Worldbuilding Series: Drexil’s Path

In the decades of peace following the First War when Merchant City was still young and the Merchant King was still establishing her power base she turned her eyes to the Whisper Mountains, shrouded in their everlasting winter. They represented an impassable barrier that separated her trade empire from more than half of the continent. To get goods from the west she had only two options; go south and accept the questionable safety and high tolls of Archemia. Or travel by sea. The northern Glassier Sea was the safest and quickest but only traversable for two months of the year, being frozen and treacherous the rest of the time.  

The southern sea was not without dangers as well. Heading south meant a months long journey if she dared send her ships through the Straits of Onidah, a feat few captains could accomplish. Yet, the only safer route was even further south, adding more months to the journey.

The western side of the Tirzan continent offered goods of inestimable value so trade continued despite difficulties. But, the Merchant King saw value in making such goods widely available to the masses instead of only available to a rich few. Being able to bring more eastern goods to western markets appealed to her.

So she set her mind to the problem of the Whisper Mountains.

With peaks towering so high you could lose them in the clouds, and a rhythmic, never-ending succession of winter storms caused by some long-forgotten deviant mage, the mountains seemed impassible. Every mage, sage, and architect she could bring to her service advised her the same. Impossible. Impassible.

But she did not believe them. Unlike countless others, the Merchant King was willing to implement unconventional methods. Unable to find solutions among the high and mighty, she sent envoys to all the known lands, proclaiming first; her need, then, a willingness to listen to all who had worthy ideas, and finally a promise of fame and fortune, even a name in the histories.

Thousands flocked to Merchant City to peddle their ideas for crossing the Whisper Mountains. Unknown numbers even died in the snowy heights attempting to prove their ideas had merit. Then, after three years, petitioners began to lessen and the general populace began to say that it was indeed, impossible. Impassible.

Still the Merchant King did not believe them.

One night, as she wandered the holy temple grounds, contemplating the peaks in the distance she stopped a sat upon a bench.

An old gardener, a yangir, half-goat half-human, was working in the flower beds nearby carefully laying a new path that wound it’s way gracefully through the foliage. His care and gentle draws of power drew the attention of the Merchant King. Impulsively, she asked the old yangir how he would cross the mountains. One must note that for the Merchant King to do this was extraordinary for her time. In her day, yangir, like most half-humans, were considered less than a full person. They were neither beast nor animal and they represented in fully human minds, a magical disaster on a larger scale than even the everlasting winter of the Whisper Mountains or the life-draining Barren Lands. But by choosing to address the yangir the Merchant King, treated him as if he were a full person in possession of a soul and intellect like herself.

The old yangir whose name was Drexil was amazed. He, never doubting his intellect nor the existence of his soul, had ignored most of humankind and in turn, been ignored. He liked being left to his own devices. He enjoyed making his paths and turning the landscape into something beautiful. He had spent most of his life in the Whisper Mountains but as age began to creep in he found he liked the warmer climate of the lowlands during the harshest parts of winter. The priests at the temple were kind and treated him well, despite his mixed blood. He earned some coin with his pathmaking skills and watched over the years as the city grew.

Now here was the King. The woman responsible for all this building that he had come to like and admire, asking him if he knew how to get across the mountains. He laughed.

“Of course I do. I’ve lived there my entire life. I know exactly how to get across and I have ideas of my own about how a path through might be made to happen.”

Astonished in her own turn, the Merchant King exclaimed, “Why haven’t you brought this to me? I have sent messengers and heralds to all lands and all people..”

Drexil interrupted her, “Pardon yer Majesty but that’s the problem. You sent them to all people. I’m a yangir. And like all half-bloods, we aren’t considered people. So even if your messengers had come to us, we’d not have gotten past your front gates.”

The Merchant King was silent for a long time. Unconcerned, Drexil continued on with his path making.

“I see I’ve made a grave error and been blind to a resource that’s been right in front of me.” She said, almost to herself. Then, louder, “You’re hired.”

Drexil became the Merchant King’s first half-human advisor and always the First she looked to for advice and lines of thinking that never occurred to her other advisors. Within months alliances were forged with many tribes of half-humans and contracts were established to begin building what would become known as Drexil’s path. Drexil headed the project and for many years the great endeavor took the whole of his attention. He hired workmen based on merits alone and gave no thought to their blood’s condition. Only if they were able to do what he asked of them.

With his guidance, ingenuity, and knowledge of the mountains, he plotted a course that went, more or less, straight through the mountains from east to west. The path was large enough for three full wagons to drive abreast of each other, leaving enough room between for comfort. The road itself was set with interwoven paving stones that allowed for the fluctuating temperatures of the storms. The stones were textured to provide plenty of grip for the pack animals and wagons that would travel the route. As much as possible, Drexil graded the path so that the ascent and descent were gradual, zig-zagging across the slopes. Along the edges of the path, especially in the breathtaking heights, there were guard rails to protect travelers and prevent falls when the snows became blinding.

But even with this precaution the constant snowfall and regular blizzards made travel extremely difficult still. With the help of the Alliance of Magi, Drexil’s solution was to harness the raw power of the storms themselves to fuel runes carved into the path, heating it enough to keep it clear of snow and ice in most circumstances. It was still not enough in the full fury of a blizzard but Drexil had waystations carved into the mountains so deep that full caravans could take refuge there as needed.

Waystations eventually became used so often that enterprising young yangir began to take up residences there, building inns and blacksmiths and catering to the needs of all the traveling caravans.  

To control traffic on the path Drexil installed walls on both the eastern and western entrances. The walls rise up on either side of the path, impossible to scale and high enough to block the sunlight for most of the day. The walls extend a full days journey into the mountains and eventually taper off as the road climbs higher. At the start of the walls are two massive, well-fortified gates, fully garrisoned with troops, though they have, to this day, never been needed beyond traffic control and toll-collection.

Drexil did indeed gain fame and fortune and a place in history for his greatest work, but he also gained much for half-blooded people everywhere because of his bold, plain-speaking with a Merchant King in a temple garden long ago. He solved a Merchant King’s greatest problem and his people’s as well.

 

 

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