The Lady at the Crossroads

The earliest known mention of the statue known as the Lady at the Crossroads occurred just over 500 years ago, as the earliest settlers started building on the slope that would eventually become Fellport. The short-haired elven woman has a timeless quality to her, beautiful and patiently fierce, equal parts welcoming and warding, immaculately rendered in impeccably polished granite. The clarity of her sculpted details hasn't diminished in 500 years, and the statue seems to resist graffiti as well as the ravages of weather and time.

The Lady radiates abjuration magic, which doesn't seem to mesh with the popular theory about her being a petrified once-living elven woman. Elves with their long memories recognize neither her face nor her clothing, or maybe they simply refuse to admit who she was out of shame or fear. She resists being moved, so engineers built the Council House and Council Plaza around her. She stands at the edge of the level in the middle of the city, looking out over the harbor, eternally in peril of taking a step forward and plummeting three stories down into Diplomat's Row. Workers erected a sturdy walkway with a stout metal railing in front of her to prevent visitors from accidentally toppling over the edge while trying to look at her from all sides.

Her expression seems carefully neutral, with people interpreting it as stern, rested, welcoming, hopeful, content, excited, or watchful. Her left arm bends at the elbow, lifting her hand to chest height, her palm raised as if in greeting or preparation to push away an intruder. Her right hand remains down by her thigh, hand cupped as if she once held something, or maybe in preparation for casting a spell. She wears a simple short-sleeved knee-length tunic, unadorned with any symbols of office or rank. Her right foot leads her left slightly, as if she slowly walked to her current location in her leather-strapped sandals. Every detail feels carefully generic, encouraging interpretation in any number of ways. Disciples of art learn volumes about the observer from their assumptions when describing the Lady.

Many visitors leave the Lady offerings, either placed in her cupped right hand or draped over her raised left hand, usually to ask for favor or to make a wish. A whole hierarchy of "traditional" meanings have accrued over the years, describing the wisher's intent based on the gift and its placement. These offerings usually disappear by the next morning, but what happens to them? Are they consumed by the Lady, taken by other visitors, or claimed by the Binfolk?

Some visitors swear that they saw her move, or that she slightly changed her position or expression overnight. No conclusive evidence exists of her moving. She seems to weigh several times more than she should, which makes her nearly impossible to move. One Ionian governor tried to move the Lady to make room for a raised garden bed early on in the city's history. They found him the next day at the harbor side, riddled with broken bones as if he had fallen from Topside and bounced off every level of the city along the way. Nobody tried to move her after that.

Many come to see the Lady at the Crossroads throughout their lives, providing stability through tumultuous political times. She fills the role of a muse in Fellport, inspiring art, poetry, and song over the past few hundred years. She captivates and frustrates scholars who want to figure out why she exists and how she endures. Some speculate that she gave up godhood to remain on Beneterra, or that she neglected to read the fine print on the wish she cast to obtain immortality. She remains an enigma of inspiration, staring across the harbor, eternal and unageing.

Designer's Note: I currently have very little idea about the Lady's true story or purpose. She might come into play later on as some sort of guardian device or petrified guard, but she might just be an incredible statue by a forgotten master, magically protected by nobles with more money than sense. In the meanwhile, we have a piece of art that has captured generations of residents, inspiring even more art and bringing a sense of hope and calm to the people. Do we really need an excuse to bring more beauty into the world?

Part of T.W.Wombat's Lore 24 project, detailing the world around Fellport.
For all city posts, see the Fellport Index. For posts about the wider world, see the Beneterra Index.

No comments:

Post a Comment