Monday, 31 May 2021

Of Faith and Fences - A Visit to Saxherm

What is this? A few days ago Christmas Knight over at Grand Commodore threw together a 'Maximalist dreampunk weird fiction city-state creator'. I got out the dice, and over the course of a sunny afternoon put together the following. 

The below was originally posted on Grand Commodore in the comments of the original post. I have presented it here in one package, with screenshots of some of the comments for context. It will be of use to read or at least skim the city-state creator first.

A herm is, of course, a sort of statue 
- and saxum, saxi is Latin for rock.
An unsubtle name, but it sounds right.

(2) Name Afterwards: Saxherm


70          69-71 Religious Order

Religious Demography

65      61-75 Majority/Minority                     5%


74         74-76 Exemplar Polytheism (Maj)

95            93-97 Tutelary Deity   (Min)

Sources of Wealth

54     53-55 International Black Marketeer         3. Stolen goods

11         8-11 Beauty                                                            4. Ubiquitous statuary 

Distinctive Cultural Elements

94     93-100 Traditional Costumes  

Prevailing Conditions

53             52-53 Massive Economic Surplus

69         68-69 Predatory Entity                                 4. Destroying their memories


22     22-25 Distributed over several walled hilltops with bridges and/or tunnels

Most Prominent Architectural Feature

84     81-84 Theatre 

The city of Saxherm was founded on a series of hilltops, each with its own guardian spirit. As the burgeoning city spread between the hills, each court - each garden - each road - earned its own tutelary, carved in a distinctive style. Saxherm became known as a city of statues.

In the third century after its founding, flooded with the teachers and sophists of a neighbouring polity, the local faith was transformed. There were not countless gods of the road, there was one god of all roads. Then there was not a god of all roads, but a god of communications and travel - an archetype of trade and wayfaring. 

    The new faith found a home in the wealthy of the city - those who wished to look up-to-date and could afford the tutelage. The informal associations of sacred masons, iconographers and artisans gave way to well-connected sacred fraternities. The old Assembly and district regiments had bowed to the iconographers or been led by them in many matters. Assemblymen, municipal officials and regimental leaders saw a way to escape that influence now. 

    Through the fourth century, low-level conflict between the new faith and the old was the rule, as were ongoing spats between high and low. In time, however, temples to each of the archetypical deities were erected on each of the fortified hills, cementing their place in the hearts of Saxhermenes. The Assembly now largely overlapped the sacred fraternities; rather than blossoming in its own right, it withered once again into a junior partner.

    Each from their hilltop districts, the fraternities extend their rule of the city. Rather than all bowing to a given hierarch, a governing council made up of the heads of each regularly changes their chairman according to the calendar. (This is a complex thing, taking both lunar and solar influences into account, along with certain anniversaries and seasonal observances. Alterations to the calendar are fraught constitutional debates.) For a week it may be the shrewd-eyed grey-locked Matriarch who casts the final vote, then the sinister Grand Psychopomp, then a pale Vestal chosen by lot, then a masked Oracle from the copper domes of the Vatic Quarter.

    However, in the depths of the Plebeian districts, there are those who have never forgotten the Tutelary Deities. They petition for funds to maintain the statues and for a legal protected status, they decorate them with garlands of flowers, they leave coins in outstretched hands, they touch sponges soaked in wine or milk to stone lips. If this is condemned, it is generally as an unfortunate and stubborn superstition rather than as an appalling heresy. This minority is protected by a measure of civic pride in the statues, which are now an inseparable part of the city's character. The wealthy Assemblyman who has spent a lifetime in the Brethren of the Armed Ploughman will happily delve into his coffers to repair the statue of a tutelary deity he has only ever walked past. 

The traditional garb of Saxherm has taken a rather strange turn. A translation of philosophy into costume has taken place, and the custom is (for those who are not in some other uniform or practical garb) to wear an indication of the abiding technological influence on one's life on the person. This can be as simple as a smith wearing a sash decorated with hammers - but the owner of a textile company could as equally wear an embroidered badge showing a loom or a ledger. Foreign scholars have sometimes suggested that this Saxhermene custom could be an evolution of the tutelary concept, although all but the highest of the fraternities and religious societies embrace this form of dress. 

Aside from the numerous statues, Saxherm has been known as a clearing house for stolen goods. The Sodality of the Broken Threshold has long acknowledged the valour of the thief in challenging the wealthy and complacent; to steal, to trick, to count coup - these are sacred and praiseworthy acts. And the Sodality, in benevolent fraternal agreement with its peers, does not encourage too many sacred and praiseworthy acts in Saxherm itself, but will happily protect and assist the faithful of other lands. 

All this has meant that Saxherm is now a very well-to-do place (the Sodality of the Broken Threshold does not consider itself to be at all wealthy or complacent, but acknowledges its recent good fortune). Great wealth may be seen on the corners of the street, or in the new theatres. But someone must have stolen something they should not have. There are those in the Vatic Quarter who scream in the night with premonitions of what lurks among them. Plebeians and Society members alike have been set upon in the night and wake without knowledge of who they are. The lucky ones can still walk and eat. 

The statues have seen something, no doubt. But they aren't saying anything.


  1. ....and Saxherm has its first story: