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Lore piece #1: A letter exchanged by two siblings, citizens of the world of Ars Ignis.

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My dearest brother,

I cannot begin to describe my delight at finding your letter in our convened spot during one of my weekly walks through the small stalagmite park just outside the city walls. As it often is the case, the guards have rebuked me for venturing out so late, but I think they know by now I`m every bit the incorrigible lady.

I have read your letter to mother and our hearts were filled with sorrow and horror at learning of the dangerous conditions under which you lead your life. I beseech you to stay as far away as you possibly can from those rivers of fire. In the hopes of our being reunited once again sometimes in the future, me and mother would be heartbroken to see bruises, burns and scars where the smile of the man we so love used to be.

But I`ll try and avoid filling these pages with our worries, as I`m sure you know full well our sentiments towards you. You were eager to learn more about the changes taking place in the city, so I`ll try to give an overriding account of them as well as I can.

I trust you remember the Speaker`s Corner near Azuni fountain, in the Market Square and how in the years just before your departure it had changed into something quite different.

It used to be – just after the fall of the monarchy, and before this wretched clique of New money took the reins of power firmly into its claws – that every other day of the week someone would hop atop the little mound of earth and start rambling on about the usual issues: the decay of society, lack of strong leadership that would bring back the glory of our once great empire... all that palaver. Pretty harmless stuff, if you ask me. And it was all improvised and amateurish. People just shouted out their grievances. But then, as you know, a few men and women found there is money to be made from this, were it to be done properly. With the change in the quality of the discourse (well, of its style, at least) came a change in the décor. No longer satisfied with placing themselves just a few inches above us other mortals, they started gradually introducing all these different accoutrements. Props of all sorts, theatricals and higher pedestals to stand upon and spread their voices to the masses. It was at this point that their actions began to affect the very look of the city.

You remember the little open theater we so used to enjoy in our infancy? Even when there was no play showing, we would spend hours chasing each other up and down the stairs, imagining we were brocade-clad royalists, fighting off austere, long-faced republicans. Well, that place you wouldn’t recognize anymore. It has been refurbished to sate the vanity of some high-flying golden boy. Gone are the gracious set pieces that have served so many troupes’ performances. Even the stage has been torn down and replaced with a flight of stairs befitting a megalomaniac. The whole set-up is circular in shape and has been moved to the center of the theater, so that these attention-seeking harlots can literally be the focus of everyone’s attention.

And then, dead center, there’s this ridiculously high and ornate pillar (allegedly, the bas-reliefs are supposed to have some deep, allegorical meaning, although I suspect they’re more likely warning messages sent out to their rivals and those who would support them), which they use as a pedestal, rising high above the ground. My knowledge of acoustics is rather modest, but I’m quite sure that for these structures, it has very little to do with it.

And places such as this have sprung up all across the city. People must be going mad, because they’ve let them overtake even iconic locations within the city. There is now a sizeable segment of the populace whose daily routine is arranged around their favored orator’s performances. So, while a few are making a living out of talking (mostly nonsense), most of us have become full-time spectators. I really don’t know how the public manages to get so invested in these sycophants. They don’t just listen to them; they open their bags and spill their coin on donations. And for what? Each and every one of these orators’ success has been short-lived. A flash in the pan!

Just a few weeks ago, an insolent womanizer – who had done the bidding of the Kermil clan while in power – has fallen out of grace and taken to the shadows to avoid having his days ended by his rivals. But I should stop my account here, lest you are overwhelmed by my bile and sorrow. We’ve been through a lot, and having endured the annulment of our noble title, I’m sure we shall weather these storms as well.

I bid you farewell and hope this letter shall find you in good health.
Your caring sister

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