimo and Kavogerim.
People. The people of
Marmarra are somewhat varied - the most affecting factor usually being wealth.
Though the Marmarra population is made up of a whole plethora of different
cultures the initial ethos since (or even before)
arrival has remained
the same. Marmarrans are fiercely envious, envious to such a degree that
aesthetic and economic pursuits are almost completely fuelled by a desire to
fulfill their egostistical requirements. Before the birth of Marmarra as we know
it now, the citizens of the relatively insignificant town could quite simply be
categorised as the dissatisfied masses who desired to have the affluence of the
greater Citystates, regardless of the cost. This single-minded idea is probably
what allowed an individual of (though undeniable genius) such a malicious and
disturbing psyche to dominate so very easily.
As aforementioned, Marmarrans themselves are quite a mongrel mixture of various tribes in the region. Though predominately of Zhunite denominations (including significant numbers of Karakanites), records of requests to join the Marmarran ranks in the city’s early concept list a number of Anpagan and even Krean - some of those applying to join the Marmarran campaign even neglecting to select an ethnic category. As such, only social conventions and the imposed city’s culture define the population.
Categorically, Marmarrans are often thought of to possess a mixture of pride and fear in terms of their identity. It is unheard of for Marmarrans to promote the produce, methods or ideas of any other kingdom, realm or domain. Marmarrans always believe that their way is best, regardless of more effective alternatives. Despite this, Marmarrans are known to possess a keen bitterness towards their own authorities, regarding them in a variety of emotions - tending to be somewhere on the spectrum of "Annoyance" to "Dread". Though Marmarrans are very much content with their position and are (usually) fiercely loyal to their homes, they exist in constant apprehension towards the Witch Queen and what may happen to them if they choose to set out of line.
Marmarrans are often thought to be incredibly vain, shallow and frivolous - at least when they can afford to be. Marmarrans, especially of wealth, are known for their extravagant dress senses and tendency to waste money - usually on trivial pursuits such as gambling, drinking or other easy perishable goods and experiences. Those who are in not in a position to spend such profligately generally have a heightened demeanour of jealousy, stimulating further egotistical pursuits and producing a relatively discontented people.
Typically, outsiders will treat Marmarrans with much distrust - and usually with due course. Marmarrans have shown in the past to be manipulative and self-centred in their aims (leading to particularly bad relations with Cyras, since under Marmarran advice they sent no aid during the Orcal wars - giving them a questionable reputation). Marmarran magic additionally has given them a terrible reputation - the consensus generally being it is simply very, very evil. The fact that Illusionary ambassadors have the ability to affect the senses of those around them, the Gaishen system involves the manipulation of dark spirits and that at higher levels of sorcery individuals are able to affect the minds and free-will of many others probably does not aid Marmarrans in producing a positive image - though a positive image has never been something desired by Marmarrans.
Amongst these other generally undesirable traits, a typical Marmarran could quite easily be classified by their cold demeanours, malicious grudge-holding nature and a tendency to overact to social changes or insults. Assassination is a lucrative industry for a reason within the City of Witches.
Coat of Arms/Sign. Various insignia can be categorised as Marmarran in origin - such as the interlocking rings of the Pyrunai institute of the teardrop motif and the Red Sisters, though the official symbol of the Witch Queen (and by default of the city) is "The Eye", the design usually produced in white or yellow against of black or purple background. The design itself has a beautiful yet eerie feel to it. The thin, elipitical shape it assumes conjures up images of arrogant beauty as well as fear-invoking scrutiny. In many instances, it has an almost soul penetrating quality, the almost reptillian, thin pupil staring at you in an unsettling manner. This motif in particularly is extensively used throughout the city in all districts. They say its almost impossible to find a street corner that doesn’t either have the symbol mounted upon it, or a guard bearing one such a banner. The mass of eyes, it is claimed, is supposed to make the citizens feel safe and content in the fact that they are protected - though it seems to produce a sense of personal invasion - the ever-present threats that come with Marmarran authority being refreshed in your memory every time you see the simple yet powerful insignia.
Climate. The climate of Marmarra is typically very grey, drab and possessing of a somewhat eerie gloom (as you might expect for such a gloomy population). Overcast and clouds are the most common weather, blocking out the perhaps purifying light of the sun from these relatively impure folk. Showers of rain are frequent though unpredictable - much to the dismay of a multitude of Marmarran fashionistas whose cosmetic efforts are ruined by leakages of the heavens.
Evenings, unusually, are slightly warmer than the afternoons and mornings - though in a refreshing rather than humid way. This abnormality in the environment is generally attributed to the extensive magical activity in and around the area - since similar trends in the climate have been spotted in the Broken Woods known to have high spiritual presences. The enjoyable temperature however does not distract from the generally poor natural light of the area, creating an oddly enjoyable sense of obscurity if you are a Marmarran.
