Here’s a piece of something I’ve been working on. Working title of “Mountain Story.”
Reports of the new mountain began to arrive late in the week, and were immediately discounted as fabrication or illusion, of the sort that often explodes into public consciousness and dominates conversation until another replaces it. Last year, there was the story of a hidden community of log-dwellers in the municipal parklands, and others, many others.
Early the next week, a man came into the Ministry of Parks and Justice building, a man with mud-caked clothing and a gashed forehead, a man who claimed proof. Park stewards brought him to the director’s office, and the rest of the staff assembled.
No resident of The Expanse has seen a mountain (several hills yes, and two shallow gorges). The existence of mountains has been speculated, but not confirmed, in a land somewhere below the southern horizon. No modern expedition has yet ventured far enough, though records exist, accounts from the great explorer-captains of many years past, from an age of enquiry.
The most exalted of these explorer-captains was the great D.H. Pater Von Sem. Born into a wealthy cart-building dynasty, Von Sem displayed a taste for adventure at an early age. At thirteen, while on an excursion with her family to the boulder lakes, she organized the residents to repel an incursion of giant stoats. And that was merely the start to a life of adventure that took her across most of The Expanse, culminating in an expedition during the Grand Patronage’s second triarchy to reach the fabled Southern Seas.
Although Von Sem died returning through the Black Swamp, one of the few surviving pack bearers saved her journal. Von Sem’s map was of a scale none have deciphered, but it clearly shows a vast and terrifying range of peaks, through which she was unable to pass. Someday, the Ministry hopes to retrace her route.
The mud-caked man described himself as an itinerant photo-engraver who traverses The Expanse, stopping in villages to capture portraits. This fact lent credence to his story. The lengthy development process had yet to be completed. He claimed to lacked chemicals to develop more than two or three and the funds to purchase more.
The director questioned him, asking the man to detail his experiences, to aide in determining whether to commit Ministry funds or behead the man for fraudulent claims.
What followed was a description of a night of thunder and destruction. He had stopped at a mining camp just beyond the Dark Woods for a few days. His second night, the earth screamed, obliterating most of the structures. The photo-engraver was unsure how he survived. He awoke in pre-dawn darkness, lying in the ruins of the guest-house where he had spent the night. Others were near, some alive, some not. And he saw the mountain, its peak lost in cloud. Indeed, the man and the remains of the camp now inhabited the mountain’s lower slopes.
Before bed, the photo-engraver had returned his apparatus to its padded containers, as was his usual practice, and he always slept tethered to them (to dispel thievery). When he recovered somewhat from astonishment, he assembled his devices and cataloged the phenomena until he exhausted his supply of photo plates.