Almondsey

Almondsey is a large Island located somewhere between Norway and Atlantis. Gerousle is its capital city. This was not known at the time the game of Gerousle was invented. Its presence was revealed through the playing of the game (which generates its own history as you play it). Here are some fragments of the novel that was growing about this place before it sank into the Atlantic with no trace, round about the year 1970, just before the discovery/revelation of the Planet Blenkinsop.


An Introductory Chapter

Rumours of the existence of an island in the Almond Sea had floated about the naval circles of Arland ever since the first 'brown swan' was sighted in an area thought to be landless. Henry Bosset, one of the great sealords of Masthafen, encountered the first swan when he was on a Tokeweave run from Viniot in early 1356. The sailors on the 'Lemmingstone', Bosset's ship, were frightened of the apparition and thought it an obvious sign of death. Four sailors who had leapt into the sea in an effort to escape the 'brown death-bringer' drowned within a pole's length of the ship. It was all Bosset could do to contain the other crew members.

  When the 'Lemmingstone' returned to Masthafen all manner of bizarre tales were heard concerning the Brown Swan. Bosset's First Mate, Cabert Blackhead, insisted on oath that the swan had eaten dinner with the captain in his private cabin and that the two of them had planned together the murder of the crew. Bosset strenuously denied this accusation and advised King Bernard to dispatch an expeditionary fleet to search for the swan's home. Before any action could be taken, however, another Tokeweaver in from Viniot reported that he actually killed a small cygnet over 600 miles from the nearest landfall and in the general area which Bosset had marked on the 'Lemmingstone' chart as being the point of his own encounter. The stir in Masthafen was tremendous and the thought of an Arlish landclaim swelled King Bernard's head to the point of bursting. He summoned Bosset and three other prominent captains to his palace and told them to make a thorough search of the area and to claim any land in the name of Arland.

  In the spring of 1357, Captain Bosset, Captain Followay, and Captain Inksmith sailed into the West. By 1365 concern [!] was rising in Masthafen over the three gallant captains, for they had not returned. Nor had anything been heard of them. In 1366 they were given up for lost and the following year, the King died. There followed a temporary lapse in interest in the 'brown swan' and its unfound home. Arland plodded on in grand isolation under King Two-Bernard while Viniot increased her possessions across the waters. But interest was once again aroused in Masthafen when news came in 1368 of the discovery of young driftwood in the swan area by Serdio Forcus, a Viniot navigator. It was also reported that a large fleet was forming in Viniot's capital, Bracia, and that an all-out search was to be launched. Burnham Bosset (Henry's son) went to King Francis who now ruled Arland and asked him for the loan of the navy so that he could seek out the island or whatever, and claim it ahead of the Viniots. King Francis, being a keen fellow (he was posthumously known as Francis the Noteworthy) gave Bosset five small sloops: The 'Mather', the 'Stoolgable', the 'Frankhope', 'Dogtooth' and 'Greavis', and made Bosset a Half Admiral. The new 'Lemmingstone II', the 'Steadfast', and the 'Hastybede', three of of Bosset family's finest Tokeweavers, joined the five sloops to make up the exploration fleet.

  It took five months before the fleet was ready to sail and by that time, Forcus's fleet was long gone. And so Bosset sailed confidently forward, his nine [sic] ships an awe-inspiring sight on the shimmering waters of the Almond Sea. Many uneventful days passed until one morning, quite suddenly, and in perfect weather, the 'Dogtooth' sank. Bosset, aboard the 'Hastybede', held a short service for his lost friends and led the fleet on. The following week 'Greavis' was hopelessly crippled in a storm and was left to limp back to Masthafen alone.

  When he had reached the spot marked on the 'Lemmingstone' chart, Half Admiral Bosset gave the order to take on search formation. The tricky currents encountered made keeping in formation a difficult task, but Bosset was hopeful that the irregular current was sign of a landfall near by. After two days of searching, contact with the 'Mather', which had been holding down the port, outer position of the comb, was lost. The 'Hastybede' was promptly turned in 'Mather' direction in hopes of overtaking the slower sloop. For four days the search went on, then fog came down upon the fleet and the wind stopped. They seemed to be becalmed in some sort of bay, for the seas were uncommonly smooth, and little bits of driftwood floated around their ships like tiny canoes.

