It is Midsummer in Rivertown, in Year 69. The Barracks Council is meeting, like it has every Summer for the past thirty-five years. This is the place where the people of Rivertown, their descendants, and all those that the Barracks Council has taken under its wings in the past come to meet, share new happenings in the World and also to plan for the Future. This is a very important Barracks Council, because Marika Otrio, granddaughter of Mateo Otrio, the first cropmaster of Rivertown, is going to plead for an Expedition to North City Remnants.
But, there are other things going on at the Council, as well. At one table we see a tall dark-haired man, Tan Vandreas, pacing back and forth. Across the table sits a short blonde-bearded man with a very red face, and a tall lankier man with brown hair and glasses. The lanky man is trying to smooth things over, while the other two take turns lashing each other with their tongues.
There is an Expected Visitor coming through the door soon.. whom they are waiting for. Tan's son, Tanji, is supposed to be coming to the Council from his far away home of Southerland. A few years ago, Tanji took the blonde man's daughter, Ilena Thomas, for his wife and ran off to another island. Martin Thomas has still not forgiven him, as he believed his daughter so fragile the journey would kill her. The lanky man, Zade Perkins, has been with his wife Herminda out to the mysterious homestead, and assures Martin she is alive, well, with a baby in arms and the strength of two men. Martin still has not accepted this.
However, no sooner has Tanji come across the room to his father and father-in-law, then all of their own troubles are forgotten. Zade has stood up straight, and nearly leapt the table. His sister, Robina Perkins has let out a scream and fainted fast away on the floor. Robina's brother, Liam Thomas (also Martin's brother) is standing over her, but his own face is white as a sheet.
There is an Unexpected Visitor, as well. Zade has rushed forward and clapped the man about the shoulders. He stares at the man and whoops for joy, 'It's Percy! It's really Percy!'. His younger brother has grown and is now a slightly fuller version of himself, except for the fact that he stands on one-and-a-half legs. The entire bottom of Percell Perkins' leg is made of a bright red wood. Behind him, stand two more young men who could be cut from the same cloth as Zade and Percell. It was thirty years ago that Percell disappeared, on an exploration trip from Liam Thomas' farm, Whitmoor, in the Southern Seas. No one could find him, or much trace of him besides some smaller and smaller spires.. farther and farther apart, on the same Southerly line of travel.. Liam had tracked him a few times, but each time came up empty handed. He had given up Percy as dead. Although Percy had been nearly a grown man at the time, Robina had not forgiven herself, or Liam, for that day.
But he had not died. Now, he stands before them along with two young men, Edward and Mykel, two of his six children from the far away land of Seppalia. He needed them to make the long journey North - to help carry the boat and supplies, but also he has brought them 'Home' for another reason. He has come back to register the boys with the Barracks Council, as is their birthright, and to finally tell his tale.
What Percell Perkins Saw :
Zade, you had already left for Amularia, with Herminda. Liam and Robina had left for the Western Gate, and I was supposed to follow. I left Rivertown after Liam did. I made it to Robina's farm, Whitmoor, but it was not the place for me. They were still putting up their house. I stayed only a single night. I had such a wanderlust in my blood, much like you, my brother Zade.
At first, I intended only to go out for the night, camp on the Eastern shore from Whitmoor, perhaps explore the swamps and then come back in the morning. I knew it was dangerous, so I had my sword and armor, food and supplies with me. I made my camp and spent the entire night listening to the monsters. I did not want to stay here.
In the morning, when it was safe, I packed up my supplies and boat and headed South. I liked that feeling, heading South with the sun travelling it's arc above my head, rising in the East and setting in the West. I made camp again, and the next morning I headed South again. Day after day, for nearly six years, I kept going on the same line, hoping somewhere along the way I would see the place I was meant to be.
Sometimes I stayed a little longer in one place or the other - to fish or gather food, more supplies and torches. But as soon as I was able to, I would head South. I passed glaciers, polar bears, snow covered fields full of snowshoe rabbits and arctic foxes. I passed through a desert, hot and full of cacti. I came to a Plains Village much like Eastham, where a brown-eyed girl wanted me to settle down with her. There were pink sheep there, running free in the town! But to no avail, as soon as I saw the ocean continuing to the South, I was in my boat and rowing away.
