Exploring unknown territory and discovering new lands can be pretty heady stuff. But it’s not all fun and games, you know. It is hard work, sometimes tedious work under horrid conditions. The average person might think they would like to be the first to walk a new land, “Oh, the sense of adventure!” they might say as they daydream about such feats. But put them out there one time at the lead of a bunch of tired, hungry, cold, grumpy support personnel, and believe me the thrill and the magic of discovery can wear off quickly. Still, it is rewarding to push through the mental tedium, the physical torture, the spiritual exhaustion of the act of discovery, to bring back a report to one’s leader and to the masses that he or she has “discovered new land!”
But sometimes – not very often, mind you, but once in a great while, if you’ve been in this game long enough, sometimes it’s just too damn easy! Sometimes, and don’t tell any explorer you know that I revealed this, sometimes new land can just fall into your virtual lap!
Like this past Sunday. I had observed a game of football (my side was victorious!) and, while puffing away on my victory cigar, was pondering the proper choice for the post-game meal. It was a tough choice, the kind of thing better considered over a fine ale. So I poured one and walked to the back window of my cottage in Haven and peered out. ‘Ah, it’s snowing!” A nice light snow was falling, the kind that makes one want to walk through it. I put out the cigar, grabbed a coat and hat and exited the back door, bringing along the ale.
I stepped into the snow and took in the night air. I walked over to the edge of the cliff on the east side of my island, looking at the open ocean and the snow and sipping my brew. What a lovely winter night.
Back inside, I put my supper on the table and poured another ale. I had the radio tuned to a jazz station, from the future. (It’s a very special radio.) I was about halfway through my meatloaf when I heard something. A deep sound, low in pitch, a broad sound but muffled, not sharp. It lasted…must have been 20 seconds or so. What could that have been?
A minute later, there it was again. Longer, this time. Then silence. Then the sound, a third time. I reached for my pocket watch. A minute-fifteen on that last one. I realized now I was not only hearing the sound but feeling it as well. Here it was again now. A bit louder and now a rumble to it. An airship? I looked out my windows, front, then back. The back window was rattling. I exited the back door again, no coat or ale this time.
I walked toward the cliff. The sound subsided again. I stopped, stood a moment. Waiting. And I heard it start up again, slowly growing, rumbling, louder, longer. And I could feel the earth moving. Earthquake? Must be. But I was guessing. I really had no idea what was happening here and I couldn’t see a thing. The sound and rumbling of the ground lasted over three minutes this time, ending with what I can only describe as a groan. What the hell?
The snow was falling harder now and it combined with the purple fog of Winterfell to make visibility just about zero. “I must be standing near the edge of the cliff,” I thought. But I couldn’t see the edge. Very gingerly, I took another step forward. And another. And another. And another. “I should be swimming by now.” I turned around, re-traced my steps, went back to the house for proper clothing and a lantern.
“That’s better,” I said back out in the cold night. Ulysses The Cat sat in the window, watching me through the snow, as another round of the deep sound and slow rumble cascaded about me. Again, I could feel the ground move. I trudged back along the path I’d created to its end. I stopped.
I turned and looked left, then right. I was standing well beyond the tree line. Thoughts raced through my head. “The edge of the cliff must be eight or ten steps behind me. There was ocean here an hour ago! I should be standing in mid-air above the sea!” But I was not. I was on solid ground.
Again the sound and rumble approached from the west and the north and maybe the east and from below me as well. This was no earthquake like I’d ever known. But an earthquake it was for there could be no other explanation, not one based on science at any rate.
I thought of going back inside but was it really any safer there with the land moving? In the dark and the snow, even the lantern only let me see so far. I could not see the ocean but I could hear it along with the wind. “That ocean’s out here somewhere,” I thought with a chuckle.
I continued away from the house. After a minute or so there was another tremor. I turned but could no longer see the lights from the house. I was still on firm ground. As I looked ahead, another surprise, a break in the clouds.
The last tremor seemed shorter. The next one did too. And the interval between them seemed longer as well. But maybe the second is the same observation as the first. I laughed. My watch was in my pocket but I would not take it out in this weather. It was all I could do to hold onto my lantern and hat.
As the minutes passed, the tremors fell in length and number (though they did not stop completely for several hours). The clouds overhead were breaking now and there was some moonlight to help my lantern. The snow was now just a few tiny flakes here and there but the wind held steady at a pretty good clip. I walked to the sound of the water.
When I reached the cliff it was…well, not really a cliff anymore. It was now a hill that rolled down to the water. There were islands in the distance to the east. A high one, a low one. I turned north, not knowing how far the land might go. There came a point where the high ground there also gave way to a slope. I descended the hill and continued quite a way until I came to a wood, the first trees I had seen since those around my cottage. I poked my way through the trees and the brush and held up the lantern when the footing became odd. As in oddly regular. A path?
