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Zaragoz Map

A tiny realm on the furthest reaches of the River Eboro, Zaragoz is an Estalian duchy once ruled by Duke Marsilio diAvila, called tyrant by his people.[1a]

Zaragoz is considered the least of Estalia's realms, for its sun-dried land offers poor sustenance, and the dukedom has been an object of dispute between the families of diAvila and Quixana for centuries. Yet the lineages of Zaragoz' feuding families have been intricately tangled by complex patterns of intermarriage, and in the time of the old Duke, Ruffino diAvila, many who were innocent of seeking a claim to the throne were made to suffer by dint of their heritage. What Quixanas that remain go by other names, careful to choose substitutes that will not give them away.[1b]

Spoilers for Zaragoz

In the events that transpired after Marsilio's death, Rodrigo Cordova became the reigning Duke of Zaragoz. The Castle continues to stand, though many stones were flung from its ramparts, and the High Tower was felled.[1l]

Geography

The realm of Zaragoz is centered around a lonely crag surrounded by pastureland. Farms reside on the higher ground in the north, with orange groves and vineyards from whose fields the animals can be driven down to the River Eboro to drink. The soil of the path leading to Zaragoz had long been scoured away by floodwater to leave a dry and sandy reach where thorn bushes and tall grasses grow in ragged clumps. All the same such path leads to a road which descends from the farmland to meet the river at a place where it becomes calmer and wider. With the road parallel to the Eboro, one can see that, to the south of the river, the land stretches away far and flatly. The Eboro's northern shore, meanwhile, is blocked by trees and low hills, yet by following around a leisurely bend, one will at long last see the conical crag loom upon that part of the horizon in manner both striking and incongruous.[1b]

With low-laying land all around it, Zaragoz appears not to belong at all with the landscape, and, as Orfeo the Minstrel described it "as though some god carrying mountains to a place they belonged had suffered an accident which chipped the peak from one of them, and had carelessly let it fall". Perched atop this crag rests a citadel, with the rocky slopes beneath it too sheer to allow more than thirty or forty houses to cling there; thus the town over which the castle stands is arranged in a tight ring about its base, confined by a low wall. The farms that feed it form a greater circle still, cut across one side by the River Eboro's course.[1b]

Township

Though the guards are lazy, and the customary stink of its narrow streets are as any other township's, same streets are not badly made. Adequately levelled and with solid pavements, even the smaller streets have central ditches to serve as sewers. Such areas are not too crowded, save on feast-days and market-days, when the labourers descend in a swarm from the distant farmlands, filling the town up to its limits.[1c]

Halfway up the crag, above the circlet of the town's walls, houses lay precariously perched compared to those further below. One or two having fallen to ruin, and the wrecked towers having become nesting-sites for jackdaws and ravens. The narrow road leading up is scarcely wide enough for a trademan's cart, and though it has a wooden rail erected on the outer edge, it appears less safe than it might have been made. If a man tried riding a horse full-tilt from top to toe, he would certainly risk a fatal hazard, and a drunkard would find it all to easy to fall to his death. Yet it is up here that the aristocracy of Zaragoz dwell.[1c]

Castle Zaragoz

The approach to the castle is not as steep as the lowest part of the road. The fortress itself is a conventional rectangle with a tower in each corner, though it shape is constrained to the contours of the crag it rests upon. For this reason, the walls are not all straight, meandering both horizontally and vertically. The north tower -- known as the High Tower -- looms over the others, whilst the southern tower stands at the lowest elevation.[1e]

Even after passing through the gate, one can see the walls prove no more level nor evenly sloped than the ramparts; where conventional design would normally place a courtyard, instead a series of giant irregular steps. Each one of these have two or three flights of stairs sculpted into them, with two of the larger vertical faces having doorways that give access to chambers hollowed out within the stone.[1e] The gatehouse rests within the south-east wall, which contains two or three guardsmen while one sentry mans each of the towers.[1h]

The living quarters erected within the castle -- including the stables -- are extended from the east and western towers. These two towers are on much the same level, connected by the widest of the natural ledges.[1e] Below the eastern tower, said-living quarters have glazed windows.[1h]

The corridors of the castle are poorly lit, having singular candles placed at intervals of six or seven paces. Such is especially true in areas such as those found beyond the far door of the Great Hall leading to the kitchens, where there are no windows.[1e] The Great Hall itself is large enough to house at least two-hundred and fifty people, with three smaller doors leading in and out of the castle's inner corridors. Five glazed windows stand in a row above the main entrance, too high to reach without a ladder.[1k]

