Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Darag in Portoreayl
One of the first things you should know about me is that I love to travel. Seeing new vistas, cultures, ecologies, these are the things that perk me up like few others. And so when it comes to world building, I put a lot of thought and love into the worlds I create.
Notice I said world building, not writing. I know the difference! The last thing I want to do is bog down a reader who might not be into the unique diet of a people living on a windswept rocky coast. Me, I’d probably go on about it for hours. Which would lead to why they live in a certain type of house, and how the culture has grown to thrive in a world of extremes with scant soil and a temperamental ocean. Location and weather create the boundaries for agriculture and trade, which in turns begins to define a society. I like to create those details until a place is real enough in my mind that I can walk its streets, smell spices and food in the market, and hear its music in the street. Only a glimmer of what grows in my mind finds its way to the page.
Which is a good thing! Otherwise my epic fantasy adventure would read more like a fantasy travel blog… which damn, that sounds like a LOT of fun to me. lol. Of course, I did do something similar to that in the Born of Water Novel Companion. But it was written from the perspective of the Church of Four Orders and reads more like a travel guide as to what you might see, not what it would be like to stand on the streets of Portoreayl, the largest city and port on the Archipeligo of Bellaia. Which Sinika does, during the rainy season none-the-less!
Actually most of the places in Myrrah are visited as the story spans the breadth of the world, and often times the character’s arrival is her/his first visit. Ria and Lavinia leave home for the first time at the beginning of Born of Water. Zhao’s first foray into travel at the beginning of Rule of Fire are tinged less with the threat that chases Lavinia and Ria. And even Darag, who left the forest of the Kith before Born of Water begins, experienced places first hand. A lot of their new experiences never make it into the books either or happen before or after the novels.
So does that bring me to a fantasy travel blog narrated by the characters of the books? I think it just might…
Darag in Portoreayl
The sea didn’t smell the same, but then Darag was no longer home. The sun fell unbroken by cloud, much less by leaf, onto the sprawling city that rested between long fingers of land. The merchant ship he sailed on navigated a deep channel in clumsy slowness due to cargo sitting heavy in its hold. It gave Darag a chance to study the approaching city, which was good. He really wasn’t sure he was ready to set foot in it.
The restlessness that had driven Darag to leave his home in Lus na Sithchaine evaporated the moment the merchant galley rounded the first peninsula of the Archipeligo of Bellaia. Kith did not normally leave their homes amid the forest of the north. Darag knew no one in this city. He had no one to turn to for help. If that weren’t enough, his skin which was patterned like bark, kept him from blending in.
The city shimmered in the heated air. Marble buildings colored like pastel shells with more open arches than walls rose on the hillside above the water, far above the thick palm trees that fought for space at the edge of the city. Stone ruled here unlike home where the trees held dominance. So that is how Darag thought of Portoreayl, as a forest of buildings. It gave him enough confidence to walk off the ship when it docked, though he kept his head down and his hood pulled low to hide his face.
The harbor front teamed with more people than Darag saw in a typical week unless there was a council, and the skin colors were just as varied as the Kith, though most held only one tone per person. Between the bustle and the variety of skin and dress, Darag hardly thought he’d be noticed even if he pushed back his hood. But he wasn’t used to the sun and kept the cowl low.
Darag let the crowd of people, ox or donkey drawn wagons, and occasional horse lead him uphill into the city on stone streets worn smooth by the multitude of traffic over years. Buildings rose around him like canyon walls, though they were very porous ones. No glass graced the wide openings like the houses of Drufforth, the port from where he’d left home. Instead, the wide openings welcomed breezes and curtains of gauzy fabric blocked, barely, views of the living areas. Occasional gusts brushed back the light cloth enough to offer Darag a view of low couches with sumptuous cushions, gilded tables holding fruits and pastries, and flowering plants.
The smell of flowers suffused the air, even more than the nearby sea. Flowering vines twined up the fragile columns holding aloft roofs, grew in containers in any unused corner, and leaned over the edges of rooftop gardens. Darag hadn’t noticed the plants when he’d been on the ship. The buildings instead of trees had distracted him. But now he could see the thick riot of plants climbing over the old buildings. The scent of them, though far different from his home in the forested north, gave comfort. Living plants were near kin to one whose soul was part tree.
The upward winding street finally leveled and widened. The foot traffic had brought him to a market. Vendors in ramshackle wooden booths filled an open space between buildings. Here palm trees rose above the crowd. Birds in the fronds tried to drown the shouting of people selling wares, fruit, jewelry, and cloth. Darag lost himself in the newness of it. Here coin was coin. It didn’t matter the color of hand that paid.
Full from tasting new fruits, at least new to him, he wandered to the outskirt of the market that showed no sign of slowing though the light grew dim and the air cool compared to the brilliant sun warmth of the day. Just like Drufforth, between market and harbor lay taverns. Unlike Drufforth, the walls were not made of living wood. It was his first time inside one of the buildings, which was so airy it barely felt indoors at all. Nor did the room he secured from the barman. Its open arches looked down to the bustling harbor where the setting sun gilt the tops of masts and the forested ridge of the western peninsula. The eastern peninsula and the quiet waters between lay in the blue darkness of early eventing.
It was Darag’s first night in a foreign city. The sounds and smell of it slipped around his rented room on the evening breeze. Watching stars emerge to compete with the last rays of the setting sun, Darag changed his mind. His restlessness had not abandoned him as the ship rounded the archipelago. It had been cured. He smiled and headed downstairs to see what else he would find in Portoreayl.