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Read the Transcript of the Relevant ArticleThadeus Fletcher here, and your ardent travel guide through the many lands of Aqualon is back on the road again! As wonderful and enchanting as the city of Aquaris is, I just couldn't wait to get on the road again. And Shen and his men have a song on their lips as they leave with some impressive merchandise, so I sing along as we travel down the broad and well-maintained Road of Wheels to the Estrun River, making music with my new friends. With the stunning view of Mt. Toke and the Spire of Rahn behind me, there is still much to explore. I'm going places I have never been, seeing things that I may never see again, and I could not be more exited to be on the road again. The Road of Wheels is fairly short and takes us less than two days to traverse. We are surrounded by trading caravans that move to and from Aquaris, and in fact, Shen opts to join one of the leaving caravans to share carriage space. Their haul contains several Aquaris refrigeration boxes; the kind we saw on the Rahn Runner we boarded on our first day. Trade of these kinds of magic engines is fairly restricted, I hear, and Shen makes me check all the paper work involved and make copies in triplicate. I have the sense no to ask where he procured this piece of technology, but one thing I am sure of: he'll make a mint over in Yamaseki. When we reach the Estrun, it is late afternoon, and we stay at a cozy little riverside inn called the Bucking Bayô. Now there's a sight I look forward to seeing in the near future: byaô are the strange goat-horses the Yamato people use as mounts and pack animals. They might not have the running endurance of a well-bred horse, but they can climb up almost any cliff even with a rider on their back. At least that is what I have heard on my travels, and I aim to confirm it as soon as I can. Shen, for one, wholeheartedly supports these claims. Inside we enjoy a hearty evening meal of fish soup with rice and some nice steamed carrots with garlic butter on top. If you travel from Aquaris to Aerialis, I can definitely recommend the Bucking Bayô for a nice bite to eat. The kitchen is rustic but delicious and currently run by the innkeeper's wife Sachiko and her young apprentice Saskia. We step onto a barge with the merchants we allied ourselves with and down the Estrun we sail, progressing at a swift pace, the wind in our hair and the Middle Lands all around us. Though swiftly underway, we need to make stops two times to settle in for the night as the barge does not have onboard accommodations, so at designated way-points, we stop at inns set up for just this route. Around some of them, small villages have started to grow, living from the potential commerce of ships passing by and of course the land which seems verdant and ready to be tilled for farming anywhere you look. With this much arable land everywhere, it is no surprise the Middle Lands have never been very warmongering in their politics and instead focused on ever fortifying their capital cities and borders against outside invasion. With the riches at your doorstep, why build a war machine when you can build a fence? The stay in the way-station inns is quite enjoyable too, and my traveling mood just keeps picking up, no dents in sight so far. I must say that the Middle Lands are certainly the place to go for any serious travelers who want to see some impressive pastures, meads, fields, rivers, and of course grand cities that tickle the imagination. Though I have only seen Aquaris so far, I have great expectations of Aerialis! After roughly three days of travel by barge, we reach another beautiful vista: the busy and stunning Trilake, named so because the three rivers of the Estrun, the Tears River, and the Vasting River join here, though the Vasting River actually flows out of the lake into the far-away Tower's Drought River. To my delight we get off the barge on the western side of the Estrun, making our way to Vynekohan, one of the larger towns around Trilake and home to the best vineyards of the Middle Lands. Truly, an excellent choice to stop by, and my employer enthusiastically invites me to join him for a little wine tasting tour, clearly filled with that famed Yamato spirit of impressing guests. It seems like he sees it as his personal responsibility to show me the best the Great Land has to offer, and I must say: my body is ready. Shen introduces me to a nice elderly couple whom he helped set up their vineyard way back in the day when money was tight. The picture of the Black Market is painted clearer and clearer every day. It seems to be an organization heavily rooted in favors. Over a nice glass of red Linda and Serjosha, our gracious hosts, make me an exiting offer: They are close friends with the local Magus Tower; now there is something a professional traveler shouldn't miss! Now, certainly, for many of you dear readers from the Ocean Belt, the word ''Magus Towers'' may conjure images of secluded animancers amassing arcane knowledge to the furthering of unsavory magics and white spires made by Angel Saxon builders to safeguard their most powerful magical treasures, but the