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[6] Volume I, Summer's Night - Part One, Sescut and Cutset, the Mother and Child (e)

The Talkers do not have a religion in the way that civilized beings elsewhere understand it. Instead, each tribe has a pantheon of folk heroes. These are individuals from times past who achieved great deeds and who, it is generally believed, still accompany the tribe in some metaphysical sense, as though imbued in their thoughts and emotions - a process something like possession by a spirit or ghost, except in each living member of the tribe. Thus, every Talker feels as though he is not an individual strictly speaking, but an individual comprising the essence of his mighty and venerated ancestors.

The tales the Talkers tell each other of these folk heroes are especially vivid because, of course, their perception of history is such that the events in these stories constantly confront them in the geography of their physical surroundings. "This is the boulder where such-and-such did this-and-that" is an endlessly common refrain in their conversation as they go about their daily…

[5] Volume I, Summer's Night - Part One, Sescut and Cutset, the Mother and Child (d)

The fungal forests grow in the many valleys which lie in the folds of the foothills of the mountains of Sescut. So there is a curious inversion of the ways of geography in lands which lie under the sun, where narrow mountain valleys are typically darker than elsewhere. In Sescut, the reverse is true and light collects in the valleys, where the fungus grows. It is the hill and mountain tops, where the fungus does not grow, which are the darker.  
These valleys - all of them forged, of course, by rivers and streams - run down from the hills and mountains in all directions towards the sea, and radiate across the land like a dense web of veins. Were one to somehow position oneself above the island, like a bird, one would I am sure see the island as a black mass lying under a jumbled mess of nets or cobwebs composed of pale green light - each line of which a being waterway, lined with fungus forests, eventually finding its way to merge with another and then the ocean from whence all water…

[4] Volume I, Summer's Night - Part One, Sescut and Cutset, the Mother and Child (c)

The extremely close relationship between history and geography in the minds of the Talkers contributes considerably, I was convinced, to the mutual antagonism between their many tribes. For it means that even the most ancient of disputes between one tribe and another does not gradually fade from popular awareness as it would with other peoples with the passage of time and generations, but rather remains fresh within their minds whenever they see or pass by the geographic location with which the dispute is associated. As Talkers go about their daily lives, that is, they are confronted at every turn with places where, at some point in the past however distant, some awful event took place which could be attributed to the actions of this neighbour or that. Forgiveness, then, is inconceivable to them, and wrongs, instead, fester endlessly and, indeed, accumulate over time as new events take place in new locations around them. This, at least, was my thinking as I ruminated on the nature of …

[3] Volume I, Summer's Night - Part One: Sescut and Cutset, the Mother and Child (b)

Sescut's native population is divided into two races, who it seemed to me must have a common origin - though this suggestion was flatly denied by both. Neither calls themselves by any name that could be pronounced - even approximately - by another people, so the humans living in Telluctet and other towns refer to them simply as the Talkers and Dreamers, and these names seemed to me as suitable as any other that could be given them.

The Talkers are the more numerous, more active, and more diverse in their politicking of the two. They are smaller than humans, standing around chest-height on the average man, and they are gracile and lithe, like preternaturally athletic children. Their flesh - if that is the correct word for it - is a purplish grey, and sprouts very fine, short filaments of white that are visible on close inspection as a kind of pale haze close to their skin. To the touch this "flesh" of theirs is cold, slightly clammy, and earthy, like nothing other than fr…

[2] Volume I, Summer's Night - Part One: Sescut and Cutset, the Mother and Child (a)

The islands of Sescut and Cutset rise from the black sea as mounds of yet deeper black. As one arrives sailing by boat through the night one somehow glimpses them before they are really there, sensing them as looming premonitions in the great cold distance. Then before one realises it they are present: gaps in the firmament, long, low and pitiless, lying on the horizon, preventing the stars from meeting the ocean. Eventually, one sees the palest glow dancing around them, as though they are decorated with a firmament all of their own, and one wonders whether that glow imperceptibly gave warning of their presence before they became visible. (It is much later that one realises that that this glow must originate in the infamous illuminous fungal forests which grow on those dark islands and are frequently the only reason their names are known in other lands.)

I arrived on Sescut's largest port, Telluctet, as most visitors to the island do. It is the only place on either island where hu…

[1] Author's Preface

On the evening after my Wise and Munificent Master commissioned me to begin this task which has become my life's work, I was visited by a dream while I lay slumbering on my veranda. In it, a  vision came to me of a world in which the sun was not fixed in place, but moved across the sky from East to West and sank beneath the horizon at night. I was terrified by this phantasm of an alien land, where one could never be sure where one was at any moment, and where the weather changed from hour to hour, and where nothing was still. I imagined myself commissioned to travel in such a world and give an account of its inhabitants and climates, subject as they were to a moving sun. I thought such a task impossible, and I grew yet more afraid when I considered the consequences for my family and I when my Wise and Munificent Master became disappointed at my inevitable failure. I resolved to flee, and never to return to my home.

When I awoke, my real task - which had seemed so daunting and diff…