Sunday, January 28, 2007

History Lesson

No, not *our* history, who do you think I am? The city of Pelindar (which was the setting in an earlier post of mine) appeared again in an exercise sometime ago entitled Landscape and Time (100), which asks the writer to create the human history of a specific piece of land. So verily:

The sandy crescent of coast on which the city of Pelindar rested was bleak but fertile, a steady year-round chill allowing for the growth of crops that neither froze nor burned under the withering sun. The seasons changed, but the wandering tides kept them in check. Winds built up rumbling along the shore, as if they, too, had found a safe harbor.

There had been civilization on the Grey Coast for millenia, almost as long as any other region, but it had not been "civilized" for all of that time. The first settlers were semi-nomadic farmers, an amalgam of intermingled families without distinction of tribe or hierarchy. Bound together by a limitless series of individual ties, they communicated through an almost instinctual network of family and companion.

The first Grey Coast villages were affairs of convenience, half-hearted, helter-skelter, leaving no trace when they dried up and blew away with the next strong wind. The people remained, incestuous, insular, regarded with flat affect those few explorers who landed on their soil and found that the Coast was too distant and too tenacious to tame. Within a few generations, these ciphers became legends, and not particularly important ones.

When the western lands left their dark ages, the Cenorians discovered the Grey Coast. They fenced in land that seemed to them to be unclaimed. Half the time, they were correct. The other half, they clashed with the locals over matters of right and trade - but by and large, Cenorian solutions were peaceful, the invaders having long since decided that the best means to enlightened society was example.

The first five cities - little more than fortified towns with a few extra towers - sprouted up at randomly chosen points along the Grey Coast. Gradually, the most strategic of the two locations grew to prominence: one in the north, gateway to the civilized world, and one in the far south at the site of modern Pelindar, where the first lighthouse outside of Indessa was founded on the outermost island.

The Cenorians were crushed under the wave of the Black Crusade, as many were. Four of its cities were raised; the other became a slaving pit. The observatory island survived, but became forbidden territory on pain of death - and because of its isolation, became the ideal bolthole for resistance.

An uprising started there, joint of Grey Coast natives and Cenorians. They freed the region, but the slave-city became anathema. No one spoke of it. No one visited it, though its towers could be seen from any hill of any size - and on the Grey Coast, there were many of these.

The Gull Alliance dominated for a while, then subsided, followed by a number of other business consortiums, then a Giserian tyrant. It was the eastern Tirefs who wrested it from the hands of his imperial infallibility and who both built Pelindar in thrice its earlier glory and threw open the doors of the observatory to learned contemplation and discovery. The Grey Coast has not been the new world for a long time; there are ever further horizons.

Three change of hands later, the Grey Coast is a free nation - for now. There are still native tribes in the hills, but their influence can most easily be seen in darkwood eyes, stretched slightly with green and yellow, and in double jointed hands made for fine and mysterious work. In an attitude, too: a sense that what the outside world decides, however shattering, can never alter the sand in the bays.

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