Market Square by Milford Glower

I feel hugely privileged to be the first to write for the My Farynshire section of this blog. 

I thought long and hard about the place in Farynshire that meant the most to me – there are so many!  Do I choose a natural wonder, a beautiful village, one of our most spiritual places?  In the end I chose Market Square in Rookpot, the place of protest, dissent and rebellion.

The most famous of Rookpot’s Squares is Dameg, surrounded by the Library, the Council Chambers, The Museum and the Cathedral – it is the heart of the city.  EassenBren is its soul, and I like to think of Market Square as the city’s conscience. In many ways it is the opposite of Dameg Square.  You can see immediately see the contrast between the two when you go through St Fulk’s Cut, the high-walled alleyway that connects them.    

The most immediately obvious difference is the graffiti.  Unlike its pristine neighbour, Market Square is covered in graffiti – some of which has been dated to before 1400, and some of which is still wet from last Tuesday.  Market Square is Rookpot’s public forum, the Square of Ideas, and a lot of them are scrawled on its steps and walls.

But most ideas are conveyed via well prepared speeches, or, more often, incoherent shouting. 

Every potential Councillor has to give a few speeches here.  Before live feeds, the Council Clerk stood on the steps and recited the minutes of every full Council Meeting.  I suppose if the wifi ever goes down some poor secretary will have to do this again.  All important announcements are made here. 

But it is not just a place for the Council or for important announcements; in fact, these take up but a fraction of the calendar.  Market Square is the place in the city where anybody can say or preach anything.  It is also the place where, no matter who the speaker is, anyone can argue back.

This sounds like a perfect set up for authorised street fights, I know.  But the authorities treat violence (including throwing anything) in Market Square very seriously.  The offence is Wilful Destruction of Trust of the People, and the minimum sentence is a week in Rookpot Gaol.

There is also a Code of Conduct that must be adhered to:

  • All speakers are prohibited from using loudspeakers, megaphones, or any other public address system
  • Anyone who uses the Speaker’s Square to make speeches does so at his or her own risk
  • Rookpot Council will not be responsible for any prosecution or legal action by the Constabulary or civil proceedings

The Code is engraved on the left gate post as you walk into the Square, so everyone knows the rules even if they rock up on the day.  If you plan your protest in advance, like we did, you receive a copy of the Code via email.

The debates grouped together by classes, and written up in chalk on the blackboard by the entrance.  Our student protest was in the Rookpot class, because it focused on the proposed removal of the portrait of the Digger, Meredith Roke, from the Museum Gallery.  The title of our protest was History Needs to Celebrate and Acknowledge its Thieves, Amateurs and Adventurers.  The idea was to bring the debate surrounding the controversial Digger (which I won’t expound on here; if you want to learn more there are plenty of books in The Lilac Beech and records in the Library about the Rokes and their contributions to the Museum) out of academic circles and to the public’s attention.

This is one of the Square’s main functions: to bring grievances out into the light, and rally support for petitions and causes.  Anyone in authority is always seen as a fair target, and there have been numerous protests against the Council or Peer Families – a servant once spent five days endlessly pontificating against one of the Peers.  Because of these acts of outspoken sedition and dissent, the Square has always been seen as a safe space.  Some have tried to use it as a place of sanctuary, but only those expressing an opinion are safe from arrest – you can’t just pitch a tent in the Square.

The main speakers take turns to make their case by standing on the Speaker’s Spot – a coloured circle in the centre of Market Square.  They address the crowds gathered on the surrounding stone steps that rise above them.  It is a bit intimidating to make your case in front of all those jeering and cheering faces, but maybe that is the point: your views must be robust enough to survive the mob.    

You cannot be arrested in the Square, but anyone breaking sedition or other laws can be arrested as soon as they step back across the threshold.  There have been incidents in the past where Rookpot Costabulary have blocked all exits from the Square, waiting to make arrests when people leave.  This has led to some calling Market Square a freedom cage. 

The authorities have also tried to stop people getting into the Square at all.  The Constabulary have formed a ring to stop people from entering, but this was deemed an illegal act.  One of Rookpot’s Peer Families erected concrete slabs across the entrance, but these were torn down, leaving two stunted remains left in place as testament to how important the Square is.

And then there are those who believe that having a designated area for free speech is offensive – arguing that all of the city should be free.  And whereas everyone might agree that ideally this should be the case, history has proven the value of Market Square.  Its special status has allowed everyone space and opportunity for their voice to be heard.  And this has meant that Market Square has righted wrongs, exposed corruption, held authority to account, and sparked the occasional revolution.

History is everywhere in the Square.  In the graffiti scrawled over every surface, on plaques on the walls commemorating some of the most important and memorable altercations and announcements in the Square, and simply in the knowledge of all that has come before.  You can feel the righteous anger of all the people who have stood on the Spot before you lift your voice so that everyone can hear.

So definitely make your way through St Fulk’s Cut from Dameg Square when you visit Rookpot.  And, whilst you are here, maybe check out the Gallery in the Museum, where the portrait of Meredith Roke, a rascal, a thief, an unscrupulous seller of precious artefacts, the first Digger, still hangs.

This Christmas in Dameg Square

This year the traditional blue spruce was not delivered to Dameg Square.  This meant no Christmas tree for the Square, and no tree for Rookpot.  The tree is the centre of the city’s Christmas festivities – what to do in its absence?

In years gone by, when dragging a giant spruce tree from the Daggerrock Mountains to Rookpot, and them up through the steep, narrow streets to Dameg Square, was impractical, the celebrations were focussed instead upon the tree that always lives in the Square: the bent oak that leans over the gorge.  The oak has bare branches in December, and so every household in the city creates three leaves, usually from paper or cloth: one red, one golden, and one green, to cover the tree in bright foliage.

This led to exploring other forgotten Christmas traditions, hidden in the Museum archives.  These traditions grew from the close relationship between the Peoples, and when the wolvern, foresteens and seafolk withdrew from human contact, the traditions were abandoned as well.  By reviving them once more, it is hoped that the other Peoples may be encouraged to return to Rookpot.

A giant wreath adorned the heavy, ancient Cathedral doors.  Young foresteens would once have climbed Rookpot tor and hung it themselves.  This year it was wrought by volunteers from the Cathedral choir and by a group of Museum Assistants.  They entwined holm, mistletoe, and the feathered branches of blue and fire-tinged firs, but not ivy (out of respect for the foresteens), and garnished it with red and white holly berries amidst their dark, shiny leaves.

The Square is bathed in the shimmering light of the giant silver star that sits atop the Council Chambers, visible from the ever-spreading suburbia that surrounds the tor.  Ropes of brightly coloured lights criss-cross the Square, and drape over the entrances to the Library and the Chambers.  Once these would have been ropes of jewels from wolvern mines, but now they are illuminated by slightly less mystic electric bulbs.

A red, blue, green or yellow (or sometimes all four) candle is placed in every window in the Square, kept alight until well into January.  This is one of the recent traditions.  As is using the leftover fat from Christmas dinners to create balls embedded with nuts and dried fruit that are hung up on trees, outside windows, and on the Library roof for the city birds.

