User:Modify/Sojourn

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This story is a work in progress.

Sojourn

Author's Note
A word of warning to the reader, while I have endeavored to make this account as chronologically accurate as is possible with my limited resources it is likely that later revisions will change the order in which the following is presented and annotations will be added. It is a simple fact of the matter that these writings were discovered in Khaled's personal effects long after he had passed on and he could not be consulted about their accuracy during the compilation of this book. In addition many of the pages are undated and I have been forced to put them in order based on careful reading of their contents, the nature of the paper they are written on and writing material. Thus it is entirely likely that errors have cropped up in my organization and some of what is written here is entirely fictitious or simply presented in the wrong order. As much was left ambiguous, very few facts, if any can be checked about this part of his life. The validity of any of the following must be considered an educated guess at best.
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I sit here, pencil in hand, curled up in my furs, piece of paper strapped to what once was the backing board of some book and now serves as a makeshift clipboard, and I wonder to myself what in the name of whatever gods and spirits may inhabit these forsaken hills possessed me to do this, to go on this reckless sojourn to the east. What made this son of a wealthy businessman join a band of scruffy, dirty, smelly country bumpkins and entrust his life to them as we headed further and further away from civilization. Sure, there had been my own academic failures. I'm no slouch in the intellectual department but I do not have the diligence or enthusiasm to become a scholar or the ambition to become a successor in one of the family businesses. I have actively avoided responsibility of any kind. Then there were my own insecurities when it came to dealing with others and my lack-luster initiative. Which, I do muse, clashes somewhat with my most recent exploits but that's to be explained later, I have this part to get out of the way first.

Of course, being the underachiever in a family like mine is just not going to happen. I simply had to do /something/ I had to be someone. So, with a little bit of ambition, a lot of not knowing what the heck I was signing up for and some very strongly worded conversations with my father behind me I set out to do this. To travel, and, if the stories were to be believed, do what our familial ancestors had done and find my fortune far abroad in distant lands.

Well, so far I haven't found any fortune. Plenty of snow though. We have loads of snow. I am sure that if I could figure out how to bring the snow back with me I would be a rich man but intellects far greater than my own have pondered this issue and failed. I know, I read it in a book. Oh yeah, I am a bit of the bookish type. Lacking a library of any kind definitely makes this experience all the more ponderous.

Therefore, after leaving my ancestral home on the shores of the warm sea I joined a group of travelers, traders and vagrants, people on their way somewhere else just like me, predominantly fairly poor and used to this lifestyle, unlike me. Since then we headed north, by boat upriver and then east across the river-lands. The steppes were a welcome reprieve from sitting around on boats all day and the hills were a welcome relief from the myriad of biting insect that loved to pester us, especially me with my thin skin and sugary sweet blood.

As we headed further inland the seasons changed and our altitude climbed, introducing me to my first snow. How ecstatic I had been at that first encounter with the fluffy white stuff I had only ever read about. By now, though, I have grown sick of it, how it bites into my feet, how it makes every step a slog and it drains the life from your bones. The altitude likely isn't helping me much either, I feel short of breath after even minor exertion, and my limbs feel as if they are filled with lead, truly a dreadful experience. If we still had the barometer I could tell you how high we were but that has since been lost, or traded away like so many of the things I took along with me. I really was terribly ill prepared for the realities of this quest.

Now though, as uncomfortable as I may be, as much as I may pine for toilets that flush and books that do not do double-duty as toilet-paper, I have gotten to a point where I have found a certain confidence, a certain knowledge that I can do this, I can live like this. It is an odd little realization that while you may not be used to this, nor enjoy it, you can tolerate it, and, with the right prompting you can thrive in this. Taking one day at a time, taking one step at a time you can live here, like this, and live quite well in fact.

