Solo Cloud Castles

Branimir builds houses without bricks.

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Built into the cliffs overlooking the Suvan Sea, Riverfall resides on the edge of grasslands of Cyphrus where the Bluevein River plunges off the plain and cascades down to the inland sea below. Home of the Akalak, Riverfall is a self-supporting city populated by devoted warriors. [Riverfall Codex]

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Cloud Castles

Postby Branimir on August 27th, 2015, 2:53 pm

Summer 83rd, 515 AV

There was power in ritual. Branimir understood that without knowing it. Had he known, his mind would have prodded and probed at his understanding of the topic until it had been robbed of its charms. But ignorant of the simple fact as he was, he was fully equipped to enjoy his pipe among the greenery and the brighter hues of Lapis Park. He'd taken a ridiculously tiny amount of Sywart from the pouch in his lap and gently nudged it in place at the bottom of the pipe bowl. You treat the first pinch gently, as if it was a child, Branimir recalled his father saying.

The second, bigger pinch, he carefully and methodically flattened with his finger, firm but caring, as if it was a woman. He had always wondered at that expression, in various ways he never had the stomach to think through to their prospective ends. Finally, Branimir took a third, equally big helping of pipeweed and pressed it flat near the top of the bowl. Now, the last pinch you handle as if it was a man. A rival if you will. As firm and forceful as is necessary. Though force was hardly a physical thing to the young man, he'd clearly understood what his father had meant. Ritual thus commenced, Branimir went in search of a lantern to light a splint off of.

Lighting the tobacco in the bowl and gently sucking in the smoke were as much part of the ritual as the furrowed brow as he wondered if the level of resistance was acceptable. But that he'd only know once he'd seen whether the topmost layer of pipeweed turned into an ashen cover under which the rest of the weed would slowly char away... or not. The only way to find out was to keep suckling on the stem and gently compress the ash building up on top of the pipeweed. Pipes were not made for impatient people. Whichever God had sparked their Invention was possessed of both good sense and Humor as well. Certainly, there were weeds and herbs said to induce one state or another. But the truly relaxing thing about that pipe was the ritual of preparing and Smoking it.

Because there was power in ritual. It was something that Branimir knew without understanding it on a conscious level. All he knew was that he desired it. Here, in Lapis park, sat on a bench between lawns and exhibits about to be lit up with the colors of sunset, or what they made of them. Other than the pipe, the young man had come equipped with an almost blank book and the charcoal pen that so often left his gloves dusty as if with ash, or his fingers stained pewter. Branimir had come here to draw, in quiet and seclusion. But Branimir drew nothing that could be seen in Lapis Park. The Images would come from his head.

Even in his first days, the boy who would be an architect had noticed how around Riverfall, form seldomly seemed to follow function. If Akalak built all this they were certainly artists as well as warriors, but architecture was more than art bereft of function. Indeed, Branimir thought, it was the one discipline that strove to create a perfect marriage of artfulness and usefulness. Form and function elevated to the highest degree. Akalaks, it seemed to him, tended to fall to extremes rather than seek balance. Big foreboding edifices for defense mixed with painfully detailed artworks rising from the ground, and in between they squeezed as much green as they could afford to.

If, the Boy had reasoned on one of his very first outings, if they could look at their city with his eyes they would cringe at this imbalance. But those architect's eyes had also very quickly gleaned how all of this could be blended. His architect's brain had quickly given birth to a very simple but effective housing style that would be perfect for this city. Or maybe that was born of his longing for the vanished Eypharian cities of old. Branimir did not enjoy this line of thinking, but when he examined his Imagination, the buildings he dreamt up bore some resemblance to the boxy Eypharian structures with their ornately detailed patios and entrances.

The only way to confirm or deny such suspicions however was to put them to paper. Sketching or drawing things served Branimir well before in turning an abstract into a real thing. Maybe it would again. And that was why he had come here tonight.

