1.) Moregone was the smallest and least important of all the Thirteen Principalities. When it disappeared, it was some time before the rest of the world noticed. It is thought to have happened in the Fall, sometime between the artichoke and crabapple seasons.
The Eleventh Principality is tucked between the Shield Mountains. It is possible, nay prudent, to travel the Pilgrim Road directly from the Tenth and Twelfth Principalities. Few travelers have reason to turn onto the winding muddy roads to Moregone, and since the demand for artichokes and crabapples is limited at the best of times, those reasons usually entail visits from family members who escaped the clutches of Moregone long ago, but feel duty bound to return occasionally and check on their forlorn relatives.
The founders of the Principalities originally envisioned twelve realms, completely forgetting the existence of Moregone. It was only because Rupart the Perceptible, the greatest of all of Moregone’s rulers—well, at least the only one anyone could ever remember—reminded them.
Personally, I like Moregone. No one bothers me there. I have a small house on a cliff, accessible only by foot, and I’m never visited by the neighbors who believe me to be a monk of the Mirror God, since who else would be crazy enough to choose to live there?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was away on business when Moregone vanished. Indeed, I may have been the first to notice it was gone.
I was thinking about other things when I turned aside, so when the road to Moregone circled back to where I started, I thought at first it was my inattention. I paid much more notice to the second attempt, and still ended back on the Pilgrim Road.
I stopped a passerby. The fat merchant had three bodyguards who eyed me warily as I approached, but I am an unimposing figure when I wish to be (though, of course, an imposing figure when necessary).
“Excuse me, sir. Do you know what has happened to the road to Moregone? Have they moved it?”
His face screwed up in puzzlement. “Moregone?”
Moregone is not so much a Forgotten Land with all the romance of that moniker, but more a land that people just didn’t remember.
“The Eleventh Principality,” I prompted.
“Ah, I have always intended to visit, but I always seem to forget. No, sir. I have no knowledge of such a thing.”
I resolved then and there to resolve the mystery.
As it happens, I am an unofficial advisor to the Fourth Prince. I requested an audience with Cambral and after a short wait, I was ushered into the grand hall. He sat disheveled, unshaven and unbathed at a little desk in the corner, covered by papers weighted down to keep them from being blown away by the winds of the cavernous room.
He heard me out, and then shrugged. “You probably just forgot where it is.”
I must admit, this had been my fear at first. Years went by without remembering my vacation home. It usually took some traumatic event to remind me of its peace and oblivion.
“I assure you, Your Highness, I have searched most assiduously.”
“Well, I’m sure it will show up one of these days…”
I decided to appeal to the only thing Cambral cared about—commerce. “But in the meantime, there will be a shortage of artichokes and crabapples.”
“Oh, dear,” he said in the most mild of tones. “What do you want of me, Just?”
Evard Just is my common name, the one I prefer. I adopted it when first arriving in these lands, before the Principalities even existed. It was so long ago that it took some effort to remember some of my earlier names.
“I would like to mount an expedition,” I said. “Perhaps come at it from the other side of the mountains?”
“You wish to circle the Shield Wall?”
“Why? If this realm is so unimportant that no one misses it.”
“It is not well known, for the inhabitants of Moregone are a humble folk who wish only to be left alone to farm, but there is—at the very farthest corner—a red obsidian mine which has not yet been completely excavated.”
This wasn’t true, as far as I knew, but I doubted artichokes and crabapples were enough to interest a Prince.
“Red obsidian?” The precious stone was the only material that could harness the dragons. That there didn’t appear to be any dragons left in the world only made the stone more desirable. A Prince with a red obsidian broach or hilt or shield was considered a first among equals.
“And more, who know what riches and wonders we might find beyond the Shield Wall?”
My own knowledge was hazy, lost in the past, though I seemed to remember great cities and nations, most of which made the Thirteen Principalities appear provincial.
“I will pay for half such an expedition if you can find another Prince to subsidize the other half. But in return, for being first, I want seventy percent of everything you bring back.”
“Fifty percent,” I countered.
I bowed my head in agreement. Prince Cambral could change his mind with tick of a clock.
A second investor might find those terms to be onerous, but then again, I didn’t need to mention it. It would be all sorted out upon my return. I could, if necessary, supply the other half of the expedition’s needs, but I have a rule against using my own money.
There was someone else who I thought might want to save Moregone.