(Y6, June 2nd)
“So, what’s this great expedition you want me to come?”, said the first hide-clad local hunter.
Vasilikulik launched his spiel: “Trailblazing between Alpha and Gamma. The greatest expedition ever on Northworld. Nobody’s done it yet, and nobody will ever do better after us.”
“Alpha and Gamma?”
Another local interjected: “That’s the big landmasses. Alpha, Beta, Gamma. You can download the maps from the Cartographer’s Guild site if you have access.”
“I thought this was three continents?”
Vasili dispelled the misconception.
“Nobody’s found a seashore yet. So, until recently, nobody knew where the Three were in Northworld. But that’s no longer true. I have the last map from the Guild.”
He picked out the carton tube, pulled out the thick A1-sized paper, and spread it over the Inn’s table. The guests gathered to look at it.
“See? They managed to find the right locations for major cities and they’ve placed each landmass on the real world map.”
“How can they even be sure of that?” was the immediate question.
“The Cartographer’s guild master, Armangest, he’s proved last fall that Northworld was really a single planet. The guild houses verified the date of the solstice, and it’s the same solstice, everywhere on Northworld.”
“Whoa. That’s rad.”
“And what’s more, they now use astrolabe and chronometers to find out latitude and longitude. Here’s Glacier.”
Vasili’s finger hammered on the location. Glacier was an odd town. One of the highest continuously occupied location on Northworld at nearly 3500m, it was discovered during early Y2 and quickly settled afterwards.
It featured fortress-like high walls and battlements, with a small fortress proper to the side. Inside the walls, there was a bit over two hundred houses and larger buildings. The whole thing had been barely damaged by years/centuries/whatever.
The town was known for three things. It was a base for the local dungeon trips. Aether mages loved them. Fairly difficult things and they tended to refill quite rapidly. Its major export was the hides the locals used to protect themselves from the cold, hunted from Ursus Bicolor, the local giant grizzly. You needed a moderately high level or a good team, or you risked your life hunting Bicolor. But the best hides fetched a large price – both on Northworld and Earth. And even medium quality hides made clothing that protected against cold debuffs. All the locals wore nothing else.
The biggest claim to fame of Glacier was, of course, the smuggling operations. North Korea maintained that, of course, there were no Silvergates on its territory. All four NK Gaters had spawned close to Glacier, and migrated there after a while and started an “import” business.
While access to Northworld would not help them defect if they wanted, transporting goods through Glacier was a trivial way to bypass the NK iron grip on its borders. Of course, it was rather more dangerous than being a Gater in the USA or most other countries, but it was suspected that the Norks were black market lords living well back there.
“So, why Glacier?”
“As you can see on my map, Glacier is at the western border of Alpha. The road over the Drakespine is known, but nobody’s been much far from the mountains into the western forest yet. It’s straight west-northwest from there to the borderlands of Gamma.”
“And so, you’re mounting an expedition.”
“The Cartographer Guild is sponsoring. Local supplies, and IOU – a one-year subscription to the guild’s full website. All the maps you need, dungeon guides, the whole works. And of course, since you’ll know the trails, you’re probably good to be a guide for the caravans that will start soon, if you like that.”
Valisi could already see most of the Inn’s patrons drifting. Most of them had listened only because it was a free round of booze and few were interested in anything beyond dungeon loot and bear-baiting. But there were one or two that looked mildly interested. His expedition was already three strong, and he’d rather have five, if not six. Unoccupied territories tended to have slightly higher ranks and could be dangerous. Vasili himself was an old-timer hardcore, close to level 850. Anything below rank 50 wasn’t dangerous… but even Vasili wouldn’t dream of going solo into Hell Flats or the Shadow Mountains.
Armangest finally hanged up the masterpiece on his study’s wall. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t his masterpiece, of course – it was a collaborative effort from the Cartographer’s Guild. But he’d made it happen.
The Northworld Mapping Project had been ongoing since the first Silvergates. The original Cartographers had done the work haphazardly, picking maps, trying to stitch them on Earth, since that was the only place where Guild members could communicate over very large distances.
A year ago, an influx of students brought science and systemic cartography to Northworld, reshaping the Cartographer’s Guild. Armangest had been one such, quickly rising to prominence and formal leadership. The Solstice Project, the Greek Pit Project, the Astrolabes… all of those had been his ideas.
And now, the Cartographer’s Guild had a global map of Northworld. Of course, it was very empty. Hot on the success of the Solstice, the repeat of the old Greek experiments on Earth’s curvature had given them the scale… and then longitude and latitude.
The diameter of Northworld was nearly 30% smaller than Earth, something between Mars and Earth, despite having normal gravity. The known maps of Northworld covered about a third of Europe, 3 million square kilometers. Northworld itself would be 250 million square kilometers, a hundred times bigger.
And now, the map of the known world was there to see. The three contiguous land areas designated Alpha, Beta and Gamma were placed relative to each other. And soon, they’d forget those designations as Northwold became one.
The Alpha-Gamma trek was the big one. Twelve hundred kilometers as the crow – or a Corvus Rubicundus anyway – flies.
Glacier was receding behind the mountainside. Vasilikulik was happy. He’d have been happier if he could have secured some of the Buffalus Percurro, the massive running Buffaloes that ran better than horses while carrying loads, but none of the local or traders wanted to part with theirs. Still, everyone had taken Recess, brought their supplies, and was ready and eager.
Mastabasta was the front-man, a full swordsman build, no magic at all. Warander was the support; a would-be archmage with little in the way of offense, and lots of defense. Zaccali was the archetype of the elvish huntress – minus the ears of course – with all kinds of ranged attack, tracking, ground sweeping and matching Northworld clothes that would have earned prizes in cosplay years ago. Wisuqkz the ill-named was the last local, one of the Aether Mages that farmed the local dungeons. And finally, there was Maelia, ranger, runner, scout, and one of the best mistresses of the pencil Vasili had ever met. She’d come to Glacier along with him for the expedition and was the official mapmaker on the trip.
It wasn’t every day that you could become the new Lewis and Clark. Of course, it was easier on Northworld. Not only was living off the land easier, but any expedition could take a break, Recess, and resupply on Earth, and resume a couple of days later. They would probably do that twice or three times when adaptation hit.
Vincent Archer wrote his first story around age 11. On a mechanical typewriter, with carbon paper for a mimeograph to distribute in class. His teacher knew enough to make vague encouraging noises rather than really tell him what she thought. He wrote more stories afterward, but Time has thankfully managed to erase every trace of them.
Now that his career has settled in a mix of routine and insanity and that he's figured out that herding cats would probably be easier, he's finally started to write stories again on a media rather than inside his brain. Some of those are even potentially good enough to show to other people.
Silvergates is his first attempt to finish one rather than admit defeat against the usual writer's block.