The Journal of Veksvale
The View of the Seas
I stepped up to the ledge. Looking down was twenty thousand feet to a raging sea crashing waves up a thousand feet. In the history of this world this wall must have been the rock of death to mariners. Waves started hundreds of miles out to sea to splash that high. There was a reason the East Seas were only crossed by the boldest of Sailors and rarely within five hundred miles of the Split Rock.
But I was in shadow so the “hows and whys” were irrelevant. I had searched for a world with incredibly rugged mountains and vast wilderness forests. I had wanted cold too.. I had found it in spades.
I had not braved the waters at the time of this writing. One day. Below three seas crashed against the Wall of the World. The Ice Bound, The Relgalsa, The Sea of Colors. The seas were so fierce that the few ports filling gaps in the Wall were supplied by pulleys and come-alongs from the plateau above. The lure of pearl is all that fed those little places clinging to the stone.
Three thousand miles Downhill to the west was the sea. Beaches, cities, highways, and a horse and wagon culture. Humans, mostly, though as a traveler I could tell that some time in the past, Orcs, dwarves, and elves had interbred with the natives. So far back that their histories were barely fairy tales and folklore.
I had spent a month in the region known as Hinterhigh. East of it was five hundred miles of some of the ruggedest, most beautiful wilderness I'd run across this side of chaos. At the far end was a thousand mile long edge cutting into the sea that only dropped below sixteen thousand when it reached down to a lower lands on the north and south. The region was rich with wildlife and game.
Below the eight thousand mark was large spread out community of people who live in trade off the mountain hunters, gatherers, artisans, adventurers. Its as peaceful a place I was looking for and I found it, for the most part. They had a tavern of course, with rooms available. Paka would sit on my lap while I played the harp or the flute. I tuned instruments if they were brought me and i taught songs other liked.
In the Village I might as well call Hinterhigh since the people there didn't call it anything, I was told that there was a band of desperate men in the hills. Had been for decades. Some kind of defunct warband turned brigands. They told me that those who chose to live in the deep woods occasionally had to deal with them. Sometimes they raided Hinterhigh. They told me to just cooperate with them and I wouldn't be too badly hurt. They didn't understand me when that made me laugh. At least when I went into the mountain I'd have something to look forward to.
There were also a people called the Ra-Zati who were essentially a wandering nomadic people who moved fairly frequently lived off the land of the high country. I was told it would serve me well to be on good terms with them.
A few week into the mountains I found a nice vista. Good water; a fast moving stream, deep and wide, with a bulge before a flat somewhat wooded area. High rocky hills protecting from the cold breezes, heavy woodlands. Plentiful game. The views were spectacular. I set up my camp and did a few day trips. It was perfect. A great place to winter. Easy reach of the Wall of the World. Lot of nice rocks around for day climbs.
So I dragged out my iron kits. The cook set up was first. The large tripod and the big pot. A couple smaller sets. Three fires. Gonna need them. Setting the pans out. I hadn't unloaded the iron kits in this world yet. It meant I was staying here. Maybe a few years. A good cook area was needed first. Places for skinning, prepping, drying. I'd build a smoke house eventually, and a good still barn. A fish pond. A hot pool.
But first would be a good sized single room cabin. Maybe three room. Plenty of wood. Paka and I could manage.
Its been a few years since I wrote on the first page of this journal. I have two of course. One is for day to day things that I assure you would bore you to tears. My mind is that of a sorcerer but still, notes are a good thing.
Month 1, Day 3, in Veksvale. 20 trees down, drawn, trimmed. Enough for the frame. Dressed two deer. One good set of antlers for toggles. Brew vats working, nothing ready. Conjured a keg of rum. Paka has been gone for three days.
Month 1, Day 3, in Veksvle. Woke up beside the empty keg and the smoldering fire. Swam to clean up. Paka not back. Spent the Day working food, setting drying out. Did trim on the wood, chopped firewood for drying. Made trump for Veksvale. May visit Ang Ri for companionship and some gardening supplies. Tomorrow, I start the frame no matter where Paka is.
Month 1 day 6 No Paka. The bitch. I'm sleeping in a tent instead of a comfy cabin because she wanted to wander. Chose the spot for the water pond. Moved 12,198 rocks. Too lazy to move two more. Will start readying the foundation of the house later but lining the pool comes first. Rows of rocks, fitted. Smooth stone spells to lock them in place. This pond is the hot pool, at the low end of my stretch of river. 30'x 30' x 6'. I'll put a couple hot stones in it to keep it in the mid 100s. Another up stream will be the fish pond.
