Sunday, July 29, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 18.

This is the part of the narrative which would be enormously abbreviated, or completely omitted altogether. Partly due to the fact that it is somewhat of an awkward subject to recognize that Deneroth's area of influence ends so abruptly such a relatively close distance from its walls, facing southward, and partly due to the fact that many writers find the succeeding days of travel quite empty and dull. I do mean this generally, but I can also point to the accounts of Hirmant & Steppos as personal influences of my perspective on this.

Unfortunately for my dear readers, I will not exercise the same degree of brevity.

... As if the rest of my writing career is not an indication.

We are currently half of a day out from Janskurf's Place and the spot where curious Elrusyo separated from us. The seats of our wagons are growing less and less comfortable, and in the interest of spairing ourselves as well as staying warm, we've taken to walking beside the caravan. At the rate the sluggish animals are traveling, it is not so strenuous that I am incapable of writing- though some of my colleagues and I have already begun to sweat, or in my case, exude a pasty sort of glow. The end result is that our backsides and our legs hurt, rather than feel rested, from alternating sitting and walking. This comes with the natural exception of Hraela. In fact from this point onward, whenever I refer to any sort of physical hardship, the reader can be assured that I am not including her among sufferers or belly-achers.¹

The land south of Deneroth is not empty wasteland. Not in the sense of climate or natural life, and certainly not in the sense of human population either. These regions, once struck the hardest by the long winter of the Rupture, have been reclaimed by nature and by mankind alike over the past two hundred years or so. Small farms and communities like the one where we first encountered Elrusyo exist here, dotting fields, rivers, and hills. Organization between them is present but relatively minimum, except when the rare intermarriage or dispute over particular facets of land draw them together. They do more than subsist and survive, contributing to the north-south trade which keeps the road between Deneroth and Porylus from deteriorating into overgrown divots.

The people here are knowledgeable enough of the cities to know where we hail from and where we are likely bound, but they are ignorant enough to treat us kindly regardless. They speak a language based in Ersuut, but with a heavy admixture of Esgodarran words, as is quite common up north. In fact I would venture to say that they belong to the same continuum of mixed populations living in the region. A rare noun or highly irregular verb leaves Ciudo groping for possible Gertish or River-folk influences, but more often than not he becomes tangled in his own web of morphology.

The people here also sing, and those ethereal sounds are what we now listen to, carrying clearly over the cold air farther than they would in warmer seasons.

Their style of song isn't performative, although I don't doubt that they have a time and a place for that in their day-to-day life as well. Rather, it is one closely associated with physical work. Every profession, it seems, has its own little canon of songs, rhymes, and patterns of rhythm. Many of these songs, in addition to assisting in keeping the pace of work going steady, whether alone or in a team of individuals, also possess a mnemonic quality.

The women and their children harvesting herb gardens almost indistinguishable from the surrounding undeveloped land sing to recall which plant is safe, what each part of the plant is used for, and how to spot weeds or invasive species creeping into their respective habitats. The men elsewhere in groves keep up with one another on short but thick two-person saws as they gather lumber for the winter, and a periodic shout of a refrain alerts those nearby to falling boughs. Shepherds of both sexes stream a soothing series of notes which names and numbers each animal in their flock, yet with surprising fluidity it changes into a staccato litany of curses aimed at us when the caravan gets in the way of their road crossing, or one of the horses spooks a ewe. We cannot now hear them as we keep to the road, but a knowledgeable guide explains to us that songs also exist for domestic, culinary, and even legal matters at home. Their oral tradition is a strong one, with the wars which saw the deaths of the last Haraalians being just recent additions to a landscape of folklore.

It is an almost entirely illiterate world that they live in after all, and everything must be trusted to memory.

As terrifying as that prospect sounds to someone dependent upon writing like myself, I also can't help but see a certain seductive appeal in it. An axiom associated with Laizij holds that absence is the father of creativity, just as adversity is the mother of innovation. And I believe that these people have demonstrated that, though not according to the traditional models of progress. Rather than filling a preexisting void with a new mechanical thing, they have simply negated the void's existence by re-purposing something which they already possessed and knew well. It is enticingly simple.

But I must stop before I begin romanticizing rural populations of whom I know almost nothing about, like some simpering noble from the second tier reading a popular novel. I am sure that the world has a way of delivering just as much frustration and tedium to their lives as ours. Hopefully we hurry on our way before we contribute more of either to these shepherds.

¹ Granted, none of our professional porters and animal handlers are very likely to be in significant pain either. And since Ciudo and Sarq at least have youth on their side, I am without a doubt the least physically fit person within miles. Perhaps just keep that in mind as you read ahead, and allow me to maintain the illusion of dignity by subsuming myself within a tired collective.

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