In the single tavern of the fledgeling town of Dugenstir, firelight flickered gold over the polished wood; a thick bearskin rug was spread warmly over the floor, aromas of spiced potatoes and marinated beef drifted in from the kitchen. The innkeeper stood nearby, aimlessly pacing at random intervals, while the barkeep wiped the counter. A priest of the Djombul sect sat in a stout chair that offered the services of both the bearskin rug and the welcoming hearth and closed a large, drab book, pausing to reflect over what he’d just read.
The text had been a history of the Grudensaan colony to the current year. It had told of how the Grudensaan, gnomes and humans and elves and all, had boarded massive vessels powered by clever combinations of mechanical engineering and magical propulsion, and escaped the flooding of the planet Dremuc. They had landed on this isle, nearly a thousand years ago now, and set out to work making a home for themselves on their new world. The population had rose to heights of ninety-thousand before centuries of decline, finally assuming its current level of eighty-thousand citizens.
They had assembled units of infantry armed with rifles, but in all this time the Grudensaan had never encountered a member of any other race. They had established radio contact with some, but the raging seas and broad wilderness of the planet Fesiun kept them isolated. So it was that in the year 3780 they knew that the government of the Bresugese had been utterly destroyed by the Xanya, and that seventy years later the Dunbish had been conquered.
Initially it had been a shock to discover that their land was an island. Next had come the realization that there were few trees in the island’s single stretch of forest and there were no obvious signs of metallic deposits. So for centuries the clever gnomes had worked to devise some sort of ship out of the materials at hand to sail out across the sea to new lands, but no ideas have ever come forth.
The history had also related the story of Gen Stulp, which was originally a native city, and before that something else. The Grudensaan had discovered it soon after landing on Fesiun; in a sprawling complex of ancient mouldering ruins a tribe was living, a short slight race somewhere between a dwarf and an elf. They were friendly, and it was decided that the two peoples should become one. They integrated quickly with the gnomes and so was founded the city of Gen Stulp. For a hundred years the two cities, Han Deeg and Gen Stulp, were the entire Grudensaan existence. Until this year, with the founding of two new colonies, Han Siven to the north and this village, Dugenstir, in the south. Concerns had long been growing that soon the small island would be too small for a growing population, but hope held out for someone to design a boat to sail them to new lands.
The priest was fascinated by history in general, but of course so much of it concerned the Old World it was easy to dismiss more recent history as trivial. Still, he felt that it was the more recent history that lent more specific context to his own life. Here a fresh breeze wafted in the doorway and he stood and left the inn. He walked along the road, picking up what herbs he could to make his living, thinking about how so recently it had all been wild forest.
The forest did, of course, remain wild. Despite the wide, flat, muddy track and the rows of fencing and even the lanterns standing sentinel in the gloom of night, the forest was still wild. He had many times seen the low grey forms of wolves slinking along just beyond a row or two of brush; he saw ranks of phlox and dogtooth violet. Now and then amidst the ferns he spotted salamanders and frogs in the moist shade. The road showed the ruts of carts and the plodding of horseshoes and boots but also the more delicate impressions of deer hooves and even a couple of decent sized bear prints. Flycatchers and warblers trilled and glided through the woodland, across the road and from branch to branch. Many times he’d considered simply setting off down the road to see where it might take him, but he couldn’t spend too much time wandering as he had to earn a certain amount of money each week to help support his order.
Of course, this was part of the reason he was in Dugenstir in the first place. Ever since coming to Fesiun, the Djombul sect had come under closer scrutiny. Many blamed the gods for the destruction of their homes, and saw the work of appeasing them as fruitless. Others thought that the old gods wouldn’t live in the new world, and that new gods lived here. In order to maintain their considerable power, the monasteries had sent monks to live in the new cities to maintain the old ways and keep the faith strong on the frontiers.
The priest was one of handful of monks that took the severest vows of poverty and nonviolence. He was forbidden to strike any other living thing, or make his living by the death of them. So he was currently making a living picking special leaves used by the city’s alchemists and scribes. This fetched him just enough to live on, and so each day he walked along a short distance from the city in different directions, giving the different plants time to grow. The rest of the day was spent in solitude and prayer. It was a very simple life, very plain, but he found it very satisfying. Returning to an abbey set in a small valley just outside the city the priest retired for the evening, evening bird song fading down into the coolness of night.