There have been other visitors to the city, according to the archives, more mythical and legendary than the Peoples.  There is an entire section in The Lilac Beech devoted to Creatures from the Gorge, and two of these seem to be associated with Christmas, and they both seem to have paid a visit this Christmas.  How else to explain the light dusting of snow on rooves and window sills other than frost fairies?  And who else would have left a small gift or bauble on the porch of every house on Christmas morning but the Gorge Gnomes?  There are even rumours that the golden stag with the black antlers, Black Goron Carw, has been seen racing silently through the streets, spreading the Christmas spirit in his wake. 

To work up an appetite for Christmas lunch, it was decided to re-introduce the Kickabout.  The Kickabout had been indefinitely suspended because the last time it was played somebody fell into the gorge.  But that had been many years ago, and everyone was confident that that would not happen again.  It is a game loosely based on football, in that there is a ball involved, and it is played between the Cathedral, the Library, the Museum and the Council Chambers, although really anyone can join in.  It starts in Dameg Square, but often spills out into surrounding streets and Squares.  Two players from each side carry the goals, and another carries a bucket of punch and a ladle.  Those that manage to avoid being dragged into the game sip on large mugs of steaming hot chocolate. Nobody is ever sure who the winner is – but as long as nobody falls into the gorge, it is considered a success.

Later in the evening, after the post-lunch snooze, the people take to the streets once more.  This is a lazy time.  A time for eating (if possible) the rich, rum, bourbon or whisky-soaked fruit cakes and mince pies.  When the Peoples used to join the festivities this would be a time for feasting.  This year the flattened sugar biscuits have been cut out into shapes that resemble wolvern, foresteens and seafolk.

At midnight, or soon after, fireworks fill the sky, and all of the bells in the city ring out.  This was the farewell to the Peoples as they returned to the mountains, the forests and the sea.  This year it is to remind the frost fairies, the Gorge Gnomes, and even Black Goron Carw, that they must now return from whence they came.

They will be welcome back next year, though.  As will the other Peoples, should they wish to celebrate Christmas with Rookpot once again.



Reach of the Meyrick: Controversies


Professor Efa Foster and the Museum curators who worked with the White Palace Scribe on the exhibition felt that they could not display certain items without a couple of notes attached to them.  The White Palace Scribe agreed with the wording of the notes, and checked this blog post before it was published.

There are numerous artefacts on display in Riversouth and Rookpot that come from Wild Wolvern Mey.  These include numerous pieces of wolvern jewellery, gems worn by Meyricks and their families, including the ruling ring, and bejewelled gifts of Musril-embossed skins from wolvern Clans. 

It should be noted that many wolvern artefacts were given as genuine gifts to the Meyricks from the Clans in Wild Wolvern Mey, and these are considered the rightful property of the White Palace.  However, several items discovered in the Palace Archives have a more dubious provenance.  These are items that were taken from wolvern Clans without permission, and in many cases the wolvern had requested that the items be returned to them.  The Museum is working closely with the Palace Archives to see if this is feasible.  At the time of the exhibition no wolvern artefacts have yet been returned to the Clans, but there are ongoing talks being held in the neutral territory of Rookpot Museum, which representatives from the White Palace and the Sperakeden Clan have attended.

The second note concerns the Musril language, particularly its origins.  We all know that Riversouth prides itself on protecting and promoting Farynshire’s native language.  Indeed, most academics acknowledge that without The White Palace’s devotion to the language it might very well have died out many years ago, amongst the human population anyway.  What has been increasingly challenged, particularly in recent years, is the long-held theory that Musril spread out to the rest of the county from Riversouth.  In fact, there is no evidence that Musril was created in Riversouth.  Despite this, many well-respected academic books, articles and theses make this claim; some of them from many years ago, but, perhaps surprisingly, some published in the twenty first century as well.  This is very much a live and current theory, as evidenced by recent podcasts and online videos that are popular around Riversouth.  Rookpot Museum distances itself from this theory.  If anything, recently discovered evidence suggests that Musril did not originate in Riversouth. 

It is important to acknowledge new discoveries and revise existing theories, however well established, accordingly.  Rookpot Museum is committed to pursuing the truth of history, rather than a version of it.

The 213th Rookpot History Conference

The Peoples of Farynshire: Challenging the Narrative

The Scribe of the White Palace, Aderyn Tooking and Professor Efra Foster from Rookpot Museum will chair the 213th conference of the Rookpot History Conference.  The theme of the conference is challenging the traditional theories concerning the Peoples of Farynshire.  The programme has been deliberately designed to be radical and provocative and many of the speakers could be considered controversial. 

The Programme

Four Peoples, One County”   Professor Roland Coombes

Our Common Language: Musril for All”   Professor Lana Evans and Doctor Peter Wallace

The Voices of our Forests”  Doctor Rhyll Jones

Following the Seafolk”   Sephus Moxley

The Meyrick, the wolvern, and Wild Wolvern Mey”   Aderyn Tooking and Professor Efra Foster

A wolvern in Rookpot”   Botolf ken Geirolf os okto

There are limited places available for the public – so book your place early!

The Reach of the Meyrick: Seafolk and Wovern

Seafolk and Wolvern

Recent research has challenged the longstanding narrative around Riversouth’s relationship with seafolk and wolvern.  This has been made possible by examining the other side of the story, and re-learning history through the memories and stories of the Peoples themselves.  We hope one day to run that exhibition.

The focus of this exhibition is the Meyrick and Riversouth, and all of the sources and exhibits used and displayed are human.  This exhibition has started to challenge the traditional historical narrative, and we will continue to explore wider historical perspectives in our work.   

The Impact of the Seafolk (begin in The White Palace, Riversouth)

These days even occasional and rare sightings of seafolk in our coastal waters are met with both extreme scepticism an obsessive theorising, so it is hard to imagine a time when seafolk were not only a common sight in Farynshire’s waters, but regularly interacted with humans.  They may be elusive, but it is important to remember that they are one of the four Peoples of Farynshire, and they created one quarter of the ancient seal that hangs on the wall in the Council Chambers in Rookpot.

Before the Seal that brought the Peoples together (for a time anyway) there was often conflict between the seafolk and the human coastal communities, including Riversouth.  There are numerous stories and tales about seafolk raids on Meyshore Bay.  One of the oldest and most fascinating records in the Palace Archive is an eleventh century book listing the loss of sea vessels to seafolk attacks.  Some boats disappeared, and the book claims that witnesses on shore observed boats being pulled underwater. 

Sephus Moxley, who has spent a lifetime researching, studying and searching for seafolk, has written a book about the history of seafolk in Riversouth for this exhibition, and you can buy How the Seafolk shaped Riversouth in the Rookpot Museum shop and The Lilac Beech.  In his hefty tome, Moxley explores the relationship between the seafolk and the growing Riversouth, postulating that the seafolk are the reason Meyshore Bay never became a bustling port like Sylnmouth, despite being a natural and safe harbour.  The seafolk raids usually targeted fishing vessels and it is believed that they were defending their foodstocks.  In response to these raids Meyrick the True through to Meyrick the Thrift-Purse oversaw the building of defences along the shoreline.  There is very little to be seen here now, although some ancient timbers have been excavated that were once part of what looked like extensive fortifications.  Stone forts were constructed on top of the Sussen Orchelflilin, and if a seafolken was spotted in the waters below a beacon was lit to warn any boats that were already out in the Bay, and to rally the defenders – though Moxley believes these had little to no effect on the seafolk, certainly none were ever captured or killed. 

