Intended for the hands of my friend Boltar, 19th archivist of the Undannekan Library in Gazbek
I greet your father and your father’s father, all those in your clan, and all those in the Undannekan Library. I hope this letter finds you in stout health. Here I beg you to get that nose of yours out of old histories and read this for a moment, as you might find it interesting. I know that you are far too busy to think about leaving the Library to see the world. That’s why I’m bringing it to you, or at least a report of it. It would be good for you to know some little about what’s around us when you start sifting through the half-burned pages you love so dear.
I write to you now from a passing room in the main hall of a township in Anaris. I know these words do make no sense to you, but I had to find a place to start. Anaris at least you must know, one of the great human cities out there in the stormlands. I’ve been here six days up to now and I do know not quite what to make of its people. Humans are usually as friendly as a drunk, but these here are generous with the little they seem to have. I’ve seen few poor so far, but neither have I found the large buildings that I know humans build. I almost think that I should have stopped at one of the other cities we passed through. In every one, I was able to stay in a quite comfortable inn and speak with the grandees. Here, friend Boltar, I sleep in someone’s spare room and I eat my meals elbow-and-elbow with everyone else.
I said the room was passing, which is either a criticism comparing it to those inns before or a sign of just how desperate this journey made me. You can choose which of these it is. The journey was utter hell. Through the Library I’d hired a human ranger as my guide, with the idea that we’d skirt the storms as best we could. He had a nose for the weather, he said. Nonsense. Twice we missed a city’s gate closing and only the generosity of the sentinels let us sleep in the dry. We were pelted by rain and hail throughout, walking always under the most forboding black clouds, jumping at every strike of lightning. And after all that, I write to you from a borrowed room where I constantly have to say that I am not yet leaving, and which is a walk of fifteen minutes from the place where I will sleep tonight.
Unlike in dear Gazbek, though, I do not think I’ll have any fear of walking past curfew in this place. They do no take care like you would without thinking, keeping a little jabber to scare off urchins, not carrying a great deal of coin, and while I’m speaking of it, I hope you still do keep that knife to hand. In Anaris, I’ve sat up through a night and found it quiet. I even saw seen the true stars once, whose majesty did no strike me until I thought about them the next night which was ceilinged by clouds. There be patrols around some buildings but none with strong arms, no sticks even that I could see. I keep my jabber with me but I find myself somehow soothed by the still air inside the bounds of their barrier.
This things may not seem trivial to you as you will know the same good bed tonight that you’ve known for a century. But though I’ve put all this down, and though you might as well read it and laugh at what a jammed gear I am, this is no what I wanted you to hear.
On the third day I had been here, I was in the town hall of this particular township (whose name is Hayan) and watched their weekly official gathering, where they aired grievances and assigned duties. That is, at least, the closest thing to it that I can say, as they did no decide in our way. The one who opened the gathering was called Ranah bet-Shahan of the Weather Circle and seemed to have the studious bearing of a wizard, but even-saying the meeting proceeded almost ignoring Ranah, with motions coming freely from the others, being discussed, agreed upon, and accepted without Ranah’s input. In fact, he spoke only three other times, and always in support of someone who had spoken. Two of these motions appeared to be favored, but the third was clearly rejected. When the meeting was done, Ranah repeated the main points of agreement where he was again interrupted and accepted that input, made sure the items were recorded, and the meeting simply dispersed.
Imagining the astonishment on your face right now has had me laughing for far too long. It’s complete chaos, is it not? Imagine any firm in Gazbek being run so haphazardly. People interrupting the tycoon? I bet you’ve dreamed no once even of talking back to the First Archivist.
I asked questions of Ranah and of some others in the city, and I was surprised at how erudite the people were. I’ve seen no nobles in this town, but I got as fruitful a discussion about the city’s politics from a farmer as I did from a member of their star-chamber, and I say that as no insult to the sitter. What they told me is close to chaos but is no the same, there is order. I will do my best to explain, but first I must tell you some history.
You are familiar with Cammelan, I am sure. One of the Last Realms and fell, like all the others, after the Breaking. Most of the humans to our south are their descendants. Cammelan was ruled by sovereigns and, when this country was shattered, many of its successors were ruled by sovereigns as well. But Cammelan did not just fall from a catastrophe of the new climate. Those great, destructive storms were actually the violent stop to a civil war which was by then on its way to ripping the realm into pieces. That war was fought between the Royalists who stood for their sovereign and the Supporters who favored their university and its high mages. In the middle of that war, there were those who fought on the side of the Royalists but who had before this decided that they would no longer be dominated by magic. They were a relatively small group then, but after the kingdom’s seat was leveled by storms, they were one of the few large and united groups of people remaining.
Mages who had been fleeing in every direction to avoid the supernatural storms came upon this band of wanderers who were being ripped at by the storms but were no discouraged. Some of these mages stopped but were told by the people that they would no accept a mage at all who did not live as an equal citizen with the rest of them. Saying this would be close to anathema for us and it was similar for the humans. Most of those mages who stopped decided to move on and build their own private bulwarks. Yet some stayed, at first only enough to fend off the winds by the night, then eventually enough that they could construct an aegis. They then founded the city of Anaris on this new almost anathema which, as you can see, still motivates its people.
Calling Anaris a city is, according to them, not exactly correct. They call Anaris a “common-hold”. It is divided into 27 townships of unequal size, which can be thought of in the same way as we have many khavans inside the dheep of Gazbek. Each township chooses a custodian of the year (or “custodian for the year”, I did no get precisely how they meant) who is responsible for the township but no having authority over it. Ranah, who I told you about, is the custodian of this year for his township of Hayan. These townships help the people of Anaris to direct their needs, but they no have importance in decision-making. The closest thing that we have are the justice legates of our khavans, but where the legate can command, the custodian can no do more than suggest and often-times the people disagree.