Since leaving I have been keeping track of the correspondence between me and my mother. She is ever so fond of it. At first it was daily, then that shrunk to every other day, then once a week and now I send her a letter, whenever we hit a town large enough to have a post-office, quite incapable of receiving a letter back from her. Up until now that was my main outlet for writing, compiling letters of the events going on, the adventures I had had and so forth. But, given their very nature they were limited, censored by my own pen to leave out certain uncomfortable details of my existence here, certain encounters I did not wish to bother my dearest mother with. That is very much not what this letter feels like. That is not what I want to write here. I want to make an honest account, a letter that doesn't need to hide details, does not need to keep secrets. I do not know who I will be addressing this to but one thing I am confident about, I doubt that they will be read by another within my lifetime. Whether picked off my frozen corpse somewhere in these mountains or beyond, or retrieved from the family archive by a curious descendant of mine, I need not be embarrassed about what you, the reader, might think about what I write here. Whether in awe, or chuckling at that stupid little noble from afar who thought he could become important by traveling into the wastes.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

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Fifty-Third Day of Dusk of the year 388

Today we made an interesting discovery. As we were traveling I noticed that the 'road' we were on, if you could call it that, was unnaturally straight and level. Previously roads had referred to these wretched rutted things that twisted and turned as they followed the ancestral animal paths. This one on the other hand with the exception of the odd sapling sprouting out of it had a traversable surface and generally kept going in one direction. It was marvelous. Thus, hitting on an idea I set about doing a bit of digging during one of our rest-stops. After a bit of shifting the snow out of the way I hit upon the sleepers of an old railway track, the rails themselves long gone, likely looted for their metal content. It is my conviction that this was an old Imperial railway, the kind that were built to cut deep into the far east, supplying the colonies there. These fell into disuse after the fisher rebellion and the fall of the third dynasty, which brought an end to most of the colonial efforts of the Imperium.

By train the journey I had made so far would have seemed trivial, in carriages with their own sleeping quarters, dining rooms and even entertainment it would simply have been a challenge of keeping yourself occupied for the two weeks that the journey would take. Sadly the only remaining line that's still operated along it's full length is far north of here and deep inside the Imperium. In addition it's largely restricted to troop trains, supply freighters and shuttles carrying dignitaries and nobility. As much respect as a businessman may command down in the city-states, without a title I am nothing but a commoner in their eyes. Meanwhile out here I am the plump little rich kid who would freeze to death if he got lost.

Remind me why I decided to do this again?

As much as I might lament my decision in doing this there have definitely been some benefits. Through travel and vigorous exercise while living off a diet that is much less sustaining than I might have appreciated at home I have managed to shed any excess weight I might have had. That little stomach that I had been developing ever since turning Twenty-Two that worried me is gone and I have easily lost several pounds, meanwhile I have developed some wiry but tough muscles. I'm by no means strong but I definitely feel more spry, more solid, quicker and leaner. Meanwhile my fur has responded to the colder climate as well, becoming fuller and softer. Somewhat inconvenient whenever we do make it to civilization, I have found indoor temperatures appropriate for men to be uncomfortable, but otherwise I have found myself much better capable of tolerating the local climate, even enjoying being out and about on the road. These are welcome changes that I doubt I would have been capable of achieving without all the unfamiliarity and discomfort I have suffered over these weeks.

This reminds me I really am little compared to the men(1) I travel with and it is hard not to be intimidated by those who tower over you by several heads. I feel physically insignificant compared to them. With arms thicker than my leg they are unmatched in feats of the physical and endurance, carrying more, for longer and doing more work than I ever could. It is impressive and a clear example of why the Imperium has been so successful for so long. With millions of citizens capable of doing so much work their feats of engineering are entirely within their grasp and the city-states are right to fear them. I am not entirely without my advantages though. I have noticed that I am small and light enough to often walk on the crust of ice that forms in snow on a warm day while they and their animals must slog through it. I am also a much more competent climber than any one of them. And for as little work as I am capable of I consume less, any one of their meals would sustain me for days.

Some of my senses are also much more acute than theirs, with much smaller ears that are fixed to the sides of their heads they perceive sound less acutely and have a much harder time figuring out where those sounds are coming from, my senses of taste and smell also seem more acute, though not significantly so. My sight on the other hand seems inferior to theirs, I have never been in need of glasses and I am still young enough to have not suffered any degradation so I do believe this is a general distinction. It appears that they are better at perceiving finer detail as well as comprehending colours I simply do not. I don't quite understand what is going on there but it may explain why imperial art and design seems so dull and bland compared to our own, they require less colour to achieve the same level of distinction we perceive in our own designs. This seems to be a mixed blessing though, shrubbery and bushes seem to confound their eyesight much more than it does my own. Again, I am not sure why and I will have to do some reading up on the matter.

