Fallsday, 5 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 3

Savings 19,576

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I’ve all but forgotten the trip I took to Rureau two weeks ago: six days in rural foreignland not two hundred miles north of Gamut, where I spend last summer dodging explosives on a crowded shoreline.

The purpose of the short trip to the Papaux Valley was as a road-test for the hike to Metrodon and beyond: test my capabilities in the real wild outside of Kernel’s borders.  I don’t speak much of the language, although a few people speak broken Context even this far away from Rureau’s capital, which had once been a famous centre of debauchery and the avant-garde and a global hub for those who appreciate that sort of thing.

I packed some simple clothes, dressing for warmer weather (dry as opposed to Kernel’s humid heat) and a stack of novels.  I’ve been to the Papaux Valley before and although the scenery is beautiful, there isn’t much to do.  Then I dragged my baggage onto a zeppelin and crossed my fingers as the envelope was topped up, pushing the leafskin taut around fifty million cubic litres of explosive gas.  The cheap cabins, next to the pumps and motors, began to vibrate as the engine kicked in.  The stink of methane and jungle CO2 filled my nose. 

Within half an hour the massive aircraft was buoyed up into the air, and I saw its shadow diminish on the map of Kernel that shrank below us.  I spotted the landmarks of the town, which were alien when seen from above: the thoroughfare, the maréchaussée fort, the Kernel Saints University building, the Den and the path through the jungle to neighbouring Becken.  It all seemed so small and meaningless, and I was reminded of the route that Foist and I will take across the face of Terrene in just a few months’ time, a map that has been etched into my mind.

I was on my way.  The journey took three and a half hours, and when the zeppelin deposited its passengers in the broad fields on the outskirts of the Valley a few dozen of us wobbled out on jelly-legs, glad to return to solid ground.

A succession of carriages took me the rest of the way to Papaux.  When I disembarked with my case I stood for a moment watching the horses disappear between the crop-rich fields, consciously observing my only form of transport depart, leaving me stranded at the Farm Jeanne-Stempe.

The Farm is a collection of converted stone barns and farmhouses; the latter made into a perfect home of sixteen rooms, the former now impressive little holiday homes for people from Kernel, Torment and anywhere else with people who desperately crave the peace of this green valley beyond the rainforest.

The door of the main structure clacked open, wood banging against wood with the scream of two old springs each longer than my arm, and out burst Papa Michelle.  His stride was confident for such a big man, his bearing reminiscent of a relaxed slab of fat-coated muscle; he could have spread into a pattie if lying on his back, or wrestled a cauliraptor if he put all his strength into it.  Not many people find this dichotomy alarming – only when you see the transformation from soft to hard to they become wary of this grey-topped giant, who now took me in a bear hug and laughed through his bristly moustache.

Behind him, Mama Jeanne-Stempe appeared in the doorway and crossed her arms, watching the reunion with a gentle smile.

I extricated myself from Papa Michelle’s embrace.  He grinned at me through his abundance of facial hair and took me by the shoulders, bellowing, ‘Reks!  Welcome back, my son!’

I have to go – I’ll finish writing this tomorrow.

— RSR

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