Chromepieces

Sometimes, the most memorable part of a fantasy story is a strange object. When a character handles an unusual tool or wears a strange garment, it can really make it clear that we’re talking about a foreign place.

So in the development of the Aligare world, I realized I wanted a distinctive object. Not necessarily something the main characters carry around, but some local fixture that wouldn’t exist on Earth. So I worked in some chromepieces.

A chromepiece is a sundial-like fixture made of stone or metal. It focuses a point of light onto a flat face, so the light can be compared to inlaid colour chips. The Great Gem’s light changes colour according to the time of day, so this colour-matching serves the same basic purpose as determining the sun’s position in Earth’s sky. (The “chrome” part of “chromepiece” is from the term chroma, meaning purity or intensity of colour. It has nothing to do with the metal chromium, although a chrome chromepiece is entirely possible.)

But is a chromepiece really necessary? Couldn’t Aligare folk just look at the sky to determine its colour, or look around at their surroundings? Sure they could. Unless someone wants to know the exact time — and Aligare folk usually don’t — the chromepiece is mostly just an excuse to gather in one place.

That’s because each chromepiece is a unique art piece matched to its town or village. Each one is distinctively designed, often depicting a plant or some other elemental form. So a chromepiece is like the flagship symbol of its community, and when you want to get the latest news, where else would you go but the center of the community? When folk are looking to chat, they hang around their town chromepiece on the polite pretense of checking the time of day, or meeting someone at a certain colour of light. As an added bonus, the chromepiece is often placed near the local mage or leader’s home — which is another source of news, events and gossip.

So the town chromepiece isn’t a central feature of Aligare stories. It’s mentioned occasionally, in passing, as a minor detail of town landscapes.

Daylight sat in a pebble-size spot on the town chromepiece face. This moment was the colour of goldenrod blooms, earlier than Rose would have guessed but she knew what time-stretching power a person’s worries could have.

Remedy, a story of Aligare, Chapter 5

But it’s still a part of folk’s lives.



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