The High Tower

An open archway lies at the bottom of the High Tower, with a door set some way within. No candles light the stairway within, the tower's slit windows barely letting in any light.[1h] This narrow stair leads to a doorway with a small barred window. Beyond it, a narrow corridor where two doors face each other, each one having a sturdy bolt and a small hinged square cut at eye-height so that guards may look inside. This is a prison for those above the rank of commoner, one of these rooms containing a chair, table, bed, a good supply of candles, and a chamberpot.[1e]

The Dungeons

Unlike those found in the High Tower, the cells beneath the castle are shaped like horseshoes situated upon the ledge of a rectangular pit. Each of such chambers are no more than five feet wide, with candle light being too weak to penetrate the darkness beyond the rim of the pit. All of the castle's waste is hurled into pits such as these one, so that they fall into a common place, where they are flushed all-too-gradually away by water hurled after them. Where it goes after that, few can say, but the sound of rats and stench of refuse is enough to discourage investigation. Few last a month before tumbling into the pits, though the guards do not always wait until a prisoner is dead before giving them to the rats. Rumors persist that the rats are then, in turn, devoured by monsters that have never seen the light of day. If such is true, than these creatures can no more fly than the rats, whilst the walls of the pits must be exceedingly hard to climb.[1f]

Beyond the mouth of such pits, six-to-seven feet across, another ledge for another prisoner's cell can be found. Each of these cells has a filthy straw bed, as well as a singular leg-shackle. Without the pit between them, the cell would be sixteen-to-seventeen feet by maybe thirteen, while the narrow pit takes six-to-seven feet from the longer dimension and eight from the shorter. The floor is laid out like a horseshoe, with a doorway half around. Prisoners are fed a frugal meal of bread, cabbage leaves, and water within wooden bowls.[1g]

There are six of these cells, each of which shares a passageway leading to a guarded door. Beyond this door lies another door at the far end of a corridor, opening up to the castle's torture chamber. From here, a stairway leads to the centre of the castle's courtyard, a little below the level of the two main towers.[1h] There is also another, smaller door with two locks having been rusted solid for many years, which leads down into the heart of the mountain. Though the passage is wide, it is not high enough to be comfortable for a grown man. Indeed, there was a castle atop the mountain long before humans ever came to Zaragoz, and the tunnels which connect the many caves were hollowed out by Dwarfs when they were still the dominant force in the Old World. The crag was once a stronghold from which the dawi struggled long and hard to hold against their Goblin enemies, prior to their empire's slow decline.[1g]

Further Below

Down here, the sewer which collects the castle's waste widens as it spirals downwards. This is part of another sequence of passages which always runs above it. There are several pits where the two conjoin, but in other times all were very carefully bridged so that a man -- or a Dwarf -- might pass safely from the castle to any one of a dozen caves giving access to the lower slopes. Around those entrances houses were built when men first came to Zaragoz, but many of the bridges had already crumbled away. The one remaining line of connection was used to invade the castle when the last Quixana duke was deposed, but when it had been done the path was deliberately broken, and the way to the heart of the mountain was sealed. Men are not like the Dwarfs, and they shun the inner spaces of the world, except with necessity drives them downwards into the darkness.[1g]

Going down and around, one will eventually come to a branching of tunnels. Signs have been scored on the walls with a soft white stone, following them will lead to an arch and a narrow ledge above a sheer slope. While not deep, the empty region below is far from safe, for here is where the rats come to hide and nest, whilst other things wait to catch them. If a man were to fall in, the rats would assemble quickly enough about his broken body. Even so, the ledge itself runs along the lip of this area, for a hundred yards and more, before abruptly ending, the wall of rock cutting sharply away to the left, though the ledge does not follow it around. Here, the abyss is narrow, and another rock-face can be seen with the light of a lantern, no more than fifteen feet ahead. This other face has an arch set in it, and another tunnel leading away into the depths of the crag, but here the path is broken, and the bridge which connects the ledge to the tunnel is gone -- destroyed and cast into the pit.[1g]

