Chapter 17: Ancient Relics Speak

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"They will come to know each aspect of life.

A warrior's path one will walk, martial and majestic.

A mystic's path another will walk, learned and intent.

And a pauper's path the last will tread, humble and responsive.

A prince, a priest and a poor man make;

Three brothers to Wield the Power."

- from an unknown author, Var Ethisdil archives 

Patrik let the robust sounds of a living world far different than his own ease him from sleep in time to look out the single window at an early morning sunrise. As the golden light cascaded over him, a distant cry lifted over the rumbling tumult to call the inhabitants of Kala'finae to morning prayer in a warbling, sibilant voice more song than shout. It was enough to goad him into throwing aside the thin blanket that covered him before twisting around to plant his feet on the cold stone of the guestroom the elf Inureah had shown him to the evening before.

Pushing himself to his feet, the young Porter took a handful of steps across the floor to the window and peered out. Hidden by the previous night's darkness, the whole of the place that was the druidic sanctuary now stretched out before his marveling eyes.

In the martially aggressive society that was the Scattered Kingdoms, even the smallest holding had to be fortified and protected against marauders and villains. Built on the crests of five hills rising from the sand and rock of the Gauntlet to present a strategic advantage, Kala'finae was just such a place. More fortress than holy place, she possessed walls a good span thick with archer perches cut into them, beetling towers placed specifically to watch each approach to the sanctuary and impregnable redoubts carved from living rock at strategic locations within the walls. These would further serve to break lines of advance and stand as fallback positions in the case of the gates, or the walls being breached.

Yet Kala'finae was also a living, breathing city, one of the scant handful scattered across the desert like polished gems, sparkling in the brilliant light as the precious things they truly were. Here, behind those selfsame walls an entire community was given life, the whole of it chiseled out of and cut into the hills forming the sanctuary's base. 

Here, open air markets vied with great plazas and splashing fountains drawing from deep, mountain aquifers as focus points where the people of the city came to gather and socialize, breathing life into the gray and brown of the stone around them. Colorful tents and awnings in the bright colors of the rainbow were everywhere and voices lifted above the crowd as vendors and hawkers cried out the quality of their goods, competing with the twisting lilt of spiral horns, tambrils, hand drums and dancing zithers as street musicians moved from corner to corner in counterpoint to the flow of the crowds, thick even at this early turn of the morning.

Despite this pulse of secular activity, it didn't take much looking to find the trappings of a holy place in every venue. There, in the plazas, groups of robed druids gathered water from the fountains to use in one of their purification rites. And over there, on the crest of a hill shaved flat the heavy stones of a great ring stood dark and mysterious in the early morning light. And there, on the walls of a thick set building perched on the edge of a market the graceful lines and colors of a druidic kalah, or symbolic painting, were made, filled with imagery of humanity's glorious past and druidic symbols of hope, truth and strength.

Here the druidic Council of Spirits held sway, a body of the Order of Air which concentrated on the purification of the human spirit through rite and trial. The presence of precious water juxtaposed against the heat of the Gauntlet made it thus; the desert became the trial to be overcome. And the water served as the vehicle of purification. It was a simple system, but one that had worked for hundreds of cycles.

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