Ancient capital of the
Stratanian Kingdom, located near
the southernmost point of the Sarvonian Continent in
the province of Truban, nowadays
one of the major cities in the United Realms of
Santharia. Founded by Drafas
Tristin in 1649 b.S. as new home for the refugees from the Vardýnnian
Atonement. Infamous for its crime but well known for its large harbour and trade
district. Though Thalamabath's rise to power has
caused a decline of Strata's former importance and
wealth, it is still a magnificent sight. Coming from the sea and arriving in the
harbour or from the desert entering through the grand Northern Portal every
visitor agrees that in front of his eyes lies the "Beauty
of the South".
The dry heat presses down on the town. The air is shimmering in the brilliant light of the Injérà. The hot winds coming out of the Rahaz-Dath carry a fine sand which covers everything with a fine layer. But on the bottom of the canyon the tall houses are forming, the shade is deep, the wind cut out and life is possible. Archways border the broader roads and precious trees give shade to those who have to follow their affairs during the heat of the day. But those are not two many. The town comes to life when the Injérà is sinking into the sea far in the west and the winds are ceasing to blow, lamps are lit all over the main places and roads, and the times for business other than that during the day has arrived. The traveller is advised to avoid the darker sideways and hopefully he knows already where to put his head in the night. But which newcomer to Strata can withstand the market down at the harbour, where goods from all over the world can be looked at - or even bought. Or the colourful places all over the town, where shops are lined up, in between taverns of all kinds and where you find musicians at every corner who compete with each other.
But this is only one part of Strata. The other Strata, not visible easily for the traveller, is as extended as the visible one. Built on a flat rocky shore which contains a lot of caverns, the sewers under Strata are older as the town itself. And it is said that the "funny" business which flourishes there, is far more important than the transactions made in the upper town...
Location. The southernmost point of the Sarvonian continent, Cape Strata, is a flat rocky region which is covered by a thick layer of sands which gets thinner the further south you travel. While the rocky underground is still quite dense near the Yar'Dangs, which are a two days travel north of Strata, it contains a lot of caverns near and under Strata. These flat rocks elevate near the southern tip just a few, maybe three peds over the sea level when the tide is high, farther north in the town it has raised already to about six to eight peds. Strata slightly rising from south to north and from east to west allows therefore a magnificent view for those ships coming from Milkengrad wanting to sell their goods in the harbour near the north-east side of the town. Due to the water currents of the sea, Strata has only few beaches or sandbanks. One is near the southern point, directed to the Scattersand Shoals, the other north of Strata on the eastern side.
Description. People are arguing about which approach to Strata is the more splendid one, coming from the desert and looking onto the town stretched beneath ones feet, framed by the blue sea, or approaching by ship from Milkengradand sailing along the front of beautiful houses lit by the sinking Injérà, or - after being then guided away again from the sight of the town to avoid the undepths of the Landfall sandbank - entering the harbour in the east in full sight of the town, preferably when the Injérà just rose above the horizon.
Approach from the East
Few travellers endure the hardness and dangers of a voyage through the Rahaz-Dath, most arrive by ship, coming from the north, from Thalamabath, Varcopas, Milkengrad or even from the continent of Nybelmar, or from the south, from Shan'Thai or another town in Aeruillin.
Arriving in the morning and approaching Strata slowly, travellers see a town lying before their eyes which just seems to have arose from a tale told by the elders or a distant myth:
Build on the very edge of the headland of the Sarvonian continent, it takes the whole space of the hook. The land is slightly rising from south to north, and even a bit more from east to west, so the view is just fantastic. Tall houses in the colour of the sun, from a light Sor‘inyt yellow, over a deep Strata orange to a dark Aeruillin red are standing side by side, framed and divided with a splendid white colour. Down at the old harbour side are some bigger houses used for storing the valuable goods coming from Northern Sarvonia and especially the grains from another continent, Aeruillin. A broad road is leading from the old harbour straight to the western end of the town, passing the great harbour gate and the town wall and running through the central market, around the famous giant Dar'ii Tree. On the left edge the splendid Temple of Baveras draws the eye towards it just sitting on an small island outside the town wall, which runs around the town just behind the houses belonging to the harbour quarters. The city wall is another prominent feature of the town, and though it is of strong built and was never torn down, it doesn‘t look threatening. The light yellow of the yar‘dang stones gives it a friendly touch, though the pointed pinnacles demonstrate the ability to protect its citizens. On the other, northern side, outside the town , the magnificent, pure white, round temple of Foiros is greeting the traveller with its golden shining spherical roof and its three tall, slender towers.