So, for as hard as it may be to appreciate my own contributions at times, I have to remember that I can be and am a valuable member of the group. Lest they joke about eating me again. That definitely sent a shiver down my spine and has forced me to endevour to be as lean and inedible as possible. As well as sleep with a knife under my pillow, you never know when it might come in handy.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

(1) Men is used in the archaic context collectively referring to peoples of the human races, and not to the male or female gender. This is a common linguistic habit amongst City-State peoples, and has been known to cause diplomatic tension between the City-States and the primarily human nobility of the Imperium.

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As I write I am finishing off the last morsels of a meal I caught myself, with my own bare hands, I didn't believe I could but Elsa has been encouraging me to do so for weeks now. She has been telling me how important it is for me to know how to catch my own food in case something happens, I get lost or otherwise cut off from the group. I was never one for hunting, rifles are much too loud when they are being used and back home hunting really just seems like an excuse for rich folk to get away from their wives and agree with each other about things I have never had much interest in. Out here hunting was different, it was still a lot of waiting around and quite boring but it was methodical stalking with a real payoff at the end.

I had been out gathering tinder when I noticed a small sound, it's hard to properly describe, like a soft pattering crunch of a small critter moving about under the snow. I hear it all the time when the conversation dies down on the road, little creatures scrambling to get out of the way of the large creatures that we are. Men cannot hear them so all I got was odd stares the first couple of occasions I brought it up but eventually Elsa caught on and explained to me what was causing them. Acutely aware of this small creature in my vicinity I noticed another thing about these sounds, it wasn't the mad pitter-patter of a creature trying to get away from me but a softer and calmer sound, it did not appear to be aware of my presence. Seeing my opportunity I set my tinder down and waited.

With no timepiece or anything else to track time by it was an agonizingly long wait, it felt like hours but likely was no more than ten or twenty minutes before a tiny little snow white head with beady black eyes poked out of it's burrow and seemed to scrutinize it's surroundings. I am unsure if it noticed me and decided I wasn't a threat or overlooked me entirely because after a moment it's paranoia seemed satisfied and it hopped out onto the snow. It's fur blended in so well that I doubt I would have been capable of seeing it if I had not known it was there. Sure enough though it hopped out and away from the safety and security of it's own home, unaware of the peril it had wandered into, surely an allegory for my own situation.

I was aware this wasn't going to be easy for me, I have fruitlessly chased these creatures before and knew they were fast, much faster than I would ever be. They were predictable though, and not terribly bright. When chased they would run directly away from me but if startled they would attempt to make it for their burrows. All what was really needed was a well thrown stick to send it scurrying back towards what otherwise would have been safety. As it darted into reach I lunged forwards and for a moment there I thought it another opportunity blown as the small creature slipped through my fingers and into it's burrow. Only later would I realize that I had fortuitously put a foot down directly over the tunnel of the poor rodent, when I had lunged I had broken through the icy surface of the snow and collapsed the burrow below, cutting off it's escape. Panicked and confined it doubled back only to find a rather surprised me. One mad scramble later I had it firmly by the scruff and all it could do was kick it's legs and chatter at me in the hope it might somehow squirm loose.

This presented me with a new problem. I definitely wasn't going to walk all the way back to camp with this thing squirming in my hand and risk it getting away from me, definitely not the first thing I had ever successfully hunted by hand. Or what was more on the forefront of my mind at the time, risk it getting purchase somehow and biting me. I had seen Elsa and the others dealing with small animals before, grab it by the head, a small tug and a twist and the creature went limp but I was unsure I could do the same on my first try and I wasn't about to let it's mouth get any closer to my fingers. Fortunately a tree and a lot of wincing on my part presented a solution to this problem, I swung it head first at the trunk a couple of times, fearful that it might only be stunned and wake up to exact it's bloody vengeance against my sins.

Queasy I added it's little broken from to the pile of tinder before heading home, trying my hardest to ignore what had once been a small spark of vibrant life just moments before.

I do feel a certain measure of guilt now for my actions. This was the first time I have ever purposefully taken the life of another being and it strikes me how it wasn't entirely necessary, how I could have let it live out it's natural life without my interference. If there is a place for little creatures like these after their lives are over then I'd like to apologize. Sorry little one, I won't forget you.