I came through a Desert Village with a majestic Temple. I did not disturb the Temple, as the people seemed to live right next to it and visit it often. I kept going South, in as close of a line as I could to straight - so one day, this day, I could find my way back to Rivertown. But one day, I do not know what the difference was, I suddenly felt that I had gone too far. I turned myself around, and started to row back, hoping the way was as I remembered it.
And then I was distracted. There was a dark black rock with gold above it, and a chest buried under a block of gravel. I opened the chest and took out a magical Fishing Rod. The Fishing Rod had Lure on it, and it made finding food very easy. I rowed North for another day after that, and then I saw a second set of ruins. It might have been greed, or curiosity? I'm not sure what compelled me to row West and land my boat on that shore.
How Percy Perkins lost his leg, or at least the lower half of it
This time, there was not gravel on top of the chest but cracked stone bricks. I jumped up on a strange glowing block to bust the block and it immediately began to burn me. There was a sizzle and a smell of burning leather, flesh and melting armor that I hope none of you ever experience. Then Gothen, a man who lived nearby, cut my charred foot out of my metal boot, which was still fused to the block, and drug me back to his village. It was days before I came out of the resulting fever. Gothen and his wife Aliga fought constantly over what to do with me. The old woman hit me over the head with my fishing rod and then she bit me! This was all to make sure I was not some demon or spirit sent to attack them. I guess I passed the tests.
As I learned the language they spoke, I found out Gothen believed I was sent from the Sea to replace his son, who had disappeared one year before. I had been gone six years, so in my mind I thought he might still come back? They had been marginally hopeful, until Gothen heard my cries that night by the Ruins. I sat on the docks in the village, near the Cartography Hut, which was abandoned, and tried to make some sense out of the Sun, the Stars.. anything. Aliga came and hit me about the head again and told me to fish. I really don't like fishing, but it was something useful I could do while my leg healed. I collected bits of sugarcane and planted it outside the hut, trying to craft paper to make a map. I made drawings of the places I had been, the mountains and valleys and glaciers that are between here and our island, Seppalia. Gothen carved a red acacia stick to fit my stump of a leg so perfectly, I was able to get up and down even the steep hills of the Steppe with a little practice and a walking stick. Finally, he believed I was well enough to take me into the village proper and introduce me to my wife and two brothers-in-law.
Really, I was taken aback - I was not married. Had I actually understood his words? It wasn't a case of miscommunication. Gothen's son had been married to a girl named Tenobria. It was only months after their wedding festival that he had been taken away in a terrible Storm. It had been a night of Weather unlike they had ever seen before. The Sea had come up onto the Land and taken people still on the Docks. Almost everyone had survived, except Gothen's son. They had never seen him again. Gothen had been waiting, hoping, again on that shore to find some trace of him. He had been looking again on the night he heard me burning. And now, he considered me his son, and not just a second son, but a replacement for the son he had lost. The man had saved my life - and he was continuing to save it. I just didn't know it at the time.
Gothen walked me into the village wearing his own family colors on my back. He pointed to the house this other man, his son Hugo, had been building, and told me to Build. Aliga hit me with a stick and told me to Fish, Farm, Make Things. It drew a small crowd that all had to get a good look at me. Gothen said 'This is my son - PERS-KEE The Sea has sent him back to me." In those moments they made me one of the village, instead of an Outsider to be feared. Many in the crowd nodded, shook their heads in sorrow and went back about their businesses. However, two men stepped forward and announced themselves Dagren and Adret, "Being Gothen's son, you have forgotten, perhaps, as the Sea washes many things away, like your brain, inside one of your boots?"
Tenobria's brothers eyed me up and down, focusing on my missing leg. One of them asked Gothen why the Sea had not sent all of me back, since it had taken all of Hugo away. The Islanders there actually have a good sense of humor, but they say even the most terrible jokes with the utmost serious expressions. Humor is to be understood, but not laughed at except in the most silly of circumstances when nothing else can suffice. Dagren said I was now a Brother to both of them, and the Sea would have to fight them to take me back. But the younger one, Adret, insisted 'But don't make the Sea angry again, okay? One fight is enough.'
