Veniche, the city of masked balls . . .
We are rapidly approaching the night of the famed Veniche Masked Ball and whilst some of the guests know the canal state well, there are those who have never been to Veniche and who barely know the world of Eirie as we know it. Just for a moment let me be your travel guide and take you on a journey that will give you an idea of where you shall be spending this glittering night.
Eirie is my world. I created it when I decided to write The Stumpwork Robe and The Last Stitch. In this strange place, mortals live with beings that to us may be from myth and legend. But in Eirie, these Others exist alongside their mortal counterparts, making life as difficult or as easy as the spirit takes them at any time. The ordinary man or woman learns to live with them, protecting themselves with charms and sayings and all manner of codes.
There are four provinces in Eirie: the wooded vales of Trevallyn, complete with myriad lakes, fens and rivers. There is the formidably baked and dried world of the Raj with cliffs and mountains of rock and shale that fall into the mother of rivers, the Ahmad. There are the disparate islands of the Pymm Archipelago, each island as different as black is to white. And there is Veniche.
Veniche is also made of islands and surrounded by a laguna. ‘The lights of the canal city danced along a yellow road of wavelets toward the bow of the ferry. In the moonlit night, the shapes of cupolas and campaniles covered in brass and copper roofing filled the space above the horizon. As the craft drew closer, vast walls winked with their windowed eyes at the approaching visitors . . . ‘ (The Last Stitch)
It is a city of streets that are canals, of dark alleys and little hump-backed bridges. A city of magnificent palazzos and of a museum the like of which you could barely imagine. Veniche has a navy that dominates Eirie in mercantile adventure. It is a city of learning, the birthplace of the law of Eirie. It is the crowning jewel of that world, although perhaps the Rajis would disagree.
There is a Carnivale every year, to celebrate the coming of the rains. For three days the city is draped in black, men and women masked and on midnight of the third day, the city throws off its gloomy disguise and still behind masks that are gaudy and beautiful, it parties with libidinous abandon.
‘The mirrors glistened like the ice sheets from Oighear Dubh in the far southern seas. The gold-leafed frames sparkled like precious metals a mortal would never see, even from the deepest mines on the Pymm islands. Between the mirrored panels, the walls had been papered with a fine silk in soft buttery stripes, as if a beam of spring sunshine had been cut and laid down the wall. The furniture glimmered with palest celadon silk, leaves of a spring-tipped forest, and the candelabra glittered, three lines of them swirling away down the frescoed, cherub-covered ceiling. Light danced off the lustres and illuminated the room with diamond fire, prisms shifting and changing as if they were a troupe of tiny dancing wights.’ (A Thousand Glass Flowers)
This wonderful ballroom is the setting for the masked ball that you shall be attending and which is just one of the many masked balls that take place in this astounding city. It is rumoured that the Hall of Mirrors houses one of the Gates to Færan, but none bar the Færan would know and so it is but a rumour.
Most people in Veniche travel to balls in gondolas. Some are curtained, some are not: ‘He soaked up the sights – the way the tiny gold prow lamps cast . . . reflections. The way the gondoliers called to each other. The masks – Aine the masks! Vibrant colombinas, voltos, gattos, pierrots, civettas, nasos – all floated mysteriously past as if unattached to a real body and with a sinister life all their own.’ (The Last Stitch)
Let it be said that you will never visit such a secretive or magnificent place, such a strange demesne that floats on water, anywhere else in Eirie. Nor will you ever see such a magnificent sight as the people dancing: ‘Oblong panels of glass portrayed the lilting crowd and women glanced coyly at themselves as they glided past, leaning out from the arms of their partners. Swirling, twirling gowns rustled and feet tapped as the orchestra plucked and played.’ The Last Stitch
All that remains is for me to exhort you to enjoy yourselves.