As mentioned, I thought I would probably have a story sample to put up on the blog today. Well, here it is. On a related note, the current word count is 156,000, and I still have a bunch of additional scenes to write. At the rate I'm going, this story will be getting close to 170,000 words total when it's done - assuming that I don't remove significant chunks during the revision process.
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The Elefdar city of Fanyamar, or 'Skyreach', encircles about one quarter of the mountain of the same name in the middle of the great Illithëon Forest, on the island of Nûmidëa. Its outer walls are some miles from the base of the mountain proper, protecting the outer settlements from encroachment of beasts and monsters alike. Of course, the "wall" isn't a stone wall as one would find circling a city of Men. Rather, it is a raised ring of land, an embankment, covered with a thick growth of thorny brush and scrub trees. Roses of many colors, red, pink, yellow and white, grow along the wall, their thorns adding to those of the brush and their flowers bringing beauty to the wall where one might otherwise see only a forbidding defense.
Several guarded openings are in the wall, to allow traffic to pass in and out. There are major gates at the west, south and east points of the compass, and smaller minor gates on the southwest and southeast points. The northern quadrant of the city, from northwest to northeast, is almost entirely up the slope of the mountain, and there are no gates as such. There, however, a few well-hidden pathways through the protecting wall of thorns. Of the true gates, the southern one is the largest of all, and is often called the 'main gate' or 'great gate' to the city.
Along the inside of the great wall are the outer settlements, large farming regions where fruits and vegetables of all kinds are grown. The Elefdar keep some domesticated animals for food and other needs, mainly sheep and goats, but they also hunt the surrounding forest. In the eastern quadrant of this outer region are also light industries such as tanneries, large forges for the smelting of raw ore, and other processes that generate undesirable fumes or by-products. The prevailing winds, coming from the west, drive the smoke and other odors out to sea. The chemical by-products of tanning and other processes of light industry are seen as necessary evils, things that must be disposed of in a way that won't hurt the land or the forest, and the Elefdar have found ways to re-use them in other processes, or dissolve them in the sea when no other option exists.
In all things, the Elefdar try to be good stewards of their environment. Domesticated animals are well-protected from predators and are provided shelter from the worst elements. Though they are no longer wild, the Elefdar recognize that they still have wills of their own after a fashion, and are allowed to roam freely within the confines of their grazing and pasture areas. Growing plants are tended well and kept free of weeds, though the weeds themselves are but other varieties of plants - simply less desirable for food or beauty. Trees are likewise tended, sometimes helped along in the dispersion of their seeds, and allowed to grow in open areas. The Elefdar prune both plants and trees, removing the dead branches in order that the main body might prosper. The same treatment is applied to undergrowth, so that the roots of the trees may spread both broad and deep in the earth.
A few miles inward from the outer wall is another encircling embankment, though this one is not covered with a wall of thorns. But it marks the border between the outer ring region set aside for farming and industry, and the inner region which is for the people to live in. Craftsmen and artisans live and work in this area of the city, in a way not too different than that of Men, with their working areas on one floor and living space on a separate floor of the house. Farmers and industry workers live here as well, and walk or ride to their places of work, as needed. This inner ring goes all the way to the lower area of the mountain itself, and the majority of Elefdar dwell here. It is in this ring that the great knot-work of paved stone roads is laid out, and the pattern of it can be seen from higher up on the mountain. The stone paving is pure white marble, and it gleams like the full moon under both sunlight and starlight, providing natural reflective illumination for anyone traveling in the evening or night hours.
Rising higher along the mountain, up through the tree-line and to the lower snows, the high city of Fanyamar is reserved for monuments, temples, parks and gardens. It is here that annual holiday ceremonies are conducted, as well as occasional Elefdar celebrations. From these heights, the pattern of the paved roads can be seen, a complex knot-work of twisting and twining lines, which somehow makes sense even on the ground where those roads are used. Also at this altitude, astrologers watch the heavens for signs and portents, and mark their calendars as constellations rise in their due moon. The Elefdar have long recognized the cycles of both moon and sun, and they know that there are thirteen moons in a solar year, along with other regular cycles of the heavenly bodies.
But the daily lives of most Elefdar are far from these lofty things, and more concerned with the harvesting of plants, animal husbandry, and the artistry and artisanry for which their people are known by Men, if they are known at all.