Chapter Third Semiperfect
Scene Two: Experience Shows
A few weeks ago, I complained in one of my journal entries about Ziegeburg roads. I cursed the builders, who didn’t level out the highways as they do in Oggli. All of the hills need flattened, I said.
That seems mathematically naive to me now. As a traveler, I am seasoned. I have thought more about the amount of effort it would take. Even small hills are equivalent to a cylinder one hundred yards high and an equal amount in radius. That gives my small, example hill a volume of 3,141,593 cubic yards. A good wheelbarrow holds about a tenth of a cubic yard. Leveling a hill with men and wheelbarrows would generate at most a cubic yard per day per man. There is too much digging and walking involved to get more.
Even 10,000 men would take all year to do the job. Yet it is said that the King of All Ogglia, in the days before the Muntabi Empire, leveled so many hills that he filled every swamp within fifty miles. Did he have 10,000 men? In fact, the court history lists a permanent engineering force of 100,000. I’d considered it a fanciful number, a myth. It seemed like an accounting joke. But looking at the feats accomplished by that ancient empire forces me to acknowledge that the population reports may be real.
Also, a bit of consideration reveals that if I had written an official complaint, the Marquis would have assigned me the Ziegeburg roads job as a surveyor. He would have thought it was funny.
My other complaints from five weeks back:
- There are too many rocks.
- The deer are aggressive.
- Ducks are cruel.
- No one cleans up ox poop.
- Foxes steal my food.
A week later, my entries are wiser already.
- There’s no point in trying to get even with a fox that stole food by eating all the berries off of the bush near the fox den. Those berries make you vomit.
- It is more efficient to wipe your nose on your sleeve than to stop and find a broad leaf. But only for two weeks. Then you start wishing you could wash your shirt.
Another week in, I had learned more.
- There’s no use in praying for a magic coat to keep you warm. These hillmen have no use for magic. Even their priests don’t like it.
- The Mundredi taught me to warm rocks in the fire and then roll them out and sleep between them and the fire. That keeps a body from shivering; it is primitive but it works. Unfortunately, midnight is my turn to wake up, stoke the fire, and shift the heated rocks.
At one point, I got so wise with my trail craft that I understood the difference between danger and magic. The villagers in Nickle Bad warned me about deadly magic beside the road between their home and North Ackerland. The place was a flat-topped hillock near a spring. Normally, it would be a good camping spot. When I ventured there I found none of the usual signs of enchantment, no flying frogs or talking animals. Rather, there were anthills the size of a man. I’ve seen them before in the desert north of Oggli. The local Mundredi, when they moved into the area a few generations ago, had never seen such mounds. To them, they hurt travelers and so they must be bewitched.
The ants bite. Or they sting. I’m not sure which. I didn’t stay. The locals were right in that respect, at least. The ant mounds might as well have been the result of an evil wizard.
My last entry on hiking shows my veteran progress, I think.
- Narrow straps on packs are fine for walking short distances in a city. They are agony for walking far in the countryside. Ideally, I believe, the straps should be wider than the person. I will find someone to re-make my pack.