I got down on one knee, my gloved hands pushing the snow from right to left to clear the ground before me. A path! Where…? I did not have to calculate the direction nor the mileage, it hit me immediately… This must be Lady Rachel’s wood. I have just walked from Haven to Mourning Wood! You’d have to be able to walk on water to do that! But it was solid ground all the way.
I sat down in the snow, wishing I had taken a flask on my way out the door. But how could I have expected to be out this long, go this far. It’s impossible!
I followed the path a bit more, just to confirm my conclusion. As the clouds had lifted the moon was now providing more help and I stopped at a clearing and looked and saw Lady Rachel’s home, Carenduna, in the distance. “I really have done it,” I thought, “I’ve walked across the ocean.” It made me laugh out loud.
The hour was late and I would certainly not call on Lady Rachel tonight as there was no emergency. This could wait until daylight. Aside from this new land mass and the two islands, everything else remained the same. Carenduna looked as if it were just another night. Just a snowstorm blowing through. No damage, no trouble. I headed for home.
As much as I wanted to explore the entire area that had newly appeared, I decided it best to sleep for a few hours and get up early and get out there as the sun exposed all.
But there was one thing I had to do before bedding down. In fact I had to do it right now before anyone showed up. Although, who would – could – show up here? This place isn’t even on the maps yet! Who would know to stop at my Haven place in the middle of the night and walk east – EAST! I laughed at the thought. Or to go to Lady Rachel’s at this hour and walk SOUTH! More laughter.
I started running as I laughed, running through a few inches of snow, not going too fast but running just the same, as I was so excited at the chance to do what I was about to do. It was not my first time to be the first person in a new land but I had never had the opportunity to do this…
I was now running as hard as I could through the snowy high ground back to Haven, huffing and puffing in the cold winter night. Upon arrival at the cottage I tore the door open and ran to my study. There she is!
I grabbed the pole with one hand and the furled cloth with the other and quickly carried the Winterfell flag out into the night. Ulysses The Cat screeched and ran from the door as I exited.
I trotted now – I had to catch my breath – and made my way back to a spot I calculated was halfway between Haven and Mourning Wood. I picked out the spot from a distance as I trotted and as I got closer, I ran a little faster again.
My heart was beating fast, my mind was racing. I unfurled the cloth and grabbed the pole with both hands now and held it up over my head and declared, “I claim this land in the name of Lady Twilight, Seneschelf of Winterfell!” And I slammed the flagpole down into the ground. Well, not exactly ‘in’ to the ground. ‘On’ to the ground may be a better description.
The ground was, of course, frozen.
“Ouch!” I sounded a loud ouch. “Ouch, ouch, oooowwwwwch. Oooooo.” I trudged back to the house for a pickaxe and a shovel. “I’m glad there was nobody around to see that,” I grumbled to myself.
Well, I’ve kept you long enough. Needless to say, the flag was planted but I couldn’t call it a night just yet. As is customary, the discoverer of new land has the honor of naming the land. What should I call it? I was too tired to think. “Earthquake Hill,” yeah, that would be a good one; “Whitfield,” short and simple (unlike myself, of course, haha); I looked back toward the cottage where I knew a stout awaited me…and almost called it “Beerland!”
I noticed the tall pine trees next to my cottage and thought of the similar trees in Lady Rachel’s wood. At that I further declared, “I Christen this land, Evergreen! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” It had been awhile since I’d gotten off a good huzzah.
The morning brought the opportunity to see the extent of the new land mass and the islands. The Seneschelf, herself, came down to see. And later in the day, I met with Lady Twilight and Lady Rachel and Mr. Greymyst and an agreement regarding the new land was signed, The Anodyne Accord. The details of said agreement will be released in the coming days. What I can tell you is this…
I purchased this new land, all of it. As we were leaving the meeting, the magnitude of the purchase had not hit me. But then Mr. Greymyst shook my hand as he departed and said, “Thank you and congratulations, Your Grace.” As he walked through the door, I turned to Miss Serra but was speechless. Seeing the look on my face she smiled and said softly, ‘Yes Ambassador, you are now the Duke of Evergreen.”
Mind you, I had thought about such loftiness in my daydreams, I do admit it. But in all the excitement surrounding the discovery (And hey, they don’t get any easier than that, do they? New land just plops itself down at my back door in the middle of the night when nobody is looking. Guess there is such a thing as good luck, after all.) and claiming the land and exploring the next day and the purchase negotiations…well, it hadn’t hit me ’til the others said it after the meeting. Duke! Yeah baby, I’m the Duke, that’s right.
Well, there actually is more to tell but I really should let you go. Just let me say, Dear Reader, that whenever you hear one of us explorers going on about finding new land and all that went into it – the effort, the pain and the tedium (and the rotten food) – they are probably telling the truth. But sometimes, all you gotta do is be in the right place, in the right time. And to my fellow explorers, if land should ever fall in your own virtual lap, no worries, you can still get a very long story out of it.