An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms, 2023 (Plaintext)

January 2023: The Tale of the Tower-Breaker

From the windows of Torinhall’s Great Solar:

Window 1: The Tower of Vines

Originally part of the great barrier of thorns which once demarcated the border of the Flowering Court’s domain, the Tower of Vines continued to endure even after the disappearance of its creators. Bereft of the controlling influence of its builders, its tendrils continued to grow uncontrollably, frustrating all attempts to contain it.

For two generations, the tower’s influence expanded, rendering much of the land around it unsuited for settlement. Despite attempts involving fire, magic, and siege engines, the tower itself remained impervious to any serious harm.

Window 2: Torin Ascends the Tower

Torin of Arnault was a rebellious scion of one of the city’s most powerful merchant houses. Rejecting in turn the roles of dutiful daughter and son, he turned his family’s wealth to adventurous pursuits, and the investigation of the Flowering Court’s remains.

Having made a study of the Tower of Vines, he concluded that its growth was driven by some manner of internal force, and that the tower itself would only be vulnerable from the inside.

Thus, he found a way into the interior of the tower- where no human had ventured before – and began his search.

Window 3: Torin Breaks the Heart of the Tower

After three days of searching, Torin’s efforts were rewarded by the discovery of a pulsating red crystal, set at near the the highest point of the tower’s interior. Over the course of another week of careful ascent, he was able to bring the crystal within reach of a heavy warhammer.

At first, the crystal proved highly resistant to his blows, but after an hour of near-constant battering, it finally began to chip. However, it was only after an afternoon and an evening of heavy blows that its light finally guttered out.

Window 4: Torin Burns the Tower’s Remains, and Raises a Hall

After the crystal heart of the Tower of Vines was destroyed, its outer form began to fall apart almost immediately. With the aid of a team of fast horses, Torin was able to outrun the news of the tower’s fall.

When he returned, it was with a large force of knight assembled by his family’s wealth and influence. With their aid, Torin was able to secure the area once controlled by the Tower of Vines, dispose of the tower’s remains, and raise the fortress that would eventually become the centre of the city of Torinhall.

February 2023: The Cities of the Flowering Court

A Transcript from a Lecture by Dottoressa Professoressa Lucrezia di Pontecorvo, University of Fiore

Dottoressa Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
“How does a city grow?” This is not, if you will excuse me, a metaphorical question, but a literal one. As we have previously discussed, much of the trritory of the mainland was once occupied by a civilisation which called itself the Flowering Court. This name was given by the Concordati who settled the land after the disappearance of this culture, due to the peculiar method in which this people constructed – or rather – did not construct their cities. In essence, it was observed that this Flowering Court did not so much raise cities out of timber and stone as they did grow them from trees and vines and other foilage.

Since the acceptance of this conclusion, the mages and scholars of the Concordat have expended immense amounts of effort in an attempt to understand the basic principles behind this means of city-building – or perhaps city-raising would be the proper term. Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to why? Yes, Maestro Antonelli?

Because the Concordati are savages who do not understand Mercato’s Principle of Multiplication?

Professora di Pontecorvo:
I regret to inform you, Maestro Antonelli, that the Concordati have, in fact, mastered agriculture – an achievement which, I do believe, makes them more academically advanced than you.


Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
An answer perhaps less contemptuous of the capabilities of our mainlander cousins, perhaps? Maestra Montileschi?

Another Student:
They wish to understand the principles by which this Flowering Court arranged and ordered their cities in hopes of applying such principles to their own settlements?

Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
A fine guess, but I fear one which does not stand up to a cursory inspection of the Concordat’s own cities. You see, Concordati build their settlements with much the same principles as ours: defensibility, easy of traversal, access to open water, and so on. Their towns would seem very familiar to almost anyone here: tightly-packed houses and shops within curtain walls. The Flowering Court, on the other hand, built based on entirely different principles: you may think of them less as settlements in the conventional sense as individual complexes of dwellings, workshops, and other such edifices, linked together over the forest canopy by long passages. At best guess and based on the evidence recovered by the rare adventurer who does not burn anything they cannot sell, this manner of tree-and-passage network served as a vast layer which covered the whole of the Flowering Court’s territory, which means that in essence, the Flowering Court’s entire territory was made up of one gigantic, linked city.

Yes, Maestro Luccatelli?

Yet Another Student:
Professora, has there been any evidence that the Flowering Court built also on the forest floor?

Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
One Concordati scholar, Gisela of Ambervale, has hypothesised that the tree-spires which we consider the main part of the Flowering Court’s settlement were in fact, merely the organisational and political hubs of their culture, like our own citadels. She has suggested that the bulk of the Flowering Court’s population – those who were not members of the nobility or their servants – lived in a vast carpet of dwellings on the forest floor.

Meanwhile, every other serious scholar studying the Flowering Court has suggested that Gisela of Ambervale see a surgeon about her drinking problem.


Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is no evidence that the Flowering Court used the forest floor for any manner of serious habitation. There are, of course, signs of their civilisation found in the undergrowths of the forests they left behind, but that signifies little. If one finds the bones of a sparrow buried in a garden, that does not mean sparrows are subterranean.