You were delicious though.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

This passage is often considered either a fictitious embellishment on Khaled's part or a complete forgery, most cite the fact that it was not found together with his other writings but surfaced under fairly mysterious circumstances, in addition the handwriting style, paper quality and choice of words does not match up with passages that are supposedly contemporary with this one. One explanation for this discrepancy is that the correct chronological placement of this story is much later on in the sequence of writing but this hypothesis has a number of problems, later on he writes of this hunting style and describes already being familiar with it, his choice of phrasing suggests having previously discussed it. In addition the handwriting style still does not match up much later in the events and is more likely to be the hand of another person. What seems to be a more likely explanation is that this is a reproduction from memory of a passage that was lost at some point. The true author of this passage and the the story behind it's creation will unfortunately likely continue to elude us.

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Third Day of Dawn of the year 389

With the solstice behind us I find myself without the hearty banquets of my family, without the obligations of stuffing yourself with food and drink till you felt sick, without the nagging family quarrels being acted out predictably year after year between aunts and nieces, the gifts, functions and concerts. In stead we had an eclectic mix of new years traditions being carried out by those present. Sigrun, the imperial cartographer, out here collecting census data on the villages and towns we passed through, sung her hymnals and fasted while several of the local men with dark straight hair and squinted eyes sung and caroused, howling well into the night.

Sigrun's mission was an odd one, and we shared a couple of nights discussing it. Many of these towns had come about from imperial colonial efforts in the past and the Imperium still considered them constituencies even though they lacked the logistics to exert any kind of real authority. As far as the rest of the world was concerned though these reaches were generally unclaimed with their own little clans and kingdoms popping up periodically. As for the towns themselves, they were a mixed bunch. It was actually quite fascinating to realize just how isolated some of them were as we passed through one village where the guards still wore ancient and heavily patched up Imperial uniforms proclaiming fealty to a dynasty long deposed and dead.

It makes sense though, when all your news arrives from travelers like us and the next village is a very long walk away you gain a very different view on the world as a whole. Minor scuffles over a farm animal become very important events and clashes with neighboring villages become stunning victories and humiliating defeats. Your world is this valley and maybe the next one over. The sparkling cities of the Imperium and City-States are legends and myths passed down from generation to generation. It makes me wonder if our perspectives are perhaps limited in the same way, that there are much greater world-spanning civilizations out there that consider us mere country folk just concerned with our own back yard and the relatively inconsequential events there.

This train of thought warrants more exploration at some other time as right now I am being called to break camp. We have a long march ahead of us today, I have been told that we will be traversing a high ice plateau, a literal river made out of ice and snow agonizingly slowly flowing it's way down through these peaks, there will be no vegetation or shelter and we cannot safely make camp or traverse it in darkness. This worries me, and everything indicates that these concerns are warranted.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

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Seventh Day of Dawn of the year 389

I have to admit that I have grown fond of Elsa, while by no means as large as most of the other men she has a commanding presence with a round face high cheekbones and straight black hair as well as her ornately carved armor. While I could not place her origins myself, I am particularly poor at recognizing the various races of men and I am not well acquainted with their origins, I have been told that she is from the north and used to be an imperial officer, although rumors are floating around of her having been a mercenary, a traitor at some point, or a bandit. I am in no hurry to consider any of these explanations mutually exclusive. She is clearly a competent leader, fighter and appears to be right at home out here in the wilderness. With no small measure of envy I have to admit that she is everything I am not.

This is a detail that she has not missed, yet, rather than look down her nose at me she has been encouraging me, teaching me to become comfortable with the skills I require to live out here all under the guise of helping me survive just in case I get split off from the group. I can however detect a genuine concern under her strict commanding exterior, a certain degree of affinity and affection. That she recognizes in me something that I do not and feels a genuine sense of concern about my well-being. I am of the suspicion that she might have a much more refined mind than she lets the others and the woodsmen know.

It has not escaped me that I might just be projecting my own feelings on her in my search for the comfort of a parent-figure. As such I have been hesitant to speak openly about these feelings out of fear of rejection and my attempts thus far have been vague enough that they have not really gone anywhere. Fortunately I still have plenty of time to find out more about each other, these mountains are not going to end any time soon and impatience will get me nowhere. As my nanny would have said, the foolish kit chases.

For some reason an odd thought poked into my head, weeks ago I encountered my first man-kit, a baby. It was tiny wrinkly and squealing, remarkably ugly. It reminded me of something I once heard my great-grandfather say when I was a youngster at about the age of nine or ten suddenly made a lot of sense. He had said "They come into this world the same way they go out." For some reason it had stuck with me until that day. At the time I had not known what he was talking about but then, upon seeing that little squirming worm of life in it's mothers arms the cogs of my mind clicked together and it all made sense. Have you dear reader ever had that happen to you? Little snippets of knowledge sometimes divided by decades slotting together to form a perfect whole?

