Hantidan Garb

Although I draw inspiration from the history and cultures of the real world for my stories, I don’t reproduce reality wholesale. Which means that when I seek out images to represent elements of my fiction, I rarely find any that exactly match the visions I entertain in my imagination. I must make due with photographs and artwork that are almost what I have in mind, or close.

Luckily, almost and close often convey quite a bit. 😀

One consistent feature of Hantidan garb is that it possesses an asymmetric closure, with fastenings that run down the front, along one side, from neck to hem.

The peasants who work in the rice paddies, fish the river, or cut reeds in the wetlands wear linen jackets over skirts or wide trousers. Their garb needs to be practical, permitting free movement of the limbs, durable, and comfortable in the hot, humid climate.

The portrait of Kan Gao (at right) does not have the Hantidan side closure, but the jacket, skirt, and trousers otherwise mimic the Hantidan garb of a country laborer quite well.
 
 
 
 

City dwellers with less physically demanding jobs tend to wear robes. Apprentices, messengers, journeymen, clerks, delivery men, and other workers sport robes of drab linen.

Master artisans, scribes, business owners, and well-to-do professionals chose well-dyed linens, often adorned by tassels on the sleeves and shoulders.

A sash worn over the shoulder secures a pouch for carrying coin, abacus, or other tools used often in their respective trades.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Senior servants and palace functionaries wear silk robes, but in subdued colors.

The garments worn by the hanfu promoters at right are secured by sashes, whereas my Hantidans would find a snug binding around the waist too hot. But aside from that detail, the dark green silk and monochrome edgings are very like some of the robes Gael and Keir see while sojourning in the Glorious Citadel.

Dark green, dark blue, and dark yellow are common colors, as is dark gray, the robes donned by Gael and Keir.
 
 
 
 

Wealthy merchants and lesser nobility flaunt silk robes in brilliant colors: crimson, orange, turquoise, leaf green, sky blue, and so on. The most privileged might possess tone-on-tone patterns woven into the fabric, but sumptuary laws prevent more elaborate designs.

The sokutai attire shown at right depicts the shimmering brilliance typical of garments worn by the rich and powerful of Hantida, but lacks the asymmetric neckline and side closure of their robes.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Only the elite among the nobility are permitted to wear elaborate, patterned brocades. Their luxurious robes are commonplace within their city palaces, on their country estates, and within the Glorious Citadel.

But they are rarely seen on the streets of Hantida. The elite take the air in secluded courtyards and gardens or hunt on broad private acreage. When they travel from one city residence to another, or from rural estate to urban mansion, they occupy curtained palanquins more often than not.

The first such robes encountered by Gael and Keir are fashioned of “an ornate brocade depicting herons lifting in flight.” The second feature “a tracery of green leaves and lizards upon a bronze ground.”

The traditional wedding dress (above at right), although beautiful, would be considered a simpler design among the high nobility of Hantida.

The robes worn by Emperor Qianlong (immediate right) are more typical garb for the highest of the high Hantidans.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The guards standing sentry duty on the walls of the Glorious Citadel wear bronze scale mail, but the silhouette of their armor is very similar to the ceremonial armor depicted in the portrait (right) of Emperor Qianlong.

For more about The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, see:
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
That Sudden Leap

 

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Timekeeping in Hantida

The Sovereign’s Labyrinth is an adventure mystery with a good bit of action and fighting.

It’s not a brain-bender mystery like the clever Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers, in which the time tables of trains prove integral to solving the plot.

Nor is it a mystery of manners like Georgette Heyer’s witty Detection Unlimited, in which the behavior of clocks plays an important role.

Nonetheless, as I wrote The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, I found myself thinking about timekeeping and how the Hantidans did it.

Since the story takes place in the Bronze Age of my North-lands, the Hantidans would not be telling time with clocks or watches or digital phones. So how did they do it?

The earliest timekeeping devices in our own history were sundials. In sunny climes, they worked well…by day. But what about the night time? And what about places with cloud cover?