word actually comes from right here in the Middle Lands. Before the Founding of the Five Cities, and, in fact, before even the Great War, there was a slow but steady rise in practiced elemental magic in the Middle Lands. At the time there was a lot of tradition attached to it, and secrets were passed down through family lines and direct apprenticeships, very much like the iemoto system of the Yamato Kingdom (but more on that in a later column), and to practice their arcane arts, mages erected towers throughout the Middle Lands, often using earth magic, sometimes simple labor they bought by offering their services. Today, most Magus Towers are led by a pair of master mages, one versed in earth magic, one in water magic, though other combinations do exist. The reason for this most common configuration is that their magic is best suited to make the land arable and keep it fertile, and they are usually paid handsomely by the people of the surrounding lands. This happens either via collection, per season, or via established taxes that go through the township to the Magus Towers. When we stand in front of Vynekohan's Magus Tower, I notice it is only about two to three stories tall, but made of an amethyst-like quartz, beautifully polished, glittering in the late morning sun. We pull on a simple rope next to the door, and the sound of hundreds of serene wind chimes echoes out of the spire. A young man with spectacles and a blue robe that looks like it was made for a taller man opens the ostentatious wooden door, giving us a once-over while looking deliberately busy. "Linda and uh... Serjosha from one of the vineyards, was it?" he inquires, earning the slightly piqued expression of my new friends, who confirm his assessment. "Come in then, the masters are having tea." It turns out that the young lad is the apprentice of Master Augustine, the water magus who is in charge of the Magus Tower together with his colleague, Master Tasselhuhn, an earth magus of some renown. They welcome both Linda and Serjosha to their table, inviting me to join them as well. Shen, in fact, is visiting another couple of vineyards and old friends; he seems to have some business here in Vynekohan, and I am more than happy to skip out on anything of a more dubious nature. Seated with the two master mages, we have a nice little conversation, and Master Augustine is delighted to give me a little history on the tower and the lands around. Apparently, Tasselhuhn's ancestors had raised soft hills that were optimally suited for grape vines, while Augustine's ancestors had made sure that droughts held no sway over the land and the ground was always rich and moist where needed. While Tasselhuhn had actually studied at the Gladering University in Arda, Augustine had been taught directly by one of the previous masters of the tower: his uncle Merihim. These days they only have to lay hands on the land during planting season and the height of summer as the vineyards are well-built and maintained by now and the farming is geared more towards sustainability thanks to federal edicts by the Tower of Five established a couple of centuries ago. Luckily, the tower is financed by local tax collections, and to make up for their decreased activity, the tower is offering some additional services, including alchemy and apothecary services, which Augustine, an avid alchemist, is happy to provide. Tasselhuhn has a more dubious passion: he makes tea mixes from leaves and fruit he dries here in the tower and uses magic to make tea cups from rock candy. In fact, our tea is served in just such a cup, and the more you stir the tea, the sweeter it gets. It doesn't seem very practical to me from a reusability perspective, and apparently, households are less interested in the cups for regular use, but I learn that local restaurants and inns like to buy them in bulk as people really enjoy having tea in a sugar cup. Truthfully, I can see where they are coming from; the cups look beautiful, and the sweetness is... pleasant. We spend the entire noon and afternoon with the two master mages, enjoying a wonderful conversation to some delicious self-made tea. Reflecting on my experiences in Aquaris and the Spire of Rahn with my experiences here, I can say without the shadow of a doubt that magic and its practice are truly the backbone of Middlish society. Not surprising, considering the nation is called the ''Middle Lands Magocracy'', though it owes that title to the Keepers, whose ever reincarnating souls are ultimately in charge of the federal government here. It makes me think back to the Corsic Ocean and the role of mages there. They are much rarer on the many islands I know, but thanks to HJT's Ferry and SILF program, the profession is held in high regard by all who do not directly affiliate themselves with the Church of Pure Souls. When I ask the masters if they have made negative experiences with the church in the past, they just exchange a look and give me a smirk. T.F.
The Altonar Calendar
The Altonar Calendar is used in Altonar, the Middle Lands, and some of the Seventeen Yonder Islands. (263 Words)
The magic of Aqualon comes in several forms, but all of them share the same nature. ~ 1450