Also how come men can consider their offspring adorable? They are not very attractive to begin with but babies are just frightening.

I may need to burn this passage before one of the literate men get a hold of it.(1)

On an only tangentially related note I caught a good look at myself in a clear lake the other day and I was stunned at just how much I have changed. Since departure I have slowly traded my light and expensive silks and cottons with attractive designs for warmer and more practical clothing. A grey shirt with short sleeves that I have tucked into a set of pants, skillfully modified with a sharp knife and a sewing needle by one of the group for me. Both are made from hemp, a courser more durable material which would have itched and chafed if not for my winter pelt. A folded cloth belt holds this together, Elsa having instructed me on how to properly wear it, and a somewhat tatty green woolen cloak with a hood gave me just a bit more protection. Meanwhile with my fur no longer trimmed it had grown in to become more scruffy, less trim and proper, as well as bulking me out somewhat despite all the weight I had lost. This afforded me a leaner, meaner, much more scrappy appearance. I did not look one bit like a plump little noble.(2) In stead I had all the appearance of a scrappy little waif who would sooner bite your fingers off than let them mess with him.

At least that's how Elsa put it.

I have to admit I much prefer that description of myself over anything my aunts would approve of. I would be the scandal of the family if anyone saw me like this. It is a good thing that I am many weeks travel away from them, is it not?

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

(1) Are we not fortunate that he for some reason decided not to do so. (2) While the Si'Dies clan is by no means nobility in any way that the Imperium would recognize many rich City-States business-families refer to themselves as such towards Imperials given they occupy much the same social station as Imperial nobility does in it's own society. I state this for the benefit of Imperial readers of this document.

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Nineteenth Day of Dawn of the year 389

Perched up on a small cliff, back against a small boulder with just the right hollow to it to allow me to lie supine, curled up against it as I stare out over the low rolling hills dotted in forests of sharp triangular trees. They are not like the ones at home, these are straight like little soldiers standing to attention, with their branches heavily laden with last night's snowfall. Their leaves small and sharp, like little green needles and their sap is a thick, sticky and pungent substance, welling out of scars in the bark before congealing into a thick amber coloured mass. It is nasty stuff, matting fur at a touch and almost impossible to get out. It smells unpleasant too, like a smokey turpentine almost, giving the impression of the entire forest having just been painted.

Sigrun informed me that these were called Pines, or Firs, and they reminded her of her home far to the north where they were common even right up to the coast and summers were so short that regular trees would not grow. On the topic of reminding us of home we have just passed through a larger town, a former Imperial mining outpost, large enough to have trade with the outside world and a post office. I saw fit to write a quick letter to my parents before we left. They also seemed to enjoy constructing their buildings entirely of these pine trees, making everything there smell of turpentine, the clothing, the rooms we stayed in, even their food tasted suspiciously so. I have concluded that I do not like pines much.

More importantly I managed to pick up a small amount of clove-tobacco off one of the merchants and I have been sitting here smoking it with a little camphor-oil to soften the smoke. I am not an enthusiastic pipe smoker, it leaves my sinuses overwhelmed, smelling of smoke for days afterwards, and deadens my olfactory senses if I partake in it too often but on occasion I do practice it as a guilty pleasure. A nice casual puff calms the nerves and sharpens the mind as I ponder my place in this bleak landscape. I have never been this far from home before, even the family journeys up to the Imperial cities when I was younger did not take me this far. With the exception of the men here I am well and truly alone, not a single individual of my people is within a thousand kilometers. This would fill me with a measure of despair if it was not for the smoke, for with it I realize that this also awards me a degree of freedom. A freedom from the cultural dictates of my society, of my family, the expectations, the rules and laws are simply no longer relevant or even appropriate at all.

While I could choose to do otherwise I have decided to do my best to discard them, I am but a very small creature in a world that is much larger than I ever could have conceptualized before, I cannot bend the world to my will, I cannot force things to work the way I preconceive they should. I already bear the scars of trying to do so. Putting my ego aside will allow me to learn the many things that this alien world has to teach me.

Time will tell if these words are merely the product of my smoke-addled mind and I swallow them, or they hold some wisdom.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

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Twenty-Fifth Day of Dawn of the year 389

Reading back over my journal entries so far, yes, I have decided to call this a journal, I have noticed a gaping hole in my narrative so far, I have made the assumption that you, the reader is at at familiar with myself, and those around me. Some of you might not even be familiar with my own people or the men I am traveling with, thus I have decided to dedicate some of my precious paper to elucidating on this issue.

