A Tour of the City of Saryenia
Descriptions of Efea (A guidebook for travelers)
Enter the royal city of Saryenia. You will see such wonders here as you never knew existed in your tour of the many countries bordering the Three Seas.
It’s true this magnificent city began as a humble Efean fishing village built between Mist Lake and the Fire Sea. The narrow, twisting lanes of the oldest part of the city, the Warrens, are all that remain of the village, and of course only Commoners–that’s what we call people of Efean ancestry–live there now. Because the streets have no names, the only way to figure out where you are is by your proximity to the fountains at each intersection of three or four or five alleys (we can’t really call such narrow passageways “streets”). Each fountain bears the statue of an animal atop it, so the Commoners who live in the Warrens will give you directions according to how close they live to the “cat fountain” or the “scorpion fountain.” We won’t go there today, nor do we recommend you attempt to navigate that maze alone or, in truth, at all.
Saryenia has much more interesting and splendid things to see.
From off shore you’ll notice the twin hills that give the city its distinctive topography. Called the King’s Hill and the Queen’s Hill, respectively, they mark the site of the King’s Palace and the Queen’s Palace, both massive buildings easily seen from far away. Remember that the current rulers of Efea originally came from the old Empire of Saro a hundred years ago. That’s why the architecture of the two palaces will remind you of the ancient imperial capital–now abandoned–in old Saro across the sea.
The hills are mirrored by the city’s twin harbors. The East Harbor is reserved for the royal navy, so you’ll arrive in the city at the bustling West Harbor, filled with merchant ships from every part of the Three Seas. You can buy anything on the streets of the Harbor District but it will cost you extra. So don’t go shopping there!
In fact, Saryenia’s famous markets are one of its chief attractions! The best known is the Lantern Market, where by day you can buy protective amulets, perfume, cosmetics, jewelry, and gifts suitable for lovers. At night, of course, the Lantern Market turns into the Lantern District, famous for its spectacular theatrical productions and poetry competitions. At night the Lantern District also sells every manner of pleasure, which we cannot detail in a family publication like this one.
But while the Lantern District is easily the most famous of the markets, don’t neglect the others. The Grain Market may be mostly wholesale grain and agricultural goods brought in from the nearby countryside, but it has its own fascination for the many boats coming and going from the lakeside port and the constant haggling of both Commoners and the ruling class of Saroese–who call themselves Patrons–over even the smallest of onions, for Efeans have an unseemly love of bargaining. Never take the first price you’re offered.
For something special, and often overlooked by visitors, try the Ribbon Market. Its scenic location tucked into the caldera of the Queen’s Hill gives it special interest, and it’s a rigorous day of shopping with so many stairs up and down to various levels, but you can’t beat the choice of local handicrafts, especially the amazing variety of colored ribbons and the astounding array of masks that can be bought there.
By now you’re probably hankering for a drink, and we recommend one of the harborside taverns–expensive but with a thrillingly diverse clientele and plenty of rowdy sailors who often break out in song–or a quieter drink at one of the elegant restaurants below the Queen’s Garden. Avoid the over-priced drinking establishments that open onto the Avenue of Triumphs as they are packed with off-duty soldiers more than happy to pick drunken fights with unsuspecting passers-by.
No trip to Saryenia would be complete with a visit to the Archives, known as the most complete library in the Three Seas. You’ll have to apply in advance for a tour since visitors aren’t allowed to wander around as they please. The architecture alone, with its pavilions and twin libraries, will give the cultured visitor much to remark on, and with a special dispensation in hand scholars can spend time among the books and scrolls of the main library.
Of the three temples, only the Temple of the Sun can be entered on a daily basis. The Temple of the Sea (not marked on the map) is currently under renovation and closed to the public. The Temple of Justice serves as a court, overseen by the king, and as with any working establishment you must have a case pending in order to enter. The Eternity Temple does not admit visitors at all, but like all citizens of Efea you can cross under its gate and enter the City of the Dead, the sacred peninsula where the tombs of the departed stand. Here, if you are bold, you can partake in the most peculiar and horrifying of Efean customs: Should you care to bring an offering to one of the tombs that houses a living oracle, you may present the gift to her and hope to receive an augury of your future from her lips. Although the local Patrons think this a perfectly commonplace act, few visitors dare to seek out the whispered words of an oracle, and in truth we advise even the most intrepid travelers to consider this local custom one they should assiduously avoid.
After all, if you get restless, you can crown your trip with an afternoon at the City Fives Court where the best athletes of Efea compete to be first to the victory tower. Thrill to their strength and agility! Marvel at their quick thinking and clever maze-running! Gasp at their daring leaps and acrobatics from heights high enough that a fall would kill! You’ll find the Fives nowhere else in all the countries bordering the Three Seas, and it’s a competition that shouldn’t be missed.
Just as Saryenia should not be missed, for it is indeed a unique city. We hope you enjoy your visit!
For some great visuals check out 5 Visual Descriptions of the City of Saryenia at The Novl.