Calderwood is so named for its forests. Calderians are a people of the trees. From the northern slopes of the Great Calders, stretching for more distance than can be traveled on horseback in two weeks, reach the great forests of Calderwood. Scattered throughout as oversized clearings are fields of wheat and barley, lakes, ponds, rivers, and farms. If you manage to climb to the summit of Mount Cald, the highest of the Great Calders, you can see all the way to the sea. All the land that lies to the north, east, and west of the Great Calders is known as Calderwood.
Even the water that forms all but our southern border is known as the Calder Sea, and is instrumental in providing trade and all the benefits of saltwater dwelling. Some Calderians are known as people of the sea. Endless variety of marine merchandise is available throughout the scattered villages lining the Calder Sea.
The inhabitants of these villages are largely a separate culture of their own. The men are known to disappear into the great waters of the sea and not return for weeks and months at a time. The women band together and raise their young, sell their goods, and manage their households with the strength of three Namerians. The sea people contribute well to the strength of the Calderian people and build good relations with those of the lands beyond the sea.
I began my journey in one of these villages. I was born and grown in the seaside fishing village of Clayne. It was along the shores of this village, as a fourteen-year-old, that I first boarded a fishing boat with my father and older brother to experience the life of a fisherman for the first time. It was also along the shores of this village that I decided I never wanted to be a fisherman. Though every man in my family for the past four generations had lived and loved the life of the fisherman, I knew within a month of starting that it was not for me.
Being only fourteen, I did not have the freedom to simply say I wanted something else. It was an unspoken rule in my home that, while a son was under his father’s care and authority, he did as instructed and put forth his fair share of energy to bring in the provisions necessary for living. To that end, I was glad to fish, but as soon as I came to twenty, the Calderian year to choose my own way, I told my father that I was leaving when the time came for the next fishing journey.
I was careful to explain myself thoroughly before I waited for a response. I told him that I was thankful for the things he had taught me about fishing and living. I told him of another young man in our village whom I was certain would make an effective replacement for me. I was intentional about explaining that my choice to leave was not a result of anything he or anyone had done to turn me away. The reason was very simple; I did not like being on the water. I dreamed of deep forests, filled with mysterious creatures, where I could hunt for my food, build a cabin of my own, and write the stories that filled my mind incessantly with their plots.
His response was gracious, considering how unexpected my words seemed to him. He accepted my words, and even approved of my desire to write the stories I love to share. My people value a good story almost as much as a good meal, and it was common knowledge in my village that I was one of the best storytellers to ever be found in Clayne. I was more thankful for my father’s approval than I ever could have expressed to him that night. He accepted me as I was!
Even my mother, though her tears were unstoppable at the sight of her second child setting off on his own, hugged me tightly the morning I left and told me that she was proud of the man I had become, that the years she’d given to raise me were well spent in her mind. At these uncharacteristic displays of affection and warmth, I was surprised to find some water pools forming at the edges of my own eyes. Calderians, as I shared before, are proud people. Sea people, especially, are known for their strong defense against the expression of strong emotion. These two exchanges with my parents have combined to become the sweetest memory I have of my family. I look forward to the day I return to share with them the many stories I have acquired since I traveled here.
While I didn’t build my own cabin, I do live in the woods. My home sits just off a cart path that leads into the town of Torren. The river Cascade passes by on the southwest side of my cabin, and I can travel by canoe downstream to Torren in less time than it takes to eat a hot bowl of venison stew. If one is traveling north on the Cascade to the king’s city, Gleshna, Torren is the second to last town along the way. Torren stands in a bright clearing, surrounded on three sides by the dense forest, with the Cascade framing the eastern boundary.
It is the kind of town you can expect to find in Calderwood–tidy, quiet, and friendly. Calderians don’t typically seek out a lot of excitement. They live at home, do their work happily, and love their families. When the time comes to step forward and serve their king, protect their families, and guard their land, they do it with willingness and skill. On a normal day in Calderwood, though, the most excitement one might see will most likely come in the form of the storyteller’s newest tale or the hunter’s latest venture.
One afternoon, as those who regularly float by now expect, I was perched in the shaded throne of a mighty sycamore, branch curved comfortably beneath me in a rough chair of sorts. This tree hugs the river’s edge and gives me a clear view of the bright skies above, the soothing water gliding below, and the lively wildlife in the forest’s resumed density at the river’s opposite edge. As I soaked my feet in sun, enjoying the sound of life around me, I kept my mind and hand busy scratching out a story with a journal book and pencil–two of few items I have to trade for to acquire.
The surrounding sounds of nature were interrupted briefly by the splashing sound a canoe’s paddle makes as its handler rows upstream–a less than enjoyable task, I know. This traveler was built for work, though, and I watched, amused, as he continued to progress slowly against the gentle current. I’d never seen him pass by here before, and could easily see that he was not extremely used to navigating upstream.
Though he would only have had to look up and a bit to his left to see me, he was so concentrated on his task that he had not yet noticed me in my tree. He most likely would have gone by without noticing me too, but, for a reason known only by the divine, he chose to row his small canoe up to the river’s edge directly beneath where I sat watching.