Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 16.

Aside from being somewhat bemused at how peaceably Hraela and the proprietress of the alehouse are parting, I have a good feeling about this morning. I will attempt to gauge how the others are feeling, and try to reconnect with our remaining porters and handlers after the inevitable losses caused by better jobs or duty-shirking at the caravansary. Hopefully I can convince them that despite the odd first day, our future looks good. We can only get farther from the other patrons, and my head can only get better. Right?

... Evidently my positive turn of mood is so sudden, uncharacteristic, and off-putting to my assistants that Sarq fears I'm actually suffering some sort of delirium. He has me on double the rationed amount of water, and is currently letting blood from the arm that I am not using to write. He also seems to be aware of and interested in some of my scar tissue, yet he has pointedly avoided mentioning anything about it. It is as if he realizes that asking that question would get him an answer that he wouldn't want to know.

The grass encroaching on the road beneath us is short but stiff, having been laboriously cut down to size before the first frost stunted it. The blades part like the bristles of a boar-hair brush before our wagon and cart wheels, and they force each man's step ever so slightly to the left or right before yielding. It makes going slow for the moment, but it also gives me time to make a few more observations on Janskurf's Place.

Because of the way it flows around the back of the mound on which the buildings are placed, we did not see the nameless stream which offers the establishment its potable water before. It is already busy with teams of individuals drawing water far to the right-hand side, facing northwest at the moment, and washing clothing or gathering mud toward the left-hand side. Even farther to the left, the river temporarily gives way to a sort of boggy area which, as the wind shifts, is able to be identified as the place where most of the alehouse's waste is dumped. Past that, there are dark pockmarks in slightly more solid ground which I believe to be pits for less liquid waste. It's an unpleasant-looking mire, but surprisingly small considering the volume of people concentrated in the area. I wonder how they've kept the entire region from turning into a cesspit. I wonder if anyone lives close enough downstream to have to worry about the same.

The aforementioned mud gathered from the river bend in pails or tightly woven baskets is carried over to a cleared, level area surrounding an outdoor kiln. There, a clay is processed out of it, after adding firesand taken from powdering the ever-present fragments of broken ceramic from older drinking vessels. An ingenious bit of recycling that ensures new mugs are made quickly and at least somewhat sturdily. Any clay that isn't shaped into vessels to be fired is carted over to the rears of the buildings, to be applied as needed to the wattling and daubing that makes up many of the more "traditional" wall exteriors.

I am remound of the beautiful variety of mediums that people across the world use when building homes for themselves, and how lost on the denizens of the city tiers that beauty must be. I can't deny that Deneroth is a marvel- it is, and a beauty to behold, in the right light. But the uniform grey and white of every perfectly symmetrical ring can make a person yearn for muddy hands and thatching allergies. A thought returns to me of my first day in Deneroth, and how I went wandering back and forth around the second-lowest tier in search of the residence of my new adoptive patrons. It took seven hours for me to pick out the correct identical townhouse with front-central atrium and prestigious pig ornaments. Fortunately, we will have to deal with neither grit nor greyscapes where we are going next. Porylus was originally designed as a lesser sibling to the campus of the ITU, and even when its architecture grew out of the founders' control and blossomed into a genuine city, it retained a bit of that spacious disorganization.

I wouldn't mind hay fever and a stuffy nose right now, however. We're passing close to the gong-bog, and everyone but Elrusyo is covering their faces against the foul air. Even Sarq has given up treating me for the moment and has allowed me to clothe my dressed forearm now that my mood has been safely lowered.

Elrusyo of course seems unperturbed, but also seems to be waiting expectantly for something.

I dearly hope he isn't planning another prank.

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