Hantida has a wet season and a dry season, but even in the dry season, a storm comes through on many days. Which meant that even if they used sundials, they probably used something else to supplement them.

Drawing again from history, I had sandglasses (hourglasses), candle clocks, incense clocks, and water clocks as options.

Some historians speculate that the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans used sandglasses. They certainly had the technology necessary to make them. But the historical record does not contain actual mention of them as it does of water clocks. No one seems to be sure when sandglasses were invented and first used, but it may have been as late as the Middle Ages.

I am not absolutely strict about anachronisms in my North-lands—I write fantasy, after all—but I like to use real history as a guide. So I decided against sandglasses for my Hantidans.

The earliest mention of candle clocks comes earlier than those of sandglasses, in a Chinese poem written in 520 AD. That’s slightly better than the Middle Ages, but candle clocks have other disadvantages, namely that it’s hard to get the wicks and wax uniform enough to prevent inaccuracy in their timekeeping. Drafts were also a problem with the even burning of the candles.

Besides…520 AD still remains a lot later than 1500 BC!

(In the west, the candle clock bore regular markings on the column of wax. In the east, weights were attached to threads embedded in the wax. As the candle burned down, the threads were released, and the weights dropped into a plate below with a clatter.)

Before my research into timekeeping, I’d never heard of incense clocks. When I did— Wow! Just, wow! I fell in love!

Evidently incense can be calibrated more accurately than candle wax, so incense clocks are more accurate than candle clocks. And differently fragranced incense can be used in rotation, so that different hours are associated with different scents.

I had only one problem with bestowing incense clocks on my Hantidans. I absolutely knew that the Daoine Meras, the people in the next Gael & Keir Adventure, use incense clocks.

I didn’t want to repeat myself!

So my Hantidans received water clocks.

Actually, water clocks are pretty cool. And they appeared in Babylon around the 16th century BC, perhaps earlier still in ancient China (4000 BC). Water clocks and humans have been together for a very long time!

The earliest water clocks were outflow clocks. That is, the water flowed out from a hole in the bowl. As the water level fell, it passed markings on the inner surface that indicated the time. Often the dripping water was not caught by another vessel, but allowed to absorb into the sand or earth below.

Later water clocks were inflow clocks, in which water from an upper vessel flowed through a calibrated channel into a lower bowl. The inner surface of the lower bowl was marked, and as the water level rose, it indicated the time.

The Persians used yet another style to ensure that the water from their underground irrigation channels was distributed evenly among the farms sharing a given aquifer. They placed a small bowl with a calibrated hole in a larger bowl filled with water. The water flowed through the hole to fill the smaller bowl. When it sank, the clock manager would place a pebble in a container to count that iteration, pour the water back into the larger bowl, and then start the small bowl filling again.

I suspect my Hantidans use the inflow model of water clock.

But how did the Hantidans get started with timekeeping?

There’s plenty of water in Hantida: the river, the monsoons, the near-daily rain in the dry season, and a generous water table below ground. They wouldn’t have needed to divide water so carefully as did the Persians.

Here, real world history came to my rescue once again.

Some of the ancient cities were very populous, counting a hundred thousand people within their walls along with great wealth. They built walls to protect themselves and manned those walls with sentries who stood guard through both day and night.

The sentries needed to know when their watch was up and when the next one started. Timekeeping was required!

That made sense for Hantida.

I could just see the Keeper of the Watch sounding the drum in his tower on the city walls when the Keeper of the Clepsydra announced the first beat of the evening watch. And then, all over the city, itinerant time keepers would ring their chimes in echo of the drum beat.

I decided to model the Hantidan schedule of watches after those used by sailors.

Each day possesses seven watches. Five of them are 4 hours long. Two of them are but 2 hours long. This ensures that the sentries rotate through the watches, rather than staying with the same one indefinitely.

Each long watch has eight beats or chimes, each short watch, only four.

