Story 1: The Climb Part 2
Part 2: Trunk
20th day of Fendas, 1456 AA
Four days on the road have done wonders for me; alas, I fear that my diary-writing has taken the toll for my efforts. As a researcher and a scientist I must make sure that I keep better records from here on out.
The countryside between Downshire and Daron is truly beautiful; rolling hills with a bracing wind coming down off of them, and the occasional small copse of trees. It’s mostly pasture land, supplying animals for bigger towns like Dotton and Eastwatch, and the forts that sit on the foothills of the Eastern Mountains. I passed a few people on the road, mostly traders; one offered me what I thought was a fair exchange when he brought out a comfortable-looking robe, bright gold thread winking all over it. I’m ashamed to say I gave in to temptation and later paid for it, as it was infested with fleas! This episode just goes to show that any member of the Church’s active research team must temper their studies with time in the real world so that they do not lose their edge.
Confound these fleas!
21st day of Fendas, 1456 AA
Came upon a wagon train by the side of the road today. There were only seven people in all, what looked like a family of traders; two parents, four children and what might have been a husband to one of the daughters judging by his protective nature. They were initially defensive, going so far as to try and stop me from my journey (which amused me no end!) but I was intrigued, so I stopped for a short while. It turned out that three of the women had come down with black fever, a little rare in these parts; a quick survey of their goods revealed that they had a few items of Koruan origin; at least one of the artefacts was from the nation’s far past, plundered from a tomb, and it apparently still carried the vestiges of that which had no doubt killed its owners.
I brewed for them a simple tincture of honeywort and bidder’s beard, both commonly found by roadsides, and bade them drink it. Their symptoms improved almost immediately; they stopped vomiting, their pupils returned to normal and even the brown rash across their arms lightened in colour noticeably.
How is it, I wondered as I blessed them and left, that the knowledge of yesteryear can be so quickly forgotten? Brown fever is so rare now that the wisdom of its cure has been forgotten, written out of history. Lucky for them, for us all, that the Church makes it its business to keep records of things like this so that future generations may yet prosper, Tree willing.
Fleas still problematic, but better today. I am sure I can obtain some sort of repellent in Daron.
22nd day of Fendas, 1456 AA
Flea repellent. Ahhh, were there ever two more beautiful words in the dictionary?
Bang on time, I have reached the village of Daron. There’s not much to see here; the Village Elder, certainly living up to his title, was half my height even leaning on a cane. Introducing himself as Henry Foil, he then proceeded to walk me very slowly to a room at the inn. I queried what a man of his stature (no pun intended, I promise) was doing welcoming traffic to his village; surely the roads were far too quiet to warrant him doing that as a full-time occupation. He shrugged and tapped his nose slyly. “You’d be amazed what people say and do when they think ol’ Foil ain’t watchin’ or listenin’,” he said, the coughed up a glob of something foul and left me to sleep.
The innkeeper charged me three coppers for the candle I am writing by; business obviously is extremely slow. I shall ensure I leave it here for the next occupant, though I have no guarantees that the man won’t just trim the end with a knife and sell it on for another three coppers.
Flea repellent. Tree be praised!
25th day of Fendas, 1456 AA
Tree be praised! A good omen! Today sees me in an inn room at Velec’s Hall, a full day ahead of my itinerary. The wagon train from the 21st, whose lady folk were now completely recovered, passed me on the road heading to this tiny hamlet and offered me passage. They made incredibly good time, and it was a delight to sit around a campfire eating home-cooked food rather than lying on a cold bedroll with only trail rations. On top of that, they whipped the horses to within an inch of their lives and I was pleased that they did, for another day at the Tree might mean another exciting discovery.
My luck continues, as the wagoners, a family by the name of Tuck, are so grateful for my aid that they will take me on to Simel’s Hearth. By the time I get to River’s Song I could be two days ahead of schedule or more. Perhaps the ferry will take me to Rootholme early!
The wagon rocks and judders over the road too much for me to make much in the way of diary entries, as evidenced by the complete lack since Daron. This may be my last one for a few days.
1st day of Maia, 1456 AA
I said the Litany of the Maia Beata this morning, as all Church members should. For my congregation I had a curious sheep and for my
Good to their word, the family Tuck got me to Simel’s Hearth within only a day and a half and I was able to push on northwards towards River’s Song. I am yet two days shy of the ferry and, with luck, will be able to make my next diary entry from its cabins. To sleep in a comfortable bed once again will be a blessing; not a single night since I left has been truly comfortable, though there are certainly degrees of discomfort!
I have been neglecting my duties somewhat, though, and I think it only fitting that I make my first official observations of the Arbour.
The Arbour. An organism so enormous that it is visible from most of central Ehrian, the continent on which our countries rest. Even as far away as Fennica on a clear day have people reported that they can see the Arbour, though thick cloud masks much of it beyond a certain height. This close, though, it is becoming intermittently clearer; details such as lower branches and its general structure are becoming clear. There is a pronounced bulge at the base, just above where the root structure would end on any ordinary tree, and then the climb would begin in earnest. The trunk appears smooth, but I know from studying our cutting of the One Tree, that which all towns and villages should have, that the bark of the Arbour is almost pebbly, split into small sections that tesselate in and around each other.
I will be able to see more as the days continue and the distance grows less, I am sure.
3rd day of Maia, 1456 AA
The ferry at last! The Golden Princess was not quite the enormous vessel I had imagined, but it certainly moves as fast as I had hoped. I am confident that we are going to arrive and maintain the two or three days I am currently ahead of my original plan.
A few notes on the Princess: about the size of three wagons laid end to end, she has three levels; two above water and one below. The highest, a cabin, is large enough for two members of the crew to inhabit at all times as it seems that two are required to ensure our safety. The main deck is all-but empty to allow for convenient loading and unloading of equipment and personnel. Several pipes snake up from belowdecks and empty out over the sides of the boat; from these, steam pours when we are underway.
Below decks lies the engine, a monster of brass. I initially thought to ask why brass was used instead of the relatively easy to obtain iron; one careful look around told me everything I needed to know. The engine room dripped with condensation and, of course, where water is involved there is always rust. Brass, immune to this infirmity, is a necessity.
Finally there are the cabins. Though I was hoping for luxury I was unprepared for quite how cramped the quarters would be. More a cylinder than a bed! I am to climb up a ladder and swing myself into the bedspace, with the ceiling no more than a foot from my nose. Enough room to turn, I discovered, but not to sit up.
We are steaming quite happily up the river and the captain, a short fellow from Zar by the name of McInnis, tells me that we will be at Rootholme within the week.
4th day of Maia, 1456 AA
River-sickness. Is that a thing? Sea-sickness, yes, but not this. There is hardly any rolling motion but that produced by the vessel itself.
5th day of Maia, 1456 AA
Still sick. Better today, managed to hold down some soup. The crew, both of them, are quite unsympathetic.
7th day of Maia, 1456 AA
At last! Rootholme, the jewel in the crown of the Church and home to many of its finest minds. I am truly humbled to be in their presence.
When I think of the many thousands that make the journey here as a pilgrimage to beseech the Arbour for good lives, bountiful profits, strong children. I suppose I am here making my own pilgrimage, but I want only knowledge. We can save the world with knowledge, I am sure.
Tomorrow I set off, but this evening I am to be a guest of some of the most well-known researchers who dwell here. I have looked out my best clothing, though it is sadly travel-worn and I am weary. Perhaps my appetite will grow when I see what is being served.
To think that my next diary entry will be made at the foot of the tree, or even having begun the climb! Such excitement makes me feel young again. Perhaps the High Father really did know what he was doing when he chose me for this assignment.