I suppose it would be only appropriate to begin with myself, the author.(1) I am Khaled Si'Dies of clan Si'Dies, son to Faykan Si'Dies, head of my clan, member of the Landsraad and a very rich man. My siblings are politicians, traders, scholars and businessmen, the one more wealthy and successful than the other. Then there is me, as I have explained before, I do not fit well within the worldview of my family.

My people are the Fahadin, often referred to in imperial slang as foxes because we do superficially resemble those creatures much like men resemble boar of the north or apes of the southern rainforests. At four and a half imperial feet to the crown of my head I am typical of my people, reaching only sternum-high on men it is hard not to be intimidated by their stature at times. My fur is a warm creamy-brown though my winter coat has come in with rusty tones, darkening my pelt. The most notable feature of my people aside from our short and wiry stature is our ears, they are large, each the size of my own face. I have found it hard to judge the emotional state of other peoples because of their lack of such expressive ears and tail.

Men on the other hand are tall, much taller than myself, and they resemble an ape with long muscular hind legs. Though don't call them that, it infuriates many of them greatly. Their pelts are thin to non-existent, in stead they have tough skins that run the gamut from a deep black to pinkish white, they also have races with dappled skin, called freckles. On their heads though they carry manes of hair which can grow out to impressive lengths if not cut, on the males the manes extend over the face and the practice of decorative shaving is common among men. Their hands have four fingers and a thumb like our own though their nails are flat, spade-shaped and colourless. Their feet on the other hand have four toes like we do with the addition of a fifth, a hallux.

Elsa, one of the men, my Mistress and mentor, while she is not particularly large compared to the others of her kind she does have a commanding air about her. A round face, high cheekbones and jet black hair together with her richly embossed armour and bracers gives her the impression of a general and when she really wants to have things done she sounds like one too. While she has yet to go into great detail about how she came by this equipment but it seems to be important to her beyond just the practical protection it provides, I hope that with time and familiarity I can learn more about her and about what brought her here.

The others are a mixed group, all men, some of them from the imperium with pale skins, varieties of corn-yellow and brown hair. All quite tall, easily several feet taller than myself. The locals are smaller though not by a large margin. I am, short of the family with children who joined us last week the smallest in the group. While this may bother my ego it does have it's advantages, I am easily overlooked, I have been discounted as unimportant and not a threat by those who really should have paid more attention. Of course, this cuts both ways, it can be hard for me to get others to take me seriously. It is frustrating and insulting honestly.

That is a rough overview of us, I will go into greater detail on the others once I have secured greater supplies of paper. Someone likes to steal this precious resources and use it for their toilet needs, I am filled with a great fear that the disrespectful oaf might find my journal and use it for that purpose. As such I have decided to keep the more important passages closer to myself. The way Elsa has taught me to fold my cloth belt allows me to carry small items within it, the paper once written on is definitely flexible enough to be carried along like that.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

(1) I feel the need to distinguish myself, Shaddam Co'Dies, author of this compilation. Khaled is my great-uncle.

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Thirtieth Day of Dawn of the year 389

Snow, like our constant travel, is something you get used to but never ceases to bother you. The cold that freezes your breath onto your whiskers. The way the snow dulls the sounds and smells around you and mutes your footfall, making the sudden yell of some person or the squawk of a bird cause you to flinch. How the grey skies block out the sun and banish the shadows while the softness of the snow acts like some unpleasant form of loose sand, giving way underfoot with each step. These factors all conspire to turn me into a frozen crippled wretch with each and every day of travel, when I finally crawl into one of the tents we use between towns and curl up in my furs my ears and fingers tingle as my calves and thighs burn and you learn to associate the smokey turpentine smell of burning pine with delicious glorious rest.

At first, after the initial marvel of it all has worn off and walking has started to get really painful I was filled with the mistaken notion that the pain would fade as I got used to it. Surely, it is not this unpleasant to everyone else? They do not look to be suffering as much as I was. Surely it would only be a matter of another week or two before I was past the worst. While this was in part true, I am stronger and tougher, capable of walking farther before it becomes unpleasant but the pain never faded, it never went away and that was something I was going to have to come to terms with.

