Broken River: A Community in the After

No one had really thought about how Broken River had got its name. It was pretty obvious. Once a wide bend in a deep, slow moving river that had made its way from the Primea to the Green Sea, all that remained was the long lazy dry curve that now acted as a moat of sorts, surrounding three sides of the village. A broken river, indeed.

The fourth side of the village had a tidy palisade of tall, thick tree trunks, some of which were carved into deadly spikes. During the day, half a dozen villagers each took an hour to stand guard - at night, for now, that number doubled.

The entrance to Broken River was a solid stone bridge that had once spanned the entire river, but now came to an end about halfway across. A happy accident, the rest of the bridge now made up a protective wall on either side of the town's entrance, which was a well-made, yet easily movable wooden platform that reached over to the remaining stone bridge. When things got rough, which was fairly often, the platform could be pulled back across inside the village, leaving trouble makers a 100 foot gap, with a 50 foot plunge into the dry gulch.

All in all, it was a superior setup, and one that its creator was proud of.

Gensh Pallipoon was a tiny figure in the village, literally. The gnome was little more than 4 feet tall, shorter than an dwarf, and just a little taller than a splint, though not by much. He could never be mistaken for one of the island folk, however - he was stout and thick limbed. His outlook couldn't be more different. The island folk lived much of their lives worshipping spirits, while Gensh was more concerned with the here and now, and, in a much deeper and significant way, the future.

Broken River owed more than just its clever defenses to Gensh's expertise. When he arrived here, it had really just been a camp, filled with a handful of desperate survivors with no idea how to survive the increasingly cold weather. It had been at the onset of the Long Winter, that 12-month span when the snow and ice had kept coming and no one was quite sure whether this winter would ever end.

Gensh had brought with him three important things. First, he'd long known that this spot would be a great place for a village. He had drawn up plans for the palisade and the bridge years ago. Second, he had met a group of refugees on the way to this place, and had convinced them that with a bit of hard work, they'd end up with something more than just a safe place for the next few months. Finally, he had a map. A very important map, which had the locations of some very important things that would come in handy later. Although he carried a scrap of goatskin with complicated marks and notations, it was just for show. The real map existed only in his mind, in a network of memories that that weren't all his.

Just before the snows started, he'd taken a group of villagers out into the shattered wilderness, and had brought back a supply of nuts, flour and preserved food that he'd "found" on his travels earlier.

When the Winter finally broke, and the Long Summer began, he managed to locate the equipment necessary to produce a deep well - deeper than any of the human villagers had ever encountered, and deep enough to ensure a little water for everyone throughout the bleak hot months ahead.

No one questioned where Gensh had found these things. No one really cared, because ultimately, everyone benefited. When the village decided to elect a mayor, deep in the heart of the Long Winter, everyone had asked Gensh to lead them. He baffled them by refusing, gently, but insisted upon his role as merely a "purveyor of usefulness." Instead, he suggested that they elect Janal Kresk, an attractive middle-aged woman who had lost her children during the Night of Fire, but who had stepped forward as mother to others who had lost their own. Everyone agreed, and Janal had been a good leader so far. She relied upon Gensh for advice.

The time came when others discovered Broken River. First, it had been a group of desperate refugees in the deepest days of the Long Winter.

Janal's heart was larger back then, and she had let the dozen survivors into the village without question. Everyone gave up a meal to feed them.

However, as their strength returned, the newcomers decided that Broken River needed new leadership, and this did not sit well with the residents. When the largest amongst them struck Janal one evening, telling her that she could either follow or die, Broken River changed forever.

Hushed discussions and urgent meetings took place, resulting in swift action.

With a heavy soul, and some herbs that Gensh had "found" some months previously, the newcomers were drugged at an evening meal. They found themselves in the snow and ice the following morning, on the far side of the broken stone bridge.

They yelled, threatened, and finally begged Broken River to let them back in, penitent and regretful for their actions. The shouts died first. The newcomers died soon after.

Janal spent several days silent and thoughtful after this incident. Afterwards, she was steelier, hardened against pity, and the villagers respected her even more.

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