Legends of Belariath


Just down the coast from Thallis Port lies the Emperor's summer palace. Sharr`Ivae, the towers of light in the language of the sea elves is, as its name suggests, not some forbidding castle but a place both light and airy. Constructed of a pale stone according to the architectural genius of Phaing and with its walls housing a number of balconies, it sits on a cliff above a private beach. Defensible to be sure; these are not quiet times in which to live, yet it also manages to give an impression of open hospitality to those who visit.

During the summer months it is not unusual that the emperor moves from his normal home just outside Nanthalion, and takes up residence in Sharr`Ivae, where two mermaid statues oversee the resultant gaiety, one located in the courtyard and sculpted by Orik; the other on the beach itself, comstructed by Octavia and large enough for a couple to sit in her lap to watch the waves, or indulge in more intimate activities. Still more lifelike statues by Orik decorate the palace halls with representations of all the known races of Belariath.

The Mermaid of the Sands

The sandstone sculpture is twelve feet long and a little over six feet tall.

The mermaid is on her back, arching in a half twist. Her arm is bent across the crown of her head, the other arm bent beneath her to form the brace. Her body iss voluptuous and fine, her face skewed in the very height of rapture. Her breasts, slightly slouching, are plump and young, ripe .. Her long hair is a serpentine halo around her head. Most magnificent, from just beneath her upthrust navel the maiden's tail uncoils; her whisper-thin flukes are poured out with tips slightly upturned as though she had only just thrashed in the first wave of her ecstasy.

Shells and volcanic glass are meticulously wedged into each and every scale of the mermaid's tail. Oyster shells on their edges are the scalloped border between tail and succulent torso. The impression of kelp fronds ornament for her flowing hair. Urchin's spines are lashes for her closed eyes, the sharp teeth of the shark are the white of her fingernails. She wears a necklace of quartz and coral .. Her curved flukes shine.

A large, solid bench makes it's home in the hard curve of the twelve-foot mermaid's thrashing body. The seat is smooth and curved, cradled slightly inward and downward to favor the bottom of whomever choses to sit. Its angle had been chosen for its view, slightly skewed toward the shoreline and the sea at once. The sun will set warm against the faces of those who might sit there. The arms of the bench are wide, embellished with smooth gaps and rises for fingers to find their rest. Two people, or three, might occupy it. It is a throne to the elements, and if it is not reclaimed by Gaea, it is solid enough to last the age.

Ishtar's Shrine

The door was heavy. It opened and closed on silent hinges, and fit so well into its mouldings that it exhaled scented air, a secretive sigh, whenever it swung into place against its threshold. The threshold was padded and pressed, cushioned black velveteen. It was made to keep noise inside the chamber beyond, as well as to cushion the most precious and satin-fleshed knees that crossed over it. Footsteps that moved against the floor beyond were softened by thick carpets.

The door was orientated in the far left and rear corner of the long, 20 foot by 12 foot room. The wall directly across from the door was a larger-than-life portrait of Ishtar bathed in silks the various colours of fire. She lay arched, most purposefully, across the seat of an ornate and empty throne, her pointed feet, lifted knees, slightly spread legs hung over one side of the throne, while her back poured from the other side. Her blonde hair was spilt in bright coils and spools below her head, her face turned toward the room. Belly up, her left side to that audience, structure of her belly and her lithe legs caught in the silk gown's gravity-defying rise and drift. Kneeling and half hidden were the shapes of a nude man and woman, their faces hidden between her thighs. They sat with hands clasped behind their backs and knees in practiced posture, naked bottoms saddled in the curves of their feet; reverence.

Ishtar's expression was blithe, half-asleep, adrift, her arm nearest the viewer lies bent against the stony mountaintop underneath the throne. Her mouth was pursed, blowing a lazy and never-ending exhalation over the head of a dandelion clasped in her left hand, its feather-parachuted seeds were caught by the same wind that blew her silks, spreading those seeds across a pageant of blue sky and into the next wall - the farthest, a cream plaster backdrop for a tall statue of white marble; before the statue - at the base of its pedestal, with room to stride completely around it - was a richly carved altar with six binding cuffs. The altar was heavy oak, stained darkly and richly. While the sides and shaped corners of the altar gleamed, polished and bare, the top surface of the altar was upholstered in the same butter-textured black velveteen as the threshold. Small, winking silver rivets anchored it to the altar's broad shelf along with deep padding. Hanging from two rings mounted in the ceiling over the altar, two pair of cuffs on two long chains that at first masqueraded as decoration proved themselves beautifully functional upon inspection. Softest hare-lined cuffs waited motionless to hold a living bit of art. The chains were thick, hand-forged filigreed mithril; not simply bindings, but tethers for divine sacrifice.

The statue looked down on all. It was Ishtar on her toes, naked, arched, her raised arms to make her body long, every supple muscle proportioned. Her belly was thrust forward, her breasts clutched to near-bursting in Stormbringer's thick stone hands. The Emperor was naked to the waist, his torso leanly muscled. Ishtar's arms were in dancer's angles raised to his neck, drawing down his head so that they were temple-to-temple. The statues looked at the beholder; Ishtar was clever and half-smiling, coy and impassioned, surrendered, yet not. Stormbringer's expression was possessive - calm - ferocious - quiet. It claimed, unquestionably; neither submissive but the goddess most clearly the prey. Emperor wore leathers clinging to thighs and loose, straight-legged around calves, boots. The stone pedestal was 2 feet tall, the figures life-sized.

The raised plaster behind the statue was a detail of that cloud of floating seeds into the many races.  Upon the wall they were at first alone, and then as the figures formed began to twine and join - twist, and bend. The plaster wall would be a tumult of sex and creation, wings and fur and flesh, until they began to reach the ground on the wall that included the door.

This wall was full, was rich - the bounty of Ishtar, the people and their own creation. Here the seeds had become life, landscapes, forests, mountains, water, desert, farm fields, towns, and wilderness joined there. Figures farmed and smithed, practiced with blades, hunted and wove. There were jhore and mephos; there were slaves, and masters. It was a portrait of his kingdom, and evermore would Ishtar gaze upon it - seed it - watch over it.

And finally, the back wall; thin but wide tiles of the finest black granite polished to a mirror sheen. within it, mounted at various heights, were steel rings suitable for chaining slave or visitor for display or desire... so that they could be as attentive to the Emperor's goddess gazing down upon them as they were to the man himself. the polished black surface of the granite was repeated in the ceiling... all would mirror the activity on the lush pillows below, the low tables, the dim-burning lamps with their undecorated bells and brass turnings.

Only accessible through the Emperor's bedroom, this summer palace secret was meant for only the most decadent and depraved.. The Emperor's most favoured; one can only hope to be invited into the sanctum, and be treated to the secretive stare of Ishtar's everlasting gaze.

Main picture by L`aquera. Mermaid and shrine by Octavia.