Drawing on his pipe, Branimir placed the book in his lap as his mind sought out his thoughts on those Riverfall Houses he would build. Had to build, now that he had thought of them, if he was honest. It was hard if not impossible for the young man to leave things in the inferior state he found them in if he could help it at all. Moreso if he made them real.
Last edited by Branimir on September 5th, 2015, 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Cloud Castles

Postby Branimir on September 5th, 2015, 12:29 pm

Perspective had probably been the most important discovery -or rather rediscovery in this post-Valterrian age- to architects around the world. Not to mention all sorts of other artists. Once upon a time, so Branimir had been taught, people did not understood proper rendering of perspective. He'd even been shown crude sketches for buildings. They showed each wall as a separate entity, or buildings awkwardly unfolded like childrens' puppet houses. Luckily for him, the young man understood the use of perspective and thus was able to give form to his ideas in the common style that gave it a semblance of tangibility. The building as seen from a slightly elevated position and at an angle was a staple of technical drawings of all stripes, and in this at least, Branimir erred on the conservative side of things.

The base of the building, Branimir laid out as a large, blocky thing. Fit for two floors of habitation or a large hall in public buildings. Its foundations were massive, giving the plastered walls framed by reinforced Corners a sloping quality. Not gentle enough to scale, especially with the lack of Windows or other ornaments at street level, this yielded sturdy walls able to carry as many additional stories as needed. It also turned the ground floors of these houses into veritable fortresses fit for a race of warriors. At the top of each floor on that Level, there would be small angled slits to allow air to circulate. They would however not catch light or risk catching rain as well. Maybe, Branimir considered, they would ultimately be hidden beneath ornaments. Or plants dangling down from above.

After all, the central idea of his concept was to indent the next level of this house at least a foot from the top of the base one. The space in between would be shaped like a trough and filled with soil to allow for a ring of plants around the house like a wreath sat on a maiden's head. Poison ivy or tall grasses for those mostly concerned with privacy, colorful flowers for those seeking beauty. Sketching those in only very lightly, Branimir made a mental note to Research local plants as they pertained to his uses. The closer a thing was to being alive, the less interest it seemed to generate in Branimir. Plants being very close to being alive, he knew very little about them, he found. He knew some edible things by Name, but truth be told he would not be able to identify the plants they sprang from, much less know if they were fit to be planted in two feet of soil, two stories up. But it was something a trip to the library could alleviate.

Lightly scrawling a note below the technical details of the growing building on his page, Branimir moved on to finish two talls floors or upper level, then moved on to raising a crown of cenellations on top of it with his pen. In the rear corner rose a small tower instead, where the stairs exited from the house proper. That tower itself terminated in faux battlements with the ghost of a banner flown from them, but more relevant to Branimir's intentions was the rooftop garden laid out around the tower. That would require another foot or two of soil, Branimir realized and frowned and froze in his faint rendition of foliage. He'd forgotten to calculate this as he expanded his building.

While the drawing did transmit his idea it did not mirror factual reality or possibility. Annoyed, he painstakingly added a note at the intersection of roof and top floor, reminding himself of his mistake. Needfully sucking on his pipe, Branimir found that it was cold. He'd have made a face if that had brought him any relief. Instead, he paused to reorganize his thoughts.
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Cloud Castles

Postby Branimir on September 7th, 2015, 3:40 pm

The young man could abide the mistakes of others. They were, after all, only human. Technically, so was he, but he was also aware of the differences between the terms technically and actually and at the very least, he held himself to a higher standard. In a way, he was angry at himself. It was such a way that nobody would ever know that, however. Certainly, he could have dashed his pipe against a large piece of colored rock on exhibition and torn out the page and crumpled it and cast it to the wind. But none of this would undo his mistake. The only way out, Branimir knew, was ahead. Not leaving behind the error he'd made when he'd elevated proportion over reality (though he wouldn't have been the first architect to do so) but rather focussing on undoing it in his next attempt.

Getting the pipe lit again had cost him enough time, so he quite literally forced himself to calm down and take up his seat again, the book in his lap as he smoothed the next page with a restrained hand. His teeth produced an ugly sound no-one but him heard when he considered his mistake in light of a saying one of hils old Zeltivan tutors had been fond of: A mistake is only a wasted effort if you learn nothing from it.

If he had the old man in front of him right now, Branimir would have been tempted to rip his tongue out. Not that he would have sullied himself so, but the words were anathema to how the young man thought. He should be able to foresee any possible mistake that could be made, consider these possibilites and circumvent them. He hadn't. There was nothing to be learned here other than that Branimir had been sloppy.

