The founding years
Sages start the history of Mohkba and thereby Klavek with the Years of the Angry Sea when the titanic Kraken ravaged the coasts of what today is eastern Klavek. The early Klavekians had spread from the borders of the elven woods toward the sea and built the first realms there before that time. But since almost everything built near the sea had been destroyed by the beast, the great evacuation that followed started a new age.
Immunity from attack, so rare in those days, caused the eastward movement of human colonization to become reversed. That is to say, settlers began to flow back from the old-established but now ravaged colonies of the Eastern Sea to the unoccupied lands near the Serpent Tail river. This constituted the first condition which, arising out of the geographical position of Mohkba, contributed to the successful settlement of the Mohkba region. Another condition which contributed to the growth of the Principality was the fact that Mohkba stood upon a river which had always – even from the most ancient times – been possessed of great commercial importance, a waterway connecting Central Klavek with the Serpent Lake and its untouched resources. Of course these lucky years were way before the Vikmordere discovered there was something worth raiding on the Serpent Tail river. The third factor was that said river was not connected to the eastern ocean and thus safe from the kraken.
Yuri Dvagaslov thus made Mohkba the point where two great popular movements intersected one another – namely, a movement of colonization northeastwards along the Serpent Tail river and a movement of commerce back southeastwards toward the sea once the kraken was sleeping again. The city’s geographical position conferred great economic advantages upon the early Princes of Klavek. A large population attracted to their appanage meant a large number of direct taxpayers, while the movement of a large volume of commercial traffic on the Serpent Tail river before the Vikmordere Wars meant a stimulation of popular industry in his dominions and a large flow of transit-dues into his treasury.
The physical network of rivers leading toward the lake is first of all a transportation network. The early klavekians traveled the rivers and lake by boats in summer and with sleds over the ice in winter. But the river network supported social interaction. Trading of amber, honey and furs produced economic networks. Marriage alliances and divine exchanges both produced and strengthened social networks. And the frequent interaction permitted the klavekian language to spread and become so dominant over a wide area that it is now known simply as ‘common’.
Mohkba has lots of quiet cozy lanes, wooden houses, an incredible number of monasteries and churches, and delicious pickles are on sale on every corner. The capital of Klavek is known for its great towers, most belonging to churches, but others to the nobility or to wizards. When alliances are forged due to marriages, illusions of bridges adorned with shared banners connect the towers, creating an ever changing scenery. Mohkba is composed out of eight quarters. Nobility and commoners share all Quarters, except for the vast Gardener’s quarter where but a handful of druids live, the Fortress of Arcane Arts which is reserved for Magicians and Alchemists and assumed to be a dangerous place anyhow, and the small King’s quarter where only royalty has their homes. The social distinction is made by height, not place, in Mohkba, so even in downtrodden Mariner’s quarter and reclusive Zveni island is nobility to be found.
Visitors are fascinated by the cathedral of the Sophianeum, the Holy Wisdom of the Gods – the oldest surviving Klavekian stone monument. It was built so long ago that there are no written evidences, which had led to speculations about it being placed there by the gods themselves. Be this as it may, the powerful monolithic massive structure of the monument still dominates not only the divine quarter, but the whole historic center of Mohkba. The basis of its complex three-dimensional architecture is a four-domed, five-columned brick temple of the cross-and-cupola type with a high ground floor. It is built of brick and blue stone, and its blind arcades give it a special beauty and nobility. In the interior of this palladion a faithfuls attention is drawn by the unique historically formed iconostases icons. These are ancient mural paintings, national relics of Klavek that include the famous icon of Yuri Dvagaslov himself, the Holy Knight of the Crossroad. In the course of hundreds of years the Sophianeum was a center of the clerical, political and cultural life of ancient Mohkba.
Next to the Sophianeum is Alvarov’s Monastery that was founded by Prince Yaroslav the Witch as early as in the first century after the foundation of Mohkba, as a legend reads, and one cannot help being amazed by the striking beauty of another masterpiece of ancient klavekian architecture. Many experts of klavekian art justly believe Mohkba to be blessed by the Gods; no other old klavekian cities have managed to preserve so many ancient architectural monuments adorned with wall murals. Visitors will see that with their own eyes visiting the churches of the Oreadean Gods on Vlassov Lake, appreciating at its true worth the old frescoes of world-famous Wulfgarin the Dwarf in the Church of the Enchantments on Vassili Street; singularly graceful murals in the Church of the Spirit of Bertramov on Prideful Field, admiring the beautiful clerical wall calendar of the Church of the Nameless Hero and studying wonderful mural compositions in The Sinless Cathedral. The later is also famous for its five-tier iconostasis with icons from up to four centuries ago.
