A Trilithon is a general term for a
megalithic structure consisting of two large vertical stones (called ‘posts’),
and a third horizontal stone lying on top (called a ‘lintel’). The nomenclature
derives from the Greek meaning “having three stones.” It is also loosely used
to describe specific components that are part of larger megalithic sites.
Examples include Stonehenge and other henges found in Malta and Egypt, as well
as the Roman Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, Lebanon.
“A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building once common in north-western Europe. The name derives from the buildings’ structure of post and lintel construction, a type of timber framing where the load-bearing ore-pine posts are called stafr in Old Norse (stav in modern Norwegian).”
Here it is! I crammed so much knowledge I learned from Humanities 101 and put a music joke in because I simply could not resist. The Shakespeare thing…I also do not regret.
Chapter Thirteen: A Lady in the Sea of Red
If there ever was a perfect morning,
this would be it.
Locked in a temple of warm covers and
fortunate enough to find the perfect sleep position that she was sure
she wanted to stay in forever, Lucy was home. The sun had yet to
fully rise and invade her windows like harsh minions of sunny terror.
This bliss was eternal, and Lucy loathed waking up too early. While
her pillow was fluffed just right and every part of her bed was cloud
heaven, Lucy tried to fall back asleep. How she would enjoy the
honey-heavy dew of slumber.
There was a song that described this
moment perfectly, an overture that her opera director, William Tell,
had told her about. What a chilly morning, with mist drifting the
silent hills, not even the roosters have woken yet.
-and then her door burst open with the
force of a cannon shot.
Startled out of that blissful state,
Lucy tensed and watched with wide and awake eyes while every
available handmaiden filed into the room with swift movements,
tackling the chores with scary accuracy and hurry.
The woman barely had time to adjust
before her warm covers were pulled back and two maids urged her to
rise with insisting tugs at her arms. The urgency in their eyes kept
Lucy in a suspended worry as she sat up from the mattress. Brown eyes
were alert now, scanning each maid with critical surveillance and
noting any oddities in the behavior.
So far, everything was odd. Margret
looked gaunt, as if she had been woken during a cycle of restful
sleep to be told that her favorite pet had been killed. Janelle also
looked disturbed, but mostly worried and…fearful.
happening?” the blonde slurred, her mouth and tongue not quite
awake enough. Every maid but Margret ignored her, surprisingly,
keeping to the daily tasks of dragging out clothes and accessories
for whatever was planned. However, this usually occurred after the
sun had risen and the day started.
The cow farmers
outside of the city had not even woken!
“Lady Lucy, your
father has requested you be fetched and dressed for…something. He
would not specify beyond having you dressed and urgently. Now, please
rise so we can dress you. Master Jude is in a very irritable mood
with us this morning.” The older woman murmured with a strange tone
of concern and acceptance. If Margret was anything, she was always
could not have been the beloved maid that helped raise Lucy after
The moment the
heiress stood, a mass of maids in pink pastel sleepwear moved to tug
her to the dressing wall, stripping her shift as they moved. The
handmaidens had been woken out of their quarters and given no time to
inverted, Lucy thought with a panic, this had to be a nightmare.
None made light
conversation as they pulled and pushed her into a corset, the corset
they knew she loathed the most. The horrible thing was cream colored
and fitted by the finest seamstress from Bosco, only worn during the
important balls and gatherings.
That fact alone
hinted the darker side of this occurrence.
“The Gerudo Desert once held a prison built to hold the worst criminals this land has ever known… The criminals who were sentenced to death were sent directly to the underworld by a cursed mirror that was kept in the prison… Now that prison is condemned, and even the road leading to the desert is impassable. This desert at world’s end… It still holds the cursed mirror and the malice of the doomed inmates…” –Auru, Twilight Princess
Soaring over the scarred face of the desert are six crested pillars which crown a structure created for judgment and execution. Towering to lofty heights, and visible for miles, these pillars glorify the sacred history of Hyrule. Bearing the elemental medallions of the Six Sages and the Royal Crest of the Family of Hyrule, they are a sign of dominion over others, and of the hegemony of the Hylian civilization. As with so many ancient cultures, great victories provided momentum for the construction of architectural monuments—as well as the cultural appropriation of that fallen society. For the Arbiter’s Grounds is not a structured whole, built in one time by one people, but a repurposed edifice in which the styles and traditions of those who came before have been allowed to live on, though in different light and to different ends.
