Saturday, June 04, 2011


During my time in Mollogou, I stayed for over a month in the town of Malanian. It was relaxing - a stable island in a sea of geographical chaos.

Geography is inconstant, to some extent, in every part of the world; this is why maps are useless before they're completed, and why Wayfinders' abilities are in such high demand. Mollogou is worse than most countries. There are very few towns in Mollogou that bother to have names. They are simply collections of random buildings, rearranged in different groups every day, shuffled and dealt across the entire country like a pack of cards. Your neighbors today could be a hundred miles away tomorrow. Mollogoons consider themselves lucky if their houses even stay intact; most houses trade rooms with other buildings, apparently on a whim. Nothing in the country stays where it's put. This is why parents in Mollogou don't put their children down until they're old enough to fend for themselves. Once something - or someone - is out of sight, chances are they'll never see it again.

Most people in Mollogou try not to get too attached to anything.

Malanian is the largest town in Mollogou. It's one of the only ones with a name. The town is built in the domain of Malanian, the pill bug spirit, which is where the name comes from (it means "Silver Shell" in an archaic dialect of Togol). There are a ridiculous number of local spirits in Mollogou; practically every copse and hilltop has one. No one can possibly be expected to remember them all. The spirits' names are usually written on their shrines, so that strangers (which means practically everyone in the country) can pay proper respect. In Malanian's case, they simply named the town after the spirit and saved themselves the trouble.

Malanian (the spirit) tends to keep to his or herself.* The spirit only appears occasionally, in visions and dreams. During the days of the locust marauders, Malanian is said to have sent nightmares to the entire town and woken them before every attack. Other than the occasional practical message, though, Malanian rarely appears to come out of its shell.

This is not always the case with spirits. A few of the ones in Mollogou have even been known to have romances with mortals; it's surprisingly common to meet people there who claim to be descended from spirits. (The truth of these claims is usually impossible to prove.) Two of the fox spirits in one forest (brother and sister, however that works with spirits) each seem to take a new spouse every century or so. Their clever, elusive descendants number in the hundreds. A Samoval spirit in Gonrang has been married for nearly two hundred years to a man who is immortal due to the Shapeshifter's Curse.

Malanian is not one of these. There are an unusual number of chitinous people in the town - not surprising, I suppose, in a town with an isopod patron - but none of them claim to be descended from the pill bug spirit. Nearly everyone in the town is fond of it, though, and of the ordinary pill bugs that live around it. The streets of Malanian are full of randomly placed rocks, logs, and damp crevices - just the sorts of places pill bugs like. The largest ones run around in the houses like mice (only better behaved). People watch where they step and don't bother to sweep their kitchen floors. Any crumbs or scraps will be eaten by the next day. It's common to see children - and adults, for that matter - walking around with pill bugs on their shoulders or in their hands. They carry them like pets or good luck charms. There's a good reason for this; the town owes its very existence to the pill bug spirit.

Malanian is a dense collection of buildings arranged in a circle, with the outer buildings forming a seamless stone wall around the outside. There are arches through which to enter the town. The walls curve inward at the top, as if the entire town is half of a giant stone sphere.** They were built several centuries ago as a defense against the local variety of dragon. Mollogou dragons are damp, sticky-fingered creatures, more like giant flying frogs than the usual reptilian variety. They are rather insanely fond of leather. They like to chew it. This caused something of a problem several centuries ago; the dragons had a habit of swooping down into towns to carry off all the shoes in sight, and they didn't particularly care if the shoes still had people in them. (People may, in fact, have served as convenient handles, making the shoes easier to grab.)

The people of Malanian (the town) apparently came to an agreement with Malanian (the spirit): if the people built the wall, protecting the town from the sides, the spirit would protect it from above. The spirit's only condition was that the wall be round. As it turned out, this worked quite well. The dragons made several more raids, the spirit repelled them (accounts vary as to how), and they left the town alone after that.*** This protection has made Malanian a haven from many other dangers in Mollogou's history, such as the Locust Marauders and the Laughing Storm.

Though it's not currently needed for defense, this being a relatively peaceful time, the wall is the reason that Malanian is the largest town in Mollogou. It keeps the town together. Malanian's buildings have stayed Malanian's buildings ever since the wall's foundations were laid. The farms around the town still have a tendency to wander off when no one's looking, as all the land in Mollogou does, but the town itself has stayed more or less in one piece. The people all know each other and happily trade with whichever farmers live nearby on any given day.

People in Malanian seem to care about things more than most people in Mollogou. Perhaps it comes from knowing they'll still be there tomorrow.

* As is the case with most spirits, no one seems sure whether Malanian is male or female. It's difficult to tell even on an ordinary pill bug.

** There are a lot of spheres in the town. The spirit likes them, apparently. I suppose that's not surprising for a pill bug.

*** Several years later, a particularly fearless tanner taught the dragons how to make their own leather. Unfortunately, not all the dragons wanted to bother raising the animals they used for leather, so a number of them just switched from stealing shoes to stealing cows. Farmers were less than pleased with the tanner for this.

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