On that next page then, he'd take another step at capturing the true image of the thing that grew and matured in his head. And maybe, now that he'd seen most of the building properly rendered in charcoal, he could improve on it. The architect began by rendering the walls of the base straight. There was still support on the corners, and he added a few flat ornaments to the front that appeared as if they were artful pilasters but were actually intended as support for the structure of the walls. In his mind at least, they were artful. On the page, there was at best a hint of them as he lightly touched upon long lines along the plinths and ornate capitals made of squiggles. Also in his mind, the reasoning behind the change was that the townhouses would likely be grouped together and thus support each other at any rate.

This would, however, also lessen the space he could devote to air intake. Adding a foot high frieze to the front of the building, jutting out in the form of a cornice if this were a roof, he decided to hide larger vents below these. A building wedged in in this way would however also have no need for plants on its sides, or need more space to guarantee distance with its neighbors. Branimir opted for the former consideration. It wouldn't do if people could shake hands from out of their windows, through a little garden. Instead, the young man pencilled a balcony into an extended planting area at the front. It would allow people to have another space that was both airy and green yet protected from view if they so chose.

If these houses actually did stand in rows, every other house could even be given the same balcony in the back instead of the front, creating an additional buffer towards neighbors. Crowning his drawing with the feintest hints of the roof garden, Branimir added high walls broken by slender windows to deepen that feeling of privacy while also not forgetting to add height for those areas which required soil. Four stories high, the end result was very close to what Branimir had envisioned in his mind, he felt. Four stories, two given to being a forceful representation of the house's inhabitants, and two given to their comfort.

Tenderly suckling on his pipe, Branimir couldn't help feeling a sense of accomplishment. Chewing the smoke in his mouth and eventually letting it drool from the corner of his mouth, he allowed himself to recline for a brief moment and actually relax and drink in the world around him.
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Cloud Castles

Postby Branimir on September 10th, 2015, 5:20 pm

Turning the page as he kept drawing smoke into his mouth in controlled drags, pausing himself as he did so as to not get the pipe too hot, Branimir sought to give substance to his considerations on the inside of those houses. The ground floor would be dedicated to business or the reception of guests, while the next floor would contain the kitchen and common rooms, he'd decided. While a second floor kitchen would require some infrastructure to be installed in the building, Riverfall did not strike the young man as a place of backyards, so having a kitchen in the rear as elsewhere was not really something he considered for living quarters.

And certainly, the knowlegde of pumps or Artesian faucets fed by a cistern was known to the blue warriors. Their city functioned after all, if barely so in his estimation. Dealing with refuse and runoff was however another issue. Before he sketched a single line, Branimir lightly spelled the word 'cloaca' near the top of the new page. Foregoing the cutaway image of the Riverfall House he intended the page to hold, he then turned the charcoal pen to the view of a street leading off into the distance, flanked by the silhouettes of facades. In the center of that street, a line of dark squares sprang up under Branimir's pen. He left enough paper to hint at a pattern.

A pattern he then laid out in a separate drawing closer down the page. It was a cast iron grate, as Branimir clarified in a spidery annotation, and at its center was a stylized eddy that flew out in many arms which eventually connected to the solid frame. To clarify the idea further, he extended the top picture to show the tiled ditch below the street, with the mouths of individual drains emptying into it. The tiles would be dark so as to hide what ran over them, though the grates would allow some amount of light into it. There would also be smells, but if the cloaca could be fed with enough water so as to have its contents run off, things would be acceptable, especially to Akalak noses. If they could smell anything over all the sweat and leather that clung to them at any rate.

Turning the book just so, Branimir added another consideration in writing. "Scented drapes?" was all he put down. Then he struck a line through the words. Impractical, unnecessarily complicated and if anyone desired nicer smells in their homes they could plant sage or lavender in front of their windows at any rate. He'd given them ample opportunity to do so, had he not? And the water to facilitate all of this would come from cisterns which would in turn be filled by windmills, wind being one thing the coastal rock could always count on, and Branimir had already worked up plans for those. Well, plans that would require a trained engineer to weigh in on the details, but he felt very confident about the sheer feasibility of his considerations.

Nevertheless, he moved on to the next page and laid it out in design sketches, just to be on the safe side of matters: A slender windmill turning a screw inside a pipe which would lift water from a well to the top of that cistern. The cistern itself followed, crowned with what Branimir imagined to be an animal's maw open to the sky for he planned on adding rainwater to what the well would produce. Unfortunately, a beast's head was nothing like straight lines or regular patterns. It ended up looking like a split bush atop a cylinder, but the young man was an architect, not an artist. He took it in stride and moved to lay out the water pipes running off the cistern to the various houses.