Month 1, day 7 Since im staying awhile i laid out the garden. Not too much sun. Planted staples. Tempted to Summon Paka but that just tends to piss her off.
Month 1, day 12 Foundation set and dry. Laid the first row around the three room. With all the wood cut and ready for stacking. Paka came back just in time to not do any of the stone work. She looked pretty smug.
Month 1 day 23 Cabin mostly done. Finishing touches. 3 rooms, not counting a closet privy. Porches all around and a deep thirty foot front porch to work on during the winter. I'm air drying several kills till the smoke house and the drying shed get done.
I think I've made the point for the Second Journal?
Over the first two winter Veksvale grew from a camp fire to a community. It hadn't been my intention.
I had finished my work. Mostly, such things are never really done. I had a three room cabin calked against the weather. I'd imported special unbreakable weather-proof windows and covered the installations so as to not look too otherworldly. I had a hot pool at the south end of my land and a fish pond at the north. A smoke house and a distilling barn and a long low storage barn. A animal barn for goats, a few milk cows, a couple horses and a couple mules. A few cats had shown up, in some kind of state of worship for Paka. That was fine with me. Cats eat rats and I really don't.
By this time I had met a lot of the locals, such as the mountains had. Loners for the most parts. Small families. I've got to to know the races, nations and peoples of the planet by hearing what happened “Downhill” that drove people “Uphill”.
Call it 300 people withing 30 miles of my little place.
I started running an informal tavern at first. Open air, fireside, mainly trading what they made for booze. As much a weekly campfire with booze and wilderness survival talks.
Soon a trader came up and asked if he could build at the edge of my vale, across the stream, downhill from my side. I didn't have anything built on that side but he had manners. So I helped him build a trading post. He left and I thought I'd never see him again.
Grikoo brought up a mule train of dozen of the most complacent mules I ever saw packed to the brim with buckets and traps and knives and kegs.. I had started making kegs early on and now making them was just an ongoing process.
Every so often someone else would show up, set up a mile away. Half mile. Quarter mile. Over two summers Veksvale became something of a destination place. A sort of first lay over for those new to the rigors of mountain life.
There is something about the people who come up hill. Resilient, self-reliant. Friendly when they need to be. Most had left the downhill world for good reasons. Its impolite to ask. Because its impoite to ask what drove them to the mountains, they never asked me where I came from and what brought me here. That kind of anonymity is a blessing to one like me.
A week after I i had chosen my site i got my first visitors. A small group of the Ra-Zati arrived at night. I awoke to 20 of them looking over my fire.
Walking out i had prepared my spells for more mundane needs so i decided to depend on brute force if necessary.
They didn't seem to eager for conflict. Mostly they were interested in my bear jerky. They set up their tents among the trees away from my own. Pole-less canvas suspended by ropes strung in trees. They climbed the trees like gymnasts, in a manner i appreciated as a expert in such movement myself. Hanging hammocks from trees they settled in for a short stay.
At first glance they didn't look too different then the people downhill, and for good reason it seemed. Over time as i dealt with their comings and goings i learned a great deal of their history. Remnants of a defeated people near the low hills of the western water, they had fled east, going further up hill then many before them had. A beaten people fleeing the attacks of people only slightly less desperate then they.
In time they found the top of the Wall of the World. Spreading out they made small camps, for a year or a season, or a few days. Despite having outrun their foes it had become a comfortable life for themselves by not becoming attached to places. Not owning possessions they couldn't carry on their backs or on a few beasts of burden. By not being afraid to step away naked and leave all their belongs behind.
They were peaceful for the most part. But they had been a warrior people and fleeing combat did not make them less able to defend themselves in need.
I became friends with them over the years. They never stayed for long. Often they didn't say hello. I would wake up to find their hammocks in the trees. Then they would leave without so much as a fare thee well.
I came back after a month running deep, taking a look east to the sea.
My place was in shambles.. Not destroyed, but infested. I knew of about 300 people within 20 miles of my place and when I crested the hill I saw at least 400 in my vale. I recognized about 30 and none looked happy. I shifted into a bird and landed in the branches of a fir tree that was near the rear of my cabin. Paka shifted to her ferret form and scooted among the undergrowth.
These people had raided my vale, harassed and killed my people, and had abused woman and girls. There was something in me that felt violated. Assaulted in my possessions and in my people. Insulted in my person.
