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Hereford Eye
February 10th, 2003, 08:21 PM
It will not be the first time that writers have banded together to tell a story. I remember with great fondness Thieves World and Merovingian Nights and The Man-Kzin War. What follows is a world for fantasists, untouched, ready for molding. I propose stories set in this world, as you imagine them, and we share what we devise by posting them in the short story library.

Picture a water hole, more than a well but less than a lake, its source a mystery, a gift of the gods, the only sure source of water for 40 miles in any direction. The surrounds are populated by vegetation and life common to the desert.

The trade routes across the desert angle to this place, one from the northwest coming down from the mountains; one from the east heading west to an ocean four hundred miles and two mountain ranges away; one heading south further into the desert and then to mountains rumored to be waiting 500 miles that direction. To the east, across 100 miles of desert is civilization whatever that may look like.

There was a clan that discovered the water. They were replaced by a tribe replaced by a mob to control the water. Then came an army Ė well, a 100 men with arms Ė and they took the well but fell to squabbling over the very few women that survived their assault. They were easy pickings for the remnants of a real army, albeit a losing army, that fled their direction. The commander of that army sent raiding parties east and northwest and supplied themselves with women.

So, there was a town and the town attracted civilization so it could become a city. Women walk the streets in comparative safety, the police force patrols and enforces the law constructed in the town hall by the elders and judged by the Magistrate, three judges who handle trials by seriousness. Any crime against the well requires all three judges to hear the case with majority rule. One, two, or all three, depending on their whim handle any lesser crime. The police report to the Magistrate with each judge operating an investigative/enforcement arm of his own choosing.

Civilization requires more than water and eventually smiths took up residence and artisans and thieves and scavengers. The desert is fertile ground for the thieves and scavengers with parties ill prepared for the monstrous heat foundering, losing their way, dying. Sometimes, they are helped along to their destruction.

There is no controlling religion but the largest draws membership from artisans and smiths and focuses on water as the source of life. All tabus in the city are water-related.

The city grew to a thousand, to two thousand, to three. Engineers built aqueducts to move water around the city, farmers dug irrigation ditches, people, animals, crops drank the water yet, thus far it remains constant. As long as the water holds, the city lives.

There is a drainage ditch with many branches that was supposed to carry waste away from the city but the town grew and the drain didnít. In the southeast, the city crowds the cess.

Homes are adobe with 3-foot walls to protect from heat and cold. There are a handful of two-story homes but the lumber for support must be imported and few have the time or wealth to entertain the diversion.

There are many hills in the city but the land generally slopes down to the water.

Technology is middle ages. No guns. Perhaps, there is gunpowder. Swords, knives, bows and arrows =although think of the import cost. The desert has no trees to support bow and arrow but then the mountains to the north must.

There is talk of magic but maybe itís just talk, charlatans practicing the time honored trade of fleecing the gullible. Maybe.

There must be traditions, customs, laws based on water.
There must be rich and poor.
There must be governors and governed.
There must be caravans passing through, regulars and first timers.
There must be greed and ambition
There must also be family and love and things to keep a city together.

Call it Hellís Fountain.

And tell its story.


February 11th, 2003, 01:11 AM
Count me in HE. I will take a note book with me this week on my "travels":D

I, Brian
February 11th, 2003, 09:17 AM
Some niggles about the setting - only source for 40 miles seems too close. Increased distance would sound better.

Also, the size of the water source needs defining - the rest of the text refers to a "water hole", but that's not going to support anything other than a trading outpost at best. Perhaps it really should be a lake.

For 3000 people you're going to also have some serious contamination issues. Soil type would need addressing for drainage issues - solid waste goes where? Everything ends back in the drinking water?

Another - civilisation 100 miles away - too close. Likely they would have ensured access rights at least, but most likely have any emergent town garrisoned and under indirect rule (at the very least).

Nice idea, but I guess I'm simply fussy (or a-retentive, depending upon your perspective ;) ).

February 11th, 2003, 12:14 PM
Very interesting idea HE! You've got me to thinking...:cool:

Hereford Eye
February 11th, 2003, 02:41 PM
Originally posted by I, Brian
Some niggles about the setting -
Niggle away, Brian. Put your thoughts up and we'll live with them.
My thought at 40 miles: it's a least a two day journey to the next water hole. A single rider on horse back carrying water for himself and mount for two days requires knowledge of the route or a very thirsty pair when they do arrive. Extending the distance to three days probably makes sense. More than that, a single rider's chance of making the trip go down rapidly. Yeah, you could supply camels.
Cannot rely on tracks to mark the trail. Desert winds blow them away.
Civilization 100 miles away is probably a refresh station at the edge of the desert. Not much need for a big city but maybe someone will find a reason.
As for contamination, you betcha. That's what's happening southeast of the city. In the desrt, there ain't no hole - or is there? - to drop it all into without contaminating the ground water which would end up contaminating the water hole-pond-lake. A predicament worth telling a story about.
Anyhoo, niggle away. I promise to abide by your changes.

I, Brian
February 12th, 2003, 01:42 PM
Heh, glad you weren't too upset with the post. :cool:

I'm thinking camel transport is the only real viable (and profitable) way of moving goods across desert. So three days is better. Probably prefer more but maybe that would be choking the place too much... ;)

The trouble with the civilisation being so close is that the resource (water) of the city would make it a probable concern of that civilisation's rulers to ensure that such a notable desert oasis was protected. Hence, outside interference. And the greater the degree of outside interference, the less chance the city has to grow with its own independent personality. In practical writing terms, that would mean having to world-build the larger civlisation first, and then transferring it's culture into the desert with some mix and matching. Less influence means concentrating more on simply the desert city itself.

At the moment I'm thinking there are two interesting geographical/historical places to use as a research base - Lake Chad (and associated cultural relationships of - Kanem vs Songhay), and the Nabateans of Jordan. There's rich pickings there to inspire. That's in case anyone is in for that kind of thang.

February 13th, 2003, 06:03 AM
I am watching with great interest......the idea of water-related taboos is intriguing.

February 13th, 2003, 09:28 AM
Perhaps the water is thought to have rejuvinative powers, real or imagined, which inspires travelers of all sorts coming in?

Also, there's the Ganges river in India that Hindus bath at ritually. Perhaps this body of water is thought sacred by a religion as well. I would predict conflict between the religious and non-religious, etc.

February 14th, 2003, 07:14 AM
HE, would you object to an "Albert" based story..... it's just everytime I think of this project I have this vision:

Albert on his large raw boned black horse ambling through the desert. His large hat shading his eyes and the feather not tucked in close to the bowl of the hat, but trying to get under the shade of the brim. An argument ensues, the feather changes to its other form and flys off. Then returns..... calling for Albert to shift his bones.... Something/someone is heading south that shouldn't be..............

Hereford Eye
February 14th, 2003, 05:27 PM
There's always room for the Hat Man. Might be interesting if he catches up with the Lady of Shadows.