Monday, February 17, 2014

X is for Rua de Xavier

The Liure river runs right through Porto Liure.  Although it is not truly navigable beyond the city, small ferries, gondolas, and other small watercraft ply the river, as well as the many canals that spring off from the river and penetrate deeply into the city.  Because cool sea breezes blow in after dark, the river and the many canals are the source of frequent blankets of fog and mist that rise from the waters as the temperature changes.  This thick blanket of mist helps to cement and encourage the many legends and stories of hauntings and ghosts that have given Porto Liure it's nickname as Port of Ghosts, but the persistance of the rumors and legends and stories... as well as the disquieting frequency with which new stories seems to be added to the corpus suggests to many that they are not merely quaint urban myths, but indicative of a much more serious condition.

Many such stories originate on the infamous Rua de Xavier.  The Rua is, strictly speaking, a bridge rather than a street, but the name persists regardless.  The Rua is about a quarter mile long, and bridges the Academy to the Ciutat Veixa district to the north.  Built on a series of stone starlings, the Rua is fairly wide, and has developed almost into a mini-neighborhood in its own right.  Buildings--houses, business, and more line both sides of the bridge, and hang out over the river to a considerable degree.  Many of them also overhang the street, so walking along the Rua is often compared to walking through a dim, man-made tunnel.

One of the most infamous buildings on the Rua is the vacant Church of Starry Wisdom.  Once a business owned by a locksmith, later converted into a pub, and later again into a meeting place for said church, this building is now often claimed to be haunted.  Five years ago, a cult was rousted from the Church after allegations of kidnappings, sacrifices, and odd summonings of unearthly, unnatural creatures.  After a closed trial, there was a very public execution of twenty-one individuals associated with the church.  Rumors hint at ten times that many members who slunk away quietly to disappear into the city.

Since that time, the ghosts of the executed members of the Church of Starry Wisdom are among the least of the stories that still remain.  Strange and furtive individuals are still said to lurk about the church at night.  Disquieting behavior from rats in the area is often reported, including a persistant rumor of a rat that has the face of a noted assistant of the executed "high priest" of the cult.  This fellow was know as Brown Jaume, and a large rat with Brown Jaume's face has been reported by no less than five people who live in the area nearby.  There are rumors that something that was summoned remains in the area. Perhaps trapped in the building of the church itself (hopefully) but perhaps not.  Residents nearby close and lock their doors on moonless nights, especially if the mists are up.

Strange sounds, often disembodied, are heard in the area.  Chittering sounds, or the chanting of many voices (although no source for the chanting can ever be found).  Sounds of uncertain provenance are frequent in Porto Liure in general, and this is to be expected for a city that is frequently blanketed in thick mists, but the frequency of which they are reported in the Rua de Xavier is higher than anywhere else in the city.

Gradually, many people who live or work on the Rua itself have been selling out, often at a loss, and moving to other neighborhoods.  Sometimes this means new neighbors—an always troubling prospect in a city like Porto Liure, but sometimes it simply means that buildings go vacant for months at a time as new owners attempt to figure out what to do with real estate that hangs over a bridge.  It is estimated that over the last five years, almost ten percent of the former inhabitants have left, and of that ten percent, probably about half have been replaced.  Five percent of the buildings on the Rua are vacant... but troublingly, not necessarily abandoned or empty.  Because the Rua is a bridge that connects to neighborhoods, it did not have an assigned Watch, but the Watch has since added the bridge to the route of the patrols for Ciutat Veixa, and the Academy Guard also keeps a wary eye on the place.  This has improved the feeling of security for many in the area, but dark rumors persist.

No comments: