Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Cartography

In Tsolyánu, High Cartograhy is an Art. Stones are fashioned so that by size, colour and minute details of shape they provide information that one skilled in the art can "read" the stone and learn details of population, taxes, etc.

Here is a passage from A Man of Gold, by the late MAR Barker:

Prior Haringgáshte pulled himself to his feet and extracted a worn leathern case of map-symbols from the litter of documents on his work table.

From this he took out a small pyramid of blue lapis lazuli. Tiny knobs and loops of gold had been affixed here and there upon its surface, and flecks of other minerals glinted from within. This, Hársan knew, symbolised the Empire of Tsolyánu, and each protuberance, curve, subtle shading, and texture told its tale of cities, roads and distances, populations, products, villages and towns, and other data, readable only by those skilled in High Cartography. Next emerged an oblong of sand-yellow jasper: the desert lands of Milumanayá to the north of Tsolyánu. Beyond this he set out a faceted rhomboid of smooth green serpentine; this stood for the hostile lands of Baron Áld of Yán Kór. Above this a tablet of wavy blue slate was placed to indicate the crag-coasted northern sea, each serration, curve, and change of texture marking a harbour, a cove, an island, a distant settlement-even reefs and tides. Three smaller polyhedrons of carnelian,agate, and red porphyry were arranged to the left of this to represent the little northern states of Pijéna, Ghatón, and N’lüss. The Prior then brought forth a cloudy wine-red dodecahedron of bloodstone which stood for the sprawling empire of Mu’ugalavyá, Tsolyánu’s sometimes hostile western neighbour beyond the Cháka Range. Below this he added a curiously twisted moon-shaped symbol of rippling fire opal: the far-off land of Livyánu. A final plaque of wavy slate to the right of the symbol for Livyánu and beneath that of Tsolyánu signified the southern ocean, the Deeps of Chanayága. The rest of the symbols he left in the case.

“Can you read these, then, priest Hársan?”

“Only the rudiments, my Lord. I am more comfortable with the maps drawn upon paper by merchants – not with these of the High Cartography.”

The Prior’s lips sketched a thin smile. “These tell much more. To see, to touch, to feel – so much more than flat lines upon a page. Come, show me where the Empire of Llyán of Tsámra once lay.”

Wondering, Hársan put forth a tentative finger and touched the empty space between the symbols for Mu’ugalavyá and Livyánu. “Here, my Lord.”

The Prior reached into the welter of materials on the table, picked up a small casket of dun-red metal, and extracted another map symbol. With the air of a mother setting a morsel of sugary Dmí-root before a child, he laid this in the space marked by Hársan’s finger. “This was found in a tomb of the Bednálljan Dynasty near our city of Úrmish. The casket is Fulát – steel – alas, now one of the rarest metals on Tékumel and one of the most costly therefore. Go ahead, examine it.”

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