My travels through the Kingdom of Walsh were rough to say the least. Clusters of buildings were few and far between. The absence of trees in the grasslands of southern Walsh have led to the populace finding… Other ways of making their homes. The majority of houses and structures seemed to be constructed of a simple thatched roof with smooth stone blocks cemented together with livestock manure! This gave the villages a rather distinct odor. However, the Walsh people are some of the most hospitable I have ever encountered. Upon arrival I was welcomed into the pungent home of one Aeron Tiller. He was quick to offer me his seat at the head of the table. Though rather plain from the outside, the interior of his home was adorned with various hides and trinkets. Each of them with a story to tell, as I found out when the family gathered around the fireplace taking turns detailing the events behind acquiring their favorite possessions.
Before first light I accompanied Aeron Tiller to the center of town at his request. The men of the village had gathered with spears and after some brief words from the elder we set out into the tall grass beyond the fields. Every Walsh man is a hunter. At least at the beginning of the day before they tending to their crops. All game caught in these morning hours is put into a communal stew. The pelts are saved for the walls of skilled hunters. I was offered a bowl and was surprised to find it bursting with flavor. The edible roots of the prairie make for wonderful spices! These people were some of the friendliest I had ever encountered, and I was truly sad to say goodbye.
The vast fields of grain at the outskirts of settlements were periodically broken by mounds of solid rock protruding from the ground. Further north the flatlands gave way to sharp, splintering rock. This is where the relatively straight roads began to wind erratically up the cliff faces. The most popular way of travel to the City of Walsh is via the Ninevah River. And I strongly suggest this method of travel. Bandits lie in wait along the road for unsuspecting travellers.
At first I was excited to see trees poking out from behind the rocks. A few miles later, I found myself in the middle of a dense forest. Taking cover behind large ferns and bushes, a gang of outlaws forced me to the ground. Thankfully one of them was relatively well read and recognized me. I left with my life and my dignity after parting with my coin and promising to ‘immortalize them in ink’. Hugart. Groven. Norden. Darge.
By the time the City of Walsh came into view I was quite literally jumping with joy. Here the wilderness has been relatively tamed. The outskirts of the city were dotted with ranches and military checkpoints which quickly give way to wooden townhouses. I stayed at an inn right outside the city gates after being denied entrance. Thankfully the innkeep recognized me and I was able to open a line of credit. Again my popularity saved my skin. There is a five day quarantine period before travellers are allowed access. I found this a bit excessive after being inspected for signs of wither several times at the numerous checkpoints along the road. It was no matter though. It gave me a chance to mingle with the locals. The people here were boisterous and simply a joy to be around. I recall a young lad by the name of Barin who bought round after round for the tavern folk. Halfway through the night the innkeep demanded payment. Poor Barin was unable to pay and with a cheeky grin, made a mad dash for the door. I don’t remember the rest of the encounter that night, though it must have been worthy of telling. I woke in a ditch covered in the piss of passersby. Barin helped me to my feet and treated me to breakfast. While attempting to teach me the art of skimping on an open tab, three men armed with axes began circling the table. A well dressed gentleman opened a scroll and read charges aloud. Turns out Barin has been wanted for outstanding debts for some time. The men pulled him away, whelping and dragging his boots as he went out the door. I finished my sausage, amused at the eruption of entertainment. Needless to say, the remainder of my quarantine stay was comparably dull. But the thrill that coursed my veins at my admittance through the city gates was definitely worth the wait.
My initial impression of the City of Walsh was one of smooth stone bricks and ivy. Very much a city bustling with life. A quick trip to the bank to access my account and pay my debts was necessary before heading to the market. Thank the Gods those highwaymen did not make off with my identification.
The market place was colorful and filled with exotic good from far off lands. Perhaps an adventure for another time. Through the sea of merchants and whores, a curious invention caught my eye. A man naming himself ‘Remi the Magnificent’ dressed in patterned silk called attention to bone whistles piled into mounds in his stall. Intricate runes had been carved deeply yet intricately, promoting everything from virility to luck. On top of this, Remi claimed that the whistles command the will of all manner of beasts. My curiosity got the better of me and I purchased a dozen of these trinkets for thirty sol. I was sad to find that they did not work as intended. But if nothing more than a keepsake, I kept them on my person.
By evening, I was at the doorstep of Hammershank Manor at the invitation of Lord Jon Hammershank himself! The aristocracy held a party in honor of my safe arrival. They huddled close at my end of the table to hear the tales of my travels. They did not even divert their attention at the arrival of cornucopias adorned with squash and poultry. It surprised me how a well travelled man living humbly can command the attention of the room of noblemen. Once I had finished, the feasting began. Though the taste of the meat lacked the savory fullness of the spiced game of southern Walsh, the food made up for its inferior quality in its sheer quantity. To admit, I felt guilty for my gluttony afterwards. But months on the road unleashed a feral state inside of me. Encouraging dissenting looks from the noblemen around the table at every smack and gulp.
At the end of the event, Lord Hammershank encouraged me to join him on the balcony where he took a serious tone. He asked me of my thoughts on the likelihood of war in the coming years.
“Drawing from a lifetime of experience in Estuaria, the King and aristocracy do not want a war. But they are tragically out of touch with reality. Refugees flock to the city from the far reaches of the empire. There are shortages of meat, grain, and clean water. The human waste in parts of the lower city reaches the ankle. The people are getting sick, starving. Above all, they are fed up with living in squalor. The King faces revolt at the hand of his subjects and war may become a necessity. For two reasons. The fields of southern Walsh and the death of enough of his own subjects for that alone to sustain them. The masses of Brigdania are desperate, and that is what makes war inevitable.”
After speaking my piece, Lord Hammershank bid me farewell. He said he may call on me for advice on the matter in the future, though I wished for that day to never come.
I spent a night at the dockside inn before setting off across the river. Back to Estuaria to publish my tales.
-Cornwell Davies, the Travelling Scholar