Lismelder - the Lunar Traveller's Point of View

By Michael O'Brien
Copyright © 1998 by Michael O'Brien

Excerpts from the travel journals of Jaxarte Whyded, 1621 (footnotes by his biographer, Floriat Fedora)

...for all the silvers I paid them, my local guides - a pair of ignorant and uncouth Lismelder crofters, returning from market at Runegate - nevertheless got us lost, and we wandered around in dank woods in what seemed to be circles for two days.

When they fervently insisted that to find our way we should all take our clothes off I realised that these fellows were truly touched; I took the opportunity to sneak away while both were distracted pulling their breeches and nether garments off (strange, I thought the carmanian vice was peculiar to the Sun Domers in these parts).

By a curious coincidence, almost immediately I stumbled onto the path we'd strayed from after clearing a small rise [1].  An hour or so later I arrived at the Greydog Inn, a place my guides had spoken of incessantly, speaking in almost reverent tones about the fabulous liquor brewed there, the so-called "Clearwine".  Though no connoisseur myself, I was nevertheless eager to sample it and, hearing laughter and sniffing on the wind a roasting joint, I made my way in...

...so much for "traditional Orlanthi hospitality", if thatís what they call it!  One would think with a bag of freshly minted Imperials, these folk - whom the Lunar Resident in Runegate assured me were "completely pacified" and "learning to become loyal subjects" - would welcome a traveller from the distant Heartlands with money to spend and tales of his own to tell.  But the landlord cut his song in mid-stride the moment I strolled in, and his wife who served me, a surly, shrew-faced woman, without asking poured me a mug of a weak, soppy liquid she called "The King's Ale" which quenched my thirst but little more.   She simply glared at me when I gave the drink my most forced compliments, and scurried away when I asked if clearwine were available.

Denizens in the darker reaches of the bar chuckled as the barkeep himself came over bearing a small jug, and I must say for all its name, this "clearwine" proved (like many things the barbarians enthuse about), to be most overrated - a cloudy, almost silty concoction that tasted more like cooking vinegar [2].  I was still picking the lees from between my teeth for hours after, and you know, as I later trudged away from the Greydog lands and their stinking, unfriendly inn, I began to suspect that it is not indeed an "old Lismelder custom" to spit into a stranger's drink as part of a welcoming toast and the barman and his friends were having me on...

Floriat's Notes
[1]  The "carmanian vice", such as Jaxarte calls it, is unknown among the Lismelder, who even refuse those who follow the path of Nandang into their steads.   There is a much less sordid explanation: the Lismelder know that when lost in the Hare Woods, you can appease the mischievous hare spirit who leads travellers astray by removing all your clothing and then putting it on inside out!

[2]  Having had the good fortune to taste clearwine myself, I suspect poor Jaxarte was given nothing of the sort!

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