Written for a contest on Earthsong's forum. It's World Building. For those of you who don't know, that means description, description, description. This piece has history, religion, folklore, local customs, geography and personal opinion thrown in as well. I think it's interesting!
My world is small, just me, my books and my house. I live alone in southwestern Allyria, in the Zedon mountain range. I discovered my home a few years ago and resolved to live there the rest of my life.
I first visited on an impulse, by myself. I asked the village in the foothills where the pocket valley was, and they gave me a map – probably hoping I'd get lost. After a long trek made longer by inexperience, I left the woods and saw a dilapidated cabin half-hidden beneath the trees, missing some of its roof, with no front door and no glass in the windows. I knocked as I entered, half as a joke and half to appease whatever spirits might still be there (not that I believe that to be the case). The front door was off center, so that I walked in on the left side of the main room. In front of me was a large stone fireplace with a wide hearth and to my left was a window with a view of the fields. On the right side of the room was the kitchen/dining room. Here stood a large, solidly-built table surrounded by matching chairs. All were dusty, rotting and stained, a testament to the years of neglect that must have passed since the house was last occupied. Against a short section of the front wall was the kitchen counter, under a window that looked toward the creek. The remains of a curtain were tacked to an empty frame. An interior wall divided the cabin in half, and the fireplace was along this wall. In front of the fireplace were a large, hand-woven rug and a pile of four moldy straw mattresses – apparently, this was both the living room and a bedroom.
To the right of the fireplace was the empty doorway to the bedroom. Inside was a large bed of the same construction as the table and chairs, in the same state. At the foot were the remains of a matching dresser. In both the left-hand and back walls there were windows and the long interior wall held a fireplace. A second interior wall to the right of the door divided the back half of the house. This door was intact, but the first time I touched it the handle came off in my hand and the leather hinges parted company with the wall. The resulting explosion of dust and crawlies had me coughing for a full minute, until it settled again. Again I saw four moldy straw mattresses laid out on the floor, disintegrating from age and exposure. I moved back to the front room to escape the dust, and examined the stairs and cellar door, across from the kitchen window. The stairs were not to be trusted, and there was no ladder leading down to the basement, so I called it quits and returned to the village in time for supper with many plans to set in motion. The family that lived here last had been large and crowded – eight children in such a small house! It would hold me comfortably. It struck me that they had to have lived here before the first War, because the design and assembly of the furniture were well over 100 years old. For such a long period of neglect, the cabin was surprisingly stable, but it still needed repairs before it could be deemed livable. I had my mission.
The repair crews were expensive, both for their time and labor, and for their silence – I didn't want anyone following me. The trail up the mountain was easy enough by foot, if long, somewhat more difficult by horse, and nigh-on impossible by wagon, but they managed and got the work done in a year and a half. I moved in three months later. My home is now paneled and floored in gleaming wooden boards taken from local carpenters and craftsmen. I'm sure that by now, the tales of the eccentric noble on the mountain have grown beyond all recognition. I have tried to keep my use of the rooms consistent with their original purposes, though the small bedroom has been converted to a bathroom with all the modern conveniences.
Shortly after I got settled in, my library began to arrive. I had decided to put it on the second floor even before I saw the house, and I saw nothing to change my mind when I saw it – the room was bare. I had shelves installed from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling, and every single one is filled. I have books from every country, in every language, on every subject. It took two months to transfer my library to this remote corner of the world, and nearly that long again to organize it to my satisfaction. I now know every single book in the whole place off by heart. The kitchen counter has been rebuilt in the same spot, and I kept the huge table – had it rebuilt from as much of the original wood as possible, to keep the memories in the house. Besides, it's good for spreading out during research. There are ten chairs as well, reproductions, but they're scattered across the floor from wall to wall, covered with papers and books. I use the larger back room as my bedroom, and again, I've had the original bed frame refinished. The construction was amazing on those pieces; most of the wood was salvageable.
In the process of strengthening the walls, it was discovered that the fireplaces in the living room and the bedroom shared a chimney, yet they vent and heat the rooms as if they were individual units. I have to make a note to research that more thoroughly. It looks like a mix of Y'veni and Giirma construction, but the inside of the chimney is shaved perfectly smooth, and to my knowledge they didn't have that sort of technology 125 years ago. In any case, I am grateful to benefit from their labor. The rug in front of the living room hearth is thick and large, from the wife of one of the carpenters I hired. The rugs in the bathroom and in front of my dresser (reconstruction, of course) are from other artisan wives. The young ladies wanted to provide me with a rug as well, but I convinced them that it would be better to each give me a pillow in her own style, so I could remember each of them. They loved the idea, and now I have over a dozen pillows in front of the bedroom fireplace.
