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"You people price chipped rocks for almost half as much as a silver and turquoise brooch!"
"No one was murdered or starved to deliver these finished "rocks" to you."
- Banter heard upon the traders' streets leading to Addas Bazaar, a place uncommonly reached by highland traders.
"Their guild-heads' tendency to collect and ship off to the regional capital the vast majority of each community's earnings is almost as confounding as each denizen's mighty enthusiasm to have it done."
- Jor Lertuul, A Travelogue of the Southern Reaches.
To the inhabitants of the enormous basin which makes up the purported heartland of the Ersuun-descended peoples, the distant Pashel mountain range to the south-by-southeast is no more grand than the closer Oron'er Range, but not nearly as tantalizing to those with a belief in the fantastic. It does not figure heavily in most local mythic traditions either, although a remarkable and compelling argument has been made in recent decades that the Pashels are one and the same as the legendary Yorl'di peaks which were said to cradle the folk-hero Haraal. This argument was formulated and contributed to extensively by our own late Berschut Groz, Head of the Department of Comparative Mythology.
May Our Eternal Scholar Laizij keep him in His vast libraries, forever favored and tenured.
Putting briefly aside the mythical (and I emphasize "briefly"), I believe it is in the interest of current geopolitical discourse to synthesize and appreciate the full scope of our records on the Pashels, particularly concerning the civilization which thrives there, and which has thrived for thousands of years already, separated from us by only a relatively few miles, plus several thousand feet of elevation.
To begin, a small linguistic observation is in order. To many of us northerners--or perhaps "lowlanders" is a more appropriate term in this context--the mountains are named the "Pashels" in each of six or seven language families, depending on how one treats the branching theory of Middle Misrel. But to the denizens of those mountains, they are named the Pach-Yul. Because of this I believe that all other variants are in fact derivative of that original term, which translates literally to "Land of the Earth".¹ Similarly, these mountains are inhabited by a remarkably homogeneous people self-identified as the Pach-Pah, or "People of the Earth". To others somewhat less sensitive to the realities of divergent humanoid polymorphism, they are often referred to by names and slurs derisive of their height (or lack thereof).
It is true that Pach-Pah (there is no difference between singular and plural forms of the name) tend toward short heights, relative to those of Ersuunian or Nambarish stock. In the absence of concrete statistical data, I must rely on anecdotal evidence that their people can have individuals of roughly four-and-a-half to five feet in height, with the former apparently treated as quite average and the latter having a very slight stigma for tallness.² But the Pach-Pah possess quite proportionate limbs despite their adaptations to the height and cold of their homeland, and with that I would like to discredit the vulgar assertions of their stuntedness or malformed nature which can be found within the libraries of our very own University. Short as they may be, they are men and women, as akin to us as the famously tall and hearty Reossos trailblazers of the east are. And might I add that some among the Pach-Pah may very well view us as goofy and aberrant in our height. Would you have these stereotypes persist and contribute to the regrettable gulf between our vigorous cultures?
The Pach-Pah lead diverse lives today, though their traditional mode of life was one of semi-permanent herding centered around several species of graceful and woolly (if hypersalivating) even-toed ungulates adapted to their precipitous and rocky home. This proud old tradition continues to exist and today, and its supplies the people with clothing, meat, and dairy products (including a certain cheesy alcohol fermented from them). Alongside these herders exist the remarkable vertical farmers of the lower slopes, whose history and immunity to a fear of heights is deserving of a volume all of their own. Other roles include trading, both internally and with outsiders, though the two are distinguished from one another by a system of barter and favor-keeping within, and a more traditional currency-based system without. There are also craftspersons dealing in a wide range of disciplines and materials. Each livelihood is both protected and regulated by fairly nebulous and permeable bodies of workers and administrators which may be glossed here as being trade guilds, though it should be noted that these groups combine vocation with heritage and bloodline in a way unseen in more local cities.
Stonework holds a special place in the culture of the Pach-Pah, for many of their dwellings are made of earthen material set partway into the ground as a means of enduring the coldest winters on the mountains. Smaller, finer types of stonework exist as well, with the cut and polish of sedimentary pebbles being said to rival the luster of a diamond.
These sayings are a somewhat dubious honor to the Pach-Pah craftspeople in question however, owing to their people's long and sordid history with precious metals and gemstones.
¹ This direct translation unfortunately lacks the rich and subtle connotations of each syllabic unit, which draw in suggestions of elevation, majesty, motherly nurturing, and proto-nationality.
² "Upon being dubbed "Inti the Tall" in good-natured jest, Inti the Diplomat reportedly punched Sornes of Meroth in the gut and demanded recompense while in the presence of his entourage, only to privately apologize to Sornes later on and explain that it was a matter of personal honor and familial dignity." Manjus Terg, Salvaged Records on Pre-Rupture Foreign Policy at Meroth and Deneroth, parchment 23.
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