More mundane, but still very important are the Tower of the Inquisition and the Tower of the Order of the Elk, the latter the chivalric arm of the former and thus connected by a real bridge, one of the oldest non-illusionary bridges connecting Mohkba’s towers.
The Arcane quarter is the only part of Mohkba without religious buildings. Not contend with lonely wizardly towers, the arcane wielders of Mohkba combined their resources to build the emerald fortress in the then Arcane suburb, now known as the somewhat infamous Fortress of the Arcane Arts. This fortress was mentioned in chronicles as early as five years after the foundation of the Sophianeum. The present walls and towers were constructed in a single night 200 years later. The central building of the emerald fortress is the four-domed college of Mutamateria, nicknamed ‘Transformation Cathedral’ to the chargrin of the clerics. The walls of the college are separated by pilasters with zakomari that were adorned with painting as far back as the 4th century after its foundation. The pinnacle of architecture when it was erected has a grandiose size and sensational shape, with eight cupolas, one for each school of magic, dazzling with luxury and an abundance of tiles, brick patterns and frescos. It is a real encyclopedia of arcane scenes which has no equivalent in Klavekian art. Today it is also connected with, or somewhat has overgrown, the Alchemists College, with is now part of the emerald fortress.
The King’s Fortress was closely related to all the most important events in the life of ancient Mohkba: hosting foreign embassies, seeing-off warriors to fight the enemy, convening meetings of the Crown’s Advisors. Many centuries ago, the whole fortress was surrounded by ramparts, on which stood strong log walls and fortress towers. They served as reliable protection during the internecine wars of the klavekian princes, but were later burned by Vikmordere invaders. Today, in a much safer age, nothing but a high wall remains.
In addition to the above-mentioned Sophianeum, the King’s Fortress also features other striking monuments as the Faceted Palace – a rare specimen of elven architecture, built in the times of Vassily Elf-Friend jointly with elven masters, as well as the impressive and beautiful bellfry with a set of adamantit bells. In the central square of the King’s Fortress stands the monument “The Millenium of Klavek”, designed by Quincov the Stout and erected a bit prematurely 940 years after the foundation of Klavek by Tsar Alexei the Impatient. This unique document in bronze immortalizes all those who greatly contributed to the development of the country: its culture, science, art and literature, but also its tsars and war-heroes. The klavekian special political structure, spiritual freedom and territorial independence were highly favorable to the evolution of culture and art, and this is justly celebrated in the political heart of Klavek. Mohkba is one of the greatest art centers of the human world. Its architectural traditions, skaldic tales, school of icon-painting, jeweler’s and decorative applied art became famous all over the known world. Mohkba also is Klavekia’s major center of literacy and book production. As far back as the foundation years, by the will of the great Prince Yuri Dvagaslov himself, Mohkba saw the first school to train three hundred children at a time.
On the opposite bank of the river, reachable by a footbridge, is Beatricov’s Court and the ancient Trade-yard, displaying many still-standing monuments of the early days of Klavek, all reminiscent of the busy trade life of Mohkba in the days before the Vikmordere Wars. Originally made of wood, it was almost completely destroyed by fire. Later new walls with defensive towers were erected. Not surprisingly, the symbol of the Trade-yard is a stone fortress, surrounded by an even more ancient earthen wall.
Nearly every house in the Trade-yard has a unique history and the central part of the quarter is one big architectural complex. The Beatricovan trading gallery is one of the biggest complexes in Klavekia. The layout is based on the plan of a typical merchant’s shop with trading on the ground floor and storage rooms in the attic and cellar. Rumors place the home of Klavek’s Thieves Guild here, but surely the Tsar’s Inquisitors would have ferreted this out long ago if there was any truth to the rumor.
The most famous monument of the Trade-yard certainly is the Cube of Names for the most famous warrior-heroes of the first days of Mohkba, the greatest clerics, summoners, magi and oracles. The lower side on which the cube rests is supposed to show the names of rogues, the tsar’s under-hand, hidden even in the present. In the Trade-yard the ancient contracts are still stored, including such world-famous items as a great number of birch-bark scrolls and lead seals dating back to the founding years. These are indicative of a unique and striking level of literacy among ancient klavekians who were certainly and contrary to elven prejudices no barbarians at all and had a highly organized system of state control from the beginning.
Like every other separated part of Mohkba Carpenter’s Quarter has its own wall. The main gate connecting Carpenter’s quarter to the King’s Fortress has a famous décor on the outside, comprising three monumental tile compositions: To the right of the southern portal is a round bas-relief depicting Prince Yaroslav the Witch and under the arches of the side facades are two scenes of workers laboring. These unique ancient klavekian tiles date back to first century after the foundation.
