TTM'S LECTURE ON THE STEPS OF THE CONGREGATIONAL HOUSE

TTM briefly looked at his notes and then began…


“Ahem,” getting everyone’s attention. “We are here, on the steps of the Congregational House, in order to explore and discover the history of our great city.”

“You see those people down there? Yes, those people cheering and dancing in the streets. If I had to guess (and I never guess!), I would say it is likely that not one of them knows that Middling Street is not actually this street’s name. In fact, many people do not even pronounce the name correctly with their thick Sowtown accents. They often say “Meddling” or “Mibbling” street – a particularly uninformed mispronunciation turning the Ds into Bs.”

“Middling Street’s correct name is Middle Building Street South. It is a practical name as the people who named it were practical people. It was named in this way for two reasons:

1. because it runs right up to the middle of the building where we are standing; and

2. because the building where we are standing was originally named Middle Building.

Built centuries ago, Middle Building was constructed at the center of a vast city. Four cities, to be precise. Collectively, they were referred to as the Quadropolis. This building is the size of four blocks, reaching precisely one whole block into each of the four cities.”

“Speaking of precision, the people who built these cities were very precise, indeed. All four cities were laid out in 9 squares that were each subdivided into 16 blocks–144 blocks in total (with one being used for the building where we are standing)–making up the four major quadrants of the whole. Additionally, no building in any city was permitted to be more than two stories high, except for Middle Building and the Spire, both of which stood above them all. That is why you can see all of the southern city from where we are standing. Of course, we are looking at what was once two distinct cities, but we will address that later in the lecture.”

“Come this way. Stay together, please. No stragglers.”

“Note the large stone doors and smooth pillars. To show the stone’s true beauty, the elders decided that all stone used to construct buildings should not be carved. Every visible surface should be polished and smooth. This, of course, did not preclude the use of inlays, which we will see later in our class.”

“If you were able to see Middle Building from the sky (which is entirely preposterous, of course, because no one can fly except birds), you would see that it is a feat of architectural brilliance! At the center of the building is the great Capam Speculo. It is an enormous glass dome that covers the revered Grand Rotunda where the Master Prefect administers the city’s affairs. And here, if I can draw your attention to this artists’ rendering of the building, you can clearly see the four great hallways intersecting with the ends of Middle Building Street North, South, East, and West. Each hallway is covered with a fine beveled glass ceiling that creates a colorful prismatic effect that travels through the building with the sun…exquisite.”

“It is; however, precisely these divisions that led to the loss of the northern cities. Ahem. Quiet in the back, please. There will be a quiz on this material on Mundsday, next.”

“It is important to note the difference in the hierarchical nature of the four city’s governing bodies, as well as the strain of agrarian vs. industrial societies living in such close proximity. In laymen’s terms, the cities were simply not the same. The southern cities, on which our modern society is built, were called Eastie Sowt and Westie Sowt–or referred to collectively as the Sowtowns. As you can see, both were built entirely out of stone and are comprised of low, sprawling two-story buildings. Those who were well off, built elegant homes with large courtyards in the middle to honor their family trees. Those who were less affluent lived in what can only be described as not much more than granite boxes, and although this sounds callous, the truth was that everyone had a roof over their head. This could not be said for the northern cities and was cause for much disagreement, but we will get to that shortly.”

“The industry and trade of the Sowtowns was and is, focused on the River Wide that runs along the southern border of the cities. Anything that came to the Quadropolis entered through those ports as no one, then or now, has been able to establish trading routes over Mount Ardilakk or the foothills surrounding us. This access to the outside world was the fundamental reason for the prosperity of the Sowtowns. Why anyone would have chosen to live in the northern towns is a mystery to me, but let’s explore their history and eventual demise.

“Eastie Nort and Westie Nort, as they were called, were located in the two northern quadrants of the Quadropolis. Built at the foot of Mount Ardilakk, and without modern industry, they were people of the forest and earth. As difficult as it may be to imagine, the Norters built their homes out of wood and grew their food in the ground instead of on their rooftops. Yes, I agree. I don’t even want to imagine what things came in contact with their food. Disgusting, but I digress.”

