Monday, 24 August 2015

The Stairs of Grandrock

Gdera's northernmost country Grandrock is hard to reach because of its position high up its plateau, a series of cliffs and steep rocks making up its southern border, encompassing the entire land. This is not natural, however. Long ago, a placespirit - whose reason for existence is wildly debated - caused the plateau to rise, effectively cutting off Grandrock from the southern lands. Ages later, another placespirit enslaved anyone nearby to erect an elephantine staircase up the sheer cliffs. When the stairs were done, the remaining workers threw themselves off the cliff. Needless to say, the natives dislike the cliffs very much and won't even lead their flocks near it. To the unaware traveller though, the stairs are a blessing; their rise is perfect, and there are even niches to rest in on the long way up.
"Yes, we're safe from invasion. We were safe from Frullahan's insane expansions. Nobody enters the lands unnoticed, the cliffs are all but impossible to climb. As captain of the guard, I praise the stairs. As a being with a heart, I despise its memory."
— Quarin Tolmor, the queen's guard
The plateau is the most widespread relic known to remain of a placespirit, whose powers are normally restricted to their direct domain, which can still be very large, but not usually along an entire country's border. This has given rise to the belief the spirit was the result of a speaker exhausting herself to death with a spell, although there's no proof of that.
If the staircase itself is cursed is debated as well. There is an unusual amount of dead spirits around and on it, and the majority of those who die here become spirits. The Grandrockers take no chances and, while money doesn't stink, they much prefer traders arriving by boat or by Area over those that took the stairs.
"We have no friends. Our neighbours are scared, travellers are few, allies are too hard to reach because of the plateau. I hear some pity us, but they don't call either. We are quite alone."
— Penaka Ultor, citizen
Artists' notes
Every decent fantasy setting needs some monumental landmarks, doesn't it? There are a few in Genius Loci, but the stairs are among the useful ones, which I discovered while telling their story is worse to the natives than an entirely useless one. It's like employing knowledge gained through torture - you can't ignore it, but you feel dirty using it.

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