After Dornoch served its purpose as an emergency port and army barrack base, the alliance decided to turn the city into a monument of the Great Hordes defeat by turning it into a jewelled city. Originally the designers made the ambitious aim to make enough houses that the whole population of the alliance could live within the walls should the need ever arise again to defend themselves from a great threat. Thus, from this desire, was born the tall series of houses that were built one on top of the other in great towers. Some homes, for those who wanted to make Dornoch their permanent residence, larger houses were built over a single or double story home. These types of houses live side by side with the tower homes.
Today a visitor will still be able to see the militaristic origins of the city. From each of the three gates to the very heart of the inner wall are large, straight roads designed to make it easy for a large army and units of cavalry to manoeuvre. There are also three large walls that break up the city. Between the Outer Wall (tsagaan khana) and the Second Wall (Khudaldaany khana) sprawls the main population of the city with its different markets. Each market has a set zone of the city to keep it clean and stop livestock cross contaminating with fresh produce etc. These markets are held in huge squares.
In between the squares are peoples houses. Unlike the rest of the structured nature of the Main Road and Markets, the housing areas are a warren of alleyways and pathways, occasionally broken up with large watch towers that soar above the rooftops and are manned regularly with a large pyre ready to burn should danger approach. Round every corner of these little alleys though are odd delights; botanical gardens, tiny zen orchids, ponds, and plains of grass for relaxing - all speaking of the cities love of the open Steppes still.
From the Second Wall to the Inner Wall (Ariun Khana), is where the political and educational side of the city operates. Here are the Embassies, tax halls, courts and more. The gates between the Outer and Second Wall are only ever closed if there is a threat approaching the city, though it is still manned by guards. Here the layout is much the same as before with the hodgepodge houses, wide open markets that cater towards the businesses here, and again the large single brutish road towards the middle.
At the centre, inside the Inner Wall, sits the Barracks and the Palace. Even so, the gates once again remain open though guarded, and people regularly come to the palace to petition the Dynast and her Handmaids.
Points of Interest
Erdeniin Ordon, Jewelled Palace
The Erdeniin Ordon, or the Jewelled Palace as it translates to in the Common Tongue
, lives up to its name. At the very heart of the city, surrounded by its own private walled garden and sharing the inner city only with the stationed army, this is a tranquil spot in the usually busy city. The gardens are all perfectly sculptured and the palace itself is carved out of precious stone and marble then trimmed with gold. This is the royal household of the Dynast and her Heirs.
The palace is open to visitors at set times throughout the week where members of the public can take tours of the palace and gardens, or petition the Dynast.
Ayuultai Khonkh, Warning Bell
The Warning Bell is one of the few pieces of architecture that still exists from the Age of Wonders
when the Blood Years took place. The bell was installed to sound of incoming Hoards that meant to attack the port and allowed for citizens and soldiers alike to prepare for battle. The bell still resides in the city on the Eastern Gate, which faces the vast expanse of the Steppe Plains.
It is believed that the bell is in fact magical in some way for there are mystical runes carved into the metal. However, what it was once used for is now lost to time.
The bell is rung for only for warning and permeates even the thickest of stone walls.
Dald'Mod, Lonely Tree
The Lonely Tree is found in one of the largest temples of Dornoch. Many people of the Steppes take a pilgrimage to come and visit this very spot where it is said the first Dynast is buried, though her grave is officially unknown. It was she who led the alliance in the Blood Years and ensured their victory,.
There is a famous story of how in one of the last battles she rode at the head of the column whilst seven months pregnant, fully armoured, and refused to leave the field of battle until the Hoard was turned away.
She was buried in an unmarked grave at her own orders so that her tomb did not become a place of worship in order for the people to move on from these trying times. It was some years later that the blossom tree, which stays in bloom all year round, sprouted in the cellar of the Dynast's favoured Temple. After that rumours appeared that that must have been where her body was laid to rest.
Zavgüi Zürkh, Busy Heart
The Markets of Dornoch are famous for their wide variety but if your time is limited and you want to prioritise one, visit the Zavgüi Zürkh - the Busy Heart. Unlike other markets, this one you can find almost everything alongside brilliant street performers, artists and more. It is also said this is the Dynast's favourite market and sometimes her sedan can be seen touring the large market place.
The Spring and Harvest Tributes: Bi-annually the city welcomes Bursars from the different cities under the Dynasty's protection. They bring large caravans full of offerings in the form of livestock, gold, jewels, and more as well as the top performers from their cities who delight and dazzle the crowds gathered in the city. This happens with both the thawing of snow in the spring, when the Great Roads are open and easy to travel by, and once again in the Harvest before it is too unsafe to travel once more.
During this time the city is full of colour, music and great cheer. You will struggle to find room at the inn on these days if you have not booked ahead, and the prices tend to be steeper at this time of year. The Tributes themselves can last for a month with all the celebrating and revealing.