Eventually, the two men decided to call me Paki, which means 'small feet'. I did not complain too much at first, as back then, I still did not really know how much of a joke they had played on me. They could say Percy very well, but chose not to.
They did not give me very much time to come to terms to everything, my leg, the village, and the expectations they had of me. I still got up out of my bed but then sat on the dock nearly every day. One or the other brother started coming by every day to ask if I had finished the house, or harvested wheat, or cut trees. They never said a word about the leg again, except for the nickname, which stuck. Most importantly, they would accept none of my excuses. They expected me to do as much as possible for myself, even with only the one leg. Because of their constant visits, I broke out of my depression and started to plant saplings and dig down into the earth to pull up stone. Hugo had cleared a space for the house and set the cornerstones, but he had never started to lay a single wall. I cut stairs and formed a furnace in the footprint of the house, and began to build. All of my body grew stronger, and I began to find a rhythm to my life, again. It felt good to do something, and to see it come together before me. My wanderlust, the drive to travel, had now become a drive to overcome, to persevere and prosper.
When I reached the second floor, Dagren came and began to work on the roof. Adret brought sheep out of the savannah and put them in my fence, before I could even think seriously about how I was going to run one down. It seemed a few things they decided between them were too risky - that my breaking my neck was a bit more than they wanted on their conscience. But when the house was finished the two men brought not Tenobria, but Aliga to look at it. Apparently it passed the test. I was not hit with a stick, although she was holding one behind her back. I think that was the only time I had seen her smile, when she handed it to me that day to put in my furnace.
Tenobria came the next morning. She brought red wool banners and carpets, a copper soup kettle and a cactus in a little clay pot. After she swept through the rooms once it was as if she had always lived there. I was not Hugo. She understood this. I still did not know exactly how to treat this situation. By the way she looked at me out of the corners of her eyes, she wasn't quite sure either. We could either avoid each other from room to room, or try to make it work. To everyone in the village we were already married, and had been for an entire year. We watched the sun go down over the village from inside the house I had built. We made soup and bread. She is the only one who calls me Percell, and I sort of like it. And now, thirty years later, she waits in that far off house for me to return, trusting our two eldest sons to the same Journey and to the Sea. Before I left she gave me an Acacia stick, and told me to bring it back to her or she would have to come find me to get it back.
-----Back in the Rivertown Barracks, Midsummer, Year 69,
Barracks Council Meeting
The Barracks, two large open plan buildings, founded for Perkins Construction in Rivertown in Year 4. Dan McElvaney wrote to Perkins in North City, and convinced him to come and bring a crew to work on new housing for residents. Michael Perkins and John Roberts moved here, built the barracks for the teams of young men, some only twelve to fourteen years old, that they had hired in North City and the surrounding areas. It was a good job and an excellent opportunity to get out of the dirt and overpopulation of the city, to new places where land was plentiful and skills were needed.
Among the very first crew were the Thomas brothers, Albert and Argo, Victor Trent, Zari Dee, Jack Iyaga, Andrew Burke and the Gordons, Andrew and Mack.
In Year 12, another flush of workers came down, including Paul Allen, Alan Kenzie and others. In Year 21 to 35, some of these young men and the sons of Rivertown residents were sent out to found new cities at Ravenna, Cambrey, Rosered, Vanter and WestSea to expand trade and industry there as well as to provide a protective force of allies around Rivertown against invaders.
With the Barracks emptying - the people of Rivertown formed the 'Barracks Council' for the education and future employment of young people in Rivertown and to continue to invite new blood from other cities back for schooling. When the Earthquake happened in Year 30, it was the housing point for many refugees on their way out to other cities, including the North Expedition to Rosered, Tan Vandreas, Mattias Phillips.