From afar, this is quite possibly the most striking complex in all of Hyrule. Its monumentality is a direct derivation of Egyptian and Roman models, which also gives it the distinct markings of empire. This is not the first time that the Hylian civilization has been likened to Rome, as there are a great many parallels between the two, both historically and architecturally. But even though it is familiarly Western in nature, confusion and doubt plagues this location.
As Link approaches, weaving through Bokoblin fortifications and entrenchments, it becomes plain that they are recent inhabitants, building around previously-molded walls and gateways. These uncompleted buildings that lie before the Grounds yield no information, although they likely were not a part of the original structure. The rooms-that-would-have-been are no more than shells, with empty windows and indecipherable script different from both the Gerudo and Hylian alphabets. If the English translation holds true, and this was a place of judgment, perhaps these buildings would have eventually held prisoners awaiting trial or execution. The windows are relatively high, and quite thin, but, then again, the layout of the complex makes little sense if its purpose was to be a prison. Even before we come to the actual building, there are seemingly meaningless ruins built without apparent reason. Like all desert construction, though, time and sand have accumulated around them, seeking to erase them from the earth.
The ascent to the main gateway is notable for several reasons. This axial approach, so popular in the Egypt of antiquity, is also employed in this place, consisting of a large stair flanked by free-standing Doric columns. Doric columns, of all the classified orders, are the first and oldest major order, identified by their fluting, their simple capitals, and their bulk and thickness. They are the least ornate, yet monumental in austerity.
The columns along this pathway were likely not part of the original building, as they follow the Hylian (read: Western) tradition; rather, they were likely added as an afterthought, after the Hylians either conquered or discovered this structure. They are of the same style as those found in Lanayru Province, as seen in the Grecian amphitheater crowning the cliffs of Lake Hylia. And based upon their looks, they are likely of the same era. Perhaps the centuries preceding this Age of Twilight were fraught with imperialism and expansion of territory. In fact, the use of the Royal Crest in such overabundance gives the air of forced-perception, as if those in power wished for their dominance to be known without doubt. Within the dungeon, the crest ostentatiously adorns nearly every single room. And not only this, but the coliseum astride the entire complex, with its six immense columns, unambiguously displays all the signs of triumphal architecture. This building has perhaps been conquered, its previous function obliterated, and its cultural heritage relegated to a place of inferiority. After the treachery of Ganondorf, himself a Gerudo, perhaps vengeance was taken and a culture destroyed. It was then given over to the Six Sages, and while it was in their charge, a comprehensive architectural undertaking was begun to assert the superiority of the Hylian civilization. And this is just a humble theory, yet its implications are anything but. If so, then the beloved Princess and Hero by nature of their involvement with the kingdom are complicit in cultural and religious genocide. However, the genocide was not complete. Remnants of the Gerudo culture can be seen throughout the Arbiter’s Grounds in their script and unique goddess statues. Unlike the attempted erasure of the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut by her successors Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, the existence of the Gerudo has been allowed to endure.
Another possible explanation is one more benign. It is also equally as likely, as we truly have no knowledge of the history of certain epochs, the Hylians simply discovered these ruins and built atop them—the seeming overuse of their royal/religious symbol (for it is indeed religious, bearing the sacred Triforce and Loftwing) was only to give the derelict structure a new, solid identity.
The gateway is in the style of New Egypt. This particular design takes its name from Greek, and is called a pylon gate. Structurally, it consists of two tapering towers topped with a cornice joined by a slightly-lowered section which rests above the entrance. Designs such as this were archetypal in Egypt, in that most structures were of a post-and-lintel scheme with few openings, the focus being on stability. Temples such as these are splendidly preserved at places such as Edfu, a famous temple from the Ptolemaic period dedicated to Horus. The basic shape of this style of gate is derived (or is at least reflective of) from the hieroglyph akhet, or horizon; it is considered to be the sun rising up from behind two hills, a metaphor for rebirth. Beginning here, and echoing throughout the temple, are doorways unique to this dungeon. They are fragmented lintels, broken into different parts, across which streams a stringcourse bearing the six medallions of the Sages. These symbols are found nearly everywhere within the Grounds, encircling the ruins and making known the powerful presence of the Sages.
