Sunday, July 01, 2012

First of July

If the postbird's message reached you - and their messages rarely fail to reach their recipients - then you already know why I've been unable to write for the past month. Everyone in the town of Arkit has been unable to write for the past month, or at least to write anything that makes sense. Words fractured and scrambled the instant they went onto the page. Letters wandered off to visit other sentences, or twisted and became the characters of other alphabets, shifting as wildly and unpredictably as geography does.

I'll write more about this in my next letter.

The geography of the Golden Desert, in contrast, has been surprisingly unsurprising during my time here. Perhaps it's only that there is so much and so little of it. The Desert is full of vast, empty spaces: plains of dust and rock, hard-baked earth broken by the occasional cactus or scrubby bush, seas of sand dunes with a fine spray of golden grains blowing from their crests. All the geography shifts - with the wind, if nothing else - but most of it is so much the same that it makes no difference. Sand is sand wherever it blows.

The towns and cities are somewhat different. Each one is unique - the more isolated ones especially so - but they are tiny in relation to the Desert. Even the largest cities are needles in a haystack, corks in an ocean, periods on a vast blank page. They rarely come within sight of each other. There are few landmarks in the Golden Desert, and those there are are so distant from any others that they are nearly useless. Travelers in the Desert use a hundred different methods of navigation, some more reliable than others. Many simply rely on luck.

One of the few reliable landmarks is the one I've been following for the past year: the river Lahra. Travel along the Lahra is one of the few methods of travel in the Desert that guarantees water and inhabited lands along the way, and as a result, the area around the river is one of the Desert's major centers of civilization.

This is where I've been traveling. There are many settlements along the river, ranging from tiny villages to cities like Hemrikath and Shast. Like nearly every part of Hamjamser, most of them welcome traveling artists, eager for exotic styles and techniques. My own work has been well received here. A naturalist in Hemrikath was delighted to see my sketches and notes from the Gray Coast, as they included several varieties of seal and saltwater kappa that no one in Hemrikath had ever seen in person. A temple in Hark let me contribute designs for half a dozen gargoyles; a tiny village with the disproportionately long name of Kata-Mata-Hamarini-Kishtarak asked me to paint the railings of their new funerary arena. Other than the disaster in Arkit, it has been a good year.

But again, more on that in the next letter.

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