Chapter: Into the Labyrinth

Coomb Suth
a map of Coomb Suth

Coomb Suth is Carnelian’s ancestral home. The map shows the palaces set into the floor of the coomb. Carved high into the Sacred Wall above the floor of the coomb are the upper palaces or Eyries where the Suth escape the summer heat

The lower palaces of House Suth are built on a curl of land forming the floor of a semi-circular coomb or valley that is open to the Skymere along its south-eastern edge. An idea of how large is this domain can be gleaned by comparing it with the ‘nose’ like structure, shown in the bottom right hand corner—the Hold drawn to the same scale

Much of the available land in the coomb is built upon. The greater part is taken up by an intricate complex of halls and courts organized to provide interlocking spaces that become increasingly more private as one moves towards their centre. There are also public spaces and those dedicated to each of the various lineages as marked. Also shown is the Forbidden House where the women of House Suth are sequestered

The coomb is reached by means of either the Visitor’s Quay, the Private Quay—used exclusively by the Chosen members of the House—and another quay that is used by members of the household, and to receive goods and materials

The north-eastern part of the coomb is taken up with buildings given over to the household and the many artisans required to run and maintain so many structures. A barracks for the tyadra is located beside the court through which the palace complex is entered. Also shown is the beginning of the stairs that lead up to the Eyries

the Kharon and their bone boats
a Kharon ferryman

The Kharon are a specialized caste in Osrakum, living in family units in boathouses on the outer slopes of the Ydenrim, as well as the shores of the cone that walls in the Plain of Thrones. These family units vary in size. The smallest may have but a single boat, the largest many. The kharon mate exclusively among themselves

A Kharon child has its right eye plucked out at birth

A Kharon mask is made of ivory or bone. These masks show a face in right-profile. Reading this as one would a glyph gives the impression that the steersman is gazing into the future

The first drawing depicts a steersman wearing the characteristic headdress: a nest of bone fragments at the heart of which is located a turtle shell—a symbol for the sky

Kharon bone boats

The second diagram shows rough sketches of the bone boats with which the Kharon ferry people back and forth across the Skymere. A galley with extremely tall prow and stern posts, a bone boat is propelled by oarsmen—more Kharon rowing beneath the deck. A bone boat is constructed and maintained from the bones of the dead of the family that operate it. Kharon are bound to their ancestral vessels in life and death

Coomb Imago
the palaces in Coomb Imago
the palaces in Coomb Imago

I made these sketches to give me a clearer idea of the setting of the scene in The Chosen in which Carnelian goes by bone boat to Coomb Imago to visit Jaspar. For scale, Carnelian is shown standing before the steps

The first sketch shows the approach to the coomb, a cleft in the Sacred Wall:

“They rounded a promontory into a deep coomb bay. An outcrop swung past the starboard bow and a view opened into an inlet whose upper reaches were filled with a dazzling avalanche of sculpted stone. Terrace piled on terrace. Spires and towers frowned and stared. Impaled giants disembowelled balconies, their skin poxed with windows. Terraces jutted out over the water held aloft by man-shaped buttresses up to their waists in the lake.”

note: the caryatid colonnade at the base of the palace that is the front of the atrium.

the entry to the Coomb Imago palaces
the entry to the Coomb Imago palaces

The second sketch shows the entry into the palace lying at the back of the atrium:

“As the boat came to rest, he squinted into the cavernous atrium framed by their shins. He disembarked and walked round a lichened foot and column leg. From the gloom emerged a wall of crowding Masters, tall as trees. In their midst was a doorway that even they could have entered without stooping. It gave onto a flight of steps flanked by oily mosaics. He ran his hand over the amber and jade and gazed up.”

Sapients of the Wise
a Sapient mask
a Sapient mask

The Wise are the third Power of the Great Balance. It is they who administer the Commonwealth as well as enforcing the statutes of the Law-that-must-be-obeyed

the Plain of Thrones
a plan of the Plain of Thrones

The Plain of Thrones is a smaller volcanic crater located on the Isle lying in the midst of the Skymere in Osrakum. This name comes from the tier of thrones set into the Umbilicus (that used to be called the ‘hollow pyramid’)—a hollow in the south-western wall, where the Chosen gather to witness the homage of the tributaries on the plain below, during the ceremony of the Rebirth. It is here that the Apotheosis of a new God Emperor is held

The plan shows the main features of the Plain of Thrones. At its heart is the Stone Dance of the Chameleon, a circle of calendrical stones upon which is inscribed the Law-that-must-be-obeyed. Further to the south-west lies the large rectangular space beneath the thrones hollow on which the tributaries gather to celebrate the Rebirth. On one side are the bronze cages in which are put the flesh-tithe children. The ‘crinkled’ edge indicates where the frieze of tomb guardian colossi are cut into the stone wall of the plain

view on entering the Plain of Thrones

This view of the south-western end of the Plain of Thrones shows a part of the frieze of colossi at the centre of which is the door into the Labyrinth (marked in the drawing as the ‘Sacred Door’, but named in the book as the ‘Forbidden Door’)

Above this is the Umbilicus—a triangular hollow in which are located the thrones for the Chosen. That of the God Emperor lying at its apex. The terraces of the Halls of Rebirth (the Lower Palace) run to either side

Rising up beyond the mountainous wall of the plain is the massive column of rock, the Pillar of Heaven

one of the colossal tomb guardians

I have included a rough sketch I made of one of the guardian colossi to show its scale. Between its legs lies the door to a tomb for one of the Houses of the Chosen

the Stone Dance of the Chameleon
Stone Dance of the Chameleon in the Plain of Thrones
Stone Dance of the Chameleon in the Plain of Thrones

The Stone Dance of the Chameleon is a circle of calendrical stones located at the centre of the Plain of Thrones. The Dance of the Chameleon is a Quyan term indicating the passage of the seasons. The Stone Dance of the Chameleon is synonymous with ‘calendar’. It is on these stones that is carved the Law-that-must-be-obeyed.

plan of the Stone Dance of the Chameleon

The Stone Dance consists of three concentric rings of stones: the 12 calendrical stones, the 12 ‘ghost’ stones and the more numerous commentary stones. There are also five pairs of gate stones acting as symbolic doorways into the system.

The following description is from The Chosen:

“Within the outer ring of those monoliths were two more rings, one within the other. Most were the colour of a stormy sky, but the innermost ring looked freshly painted with blood. Between the outermost ring and the inner ones, the ground was slabbed, mosaiced, ridged or spotted with cobbles.”