A Brief Tour of Avalon
The True City is located on a stubby, semicircular peninsula of sorts, located at the end of a roughly V-shaped bay. A ridge of tall mountains circles the ocean edges of the peninsula, forming a natural barrier between the city and the sea. There is, however, a large tunnel that passes through the mountains and terminates on the other side, in a massive circular basin not unlike the world's largest swimming pool. This in turn connects to the River Running, which passes through the city in a haphazard, meandering course.
The Citadel Avalon sits directly atop the middle of the ocean mountains, connected to the city below by numerous sets of stairs, ramps, and ornate grillwork elevators. It is a massive structure of white and blue and gold and black and green and pink, designed by Prince Ludwig back in the days when he was the sole son of the King Without A Name. The archetecture is soaring, flamboyant, boastful, and subtle in unnerving ways of curve and arch.
A wall of white marble proceeds in a semicircle around the edge of the city not rimmed by the mountains. Beyond it is a belt of farmland and pastoral estates. These terminate abruptly with a second ring of mountains, high enough to be impassable save in three places.
The first is the Underpass, a dark, forbidding tunnel with a frame of chipped, ancient, soot-covered marble roses. Trains arrive and depart from Avalon by this means. Entering the Underpass as anything other than a passenger is not advised.
The second is a blackened, pumice-encrusted stair along the side of Mount Fraer, a very active volcano. Passing this way is dangerous for obvious reasons, and eventually leads one to fairly desolate shadows of fire, smoke, and lava fields.
The third is a low, narrow defile, the Pass of Blue, which eventually opens into the wooded Valley of Lethe. The valley is cloaked with a perpetual mist, making visibility difficult at best and horribly confusing at worst. There is said to be a pool at the very heart of the Valley, the False Mirror, which can predict the future and reveal the past, but few if any have ever seen it. Princess Joan, who serves as the guardian of the Valley, is silent on the subject.
Of the three, invasions and assaults tend to center around the Valley of Lethe and the Pass of Blue, as the Underpass is too unpredictable and easy to block, and the stair of Mount Fraer is hazardous, leads to inhospitable terrain, and is only wide enough for two people to walk abreast.
There is a fourth way in and out of Avalon, at least by means other than a ship. A long, haphazard trail paved with blue stones and green coral leads along and over the ocean mountains, terminating in a stair leading into the ocean. One who descends this stair for long enough will find themselves in Nolava, the underwater mirror city of Amber, ruled by Queen Nimue. The relations of this strange place to Avalon are neutral at best; the two mostly just agree to leave each other alone.
The Citadel Avalon:
Prince Ludwig's masterpiece is Bloody Huge, sprawling, and filled with more statues, fountains, greenhouses, tennis courts, walled plazas, private chateaus, hedge mages, and mirrored corridors than you can shake a stick at. Rose emblems and motifs are everywhere. Trying to provide any kind of detailed map would be like trying to drain off the ocean.
The castle gradually spirals up the mountain crest to a few large towers and keeps, most connected by bridges, catwalks, or covered walkways. One of these has been commandeered by Princess Tess for her apartments and laboratory space. Another, the tallest, soars upwards until it reaches a sort of grotto, a low, rose-shaped pool leading into a waterfall. Someone who has walked the Pattern may wade waist deep into the water and invoke the image of it; the pool then flares with light, the castle bells ring frantically, sluces open and send water racing down the side of the mountain, and the clock in the Great Hall goes berserk. The waterfall then parts, allowing access to a stairway which leads several more stores up to the very top of the tower, where the Pattern is located.
The Pattern is rather reminicent of a stylized rose, of course. It is set on an open air towertop of black stone, and glows with a hard silver light.
All of the younger Princes and Princesses have, at some point or another, asked themselves a pretty good question - if Ludwig built the Citadel Avalon, and the King Without A Name created Avalon by drawing the Pattern, then how could the Pattern be on top of a structure that clearly was built after Avalon's creation? Some think he moved it to its current location through arcane means. Some have air the suspicion that Ludwig, not the King Without A Name, is the REAL creator of the Pattern. And some suspect that Ludwig _is_ the King Without A Name. In the end, nobody really knows who is willing to tell.
On certain nights, from the Pattern Tower, one is greeted with the awe-striking spectacle of an enormous, ghostly, upside-down castle in the sky. No-one is really sure what this is, and all attempts to reach it or ascend to it have thus far failed.
Other sites of interest in the Citadel Avalon are the Great Hall, with the somewhat unimpressive crown sitting on the perpetually empty throne of Avalon, looking down from a dais over the banqueting tables, fountains, ballroom floor, and arcades that make up the rest of the hall. The main library, a three-story affair of armchairs and fireplaces and shelves upon shelves of tomes, is a frequently visited place, and is often the setting of family conferences. A balcony just off the library, overlooking the city, is the usual breakfast spot for the resident siblings. The hall of mirrors, which is just what it sounds like, tends to wander around - those entering it often report strange or disturbing experiences.
The castle is also said to be haunted by a ghost, a woman with long black hair and somewhat sad eyes, dressed in black and silver. She is referred to as the Rose of Avalon, and you can find numerous ballads, plays, and dramas attempting to relate her story. The castle cellars and dungeons lead to a warren of tunnels, most unexplored.
1 - Mt. Fraer & stair, 2 - Underpass mouth, 3. Valley of Lethe, beyond the Pass of Blue, 4. The True City,
5. The harbour pool, 6. The Citadel Avalon (harbour tunnel underneath), 7. Mountains
The City Avalon:
The True City is sort of what a great city in 18th or 19th century France or Italy would look like if you took out all the filth, squalor, and poverty, and had every building designed by the great archetects of the day with an unlimited budget.
It is a shining, beautiful, glorious place. The fountains and arcades are cool and sweet under the bright sun, and life in all its more enjoyable forms is everywhere. There is a sense of Realness, of truly Being - not surprising, as this is the center of reality. Even the less elaborate places are simple in a quant, picturesque, charming sort of way - character rather than squalor.
At the base of the ocean mountains is a tunnel which leads from the sea to a massive circular pool, lined and bottomed with jade and white marble. This is the harbor of Avalon; the tunnel and the pool are both quite large enough to accomidate sailing vessels. There are balconies and windows in the upper parts of the tunnel; most suspect they emerge from the tunnel network beneath the Citadel, which is almost directly above the tunnel. The River Running, a clear, cold stream, empties into the pool via an elaborate series of waterfalls and flows. There are also a set of sluces that empty into the pool when someone opens the waterfall door to the Pattern, occasionally swamping unfortunate ships.
Near the center of the city, off the Royal Way that leads up to the pool and the various ramps and stairs up to the castle, the Train Station is located. The steam locomotives there lead off into Shadow, and can be taken if one is not too picky about one's destination. The trains are manned by stewards in the White, Gold, and Pink livery that was Ludwig's colors, and it is safe to assume that he is the one responsible for setting them up. Princess Tess supposedly has the only Train Schedule in existance, and getting a peek at it from her can be an adventure in itself.
The True City is home to several hundred thousand people.