One insults a Lord of Amber, even a minor one, at their peril. One insults a Lord of Chaos, and a Hendrake at that, to their utter disaster.
Flying to the ground a mile away I shed the avian form and took my bearded form again.. I'd let my look go native. Gather the mules and their furs and meats and horns, we walked into greet my visitors.
Within moments a few came to walk me in. They made mock of my age and the limp I effected. They grabbed the riens of my mules and I thought to stop them but it occurred to me that they were unlikely to harm them. There was plenty of meat around without butchering mule.
As I was brought to the hetman of this gang of ruffians the people of the Vale watched me in silence and fear. I could hear someone in my cabin being abused.. I silently cast my sense into the room and found two ruffians and one of the young girls that lived in the vale.. The one inhorsed went to sleep as I cast Personal Paralysis. Having someone frozen on top of one is better then having them die. The other however got the full Lorgus powered Cardiac arrest that made his heart erupt from his chest like a paint-filled balloon.
The Hetman looked up at me, “So this is the founder of my lovely town? Valek, they tell me? Is that right?”
Noding, “Yes, they call me Valek. What have you done to my home?”
The brigands laughed gather to see my humiliation.
“This is my home now. I might not kill you. Though, I should probably kill you, just so they understand how things are here now. Tell you what, you tell them to obey me and i'll let you go down hill. If I ever see you again, you are dead meat. “ The brigands laughed as if they knew he was both mocking me and teasing me.
Nodding, I said,, “Very well. I will be happy to speak to your men... and my people... oh, I mean your new people. Please don't hurt them”
They laughed as the hetman summoned his men who hurried in expecting good fun. I saw numerous woman under the arms of ruffians I knew were not their husbands. I saw some missing faces and that made my blood boil. But I held my temper.
Once the people were assembled the hetman stood and put his hand on by shoulder, a sword in his other hand. He slapped my back to start me. Some part of him may have wondered at the shoulders that did not feel frail.
“People of Veksvale. I know, i've never liked that name. But it seems we have guests and I intend to make them welcome.”
Twisting my arm up and over the hand on my shoulder, turning, striking the hetman and twisting his head sideways with a horrifically crunching sound. Stepping away as the body falls like a cut marionette. Gripping his broadsword in the left hand, drawing it from the sheath as he fell away. .
Stepping to the nearest brigand, the iron knife shifting to its Bowie knife form and dragging the broadsword against his cheek, sheering the top of his head clean off above the teeth.
Several steps more ended the brigands who had been on either side of the hetman, his boon companions, his lieutenants, in a fall of edged steel amongst the surprised warrior. The last had steel in his hand but he had fear in his eyes. I sheered his arm clean at the elbow as his blade bounced of my skull. I left his screaming as he bleed to death.
Only a few moments had passed, but that was enough for the brigands to know death had come for them... They broke and ran.
And the saying told in realms from Amber to Chaos was apparently true in this world too. Run, and you just die tired.
I hunted them. They made no attempt to hide their trails and it probably didn't occur to them they needed. It wouldn't have mattered. I could track them by sign or Sigil and i was inspired to be thorough.
When I returned I found them cleaning the vale and stacking the dead. They had wandered down my trails and collected remains. They were building a bonfire. A merry blaze it would be.
As the fire burned the people of Veksvale finally asked me what I was? I tried telling them I was just a soldier, and one without a country. They were not convinced but they made me realize that while I had come here a stranger, a traveler, I had made a home for these people. So this scattering of homesteads needed a center as much as they needed a leader.
I told them to start collecting. Rocks. Any size. They did. They would come to the fire and drop rocks in the various piles. Small ones, medium ones, big ones. Then one day i started sorting them out, moving them to places around. A wall would do for the most part. Nothing more then four feet. Crenelations up to five.
I pulled the logs from my cabin and replaced the bottom three feet with stone. i cheated a bit smooth stoning them to fit air tight. We scooted out a few good sized stones and I showed them how to chisel split them. Over the next year we built 12 stone foundations and low walls for homes. Made stone smoke houses.
In probably the biggest mistake i made in this place, i scouted an easy trail down to Hinterhigh and established relations with a trading post. Calling my place Veksvale made the residents of the crowded part start calling their place "Hinterhigh Township."
