Friday, August 9, 2013

Day Five-Hundred-Five: The gap that nobody noticed


Holy gods above, below, and all around.

It's… it's gone.

Pubton has been utterly deprived of outside news in the last few weeks. Nobody seems willing to come anywhere near us. Given that the surrounding towns may well have been evacuated, decimated or both, I guess that's not a surprise - Pubton's probably considered as much a casualty of war as the rest of them.

Or it was. But not anymore. We had our first outside visitor in weeks today.

I was on the walls when one of our sentries spotted her. We've had guards posted around the clock since before the attack, and they're particularly vigilant about their jobs in the wake of the Non siege. (I think Evangelina's played a role in this, too. She and Oswald have been training them non-stop. I'm sure I'd hear complaints, but… the guards are all afraid of Dragomir's father. Frankly, so am I.)

"Hey! Boss!" a chubby fellow named Fred yelled to me from atop a watchtower.

I peered up. I'd been investigating the repairs. I do that a lot. "I've told you time and again, it's 'my lord'. Please don't forget proper decorum."

"Oh yeah." Fred picked his nose thoughtfully. "Anyways, boss, look! Somebody's coming!"

In my excitement I sprang to my feet and followed the line of his finger, ignoring both the impertinence and the crusty yellow dangling from his digit. He was on the money, was Fred: a woman, her backpack huge and bulging, was walking out of the forest from the east. A mule followed in her wake.

Excited as I was, I ran down a ramp, skittered to the nearest guard post, bade the guard on duty to open the gates, and ushered the woman in. She wearily but happily accepted the gesture, and with some assistance from nearby labourers we had everything she owned within Pubton in a few minutes.

"Whew!" she exclaimed, dropping her backpack into the dirt. "Thank the gods. I've been looking for a manned settlement for days. You folks are lifesavers. Pubton, right?"

I nodded and puffed out my chest. "Yes, Pubton indeed. Welcome! Would you care for some refreshment? You must have travelled far. We have some fine dining establishments, and our ale hall isn't too busy at this time of day."

The woman, a merchant, waved me away. "No, no, that's fine. I had lunch maybe twenty minutes ago. Running a bit low on provisions, though. Where can I make some trades?"

I showed the merchant to the Beefiary, chatting along the way. She revealed that she's come across a number of settlements while wandering the wilderness… but none of them have had any occupants. All of them are empty, both of life and of valuables. Very disconcerting, that, and it only got worse when we reached the Beefiary.

As the woman was swapping food and money with Bora, the owner of the Beefiary, we continued to chat. I asked her for news from the outside world, not expecting much… and certainly not expecting what I got.

Though she had to think about it a moment, the woman's eyes nearly popped out when a tidbit of information came to mind. "OH! Oh my gods! Yes! I know something! Have you heard about the Grand Chasm?"

I nodded tentatively. "Everyone's heard about the Grand Chasm. It's difficult to miss. Why, I used to live in a castle a stone's throw -"

She playfully slapped my arm. "No, no, that's not what I mean. Have you heard about it? The latest news?"

I shook my head. Behind the bar, Bora visibly tensed. She excused herself to fetch a bottle of wine from the back room.

The woman leaned in close, as though we were co-conspirators in a jewel heist. "It's gone."

I blinked. "It's… gone?"

"Yeah. Gone. Altogether."

"… how… how can an absence of something… be… gone…?"

"By filling it in, that's how." The woman shuddered. "Didn't see it myself, but I caught word of it in the last town I was in. Last populated town, that is. A whole bunch of notices came in by pigeon, almost at once, that there's a whole new land where the Chasm used to be. One second a big hole the size of the world, the next? Poof! Some new country. Folks say it matches up as pretty as a picture with what was already there, water and everything."

Ridiculous, I thought. And I said as much. "Ridiculous. That couldn't happen."

But it has. Because later today, two more people showed up in Pubton. They had the same story. And after them, a third, late at night, appeared with wild tales of a 'new land of opportunity'. He intends to use Pubton as a long-distance base camp into the Grand-Chasm-No-More, since the adjoining townships and kingdoms are all empty.

The Grand Chasm. Filled. I'm… still not sure I believe these stories. Before I moved into Castle NameHere, I lived on an estate on the edge of the Grand Chasm. I looked at it every stinking day.

It can't be gone.

Can it?

And if it is… how?


Harold the Co-Mayor

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