But what eventually kept the Bay waters seafolk-free was the construction of the underwater defences.  Moxley spends a good portion of his book explaining the significant of this remarkable architecture.  Most of it was buried for centuries, before Diggers from Rookpot Museum re-discovered it in the 1970s.  Since then it has been carefully preserved in its underwater setting using techniques that involve coating the metal and timbers in specially created waterproof lacquer.  The defences cover the entire seabed of the Bay, and start below low tide, and so are invisible from shore.  Moxley believes that what has been discovered is but a remnant of the original structures.  He also suggests that the defences prevented the development of a port in Riversouth.  It was always assumed that the Meyrick discouraged the growth of a port because they did not want Riversouth to become like Sylnmouth, and possibly that was a secondary purpose of the underwater defences.

As part of the exhibition you can take a glass-bottomed boat trip out over some of the more stable defences.  Your guide and accompanying divers will ensure you get a good view of the marvels beneath the waves. 

Before you do that, first visit the art exhibition, Seafolk Encounters, in the magnificent Emerald Hall in the White Palace.  This beautiful exhibition has brought together art that features seafolk from around the county.  There are vast watercolours from the Vaults of Rookpot Museum, exquisite porcelain figurines from Cowley Maggs, mixed with the vast collections from the Palace Archives.  The exhibition is dominated by mermaids, of course, as they are the most frequently sighted of the seafolk, but some older, rarer works depict distant sightings of large males or family groups.  It seems like everyone who has ever encountered a seafolken has tried to capture its likeness in paint, pottery, glass, china or wood.

Wild Wolvern Mey (the White Palace, Riversouth, and Rookpot Museum, Rookpot)

Sephus Moxley argues that it was the pressure of the seafolk on Meyshore that led to the Meyricks pushing out beyond wider Riversouth area and eventually into the territories that would become known as Wild Wolvern Mey.  In truth, it is likely that this expansion would have happened with or without the seafolk.

There is evidence of Bronze Age trade between the pre-Meyrick communities in Riversouth and early wolvern Clans, such as wolvern jewels in Riversouth graves and human daggers, axes and swords in the mountains.  There are also very rare and prized finds of joint endeavours: metalwork created by wolvern and human, human pottery encrusted with wolvern stones. 

Sephus Moxley might not be right about why the Meyricks started to expand out beyond Riversouth, but he is right about when.  Rather than the pressure of the seafolk raids being the reason, it seems as though the new sea defences gave the Meyrick confidence to turn their attention away from the sea and focus their energy inland.  One of the first developments was re-building the route network, repairing and strengthening existing tracks, and building new roads.  There is archaeological evidence of old toll stations along these new roads, particularly at the new turnpikes and bridges.

Numerous settlements were built along the new roads, and the villages and towns that are descended from them bear the Mey names to this day.  The Meyricks learned from the success of Meyshore and all of the initial settlements were designed by a Riversouth architect, Ogilby Hooke, who created one streetplan that was then applied to every new community, which makes it easy for archaeologists to identify these original settlements, even if they have been subsequently demolished or altered.  Hooke’s streetplan is on display in Rookpot Museum.

Hooke also drew up plans for a canal to run through Riversouth, out into the hinterlands to Skrudfenrion Lake, crossing a tributary of the River Spurtle, before joining the Bychan Darkflint River that winds its way from the mountains into the Lake.  It was a hugely impressive project, and Hooke did not live to see it finished.  But there can be little doubt that the Riversouth Canal (Farynshire’s only canal) accelerated the Meyrick’s expansion projects. 

The humans soon attracted the attention of the local wolvern Clans, including the infamous Sperakeden Clan.  At first, relations between human and wolvern seem to have been respectful.  The wolvern were particularly interested in trading the jewels and precious stones they mined for sheep, wool, and human textiles.  Some wolvern even exchanged tracts of land that they considered unusable, which the humans quickly settled in.  Living in close proximity it was inevitable that disagreements would occur.  Both wolvern and human are territorial, and boundaries were only respected when convenient.  Wolvern raided livestock, and humans continued to encroach and build upon wolvern land, constructing forts to deter wolvern attacks.  Most disputes were settled by jeldanas, an old method of settling scores whereby an agreed payment is given for a wrong, but resentment on both sides lingered. 

The arrival of the railways in the mid nineteenth century changed everything.  Meyrick the Third Tall paid for a line of track to run straight into Wild Wolvern Mey, at the same time as the Age of Industry enabled extensive mining in the region.  Meyrick the Third Tall’s successor is known as Meyrick the Scarrer, and is the only Meyrick to have an epitaph bestowed upon them by one of the Peoples.  Human miners were known as scarrers, and they changed the landscape in Wild Wolvern Mey forever with their dynamite and heavy machinery.

As the scarrers blasted their way further into wolvern territory, the wolvern were pushed deeper into the mountains.  The name Wild Wolvern Mey appeared at this time, attached to registered companies and materials that were mined from the area.  The industrialisation made the Meyrick and Riversouth very rich, but they did not have it all their own way.  The Sperakeden Clan constantly harassed, disrupted and attacked the railway and canal supply routes, and sometimes even the mines.

In the Palace Archives there is correspondence between the White Palace and the owners of the mining companies operating in Wild Wolvern Mey that reveal they all knew that their time in the area was not going to last long.  At this time the Peoples attended Council meetings in Rookpot, and the minutes from those meetings show that the wolvern representative petitioned the Council many times on behalf of the Sperakeden and other wolvern Clans. 

Because they knew that they had limited time to reap the rich rewards from their mines, the scarrers ruthlessly exploited as much of the area as they could.  There are early photographs of the devastation that was inflicted on the area.  Forests were burned to the ground, rivers and streams were polluted by the run-off and turned brown and toxic, slag heaps rose up in mockery of the surrounding mountains, the slopes of which were blasted, resulting in landslides and permanent damage.  Meyrick the Scarrer’s rule was short, rich, and ruinous for Wolvern Mey.

The Meyrick’s short and sudden advance beyond Riversouth shaped modern Farynshire, and you can follow in the footsteps of the scarrers via two routes.  The first is to step aboard a converted barge to make your leisurely way via the Riversouth Canal, or you can take the land train from Riversouth along the old roads to Wild Wolvern Mey.  Either route will stop to visit one of Ogilby Hooke’s villages, Norssenmey, a reconstructed settlement using Hooke’s streetmap.  From Norssenmey the tour continues over a wide stone bridge, and via a crumbling fort, and on to the modern town of Gorssenmey.  The mines still exist, though most are too dangerous to visit, but there is one that has been preserved, and this is where the tour ends. 

