Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fantasy City Living

It was over thirty years ago that I first visited Rhum. Back then it was a smaller city, not the grand thing it is today. Of course, that was before it was attacked by Garnock and was forced to rebuild on the open plain where it is today. Then the wall was a wooden palisade, smoky, tarred timbers erected around the core center of the city with suburbs sprawling around it below the hill. I was there as they started building the wall around what was at the time termed “New Rhum”. Back then, I knew some of the construction workers, militia men mostly. I knew their names and their families, though now I am hard pressed to recall a single name or face from my memories. Honestly, it is now rare that I leave the area of the city around what is the north gate. There is adventure enough for me right there without risking my life and my coins in some of the “darker” parts of the town.

Around that time, I spent time in the city of Brinston too, not living in either city, but visiting frequently as time allowed. I never fully understood the sheer size of Brinston. Sure, I had seen maps of the city as though someone were flying far above it and looking down, but even those were impossible to relate to at street level where you’re trying not to walk under the wrong window at the wrong time so as to avoid a chamber pot being emptied. I admit, that while I could have walked through nearly any part of Rhum (in the daylight), there were entire sections of Brinston that were forbidden to me, not being born into one of the many noble houses.

It seems odd to admit, but for almost a quarter of a century, my main visits have all been in Forsbury. I find the city fascinating. I had ignored it at first. 30-35 years ago it seemed just a cattle town where people bought steers at auction and then drove them to where they would be slaughtered. Admittedly, I had probably bought into the propaganda in Brinston. Brinston always frowned on Forsbury, questioning how the city could truly by a trade center if they had no port and no ships. But when I first visited there, I found a vibrant city, bursting at the seams, growing so fast you could see the changes by the month.

Forsbury has more than doubled in the few decades, going from roughly 15,000 people to a population likely closer to 40,000. Some are refugees from Parnania, refusing to live under martial law imposed by the orcs there, but far more have come to Forsbury because of the possibilities for jobs, new industries, and of course, adventure. Most Forsbury adventures seem to be dull in the extreme. You agree to ride along on a dusty wagon train moving at an ox’s pace. While you’re doing it, it seems to be an endless grind of bad roads and worse smells. Looking back, there were a lot of high points, but I missed them as they went by. Stopping and talking to the road crew in Parnania and learning that many of the men were thrilled to work on a road crew for the orcs, because it meant bread for their families. Watching them load the wagons at the coal strip mines. Trying to understand the crazy accents found between the city-states. And catching glimpses of elven girls collecting wild rice in their baskets as they waded through the streams of the Slyvanian Forest. As always seems to be the case, beauty is most often recognized only in memory.

I worry about Forsbury now. It’s grown so fast that its spirit of entrepreneurs and risk takers is, well, at risk. The cowboys are still there, but they’re outnumbered by the caravaneers and possibly even by the townies. They used to say that nothing was ever made in Forsbury but deals, but now there are all sorts of craftsmen hawking their wares. Change is probably good, but if the dominant cartels become too powerful, I don’t know what the city will grow to be like. Brinston? Gods I hope not! I need to laugh at myself more - I am sure this is what they thought for the last four generations as changes affected this wonderful town, always assuming that a couple of individuals could change what made it so fascinating to me in the first place.

I wish I had more time to spend in these wonderful cities! The problem is that visiting them is just a hobby for me. My work is found elsewhere. As with all hobbies, work, family, life itself; they all sort of interfere. Nowadays, the joy is in sharing these cities and the world around them with others. Sometimes, I get to sit with an old friend and drink in his or her stories of Rhum or Forsbury. The more I learn, the more I realize how vibrant this world really is, even through the haze of heat and road dust along a caravan route out of Forsbury.

I wrote this as I see it. I almost called it “An Author’s Bio” but honestly, I didn’t think you’d click on it. I have always referred to my writing about Fletnern as “going to visit” because in my imagination, I really do go there. Not every time, but a lot more than you’d think. My game world is alive in my mind and so are those NPCs that tell me their versions of the stories. I really do want to share it - the reason so much of it has been free.

I know a lot about it, far more than I expect I will ever get the chance to share. If you have some pieces you are more interested in, please let me know! I will be happy to share those pieces too!

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