Decisions about governing in Anaris are decided on a city-wide basis at their star-chamber, which they call the Common Council. 40 people sit on this Common Council, each one being called a speaker (instead of sitter). I asked about what their even number meant for voting as the chamber could be locked dead when a majority is wanted. Their way of dealing with this is very strange. If a vote goes to an even split, the council will take a break for one hour in which no member is allowed to speak or communicate in any way with another, and they are no permitted to discuss the details of the matter. After that hour, they vote again. If there are three extra votes taken with no result (that is to say, on the fourth tied vote), the matter must be tabled for at least one week; in this time, the speakers can actively discuss the matter. When I asked they said that while this could, by the letter, continue on this way forever, tied votes rarely even get to the stage of being tabled.
The Common Council is quite different in other ways from our Star-Chamber as well. Whereas our chamber is for sitters to interpret situations and the old kings’-law, their Common Council actually creates new laws with every decision they come to. They have little respect for old laws except as a record of the past and mayhap as a guide in their discussion. I called this a reckless disregard for the traditions which bind any society, but the human I was speaking to pointed out that they would come to the 18th 50-year celebration of their founding in just three decades which is respectable for humans in any age and astounding now in the Ruin. And further, it seems that everyone takes heed of what the Common Council decrees, which is all any government needs.
Also, where our Star-Chamber sets everything in motion and watches over all, the Common Council is a last resort for the Anarines. The majority of their day-to-day decisions are made by discussion and voting among their circles. The circles of Anaris are broad associations of all workers of a specific professional goal throughout the city. For instance, the Clothiers’ Circle is not just made up of weavers or sewers but of those who make any sort of cloth made for wearing or decoration. Some of the city’s leather-makers, such as those who make leather for shoes, belong to this circle. Others belong to the Merchants’ Circle, which includes messengers, wagoners, and hostlers, all of whom have different needs for leather that are particular to trading and carrying but not to wearing. One leather-maker can provide materials for use in both riding and wearing if they are able, but they can only be a member of one circle and must, if it becomes a dispute, follow the decisions they agreed to in their circle. Every year, each circle elects a runner who takes responsibility for, but has no authority over, the circle. The circle’s authority comes from the votes which are taken on each matter, not for any other reason. They tell me that only the Common Council has the right to compel anyone in the common-hold to do something against their will, and even this could be challenged by the circles.
Humans in Anaris are much like humans elsewhere and tend to live in households where adult mates cohabitate, along with with their children in the first degree and with their older relations when necessary. All people above the age of childhood are given a voice in their circles, and even children have one if they are doing more than just a light share of their house’s cleaning. So saying, it is common for young adult Anarines to spend some time living in a household without children, sharing with blood siblings or non-related acquaintances in a compact which must be actively renewed every three years, though it can be concluded at any time. Marriages among the Anarines have only a religious standing and are not backed by the circles or the Common Council. For us, meeting outside of marriage is anathema. For the Anarines, it is a subject of gossip and little more. Staying married for longer than two decades is seen as a testament either to emotional compatibility or mental fortitude.
If I had not been here for even the short time I have so far, I would not ever believe that a city of humans, one fortunate enough to have an aegis, had no great institution of magic, but it is true. It must be true. I’ve seen and heard of no great school here. The Camlani were so proud of their great university, the kind of machine for producing mages which had rarely even been dreamed of. Ah, I caught myself before I spoke about how Undannekan had tried to host a university, but you are the one who told me about it. We would have thought that the human race could no abandon the idea which finally gave them such glory and influence. But pushing past all that, it seems to be true.
Being no great mage myself, I cannot tell just how effective their method of teaching is, but whatever they teach has been enough to keep their city whole. They tell me that it is the circles who teach magic. There be no singular circle of mages or even two. Mages may be found in any circle. A mage of the Farmers’ Circle might focus their efforts on nurturing the harvest or calming animals, while one of the Builders may help in setting and framing a new house. There are five circles who it can be said are interested in magic above other matters: the Weather Circle (which should be self-explanatory), the Teaching Circle (which includes both teachers and scholars, of magic and otherwise), the Alchemists’ Circle (which also includes magical artisans called arcanists), the Ritual Circle (including clerics and divine casters), and the Students’ Circle (which includes young students and apprentices of magic and otherwise). Individuals are trained on the basis of mentorship, but the resources of their entire circle are always available to them.
These circles, while all important, are not equal throughout the city. Each township is its own community, connected to the others but no needing that people leave their own area for too much. In each, so saying, the number of workers of any kind will be different. This Hayan township has a large number of cold craftsfolk, so the Clothiers’ Circle and the Potters’ Circle have more influence than others, but other townships will have more farmers or smiths and so on. This does cause some community competition which comes out in little jibes and other such gnome-tricks but it no seems to rise to true enmity.
I am no giving you a complete report on these people, I know. You would read a more thorough essay in anything recorded in the Library. They will not tell you about Anaris, though, so you must make do with me for now. Mayhap you can persuade one of the elder archivists to sponsor a team and do a good twenty-year preliminary study on the humans. You might write a book that your mother would want to read for once.
I expect that I will stay in Anaris at least another week. I have by now climbed down from our mountainside and seen what there is to see, I might as well see it through. If good things are coming this season from Blessed Darrun, I await them with open arms. Remain in health and drink like I’m there with you, as I will be soon.
In Words Firm and Sincere,
44th Archivist of the Undannekan Library
Written from the Township of Hayan in the Commonhold of Anaris
In the 996th year since the Last Law was proclaimed