The Retreat of the Meyrick (Rookpot Museum)

The Meyricks left a lasting legacy on Wild Wolvern Mey, and many people assume they must have been there for centuries, but, in truth, everything that you can still see  – the mey names, the roads, infrastructure, railway, mines – all happened within the rule of two Meyricks, or less than fifty years.  For most of that time, protests were regularly raised during Rookpot Council meetings.

What expedited the Retreat of the Meyrick was the Leader of the Sperakeden Clan, Conri, who travelled to Rookpot to petition the Council to stop the mining and the occupation and expel the humans.  The Council minutes record his speech in full, both in the original Musril that Conri used, and translated into Welsh and English; you can see and read these minutes in the exhibition in Rookpot Museum.  Unfortunately nobody thought to make an audio recording, so we can only imagine the oratory power of a wolvern Leader speaking for his Clan, his home and his people.  But we know it must have been passionate and compelling because it provoked enough sympathy amongst the Councillors and the Peer Families that they put pressure on Riversouth to stop their activities in Wild Wolvern Mey. 

The mining was stopped immediately, and over the following year the Meyrick’s authority fell back to Riversouth.  The White Palace never publicly or formally renounced its claim on Wild Wolvern Mey, but from that moment on it essentially acted as though it had never heard of such a place, and paid no attention to anything that happened there.

These were big victories for Conri and the wolvern, but they did not get the full expulsion of humans that they wanted.  The villages and towns remain to this day, and the region is still known (amongst humans, at least) as Wild Wolvern Mey.  The wolvern, like the seafolk and the foresteens, would eventually break all contact with Rookpot, the Council and humans, but the concessions to Leader Conri delayed this for a few more years.

As well as selected excerpts from the Minutes of the Rookpot Council, this part of the exhibition is a wonderful collection of maps.  Ogilby Hooke’s original streetplan for the settlements can be viewed here, as well as modifications future planners made to his design.  The Scribe of the White Palace documented in detail the expansion and retreat of the Meyrick in and out of Wild Wolvern Mey, and you can see the growing and shrinking territories on intricate maps.  It is an extensive collection, and we are indebted to the Palace Archives for allowing us to make it public.

The Reach of the Meyrick: the Rise of Riversouth

Rookpot Museum is home to countless archives, stories and finds from all over Farynshire.  Since its conversion from a glassworks factory in 1762 to the magnificent building standing today, its mission has been to explore, explain and share the rich history of our county and its Peoples.  To this end, we thought we would highlight some of the splendid and fascinating exhibitions the Museum has held over the years.

The Reach of the Meyrick was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to the truth and myth of the family who has shaped Farynshire more than any other. 

This is an exhibition that allows you to get up and close and personal with history as it is unearthed and reclaimed by Diggers and academics.    

The Museum had been given unprecedented access to the archives in The White Palace.  We are indebted to Aderyn Tooking, the White Palace Scribe, who granted extensive access to the Palace Archives and curated this exhibition across both cities.  We also thank Professor Efra Foster from Rookpot Museum for devising, coordinating and overseeing this vast project.

The focus of the exhibition is how the Meyrick’s influence spread out from Riversouth throughout Farynshire, with a particular focus on Wild Wolvern Mey, and then receded back again, leaving plenty of evidence of their presence in their wake.

This is the largest exhibition ever put on by the Museum – you might need to spread your visit over a few days!

The Rise of Riversouth

The Meyrick and the region of Riversouth have been part of each other since the dawn of history.

This part of the exhibition uses recent archaeological evidence and current projects to reveal new insights into this region, and how the first Meyricks established their dominance.

Explore the Dig (the White Palace, Riversouth)

By making use of the latest archaeological techniques and technology, Diggers from Rookpot Museum have begun exploring the early history of the White Crag upon which sits the White Palace of the Meyricks.  This is the first time the Meyrick has given permission for archaeological exploration in the grounds of the Palace, which has allowed us to trace the story of the Crag from its prehistoric settlements to its current splendour and influence.

The project is likely to take years to fully explore the secrets hidden within the White Crag, and these live and open excavations are part of the exhibition.  You can take a tour around the site, and speak to the Diggers as they work.  There are opportunities to take part in the dig itself, uncover a piece of history, and see some of the extraordinary fines that have already been unearthed.

The History of the White Crag (Rookpot Museum, Rookpot) 

The Diggers’ finds have been brought back to the Rookpot Museum so that they can be catalogued, preserved and studied.  The most impressive and revelatory of these have been put on display.

The earliest settlement on the White Crag dates from over 8,000 years ago.  Fragments of early seacraft, probably coracles, have been discovered, and it is thought that they were used on the calm waters of the gentle bay beneath the Crag.  From this time onwards, the White Crag’s natural resources gave early settlers the security and confidence to come together, build homes, raise families and develop their societies. 

It looked like these early people often clashed, as there is evidence of tribes fighting all over the Crag.  It is not uncommon for fossil hunters to find arrowheads, smooth missile stones, and even the occasional axe head around Meyshore Bay and Sussen Orchelflilin

At some point one of the tribes conquered the Crag’s summit and built a palisade around their community.  You can see artists’ reconstructions of the firstly timber, and later stone, walls in the exhibition.  Behind this stood what is known as the Hill Fort, which some historians claim is an early ancestor to the White Palace.  The community that lived here thrived behind their high walls. 

This was the site of the first Mint in Farynshire.  One of the most exciting finds during the excavations was a hoard of coins from this Mint, with the earliest dating from the eighth century.  Coins struck from the Riversouth Mint were used throughout the county for hundreds of years, and finds have been unearthed as far afield as the Daggerrock Mountains, Tropsog and Cwm Purne.  The Old Mint now stands on the original site, a wonderful little tea room in the public grounds of the Palace.  One of the coins in the hoard bore the name Myrreck in an old form of Musril, and is on display in the Museum. 

The success of the Mint enriched the Myrrecks (who soon after changed their name to Meyrick), who invested their wealth in developing the community on the White Crag.  The first permanent structure was a dark castle with a round tower, and the ruins can be seen within the grounds of the White Palace.  When the early Meyricks discovered how to dig the white rock out of the Crag itself the building did not stop for hundreds of years.  The founding stone of the White Palace has not yet been discovered, but experts think it was laid under the current Wessen Tower in the early eleventh century.  From then on each Meyrick used the Palace to show off their opulence and power by adding more and more magnificent architecture.  The building projects continued until the nineteenth century whereupon the attention of the Meyricks and their vast wealth turned to industrialism.  The Palace you see today, shining bright atop the Crag, has not changed much since that time.  Meyricks have modernised the interior, and there are always ongoing maintenance projects, but you can see in old paintings and then photographs and early film that the main structure remains the same.

The City (the Meyshore Tour, Riversouth)

Today both the region (boundary markers can be found on the Crag, over the cliffs of Sussen Orchelflilin in the village of Aracely Cheth, beyond the Crag on Hewmey, and in the fields that lead to Tel-Yarridge) and the city have the same name.  Those outside of the region are usually referring to the city when they speak of Riversouth, whereas those within the boundary marks refer to the large urban area around Meyshore Bay as the city.  But before it was a city it was simply known as Meyshore, and it was the beginning of the Meyrick’s influence over the wider region. 