The other way into this quarter is Nikolsky Gate. Behind it is the small “bridge of happiness,” hung with padlocks. At the edges of the bridge are two horseshoes of a centaur, one of which reads: “Eternal Love” in the language of the horsefolk. Holding hands, lovers go through the large horseshoe and walk on the eight small ones on the bridge. According to legend, a female centaur ambassador broke its horseshoe here on a stone, being dazzled by the sight of a klavekian cavalry officer. To this day the “stone of desires” sits close to the bridge.
Despite its name, Carpenter’s quarter has long been famous for its furriers and shoemakers. On the streets are a lot of wooden houses, stone mansion from the end of the century before last, as well as trading arcades new and preserved.
Carpenter’s quarter is also known for its Abandoned Monastry, a building which stands empty for about 300 years now. Here False Yuri II (Grishka Raulyev) met the nun Tatyana, the widow of Alexei IV, Maria Poterowa, who had entered the monastery. She recognized the pretender as her son, Yuri. This was the trigger for the Troubles, an euphemistic name for one of the meanest of the klavekian civil wars. Due to that sad part of Klavekian history the monastery is empty now, but still a fantastic sight. In the old days, in the minds of the people, the greatness of a monastery was always connected to the height of its belltower. The architectural center of the Carpenter’s Quarter is one of the highest belltowers in Klavekia, more than 89 meters high. Monumental and steadfast, it does not look overly heavy because of its many columns, wide arched openings and decoration, which contains Alexei’s monograms. The dome of the seven-storied belltower is decorated with the imperial crown – the monastry had always been under the special patronage of the tsars. On the orders of Metropolitan Vladimir, 8 bells were cast for it, including “The Bear”, the largest bell in Mohkba. Each has its own tone, but all together they allow the ringer to create a perfect harmonic composition, a gem of world cultural heritage, the Mohkba chimes. When the angels first heard it legend claimed they cried, creating the lake of Mohkba. Since the Troubles the bells are silent and refuse to ring, a sign that toppled the claim of false Yuri II more than anything else. Countless priests and magicians have tried to revive the chime since those days to no avail. Standing near “The Bear” they could only enjoy the stunning views of the river and the Bridge of Happiness across it.
The boundless forests outside Mohkba behind the bridge are equally beautiful in summer as in winter, in morning as in evening. Mohkba and Mohkba region have long been intensely cultivated by man, perhaps more than any other region of Klavekia. Yet nature still occupies a huge part of it with clean lakes and rivers, and wild forests. It is hard to believe, but today forests still cover a huge part of Mohkba region, and with some luck one can still see wild animals looking from the belltower. One should take care though, the monastry is neglected and the stairs are somewhat unsafe.
Mariner’s quarter is the underbelly of Mohkba, known for its cheap brothels and ramshackle pubs. But even in this bad place is a national icon to be found, the Navy Museum, a colorful painted wooden house. It exhibits the wooden boat, great-grandfather of klavekia’s navy, that was sent out on the water of the Lake of Angelic Tears by the young Tsar Alexei III. Sadly that’s the only thing exhibited in the whole museum.
According to legend, there was a stone idol standing in what is now the Mariner’s quarter that the ancient centaurs worshiped. The hermit Natalya prayed and received a magical staff from a divine elk with which she destroyed the idol, and then built a church on the site of the pagan shrine. Before going to fight the Vikmordere, Tsar Alexei the Twin made a pilgrimage to the monastery to take the staff of Natalya. After the battle of the Serpent, the tsar in gratitude built a cathedral where the church stood, one of the first multi-altar churches, which have additional altars dedicated to different gods. The interior of this cubic six-domed church is unusual: The arches are supported by five pillars, which gives the effect of volume. It could justifiably be called the pearl of that period of klavekian architecture and its domes, walls, door frames and all other available surfaces are full of mural paintings. In modern days the cathedral is seldom visited, and but the altar of the gods dedicated to the sea and to long voyages is cleaned regulary. The staff of Natalya is rumored to have inspired Tarissov the Leprous in building the first Blank Staff. This made his treason the more unbearable and added to the neglect of the Church of Natalya’s Staff.
On the Gardener’s quarter’s central square, Natalyaskaya Ploshchad, stands a monument in honor of the hermit Natalya. Natalyaskaya Ploshchad practically runs into another square, named after Yuri Sansurov who sacrificed his life for the sake of young tsar Alexei the Twin. Outside Gardener’s Quarter is Chistoye Boloto, the clean bog, into which Sansurov led the Vikmordere who had come to capture the Klavekian tsar, thereby sacrifying himself for his tsar.