The Temple of Horus at Edfu
The heiroglyph akhet - horizon and rebirth
As the ancient Egyptians were the pioneers of the early column (considered to be first used in the stepped pyramid complex of Djoser built during the 27th century BCE), it is fitting that this complex is so full of them, both free-standing and engaged. And like a crypt or mortuary temple, the ceilings vary in this complex from the spaciously high to the claustrophobically low. It remains unsurprising that the construction materials of this building, then, are what we would expect. The angularity of the cornices and walls is shaped of some combination of sandstone and limestone, which further vary in color—tan to darker brown and several shades within that spectrum. Peculiar glyphs and scripts run along the bases and capitals of columns, and these are inscrutable; the only scripts to be understood within are those of the Gerudo and Hylians. But, once again, no chains of words or letters herein mean anything whatsoever. As the Gerudo script is read left to right, and has a rather simple alphabet, the translations are simple yet unfulfilling.
Here the script reads ‘wawuzu’ on repeat; the markings above and below are not part of any Hyrulean alphabet we presently know of
But even if the possibilities for cultural richness and historical significance were overlooked, the atmosphere is perfectly set for a dungeon of this theme. Dim lighting, large swathes of darkness that mask pits of sand and traps, and the strange epigraphy upon the walls all give the appearance of a tomb opening itself up to human exploration for the first time in thousands of years. As far as we know, Link is the first person to wander through these halls in recent centuries. In a Howard Carter like moment, the veil is pulled back to reveal a past splendor untouched for years.
Picture Credit for most of these photos: http://potatofactory.tumblr.com/tagged/twilight-princess
The main hall is the first capacious room, and although it is the nexus of several distinct passages within this dungeon, its primary focus is its axial nature leading to the deeper temple. The pathway is sunken below the other floor tiles, and lined with humanoid shapes with no discernible appearance. Whether this was intentional or the result of the wear of time is not known, but this kind of ambiguity can be as terrifying as clearly malevolent statues. (Further on in the Arbiter’s Grounds is a funerary statue of some fallen hero or lord. He stands alone in his chamber, and this statue may very well act as a home for the ka, an aspect of the Egyptian conceptualization of the human soul.) Stone outcroppings high up on the wall are etched with markings depicting some creature of bone, and the circular relief below the chandelier is also curious. Its scripts mean nothing, and the strange, violent shapes are cryptic. Most noticeable is the staircase at the far end of the room. Only here in this chamber are the sigils of the Royal Family, although here they are everywhere. They alight upon the torches, the portcullis, and upon the lintel of the great doorway. They are so clearly newer additions to the older preexisting stonework of the stairs and columns. That this doorway is the only one carrying such insignia is not surprising. This is the passageway that leads to the heart of the temple, and from there to the Hylian construct atop this older structure—the coliseum and Mirror Chamber built to house the instrument used in exiling those deemed dangerous by the Royal Family to the netherworld of the twilight.
Carved upon the plaque before the statue is the Royal Insignia, meaning that this is a Hylian lord buried in a rather distinct way, or that the monument has been defaced - further diminishing the older culture
(Also interesting are the steps that can be activated by the pulling of a chain. They differ in color, size, and style from the other stone surrounding them, and were likely added after the Hylian re-appropriation of this location as a means of concealing certain passages into the lower crypts. The mechanisms within this dungeon, regardless of those who designed them, are truly confusing. The chandeliers that, based upon positioning, reveal or block passageways, rotating rooms, and spinner tracks all reveal a civilization of great mechanical understanding.)
Echoing the wall reliefs of ancient Egypt, this temple has few walls that do not bear some form of carving or hieroglyph. One of the most used motifs throughout this area can be subdivided into two distinct sections that are mirror images on repeat—without individuality or change. They rest at eye level throughout the complex, and are separated in their AB AB AB scheme by curved carvings not dissimilar from ancient Gerudo. Both styles of panels are similar at the utmost level, in that there are two curved lines probably representing clouds in the sky and a series of cuneiform-like tally marks directly below them. Perhaps this is an early representation of the rain. Below this, however, the panels become distinct. In what I term the A (or chaos) panel, there are three houses smoldering, as made clear by the pillars of smoke rising from their rooftops. And below this is the clear shape of some monstrous creature, thought by some to be Ganon. Its horns, hooked shoulders, and clawed hands all distinguish it as something bent on sowing discord. The subsequent B (or order) panel carries the same sky, but instead of houses burning, it shows three orderly towers standing proudly and untouched. And below this, or in front of it if these reliefs are meant to show perspective, is some form of protector spirit carrying a shield.
