Across a land called Bornovash, where hills and mountains and rivers are formidable impediments to the movement of people, an ancient road is a single binding thread. It has been woven by the feet of countless travelers over many centuries, laced into the soil and rock in a winding course like a river, for its route has found the way of least resistance and lowest elevation. It is long, spanning the length of Bornovash from east to west, its numerous cutbacks and steep slopes making it far longer than the wild, thickly forested land it crosses. The two are in continuous conflict, the land and the road, each in an effort to violate the other. For now, the road remains and humans use it. Rather, humans use it, so it remains. Because of them it is holding its own against the forces of erosion and relentless, creeping vegetation.
From one end of the land to the other, men and women struggle along the road. Most of them are not going far, only to a neighboring village or meeting place. For these, the rest of it need not be thought about; those portions that an individual may never see but which are equally old and rugged and important, only to someone else. It is not necessary for them to consider things beyond their objectives. Should they be expected to concern themselves with the unseen reaches of that upon which they tread, if it cannot gain for them quicker access to their destinations, or create for them more congenial travelling companions?
The isolation of peoples throughout this land has caused a wide range of philosophies and ideologies. Though a common language is spoken, it has evolved into a number of local dialects. Commerce is rare between villages and cities that are not relatively close. There is, however, a slow but constant interchange of messengers among the larger cities for the purpose of diplomacy and for the exchange of news and ideas. Those of this vocation are a familiar sight along the road since they have been walking back and forth across the land for generations. They are acquainted with the natives of the areas through which they regularly pass, trading news and small goods from other places for food and lodging. This relationship is important to the messengers, for it provides them with those comforts that they would otherwise do without. More important, it helps to ensure their safe passage through the unsettled, lawless areas. The interior of Bornovash is rich with anarchy and disorder.
One of these messengers now walked through the district of Raqhun. He was not one, however, that could be recognized, for he had never been here before. He was all strangeness, not only his countenance but also his clothing and general demeanor. His cloth was of an unusual cut for a messenger, more stylish than utilitarian, and of a fineness not commonly seen on the road. He carried a knife in his belt and a pack on his back that appeared too small for its contents, bulging in an interesting way that caused curiosity in those watching him. It is natural that wonder will grow to fancy, and it was a simple and pleasing matter to assume that it was filled with something important, something that might have to do with his apparent wealth. In Raqhun, the most unbridled and disordered district in the land, these are not the thoughts that a single traveler should wish to inspire in the minds of unfamiliar and perhaps ambitious natives. His name was Kron Fraktul, and this journey was the first he had ever made as a messenger. He had left his own district on the far western edge of Bornovash nearly four weeks before, and by this time had adjusted to the rigors of his new, though temporary, occupation. He had not chosen this out of necessity and the need for an income, for in fact he came from a wealthy family. As it happened, he was doing it as the term of a wager, one grown from a dare he had received from a son of the most trusted messenger in his city. So he was walking in pursuit of the disproof of a point; that his leisurely, sporting life had ruined him, even at his age of twenty-four years, and had killed any abilities required for survival in the world beyond his own small and extravagant one. His wager would be won upon his return home, four months after his departure.
His family name was well known throughout his homeland, for his ancestors through many generations had provided his nation with strong leaders and courageous warriors. His given name, Kron, was the family name of his grandmother’s mother. As Minister of Wisdom and Culture, she was burned in the Pulcherian Onslaught during the religious uprisings in the extreme northern forests of his land. Kron didn’t know her, of course, but her character is known to him through stories told by those who were there, and who saw her courage and determination in the face of irrational emotion. Kron carried a small gold medallion around his neck that had been dug out of the ash pit where his grandmother had perished. Kron treasured the simple but beautiful object, for it represented to him the undying spirit that his grandmother passed along to her descendents.
It is not difficult to understand Kron’s present disadvantage. His lack of intimate knowledge about the various places he was passing through left him at the mercy of terrain, weather, local customs, and bandits, among other things. He realized this, and acted cautiously in everything that he did. He had taken to a guarded silence and a supremely vigilant method of nightly camping. He was unknown wherever he happened to be, so he allowed this to work in his favor as much as possible by the practice of aloofness and, at appropriate times, the wearing of a sinister scowl on his face. He was adequately muscular, being such a player of sports, to be physically threatening to any who might consider overpowering him. He would have been easy prey for a band of outlaws, but so far had avoided any. When he entered Raqhun, however, he prepared himself for the worst.
He was not long in this exceedingly hilly land when he noticed a commotion among the natives. The commotion itself was not surprising because he had been warned that unusual things occurred here as a matter of course. The tumult was moving, and as he walked people entered the road and walked to the east with him. Until now he had enjoyed a swift and quiet journey and had been able to keep his thoughts and assignments in perfect order. Suddenly he was part of a group, surrounded by others going somewhere but yet more interested in the discussion of it, their paces slowing when the talking increased. He moved around them when it was possible, but here the road had definite limits and leaving it would have meant picking his way along steep slopes of the hills, or fighting through thickets of the ubiquitous and potentially painful briar. His departure from Dargrath had been planned so that he could suffer several days’ delay and not jeopardize his scheduled arrival at Ansecch. Ansecch, however, was still four weeks away.
As he walked along he gathered portions of conversations from the others sharing the road with him, and with this managed to construct for himself the essence of what was occurring. He was wary of many of those he saw, because they were for the most part unseemly in appearance and of vulgar manners. They paid him little attention, so involved were they with the important matter at hand. He felt relatively safe within the crowd, even though he looked so different from the rest. It was not long before he encountered people returning from the source of the uproar, and they created even more congestion in the roadway. They excited the others, telling of what they had seen and proclaiming the authenticity and magnificence of it.
“Stranger,” one man in the crowd spoke to him, “have you come to see the miracle?”
“I knew of no miracle until I reached these parts,” Kron answered. “I am on my way east. Have you seen it?”
“Yes, and it is truly a wondrous sight. It is without doubt a message from Greev. He is making himself known to us. He is showing us his sacred image.” He looked toward the sky, raising his hands into the air, and so did his companions behind him. Kron held up his hand in greeting as he passed them by, but they no longer saw him or were aware of his presence. He went on, still mindful of his mission, but increasingly curious about the cause of such spiritual passions.
Chapter 2 can be found here.