Midwatch     midnight – 4 am
Morning Watch     4 am – 8 am
Forenoon Watch     8 am – noon
Afternoon Watch     noon – 4 pm
Aja-watch the First     4 pm – 6 pm
Aja-watch the Second     6 pm – 8 pm
Evening Watch     8 pm – midnight

So…did Hantidan timekeeping come into The Sovereign’s Labyrinth at all? Or was it one of those fun bits of research that never make it onto the page?

I’m not telling! 😉

For more about The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, see:
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
That Sudden Leap

 

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The Baths of the Glorious Citadel

“The Hantidans know how to draw a bath,” Gael agreed.

Although the real benefit of the palace baths might be that a quiet bather could overhear useful gossip.

I must side with Gael on this one. Hantidans do indeed know how to draw a bath. I envisioned the Hantidan bath as resembling those of the Japanese: very deep, very hot, and including a view through a sliding screen of a stylized garden.

If I could visit Hantida right now, their baths would definitely feature in my itinerary!

In the morning, Gael returned to his room from the baths pleasantly relaxed and smelling of herbal soap. Unusually for him, he’d kept thinking at bay during his soak, focusing instead on the physical sensations—the extreme heat of the water Hantidans favored, its depth—well over his shoulders—the scented steam, the beauty of the sunlight on the bamboos right outside the partially open screens.

In spite of their lure, however, I initially categorized the Hantidan baths as an appealing detail of the setting and little more.

But as I moved more deeply into The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, I realized they served as more than evocative window dressing.

“I heard two gentlemen talking in the baths, gossiping about last night’s accident. Interesting that they classified it as an accident, by the by,” he added.

In the baths, Gael and Keir would learn clues to the mystery they encountered in the Glorious Citadel. They would discover new suspects to question. And Gael would have an informative encounter there.

It was down around a corner of the tile passageway and bigger than the rest of the tubs Gael had seen in the palace, with room enough for four.

Zithilo lounged in one corner of the bath, lanky legs stretched out before him along the tub floor, gaze fixed on a close, engoldened slice of slope visible through the open screen—afternoon was giving way to evening—overgrown by ferns, mosses, and shrubs. He was tall, skinny, and muscular. He didn’t bother to look over his shoulder when Gael’s step sounded in the doorway.

“Get in!” he urged. “The water is fine!”

Gotta stop there to avoid spoilers!

So…what do the baths look like?

Well, the photo at the top of this post shows a bath similar to the one that Zithilo invites Gael to share. And the photo at right has the feeling of the corridor giving onto the individual baths.

The baths were arranged along a narrow side corridor of white tile, a tall and solid wall on Gael’s left, a shoulder-high wall punctuated by a dozen open doorways on his right. Each doorway connected to a small cubical with hooks and a wooden bench, and a farther doorway to a square, sunken tub with a view onto a moss garden.

Steam wreathed the air, along with the scent of herbal soap.

There are many bath houses within the Glorious Citadel, and the approach to each is the standard roofed walkway that runs along the edges of the courtyards and gardens and beside the walls of the pavilions that compose the palace.

The Sovereign’s Labyrinth has grown under revision. The first draft came in at 78,000 words. As I write this blog post, the novel stands at over 95,000 words. I’ve edited and revised the first 75,000 of those, so you can see that I am closing in on the end. I hope to send the manuscript out for its next beta read soon!

For more about the setting of The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, see:
A Townhouse in Hantida
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
That Sudden Leap

 

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That Sudden Leap

I researched and planned for The Sovereign’s Labyrinth for nearly two months. As the story grew in my mind, I found myself often murmuring, “Oh! That’s so cool! I can’t wait to write that!”

Concept for the bridges into Hantida’s Glorious Citadel

I finally did start writing on November 9, and the actuality not only lived up to my expectations; it surpassed them. How often does that happen? But it really did happen with this novel.

Each scene had me rubbing my hands in anticipation as I prepared to write it, and gasping at the end, “Oh, that was cool!”

I suspect that is why my word count mounted up so quickly. I was writing as though I were a reader, saying, “Just one scene more,” and staying up too late at night for it!