When Porter Jackson came with his family to find his father Jack Iyaga in Year 37, another flush of young people went out in the following years to the West and South, even as the Porter Thomas School was built in Rivertown. Porter did not make a good headmaster for the school, as the call of the Sea and exploration took him away for months at a time. Eventually, he conceded to a prize student from the Cod Bay School, daughter of a Rivertown native, Marika Otrio. The Barracks Council has been quieter in recent years, as the School and the Bank of Cod Bay began to take up much of its previous efforts in funding science, mapping and expeditions. But now, with the threat in the North - the Council is about to become even more important.
Barracks Council meeting hall, where once stood rows of beds for construction workers. The other barracks building does still have lodging, for travellers, students and refugees.
Percy introduced his sons to the Council, and had Yuri Patterson, who is now eighty-one years old, pen their names into the Book of Rivertown. It was sad for him to hear that his own father, Michael Perkins (after which Percy has named his son Mykel) and his mother Julia, had passed away months apart from each other five years earlier. But now he was seeing his brother and sister again, and hearing about their lives, sharing stories about how Big and yet how Small the entire World is.
Percy also watches his sons talk to Tanji and the Jackson boys about Rivertown, the Bamboo Trade that has put maps in the School, and the Projects of the Council over the years. There are red-headed Pippingtons, from Ravenna, and John Robert's granddaughter wrangling three small boys. A whole group has come in from Meadowview, WestSea and Rosered, and are starting to introduce themselves. He can hear the names, Allen, Daniels, Riggins? and Robinson. He can see the connections among them, even though they have never met. It is like seeing himself, Zade and the other children of Rivertown from his boyhood. Rivertown is definitely not empty, at least not tonight.
After the introductions, Percy's sons come to sit beside him. Edward, being the eldest, says he is going to take his father back to Seppalia. Mykel says he hopes to stay, and in a few years make a family and bring them halfway to Seppalia, establishing a line of trade. Percy can already see him tracking his eyes on a red-haired girl standing with Serena Pippington, from Cod Bay. This is good, he decides. This is the reason he wanted them to come with him, to have this day among all of these people, and know they have a place here, as well as in Seppalia. Percy has written down all of the Astronomical Sightings and landmarks in the Council book of locations, so that others may be able to find not only Seppalia, but the Desert and Alpine villages he has been through, as well.
Percy remembers that he saw Tan and Martin yelling in anger just before he came through the door of the Council. Now though, he is glad to see that their anger is gone. They have sat down with Tanji between them. He looks to his brother, who is also watching Martin relax. He thinks they have realized just how much they could lose - decades of life and experiences. Food is served all around, as well as Robinson Honeymaker's Meade. Surely the Meade has something to do with the relaxation, as well. Robinsons are famous for their ways with beehives, no matter where they go.
But now the mood changes. Marika, Chancellor of the Porter Thomas School, rings the Bell. Everyone hushes and looks to the front table.
'And now - to our Urgent Matter at Hand. Ladies and Gentlemen - this is not just a regular Yearly Meeting. We have to make some decision.
Some of you know the grave nature of things that have happened over the past twenty years - some of you, will have to catch up a bit after the meeting. The World is still being affected by the Great Earthquake - but more than that - by Something Other that is still there, perhaps still coming out of the Earth there, and into the Sea. It has chased the last people away from Griessen Farm, and Brandywine, with plagues and aftershocks. Even the Oraks at Sandy Bay say there is something 'wrong' with the weather and the growth of the plants. It may even be spreading under the water - or in our mines, affecting the animals and our children.
Based on what I have been studying - with many of you reporting from your different towns - we have only five to ten years before the Next Earthquake. The only way we will know is to go there, to North City, and find out more. I have chosen five names to assemble teams from your respective areas. This is no laughing matter, and time may be slipping through our fingers. As I call your names, please come to the front of the Council and accept your orders.
By Midsummer Year 70 - be ready to head North.
Whatever the crowd was expecting, it wasn't this. Maybe more scientific papers, maybe more small expeditions to the NorthEast or the South... but not this. Percy looks to his sons, one on either side of him. He knows, in that moment, that they will both be there when the Earth Shakes again. And it will. But will it be in breaking or repairing?