Titianmar had always been strange.
Even before the ulk brought luck to Titianmar, this corner of the Shakara Empire (or what would be Shakara, or what had been Shakara, or what would never be Shakara but become something else entirely) held a peculiarity.
Some believed it due to the Alta Sea’s oily glaze of mohrē. Every tide washed the viscous substance through the Titian delta. At low water, silver beads that rolled in your palm dotted the sour-smelling mud flats.
Others said Titianmar’s oddity came from generations of cousinly promiscuity, and brother and sister being uncomfortably close. Even before the luck, the delta-dwellers had kept to themselves.
The River Sigh bisected the mar like a curved spine, with the Ulkin Cathedral pinning the western end. Its pink and black spires twisted up like the gods’ own taffy. One of the three had broken, the rupture forever raw and brutal. Birds nested within. During the equatorial twilights, they rose from the shattered spire like smoke to pursue the gnats that were their prey.
At the eastern boundary squatted the Bone Palace. Its arches and campaniles, its clerestories and buttresses, were made from the bones of giant creatures trapped, drowned, preserved, and then revealed by the Sigh’s changing course. The mysterious bones were part of the mar’s substance. Some said that made it strange.
Water patched Titianmar into islands linked by bridges and boats. On these bits of land, the Great Houses, like fortresses, took up entire blocks. Lesser Houses occupied mud and bone buildings different from their neighbors only by the designs stenciled on their walls. Neighborhoods jostled to keep a foothold on the limited earth as tide and storm nibbled crumbs away.
Famous for its luck, Titianmar blossomed. Luck could keep you safe — in a limited way. It couldn’t halt the winter sea gales with their drowning tides that blew in from the open ocean where mohrē ran thick as glue and the dead put on new bodies.
It couldn’t protect Titianmar from the Violet Desert’s demon-driven winds that stung the mar with sand like a million, million bees, painting the city in dusty shades of lavender and lilac.
It couldn’t change the fall of empires, or the rise of new ones, or the cupidity of people who looked on Titianmar’s luck and wealth and splendor and thought: I want that.
In Titianmar, it was better to be lucky than good, but it is the nature of luck to change.
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