But that’s not why the progress bar in the side bar of my website leapt abruptly ahead.

Concept for the moat surrounding Hantida’s Glorious Citadel

If you’ve been watching it, you’ll have seen the word count increasing from between 1,000 to 2,000 words most days, while the blue stripe moved steadily rightward.

Then, yesterday, as it was crossing the 50% mark, it jumped past the 90% mark. What’s up with that? Did I do a spot of time traveling, so that I could write 50,000 words one night between dusk and dawn?

Well, no.

Whenever I start a book, I’m essentially guessing about how long I think it will be. The Sovereign’s Labyrinth was definitely going to be a full novel. But was it going to be a doorstopper novel of 160,000 words? I didn’t think so. As cool as it seemed, it didn’t feel l-o-n-g.

Concept for an interior garden within Hantida’s Glorious Citadel

So I estimated that maybe it would be 130,000 words, and that is what I used to calculate the percentages on the progress bar.

Once I was well into the writing of the novel, I began to suspect that it might be 100,000 words. But would it really?

I don’t like to monkey around with a gazillion different estimates while I’m writing a book. It would just distract me, when I want to reserve my brainpower for storytelling.

So I left that 130K alone, figuring I’d adjust it when I got closer to the end.

Of course, you know what happened with that! The closer I was to the end, the more exciting the events in my story became. I was writing late into the night, sometimes past midnight. Yikes!

Which meant that I was too sleepy at night to bother with the progress bar, and too excited about jumping into writing in the morning to do it then.

But today (Thursday, January 31, as I write this—or was it yesterday? bad memory!) I said, “C’mon, Jessica! Time to get that progress bar within striking distance of a reasonable total. You’ve got 71,000 words written and another four or five big scenes to go. Call it 80,000 and adjust that bar.”

So I did!

I have to catch up on sleep, so I am forcing myself not to start the next scene (I already wrote two today), even though I really, really want to. But, tomorrow? I am so going to dive on it!

I found the photos accompanying this post during the research I did for building the world of Hantida, the city in which The Sovereign’s Labyrinth takes place.

If you’d like to see more of such world building, check out:
A Townhouse in Hantida
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel

 

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A Townhouse in Hantida

This week I’d envisioned myself showing you the world of my book that will release in March. The protagonist lives in a cool medieval castle, and I’ve got floor plans and photos to share!

But those floor plans have not yet been transformed from rough sketches into clear drawings that will make sense to someone other than me. I will finish those drawings, but in the meantime…

I’ve been writing the first few scenes of The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, the sequel to The Tally Master. I’m really excited about the story. I feel like I am there in Hantida with Gael and Keir. Hantida is a large city surrounded by rice paddies and near to a river.

I needed a rough sketch of the house Gael and Keir visit in the first chapter. I used the machiya of Kyoto (traditional townhouses from Japan’s Heian period) as my model.

A rough sketch was all I needed, but I grew so enamored of the architectural beauty of the structure that I was beguiled into making my rough sketch into a finished drawing.

Naturally I want to share it with you!

0—The Front Street Most of Hantida’s streets are dirt, but a few are paved with stone. In the shopping district, where the shops are fronted by roofed arcades, there are raised stepping stones at the street corners so that pedestrians can cross above the muck of the road.

1—Front Room If the family kept a shop, then this front room would be the space where their goods or services were offered, and where customers could enter, either directly from the street, or through the entrance courtyard on the side. It’s a private room for the family that Gael and Keir have come to help.

2—Entrance Courtyard A pocket courtyard, graveled, and adorned with pots of bamboo. A tall, sturdy gate gives access to it from the street.

3—Entrance Foyer Visitors to the home remove their shoes in this stone-floored space.

4—Entry Hall A niche off the main reception room. The floor is wood, but your shoes should be off!

5—Reception Room Visitors are received and entertained here. Thick mats of rice straw and woven rushes cover the floor. Sitting cushions (and sleeping quilts) are stored in low cabinets along the walls. A low table makes serving food easy. Sliding screens of rice paper give access to an adjacent room and to an outdoor walkway (8).