There are many other variants of panels in this crypt, although all are equally perplexing. Another prominent series takes the form of a being of flame holding a staff, and yet another appears to be a serpent and trident. Those pictured above are found in the dungeon’s boss room; the Gerudo is in no order, and it is interspersed with non-alphabetic markings. In the center of the sunken panels are large eyes with curvilinear etchings filling in the extra space. Needless to say, the crest of the Royal Family is also found here, ensconced by the Sage Medallions and a string of Hylian.
The first portion of this structure is represented by the Poes, those souls who linger long after death. They and many other undead creatures contribute to the sepulchral feel of this place, and my guess is that they act as guards, perhaps having been buried alive as tributes and a vanguard to escort certain souls to the far realm. Even in the second area of the dungeon are they present. This second section is focused upon the Spinner, which seems to have connotations reaching far beyond its functionality. The room preceding the Spinner chamber has no lighting, and its circular layout perfectly draws the focus to a strange and uninviting spectacle. In the center of the room, an immense, runic sword lies embedded in the ground, and is sealed by means of an unknown magic. When these bonds are violated, the creature once sealed erupts from its prison. After his defeat, a gate opens, and the Spinner room is accessed. And this chamber is not of particular interest apart from the large golden symbol upon the wall over the treasure chest; it represents both the Spinner and the sun, life-giving source of energy and origin of the element of fire.
Yet deeper into this site is a truly colossal room with no discernible function. Spinner tracks crisscross the air, circling around columns and flanking the walls. The walls of the room are recessed, allowing sand to spill onto the ground where it is immediately swallowed up. Several statues are present here, and they are derivations of the Goddess of the Sand seen previously in the Spirit Temple from Ocarina of Time. These Goddesses vary greatly in posture, some sitting cross-legged, and some standing upright. Both variants are encircled by a large and threatening snake, and both offer fire in their outstretched hands. These statues are clearly antiquated, and appear to predate the markings left by the Hylians. In some way, these represent the heritage of the desert of Hyrule; and this does not mean that this was a temple of the Gerudo, or that it was itself the Spirit Temple. It simply means that its architects and engineers knew something of the history of the region and wished to pay homage to it in terms of stone and space.
After the defeat of Stallord in a chamber that is truly magnificent in terms of stonework, access is granted to the Mirror Chamber above, wherein Link is told the tragic history of this place. Flanked by the large-order columns outside the circle of stone is the coliseum. The Colosseum of Rome is perhaps one of the best known works of the Roman Empire. It is named so for its location beside the erstwhile Colossus of Nero—a large statue at the entrance to what was once Nero’s villa. It was built upon his site both for its location as well as more politically-minded reasons. Vespasian reclaimed the land held by the defeated emperor and gave it to the people, in a rather philanthropic gesture that is completely at odds with some of the events that took place within the walls of the Colosseum. Architecturally, this building is a fantastic example of the Roman use of concrete, arches, and vaulting. A system of barrel vaults made of concrete holds up the seating area; the use of concrete and necessary buttressing allowed for structural support while still affording open areas for passage. The exterior travertine (a type of limestone) wall, which is roughly sixteen stories tall, consists of four bands. The lower three are arcades of the Tuscan, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, while the topmost houses Corinthian pilasters. This aesthetically-pleasing façade also affords all the structural and supportive benefits of Roman arches.
The inner and outer walls here have been vivesected as to show the various parts and construction techniques of the structure
The coliseum atop the Arbiter’s Grounds is nearly identical to its more famous cousin. Whereas the Roman equivalent has four distinct sections, each of a different architectural order, this coliseum has only three. Its encircling arcades are thicker than those of the Colosseum, and the arches are separated by highly-angular engaged columns. The cornices separating each level form distinct overhangs and the utmost cornice projects far over the others, giving some shelter to the colonnaded walkway that wraps its way around to the entrance.
