Thursday, January 3, 2019

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 19.

With the singing laborers of the woodland edges receding behind us, we continue on through the lazily rolling hills and frosted yet boggy fields. These hills will define the next several days of our travels, until we meet the second major milestone of our journey. Sarq has asked me if the mountains will begin to come into sight soon, yet seems confused by my answer that we will not be reaching the Pashels for several weeks yet. Evidently he means, when will we see the mountains on which Porylus Mons is built?

I look at him for a long, hard moment and wonder when that fairy-tale will stop being told.

Porylus is not located on or near any mountain or mountains, I explain to him. I can tell that another opportunity for "story time" has arisen, so I tell the children to gather 'round. My associates give me a look normally reserved for fathers who've just told unforgivable jokes, but they humor me for the time being. After all, there is little else to do while stuck in this wagon together.

Over a period of approximately one hundred years after the formal consecration and opening of the Ivory Tower's University, there culminated the most genial and passive-aggressive religio-political schism the world has ever known. It all began when scholars who had been chafing under Laizij's eccentricities since Deneroth's founding wished to pursue their own research and knowledge-creation outside of the direction and limits of the Eternal Scholar's interests, yet could not do so without his auspices. So the plan was hatched by one Agerit, an early major contributor to what would become ITU's alchemistry department. He attempted to impress upon Laizij the wisdom of the idea of opening a sister campus to the ITU elsewhere in the burgeoning Haraalian kingdom. After the right appeals were made, Laizij looked upon the idea favorably, and then passed it on to his administration to work out the specifics.

It quickly became the first of countless casualties lost in the depths of Denerothi bureaucracy.

For decades the motion to develop an administrative subcommittee languished in obscurity, outliving all those who signed the original petition, including Agerit. But his name lived on in the original paperwork, which ultimately allowed the approved agreement to be passed down to his great grandson, Harl, who dwelt in one of the middle rings of Deneroth at the time. Incidentally his distant scion was of somewhat like mind, having been barred from entering the ITU due to an unrelated but equally convoluted issue related to family politicking and changing legal definitions of descent held by different offices within University administration. Deciding to hell with it, the effectively unschooled and illiterate Harl took up his ancestor's work and organized enough frustrated academics together to be able to fund the foundation of what would become Porylus Mons.¹

The name Porylus Mons could be translated to mean something like "city of the spongy mountain". Pory- is a cognate with modern words denoting porousness, for the extreme moisture retention of the muddy soil surrounding the site, while -lus is probably derived from the Old Ersuunian word for a chieftain's mobile court, later expanded to refer to settled cities. Mons simply means "mountain", and so could be stretched with some imagination to refer to a much smaller hill. Ciudo is the one saying all of this after butting into the conversation, and I've decided to throw him a bone by letting him address etymologies. He has been thorough, though I have the urge to point out to him that with the development of Serminwurthian study of anatomy, that last word has taken on a slew of other meanings.

The location chosen for the founding of the city was selected based on budget limitations, because the farmers of Deneroth's south were relatively easy to buy the land from, living as far away from the lucrative east-oriented trade roads of the past as they did. Imperfect emulation of Deneroth began when the city was centered on a modestly impressive hill amid the former fields, as a means of demonstrating kinship between the two cities and fostering a functional relationship with the hidebound and traditionalist clergy-faculty.

The sandstone tower at the city's original center was once the domicile of the appointed heads of the school board, but within two generations it was deemed impractical and somewhat isolating, so it was made into a city museum of sorts and opened to the public, which has a significantly easier time accessing the center of the city than in Deneroth, because Porylus was planned laterally, rather than vertically. The oldest and innermost architecture of the city was built with the theme of concentric circles in mind, echoing a bird's eye view of its sister city, but as the settlement attracted genuine interest to the area, its outline expanded to become something that could today only be described as vaguely ovoid.

This habitual lip-service or imperfect emulation became a norm after that first gesture of shared culture and lineage. When funding was eventually obtained in order to elevate the new city out of its early years of disorganized homesteading, it was only at the conclusion of a days-long meeting between administrative groups, and the successful execution of a pig cheese ceremony rigorously practiced by the Porylian hosts for days prior to it. The prose and academic language of the ITU was similarly copied for diplomatic reasons, though it did not take hold in nearly the same way. The occasional quote or publication reaches Deneroth reminding everyone of Porylus' existence and using the old manners of speech, though how genuine this appearance of continuity is is a matter of some debate. I remain skeptical, and hopeful that it is not the case.

Hraela questions my reasoning behind this. I would say that an independent, enterprising spirit was present in Porylus since before the beginning, clearly in disagreement with the old-and-current way of things. I would say the divergence in areas of study since that time is clear evidence of evolving outlook and internal management. I would say that the complete abandonment of ITU's numerical ranking system is the final nail in the proverbial coffin. I would say a number of things. But since she is asking in the same voice that a freshman speaks when they are attempting to hide the fact that they are copying a quote word-for-worth for later use in a thesis statement, I will only say that the geographic distance and Deneroth's relative isolation up until recently probably caused some amount of drift, the same way Deneroth and Nambar have managed to remain somewhat at odds and out of communication.

She seems to be satisfied with this for now.

¹ It is not like Deneroth was going to pay for the project, after all.

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