Chapter: Crossing the Wheel

Information relevant to the 15th chapter of The Masters

raised roads
plan, elevation and isometric of a raised road of the Guarded Land

This diagram shows a typical section of the raised roads that criss-cross the Guarded Land. For scale, I included a procession of four figures followed by a vehicle of some kind that can be seen moving along the road at the top left

It should be noted that, at the time I sketched this, my conception of watchtowers was not yet fully developed: here one is represented as a simple rectangular structure. The brazier producing smoke as a form of sending signals was later superseded by a heliograph

a study of traffic density on raised roads

This second diagram is a result of a study I did into the density of traffic on one of the ‘spoke’ roads leading to Osrakum. This is typical of some of the excesses that I got into when writing The Chosen (First Edition)—I wanted to know what the road might look like from a leftway. There is a subtle inference that can be drawn from the diagram that should become clear on completion of the Stone Dance

Guarded Land
detail from Three Lands map © Neil Gower

This detail of the Neil Gower map shows the Guarded Land plateau, with the Osrakum caldera at its heart, and shows the network of raised roads with their watchtowers. The road that runs around the edge of the plateau links cities—such as Nothnaralan and Makar—into the defensive system called the Ringwall. Each city is garrisoned by a legion; the cities in the interior are each garrisoned by two. The greatest city of all is the City at the Gates, lying as it does at the convergence of the road system just to the west of Osrakum. A network of tracks grids the whole of the Guarded Land; at every intersection of these tracks is a sartlar kraal

raised road with a watchtower rising beside it

The diagram above shows side views and a view from above of a standard watchtower. Each such tower stands guard on a gate controlling passage from one province into another through the wall that carries a leftway. Note the drawbridge that carries the leftway over the gateway below

Watchtowers are set at regular intervals along the raised roads of the Guarded Land. These towers and the high road—the leftway—that runs under their gaze, form not only the primary communications systems of the Commonwealth, but also provide the Wise with a ‘sensory grid’ with which they ‘see’ much of what goes on in the Guarded Land. In addition, each tower is garrisoned with enough auxiliaries to defend the gate over which each tower stands guard

The communication system has two distinct aspects. Messages can be carried as sealed despatches at furious speed along the leftway by couriers who obtain fresh aquar at each tower. Couriers, and what they carry, are protected by stringent codicils of the Law-that-must-be-obeyed.

Shorter and more critical messages are jumped from tower to tower by means of the heliographs during the day or, more slowly, by naphtha flares at night

A watchtower is often at the centre of an extensive stopping place, where the throngs travelling on the road below can make camp for the night

Watchtowers play an important part in the Stone Dance, and it was because of this that I felt the need to understand their exteriors and interiors so well

top storey and watchtower roof and ribs
top storey and watchtower roof and ribs

From the summit of a watchtower, six ribs curve up to hold aloft a platform at the centre of which is located a heliograph device. Naphtha, piped up the ribs, burns in flares to transmit signals at night when the heliograph cannot operate. The ribs branch up from either side of a keel beam. At the ends of the keel beam are two of the tower’s four deadman chairs: the other two hang from the upper ends of the middle ribs. Lookouts sitting in these chairs maintain an unsleeping scrutiny of the Guarded Land and the road below. The keel beam is embedded in the superstructure of the tower that consists of a number of floors: those above the level of the leftway are connected by ladders that can be raised by means of counterweights. Those below the level of the leftway are connected by ramps

Note the trapdoor in the roof that gives access down into the uppermost storey. Note also the staples climbing up the rib in the lower left (of the right hand plan) that gives access to a naphtha flare and to the heliograph platform. The left hand diagram shows the upper storey that provides accommodation for the staff of ammonites who operate the heliograph. It is these chambers that Carnelian, his father and the other Masters occupy each night on their journey to Osrakum

barracks storeys for watchtower garrison

This second page of floor plans shows the two storeys that are the barracks of the tower garrison

watchtower entry from the leftway

The third page of floor plans shows the storey of the tower that is level with the leftway. In the upper part of the diagram is a cistern. Corresponding to this—in the lower part of the diagram—is the ramp that leads down into the stables. A portcullis seals the entry from the leftway. Standing before this entrance is a monolith, the purpose of which is to make it impossible to use a battering ram against the portcullis. To the right of the portcullis you might be able to make out the faint sketch of an aquar as seen from above. I put this in so as to be able to more easily imagine what it would be like leading an aquar into this space. A small diagram on the right hand side of this page is a side view showing how the portcullis and its counterweights work. It also includes measurements for the heights of some of the storeys.

