(an excerpt from "Stepping Stone – The Memoirs of Lady Ameno Uzume, published 4777)
How does a city comes into being? One is usually born to a place, believing that place has existed in that very state we know it in forever, and most of us believe without much consideration that it will remain so for eternity. A perfect painting of a city that has existed forever and will exist forevermore. Few of us will experience the making of a new place.
My place, when I came into being, was Minkai, and of course I believed Minkai had always existed in the way that I saw it at present. I did not question why the roads turned at the places they turned, nor why the herbalist was across the street from a fabrics dealer. I did not consider why a given avenue ran east to west, or if any planning had been made for it to be so. For me, it simply was, and I could conceive no other way it could ever be. My Grandfather laughed benevolently at my musings, for he had known Minkai before me, and knew that I, too, would notice how the city changed like a living creature as the years went by. But not even my Grandfather was old enough to tell me how the birth of Minkai had happened.
With Fumidai, it was a completely different experience. I see the city today, and the children who live in it, believing it has existed forever and it will continue to exist for all eternity, and I smile. Because I truly am old enough to remember its birth.
Foremostly there was the issue of claiming territory. For the best part of nearly four months we had been exploring – getting to know our land, what resources we could command and what people we managed to bring to our cause. Eventually, however, the time came to decide on where we would begin to expand and truly form a community. Summer was slowly coming to an end, and with the most famous bandit of the Greenbelt gone, we had narrowed our options down to three possibilities.
First, there was the place formerly known as Oleg's Trading Post. For the majority of our time in the Greenbelt, Oleg's Trading Post had become our second home, and the two lovely people who inhabited it, our dear friends. Oleg had originally moved his business here to – ironically enough – escape civilization. He was not overly happy when civilization traveled South in his wake. However, civilization also meant that his tiny business had inflated into very comfortable proportions. Still, Oleg's Trading Post was not to become the heart of the barony, as we felt this was still Oleg's home, and we wouldn't think of imposing upon him more than we already had. Later, it would become one of the largest trading towns in the Greenbelt in its own right. To this day, whenever I must travel there, I visit the historic fort from where the recovering of the Greenbelt truly began.
Our second option was the Temple of the Elk, but we hardly considered it a possibility for long. We had found and claimed the Temple at the bequest of Father Kavken, and on the day we escorted him there, my brother Ameno Takeshi made a promise: that the Temple belonged to the faith of Erastil, and that it would belong to the faith for as long as he ruled the land. I believe Takeshi would have been pleased that it is so to date: the Temple of the Elk is a place of worship, and while it is not as isolated as it originally was, it remains a place of worship. At least while there is one Ameno left in the Greenbelt.
Finally, the former headquarters occupied by the Stag Lord and his band. The fortress next to Tuskwater we christened Fort Ameno on the night of the Stag Lord's defeat. This, we unanimously felt, was the best place to start: central to our charted land, close to the water, and with great possibility for a network of roads or waterways. And this was where Fumidai was built.
Before anything was truly built however, some issues had to be addressed. We left Fort Ameno exactly as it was for another year at least – it would one day become Castle Ameno, but that was still a way's away. We enlisted Father Kavken's aid in purifying the land and driving away what undead forces remained in the terrain, and then we began hiring.
Fumidai began as a handful of tents for workers who came in from Brevoy to build the city from the ground up. A second group of these workers was traveling East from where we would start, extending a road towards River Crossing. Most of these workers had brought along their families, hoping to start a new life here. Some had come alone yet planning to bring relatives from Brevoy once they had a house for them to stay in. Some others came by themselves to start their life anew. There was plenty of land to farm, and some traders who had been choked by competition in Brevoy had a new chance to sell their goods.
I fondly recall the day when we first stood at the river's margin among a group of carpenters, smiths and stonemasons, wondering how we wanted Fumidai to be. After all, once the grounds were cleaned, all the decisions had to be made. How wide would the streets of Fumidai be? What schematic would be applied to the roads? Where did we think to build a shrine, or a shop? Before we began, I thought it would be something like a new bride decorating her house: deciding where the furniture would stand to make it look spacious yet cozy, or on which cupboard to keep the linens. But it was nothing like that. The scale was overwhelming. At one point, I recall, one of the workers suggested we take a mule and allow it to walk to the water, and build our main avenue on the path taken by the beast. My brother, Ameno Nagata, actually tried to do such a thing, yet the beast moved in circles for a solid quarter of an hour, laid down on the grass and yawned at him before he could convince it to walk to the water – and when it did, it took so many turns we were quite sure it wanted us to build a very large plaza instead of a road.
