Tuesday, 22 April 2014

R is for Rijker's Isle

If you're lucky enough to come via ship off the Sea of Claws and find yourself in safe port at Marienburg, the very first bit of dry land that you will see will both enliven you to the prospect of ground that doesn't move, as well as depress you with the knowledge of what to-good a night could lead to. For, the very first thing you will see, what has been dubbed "Marienburg's Black-Eye", is Rijker's Isle, grand fortress prison of Marienburg.

Originally built by the Endals, on top of the Elven ruins, when they settled the mouth of the river delta, it was used for centuries as the seat of power in the city. The Barons held Rijker's Isle as both the largest and most forbidden sign of rulership, as well as the safest place in the event of invasion. Indeed, throughout the entire history of Marienburg, whilst the city has been sacked countless times, the Isle has never been so much as breached.

It's not surprising, really. Almost every inch of the island is surrounded by tall, thick granite walls with crenelations on either side, and even steeper towers at regular intervals. This outer wall is known as Van Zandt's Wall, after the gentleman-architect who refurbished them some 700 years ago. This wall completely surrounds the entire complex and is broken in only two spots - in the northern crook of the island known as The Castle (or de Kasteel), and in the southern facing where the Hopeful Tower stands watch over the solitary dock.

De Kasteel houses the hereditary governors of Rijker's, the Bretonnian de Beq family. This eccentric family where given the governorship 100 years ago when the Barons of Marienburg were ousted from the city, and the Directorate took control. They were chosen for two reasons - firstly, they could never return home as they were noble exiles from Bretonnia, and secondly, they were exiled for refusing to break their liege-lord's oath of secrecy to the King. Tight lipped with nowhere to go; perfect for Marienburg.

The Hopeful Tower, known as the Morrsgate by the inmates, is defended by a stout portcullis and a brace of cannons, each trained at the various approaches, ready to obliterate anything that could come within eye-shot of the tower. It is through here that all inmates, guards and outsiders must enter to gain admittance, and it is the top of the Hopeful Tower which is shown to prisoners who are in for execution or life. It is the last glimpse of a free world that they will ever see.

Inside the first curtain wall is a veritable microcosm village where blacksmiths, armourers, workshops, breweries and granaries are housed that feed and enable Rijker's Isle to be self sufficient. Here, trusted prisoners are set to work making tools and reed baskets for sale in the city proper. Here also the guards are given their free time, drinking and dozing between shifts. A joint chapel of Myrmiddia and Verena serves religious observances, and black iron gates lead into the inner ring.

Inside the inner, steeper curtain wall is the exact opposite - walk ways are kept Spartan, and guards nor prisoners are free to loiter. Here, hundreds of thousands of cells are divided by smaller causeways and walls which divide the prisoners, preventing communication between division and the spread of riots. Along the walls, guards can keep watch on multiple yards and rings of cells at once, almost as if it were a zoo. And at the northern end of the inner partition hang the gallows and Great Bell which chimes thirteen times whenever a prisoner is hung from the ropes.

Then, below the feet of these unfortunate cells, in the darkness of the island interior are the Crypts. Row upon row of silenced cells are kept with only numbers to differentiate them. Here sits the true, darker purpose for Rijker's Isle. Whilst the upper levels house the worse criminals Marienburg has to offer - murderers, crime lords, and sexual offenders - the lower levels 'house' those people who the Directorate want to vanish. No record is kept of who is in which chamber, and the doors are kept bolted tight. The only light that is given to the wretches kept here is a single candle ration a week. Food is fed through a chute in the floor, and waste is taken from a chute at the opposite end. The only person who remembers the names of each inmate is Ludwig de Beq, current Lord of Rijker's Isle.

Among these inmates are political prisoners, foreign dignitaries who learned to much, brothers, sisters, heirs, wives and everyone else who could disappoint or be guilty of knowing one of the Directorate in a way which could compromise them. Here are housed the people who could, at a word, undermine the truth of Marienburg.