Were someone to bridge the gap by other means, they would find that, beyond this arch, the tunnel descends in a gentle slope, before growing precipitately. There are no steps here, but the walls of the shaft are clean cut, even as the ceiling returns to being only of comfort to Dwarf-sized occupants. There comes a division in the path where no chalk-markings have been made, yet a slash made by some sort of blade marks one of them. Going down this route, the shaft widens, and the dawi-hewn corridor gives way to natural cavern of some size. A fungus grows here that emits a silvery glow, revealing the uneven floor's clustered stalagmites as they reach up towards their counterparts in the ceiling. In between these clumps are an assortment of loose boulders made smooth by the occasional passage of floodwater. Shallow pools of water can also be found here.[1i]

The cavern is warm, considerably warmer than the corridors beneath Zaragoz Castle. The fluttering of winged creatures and splashing of water breaks whatever silence the may have been, while bat and bird guano paints the rock. Reptilian yellow eyes watch from the cracks and crevices. If there are rats here, then they are few in numbers, suggesting that this system of caves was distinct from those used by the dungeon pits.[1i]

Weaving between this forest of stone, a spelunker will notice the fungal light grows brighter the deeper they tread, though still fainter than a candle's light. Leafless plants grow beside stagnant pools and around the base of stalagmites. Tiny things, some bulbous while others radiating countless rubbery limbs. There are also creatures like great grey slugs which roam between the plants.[1i]

The path ahead is tortuously convoluted. Any signs made by past explorers are seldom to be seen due to the local wildlife and erosion by water leaking throughout the caverns. Rats scurry away from the light whilst White lizards stand hypnotised by it. Bats and Birds such as sparrows, finches, and starlings are clue enough that cracks leading outside are close by. Beyond an inverted forest of densely-cluster of stalactites, the space above one's head becomes increasingly constrictive, as though walking into the mouth of some gargantuan monster. The fungal light begins to fade, and the stalactites meet their counterparts to form great columns and pillars, often standing in pairs as though they were gateways. Down here, it becomes difficult to maintain a straight course. It is also likely that one is beset by creatures akin to oval-eyed, white-furred apes. These long-armed beasts feed off the rats and birds, their feet adept in gripping and climbing. Their teeth are like daggers, meant to tear flesh from their prey, yet even with long-nailed claws, their attempts strangulation and grappling are weak. They have a rudimentary intelligence, able to work together in trapping their prey, but nothing close to a Goblin's.[1j]

Dancing

Though considered the least of principalities, the aristocrats of Zaragoz have one way in which they prove themselves as fine as the gentry of Bilbali and Magritta: they can dance like the richest lords and highest kings, holding their heads proud as they trod the paces of brarle and the farandole. Indeed, though the meanness of their duchy is rooted in the meanness of its soil, the pride of Zaragoz' rulers is elevated by their very modern ability to know a ballo from a danza, and to cope with its complicated changes.[1d]

Trivia

  • Duke Marisilo diAvila is known for his cruelty, surpassing even that of his savage father, Ruffino.[1b]
  • Marisilo has two children: the beautiful Veronique,[1c] and Tomas.[1d]
  • There are no shrines to the Gods of Law within Zaragoz.[1b] Though there are shrines dedicated to Verena.[1c]
  • One's social standing in Zaragoz correlates with how high up the crag one dwells.[1c]
  • Duke Marisilo's chief advisor and magician is Semjaza.[1e]
  • Legend tells that Castle Zaragoz can never be taken, by virtue of its high position and sheerness of the rocks on which it stood. It is said that once justice reigns within the fortress then its rule would be absolute and unassailable. Unfortunately, the seemingly solid rock is rotten at its core, filled with caves and hollows, as well as a secret tunnel leading to the castle, not from the plains of the commonfolk, but from one of the noble houses that cling to the slopes. That house allegedly being that of Don Rodrigo Cordova.[1d]
  • Fernand Arrigo is a man-at-arms within the castle.[1e]
  • The Cordova estates outside of Castle Zaragoz are up the main north road from the town, said-road going directly through those lands on its way to the foothills of the Iranna.[1e]
  • Zaragoz is not known for its carpenters, for the trees grow too thin and crooked in the duchy's poor soil to yield an abundance of timber.[1f]
  • Zaragoz is based on the real world Spanish province of Zaragoza.

Source

  • 1: Zaragoz, by Brian Craig
    • 1a: Prologue
    • 1b: Chapter 1
    • 1c: Chapter 2
    • 1d: Chapter 3
    • 1e: Chapter 4
    • 1f: Chapter 8
    • 1g: Chapter 9
    • 1h: Chapter 10
    • 1i: Chapter 11
    • 1j: Chapter 12
    • 1k: Chapter 15

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