Takeshi, of course, had a plan. Every morning, he got up at sunrise and took a horse to see how the works on the road to River Crossing were faring. We had amassed quite a bit of wealth and had the help of Brevoy in resources, yet Takeshi knew we had to begin producing for ourselves as soon as possible. His goal was to extend the road past River Crossing, and reach Oaktop Silver Mine. Silver was a precious resource that would make our lives much easier. So after some time arguing where this or that building would stand, Takeshi turned to the men, and pointed them at the river margin. A foundry, he said, was the first thing to build, and it would stand exactly where he was pointing.
Once the road workers had reached River Crossing, Takeshi began assigning parcels of land out to farmers. Homesteads were built, at first simple cabins, eventually larger constructions. Most of these first few farms began planting almost before they had a roof over their heads: potatos and sweet potatos, wheat and beans. A month later, no doubt inspired by our time exploring the land, we built a fishery there was well.
The foundry was ready to start operating around the time the roads reached Scottsdale, and the inflow of silver allowed us to proceed. By then, there were less tents and more houses. As we noticed patterns of movement from the workers every day, we began to realize the streets and alleys nearly drew themselves.
Once the foundry was done, Takeshi chose a close by location for a smithy – the very same that still labors in Fumidai to this day. And once the smiths had a place to practice their trade, Takeshi all but vanished from our sight. Nagata began managing the road workers' progress, and Takeshi continued on the city, spending as much time making decisions as he did working the forge.
As for myself and Oksana, we did what was left to do. Oksana lent her magic where it was needed most, sometimes accompanying Nagata to see the road workers, seeing to workers that got injured or fell ill. Sometimes she accompanied me, and while my brothers created a city, I was seeing to its soul.
Whenever possible, I made the rounds of the workers and their families – getting to know them, hearing their stories, asking what I could do to make their life easier or happier. I repeated the exercize well into my career as Grand Diplomat (although sometimes with my brother Nagata on tow, as he became familiarized with the city from above). One measures how well a city fares by the happiness of its inhabitants, and sometimes citizens who are allowed to vent their frustrations and problems with someone who can truly do something for them is enough to make them happy.
Some of my opponents accused me often of parading about Fumidai, going for walks instead of poring over the numbers, speaking to strangers and placing myself in the way of danger instead of discussing edicts with other politicians. I believe once or twice I've heard people claim I spent most of my time in office away from the office. But these people were born to their nations, whereas I helped to birth mine. When Fumidai began rising from the ground, we had a population of perhaps 200 people, mostly workers, farmers and their families. Six months in, we had about 3,000 citizens living in Fumidai, and nearly a thousand in the countryside. Someone who claims getting to know and listen to all of these people is light work obviously should cover himself, his ignorance is showing. Naturally, I could not reach 3,000 people then as I cannot possibly reach all the people of Fumidai today – but I tried to reach as many as I could. I knew who went hungry, who needed medicine, what kind of services people needed most urgently, what they felt was missing in the city. Remember: this was before the census, and the only tool I had on how many people lived in this nation was my notes and my memory.
Perhaps because of those opinions, the Flowing Silver Inn was built soon after the inauguration of the first foundry. Alas, it no longer exists – the building is presently occupied by an apothecary. Still, it was the fastest building to be erected in Fumidai then, as every able man in the community took time to help. An inn (which for some time doubled as mess hall for the workers) meant drinks and warm food, precious commodities when one is out in the country. Not only that, it provided those first inhabitants with a place to meet, exchange opinions, and rest after the day's work. I fondly recall the innkeeper, and even more fondly do I recall his daughter, who was of an age with me then, yet much taller and wider than I would ever be. I don't believe I ever saw anything but a smile on her face. She truly was born for innkeeping, and was an inspiring figure for her good humor in the face of adversity.
