The Isle of Graces

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Title: The Isle of Graces
Author: Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l

Drafted in collaboration with Ceyrin while convalescing during 5118. First published on the 14th day of Koaratos in the year 5119.

Isle of Graces, painted by Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l

Introduction

Rising hundreds of feet above a solitary rocky isle in the Great Western Sea is a little-known settlement. Built up over two centuries (from 4842 ME to the present day), the Isle of Graces is a testament to the ingenuity of men and elves, inspired by the Arkati.

Though the island itself is no larger than the town of Wehnimer's Landing, the bulk of the landmass is a small craggy peak atop which sits the Abbey of the Graces, supported by a small village upon the southern shore. In times past, the abbey was used as a refuge for those who sought to escape the trappings of life on Elanith proper, and free themselves from the politics of city-states, empires, and kingdoms.

Those seeking enlightenment would venture here to spend decades training themselves to let go of all things material and open their minds to the possibility of harmonious existence. Today, the abbey is as much a spa and resort as it is a religious order, giving up strict adherence of faith to gain a modest amount of support income in more recent times. It has become an important pilgrimage destination, such is the difficulty of the journey to reach it; it is a test of penitence, sacrifice, and commitment.

- Geographica Elanthia

History

The story of the Isle of Graces starts around the time of the Third Elven War when it was allegedly conceived in a series of dreams.

A merchant vessel had been shipwrecked on the isle following a violent storm at sea and the surviving crew had settled on the shoreline to await rescue. It was 4845 ME and Ronan appeared to them in a dream, instructing them to build an oratory atop the island. The vision of Zelia's descent into madness tormented their sleep. At first, they ignored the dream until Ronan cast the isle in darkness. The eclipse lasted for three days and three nights.

During that time, they were subjected to visions of other Arkati. On the first night, Charl and Niima ravaged the isle with storms: the rains fell and the waves battered the shore. On the second night, Phoen cleared the skies and replaced the thunderous clouds with dazzling sunshine. Hand-in-hand with Oleani, he walked the wooded pathways to the top of the isle and beckoned those in slumber to join them. On the third and final night, Imaera, Kuon and Aeia danced on the craggy promontory scattering seeds in their wake.

It was only when Ronan revisited them on the fourth night and lifted the darkness, that they realised he wished them to build a place for those in need to come for sanctuary and recuperation.

Architecture

A quiet and secluded location, the main point of interest is the abbey dedicated to the teachings of Imaera, Phoen, Ronan, Kuon, Oleani, Aeia, Niima, and Charl - collectively known as the Graces, for the gifts they grace the land of Elanith with.

The Isle soars 500 feet towards the heavens and is a throw-back to the structural hierarchy of the Turamzzyrian Empire's feudalistic society. On top, there are the Arkati, then the Abbey of the Graces with its associated monastery and convent. Below this, the Great Hall, then stores and Guild members’ housing and, at the bottom, tucked behind the sea walls, the modest dwellings of the fishermen and farmers.

Wending its way from the tiny harbor, through the wooded gardens and up towards the abbey, is an elaborately carved stone stairway. Each step is adorned with a different arrangement of flora and a fauna that can be supported in this climate. At the pinnacle of the climb is a massive teak door that is painstakingly carved with religious symbology depicting the eight Graces and punctuated with polished brass rings on either side.

When it comes to discussing the Isle among its residents and visitors, it is essentially split into two sections: Isle Above and Isle Below.

The Isle Above comprises the complex of buildings and walkways used by members of the Order of the Graces under the governance of the Abbess. It provides a place for religious activities, the learning and practice of the healing arts, and the housing of the monks and nuns.

The stonemasons who made the Isle their home have added to the abbey over the centuries. Of particular note is the transept crossing at the very top of the mount. Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to compensate for this weight, forming the foundation for the supportive upward structure that is now visible for miles on a clear day at sea.

Linking the monastery and convent to the abbey proper is the cloister, a place to meditate, with the fragrance of herbs, flowers, and the sea filling the air. The formal gardens within are home to all manner of birds and insects, adding to the sense of tranquility that pervades the whole area.

Everything beyond the high abbey walls is referred to as the Isle Below. Nestled in their shadow - along the main thoroughfare called Ronan’s Wey - are the residences of the Mercantylers Guild members leading to their Great Hall where they gather for formal meetings or celebrations. The main part of the building consists of the Assembly Room, the Banqueting Hall and a vaulted undercroft, which provides access to the abbey’s Low Chapel built for the use of the ill and the poor when they first arrive on the Isle.

More to follow.