Pausing his drawing, Branimir had to consider what material he could run the water through. Clay would stop water, as would bedrock or maybe tarred or just blackened wood. Tiling all those pipes on the other hand, while most effective, did not seem feasible. Either way, the pipes would likely have to be created first, along with the cloaca and runoffs. Or, the pipes could be elevated and slanted. The empires of old supposedly transported water across vast distances with huge edifices which did nothing but bear water to out of the way bastions. But that was simply a theory drawn from fragments of old books. There was no evidence surviving that any of these water roads had ever been built that Branimir knew of.

Needfully, Branimir took another puff from his pipe as he considered the most sensible way of creating a way to transport water without loss. His father, the shipwright would know, wouldn't he? Clutching the pipe between his teeth, the architect went to remove his glove. The left one, the one covering the Lykata mark.
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Cloud Castles

Postby Branimir on September 14th, 2015, 11:55 pm

Branimir had always held that a gift from a Goddess should not be used frivolously. A gift from any God for that matter should not be used frivolously. But at the end of the day, really, the only gift that mattered and how it was used was the one he bore. Let others deal with their blessings in their own way and reap the consequences. The young man wore gloves so as to control when he indulged in the sensations that he drew from objects in the world around him. Maybe one day that would change. He doubted it. Branimir enjoyed being in control. And if he could not control his own urges, how would he ever control anything else out there?

But right now that was not an issue. His left hand cradled the pipe as he kept lightly drawing in the smoke. At base, a shipwright was a highly specialized carpenter and thus working wood in ways that had nothing to do with building ships had always come easy to his father. Furniture, the journeyman's staff that rested in Branimir's room and of course, this pipe. The cerebreal young man and his hands-on father had had little enough in common, but since he'd been a boy, the architect had been drawn to his father's pipe. And when he'd come of age, his father had made him one just like his, whittled from the root of some local bush Branimir never caught the name of.

The Lykata mark made the pipe betray the care that had been put in fashioning the squat bowl and stubby, curved stem. The dark red stain sang of pride under Branimir's touch. The pride of a father, he hoped, who knew that his son would make his way in the world. And that while they had little in common, they were still just that: Father and son. Leaning back his head and watching the clouds above as they slowly turned pink in the setting sun, the architect wondered how he felt closer to his father now, from afar, through this thing in his hand. They never had had a common language to them, but through this thing he made, Branimir understood, he could know his father. This dead thing was alive in his hands, as much as the man himself.

He took a final drag from the pipe, then lowered it with a contented sigh while his eyes still traced the clouds in their shifting hues. In their shapes, he sought buildings; houses and towers, palaces and sheds. But all he could find were ships and boats. For a moment, he lingered on the image and a smile passed across his lips like the shadow of a cloud above. Then, lowering the pipe to his lap instead to let it cool off, he picked up the book and pen once more. His mind and heart were at ease right now, rested. He felt ready to continue his endeavors.

Turning the page, Branimir sketched out a cross at an angle, to suggest that he'd lay out his houses so none directly faced the bay below. One thing the old masters had been adamant on with regards to seaside settlements was to avoid the reflection of Syna's glare off the water. Angling the houses so that none directly pointed towards the waterfall and the Suvan Sea seemed like an effective way to prevent that. No window would be directly exposed to Syna's summerly excesses. Branimir knew, too, that there were recommendations for a street layout a bit more exact than that to prevent certain winds from finding an easy thoroughfare in city streets. But he reasoned that exposed as the city was, wind would always be a given, and he could not move the city to another coast.

So Riverfall would -should- be made up of oblong diamonds containing residential areas and essential shops. The spaces left free by the diamonds would be covered by parks and public buildings and temples. More specialized industries might best be grouped in thematic quarters. It would make sense to put a smithy near a barracks, and a soapmaker next to a bathhouse and so on after all. Assuming people were reasonable. At this point, Branimir's drawing had quickly turned into writing around the oblong diamond of streets he imagined. A street plan intended to give a vague idea of layout was ill-equipped to describe the detailed considerations that went through his mind.

Looking over the list, Branimir quickly realized that the city needed one more thing. The most important of them all: A heart. A city center that tied together all its individual parts. Maybe a large building, maybe an open place. The architect needed some central nexus, a nadir for the spokes he was laying out, he thought. He thought that and wondered at the carpentry analogy. Once more, his hand sought out the cooling pipe.
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