Few of the arriving ships call at the old harbour which was destroyed during the big flood of the year 1288 b.S. and only partly reconstructed, most moor in the new harbour outside the town in the northwest of Strata.
There, down the beach in northwestern direction near the new harbour, a very tall, huge lighthouse is standing. It doesn‘t fit very well to the whole town of Strata, and the fascinated visitor soon averts his eyes and concentrates on Strata again.
The houses in their beauty and variety are enough to astonish the foreign visitor, but what catches his eyes most are not the splendid buildings, but the green in between, where you didn‘t expect it. Strata is know for selling fresh water as one of the valuable goods here . Water is a resource which is rare and therefore restricted for everybody, even the rich ones. And so the trees which grow everywhere in the town are valuable and very cared for. The mightiest and oldest tree is the Dar'ii tree in the middle of the famous Stratanian market place, but there are rows of other trees running down in the middle of every of the main four roads, each tree belonging to a certain house of which it is cared for. And every house itself, most of them build in a rectangular way with a inner courtyard, has its own tree in the middle of the house. This is the way the Stratanian's can survive in the heat of a summer day, when a hot dry wind is blowing either from the southeast or coming out of the Rahaz Dath.
As the ships comes nearer, more details can be seen. The white colour on the houses turn out to be complicated white ornaments and white shutters in front of the plenty windows, with balconies and porches the houses try to surpass each other. The trees show more of their gracile beauty and the promise of a cooling shade, and suddenly the traveller can‘t wait to set his foot on the landing docks of the "Beauty of the South".
Approach from the
Coming from the north - after a day's ride from the Thirsty Herald - the town promises relief after the heat of the day, the green of the trees are balsam on the tortured eyes, the air seems to be cooler now and the ears longs for the sound of running water. Like a coloured jewel lying on blue-green silk it matches the sea which surrounds it here by all other sides. The beautiful Northern Gate, ornamented with blue shining tiles from Uderza, welcomes the traveller.
houses in Strata are up to seven, eight stories
high and built out of dried clay bricks.
The wall is covered with plaster out of the same, fresh material and coloured while the plaster is still fresh. The Strata orange is the most seen colour, but the Sor‘inyt yellow and the Aeruillin red are common as well. Few houses have a pale blue, but this is a new habit and the Stratanians still don‘t know if they like it or not. So far this colour was only used for the temple of Baveras or for interiors and seeing it on the outside of a house divides the citizens.
Though the houses would look great, tall and slender as they are, built together or standing close with only small lanes between them, they get their characteristics from the ornamentations running like a baize around the bottom of each story and around the plenty windows which are the pride of every owner of a house. Each of this ornamentations is built from the plaster the wall is covered with and highlighted and enriched with the brightest white colour available in the south.
The roof and the upper story is painted with a white chalk mixed with a binding agent which protects the claybricks and plaster from the wind, the burning sun and a very rarely rainfall.
The windows are mostly small, but high, sometimes stretching from the bottom to the ceiling. The upper part is often curved. Sometimes they are divided in a lower part with shutteres which can be closed or opened, the upper, curved part which can not be opened. A very thin sliced special stone which allows the light to penetrate sometimes covers this openings. But big pieces are very fragile, and so small pieces are set in a framework creating a special look to these windows. To guard the windows, they have small gracile balconies in front of them, delicately build out of the same material as the houses themselves.
To shut out the early heat of the Injèrá in the morning, every window has white painted shutters which allow the air of the western sea to bring a cooling breeze to the interior of the houses, in the middle of the day however they can be closed to prevent the hot air coming in. Some noble houses have imported glass from Cavthan in their windows, but it is often blind due to the sand carried by the desert winds into Strata which finds its way into every chink.
The roofs are flat, surrounded by a wall to prevent people from falling off. In the late evenings, when the air is pleasant, the winds have ceased and the tasks of the day are done they are the meeting place of the families and their guest, from neighbours and friends.
There are two different types of houses in Strata:
One is the common rectangular house with an inner courtyard. The rooms are mainly oriented to this courtyard, except the rooms which are facing the main road. In these courtyards the pride of the family has its place, the shade giving tree, in most cases a dar‘ii tree.
The other type of house is found mainly in the Eastern Lane. The houses built directly on the town wall and facing the western sea don‘t have an inner courtyard, but are built simply rectangular with the rooms facing either the sea or the road. These families set their pride in a "high garden" and care for a diversity of plants which they grow on the roof.
on the main four roads have archways at the bottom level, each house connected
with its neighbours, so that walking in the shade is possible. The same is to
find at the houses standing around one of the various markets of Strata.
