So, there I was, slaving away at the kitchen stove making some indescribable concoction involving weasel blood for the chef of the Inn in Velia, when it suddenly occurred to me that this wasn't what I came here for at all. I mean, did I ever say I wanted to become a cook?
I always meant to be an explorer, an adventurer, a breaker of trails. A life on the open road, through forest, over mountain, from sea to shining sea, as the bards sing it. So I put down my pots, threw open the door and began to run.
I could have picked a better time. As I jogged out of Velia on the high road to the south the sun was already starting to drop but when the wanderlust takes you, you have to go.
After some miles I came across a farm. Before I could really think what I was doing I found myself chatting to the farmer's daughter, who talked me into doing her chores. How do they do that? A couple of wobbling wheelbarrow-loads later I came to my senses. I didn't escape the kitchen just to labor on a farm!
Beyond the farm's fields lay marshland, dank and dangerous. Ahead, on a hill, I could see a walled town, so I picked my way through the wetlands toward its welcome cobbled streets and its even more welcome inn.
As the sun stooped ever lower in the misting sky I climbed a tower to get the lie of the land. My plan, inasmuch as I had one, was to keep bearing south in the hope of discovering Calpheon, the great, much-talked about city of which I'd heard...well, nothing much of any clear meaning at all and certainly no clue as to where it lay.
As I pushed on to the south the land became wilder and so did the people. The air was alive with the grunting of pigs. Two legged pigs. Orcs? At a guard post I watched the unedifying spectacle as an overweight soldier sparred with one of the creatures, whose thick legs had been tethered by four enormous iron spheres.
Disturbed by the vindictive brutality of soldiers I pressed on, past stone-lands worked out from quarrying, leaving ravines to the rough charge of angry giants. An elaborate wagon passed me at speed. Thinking the driver must know the country I followed his rattling progress until I lost him in the mists.
In a while the scree began to give way to forest. The wagon was long gone but I passed a traveling merchant, laden down with goods for some market town I hoped might be near. I hailed her but she would neither stop nor sell.
Somewhere around this time the roads began to falter and the world along with them, or, rather, my understanding of it. I met an owl set to manage a node and a fin-headed Naga managing another. I spent a while with silent, stalking, red-cowled monks at a monastery. I tried to speak to their lord but he had other concerns and would not share them with a passing stranger.
For what seemed like an eternity I ran through woodlands thick with walking dead. Their bony hands snatched at me but while I did not slow they could do me no harm. I found their cursed chapel on a hill and from it looked on to the south. The sun was falling behind the great mountains. Darkness drew down upon the valleys.
As the last twilight gathered I saw a tower and thought it might offer some shelter from the night. I was wrong. The tower and its grounds belonged to a cult. One that did not welcome travelers. Still luck was with me. I met two explorers watching warily from a distance and they warned me before I could approach the gates.
With night on my shoulders and Calpheon no nearer or better known I chose to bring my journey to an end. In the last of the day's fading light I ran back to the market town of Gilsh and the safety of its thick stone walls.
This land is vast and wild and filled with wonders. And tomorrow, as the saying goes, is yet another day.