The Palace of Paths

The Palace of Paths is built on a flat-topped hill in the centre of the Blackwind Dales, overlooking both the Ashdale River to the north and the Blackwind River to the south. Unlike other fortresses and palaces across the realms, the Palace of Paths did not grow up around an existing system of caves or tunnels, and neither was it built to rule an existing settlement. Indeed, when construction first began, the Blackwind Dales were largely an empty wilderness – a land nominally divided between the lords of Outwatch and Gardin’s Rock, but to all intents and purposes ignored by both. The Palace of Paths was intended as a purpose-built eyrie and fortress that would act as a buffer between the populous realms south of the Purple Spur and the powerful (in terms of dragons) but sparse threat from the northern blood-mage realms. Some historians allege that the fortress was never even meant to be built; that just the beginnings of it were expected to draw the blood-mages out of the desert eyries, precipitating a war that would unite the increasingly discordant voices of the southern realms and eradicate the blood-mage menace once and for all. It is not possible to say whether this is truth or speculation – but if it is the truth, it would be hard to find from anywhere else in history a stratagem that backfired more completely and spectacularly.

The Palace of Paths was begun in the year 84, forty years before the crowning of Narammed as the first Speaker of the Realms. Thousands of men travelled in great convoys along what is now the Evenspire Road escorted by hundreds of dragons. An area of roughly three acres was levelled some fifty strides below the original peak of the hill. Massive trenches were dug and filled with stone and rubble to form the footings of the cascading curtain walls that ultimately gave the Palace of Paths its name. A fifteen kilometre tamped-earth ramp was built to transport marble and materials to the construction site from the valley of the Blackwind River, while harnessed dragons pulled the blocks used for the walls on specially constructed wagons and raised the blocks into their desired positions. Water was drawn from both the Blackwind and Ashdale rivers by a series of rope and bucket mechanisms and piped into three vast cisterns at the top of the hill, from where it was then piped around the complex (these pumps and cisterns still exist and operate today). Laid end to end, the layered curtain walls would stretch for around a dozen miles, and eventually took roughly twelve years to complete.

The remaining parts of the palace (the central fortified palace, barracks, eyrie and gatehouses) took an additional decade, while the tunnel complex dug deep into the hills (believed to reach as low as the level of the Blackwind, the higher of the two nearby rivers) took another decade still. Since the Palace of Paths was built in stages, discrepancies exist in completion dates due to differing opinions on ‘completion’. For example, the fortress, barracks and eyrie were essentially complete by 101, and were a permanent home to a hundred dragons and a thousand soldiers even while work continued on the rest of the complex. These soldiers were modelled on the palace guards of the Pinnacles but were armoured in dragon-scale and trained specifically in techniques for fighting against dragons. It is very likely that these soldiers formed the nucleus of Narammed’s Adamantine Men, and certainly of Vishmir’s later re-casting of them (although the Adamantine Men do not acknowledge this).

The palace was a great success in one respect; it is certainly the largest and most impressive fortification anywhere within the realms. However, construction of the fortress was disastrous for the Order of the Dragon in two ways. The first was the sheer scale of the enterprise: estimates of the cost of construction vary, but the total cost of building the Palace of Paths has been estimated to be equivalent to the current entire annual revenue of Furymouth, the Silver City and the City of Dragons combined. Given the smaller scale of the realms prior to the time of the speakers and the substantially lower population available for taxation, the costs of building the greatest fortress on earth were surely crippling, and this is borne out in the records of the time. However, even this pales beside Prince Jahan’s defection from the Order of the Dragon, complete with fortress, army and an eyrie full of dragons. By declaring Evenspire as a new and independent realm (doubtless heavily encouraged and supported by the very northern realms against whom he was supposed to guard), Prince Jahan precipitated the crisis that led to Narammed, the first speakers, the formation of the Adamantine Men and the separation of the Order of the Scales and the Order of the Dragon. It could also be argued that by doing this, he sowed the seeds of the War of Thorns and the complete collapse of the Order of the Dragon itself.

The Palace of Paths was constructed using materials from all over the realms, and it is estimated that over one thousand dragons were used to transport building materials, workers, foodstuff and other supplies while also providing a constant watch over its construction. Despite the grim functional nature of most of the palace, Prince Jahan’s throne room is a marvel equal to anything south of the Purple Spur (and possibly explains some of the colossal expense of the project). There is local translucent white marble, but also jasper from the Oordish Moors and jade and crystal from the Taiytakei traders of Furymouth (including an entire throne carved from a single piece of jade). There is turquoise from the Raksheh Forest, lapis lazuli from Three Rivers, sapphires from the Desert of Stone and carnelian from the Worldspine. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones are inlaid into the white marble of the palace royal chambers. To anyone with a knowledge of where these stones can be found, it is clear that much of this wealth was supplied from the northern realms (presumably in secret), and thus one may assume that Prince Jahan’s defection was not a moment of impulse but the result of many years of careful manipulations. Particularly magnificent is the Gallery of Glass linking the king and queen’s apartments, featuring some of the finest glass in the realms (courtesy of the Taiytakei) and later copied by speaker Ayzalmir in the Adamantine Palace.

Following the rise of Narammed, Prince Jahan continued to work on the palace until his death in 145, with construction financed primarily by the succession of his own brother Mehmeth as the second speaker following Narammed. The principle additions in this time are the two immense watchtowers, one at either end of the palace, which look out over the Blackwind River to the south and the Ashdale to the north. Following Jahan’s death, and devoid of almost any useful incomes, the later kings and queens of the Ash Throne struggled to afford the upkeep of such a vast fortress, and several parts have since fallen into disrepair. Works were begun to rectify this under Speaker Voranin before the realms were swept into the War of Thorns; now, with Iyanza as the third speaker from the Blackwind Dales, the fortress is undergoing further renovations.


Leave a Reply