((As I cling to the seat of a bus shuddering down 9W toward the only part of New York State which doesn't count as "upstate", two things occur to me.
One is a sense of bemusement born from a simultaneous gratefulness for the presence of bus wifi, and terror at an absence of bus seat belts.
The other is that I have never given sufficient thought to the importance, frequency, or severity of travel in the universe of the ITU.
Of course I have explicitly or implicitly explained the importance of movement and migration for the nomads and semi-nomads of the world, and perhaps that is in fact the norm at this time; the vast world has been disconnected for some time, with maintained roads and traveler culture long ago abandoned.
But now that a certain pasty academic has been temporarily ejected from his subscalanean office, the perfect opportunity arises for a few travelogues between now and his arrival at a certain dig site. For those of you who prefer his more researched articles, have no fear. Plenty of his parchments remain scattered upon the desk attached to his doorway, ripe for publication... after they've been sanitized of sensitive subject matter unbecoming of the publishing house of the ITU, of course.))
The Ivory Tower has become somehow even dingier, it seems.
Though we've left at dawn, with the sun's first rays highlighting the old city in full glory, the stains and crumbling patches along the tower's height are only more pronounced for it. An enormous sum of money has been reclaimed by the latest budget meetings by the Board of the Directorate to be put toward the restoration of the campus' namesake, but the estimated date of completion for these efforts numbers in the years, rather than months or weeks. In my first exchange with someone not tied to the University in several weeks, I heard the remark that some of the darkest patches closest to the tower's dilapidated top must date all the way back to the Rupture. I would scarcely be surprised if this were true.
Our party moves quickly to get the wains ready for departure, everyone but the Gertisch student being as unused to the cold as I am. Thanks to the generosity and relative bribeability of several professors not to be named, my study abroad has been furnished with three of my fellow undergraduates.
Ciudo, majoring in foreign languages and literature, shall be our interpreter during the times when Denerothi Ersuut will fail us, which I anticipated to be increasingly regular the farther south we go.
Shoring up our armament for the siege against the language barrier is or resident physician (technically only a botanist-in-training), Sarq. He is one of our precious few students of Nambarish stock, though unfortunately not of geographic origin. I must remember to inquire into the meaning and popularity of his name at a later date. I anticipate that it has its origins in the name of some folk hero, much the same way you might see ten thousand different permutations of "Haraal" walking the streets of Deneroth today.¹
Minoring in both historical ordination and Gertisch fencing, Hraela will be assisting me directly in the recording and analysis of everything we encounter leading up to and at the dig site. She has also elected to bring her training longsword with her, both to keep practicing for the semester's finals, as well as to ensure our getting along without any "man-made inconveniences" along the road. I am alarmed that Instructor Vogt has his pupils maintain their training equipment at shaving sharpness, and it is my hope that I never encounter anything which he would qualify as "battle-ready".²
We are joined by a hired retinue of ten porters, drivers, pathfinders, and other assistants from outside of the campus to ensure that we reach the Pach-Pahs in a timely fashion. What time that will be is unfortunately little more exact than the Board's estimate of Tower repairs, for the weather will play an adversarial role in our travels south.
Winter approaches Deneroth quickly. Even the Beige Trees of Citadel Grove have begun to lose their leaves in full this month, and a Denerothi winter is a wet and snowy one. But we must endure such hardships in order to reach the dig site, which is located beyond the first wave of peaks in the northern reaches of territory under supervision by the People's Anarcho-Syndicalistic Communes of Pach-Pah Yul (PASCOPPY hereafter). There, beyond the rain shadow of what we call the Near Pashels, the winter is quite dry. And in order to have an environment which is not bogged down in mud and influxes of breeding populations of Howler Ibexes, the locals must conduct their archaeological research in the dry cold.
Our wagons are just beginning to turn their wheels now, and it shall take some time and practice to get used to writing on the move. For now, I shall leave this parchment to dry and look upon the many tiers of our fair and introverted city before it is put behind us.
I feel a pang of affection for the city, and even for the University, as our path becomes set and irreversible.
Clearly I need another nip of Esgodarran Whiskey in order to wake up fully.
¹ Mind you, the total population of Deneroth is, as of last decade's census, scarcely higher than twenty thousand, to indicate the sheer inescapability of the name.
² It is a little-known fact that despite including it proudly in his resume, Professor Berchtold Vogt was never awarded the title of Éïsęnmễïster by any known or reputable school of fencing and swordsmanship in Deneroth or the sister cities of the Upper Lowlands. Nor is he known to have ever attended one.