I soon had nearly a hundred regular residents in Fort Vek. A few families, a few travelers, a few employees, hunters. brewers, . A few mountain-men who decided Veksvale wasn't bad for the mountains and retired to the safety and plenty of the Fort. I could always find things for old experienced hands to do. They were always at the fire and their stories are always funny. The truth was they worried that infirmity would hit them in their isolation, as had happened to many before. Its a fear of these men.
After Veksvale had been in place for 4 years a pair of visitor arrived that would change the place once again. One was a world weary warrior and the other was his son, a young boy. I believed he was a deserter but up here you don't ask such things. The fathers name was Cudgel. The Boy was Dowser.
They arrived as many do this high in the mountains; prepared for a hard life of self-sufficiency. Those who come here, especially those who bring kin, have left behind any connections below. Family, rank, status, most even their names, are left in whatever place they abandoned. When they come here they usually claim nothing below.
Cudgel and Dowser were no different.
- Speaking about Magic
I've spoken very little about the magic of this world because it plays almost no part in the history of this place. True acts of magic are considered ridiculous once the witnesses age out. One would have to be an experienced sorcerer, like myself, and study the histories carefully to find examples where magic fudged the fates a bit. This Journal is not meant for the natives and you who read it are likely to have a more worldly view of magic and understand how it is viewed differently in different realms.
To frame this story let us be clear. High Order and Low Order magics work here and work well but no one practices them. Some style of clericalism works here though the religions of this world have few with powers along those lines. I have used my magics in this world and the people hereabouts had a sense that I was a wizard of some kind but they don't often talk about it. There are native "knacks" that pop up from time to time but they are often seen as talents and not as dealings in the forces of the world. Straighten iron, notice poisons, recognize a pregnant animal, Cut stone square, and a thousand little "tricks" or wierdnesses is what comes closest to magic for most folks. "That girl has a talent with stitching!" or "He's good with animals" or "She is a competent midwife." Few talents are such that it forces people to consider what it is that makes them work or to get nervous about them.
Downhill magic and its powers are fairy tales. Things parents use to frighten naughty children. The great tales of the stage and the oratory of actors. The guy down the street does not do magic! When such knacks get too obvious they shy away. Nervous. Worried. This world does not have a "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" kind of paranoia but they don't like such people around.
- That brings us to Dowser.
Whatever family they left behind had decided the boy's power was too obvious to ignore. Too far from the ordinary.
Cudgel had taken his son away after someone had taken offense and tried killing him, killing his wife and daughter instead.
The boy had always been fond of water. Swimming early, eager for baths, always running off to jump in troughs.
In time he could detect leaks in barrels, and locations for wells. When he caused a dry well to fill, they began to get scared of him.
After a long series of desperate escapes they found there way Uphill. In Hinterhigh they were certainly more accommodating to the boy. Being able to find a good place to sink a well to pure water is a useful talent even in a water rich region like Hinterhigh. But since there was some concern about pursuit they sent them further uphill to Veksvale and told them to ask for me.
I made them welcome as i usually did. His father told me harrowing tales of his strange son. I watched Cudgel clench his fist and pound the table and it rocked as only a few strong men can make it move. The fathers strength caught my eye as unusual. I was curious and inspected the boy. I immediately knew why his knack for water was so strong.
He was a water elemental.
In discussion with his father i learned that he was inordinately strong. Always had been. His grandmother had a strong knack for lighting fires. And on and on in his family history were flashes of something. His long family history was a litany of strong knacks and nervous neighbors.
Passing them off to others I thought about it long and hard. Elves, orcs, and dwarves had bred into this people sometime in the ancient past. My guess was that at some point a Dufiro had visited this realm and its offspring had never generated enough power to make the spontaneous transition to Elemental Form. Dufiro, being a varied and lusty race, will copulate with nearly any creature that is willing, and a lot that aren't. They are not especially fertile but impregnating other species is one method of their procreation.
They settled in one of the empty homes near the center of the village. We had a few houses for visitors and new arrivals. Once they started wandering around and meeting people each of the farmsteads had Dowser find a good spot for a well. Even for a water-rich region like ours the convenience of a well means a lot less trudging for a bucket of water.
As time went on Dowser found sites for wells near enough to homes that it wasn't too arduous to build around them and cover the well from the elements.
The population of Veksvale by then was around five hundred, give or take a few hundred wanderers. Roughly, 50 farms and homesteads as well as a good number of travelers. I had numbered the Ra-Viet in my area to around a thousand but since one rarely saw more then 15 together it was hard even for me to be sure.