By then, our road network had reached the fangberry valley, and foragers and farmers were actively improving on the original fangberry bushes to build an orchard. All the same, we extended a trade route to the gold mine we had stumbled upon during our exploration, and prosperity followed.
Oh, but I make it all sound so easy, retelling our victories one after the other as if everything went like clockwork. My memories were tinted rose by time. But while I do prefer to recall the good times, it is important to also recall the less good times. Beasts and bandits still roamed the Greenbelt despite our efforts. Accidents happened, as they do. We battled the weather, the distance and time everyday from the moment we took it upon ourselves to settle these lands. We fretted over the state of crops. We settled hundreds of disputes between workers. Twice, fires broke in newly begun Fumidai: once from lightning strike, and once from the careless emptying of a pipe. It is important to realize that while we were a nation under Brevoy back then, much like we would have our own local coinage, we would have our own local law – an extensive document that was dictated, decided upon, forgotten about, recovered when needed, amended far too often and argued over on the course of months. At certain moments, the coffers were empty, caravans carrying mineral or cereal were lost to wolves of thylacines, people were lost and mourned dearly. It was not always easy.
Yet the first year of a new place hardly ever is. We were not sure if Fumidai would fall apart at the seams. But we pulled through, in true Tian-Xia fashion, thanks to hard work, determination and trust in one another.
Fumidai grew more and more every day. Before I knew it, the first trade shops had appeared, more houses, and eventually a garrison. Winter was already underway then, and we were concerned about it. Fumidai was still very young and we feared we would not be able to withstand the rigorous season. But we did not only withstand it, we thrived. So much so that at the beginning of the following year, First Fumidai Bank was founded, and with it a mint. I was there to witness the coining of the first gold piece of Fumidai. In fact, one can still see it: Takeshi saved it, and eventually it became a permanent piece of the Fumidai Museum.
At the start of Spring and with basic amenities taken care of, it was time to uphold the arts. The Fumidai Lyceum was founded in March, staffed by myself, a handful of bards from Brevoy, a painter and portrait artist, and an old lady called Merinda, who joined us out of having nothing better to do, who swept our floors and kept our books. I loved the building on the day the last roof tile was placed, and I love it today. It has hardly changed in anything. I remember when we had the massive building for five or six people. Today, it looks crowded at any given time.
On the other hand, Town Hall was built about the same time, but it is one of the buildings that changed the most. It began as a simple hall meant for perhaps twenty people. It grew considerably, and quickly, as it was required to fit a larger staff, more members of the Council, archives and tomes and the city's coffers. When I gaze upon it today, I can hardly recognize the original structure. I remember it as a small wooden shed, far removed from the stone steps, the multiple stories, the fountain in the shape of a coiling dragon and the marble floors it shows today…
Our Council was held in Town Hall from the moment we were sure it would keep out the rain. Father Kavken was our High Priest even before a single brick was placed, but more people quickly joined. Managing the realm was hard work, and we needed all the help we could get. Oleg Stevenson, with an obvious knack for business, became our Treasurer. His wife Svetlana became Councilor on the same day. It was an obvious choice: she had been Councilor for her husband's business for years. I was given the same position I occupy today: Grand Diplomat. My brother Nagata was, unsurprisingly, Master of Spies. And Oksana Zima, our Magister, in charge of all things arcane.
Our most difficult decision truly was in what concerned the top ranking officer of our armies, and the keeper of our territories: General and Warden were two positions that had to be filled as soon as possible, and we had two very interesting candidates: Lord Kasten Garess, who had come here running from his past, and Akiros Ismort, who lent us his sword on a moment of danger and earned our trust quickly by his honesty. Garess, of course, was the perfect candidate for General: he was formally educated and used to leading men already, whereas Ismort was used to walking the Greenbelt and an accomplished brawler in his own right, and would likely make a decent Warden. The problem was that both men wanted the other's perfect position. Ismort was looking forward to becoming general, and Garess felt much more at ease on the countryside, than within the garrison. Ultimately, Takeshi would not go against their own heart, but allowing Ismort to become General came with a caveat: that he learn quickly, and manage to achieve the formal education he was lacking.
And yet, it worked. And proof of that is that presently I am sitting here, writing these memoirs in the heart of Fumidai, so many years later.