In the written records in the Palace Archive and Rookpot Museum Meyshore is the first place name in Farynshire that includes the mey that is now so common throughout the county.  There are signs of early settlements around the Bay, and soil analysis has revealed that many of them were burned to the ground.  It is likely that these settlements were absorbed into one, large community.

Once Meyshore had been established it grew quickly.  It is the perfect place for a community to thrive.  It sits between the ocean and the Sussen Orchelflilin, with the White Crag to the south and the rocky cliffs to the north, and the Rivers Spurtle and Darkflint end their journeys through Farynshire here, providing a plentiful and reliable supply of fresh water. 

The first town of Meyshore was planned in advance before a single stone was laid.  What would shortly become the Promenade on the shoreline was the starting point, and from here straight streets were constructed up the slopes under the cliffs, until a network of narrow roads, avenues and thoroughfares spread parallel to the Bay.  Unfortunately the plans for this new town have not been found in The Palace Archives.  There are later schematics that map the streets and parks, and it is assumed that these were copied from the lost original.  These are fascinating in and of themselves as they very clearly show, stage by stage, how Meyshore grew into Riversouth, but it would have been a true insight into an early genius to see the idea and shape of the town before it had even been built.

There are two main theories for the creation of Meyshore.  Since the Bronze Age, traders wishing to sell their wares would trek up the Crag to The White Palace.  This was where the Meyrick’s people – fishers, blacksmiths, millers, tailors, carpenters etc. – lived and worked with their families.  The community grew to large for the Palace grounds, and were re-located to their town.  Meyshore attracted more trade than the Crag had done because it was easier to get to.  The Meyrick stayed in the White Palace, overlooking the ever-expanding town of loyal citizens.

We know the exact time that Meyshore became Riversouth.  In Volume 45 of the Year One thousand and Ninety Two of the Chronicle of the Scribe, it is written (in Musril):

The Meyrick has designated the city Riversouth.

That is all there is.  It is the first time that the area is known as a city, and as soon as it received that accolade Meyrick the Lonely changed the name.  The new Grand Hall had been completed in this year: a formidable grey and white square tower at the far end of the Bay, and it is possible the name change deliberately coincided with this.  Of course, the new city was not known as Riversouth but its Musril name, Kelsussen.  Much like today, the Meyrick encouraged the use of Kelsussen, but it was the English name that took hold and became widespread.

The best way to experience the history of Riversouth is to take the Meyshore Tour.  Specifically designed for this exhibition, you will start at The White Palace so you can see the early maps of the town, and then travel down the Crag to the Promenade.  Your expert guide will show you all the historical secrets hidden all over the city.  You will need a whole day for this one, but don’t worry – there are plenty of planned teashop stops along the way, and you will finish the day by attending an elegant meal in the Grand Hall.

This is certainly not the end of the Meyrick and Riversouth’s history.  We have not even mentioned the Peoples yet …

Sylnmouth, Rookpot and Riversouth


Christmas starts in Farynshire in the port of Sylnmouth, specifically in the Sylnmouth Sentinel that has overlooked the port for over two hundred years. 

On the 1st of December every year the Sentinel’s guiding light, historically used to guide ships into the safe waters of Sylnmouth Harbour, turns red and green and sweeps across the boats and pontoons.  Then the fireworks erupt over the city, signalling the start of the festivities. 

Sylnmouth homes have already put up and decorated their trees, and at the lighthouse’s signal everyone switches the Christmas lights on.  This starts in the boats on the water, then the homes that overlook the harbour, and then ripples back from the sea into the suburbs and villages.  And it does not stop on Sylnmouth’s boundary.  Watched from the air, it must look like a wave of light washing out from Sylnmouth across the whole of Farynshire.


Rookpot tor lights up when it gets the relayed signal from the coast. 

The Ayres, one of the oldest Peer Families, decorate all of the city’s streets.  Their own magnificent hall, The View, is festooned with decorations and lights, and adorned fir trees line the drive from the road up to the house.  The View is the centre of the festive party season for the Peer families, and beautiful balls and celebrations are held every night in December.

The Peer families give the first donations to the Doorway Feast that begins as soon as the lights are switched on, and goes on until twelfth night.  Christmas meals are put out for all of the city’s citizens to enjoy in the entrances to the most famous public buildings: The Raven Theatre, The Lilac Beech, The Library, The Museum, the Cathedral, and the Council Chambers, and all the churches.  Everyone donates what they can, and an army of volunteers prepares the meals, taking them to the homes of those who are housebound.  This means that Christmas dinner happens across many nights, but it is different to the dinners everyone enjoys on the 25th because it is held with the community, out in the Squares, or on the church pews, the cold city air filled with the rich smells of roasting meat, hot broth and sizzling vegetables.

If snow falls on the city, the inevitable happens and, despite the City Council’s warning and lines of cones, the most precipitous street in the city, the Steep, becomes an impromptu sled run.  It truly is a Christmas miracle that nobody has been killed during this increasingly popular annual event.  Participants can compete to:

  • Be the Most Intact Sled to Arrive at the Bottom of the Steep
  • Have the Most Father Christmases on Board
  • Have the Most Christmassy Sled

The winners of each category receive a bottle of hot ginger rum and a net of satsumas (and a year’s worth of bragging rights).

          Dameg Square

A giant blue spruce dominates the centre of Dameg Square during the Christmas period.  The tree is chosen from the forests on the mountain of Gwyrddlas in the Bloon Peaks, and transported to the city by train from Hen Ffydd.  It is Rookpot Council’s gift to the city, and it always arrives with small parcels in the branches that anyone can take.  Over the years, people have placed their own homemade presents amongst the tree’s needles for strangers to take.  Dameg Square’s permanent sylvan resident, the bent oak that sits on the edge of the gorge, slumbers at this time of year, oblivious of the baubles, tinsel and lights that have been draped all over it by passers-by.

The dark gothic Cathedral is the focus of Christmas celebrations in the Square.  Thousands of candles make the colours in the stained glass windows blaze brightly at night.  On Christmas Eve the pews are full of Rookpotians singing carols and sharing mince pies and a few glasses of sherry.  At the end of the official service everyone spills out into the streets and the singing continues as people wander home or gather around the trees in the Square with mugs of hot chocolate and coffees (sometimes with an added shot of rum or whisky) from Lacey’s, the most popular and creative coffee shop, open late into the night at this time of year.  Eventually everyone makes their way home before Father Christmas begins his rounds.

          EassenBren Square

It’s pantomime season in The Raven Theatre in EassenBren Square.  There are usually at least three different productions throughout the season, as well as more serious offerings, ranging from family friendly through to definitely not for those with a delicate constitution.  You do not need to go into the Theatre to see a show.  Open air orchestral performances, formal and informal dances are performed on the steps of the theatre, no matter the weather.

Many of the artists’ covered workshops opposite The Lilac Beech are taken over by Christmas projects.  Hundreds of unique decorations can be bought straight from the artist, many of which appear on the fountain or on the trees in Dameg Square. 

