The map is absolutely empty. Blank. If the world is supposed to reflect the map, there should be nothing here. No rivers, brooks, creeks or streams. No copses, forests, fields, heaths or swamps. No hills or vales. No farms, hamlets, villages or towns. If, on the other hand, the map is supposed to reflect the world, the map is wrong, and since this is a more workable hypothesis, I am taking the liberty of filling in this great off-white space.
We weren’t in a hurry, so we meandered through this region — I’m not even sure it has a name, but I am sure that this is where most of the grain of Valdyas comes from. The soil is rich, there is plenty of water, and there are little tracks, and paths, and roads leading everywhere. There are little hamlets of one, two, four or sometimes even six farms, huddling together. There are small woods or copses between the hamlets, but most of the area is tilled fields, already yellow with ripening wheat. Rye seems absent, though there is a fair amount of barley. There is also a lot of fodder crops, and quite a bit of stock everywhere.
People are friendly, but we get warned about Lord Faran astin Eraday a lot. After the fall of Eraday, he has taken up his abode in the Stone House, apparently a small, fortified manor near the town of Three Hills. I checked, and checked, and triple-checked my map, but this town is not known. Except, probably, in the Temple of Naigha, unless it’s a local priestess who doesn’t correspond with the Temple in Valdis.
In any case, I don’t think that traveling deep into the East or the South or the West would feel more like going into the unknown, as these two days of easy walking south-east of Valdis.
The first night, we stayed at a single farmstead. They were tenants of this Lord Faran, and at least the man and a smaller daughter were in our Guild. The earth here was more than bountiful, and in the early morning, Jeran took us and the girl out to their “core field”. This was a field where he had asked Anshen and Mizran to bless his crops, and had used semsin to bring fruitfulness to the earth. This was new to me; no book I have ever read has mentioned this, and Arni also hadn’t heard about it, so we were very eager to learn, and he taught us his ways.
With that, I realized that if Arni has an affinity, it’s water (I seem to be all over the place, water, earth, air, fire…), and we decided to see whether we could do the same to their mill-pond, where all kinds of fishes were already living, but, well — wouldn’t it be nice if they made even more fishes? So we did, the four of us, and we could feel the power take, and the Gods’ presences being involved.
Filled with awe, we took our leave and went further towards Three Hills. We’d discussed this, and we just knew that we would need to investigate this Lord Faran of the Abolished Name. That is likely going to be a serious business, but it was the most beautiful summer noon when we found a small clearing next to a little brook. The grass was green, moist and lush, and the willow tree spread its branches obligingly. Donkey gave every indication of happiness, and Dog had enough to chase. So we ate Jeran’s cheese and bread, drank clear water, made some love, and then in the shade of the willow tree, I sat down, with a book in one hand, and my other hand on Arni’s head, which she had placed in my lap. I’ve always admired the strength of the language and the form of the love poems by Mehili, the wife of General Beguyan. And once I had learned enough Classical Iss-Peranian, I put my hand to a very imperfect translation. But the translation, at least, was something I could read to Arni.
But the afternoon was warm… Insects were busy buzzing, when they were not occupied with eating each other… The lightest of breezes made tangles of our hair (which we had taken down to wash in the stream before eating)… And for once Mehili failed to grip (or maybe it was my translation), because when we woke up, the afternoon was far advanced, and we still had to find shelter for the night!
Neither Donkey nor Dog had minded our dozing off, the first had cropped all the grass in the clearing and left a few fragrant presents for the next pair of lovers visiting this lovely place, and the latter had caught so many rabbits that he made us a present of two, hardly chewed at all.
The next hamlet very nearly spelled trouble for us. Five houses, lots of cute little children, one of them half-naked after an accident with a heap of ox-shit, all the adults good friends. One of them, the chief, was with the Nameless, though another two were with us. Lara, the chief, noticed where Arni had come from, and she asked angrily, what had happened. And Arni told her. She looked murder when Arni, who really didn’t want to hide herself here, recalled the words with which she had driven the Nameless away.
“That is not done. You cannot say “fuck off” to a God! You should show some more respect!” she shouted, and we were very nearly driven away, if not beaten up. But her husband restrained her — and I said, “Respect needs to be earned — and if the Nameless had wanted that respect, he would not have left, would he?”
But the whole evening was very tense, and in the morning we left as early as possible for Three Hills. These people, by-the-bye, own their steading outright; they had bought it for six riders, which seems to me an absurdly small sum!