Finally, the grandeur of the Mirror Chamber presents itself. Inside the well-defined, spacious bounds of the exterior coliseum, sands have crept across the floor toward a vast standing statue of the Goddess of the Sand. Like the other depictions of this Goddess, she wears a strange headdress and is proffering fire in both of her hands. And, interestingly, with this statue, unlike all the others, the technology of the Spinner is built directly into her sacred serpent as it winds upward to the Spinner wheel upon her headdress. Activating this device drives the statue into the ground while subsequently unearthing an immense shard of ebon rock and the pedestal upon which rests the shattered Mirror of Twilight. But all is not as Midna and Link had foreseen. As is told to us, the Mirror has been broken, but not by the rightful ruler of that realm, and therefore its fragmentation was incomplete. The Mirror had long been under the guardianship of the Sages, until their folly led to the destruction of one of their own (from the six crests above the coliseum, we see that the medallion of water has been destroyed, echoing the death of the Sage of Water) and the impartial and ineffective banishment of Ganondorf to the Realm of Twilight. But, one thing is curious. This structure may have existed in the years surrounding the events of Ocarina of Time, and obviously served the dual functions of both a prison and sanctuary for the Sages, wherein they could dispense judgment and mete out sentences. (It also is not known if this was the original structure which housed the Mirror, or if it was later relocated here.) However, clearly this location has fallen into disrepair, both architecturally and in term of its inhabitants. If it once held sacred functions for Hylians or those that came before, they have been swallowed up by the malice of the forsaken inmates once held within.
Why then do the Sages linger here?
If Auru’s words hold truth, and the history of this place is one of torture and damnation akin to the atmosphere of the Shadow Temple, then it should come as no surprise that it has been reclaimed by the damned. And if we view this location through the sociohistorical lens of Hylian hegemony, its environs also reflect the death of a culture. The history surrounding the Arbiter’s Grounds is unclear at best, and we are left with precious little to inform us; a tenuous history, the symbols of a culture long dead, the recent additions of the Hylian Royal Family, and the stated function all coalesce in a structure hidden at the edges of the world—a prison outside the collective mind of Hyrule’s citizenry subject only to the whims of the powerful and forbidden to outside influence. It is medievalism systemized, and an embodiment of the worst of the Dark Ages.
Referring to the strange magic that sealed the Death Sword away, it is potentially a form of amulet or talisman from Japan known as Ofuda. Found in Shinto shrines, they consist primarily of strips of cloth, paper, or metal. The name of a kami, of the multifarious Shinto spirits, is inscribed onto the material strip, and its purpose is protection from harm.
(Additionally, and I know not if this holds significance, the name of Death Sword in Japanese translates to Gobera (or Gobela, depending on the romanization), which appears to be some form of name or title.)
A Second Addition:
Strangely, Spinner paths can be found elsewhere in Hyrule, specifically in mountain paths near to the Bridge of Eldin. They often lead nowhere, or simply facilitate movement over enemies. I do not know what to make of this, but it appears the engineers of the Arbiter’s Grounds were more prolific than previously imagined, or Hylian architects built upon older designs found buried in the desert.
I really wonder what archeologists are going to think of gas stations in thousands of years.
“By unknown means, they would raise a flat slab of concrete on four posts of steel, imitating privative post-and-lintel in a strange way, but there are never any external walls to the structure. An outdoor altar or pavilion perhaps?
To the side stands a smaller building with no obvious connection to the altar besides proximity. Perhaps this is where the relics were kept, and indeed many examples of phials of ”[Coca]-Pepsi" and “Coca-Cola” have been found inside these inner sanctums. Linguists hypothesise that “Coca” was an honourific denoting the sacred status of the Coca-Sanctums as scholars have dubbed them.
Beneath these strange altars are large metal vessels of unknown purpose. It has recently been recognised that there are “stations” beneath the altar, always in pairs. It is thought by some that sacrifices were made of men and women in pairs with the blood perhaps being collected in the subterranean vessel, although more studies must be done.
Occasionally, these altars appear without the canopy although these are rarely found with more than a single pair of sacrificial stations. It is thought that these represent smaller local altars. Perhaps it is only at the canopied altars that human sacrifice took place, with smaller offerings given at these canopyless altars.
The large number of different glyphs and words found near these altars seem to represent different cults, although all seem to have the same sacrificial altars, perhaps representing a single larger pantheon.
Known cults include “Shell” (thought to be a sea or water spirit), “PetroCan” (a nature deity, judging by accompanying leaf motifs), “Esso” (an animal spirit), among others. Very few of these cults seem unique although they are frequently regional with only very few such as “Shell” being found across very wide areas.
More study is required to fully understand the barbaric sacrificial practices of primitive man and these strange altars.“