6—Private Room

7—Kitchen A long room with a stone floor and clay walls, due to the fire hazards inherent in cooking over a bed of charcoal.

8—Wooden Walkway The walkway is out of doors. It brings light and air to the interior spaces of the townhouse.

9—Garden Storage A closet for the watering can, spades, and other implements needed to tend the garden (10).

10—Garden A small, but carefully-tended pocket of greenery.

11—Bath My Hantidans like to soak in deep wooden tubs full of very hot water.

12—Stone Passage This short passage to the side yard is roofed, but out of doors. A small chamber on one side holds a chamber pot. Another holds a counter where basin and ewer allow for washing up.

13—Side Yard Any particularly messy chore can be accomplished in this graveled space. A few raised plots of earth near the back permit some vegetables for the table to be grown.

14—Storage House A clay-walled chamber where costly robes, scrolls, and ornaments and furniture for the off-season are stored.

15—Yard Storage

16—Steps A walk connects to the back alley, where the night soil cart passes, the refuse collectors, water carriers, etc.

17 Back Alley

What happens in my Hantidan home?

The Sovereign’s Labyrinth opens with Gael and Keir newly arrived in the city of Hantida. They’ve been healing their way across the continent, Keir using the skills she earned in her professional training, Gael learning how to be a physician’s assistant under her supervision. They make a good team.

Whenever they arrive somewhere new, word spreads quickly of the amazing cures they bring off. Hantida is no different, and they are summoned to attend a 12-year-old girl who is badly burned.

En route to the girl’s home, they witness a peculiar, aborted arrest. After they arrive, complications—both medical and non-medical—begin to pile up.

The lodestone they are seeking is present in Hantida, but acquiring it will not be at all straight forward. There’s a mystery at the city’s heart, and our duo will have to solve it to win out.

For more about The Sovereign’s Labyrinth, see:
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
That Sudden Leap

 

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The Dark Tower

My inspiration for The Tally Master came as a sort of vision, although “vision” is a misnomer, given that the sense of sight had little to do with it.

I felt as though I were Gael as he sat in a small and gloomy chamber hollowed from the thick stone wall of a dark lord’s dark tower, hunched over a parchment, quill scratching tally mark after tally mark.

There wasn’t much light, just flickers of firelight and shadows and the sensation of great weight pressing my shoulders down and my spine into an uncomfortable curve, while sound filled the air around me.

The roaring of great forges deafened me. The clanging of smiths’ hammers on beaten bronze clamored. Sudden shouts made my heart contract in alarm. Spurts of running footsteps pounded in a nearby stairwell.

Gael and the sounds of his setting seemed very real, and I wanted to tell his story. I knew that he was a troll and that he managed the wealth – the metals – for his dark lord, but I didn’t know much else.

So I engaged in the process that has become so familiar and effective for me over my years of telling stories. I asked myself question after question, made extensive notes of my answers, and drew bunches of maps and floor plans. Over several months, I came to know a lot about Gael, about his overlord (not quite the typical “dark lord” at all), and about Belzetarn, the citadel that was their home.

In my initial stabs to make Belzetarn match the feeling I had for it, I placed the kitchens in the tower proper, which was utterly wrong. I was so relieved when I realized that they were located within a sort of annex slabbed onto the lower southeastern side of the tower. Once I got that piece, the rest of the fortress almost fell into place by itself, although it took me a while to draw it all.

My goal was always to sculpt the physical form of Belzetarn to express the mood and the ambience of my initial inspiration.

The style of this drawing doesn’t truly hit the mark. The photo at the beginning of this post does that better. But the design of the tower itself is close to right. It’s tall – very tall – it’s dark, it possesses clawed protrusions at the top and a lumpy, spiky annex on one side. Plus, all the chambers and offices are in the right place, as you can see when you slice the tower in half.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Bronze Age Swords
Brother Kings

 

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