In the city’s (probably the county’s) most famous bookshop, The Lilac Beech, shivering visitors pour themselves a mug of wassail from the punch bowl, and then sit in the comfy armchairs in front of the open fire.  The small Christmas tree twinkles with lights, and paper chains loop over and around the bookshelves.  All of the Christmas cards received by the bookshop are strung together and hung from the ceiling beams.  Holly and mistletoe entwine around the wrought iron staircase that links all the floors together.  The shop bustles as people try to find a last minute present, shuffling around the tables piled high with books.  Their purchases are placed in colourful paper bags and tied with string; if you see anyone with such a bag around Rookpot you know they have been to The Lilac Beech.


In Riversouth, Christmas, like everything else, revolves around the Meyrick.

The Meyrick’s Gift is presented to the incumbent Meyrick, and is traditionally from all of the people in Riversouth.  A procession of children make their way up the Zag to the White Palace, and the Meyrick opens the gates and accepts the gift.  Since the mid-nineteenth century the gates have then been left open and the children lead the local people into the White Palace for the Commoners’ Feast.  This is a lavish affair held in the Golden Hall, and it is the only time of year that most people ever get to see inside the White Palace, let alone attend a party paid for by the Meyrick. 

On Christmas day every Riversouth house will find a gift outside their front door, wrapped in blue and white paper and tied with a silver ribbon.  The small silver card is inscribed with the words: From your Meyrick.

The Ocean Frost Ball is the most anticipated event in the Farynshire social calendar.  This invitation-only gala brings together the county’s high society in a glittering event that raises eye-watering amounts of money for various good causes. 

The only limitations placed on the design of the ball is that it must adhere to the Meyrick’s colours of silver and blue.  The best, biggest and most luxuriant white tree is felled from the Meyrick’s personal forest (which is made up of albino versions of oaks, beeches, elms, firs, spruces etc.) and brought to the centre of the Golden Hall where it is embellished with ropes of thin silver loops and chains and bright bejewelled (with real jewels) baubles. 

The guests waltz around the tree to music played by orchestral groups from Farynshire, and the Meyrick’s own hand-picked string quartet leads the way.  Once the dancing is over the guests move outside to the wide terrace that overlooks the ocean.  This terrace sits at the very edge of the White Crag.  A magnificent silver and blue fireworks display entertains the guests, and the rest of Riversouth, and any seafolk that might be passing by. 

After the fireworks is the feast, widely known as the Feast of Farynshire.  A selection of wines is served in crystal glasses: rich ruby root from the vineyards on the distant slopes of Gwyrddlas, sparkling Marwolaeth White, and the slightly salty Pink Prydferth.  The menu is always made up of produce from around Farynshire, and could look something like this:


Smoked salmon from the River Spurtle with fresh dill from the fields of Cheth Aracely

Roasted parsnip soup with fresh cream from the small village of Hessen. 

Main Course

Turkey from Riversouth farms

Sea bass caught from the sea around Riversouth. 

Please help yourself to anything from the mountains of crispy roast potatoes, parsnips, butter-glazed sprouts and broccoli, honeyed carrots, and red cabbage with walnuts and apple (all harvested from the gardens, orchards and fields from across the county).


Rum-soaked Christmas pudding

Spiced apple, smooth ice cream and cranberry port.

After dinner, if the guests are able to, there is more dancing.  For those who are too stuffed to dance there are large fires and hot ginger punch.

For a wilder Christmas, see how they celebrate in Caer Ddewin, Brish. Lake Quietus and Gnivil Forest

The Lilac Beech

Some history

Rookpot had been a city since before the eleventh century. At first there had been a wooden stockade around the straw-strewn streets and thatched houses, then there had been stone walls – remnants of these can be seen in the modern city.  Outside of the walls other settlements sprang up as people were drawn to trading and employment opportunities in the city.  These settlements consisted of crude stone houses, and these were passed on and renovated over several generations.  By the sixteenth century there were small leaning houses with hearths and two storeys. Sixteenth century maps of Rookpot show that the medieval city had broken free of its stone walls, and the tor was becoming more populated and more affluent at this time.  Narrow streets branched off from the centre, Dameg Square, up and down the hill.  One of the areas that was on the rise was what would become EassenBren Square.

According to the microfiche records of The Rookpot Chronicle (1420-1643; 1645-1801; 1811-1833; 1840-1922), which are available in the Local History section of Rookpot Library, Greta and Alun Collins purchased one of the leaning houses in a street above Dameg Square and opened a “store fore the sellings of informatione” in 1510.  This store was called The Boke. 

The original shop was a ramshackle affair. Advertisements in tiny print in the newspapers boast of a store for informatione in worde, printings and hearsayings. Come hither, booksellers, buyers, distributors, experts in knowledging, the fantastical, the travelles.  We welcome your enquiries

The Boke was the first, and for a long time, the only bookshop in Rookpot.  It employed agents who travelled over the mountains to the rest of the country, and beyond Britain’s shores to Europe and Scandinavia, and occasionally to the Americas: all to gather information, and, increasingly, to buy books.  The books were brought back to sell in the bookshop: curios, popular texts, anything related to Farynshire, particularly anything written about the Peoples (a rare subject outside of Farynshire).  The Boke also took orders from those that could afford to purchase books, and the agents would be tasked with procuring volumes for prestigious clients.  It was said that it was a Boke agent that brought the Cathedral’s Tyndale Bible back from Europe at the request of a rebellious priest.  The University also made use of the intrepid agents to bring back academic and radical tomes for their own libraries.  The agents also took catalogues with them that contained titles published from the printing press on Eassentor, Rookpot University Press, and for sale from The Boke.  The bookshop’s reputation and business grew exponentially.

During this time Rookpot itself had grown.  It was the capital of Farynshire, the county’s largest city.  EassenBren Square had also swelled to house the burgeoning population, especially those who could not afford to live in the Cuts around Dameg Square.  EassenBren was not as ordered or impressive as Dameg Square – in fact, it was a squalid over-crowded slum, with no management or planning to the haphazard and precarious housing.  It was primarily known for being a cesspit of crime, disease and frequent, sometimes accidental, fires.  It was also home to the city’s theatre, which ended up being the Square’s saving grace.  When the old wooden theatre burned down for the seventh time (almost certainly caused by a playwright who had resented the poor reviews his latest offering had received in The Chronicle) it was re-built with brick and mortar and called Ye Reven.  The fire also wiped out a lot of the wooden slum houses, clearing space for new growth.  After the fire, The Boke was one of the largest properties left standing.  It too had grown to accommodate its business, and by the time Ye Reven was built it had numerous extensions that made a higgledy piggledy place filled with nooks, crannies, hidden rooms, and thousands of uncatalogued books.  The fire saved EassenBren, and essentially created the artistic hub we know today, with the new theatre and the ancient bookshop at its heart.

The Boke had always had a good relationship with the theatre, even before the fire. In its rooms many a playwright worked on their latest piece, and the shop would sell copies to actors and theatre-goers, and promote the plays for the theatre.

