Monday, January 01, 1990

The Wilderness

The land of Alyria breathes wonder and beauty. Wisps of cloud and mist cling to the tree-clad hills. Sunlight breaks through, dappling the grass. The world feels as though it is emerging from a beautiful dream. The climate here is cool yet comfortable. The rain falls during the storm season and the crops grow bountifully during the dry season.

Most of the people of Alyria are farmers, dwelling in small communities in the wilderness. For them, life is simple. There is the ever-present struggle to feed their families, to provide shelter from the weather, to guard from the dangers outside. They have little knowledge of the mighty forces at work in the land. The Citadel is a distant presence, if acknowledged at all. The Ark is barely known. Some communities pay an annual tribute to one or both of these powers, but often this is viewed as the price to be paid for their privacy.

This is not to say that each of these communities is the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some communities seem very similar to a medieval village, with a town council to govern them. Others are more tribal, with a chief or elders to make decisions. Still others may be even stranger. There have been reports of a settlement where all the decisions are based on the roll of a sacred die, a place where the ability to play games is exalted above all others. Communities with customs even stranger may yet exist in the unexplored wilderness.

Yet there is a common thread that runs through all these communities, from the enlightened seekers after wisdom to the darkest haunt of thieves and murderers: fear. Fear of outsiders. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the stranger. Despite its delicate beauty, the wilderness is a dangerous place. Misbegotten and Blessed wander at will, and there are monsters that walk the night with the form of men. The stranger who comes to your door could be the one to take your life. The bodies of those who trusted too quickly lay scattered in the wilderness, consumed by the wild animals or buried in shallow graves.

Throughout the land is evidence of the Progenitors’ might and skill. Ruins of their cities and buildings are everywhere. Occasionally a traveler may come upon a metal tower rising far into the sky with a single beacon burning atop it or perhaps the rubble of a building so huge that its fall shattered the very earth. Their roads still cross the empty forests and hills of Alyria. Some claim that they are cursed and refuse to walk them. Others use these roads as trade routes, extending civilization into the rough, wild areas of the world. Still others set up toll centers, attempting to extort money from the traders that walk the roads. Small wars have flared up between rival gangs or communities over control of a single road.

Life in the wilds can be quiet. Life in the wilds can be peaceful. But life in the wilds is also deadly, and those that forget will suffer the consequences.


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