Return to Moraf

The broad, empty plains of southern Moraf, dotted with a few farmhouses, stretching all the way to the hills in the north and the Glitterdark forest. For half the year they are a swamp, heavy rains pounding away at the ground, long deforested. Some areas are barren altogether, the topsoil ripped away by the wind. The ecology here suffers and peasants break their backs to squeeze out the last of what the earth has to give. The peasants.

Look at them, living in houses of perpetually damp clay that are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. The dirt seems to have rubbed in to them. These are the poorest of the poor, and not only in material possessions. For hundreds of years they have been slaves under the rule of the old kings, driven as hard and as far as they could go and then left to die. Slaves born and bred. And that did not make them kind, understanding and friendly. They are sly, greedy and spiteful, their biggest desire not freedom or independence but the right to bully others. However much they resented it, it was they who raised Moraf to its past glory, and it was they who fumbled and dropped it.

Twenty-five years ago, the country was on the verge of a collapse: a previously unheard of famine ravaging the south, the undeveloped north in anarchy, the cities discontent. The present King Donald III and his party of adventurers saw their opportunity to take power and overturned the old government. All those that had initiative joined the new cause, taking the opportunity to better their own standings. Armed bands roved through the country. Neighbors prepared to invade and were only stopped by the bloodbath they saw within.

King Donald put the unrest down eventually, and finally flew the new banner of Moraf, a banner red with blood. The blood of the peasants.

Brieon was raised in that: another dirty, naked little peasant boy, running around in the mud. For a little while anyway. Then he was a dirty, naked and, most importantly, hungry, little peasant boy. He still didn't know how he had survived. The hunger of those early days would haunt him for a long time: he could not leave a single morsel of food on his plate, and it wrenched his heart and stomach to throw out even the rottenest of scraps.

He had escaped from Moraf, in the end. Just before King Donald firmly barred the borders. He had gone to Cambria, where he had worked for many years for a farmer, a virtual slave again, but well-fed this time. He moved around quite a bit, not sure what he was looking for. He had been unable to settle down in the foreign land and just when he was beginning to despair, he saw the offer.

And now he was coming back.

These days much of the transportation in Moraf took the form of wagon trains, namely, large numbers of wagons, some strung two in a row, and carrying everything from iron ore, coal and timber to humans and animals. The latter two often had to contend with quite similar conditions.

Brieon felt guarded about getting into one of the wagons, at first.They reminded him of the type that had been used to Take People Away, when he was small. He soon realized he didnt have much choice, though: he wasn't rich enough to have a horse or private carriage.

He was now on his way, crammed into an open wagon with eight others, not including the driver. Various satchels took up the remainder of the room. Brieon tried to sleep, but one of his neighbors insisted on repeatedly singing 'I'm Going Home', a Morafian folksong.

It's not that the man sung badly, and the accompaniment, played on a traditional Quirelute, a long hollow tube with strings, was fitting. The song did tend to get rather annoying after the eighth time, though.

Digging his head, into someone else's sack, Brieon dozed lightly, hand inside his tunic and holding the only thing that gave him purpose in his homeland that was no longer a homeland.

The parchment had been tacked carelessly to a road-side tree, and Brieon would have passed right by had the word 'Moraf' not jumped out at him. He did not know how to read, but knew what the letters looked like in combination. He had taken the parchment to a local priest, the nearest man of education he could find, giving the last of his money for a donation.

And that is how he came to be here, trying unsuccessfully to sleep in a cramped cart driving through the featureless Morafian countryside, not a single possession to his name but his clothes and dirty parchment, which could be considered stolen in any case.

He was coming back to the country to which he swore never to return to, his homeland: Moraf.