Chapter: Into the Black Land

Information relevant to the 3rd chapter of The Third God

the Gatemarsh and 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

the Wheel
entering the Canyon of the Three Gates
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

the Canyon of the Three Gates
the stretch of the Canyon from the Green to the Black Gates

The Canyon of the Three Gates is the only way in and out of the crater of Osrakum. It is a narrow defile, running between sheer, cliff walls. Three fortresses have been built along its length, the three ‘gates’: the Green Gate, the Red or Blood or Ichorian Gate, and the Black or Death Gate. The Cloaca—a channel cut anciently in the floor of the Canyon—allows excess water to be carried out of the lake that fills the crater of Osrakum

The diagram shows only the portion of the Canyon that lies between the Green and Black Gates and is not drawn to scale. The Red Caves lie between the Blood Gate and the Black Gate

the Green Gate
the western approach to the Green Gate

The Green Gate is the first of the Three Gates and is a curtain wall, running across the Canyon, the surface of which is covered in bronze spikes, so that the whole mass looks like an immense hedge. At the lower level, gates act as ‘airlocks’, where goods from the Outer World are transferred to the other side by Red Ichorians. Gates higher up, on either side, allow the leftway and the Lords’ Road to continue along the Canyon. The former allows messages to pass in and out of Osrakum: the latter is used by the Chosen.

The drawing also shows how the Cloaca passes under the Gate through grilles. A throng of people are shown for scale

a plan of the Green Gate fortress

The second drawing shows a plan of the Green Gate. Note the double set of gates—each consisting of three gates—that seal off, between them, two ‘airlocks’. It is by this means that ‘contamination’ from the outer world is kept out of Osrakum

the Blood Gate

The Blood Gate is the primary defence structure of the Canyon of the Three Gates and, as such, the primary defence of Osrakum. It is called the Ichorian Gate in Quya, but the Blood Gate in Vulgate, and is also called the Red Gate in both languages. Indeed, the fortifications themselves, as well as the systems that extend out in front of them, are painted the colour of fresh blood

As a defensive system, the Blood Gate is exceedingly sophisticated. The Cloaca branches around the main superstructure, rendering it a kind of island in the middle of the Canyon floor. Two bridges lead to the ‘killing field’ that spreads in front of the gates themselves. Any army having made it this far would be caught in a crossfire from not only the towers flanking the main gate, but from the watchtower rising at its rear

plan of the Blood Gate showing its setting in the Canyon

The actual gates are, by far, the most massive in the Three Lands, and there are two sets of them forming another ‘airlock’. It is here that are found the elaborate cleansing chambers that are provided for the Chosen so that they are not forced to endure the quarantine that the Wise insist on for others

Beyond the Blood Gate lie the Red Caves in which the ‘dragons’ of the Red Ichorians are stabled and where their main barracks are located

an early plan of the Blood Gate
the Black Gate
plan and front view of the Black Gate

The Black Gate, or Death Gate, stands at the narrowest point of the Canyon of the Three Gates where it enters the crater of Osrakum

Bells set into the Black Gate announce to the inhabitants of this hidden valley the entry of any Chosen

the Valley of the Gate
a map of the Valley of the Gate

This is a map of the Valley of the Gate—not only the largest coomb in the Sacred Wall, but also the mouth of the Canyon of the Three Gates as it opens into the crater of Osrakum

On the left, the throat of the valley is closed by the Black Gate. The valley itself is filled with hexagonal columns of black basalt. The Valley of the Gate connects to the Isle by means of the Great Causeway. To either side of this, the Valley descends to the Skymere by two flights of Turtle Steps

the Ydenrim
a section of the Ydenrim

This is a sketch of a section of the Ydenrim. The road shown has come from the Great Causeway and is going to the Plain of Thrones. To the right of this is one of the lagoons of the Yden. To the left, the land falls away to the Skymere along whose shore can be seen some kharon boathouses

Streams flow down from the lagoon to the Skymere. It is often alongside these that paths lead up from quays. Masters, coming by bone boat from their coombs, are disembarked here on their way to the Plain of Thrones and the Labyrinth

the Plain of Thrones
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.”