The Gardener’s quarter has an elk farm in honor of Natalya the hermit. This is one of the few places in the world where druids have been successfully breeding elks for 90 years now. Pilgrims can not only take a good look at the elks but interact with them too. Trying elk milk is an absolute must since it has an unusual flavor and is known to grant divine favors every few years.
There are about 15 gardens and parks in the Gardener’s quarter alone. A favorite recreation spot is the pine wood within its center. Here is the Klavekian Calling celebrated, the traditional custom for greeting the spring, calling the elks and the warming sun. Its on a small but long hill with a spring near its top, and in winter few children can resist the temptation to slide down the frozen slippery slope on their backsides or on sledges. The spring is also famous throughout Mohkba for its water purity.
There are more than 13 bridges in the quarter. Many artisans come here for inspiration, which visitors are reminded of by monuments to writers, painters and druids that decorate gardens, parks and promenades. In the warm season there are six fountains in the squares and parks leading to ponds, little waterfalls and a boulder three-span bridge decorated with a unique carved iconostasis of rose, walnut and birch.
Gardeners quarter was once the private property of the son of a simple Gardener. In childhood he fled from his father to a neighboring village, where he lived with the priest and sang in church. His beautiful voice drew the attention of a major who was driving by, who took the boy and brought him to Mohkba, to the delight of the tsarina, Tatjana Valakova, who loved his beautiful singing. The 22-year-old ‘voice of an angel’ became involved with the princess Anna Alexeievna. After she became tsarina, she awarded her lover some property and the rank of general, marrying him in secret. The influence wielded by this favorite of the tsarina became colossal, as did his wealth and land ownership. However, Gregory the Gardener remained throughout a modest and pious man, who financed the construction of many churches and always viewed his exalted status with humor. Later, when offering an explanation for Anna’s choice, one of her nieces recalled Gregory as one of the most beautiful men she had met in her whole life. After his death he dedicated his beloved garden to the people of Mohkba, to be tended by druids, and thus Gardener’s Quarter was founded and named after him.
The Mohkba Lake’s individual shape can be explained by its glacial origins. It is in fact several lakes, joined to each other by short narrow canals, stretching in a chain from west to east for 50 kilometers. At its eastern end, at the mouth of Serpent Tail River, is Zveni Island. Its thus far away from the capital, but Alexei the Twin deemed it so important that he named it part of the capital itself, and that was never changed. The decision made Mohkba the biggest town of the world, at least if one measures size by east-west miles.
On the remote Zveni island a monastery had been built, which today is connected with the mainland by bridge. In the early days of the empire a hermit called Gregory settled on the island. He was given the nickname Stolbensky, from the word “stolb” meaning pillar. After his death, fame spread far and wide of his the healing power, and the monastery became a center of pilgrimage, one of the largest in Klavekia. Not many years later an unique ensemble came together, and today the monastery comprises seven churches and 30 buildings in the tradition of Mohkba architecture. The shores of the island were reinforced with granite embankments. The monastery became a veritable “city of clerics,” a little part of Mohkba by some miracle abandoned in the wilderness of the region.
As told in a legend, Zveni got its name, ‘bell-tolling’, thanks to its bells, which rang out for hundreds of miles around. When neighboring villages heard them, they also began to sound the alarm by tolling bells, and so on until the signal reached Mohkba, warning the capital of the kingdom of the approach of the Vikmordere enemy. Thus, Zverni was destroyed many times, and rebuilt after every attack. The tsars did this in part out of piety, in part out of military thoughts and in part because the island became sort of a repository for unwanted wives and daughters and politically dangerous persons of both genders. To die on the island is said to grant a dying limited wish, but it has to be worded carefully and can’t have a political or military approach, for the first tsar who had died on the island, Gregory the Other Twin, also known as the Shortlived, had wished it so.
Entry to the monastery is through two arches, one of which stands at the bridge, and the other at the pier. Rebuilt only a few years ago, it nonetheless is famous for its rich decoration of klavekian baroque and frescoes in the style of oreadean masters. The main hall is bright and spacious with four pillars that bear arches. On the walls are two thematic series: seven paintings depicting the various battles with the Vikmordere and four illustrating the Miracles of Gregory Stolbensky.
Water clarity in this part of the lake can be up to 5 meters. The lake is inhabited by about 20 species of fish, including smelt, bream, perch, burbot, whitefish, ide and pike, but also the occasional sea serpent. The forests are rich with game and poultry. There is a park on the shore, overlooking the lake, and a cape in the south of the island is covered with meadows. On the very point of the headland is a snow-white church which has miraculously survived the last two vikmordere attacks unharmed.