Distant Lands: Previews

My day job leaves me with a lot of downtime, and to prevent myself from going mad, I’ve taken up practicing writing with my left hand. Of course, I need some content to write, and I found myself defaulting to the old ‘Distant Landsposts I used to write. Basically, they’re gazetteers of fictional places written by people in the world but not from that particular part of it. I’ve mostly been spitballing or developing ideas I’ve had for a long time, and I figured I may as well transcribe them here. At least one of these is currently being punched up into a full post, and another is actually a retread of another setting post I did on the Zalim Desert.


“The coastal plains west of the city for thirty miles and for twenty north have been flooded by the rivers’ waters, for the purposes of agricultural production. The shallowest pools are are used for rice, but over time many have been deepened, and are used for mariculture. Closer to the coast and beyond it, saltwater fishes and great sea cows are kept, the latter let out to graze on the floor of the Shaded Bay. Stones lain in curving patterns demarcate the boundaries between plots, and they are flattened on top to allow foot traffic over them. In days of old, one could walk from the city center to the bay and the great ice caps without ever wetting one’s feet…”

“The whole of the eastern cape enclosing the natural harbor is given over to palaces, monuments, and governmental functions. The placement of the monuments and geography of the bay are such that those entering the city must gaze upon them. The great stele recounting the founder’s flight across the great sea stands at the southern tip, and is thus most obvious to new arrivals when taken with its prodigal height. Just beneath it, the cubelike Five Monuments of War defiantly face the open sea. On the harborside stands the 100 descendants of the founder that together convened the First Senate, immortalized in stone. Also salient is the two palaces dedicated to the founder and his lover, colloquially referred to as the Lord and the Lady, their arched roofs now used as storerooms. Aside from the stele, the dominant structure of the cape is the grand citadel, still the seat of government… “


“They live in four cities, each deeper and further west than the last. They hold that the river’s path was once the road of pilgrimage and only those that sought the water’s holy protection survived the great drought. Interestingly, the men of the canyon hold universally that the further along the route a city is, the holier it is. Consequently the citizens of the deeper and more westerly towns are of a higher class than those upstream, and are favored by the law which is decided by the deepest city, Pagol. From there to Altol, the highest fastness, is a span of fifteen miles as the river flows. In addition to the river and the pilgrim’s old path hewn into the stone, the towns can each contact each other using their great bell, or bells in the case of Emgol. Besides danger, the bells tell of convoys leaving or arriving, festivals, or verdicts of the courts in Pagol. As in other lands, the bells also signify time, starting with the dawn peal of Altol and proceeding downward till the final ringing at dusk in Pagol. The walls of the canyon and gentle waters below conspire to carry their sound through almost 50-miles of canyon length in each direction, as it well should, for the bells were first devised as a warning system against the glass demons and desert spirits that descend from the badlands above the rift to harry the settlements. Indeed, the walls are dotted with the remains of settlements so undone. The so-called Four Cities of the Rift were at various times in history the Twelve, Six, Ten, Eight, or Nine Cities instead. And though the records do not attest this, it is commonly held that once 31 cities spanned 50 miles of river. Their people and sometimes even their names are lost now, but when my escort deigned to allow me a brief moment on the deck of a river barge, I chanced to gaze upon the ruins of one such town, and saw then it was greater than any of the towns currently extant, the sun’s rays gleaming past the galleries and halls carved into the riftwall, the light fading into depths further than my eye could see…”

“The men of the rift sometimes venture back into the cursed sands to trade and scout. Travellers of all sorts infrequently try the deserts, believing the tales of demons overblown and seeing well that in truth water and game are plentiful. Their remains are frequently scavenged by the residents of Altol. Better prepared caravans are eager to trade for the Rift-Dwellers’ silver, and for their part the men of that place are always eager for the material of the outside world, which so rarely reaches them. But for the most part, the only folk regularly contacted, amiably or not, are the other inhabitants of the desert, which can be placed into two broad groups. The first of these are the Whirlwind men, so called for their habit of riding such currents as a form of recreation.They are enabled in this past time by their strange physiology, possessing the bodies of men but head and arms akin to birds. Though poor flyers, they glide and jump well, and can cover nearly impossible distances at a decent pace…”


“In the process of settling succession, the would-be kings invariably burn the city in its entirety, and the elders of the shadow council ritualistically destroy any buildings of wood that remain, the whole process being somehow sacred to the priesthood of the council. Sometimes opposed to that faith but more recently allied is a cult dedicated to the four truly ancient – if the barnacles subsuming their skin are any indication – that call the harbor, coasts, and, distressingly, the city waterways home. That priesthood claims they can speak with the antediluvian beasts, and thereby know what moves in the sea, in addition to possessing an exhaustive knowledge of history. The beasts are also said to be incalculably wise, and in several cases their advice was reckoned to have saved the city from non-ritualistic destruction. It is also on this cult’s account that the port and waters of the Gytondic Sea – and quite a bit further beyond – are free from whalers. The captains of the city regularly harass any whaler they chance across in their home waters, and the cult’s fleet is dedicated to the task. That, and the task of whaling themselves, for their gods give them dispensation to hunt some specimens.”


“Society in the desert is split into three parts: the city-dwellers rationing the water of their oases, the herdsman of the livable portions of the desert, and the men of the subterranean doan villages. Of the first, much has already been said. The pastoralists are the most numerous peoples of the desert, though rarer seen by outsiders for their range is wide. The live in the rockier sands, shrublands, and even high hills. They are for the most pragmatic and keep herds best suited to their pastures, but most keep goats or great shaggy cows called balychs. The very richest keep wholly mammoths and camels, and the camelry of those tribes allied with the towns are well-feared in war. Also popular amongst the wealthy near to the cities are herds of sheep, in this land a foreign import. They commonly display a symbol resembling an elongated palm frond with stems at both ends, this being the shape of a device they use to pull vital water from the very air…”


“That land being devoid utterly of even the basest metals, the inhabitants have a curious method of fashioning weapons. Men and women both brow their hair long over the course of a year or two, and at the allotted time their crowns are shorn, measured, and collected by the tribal heads. Interesting to say, this functions as the only tax the tribe members need pay, as the hair in its unweaponized form serves also as a currency. But the weapon makers take the strands and braid them cunningly to give them strength, and then dip them in resin, which dries and hardens. The resin is native to the island, and mildly toxic, though the smiths add other poisons to make even deadlier weapons. The tips are braided into points, for use as spears and arrowheads, as they are useless for slashing. However, I chanced upon a tribe that lived near great caves holding the abandoned webbing of either many small spiders or a few large ones. Regardless, the threads therein can be woven into cutting edges through great effort. Normally, the process of braiding and drying only occurs in one step for arrowheads and javelin, and perhaps up to three for the very best spears. But dozens of braids and treatments must be made to acquire a spider-silk sword. Aside from stone knives and clubs edged with shark’s teeth or obsidian flint, these are the only cutting weapons on the island, and of far greater quality than any other arms native to that land…”


“The peninsula’s waters are all invariably blighted by the parasite, from the high, clear waters of Shodial Lake that dominates the highlands to the brackish and muddy flows of the fens and mangroves that compose the majority of the land. Only the coldest mountain streams and saltwater of the open sea fully extirpate the worms…”

Categories: 2020


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