Flora. Though it is fashionable to cultivate a variety of plants in Marmarran gardens, naturally the flora in the area is very sparse, mostly consisting of a variety of funguses that grow in the less hygienic allies and back-streets of the outer ring. Though the odd tree or bush can be spotted if you look hard enough, the general lack of sunshine (or at least enough to support large plants) means that such floral constructs are usually pitiful. Despite the lack of dense foliage that one might spot on the Peninsula of Shar, the climate is capable of also supporting a variety of creeping vines (usually growing on the sides of homes) as well as most flowers found in the Plains of Zhun, Geraniums kept on balconies being able to survive for quite a while.
The most common plants brought into Marmarra are those to brew poisons, produce perfumes or a variety of other exotic purposes that a Marmarran with enough coin would pursue (though that is hardly a limiting description).
Fauna. Though naturally you may encounter a few urbanised bird species that are commonplace in such a metropolis, and there is no shortage of pesky insects that are capable of thriving within the lesser-sanitized regions, there isn’t much in terms of natural fauna that thrives in the area. Particularly within the Outer Ring, infestations of rats as well as stray cats that prey on them are not uncommon sights. Many rather dirty-looking birds also find their way into the city, generally making nests within many of the holes found on neglected Marmarran structures. The sight of the "Zhunite Blackclaw" is a rare sight, though when the bird is seen it is generally considered a traditonial good omen. On some evenings during winter, it is possible to see bats flying over the city (presumably migrating from the Broken Woods).
Additionally, Marmarrans seem to have developed a penchant from exotic pets - and traders in such goods are never short of customers. As such, it is not unlikely for you to encounter the odd lisdra snake or even jupa ape, as long as said animal is kept secure and restrained by its owner, obviously very concerned about the investment they have made in their animal.
Resources. There are no precious metals, particularly useful crops or (to be perfectly precise) anything of natural worth that Marmarra can claim as its own. Despite its inherent lack of natural blessings however, perhaps the most precious resource the Marmarrans have is their attitude - that ultimately is what turned a mediocre town into a metropolis rivalling even Hostar in terms of power and affluence.
Marmarrans have an inalienable nature that leads them to pursue what they want whatever the cost. This nature produces people that have the aptitude to become clever, scheming diplomats, calculating and extensively knowledgeable sorcerers or a whole manner of other professions which helped Marmarra expand its sphere of influence - compensating for the fact that they have nothing much to claim in their immediate area. Arguably, this inherently productive trait is their most useful "resource" if it can categorised as such.
The resources available due to the expansion of Marmarra’s grasp however are quite varied. Marmarra has quite a considerable presence in the Paddy fields of Arroza, meaning they are not sort of rizjo or their favoured rizjo wine. Marmarra also has influence in a handful of fishing towns and various other farms (including the Miarzan cattle farming settlement) giving them a variety of property to import into the city - essentially exploiting their outsourced domains to improve the lives (or at least satisfy the whims) of the Marmarran citizens.
Myth/Lore. Such a settlement renowned for its meddling in the arcane and with such a reputation for conspiracy, especially one that is so keen to keep its motives and workings a secret from everyone else, stories from outsiders based on the inscrupulous activites of these rather sinister figures are almost guaranteed. The Cuscans, bitter rivals of the Marmarrans, are known for their slanderous tales that they tell about the Citystate. Amongst others, the Cuscans have often spun the tale that Marmarra itself is cursed and haunted - the high levels of Gaishen magic practiced in the area actually drawing more of the corrupting spirits to the area. So the story goes, Marmarrans spend so much time in contact with these (usually) invisible menaces it not only taints their minds but also causes citizens of the city to become impure to such a degree that the areas around them become corrupted. Cuscans have forced this tale to such a degree that some have gone as far as to believe that to have a Marmarran in your field will make your lands go infertile or touching the bare skin of a Marmarran will actually cause you to fall ill.
In terms of internal tales however, such stories should usually be kept quiet - mainly because if they are true it may not be good for your health to spread knowledge of their existence. One of the most prominent unspoken legends is that of "The Brotherhood of the Eye", believed to be an underground organisation that works with (rather than for) the Witch Queen to keep the interests of Marmarra safe. The numerable, ambiguous "Cloaks" seen about the city are often thought to be the visible arm of this most definitely invisible organisation. The roots of this legend stretch all the way back to the origins of Marmarra.
The organisation is thought to have been an idea conceived by Eluda and the first Kogian - Kijuur Destius. Essentially, due to the fact that Eluda did not entirely trust her potential successors to keep her own vision for Marmarra in mind in their own actions, and also due to the fact that the title of Witch Queen warranted absolute power, she needed to have some sort of everlasting hand in the works of the Citystate. As such, the legend states that she conspired with Kijuur to fake his death and that of Marmarra’s most capable sentries- the aptly named "Blades of the Witch". After the supposed deaths, and the brotherhood’s birth, it is said that Eluda defined a protocol to be enforced - with the cooperation of the current Witch Queen or otherwise. The men, well trained in the arts of espionage, combat and in many cases magic would ultimately be the most powerful organisation within Marmarra and would have the aptitude to remove a Witch Queen from power should the situation necessitate it.