Prominent Buildings/Sights. Among the many noteable buildings and locations of Strata we'd like to name the following few:
The Northern Gate (Desert Gate)
The first thing a traveller will be impressed by is the big northern gate or "Desert Gate", built by Kenvoll Tristin in 598 b.S. With its height of 10 peds it is higher than the only other two, the eastern gate or "Harbour Gate" leading from the harbour into the town or the southern gate or "Sea Gate". Its wooden two winged door is 7 peds in height and 4 peds in width and therefore very heavy. But due to the excellent construction the famous carpenter Vhinsaal has done, it needs only two men to close it in a matter of seconds.
The Desert Gate's outside wall is unlike all other buildings in Strata covered with various bright blue and white tiles manufactured in the far away Uderza. It is said that the Shendar gathered all their influencial means and stressed all their connections in Strata to have an important building which would not represent them, but remind everybody that they are a force, which should not be underestimated. So when the Gate was rebuilt in 960 a.S. the gate got its cover of tiles which have withstand the sharp desert winds up to today.
The Eastern Gate (Harbour Gate)
The Southern Gate (Baveras Gate)
Smallest, but most beautiful built gate, leads over a bridge to the Temple of Baveras.
The Town Walls
The gates are part of the town wall surrounding most parts of the town. On the west side the houses are on the edge of the cliffs, built directly on the wall, whereas a road runs parallel to the wall in every other place. Two extra parts of the wall were added later by Hilnor Tristin (around 300 b.S.) to better protect the old harbour. The wall itself is a construction as fabulous as the whole town and unique in the choice of its material. Built of stone quarters on the outside to protect it against occasional water blown from the seaside, the inner wall is built of burned clay bricks. Both, the stones as the clay was broken in the Yardangs and carried back to the town, the stones more durable, but more difficult to work with than the clay bricks. Both harmonize well, the stones of the northern yardangs having a colour from a darker off white to yellow, the burned clay bricks a dark yellow to light brown. To some bricks however a rare soil was added to give them a red colour when burned , and these were used to do some ornamentation on the upper inner part of the wall.
Stairs and small rooms exist inside the wall, open to the town side, storage for weapons, two towers on the northern part, in the east and the west.
Roads and Places. But lets now take a look at roads and places of major importance:
Tristin's Glory (The Glory)
From the Northern gate, the Desert Gate, a broad road is leading straight down to the other side of the town, ending at the Southern Gate leading to the Temple of Baveras which is situated on an island at the southernmost point of Strata. This road is named "Tristin's Glory", but most times simply refered to it as "The Glory". Magnificent houses which compete in height and ornamentation are lined up on both sides. Here are the houses of the most important and wealthiest citizens of the town. Having a house here means having prestige.
The Westring (Merchant's Lane)
There are three other roads in Strata worth seeing. The one is the western street, officially called "The Westring", but commonly the "Merchant's Lane", leading away from the Northern Gate along the wall, with the houses sitting on the wall as soon as the street meets the sea. These houses are very beautiful as well, though they can‘t compete with those on the Glory. They belong to the less influential, but nevertheless wealthy citizens. Here you find the merchants which don‘t necessaryly own a ship, but order goods and sell it again in the market district near the harbour. The houses on the right side, those sitting on the town wall, are however more prized than the ones on the other side , due to their magnificent view of the western sea. Some of the people who gained power and influence to buy a house in the Glory miss this view. Especially here you might live on the wrong side of the street.
Tristin's Pride (The Pride)
Dividing the city in the other direction, nearly in two equally big parts, is the road called "Tristin's Pride", or just "The Pride", leading from the West Outlook to the Harbour Gate. From then on it goes straight on to the docks, though now it is called just Harbour Street once passed the door. The Pride is the Street where Strata displays its glory and wealth. There are the shops where silver, gold and jewellery from all over the world of Caelereth are displayed. Here you can find the finest Sor'inyt cloths, pearls from Ciosa on the Yanthian Gulf, my‘hyrr and ni‘tencii from the Rahaz-Dath, scarlet rubite gems, fyrite enamels, aurium nuggets with the Boltgrumm oremark on their base and it is said that once there was the feather of a blue glitra sold to an exorbitant price.