Come to terms with it I did, I have since come to the realization that pain, like discomfort, cold, darkness, a lack of basic plumbing, is something you get used to, something that over time becomes the new normal, the new baseline to which things are measured. They never cease to be unpleasant but they do become something you can deal with, something you can push through and function taking it one step, one day at a time.

For the first weeks I wished to return, to head back home, tail tucked between my legs and admit to my father that this was all a mistake and that I was not cut out for this. That I would rather find something sensible, like become a scribe, manage the family library or attempt to pick my academic career back up again. To do so would require a substantial amount of courage, to face down my father's perceived disappointment and my own, the knowledge that I had failed at something yet again. In stead I took the easy way out, I kept on going, I kept on doing as I was told.

After that things got better, I got used to this life, I made connections to those around me, I incorporated it into myself. Accepting this way of life, living on the move with only a handful of possessions to your name. Accepting a new style of dress, one that doesn't make me stand out as a rich foreigner, and more recently I have picked up a knife, it may be a small thing but it's what I trust myself with, I do not have any formal martial training after-all and it is all too tempting to lug around some huge weapon that somehow presents the illusion of power and protection. I have seen entirely too many youths fall to this, displaying weapons they only had the slightest comprehension of how to use and were much too large to properly use anyway.

Besides, this wicked little thing is good for cutting up food too. I have grown quite fond of it in fact, it is an interesting blade. One side a longer curved blade while the other a shorter straighter one(1). I'm not sure of the significance of this or what this means for it's use. The best I can get out of the others are varieties of that I am supposed to stick the sharp end in other people. Nevertheless, it's interesting shape serves to give it a distinctive appearance from the straight imperial daggers or the blades of my homeland.

I will likely find out at some future point that I have been sold someone's cutlery but for now it's mine.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

(1)I have the very blade in front of me right now, I use it as a letter and page-opener. It was the very device that inspired me to create this compilation.

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Thirty-Seventh Day of Dawn of the year 389

A quiff, I have grown a quiff. Now that my fur has been growing naturally for almost half a year in the absence of me constantly being sent to the barber to keep up appearances it seems that the fur on top of my head slowly grows into this shape. I did not know I could grow something resembling human hair but sure enough it has become quite substantial. This is quite a surprise to myself and I am not sure how to feel about it. Back home some girls would wear wigs to emulate imperial styles, though I never found that to be particularly attractive. Elsa tells me it makes me look adorable, I am not sure how to feel about that either but I suppose I will hang onto it for now, I have to admit it does not look outright bad on me.

By now you, dear reader, will have noticed that my entries are not regular, I would endevour to write an entry every day but there are a number of factors that make this impractical. First there is the matter of paper, I only have so much and I need to make it last between times where we can pick up more at villages we pass through. Making entries without anything particular to report or write about simply for the sake of telling you that nothing had happened strikes me as dull and somewhat of a waste. Then, I do not always have time to make an entry, we are often on the move and there are many days when I simply am too tired to sit down and write out a long entry making sure that I do not ramble too much and my script is legible. Then there is also the matter of where I can write, the tents, while comfortable and warm do lack certain key features, like windows. Writing by firelight is straining on the eyes, candles are expensive and opening the tent flap will let out the warm air, thus for every entry I have to sit outside freezing by toes off. As such I simply cannot make entries when it is not light out or the weather is too bad to be outdoors.

I also appear to have started to dream of food, not even particularly lavish meals either, even things as simple as plant-roots have come up. I believe that it is related to my diet, or the lack thereof. Up here in the north there simply is not such a variety of foods or spices you encounter around the warm sea. There are fewer edible plants and large animals have a harder time grazing. Elsa always makes sure I do get a meal a day but some of the less polite members of the group have seen fit to not share their meals properly, supposing that since I am much smaller and have a fur coat of my own I do not need as much.

It has occurred to me though, without fur how men may not be as well suited for the cold but between the furs and clothing they wear they seem to make up for it. I have asked some of them and they do not seem to report any more trouble with the cold than I have. Though it may be that they are simply more acclimated than I am. I believe though that I do have some advantages, especially against the chilling effect of the cold wind, my fur provides a buffer similar to wrapping a strip of cloth around your head. This is entirely offset though whenever I get drenched, you are capable of removing a piece of clothing like that, I take a lot longer to dry off than they do.