“Like the Sowtowners, they were fine craftsmen, although they worked with wood which, of course, is inferior to stone in every respect. It is said that there was not a single metal nail or screw used in the fashioning of any of their furniture or buildings. I must admit, that sounds fantastic to me, but it is what I have been told. However, finely crafted wooden furniture could only be purchased by the richest Sowtowners, which led to a collapse of their monetary systems.”

“Please, take one and pass the rest to your neighbor. This graph shows that the northern cities became poorer as time passed while the southern cities became more prosperous. Middle Building became a raucous place! The northern caucuses were constantly asking for help from the southern caucuses. ‘Why should the southern cities help the north’s failing systems?’ the Sowtown Lords would rebut. ‘The north should have invested in their infrastructure and found more profitable industries if they wanted to survive!’”

“In time, the south began to reject all things related to the north. It is not surprising that many Sowtown squares started to protest the northern city’s demands by holding public wood-burnings. Soon, laws were passed banning the trade of wood products over the wall. Stone, metal, coal, and oil became the sole industries of the south.

“Not everyone in the south rejected the use of wood, of course, and everyone still keeps a tree in their homes. To this day, there is a Sowtown square, Old Eastie Sowtown, that uses wooden furniture and is rumored to have curved roads. However, there is no way to know for sure as no one has passed between Gemini City and Old Eastie Sowtown in generations. In fact, they are no longer even represented in the Congregational House due to their non-conformist ideologies.”

“Please mark in your notes that we will come back to this topic as there is a way back to representation for these rogue blocks, but it will be discussed in our lecture, Thrundsday next.”

“In the end–and only as a last resort to protect the interests of the south–the Sowtowns decided to build a wall. As you know, what remains of the wall stretches the entire length of Middle Building Street West, through the Congregational House, and down the entire length of Middle Building Street East. You probably know it as the Once-Great Wall, as it is no longer representative of the southern craftsmen’s work. I am pleased that the Congregational House still stands as a pillar of architectural achievement of the south.”

“Yes. No, the student in the back. Yes, you. Absolutely. That is a valid question. It was a matter of resources. The northern cities simply didn’t have the resources to stop the construction of the wall. The Master Prefect of the day, the Lord of Diamond Hall (which I am sure you all know as the most beautiful hall of Eastie Sowt), determined that discussion of the wall was not of great enough import to raise on the floor.”

“At first, the Norters continued to live as they had, but soon, they began to miss the beautiful riches of the south. I have heard stories that people began to steal from each other. It was well-known that you could never let anyone know that you owned a valuable stone in the northern cities because you weren’t likely to keep it for long! Factions began to form, and Middle Building Street North became a battleground. Each side patrolled the full length of the street (from the Congregational House all the way to the foot of Mount Artilack), and all trade and travel were halted between Eastie and Westie Nort. Raiding parties were caught trying to cross the street and steal stones from the other side. Soon, the cities descended into a rather uncivil war.”

“To protect their citizens, the Sowtowns voted to eject the northern caucuses from the legislature. The government was restructured into the Lower and Upper Houses of Lords–the same system of government we continue to use today. As the civil war raged, the constant smoke that rose into the sky began to be blown south by the Winds of the Mount. Acid rain began to stain the stone of our beautiful city, and the houses of government resolved to put an end to the northern city’s mischief. In their infinite wisdom, the Lords of the day decided to reopen the hallway to Middle Building Street North and demand the Norters put an end to whatever they were doing.”

“The Master Prefect, dressed in all of his fineries and followed by the twelve Upper Lords and a sea of Lower Lords, marched their way up the long hall toward Eastie and Westie Nort. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw when they flung open the great doors. In fact, that is precisely what they saw. Nothing. It was all gone. There was nothing left but smoldering ash. Both cities had been completely burned to the ground. There were no people, no buildings, no streets, no squares. Nothing. And as there wasn’t a single tree left standing, not even a wizard could have told them what had happened. No one knows where the people of the Eastie and Westie Nort disappeared to, but you all know the story of that day as you were probably told it when you were children. ‘Don’t dare misbehave, or you will disappear like the Norters!’”

©2021 Robert J. Bradshaw

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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