Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Right Down to Tobacco (a short excerpt of my novel)

The world has long looked upon the people of Wassying as a pretentious nuisance, one which sours the morning paper over breakfast.  Wassying is one of the loudest voices of discontent.  It is a major trading center, overflowing with crime and irate about it.  The people of Wassying – or the Wassy, as they call themselves – wrestle in the political arena with about as much qualification as a sea urchin, but they are not the least aware of their ignorance.  They have raised some of the best soldiers, but only once did any of their sons lead the way to battle, and then it was but a short road to humiliating loss.  (Their one consolation on that matter is that the General was killed, and so he is allowed to live on in their memories as a brave warrior, howsoever the truth says otherwise.)  These are the days of Wassying’s glory – this is the Wassy’s hayday.  And yet, the Wassy is one of the loudest voices of discontent anywhere; and for good reason, for Wassying was not always so disruptive.
It lies west of the Ronnidack Mountains, which were once called Ronir’dac from an ancient and mythical tongue and means “great divide”.  There are two main roads through the mountains, one that leads from the major city of Thornburg and one that leads from the southern town of Riffurge, which was once called River Forge because it was the safest place to ford the West River (where the Bloodwine Bridge now stands).  The southern road was always an easy one, but it is long and indirect if you come from an eastern city.  However, the northern road was not always so worn as it is now.  There was once a time when lives were lost on that trail in foul weather.  Not even the hardy people of Wassying tried their oxen on that trail in adverse conditions.  No one came or went in the winter months.  Wassying was but a little village out of the way – blocked on one side by the Ronir’dac and hemmed in by thick forest and the Brid River on the other side.
So it was that Wassying was left alone.  Only the men knew of anything outside of Wassying, for they went to Thornburg as everyone did then for military training, which is still a firm tradition held by the proud Wassy even today.  But the academy was rigorous and strict.  The boys rarely saw anything outside the high walls or beyond the roads they traveled from home to school.  They returned to Wassying at the end of their training with a false sense of worldly knowledge; but bless them, it did them no harm.  But in one way, you might say the Wassy were ahead of their time.  They were, perhaps, the first of the villages of Hidran to squeeze out from under the rule of nobility, for when Sir Price died, his wife moved to their townhouse in Thornburg, but their son was too young to handle the affairs of the town; the town fell under the jurisdiction of the local pastor (this was back when Wassying still had religion).  So while the rest of the Hidran cities still labored under the abuses of the increasingly fallible nobility, Wassying was already ruled by the people.
And what a simple people they were.  It is fair to say that they never guessed how different the world was outside their boundaries.  They never dreamed that what happened in Wassying was not happening all over the world; but then, they did not have such a wide range of thought.  Their philosophical perspective, if any perspective of theirs could be called philosophical, could not fathom a world beyond their immediate sight.  In word only did the world exist.  In thought, only Wassying mattered.
But the Wassy could not be properly illustrated if it was only said that it was a community of fools.  Not so!  They were wise, in their way, and many of them were very kind, selfless people.  Before Wassying became a major trade center, it was known for its hospitality.  In fact, it was once a tourist spot.  It was such a small, close-knit community that no one could help but comply with the basic rules.  There were occasional strangers in town, but they did not remain strangers for long.
The Wassy had their quirks, too.  The lack of Faith in Wassying is not a new development, by any means.  Many, many years ago, they left the well-worn path for a twisted one, which turned this way and that to support very odd beliefs.  The people of Wassying threw themselves into extremes and believed in power that wasn’t there.  Very superstitious, they were, and gypsies preyed on them like vultures.
But the Wassy weren’t demonic!  They were as kind and gentle a folk as could be.  There was never any trouble, save the occasional dispute over a lost lamb or a corner of land.  They fancied themselves much-to-do in the world, that is all; and of all faults, that may be the most deceptive, but it was not born of willful ignorance.
They liked their tobacco, that much could be said.  Back then, they only called it “smoking weed,” but it sure was fine.  There are not many true Wassying tobacco plants left anymore, but in its heyday, it brought in the money like rain.
But the story that is here related happened before the heyday of Wassying tobacco.  That is to say, the men smoked a great deal of it, but they weren’t yet in the habit of selling it....


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