The Turning Hand
The Turning Hand on the edge of the Commercia is the oldest meeting house on Sinophia. Said to have existed for more than a millennia, it has succumbed by inches to the Sinophian malaise. During the centuries of prosperity, merchants, traders, information gleaners, and other fortune-seekers would meet in the Turning Hand’s golden halls to exchange information, eat, drink, and mingle in the incense-fogged atmosphere. However, the death of trade and Sinophia’s isolation and decline doomed the Hand. People still come to trade and deal in whispers, but the bustle of the place is long gone. The alcove tables are not filled, one does not make reservations for private dining, and most of the tarot tellers for which the Hand was famed are absent, their veiled enclaves unneeded when the fortunes of Sinophia are so clear. The Hand has now become the ill-lit haunt of what few off-worlders come to Sinophia. Here, one is likely to find agents of foreign cartels, far travellers, and silent strangers sipping spiced amasec and muttering discussions amid the empty spaces and echoing salons. Gossip and rumours run though the Turning Hand like a river; most are highly dubious but many are at least partially accurate.
The Hand’s great central chamber, is a richly decorated (but long-faded) domed room dominated by seven great pillars, each ten times the height of a man and glittering with tarnished golden fume pipes pumping incense into the air. Meanwhile, faces of cards from the Emperor’s Tarot— enamelled on brass sheets—rotate on chains dangling from the painted ceiling. Designed to hold hundreds, the chamber seems now oppressively silent and ill-lit, its high stained-glass windows shrouded in grime and rainwater. A circular bar fills the centre of the crimson carpeted floor. There, the owner (a plump, elderly man known as Master Brazen Thall) lords over decrepit-looking servitors. Thall’s easy manner and good-natured absentmindedness conceals a wit and will undimmed by time, and he misses little.