Morning, Tirsdai, March 15th, the 273rd year.
Yesterday’s weather has cleared, and the grass is once again dry. A chill remains, but the sun and her rays are quickly rising. I do think, and relish, that this past snow was the final throes of winter and his clutches. With the trees displaying a haze of green sprouting from their crowns, I believe it safe to presume that spring has finally arrived.
For we have come to the realm of the Smoky Mountains, as the stories here are old as Time themself. We arrived after sunset, I, guided by the trust in Vas’ dragons, who, either by smell or some supernatural sense, flew the course to a small glen amidst this breathtaking expanse of forest, beguiling the moonless night. And so, we found ourselves welcomed to sleep on a mountaintop we had never seen.
It was only about an hour ago that the sun broke the bleak of pale early morn, when the black of night retreats at the coming of the day; and from where I sat as it rose, I have not moved. Smoky indeed. Like a blanket of freshly-picked-but-recently-waterlogged snow-white cotton, the mist dances a slow step, easing silently into the rising morning air, darkening and roiling as it falls and eddies, brushing the tips of bare trees like a ghost’s cold hand.
These old mountains are ancient; the geological structures tell of a graceful and loving battle held between Ensul and Reat, the peaks of the shallow and rolling mountain chain long forgotten from the mind of even the Stone Mother herself. Trees hug and cling and decorate the entire landscape, as if invited by the old hills to act as armor against the sting of storms.
Through my looking-glass I have spotted no less than four waterfalls, each ranging between 2 or 4 meters, given my unprofessional estimation. A small mountain stream can be heard from where I am sat, and its lull brought us to sleep easy this past night.
The conifers here are plentiful, more than I have seen this far south than in comparison to any of my travels. Their needles are pliant and broad, a sage green that glows with a halo in the morning light. Their pinecones are wide in their circumference, like a portly priest too fond of the beekeeper’s mead; but their structure is light and airy, the wings fluting out like patterned, rehearsed waves, they too of a lighter shade than their northern cousins. At their base, the bark, almost a dried blood red, sports the pattern of a dragon’s scales, the cracks between them an earthy mud brown. As the trunk rises, the bark assumes the usual pattern of a pine, albeit wider, and again, displaying a lighter hue.
The wind, in bursts, is brisk, and the soil here is rich until half-a-foot down to clay. I have already witnessed rabbit, deer, quail, squirrel, hawk, sparrow, tit, crow, jay, and magpie. The invertebrates are plentiful in numbers that I am not accustomed to so early into spring, but those I have seen are: ant, worm, moth, fly, mosquito, mayfly, lacewing, beetle, centipede, and more gnats than I care to consider.
The calls of the birds rise in pursuit of the sun, and from the valleys can be seen flocks exceeding and diving into the misty blanket that holds so dear to this wild and vast place. The mountains stretch and roll from horizon to horizon, old and plentiful, like rows and rows of old weary bones at Sundai’s temple. Forever ancient, old before the heroes older than memory and forgotten to time; and yet, as if to stand against Time and Sionem themself, Reat capitulates, and the steadfast glory of these mountains remains.
I am happy to be here, amongst these trees, to share in their story. To hear the whistle of the wind in the bare, barely budding branches – a lick, a whisper of winter to tinge my eyes.
I’ve left more than half the pot of coffee for Vas, as today’s brew, on my part, was a bit strong. I fear that we may have to dispose of it. Perhaps we can feed the remains to her dragons — although, while the effects caffeine holds over them are quite endearing, the consequences are not. No, today we head to town, as small as it supposedly is.
Fulton, as we have been told, was once home to the largest mythril mine on East Laodecia; and the scars of industry at such a scale are apparent from two leagues outside this once-bustling mining town. The tunnels that bore the mythril which brought Fulton riches witnessed the first drops of blood spilled in the Lurc Crusades, when the lurc army of Blogut would join the forces of the Demon army in the Mage Wars. It was also these same mines that would host the surrender of Chief RoRo Blogut, after their defeat at the Red Fork.
But the damage of the Crusades had wracked its wicked toll here in scars still untold — and with the horror, the earth that supplied the mine went sour, and the veins ran dry. Those who remained, depending upon with whom you speak, were foolish hillbillies, too small-minded to pack and leave; or brave and valiant freedom fighters who had finally reclaimed their land, paid for with thousands and thousands of dverger lives.
It is today that I hope to discover with which opinion the truth lies. I have been told that Fulton should be found at the edge of the southeast rim of the mountain to the southeast of the very mountain upon which we stand. I’m sure Vas will discover the precise location of the town almost as soon as my foot hits trail, but like always, I expect her to let me roam, as I surmise she takes great pleasure in doing so.
So southeast it is, and with high hopes we shall find the remains of Fulton, and hear from the people who would call it home.