Letter from Jehan Maras to his brother Guimar
My dear brother,
I regret to inform you that I have not met an untimely death at the hands of brigands, plunged into a raging torrent and been battered to death upon the rocks, or fallen prey to one of these wild animals one hears so much about. I have likewise failed to succumb to any disease, parasite, or cowardly impulse to flee to the comforts of home. Discomforts I have endured but they would make for a dull tale indeed and so I shall not bore you with a detailed account of the perils of road. Indeed, I saw only one inept bandit the whole time we journey north and though I fancy I heard a wolf or two howling in the distance, I saw nothing of these beasts. I was, as you may imagine, somewhat disappointed. I thought this was supposed to be the wild north, not some lord’s game-park. Several score of unpleasant blisters, the product of an ill-fitting saddle and even worse fitting boots, are my chief complaints at present.
I seem to recall that both the saddle and the boots were gifts from you, dear brother. Were you hoping I would perish of some species of blood poisoning along the road? If so, I believe I’ve foiled you rather neatly, don’t you think?
I believe we may now dispense with the pleasantries and turn to business which, I am gratified to say, looks to be more promising that we had anticipated. The trees which infest these northern wastes are massive things, tall and straight as arrows and wide enough that fully seven men might stand abreast upon the stump of a single tree and still have room to spare. I have seen just such a sight only yesterday. Believe me brother, the potential value of these trees is nothing short of staggering.
And while I am daily surrounded by this vegetable profligacy I cannot claim to have yet become jaded to the sight of these towering giants. You’ll not believe me of course, but if you could see these trees, especially see them growing in their endless forests, I swear that you too would walk about in a perpetual state of astonished wonder. Nevertheless, I shall restrain any wild romantical notions about this pristine wilderness, I am not here for exploration nor to satisfy my curiosity about the remoter parts of the world as you have so often reminded me, and will instead set about engaging workmen to fell these trees and send them with all speed down-river.
Lem wishes you well and I thank you for the loan of him on this expedition. I would not have made it this far in one piece without his sagacious council and practical good sense in matters of rough living and . He has located a site for our temporary dwelling, a small hillock near one of the tributary streams which should serve us well enough until a more permanent domicile can be contemplated.
We are within sight of the fort here upon our wee hill, the only sign of civilization this region can boast for the present. The garrison here is very small but apparently quite industrious. They go about their martial duties, Lem informs me they appear to be building bunkhouses and similar structures, with seeming competence. This should cheer me I suppose, but it does not. I do not like that there are so few soldiers here, especially so far from any aid. Furthermore, I suspect their captain, at least I believe it is their captain, has designs of depriving me of Lem’s services.
Your pardon brother, some official or other from the fort would have speech with me. I will continue when I have dealt with him.
Well, this is pretty mess. Lem and I have both been press-ganged into assisting the construction of these aforementioned bunkhouses. I tried to protest, tried to make him understand that I was a merchant engaged in timber prospecting, that I had no practical experience in matters of construction, that I would be a hindrance rather than an aid, that I would probably break some poor soul’s thumb with an ill-directed hammer blow, but he would not listen. If he required my assistance, perhaps I might be of more use in taking inventory of supplies and considering the thorny problems of logistics in so remote a place? No to that as well. It was build or nothing, so build I did.
No broken thumbs today thankfully, but my hands do grow tired from so much unexpected rough work. I will write again when I have more news to report and more of my wits about me.
My affectionate greetings to Elysant and to the children and my wishes of prosperity.
I remain, you somewhat bewildered and exhausted brother,