In 1727 Ye Reven was bought by Sir Edward Ayres, head of the wealthy philanthropic family who would have such an impact on Rookpot over the years, right up to the present day.  Sir Edward invested heavily in renovating EassenBren.  In particular he wanted spacious and suitable accommodation to house his affluent friends who often visited Rookpot for a night at the theatre. He proposed knocking down the ramshackle stone houses that had survived the fire, and building in their place a terrace of beautiful new houses. He also planned to install a fountain with clean water, and an area for artists to work and display their creations.

There was huge protest at this proposed destruction, not least for the two hundred year old bookshop at its heart. But Sir Edward gave assurances that anyone who owned property in EassenBren would automatically be given the lease and rights to one of the new terraced houses. Once he showed the suspicious and disgruntled owners the architectural plans, all protest ceased.

By 1737 the terrace was built. The Boke moved into a central, five-storey house, and was renamed The Beech (the Lilac was added in 1836 by a new owner) for the indomitable purple-leaved tree that had survived the growth of EassenBren, the squalor, the fire and now its resurgence and reconstruction (one of its descendants resides in the back yard of The Lilac Beech to this day).


The present owner of The Lilac Beech is Nolwenn Hughes, possibly the most knowledgeable person on Rookpot Tor.  The bookshop has had numerous owners over the years, passing through several families and business owners. There was much excitement when Nolwenn’s mother bought the shop, as she was a direct descendant of Greta and Alun Collins, the original founders.  It was destiny.  It looks set to continue in the family, as Nolwenn’s daughters, Eira and Elwen, work there too when they are not studying at the university.  Like previous owners, they live on the fifth floor, and the other four floors make up the shop.

Nolwenn inherited Parry Gwent, who has worked at The Lilac Beech since the 1960s.  He is officially a sales assistant, but he is also a bookseller, curator, local history expert, recommender, shelver and tea-maker.  If you want a recommendation for a book on Farynshire history, Parry is your man.

The ground floor of the shop is open plan with displays scattered throughout. Every wall is lined with books, floor to ceiling, except at the far end where there is a large fireplace, around which gather a motley collection of squashy armchairs, wingback chairs, and a few beanbags. The children’s area is on the far side of the shop from the fireplace, strewn with cardboard books and toys on colourful fluffy rugs. Rising up from the middle of the shop is a wrought iron staircase wound tight like a corkscrew that twists up through the centre of the building. The door to the courtyard at the back of the shop is open in the summer, so that peopled can read their books under the whispering purple leaves of the tree.  Behind the counter with the enormous till is the main staircase and the backroom with a back store room and a small kitchen.  Next to the till are the cakes and treats that Nolwenn, Parry and the Beech’s regulars bring in. It is not unusual to find either Nolwenn or Parry sitting with their customers, or a reading group, or a group of children, discussing books, reading, history, unicorns, what’s on at Ye Reven, with thick slices of lemon drizzle and mis-matched cups of sweet tea. In the winter the ground floor of The Beech is a popular place to come and warm up in front of a cozy fire.  But those hoping for a quiet doze are usually woken rudely by loud and verbose arguments between Parry and a lecturer from the university or a historian from the Museum on obscure topics such as the disputed succession of a sixteenth century Meyrick, with each enthusiastic participant hauling battered leather-bound tomes off the shelves to back up their point.

If you want peace and quiet, the second floor is probably your best bet.  This is the Local History section, and it is crammed with guide books, biographies, histories, old editions, first editions, myths, legends, leaflets, pamphlets … anything to do with Farynshire.  Here you will find serious scholars, genealogists, maybe the occasional reporter, studying or researching at one of the few battered wooden desks – after they have removed the stack of books from them first.

The third floor is where the various local groups meet.  This floor also has a large fireplace, with a wood-burning stove in the hearth, a black iron kettle quietly whistling on the top plate.  There are noticeboards on the walls advertising various events and meet-ups.  Anyone in Rookpot can use this space to meet.  The most frequent users have been reading groups, the Local History Group (every second Wednesday at the Library in Dameg Square, every third Friday at The Lilac Beech),  Mrs. Hackett’s Knitting Club (examples of their work can be found scattered on the window seats), the Produce Rolling Steering Committee, and the Clean Up Rookpot Campaign.  It has also been the meeting place for many radical groups who have had to hide from the authorities and meet in secret; these range from religious sects persecuted by the Council, to the Censored Council of Rookpot of 1855, to Iver Morys and his supporters when the robbing magnates were after him.  There were even rumours that the third floor of The Lilac Beech had provided a safe place for refugee wolvern when the Council were looking to expel them from the city.

The fourth floor is the Map Room.  Some of the most rare and treasured maps and charts are now housed in the Museum vaults, but they still belong to The Lilac Beech.  The agents who brought books and custom to and from Rookpot when the bookshop was called The Boke either bought or created their own maps of their travels.  There are also shelves and shelves of Farynshire maps by wolvern and human cartographers, and possibly even one or two by seafolken too, charting the waters around Riversouth and Sylnmouth from an unique perspective.  This is the first stop for any Museum Digger planning an archaeological expedition anywhere in the county.  As any cartographer knows, maps are stories and histories as well as guides, and the treasure trove on the fourth floor tells the history and legends of Farynshire and its Peoples.

The Lilac Beech is the history of Rookpot in particular, and Farynshire too.  It welcomes the curious, the radical, the argumentative, the contemplative, and those who like to lose themselves in perusing shelves of obscure and popular books with a cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle.  People come in for the love of books and stay for the company and cake.

Travels through Farynshire: EassenBren

I realise we are already three posts into our Grand Tour and we haven’t left Rookpot.  I promise we will!  But we have to quickly stop off at EassenBren first.

If Dameg Square is the administrative and cultural centre of the city (and the county), EassenBren is its artistic heart.

It sits on a slope.  Rookpot’s theatre, Ye Reven, overlooks the Square from its elevated position.  It has been inspired by the temples of Ancient Greece, but each classical pillar is a bright block of colour: rich purple, blood red, sky blue, sun yellow, lime green.  Branching out on either side of it down the slope are two rows of very different buildings.

On one side is a terrace of five-storey, pastel coloured Georgian houses, with baskets on chains hanging outside the front doors that pedestrians have to duck to avoid.  The baskets are full of geraniums, peonies and sometimes herbs.  These face the artists’ workshops: protected by a long roof covered in slate tiles.  The smells of oils, paints and clays waft around the Square.

In the middle of the Square is EassenBren’s fountain.  Dameg’s fountain was designed by an architect who really liked black oblongs.  EassenBren’s is a perpetual work in progress.  It is an evergrowing collection of earthen artworks produced by the craftsmen in the covered workshops.  Every artist creates a small figurine, usually a grotesque caricature of themselves, which is placed in the fountain.  There are also some larger pieces loitering near or in the water.  A carpet of coins from all over the world and from different eras glitter under the water.

Felix headed straight for The Lilac Beech.

This is the lavender building in the middle of the Georgian terrace.  A faded wooden sign, adorned with what looks like a peeling painting of a bunch of grapes but is more probably a peeling painting of a tree, hangs over the door.  The large cross-latticed windows display piles of pristine books, and posters advertising upcoming events.  As Felix pushed the door open the bell above us tinkled and we were hit by the smell of new books.

