The rain has finally stopped. With no sign that it might, it ceased suddenly and completely. Within minutes the sun was shining. Brilliant blue skies stretched as far as I could see as if the very idea of clouds was yet unconceived.
We can see out over the entire swath of the Great Recess. The cliffs continue off to the north and south of us, gently curving before they disappear over the horizon. Below us is a canopy I never thought I would stand above. The massive trees of the Nanten only reach two thirds the height of the cliffs.
Below I can still make out a few ruins that tumbled from Hamada into the Broken Circle. That is the name they give for the broad swath of empty land that rings the Great Recess at the base of the cliffs. For two miles or so there are massive convoluted mounds of broken stone and earth. They appear as though they were once smooth hills that are now laid open by dry cracks and jagged rents.
Some smaller trees grow on the unbroken portions, but none of the mightier trunks rise from its surface. The people here speak of the Broken Circle as if it were a graveyard, haunted by the worst sorts of monsters. The rains drive most of those monsters into the cracks and caves beneath the surface. Otherwise it is an impassable section of land.
There is a path, Inifra said, that leads across it and into the jungle. That path, she said, is only really used by the bravest of traders. It follows one of the few routes that remain unbroken, and thus do not require that one enter or cross any of the crevasses. Still, it isn’t all that much safer.
Dionus spent much of today out on one of the stone pillars that lays fallen over the edge. He stared out over the recess, the wind whipping around him and tugging at his cloak. He said it reminded him of flying. That was sufficient, he said. At least for now.
Balthandar and Timber have made an odd pair the last few days. He seems to have become so attached to the idea of protecting her that, even in the midst of our newfound safety, he rarely leaves her side. I’d never seen Balthandar surrounded by children until she dragged him into a group of them today. It was also one of the first times I have ever seen him so visibly uncomfortable. I had to walk away so as to keep from laughing at him.
For my part, I have spent most of my time today with Inifra interviewing the locals. There is little consensus as to where Salisir may have gone, but more and more of the people have pointed us north. There is a mighty stone bridge that crosses the river at the top of the falls which their fishermen still use daily. They say that there was once another powerful trade city that lay a few dozen leagues north which built it in conjunction with Hamada.
Apparently it wasn’t as lucky as its trade partner. The entire city fell over the cliffs and was destroyed in the Broken Circle. There is a village that was built just west of the cliffs by the survivors, and it was to that village that we are repeatedly told Salisir went. This appears to be the direction we must head.
While I would prefer to make directly for Matasten, there are no guarantees that Salisir didn’t die long before he made it himself. We must continue to follow him until we know for certain where his body lies.
One more good night’s sleep, I feel, and I will be ready for our trek across this bridge and back into the jungle. My sleeping mat, the one final luxury I have from home, is so frayed that it seems worthless. Strangely, though I have always carried a mat upon which to sleep, I no longer unroll this one as frequently as I used to. I think I may leave it here in Hamada when we go.