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Bokha Palace

Also known as the Winter Palace and the Kreml, the Bokha Palace is the administrative heart of Kislev, acting as the seat of the Tzarina's power within the nation's capital.[1a]

Set upon the crest of the Gora Geroyev, behind wrought iron gates, the mighty fortress rises tier upon tier of white stone towers and colourfully festooned battlements that reach their pinnacle as a great golden dome. Such is its beauty like a vast ice sculpture rising from the ground. Yet the true majesty of the palace is seen at night, when it is lit from below by vast, Cathayan lanterns.[1a][1b]

Row upon row of armoured knights, with helms shaped like snarling bears, stand guard beyond the palace gates. Indeed, such is the sheer scale of the palace, its defences every bit formidable as the city walls. Meanwhile, knights mounted on white horses guard the palace's black wooden gates, standing motionless and at attention. This second set of gates is surrounded by intricately carved columns and pediment to form the palace's main entrance.[1b]

On occasions such as when the Ice Queen throws the annual ball, scores of horse-drawn carriages and sleighs open to the sky are welcomed into the area between the two gates. Beautiful are of the trotting horses, with their scarcely visible, leather harnesses making them seem almost as if running without restraint from the arched wood of the carriage's collar. Once emptied, said-vehicles are filed back onto the square in a line, where braziers containing huge fires are provided for the coachmen to warm themselves around.[1b]

Interior

Beyond the doorway, the marble vestibule that greets all entrants is a vast hall that becomes packed with people during celebratory events, where men and women dress in brightly coloured attire and laugh bawdily with their neighbors. Indeed, for many in Kislev, it is only on these occasions that otherwise dour folk have an excuse to dress and act in such a jovial fashion, though many are the moustached and haggard faces of soldiers and officers that also share in the festivities, their grim facades a testament to the battles they've endured against the Kurgan hordes.[1b]

Within the crowd, the Tzarina's liveried pages and maids of honour are recognized by their long, ice-blue coats, divesting guests of heavy pelisses and even carrying silver trays laden with flutes of sparkling Bretonnian wine.[1b]

A long, gracefully curved marble staircase decorated with garlands leads upwards. From here it is all too easy to notice the lace trains that sweep past the porphyry pillars, gems and diamonds gleaming in the light of gently spinning lanterns wreathed in silk. Processions pass between ranks of Kislevite knights, chosen amongst the most handsome of the Palace Guard--grand-looking giants made expressionless in their burnished, bronze armour. A mammoth painting of the Tzarina's father on the back of a monstrous white-furred bear dominates the wall at the head of the stairs. Beneath it, white doors lead to the Gallery of Heroes.[1b]

Banqueting Hall

The Banqueting Hall of the Winter Palace is the centre of the formal ensemble of parade halls in the Tzarina's fastness. Like the Gallery of Heroes, the walls are fashioned from smooth ice with central doors that lead onto a terrace overlooking the gardens below. The room can be set for about four hundred diners with service stations along the wall, one for each table. The table settings include all the glassware required for a meal, flawlessly etched and enamelled with the Tzarina's monogram and Kislevite bear, and huge candelabras of solid silver.[2b]

Dinner is a lavish affair, consisting of seven courses of the finest quality accompanied by an equally fine array of wines from both the Morceaux Valley and the hills around Luccini. The Kislevite rules of etiquette mean that should a diner set down their knife and fork, it is a signal to the attending servants to remove the plate. Each course is rigidly timed, and an hour later, as the last of the plates are cleared, it proves amazing to newcomers at the sheer logistics of serving, feeding and clearing a seven course meal for four-hundred people in under an hour![2b]

Gallery of Heroes

The Gallery is one segment of a great three-part hall composed of what initially appears to be glass but is actually solid ice. This first part of the gallery makes up the southern wing of the palace and glitters dazzlingly with pinpoints of reflected light from hundreds of silver candelabras. On one side, it opens through a single, great arch and arcade of ice columns, into a massive semi-circular room filled with tables and set for dining.[1b]

On the opposite side, a series of small arches lead from the gallery into another, equally impressive space where, during events, clapping observers may watch a group of bare-chested warriors spar with long, curved swords.[1b]

The great vaulted ceiling of the main gallery is filled with a vast mosaic depicting the coronation of Igor the Terrible, and a great chandelier from the time of Tzar Alexis hangs from its centre. Great columns formed from sepia-tinted ice, veined with subtle golden threads and capped with fluted, hand-carved capitals support the ceiling. The walls are smooth and translucent, and numerous rugs from Bretonnia, Estalia and Tilea are strewn across the cold floor. These rugs are removed to allow for dancing across the polished floors.[1b]

The Gallery of Heroes takes its name from the collection of paintings of the Kislevite Tzars that hang from its walls. It is a living history of Kislev's ancient rulers, with portraits of Tzar Alexis, Radii Bokha, Alexander, his children, and of course the Khan Queens Miska and Anastasia. The furniture, meanwhile, is mostly Bretonnian, and includes a number of pieces by Eugene Fosse, which were brought to the Winter Palace from Bordeleaux in 2071.[1b]

The portrait of Anastasia depicts her riding her war-chariot, arms aloft as the heavens raged above her. Tall and beautiful, the Khan-Queen has a fierceness to her features, a ferocity that echoes the harshness of the land that had borne her. She was a living, breathing representation of all that made the Kislevites such a hardy race of passionate warriors.[2a]

At the far end of the hall, a set of beaten gold double-doors, with an ornate clock resting above them, leads to the inner apartments.[1b]

Passing a series of arches in the gallery's eastern wall, visitors will enter an adjacent, smaller gallery. To the left, wide stairs lead down to a set of double doors that open to a shimmering garden of white trees and ice sculptures. Dominating the hall is a massive painting depicting the final battle of the Great War against Chaos at the gates of Kislev. The picture is a work of grand scale, impressive in passion if not bias. In it, the city of Kislev is in flames, her noble warriors painted with bold brush strokes and noble countenance. The Dwarfs and warriors of the Empire that had also fought against Chaos are painted with smaller, less confident strokes, their faces in shadow. One has to look closely to find Magnus the Pious, yet, as far as revisionist pieces of art go, the painting is a classic.[1b]

Minister's Apartment

The offices of Kislev's minister are guarded by a single knight with a silver halberd. The door he stands watch over opens onto a wide, stone-walled corridor carpeted with emerald green rugs line with gold and silver threads that trace an intricate pattern of cursive spirals. Gilt-framed portraits of past ministers line the walls; grim-faced men with an air of pompous self-importance. At the far end of this hall, a black door with a golden handle leads to the minister's private chamber.[1c]

West Hall

Adjacent to the Banqueting Hall, great oak beams run the width of the timbre-panelled West Hall, with a vast fire set below a great stone mantle to fill the room with warmth and the aroma of freshly cut wood. Hundreds of candles line the walls between the tall windows, together with innumerable shields and suits of bronze armour. Faded battle flags hang from the beams and when in use, the hardwood floors echo to the jangle of sabres and spurs from Kislev's senior officers.[2b]

Source

  • 1: The Ambassador (novel) by Graham McNeill
    • 1a: Chapter 1
    • 1b: Chapter 2
    • 1c: Chapter 9
  • 2: Ursun's Teeth (novel) by Graham McNeill
    • 2a: Chapter 6
    • 2b: Chapter 8
  • 3: Citadel Journal Issue 15 - Kislev The Claws of the Great Bear

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