Another? Yes, Maestro Contarini?

A Fourth Student:
Perhaps they mean to decipher the means by which the Flowering Court was able to defend itself from them? They could use whatever magic that civilisation employed to strengthen their own fortresses and castles, surely?

Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
Yes, now I think perhaps, we are getting close to the root of the matter. You are, I believe, almost correct, but you have framed the question too narrowly.


Professora di Pontecorvo:
This, is one of the few pieces of the Flowering Court’s architecture which has been recovered relatively intact and without being distorted by the forces which caused that culture’s disappearance. It has been classed, somewhat euphemistically, as a ‘mating piece.’


Professora di Pontecorvo:
I understand some of you in this lecture are from the College of Alchemy, and are thus unfamiliar with the term, so allow me to explain. ‘Mating’ is a practise which two or more creatures may perform when they are attracted to each other…


Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
Now, I am going to pass this piece around, examine it carefully, and note two things.


Professora di Pontecorvo:
First, note how tightly the two pieces fit together, without use of martar, glue, nails, or lashing. A master crafter could not create a joint this perfect and with such tolerances, yet these two pieces simply fit together, like the pieces of a puzzle.

Secondly, I would like you to notice the slight marks on the surface of both pieces. Those are marks made by a felling axe, with which the adventurer who retrieved this piece first attempted to sever this joint. At the risk of stating the obvious, I would point out that heavy two-handed blows by a good steel axe have barely even scratched the surface of the wood.


Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
I would also like you to keep two things in mind. Firstly, that these joints were strong enough to bind together all of the Flowering Court’s tree-spires, constructions which could be hundreds of paces apart. These joints would not only have to resist the forces of wind and the tension caused by the movements of large plants which we know could grow to immense size, but also the weight of the passages themselves, which might have been equivalent to the weight of five or ten large galleys.

Second, I would like you to remember that these joints and the passages which they connected were not built, but grown. These structures were not made of dead and inanimate material, but still-living components, ones which could not only grow further and reinforce themselves, but heal from damage. Were that joint in your hands still alive, it might have easily healed from the marks which the adventurer’s axe made over a course of days, if not hours – which was why the Flowering Court’s defenses and constructions were so difficult to breach when their inhabitants still lived.

Now consider our own society, and all the things which we must build with wood and stone and iron. Think of their strengths and weaknesses. Now, imagine material stronger than iron, as light as wood, and with the solidity of stone. Imagine it could be joined together with other pieces so tightly that it might seem like a single block, all without the use of tools or magic or fasteners. Imagine ships that can plug their own leaks, fortress walls which can repair their own damage, lances and arrows which can be grown like wheat, and buildings which could be made higher and lighter and more sturdy than any we could possibly imagine.


Professoressa di Pontecorvo:
So you see, Maestro Antonelli, it would be unwise to call the Concordati savages. And if they ever find out the secret behind how the Flowering Court grew their cities – which, I suspect, they eventually will – it would be even unwiser still.

March 2023: The Path of Care

I have seen them in the sanctuaries of stone,
mending cuts and bruises and broken limbs.
I have seen them work healing with naught but faith,
and ask to be paid only what might be afforded,
even if all that can be given is faith in return.

And all revere them as they walk past,
for they walk the path of care.

I have seen them in their great surgeries,
their tables strewn with brass and leather.
I have seen them restore the broken bodies,
with pin-point precision and iron magics,
and win them reputations as workers of miracles.

And all revere them as they walk past,
for they walk the path of care.

I have seen them on their sand-strewn courtyards,
as they carry the stricken from one world to another.
As they guide the dying into eternity,
and carry them into the burning sands,
to let the desert embrace them.

And all revere them as they walk past,
for they walk the path of care.

I have seen them walk the wild paths,
beyond where even the Gods do not dare tread.
Who bring the hope of the healer’s light
up the most turblent and frothy rill,
and along the longest and narrowest road.

And all revere them as they walk past,
for they walk the path of care.

I have seen them in the sea of canvas tents,
and marching in column behind the reed flutes.
As blades flash beneath the Sultana’s banners,
to bestow life, rather than to steal it away,
and to cut the boundaries between decay and renewal.

And though some look askance as they walk past,
they walk the path of care.

I have seen them in the under-grown halls,
as they go surrounded by the dead.
With torch in hand, they care for those long gone,
to remind those left behind that one’s memory
does not end with their death.

And though some look askance as they walk past,
they walk the path of care.

I have seen them in their sea-smelling laboratories,
with great copper tables stained green with time.
With scalpel and probe, lens and spell,
they open up the bodies of the volunteer dead,
to better serve those who heal the living.

And although others look away as they walk past,
they too, walk the path of care.

And I have seen them pick over the fields of death,
with cloth over their mouths and tears in their eyes.
To do the things which all say must be done,
the things which when come the moment of necessity,
no others seem able to do.

And although others look away as they walk past,
they too, walk the path of care.

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