The East Ring (Thief's Lane)
There is the East ring left to mention. Though the houses are nearly as tall as in the other roads, they are simpler in ornamentation, maybe less cared for, but the northern part of the road is by far the busiest street. Though officially called the East Ring it is nevertheless commonly known as the "Thief's Lane". Here tiny shops are next to the single room a craftsman uses to display his skills, followed by a tavern. Here you get all the goods which are available in the shops at the harbour market as well, but here they are smaller, cheaper. You might also find items you wouldn't dare to ask for at another place. The southern part of the east ring is quieter, only a few shops, craftsmen and taverns which meet the need of the citizens are found here. Malicious tongues call this part "The Thief's Rest" which is surely unfair in the eyes of most of the people living there, who say that the ones living in the Westring are the bigger thieves, taking too high prizes for valued goods, just that nobody can blame them for it. The honourable craftsmen living and working in this street are of course unhappy about the name and work hard to be able to afford a tiny shop elsewhere.
The Central Place
Where "The Glory" meets the "The Pride", the famous central place of Strata can be found. Here the ...trees frame the place as they run down in the middle of every of the four main roads, but the most impressive sight is the huge Dar'ii tree in the middle of the place which is said has already been growing here when Drafas Tristin arrived with his people in the 17th century b.S.. Its treetop provides a huge canopy for all the people who meet there and if ever any harm should hit it the Stratanians would see this as a very bad omen.
The place is circular, with the Dar'ii tree in its middle and divided through the Glory and the Pride, which bend here, leading around the place in front of the houses, their trees forming a perfect circle.
Four temples are located around the place, devoted to the three gods of an element and eight big houses belonging to the most prominent citizen of Strata. The temples are distributed equally, in the middle of two of the houses respectively. Though a special God has a prominent place in these temples, Foiros f.e. in the temple of the Gods connected with the Element Fire, the other two Gods have a place where followers can worship them as well. This way Strata has a place for everybody to worship his God, if he/she belongs to the well known Gods of Sarvonia.
The eight houses belong to the eight most important and influential people in Strata. They have therefore a special function for the community. The rooms of the lowest story facing the place are open for the public. There free water and simple food is served for all who have a business in there at the cost of the house owner.
So these are meeting places out of the sun for the upper classes of Strata.
Eight small lanes devide the four quaters of the town. They are starting all at the central place, running along the side of one of the four temples and are continuing fairly straight till they meet the outer rings. It is said that the first Stratanians wanted to greet the Injèrá after the Year of the Atonement by building their streets in a way that they would resemble the rays of the sun.
Strata has lost some of its splendor due to the rise of
Thalamabath and the decay is visible for observing eyes, the trade in the
upper town is not the same as it was in former times, but that doesn‘t affect
the business in the sewers.
The underground Strata is build on is rocky ground, but has many caves which are connected with each other. It is said that once a civilisation of giants existed here which built the sewers and the very high lighthouse, but there is no proof for it, though the caves are connected through a number of big tunnels as well as very small openings only useful for Brownies. There exists a net of channels in the underground which is flooded regularly with seawater when the tide is high, especially when the currents are strong during the winter months. Strata gets rid of its debris this way. Due to the openness to both sides , to the sea in the west and the east, the sewers can be a dangerous place to be. It is hard to predict how high the level of water is at a given time or in which direction it is flowing. So only skilled people are able to visit the sewers and anyone who has to hide from authorities of the upper town might find refuge or a silent death.
History. In 1649 b.S.
a group of refugees reached the Burning Sea after a long travel
from the north. Led by Drafas Tristin
they founded a new city at the place where they saw the sun rise for the first
time after the Year of Darkness. The remnants of the
first Temple of Foiros "Tremgala"
currently still remind of these events: the citizens
errected the temple to honour the God of the Injèrá,
their guide in dark days.
But there's more to the location of the city. When reaching Cape Strata the refugees stumbled upon the ruins of an old and forgotten civilization. It is thought that they belonged to the same time as the ruins found in Thalambath, stemming from the War of the Chosen. The ruins of the town were long abandoned, but a system of large sewers was found intact under the ground, as well as some crippled walls and most striking a lighthouse of huge dimensions. The legend goes that a tribe of giants once lived here, but this was never confirmed. The only thing known is that the Thalambathian population considered the ground cursed, and they were therefore astonished when they heard that the refugees had settled at the cursed grounds.
Not believing the stories of Thalambath's population the refugees continued their constructions and soon a small town formed above the ruins of old. Not long thereafter the first constructions for the harbour where started, and it was finished at the same time as the temple devoted to Foiros, "Tremgala". Now the first fishing ships sailed out over the waters and thus started the seafaring nation of Stratania. In the centuries following the population would suffer several catastrophes, but they always managed to recovered. The will to survive was stronger in the newly founded city of Strata.