Elsa has told me to stop referring to her as Men, it appears that this bothers her and prefers the term Human if I absolutely must refer to humans by something other than their given names. I am attempting to figure out why, this seems to be something to do with semantics and gender roles in imperial society but it is not an unreasonable request so I am going along with it. I will be practicing this habit in this journal simply to get the hang of it.

On the topic of Elsa. I have come to respect her a great deal. Of all of us she seems to have the best idea of what she is doing and of everyone I think she one of the few people who genuinely cares about my well being. Most are entirely preoccupied with their own problems, to them I am that little nuisance, the child. I really do find myself being treated as such often and it is frustrating as well as insulting. I suppose it is simply hard for them to conceptualize that someone my size is an adult. On the same note, it is hard for me not to have an uncanny sense of security around Elsa, her care, her authority and our size differences do make me nostalgically recall key parts of my own childhood, warm and comforting parts. In some ways I have found a surrogate family out here. It may be a small one with only the most tenuous connections across peoples but it is a connection still.

One drawback though of my relationship with Elsa and her inherent authority is that it does not do much to help me with my own initiative. I have never been one cut out for leadership, I am much more comfortable taking orders than giving them. This is something that my father has lectured me about multiple times but it does not seem to be in my nature, I function much better when I am helping out another. Perhaps it is not that bad, everyone needs a dependable ally and I believe I can do that well. It is frustrating nonetheless when you do watch those who are cut out for command do their thing, how they make decisions so easily without fear of disappointment.

The other day we passed by the oddest of places, just a bit off the road was a small clearing, within it someone had set up a ring of stones, all relatively elongated ones which had been propped up like pillars. Into the stones themselves someone had carved symbols. Some of which I recognized, a sun, trees, the figure of a person, while others were more abstract. Some of those traveling with us said it was a spiritual site, a place where the locals gave offerings to local deities. Sigrun on the other hand said it was a burial site after shooing me off it. Perhaps if I come across another I will make some rubbings of the symbols I did not recognize. Someone back home might be capable of deciphering them.

Reading back over this entry the disjointedness of it, how there is no overriding theme to it. It bothers me. Whenever there is no overriding theme to my entries it feels like I just wasted two things I could have spent more paper on at a later date going into better detail about. Then, I suppose it is a compilation of many small items which do feel important enough to write about right now but do not have enough depth to be an entry all to themselves. Also, if I had waited and not written about this I would run the risk of simply forgetting about them or never amassing enough material to write about. Compromises do have to be made at times.

I feel like smoking my pipe, the snowfall seems to be letting off and it is getting brighter so I suppose I will do just that.

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

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Fourty-First Day of Dawn of the year 389

One thing I had been naively looking forward to upon setting out on this adventure was sampling new foods, getting a taste for these distant lands. I had not realized that these frozen parts would not have the same wealth in plants and animals, basic spices are a luxury and we have passed through towns where even simple root-tea was not even available. I had even professed to some of my peers how I would regale them in stories of the exotic spices I had tasted. I am going to have to swallow those words.

Now I think back to meals I had back home, prepared by cooks using exotic imported fruits and spices, presented by servants in formal attire. All those long meals with so much food, how bored I was as my family discussed their small matters for entirely too long, kicking the legs of an older sibling, being shushed when it was not my turn to speak. How I had wished I was somewhere else, unbound by these conventions. I had even taken up preparing my own meals from time to time, not showing up for dinner. Now those skills come in handy as I pine for those lavish meals.

I have a particular fondness of rice-dishes and fish, it is just a personal taste but there are so many meals you can make with that combination, add in some sweet sauces with just enough spice and you are treated to a wealth of tastes within just a single dish. The city states always has a great culinary tradition, importing traditions and ingredients from all over. Especially the southern nations have a wealth of wonderful tastes and smells to offer. The imperial culinary traditions on the other hand are quite different, practically bland compared to our own. Their tastes are more subtle, less bold, it is more fortifying food based upon the hardy vegetables and animals that grow in their climate. Appropriate when you have to weather ice and snow unlike we do. I wish I had more experience with imperial cuisine out here, it would be quite appropriate.

Now I must switch topics because I have started to make myself salivate, it is quite unsightly. While we have been traveling east the mountains necessitate frequent detours. We

~ Excerpt from The Compiled Writings of Khaled Si'Dies Volume 2 (388 to 394) "Journey into the East"

The entry ends here, an explanation for why has yet to surface.

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Modify (talk) 00:36, 9 March 2013 (UTC)