Crusaders' Arches of Andaen, The
“You know, Layirah,” Haiman said, entirely unprompted. “I’ve never understood why we have to keep planning around those strange arches whenever we start vetting proposals for renovations over there.” Layirah rolled her eyes as she set down a stack of papers. She clearly had a lot of work to catch up on as it was. “The ones in the Gardens and Galleries District?” “Yeah! You know the ones.” Of course she did. Everyone who had ever heard of Andaen knew the ones. “Space is so limited around the Gardens and Galleries as it is. I don’t see why we can’t have those things knocked down and replaced with a better attraction. Or more real estate. New offices, maybe? Are they really just there to be gawked at by visitors?” “No, they’re just… there.” Layirah had quietly hoped her simple, dismissive response earlier would have shut down further conversation with her busybody coworker. Naturally, the attempt was futile. “Just there? Every feature of the city ought to have a function, right? Is giving those street vendors a place to hawk their wares really sufficient justification? There isn’t a better reason for the things taking up all that space?” Haiman sounded mildly exasperated, though not really enough to warrant interrupting his coworker. “The arches don’t have a reason for being there. They just are.” Haiman squinted with his mouth slightly agape, like a young student trying to puzzle their way through a particularly devious math problem. “Now how can that be? Whenever any plans for renovations are tabled—” “You know what, Haiman?” Layirah cut in. “If you’re so curious about those arches, why don’t you run down to the archives and fetch me a copy of that treatise like I asked you this morning?” Layirah was starting to ponder whether her post-lunch coffee, the second of the day, would suffice to help her bear through another slow yet busy day of bureaucratic labor. “The treatise? Yes, of course, the one you mentioned…” Layirah exhaled sharply. “The First Armistice, in case you’ve already forgotten.” Haiman looked more bemused than anything else. “The Armistice? Really? Those old arches are a treaty item?” “It’s a brief, obscure clause about those arches in the treaty. But yes. You would have noticed if you had read the document in its entirety.” “Oh, yes, of course,” Haiman mumbled, aware that admitting to shallow familiarity with the First Treatise was a fairly embarrassing slip-up for a bureaucrat who had supposedly passed his Civil Service Exam.Despite likely being the most renowned city in across all of Tahuum-Itaqiin, Andaen still houses a number of secrets which remain outside the scope of public knowledge and even elude the inquiries of dedicated scholars. Curiously, one of the city’s secrets is one which hides in plain sight: Amidst the galleries and gardens surrounding Armistice Square, the five immense, free-standing Crusaders’ Arches tower over passers-by. They have stood there since long before the historic Assault on Andaen took place; they stand to this day, albeit now in a dilapidated state, a dramatic testament to the scale of the internecine conflict and mass devastation that are now a mere historical footnote to the residents of this secure and thriving city. The Arches are thought to have been erected during the initial construction of the Crusader Citadel of Andaen. Their remains stand up to 16 meters in height, casting long shadows over their surroundings, even over the few Crusader administrative buildings and fortifications which have endured through the city’s history. Each arch is crowned with a depiction of an eight-rayed sun, previously plated with gold leaf. Their most conspicuous features, however, are their heavily defaced legs, which upon close inspection still bear vague impressions of what could have been murals wrapping their way around each column. Whether the Arches had any function beyond ceremonial use is unclear and a matter of fevered speculation and legends. The Arches are certainly too tall and far apart to have been structural supports for a monument from a past era, though a popular folk tale among the masses is that the Arches were once components of a village-sized Crusader cathedral, which presumably would have been the largest human-built structure in the world. More level-headed scholars of lore and history prefer the explanation that they are triumphal arches, built after the land on which Andaen was founded was seized from Haifatnehti natives; the former murals, then, likely depicted scenes of the Crusaders’ victories in battle. Still, this hardly explains why exactly five of these arches were built, nor the significance of their individual locations within the Gardens and Galleries District. What troubles historians further is that the answers to their questions could have been found carved into the Arches themselves, were it not for their defacement, which is evidently far too thorough to be the work of mere vandals or miscreants. Urban legend has it that, in addition to the murals once adorning the Arches, a great many lines of a runic script were chiseled into them; even if this was the case, not a single trace of anything resembling recorded language remains on them today. A greater mystery still lies in the relationship between the Shadrusun, co-constructors of the new City of Andaen, and the Arches. Given that the Shadrusun were mortal enemies of the Crusaders, having resisted their invasion of the Continent during both bookends of the Internecine Era, it is hardly surprising that they would want to eradicate all traces of their hated enemies in the city. Despite this, the Arches still stand, even though nearly all other Crusader constructions there were either razed during the Assault on the Crusader Citadel of Andaen, or else torn down or renovated during the course of urban planning projects. The Arches appear to serve no practical function whatsoever, and indeed their size and heftiness are something of an impediment to new construction in the city. Why they have been allowed to stand for all these years therefore remains a mystery—or perhaps a weighty secret closely guarded by the Shadrusun, the only ones who still remember what transpired during the Assault on Andaen more than four centuries ago.- An account of a conversation between two bureaucrats of the Andaen city government’s Bureau of Urban Planning, likely recorded by another bureaucrat in the same office during an unscheduled break. Date unknown.
-----Special thanks to Twitch user Hammerknife for editorial feedback.