two of a watchtower’s stable levels

The fourth and final page of floor plans shows two of the three stable levels that are linked by ramps to the upper entrance—from the leftway. Various other mechanisms are lodged here that have to do with the operation of the portcullis, etc in the levels above. The lowest level of all is the uppermost diagram. Note that it too has a portcullis and a monolith set facing it. This gives direct access to the main carriageway of the raised road that runs along the foot of the wall carrying the leftway

the City at the Gates
the City at the Gates © Neil Gower

The City at the Gates is so named because it lies at the gates of Osrakum. Built on land reclaimed from the Gatemarsh, it has at its heart the great market of the Wheel, from which the five raised roads radiate out like spokes across the Guarded Land. The habitations of its almost three million citizens spread out along the causeways that carry the roads with their watchtowers

From the Wheel, the Canyon of the Three Gates leads into the crater of Osrakum

entering the Wheel
one of the gatehouses at the entry into the Wheel

The City at the Gates stretches out along the five roads that, emanating from the immense marketplace of the Wheel, spread out across the Guarded Land to its rim, the Ringwall. These roads are built on causeways rising from the Gatemarsh and its lake. Tenements line the roads—mudbrick towers studded with the ends of the beams that hold up the floors within

Shown also is the leftway, running to the right of the road in the diagram, with a number of human figures to show the scale

Entry into the Wheel is through massive gates sheathed with brass

views on entering the Wheel

I produced these sketches to better visualize Carnelian’s entry into the Wheel in The Masters. They are indicative of the exhaustive preparatory work that I used to do and that was strongly influenced by my working method in my—then recent—previous career as a designer of computer games. Each diagram is an accurate perspective drawing

view into the Wheel

The first sketch is what Carnelian can see as he approaches the gatehouses of the Wheel. The blue square is the projection plane. Note the Sacred Wall of Osrakum (seen through the buildings as if with x-ray vision) and the position of the sun and the shadow that it casts on the road on which Carnelian is riding

view back through the gatehouses when on the bridge

The second sketch shows the view looking back, when Carnelian is halfway across the bridge that spans the moat that surrounds the Wheel

view down into the moat when on the bridge

The third sketch shows a view from the same spot but looking down into the moat

Gradually I moved away from such excessive preparatory work. As I gained experience in the writing process, my research became increasingly light-footed. Today my reasearch process is more focused and lean

the Wheel
my original conception of the Wheel

Five great radial roads bring a constant flood of travellers from the rim of the Guarded Land to pour them finally into the Wheel: the greatest market of the Three Lands and the heart of the City at the Gates

More than 100 000 people can throng this vast plaza. Here all the world bring their goods to offer to the Masters in their Mountain. From the Wheel, the Canyon of the Three Gates leads up into Osrakum

The Wheel is moated and watered by the river that flows down the Canyon and that is the run-off from the Skymere lake filling the caldera of Osrakum. Water carriers ply a trade throughout the City, selling this water, considered precious from its association with the Masters. On their part, the Chosen see the run-off as their sewer

It is from this market that the criminal organization, the Brotherhood of the Wheel, take their name

my more complete understanding of the Wheel
my more complete understanding of the Wheel
the entrance to the Canyon of the Three Gates

A view of the mouth of the Canyon of the Three Gates as seen from the Wheel, showing the flanking colossi carved from the rock of the Sacred Wall itself. For scale, a mass of human figures is shown passing between the colossi

colossi flanking the entrance to the Canyon of the Three Gates

A view of the mouth of the Canyon of the Three Gates as seen from the Wheel, showing the flanking colossi carved from the rock of the Sacred Wall itself. For scale, a mass of human figures is shown passing between the colossi

Having entered the Canyon, it is necessary to pass the Green, Blood and Black Gates before gaining entry into the crater of Osrakum itself