Before I delve into the identification of cities preceding London – permit me to offer to the discussion a compilation of whispers heard in London and abroad. (Or, in other words, let me offer some quotes from the game, which we may pick apart and piece together at will.)
Of the First City:
What was the First City? Only two things are known to remain of the First City: the name, the Crossroads Shaded By Cedars, and the saying: even the First City was young when Babylon fell.
The script is primitive and the hand is clumsy. The scribe was better used to a clay tablet and a blunt reed. You’ve seen the script before, on a coin. You can’t make out what it says, but this is definitely First City writing.
First City Coins: One side bears what might be a cedar tree. You’ve never met anyone who can read the script on the other side.
Of the Second City:
What’s the problem with the Second City? Never mention the Second City to the Masters of the Bazaar. Mr Wines will look at you narrowly and give you his worst vintage. Mr Cups will fly into a rage. Mr Veils will harangue you for your discourtesy. Mr Iron will say nothing, only write down your name with its left hand.
A peculiar antipathy Certain of the Masters of the Bazaar – Mr Stones, Mr Apples and Mr Wines, and possibly others – seem to have a particular contempt for Egypt and the Egyptological. Perhaps they’re simply reacting to the fashion for the Pharaonic that overcame London before the Descent. But it’s unusual that they should care.
Mr Eaten’s opinion on Egypt: I think the place is charming; the weather, delightful; the Pharaoh’s daughters, most hospitable.
The things it said! The things it said! […] The tall man’s daughters. The city of granite. The drowning.
… the hieroglyphic tablets from the Second City, more than three thousand years ago, which mention [the Vake’s] taste for royal blood …
… a memory that used to belong to a jackal. You pad across chilly sand. Royal flesh! The Pharoah’s youngest daughter escaped, but you’ll crack the bones of the others where they lie bleaching in the desert sun …
‘The insets date from the Second City, although the mirror and frame are of recent manufacture …’
Some of this stonework is old, old, old. Here is a glyph daubed in dried and ancient blood. There is a faded fresco of a bird-headed man carrying a lamp …
The symbols on the gravestones aren’t words at all, they are rows and rows of precisely-carved images. Stylised hawks and oversized lizards; something which must surely be the sun; a boat with a single sail; water poured from a jar. Everywhere, twined around and between everything, there are cats curled up as if asleep. And what’s that in the corner of the oldest stone? A row of tiny cloaked and hooded figures, one bearing a goblet?
… a small coffer … a strong whiff of dust and rotting fish … a bundle surrounded by a number of interesting trinkets. The bundle is wrapped in yellowing fabric and is terribly thin, with a narrow neck, a triangular head, and no limbs. A painted scene on the inside of the coffer shows a boat with a single sail, and a sleeping cat.
A woman passes you. She is dressed in a simple white linen shift and about twenty pounds of gold jewellery. She is dark-skinned: African, perhaps.
‘A long time ago … three cities ago in fact … when I was more than a Duchess, but still a friend to cats … I was betrothed. I loved him a great deal, and when a serpent stung him, I was distraught … I would have done anything to save him.’ […] ‘There is always a cost that is known, and a cost that is not. The Empress knows this now. My sisters and I learnt it then.’
The bats are surly, but they don’t object to you getting close and removing tiny cylinders from their legs. […] One of the messages is written in the picture-alphabet of the Second City. The part you can make out says, ‘…all the Pharoah’s daughters bar one are gone…’
But you enjoy a pleasant half-hour listening to Mr Wines’ tales of previous cities: … the sour beer of the Second …
‘These days, I’m researching the music of the second city. I’ll be giving a zummara recital next week.’
Relic of the Second City: Gypsum heads and indecipherable clay tablets.
Of the Third City:
What was the Third City? No-one talks much about the cities that preceded London. The Third City seems to have been acquired a thousand years ago. It had five wells, they say. And the weather was better.
What is the Correspondence? […] They say it’s the last accounts of the last days of the Third City, strung in beads on cord in a code no-one living understands.
Careful study. ‘…now study most carefully as Miss Forward performs a dance of antiquity from the Third City. Note the sinuous motions and ungodly rhythms of this ancient art. From the costume we must deduce that the Third City was very warm…’
‘… be hypnotised by the rhythmic movements of her hips … marvel at that thing she is doing now with that silk veil …’
The patience of Hell. […] The devils’ interest in the Correspondence is still unclear, but something to note is that their records of investigating it go back a long way. To at least the Third City, in fact. They have been looking for something for at least a thousand years.
The ruins resemble a long, walled courtyard rather than a building. If you weren’t here to research, you might think to string up a tennis net […] Skyglass shards, perished lumps of indiarubber, a few bones. This court was definitely built and used by people of the Third City.
You spend some careful hours looking at bas-reliefs depicting what could be rituals from the Third City …
The Fragrant Academic is studying the Third City […] Over the course of a few days you drip-feed him juicy clues, and he invites you to spend several honey-fuelled evenings in speculation. You pick his brains, paying careful attention to his ideas — skyglass knives, black mirrors, and well-attended sporting events? Fascinating!
But you enjoy a pleasant half-hour listening to Mr Wines’ tales of previous cities: … the maize-wine of the Third …
Skyglass Knife: These turn up in the ruins. From the Third City, it’s said. They’re useless as cutlery, but handy for murder.
Relic of the Third City: Cinnabar beads and little square granite gods.
Of the Fourth City:
What can you find in the Forgotten Quarter? The Quarter is the last remnant of the Fourth City, which the Bazaar acquired five hundred years ago. Statues of warrior-kings line silent avenues. A fountain shaped like a silver tree stands before a ruined palace at its heart.
Who carves horse-head amulets out of bone? Whoever lived in the Fourth City. If all the Fourth City amulets on sale are real, they must really have liked horses.
A troubled conversation about dusty stones. “If they said … and she meant … and we were on the Ramparts on the night the Constables never came … has the fountain always been dry?”
“But where does the Forgotten Quarter fit into it? And why are there no foxes in the city?”
It’s something about the silver tree. And a battle that never happened. “Blood on the troubled garments …”
Wherever the city was in its surface days, it was definitely somewhere closer to Samarkand than Rome.
The Forgotten Quarter’s avenues are disquietingly wide […] There are remnants of the Fourth city scattered around: a dusty stone tortoise here, a few horsehead amulets there.
The far reaches of the Forgotten Quarter are dominated by monuments: dry fountains and statues of warrior kings.
… a strange torchlight glow from a large building [that] resembles an Oriental temple ….
None of these places really have names, but sometimes visitors give them names that stick for a while. So, here, the Shuddering Stones. There, the Shadowed Dome. This must be the Fountain of Names. That might be the Holy Chasm.
Horse-bone amulets and cracked clay rice-bowls. A stone monument, its bell-like shape familiar to you from your outings to the Forgotten Quarter, now subsumed by clinging moss. The denizens of the Fourth City came here in numbers.
You spend some careful hours … turning over what might be potsherds from vessels used for offerings in the Fourth City …
Tonight the view from your window is of the armies ringing the Fourth City, the night before it came underground …
But you enjoy a pleasant half-hour listening to Mr Wines’ tales of previous cities: … the fermented mare’s milk he sold in the Fourth …
Relic of the Fourth City: Horsehead amulets carved from bones and blue-glazed potsherds.
Fourth City Rags: This threadbare garment whispers to you in your dreams. When you wake, sometimes you remember.
Fourth City Airag, Year of the Tortoise: At last you find an obliging fellow from Tartay who can translate the faded label: ‘For the Khan of Dreams’. It smells like horse-sick.
edited by theodor_gylden on 12/19/2011