[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 originates.  

The many different tribes of Talkers, then, divide up these river valleys between themselves, one section of a watercourse each; the rivers are the lifeblood of their civilization, such as it can be described. Each tribe is furiously and aggressively territorial; all members of every tribe know to the last grain of earth where the end of their territory begins and the next tribe's territory starts, and the presence of others on their land is not tolerated.

However, an exception is made for the purposes of what might be called diplomacy - which, admittedly, usually only consists of the issuing of threats and warnings. Solitary Talkers from any tribe are permitted free navigation of all watercourses on the island, by liberty of very ancient custom, if they travel to pass on a message as a representative of one tribe to another. This is on condition that they do not set foot on dry land; the right of free navigation extends to the waterways alone. Thus, when traveling in Sescut, one occasionally encounters solitary Talkers paddling warily up streams and rivers in their little coracles made from inverted, dried-out caps of larger mushrooms; typically, these are young volunteers seeking to impress potential mates by undertaking dangerous quests to deliver messages in foreign lands. 

A bigger exception is that made for non-Talkers, who are generally left to roam unmolested by Talkers of any tribe - not being subject to the mutual detest which Talkers of different tribes feel for one another. This I discovered once I had moved inland from Telluctet. Many people in the town warned me that human travelers in the lands of the Talkers would be instantly killed. They spoke darkly of ritual torture and enslavement. Yet I found that, if anything, the Talkers typically welcome contact with other intelligent beings - and I also found that other travelers like myself, most frequently solitary traders from distant lands, occasionally visit to trade exotic items in return for rare and special produce of Sescut.

Why the people of Telluctet live under this state of misapprehension is something I was not able to discover for certain. Whenever I returned to the town during my wanderings I would insist to the people there that no harm had been threatened me - at least not by the Talkers themselves - but their view was almost universally that I had been fortunate (or else, as was sometimes suggested, I was simply lying in order to impress the listener). 

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[1] Author's Preface

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

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