I'm certain that every single person in that village knows exactly where I live, but to their credit, they never bother me. Insular little villages like this one are scattered all over Allyria, a testament to a simpler time. The whole country is more regressed that the rest of the known world, which is part of the reason I decided to come here rather than anywhere in Verace or Thra'astal, though life might have been easier there. I came here to disappear and escape civilization, to escape politics and playing with people's emotions. Here we bow to Nature's will, and build our lives around the rhythms of the earth. The whole of the Zedon mountain range is practically unexplored, completely undisturbed. There's evidence that in the generation or two before the Wars destroyed so much, there had been tentative motions toward civilizing it - several parcels of land close to existing villages are recorded as having been sold to major families at low prices with no land tax, where mortgage could be paid off in decades rather than generations. However, when the Wars began, the government called in all existing debts, seized all questionable holdings and consolidated. Now, almost a century later, I had found the one homestead that still belonged to the family who originally bought it - my family. At that time we had been in the lucrative pearl trade, and my ancestor had been very shrewd. He bought the smallest, cheapest, most distant tract of land offered, and used it as a summer home in the last years of his life. He saw the mortgage paid off in his lifetime, and before the Wars rolled around the government had completely lost track of it, now that it wasn't bringing in cash. There was no further remark made in the family records after he died, most probably because his sons went into the business of politics and a rustic cabin in the woods is not a conducive base of operations. There are no stories among the townspeople of anyone living on top of the mountain since my great-great-grandfather did so. The unnamed family of ten will have to remain a mystery.
But oh, the beautiful solitude they must have enjoyed! The cabin is surrounded by pure nature. On two sides there's a field of considerable size, gently sloping across the creek that begins at the crest of the mountain, crosses my property and eventually joins the Mamal River. The other two sides are sheltered by a mighty forest, wild and virgin. This little pocket valley is a perfect paradise, and I'm almost completely self-reliant. I have planted a small vegetable garden to the left of my door, and an even smaller herb garden to the right. Flowers grow wild everywhere. I have a net in the creek to catch fish, and a few traps in the woods for small game. My water for all purposes is supplied by the crystal clear contents of the creek. The grass is vibrantly green and can grow quite tall in summer - I harvest it in the fall to line and insulate the walls of my second-floor library. I depend on the village for only a few things - paper and ink in abundance (I believe I have started a whole new industry there with my demands), clothing several times a year, and luxuries such as sugar, salt and high-quality lamp oil for the library that must be imported.
My day is a busy one. I get up with the sun and walk my trap lines before breakfast. I spend the morning caring for myself and my land, the afternoon caring for my books and my research. In the evenings I should be cleaning the cabin and preparing for the coming season, but often I get caught up in my research and lose all track of time. For example, did you know that the creation myths of all 46 nations (that we know of) seem to come from one central myth? All include some being, most prevalently a human, coming down to earth and creating another human, then procreating and thus populating the world. None speculate where the earth came from, or where the first human came from; the overwhelming majority simply says 'Higher Being'. After these basic facts it breaks down into what exactly the Higher Being is, and how and where and when, but the connection is fascinating and requires much more research to find the first parting of ways. This village has no particularly religious views on the matter. They've always been there, and always will. The village is moderately-sized, but that's because there's over four generations buried in the cemetery, and very few ever leave. Even fewer move in and even after two or three generations everyone knows who the newcomers are. I suppose I'll be the subject of stories and gossip for hundreds of years at this rate.
These families believe in enjoying life, which to them means work before play – enjoying life requires you to have the time to do enjoyable things, so get your work done fast and well, and you won't have to take all afternoon fixing mistakes. With this work ethic, they are known across the region for their labor. Textiles, carpentry, animal husbandry, farming – it's not Fine Art, but they have an unusual amount of excellence and determination concentrated in one place. Every single youngster is taught to finish all work perfectly before they play, but that play is just as important as work. As they get older, they learn more and work fast. By perfecting their work, and equaling it with play, the children come to see work as play. As adults, they work from morning to night with a smile. Their textiles are tightly woven and concisely designed, their carpentry carved and jointed solidly. Paper-making, which I brought to them, is swiftly becoming as perfectly performed as all the other tasks in the village. The very best children move to the capital to learn from the Masters of their chosen crafts, and become Masters themselves. In this way the village remains comfortably isolated, which is just the way I like it.
My world is small, just me, my books and my house. However, it's still a part of the larger whole, a page in the book of Allyria, in the library of the world of Reshlan.
I guess I still have some more work to do on rectifying that.