The ground floor of the shop is open plan with displays scattered throughout.  Every wall is lined with books, floor to ceiling, except at the far end where there is a large fireplace, occupied by a huge earthen pot filled with rose and lily petals in the summer.  It is surrounded by squashy armchairs, wingback chairs, and a few beanbags.  The children’s area is on the far side of the shop from the fireplace, strewn with cardboard books and toys on colourful fluffy rugs.  Rising up from the middle of the shop is a wrought iron staircase wound tight like a corkscrew.  The door to the courtyard at the back of the shop was open to let the warm summer sun in.  The pale purple leaves of the rare and ancient tree that gives the shop its name shine with summer glory.

It was tempting to sit by the cool fireplace, browse a few books, and maybe have a cup of sweet tea, but we had a train to catch.

Felix bought Walking and Wine in the Bloon Peaks to guide us through the mountains, The Living Forests for Gnivil and Oes, and Meyricks, Musril and Mermaids for when we reached the coast.

There was no need for us to rush.  Our train would not depart for another twenty minutes.

I think the best way – certainly the most dramatic way – to leave Rookpot is via The Drop.

On maps, The Drop is Newton Hill, the steepest street in the city.  There are handrails on either pavement to help pedestrians stay upright.  There are frequent petitions to the Council for a chairlift to be installed, but this is not considered a good use of public money, and would negatively impact upon the medieval aesthetics; and besides, exercise is good for people.  I do feel for anyone who has to work on The Drop, though, especially the baristas at Lacey’s, the coffee shop that sits at the top, looking straight down the hill.

We decided we had time to get an iced bun from Lacey’s.  The important thing about the buns is not the flavour – often not discernible beyond sweet and bordering on sickening – but the colour.  You can request any colour of icing.  Felix chose turquoise; I always had forest green.

Walking down The Drop with dignity takes practice.  I will strongly advise now, though no one will heed my heartfelt warning, not to attempt this whilst drunk, no matter how much money is involved in the dare. Doing it sober is enough of a challenge. Those of a nervous disposition use the rail; the more experienced manage to keep upright by themselves; children run and quite often do not end up in a crying heap at the bottom.  Perhaps a wiser investment than a chairlift would be crash mats at the foot of The Drop.

We landed safely enough and made our way to the grand Victorian train station, finishing off the iced buns as we boarded the train.

When Felix had said, right at the start of planning the trip, that we were going to take the long way round to his family home on the coast, he wasn’t kidding.  The first place we were going to from Rookpot was the Daggerrock Mountains – in the exact opposite direction from the coast.

Mabel Govitt (by kind permission of Ammaceadda)

Travels through Farynshire: Dameg Square

The most famous city in Farynshire, possibly the only place anyone over the mountains has heard of, is Rookpot.

It sprawls over a steep tor that is cut in two by a deep dark gorge, along the bottom of which flow the cold waters of the Darkflint River.

When people think of Rookpot it’s the gorge that they immediately picture.  Then it’s the Squares surrounded by cobbled streets and Cuts.  This medieval heart of the city is great to explore: there’s always a new boutique, gallery or bookstore to discover in the warren of narrow alleys that no car could ever get through.  That’s the other thing everyone notices: all the bikes, scooters, and lately segues and blades – because these are the only modes of transport that can go everywhere in the city.  Buses have to skirt the outside of the medieval centre and use the the wider, more modern roads.  Trains come in at the city’s only station, at the base of the tor.  We had decided that this is how we would leave Rookpot.

If students are lucky they will get accommodation on Wessentor – which is the half of the city with the Squares, history and night life.  Felix and I had been in halls at the bottom of Wessentor in our first year, which is where we had met.  In our second year we had had to move, and the only affordable place we could find was on Eassentor.  Eassentor is not a bad place to live or anything, but it’s just so ordinary compared to what’s over the gorge.  There are streets of terraced houses on Wessentor’s lower slopes, as well as some discreet luxury apartments near the centre, and the very expensive villas close to the summit of the tor.  But most Rookpotians lived in the more ordinary suburbia on Eassentor, which was encroaching slowly and inevitably off the tor and into the countryside below.

Neither of us wanted to leave Rookpot from Eassentor.  So, with our backpacks making us look like tourists in our own city, we made our way across one of the many bridges that span the gorge, and went to Dameg Square.

Dameg Square is the centre of Rookpot in every sense.  It is halfway up the tor and the gorge cuts through its ancient cobbles and the neat rectangle of grass right in the middle.

I have spent a lot of time in this Square.  The Museum and the Library stand next to each other, and face the ancient Cathedral (the foundations of which were laid in the thirteenth century) and the Council Chambers.  The green in the centre of the Square is home to a solitary oak tree that seemed to be dead for all of the time I had been at university; it is bent almost double, long branches dangling down into the gorge.

The Square is always busy, night or day.  We bought slushes from Rhewogydd.  Rhewogydd has been providing ice slushes to the Council workers, families, tourists, and students hustling through Dameg Square for at least twenty five years, and his pink van near the edge of the gorge is a sure sign of summer.  His ever-growing menu is bound in a novel-sized tome.  I recommend the cherry and rum for pure velvet indulgence, but if you want refreshing coolness on a sweltering hot day – and you don’t fancy jumping into the fountain – you have to go with mint and cucumber.

We sat on the wide white Museum steps to drink our slushes and people-watched.  It was a hot day in June so the bustle was a little fatigued, except in the fountain where children and students splashed.  The office workers, shirt sleeves rolled up to their elbows, ties loose and untidy, made the most of their brief escape.

A story time event had just finished in the Library, and the parents with prams were milling about outside, the adults chattering loudly, their small children chasing each other around in the safety of the Square.  When I had first arrived in Rookpot as a fresher I had been horrified at the sight of small children – or drunk students, or Council workers staring at their phones – shrieking and playing excitedly close to a chasm plunging hundreds of feet to a fierce river below.  But I had gone completely native, and was now confident that no child would fall.

There was nothing – no barrier, fence, not even cones – to stop anyone from plummeting into the gorge, yet nobody ever seemed to.  Only seven people had ever died this way in the whole history of the city.  The gorge was narrow in Dameg Square, and brazen Rookpotians casually jumped across on their way to work, hardly breaking their stride.

The exhibition in the Museum was Coastal Treasures, advertised on the listless banners hanging over the steps.  I had been a week before, and it was an interesting exploration of the expeditions and research focused on the coves and beaches along Farynshire’s coast between Tropsog and Sylnmouth, and the shipwrecks and treasures that had been discovered beneath the waves.  Felix was inspired to go scuba diving when we reached the coast.  I was less keen, and hoped he would forget this notion by the time we reached the sea.  He was also inspired to buy a few guide books, which I was much more on board with.

Sipping on our slushes, we made our way along the edge of the gorge to the Cut that linked Dameg Square with EassenBren.  Rookpot was riddled with these Cuts: long, winding, red-bricked alleys lit by old iron lanterns even on a sunny summer day.  This was the most famous and well-used Cut as it linked the two most important Squares.

By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)