The King’s Lake
Where the stairway down to Azure sets off from the King’s Isle, there are trees above the waterline, mainly pines and other evergreens, and grasses at water level, plus a selection of ground covering plants. However, there aren’t any plants under the water, as the bowl of the volcano is sheer and solid rock. The crater walls are at a very steep gradient, descending probably 1,500ft from rim to what is probably the base of the bowl in the space of maybe 300ft of distance. The water level is about 700ft below the rim. The King’s Isle does enter the water at a more gradual gradient – 1 in 1 seems to hold up for quite a while – about a hundred feet – before it drops much more sheerly.
There are a lot of species of fish within the lake, varying in size from just a couple of inches long, to six or seven feet, some eels, some otter type creatures around shore near the walls, and water vole-type beasties, as well as a colony of something vaguely cat-like. The base of the bowl still slopes towards the centre of the lake, and does eventually reach a depth of about 2,000ft. One curious thing is that there seems to be no form of outflow, and yet the water is crystal clear and very, very clean.
The staircase heads down the north western wall of the King’s Isle, and those descending will find that it seems to phase out around the bed of the lake, as it crosses into the Shadow on which Azure is located. It stretches for the best part of a mile, before entering the main market area of the realm of Azure.
Down in the very depths, there seems to be a group of large, probably reptilian creatures – say three or four of them. They seem actively intelligent, and react when they see visitors. The water dragons are Korrak (adult male), Lanike (adult female), Shikal (young female) and Lakirsh (young male). They are strongly psychic, especially as they get older, although they find it easier to make links with those of the family who have an affinity with Azure. They have a limited ability to shift Shadow, and can get into the nearby water Shadows, although they tend to stick close to Sable and Azure.
The City of Azura
Azure is the Primary Realm in the Inner Lands of the Terra Magica system: the underwater lands that exist in parallel to the air breathing worlds of Sable. Its capital is Azura, the city at the bottom of the stairs. The realm is a closer reflection to Argent, than to Sable, and is located somewhere within the fresh water of the Caldera Lake. Azura is home to around one million souls, with probably ten times that in the realm of Azure as a whole.
On arrival in the city, the visitors sees the hustle and bustle of a busy trading centre, rather than the slightly sleepy market town feel in Argent. The layout of the centre of the city is very similar to its sister realm in the sky, rather than Sable City, although its boundaries spread considerably further. Architecturally, it is generally more fluid – more curves and spires than the squarer buildings of Sable City, although not the dreaming fantasy world of Argent – and built of carved stone and glass, rather than brick. In contrast to the smooth buildings around it, Azure Palace more angular. It is built of a yellow stone, rather like Cotswold stone, and the structure bears a resemblance to Buckingham Palace…windows line the walls, and the palace itself is built in the shape of a U around a gravel-covered courtyard.
The population are living, breathing individuals, and there is trade with the water Shadow equivalents of the Commonwealth, known as the Ring of Sapphires. The paths leading out into the Ring are well walked. As you get further from Azure, however, the fresh water of the city slowly gives way to salt. How the water remains breathable is something of a mystery, although rumour has it that there is some kind of Power centred in Azure Palace that keeps the realm habitable.
The Inner Lands are the realms of Shadow connected to Azure itself, much as the Sable Shadows extend out from Magica Superior and the Commonwealth. There are probably not quite as many water Shadows as there are land Shadows attached to Sable itself, but there are sufficient numbers that as yet they have not all been explored, albeit that they are not all habitable. The person who has traversed furthest into the saltwater Shadows is Princess Emily, and it was on her return from one of those trips that she first introduced Elanor and Edmund to her elder sister, Alison – about four years before she brought them back to Sable Palace.
By birth, the Queen is the eldest child of King Robert and Queen Claire, and elder twin to King Cathal of Agent. She was brought up by her parents on the King’s Isle on Sable itself, although from a very early age she knew that she would eventually become a queen in her own right, as it had been decreed in the earliest days of the Realm. She was a boisterous child, much more interested in being out enjoying herself than studying. She was also something of a bully, being surprisingly strong for her age: she certainly made her rather more studious brother Cathal’s life a misery at times, and the rivalry between them often only just stopped short of active violence.
Eventually, however, she began to calm down, and did qualify to attend Sable Mage College. She specialised in healing and natural magics – especially water magics – although she also has a grounding in combat and defensive magic. She graduated with her Masters at the age of twenty-five, and then spent a couple of years away from Sable. However, she returned in time for her twenty-seventh birthday, and on that day she was formerly granted the realm of Azure by her father.
She was crowned Queen of Azure six months later, and has remained as the underwater city’s monarch ever since. There, she takes her responsibilities very seriously, and is popular with her people. She has done a lot to consolidate Azure and its nearest neighbours, forming a bloc similar to the Commonwealth in the Inner Lands. As Queen, her most trusted advisor is her former Regent, Hopkin, who has offered the benefits of his experience and guidance as her Chancellor throughout her realm.
In appearance, Alison is fairly small, about 5’4″, with a light, wiry figure. However, despite her size, she’s fit and looks quite capable of taking care of herself. Unlike her brother Cathal, she has remained unmarried, although she has had occasional favourites over the years. However, until now, all marital speculation in those directions has remained unfounded.
The Government of Azure
Queen Alison rules Azure with the assistance of a Council of Elders, chaired by Chancellor Hopkin. The Council of Elders numbers twelve plus the Chancellor, with half of its membership appointed by the Crown, and half elected, and this group forms the inner government of the Realm. However, despite their obvious position of power, they do remain accountable to the Council of the Ring, an elected body of representatives from Azure and the main Ring of Sapphires worlds. The Council of the Ring numbers a little over 200 members: fifty from Azure itself, and ten from each of the main trading Shadows. Six of their number, as chosen by the whole Council, are then elected to the Council of Elders, usually for terms of five or ten years.
In the early days of the Realm, Azure was ruled by a man named Hopkin, although he only ever claimed the title of Steward and stepped down as Azure’s Regent on Alison’s accession to the throne, to stand thereafter as Her Majesty’s Chancellor.
From historical record, Hopkin is one of the oldest denizens of Azure, although in appearance he has remained virtually unchanged since he stood as Regent for the Realm before the Queen acceded to the throne. He is known to be a Talented mage, specialising in natural and defensive magics, as well as being a competent general – the latter ability having been called upon thankfully little in Azure’s history. He has a close relationship with Her Majesty, although it is definitely paternal in nature, rather than physical.