  Admiral Bosset was wary about putting out the longboats lest the seas should rise again, but later on in the day he changed his mind and dispatched Robert Handleweave, the bosun, in the longboat with fourteen other men. As the sound of the splashing oars disappeared into the foggy distance, Bosset retired to dinner, as his 20-stone frame was crying for fill. He went to bed well satisfied and woke to find that the fog had cleared. Through squinting, he could just make out Handleweave and his men standing on a sandback. Beyond the sandbank, low on the horizon, was a misty hillside like a dark cloud.

  Bosset later found out that Handleweave had come across the sandbank when the fog was at its thickest and that he had mistaken it for the mainland. They were waiting for the fog to clear before exploring inland.

  The wind which had blown away the fog filled the sails of the five remaining ships, for there was still no sign of 'Mather', and brought them to anchor just off the richly forested hills of this new land. As soon as Bosset had breakfasted he called the captains of the 'Frankhope' and the 'Stoolgable' to his cabin to discuss the next move. Bosset decided that the two sloops be dispatched in opposite directions to follow their bit of coastline for two weeks. If by the end of the fortnight they had not met on the other side of the island, they were to return to the 'Hastybede'.

  Half Admiral Bosset was thinking of a name for the bay as the 'Frankhope' and 'Stoolgable' weighed anchor and sailed off into the distance. He left lunch with the name Complin Bay written on his napkin in raspberry sauce.


[One can't give the Arlanders, who were stay-at-home Vikings, much credit for navigation, although they were apparently better than their rivals the Viniots. In any case, the slow course of discovery was dictated by the course of the Gerousle game as it was being played. I have long forgotten what a Tokeweave run was. --Grobius]

A Chapter from the Story of Almondsey

It was a cloudless morning in April on the River Lin. The year was 1404; the infant kingdom of Almondsey was experiencing her third spring.

  On the swift-flowing waters of the spring flood a small river boat bearing Admiral Handleweave sped toward Gerousle. Most Admiral Handleweave, explorer, historian, and mapmaker, sat in the bow of the raft -- for that is what it most resembled -- smoking his pipe of Linborse weed and putting the final touches on what looked to be a map of the River Lin. Mainmate Nuddy was nearby polishing Handleweave's golden spurs in preparation for their homecoming. The wind blew with a freshness the two had never before experienced. In fact, the spring of 1404 was to go down in history as 'The Spring of Delightful Breezes'.

  Ahead of the boat the river bent sharply to the right. Handleweave gazed intently at the opening vista and there was a smile on his face, for he knew that Gerousle was just around the corner. Sure enough, not three minutes had passed before the green mound of Linhead loomed up behind the luxuriant growth of Linborse on the right bank.

  In Handleweave's mind were memories of the great welcome he had received after his circumnavigation of the island three years before. The excitement and merriment of that day formed dancing pictures in his mind. Twenty-nine people had died during the orgies that followed in celebration of King One-Thomas's coronation which had, by chance, taken place the day before Handleweave's return, and of course in celebration of Handleweave's effort as well. Bertram Bagger, the twenty-six stone Lord Mayor, had sat dead in his pew in Gerousle Abbey for a full eight days before he was missed. Regardless, an enjoyable time had been had by all, not least of all by Robert Handleweave and the Beautiful Glessinda, his wife.

  On the grassy slopes of Linhead, sheep stood like stones and watched the boat as it rounded the point. Two lobstermen, anchored just off Hastybede Pier were first to spot the boat. It did not occur to the two dullards that the boat they were watching with such indifference was in fact the 'Golden Eyestring' and that Robert Handleweave was back, the first man ever to reach the source of the River Lin.

  "What is the goldglitter theer what I see in yonder boat bow, Avrot?" asked one of the lobster fishermen of his cohort.

  "Don't know, now. Can't yar espy the name on boat?" They stared and squinted but the boat appeared to be nameless. No Name! Every intelligent Gerouslian knew that the 'Golden Eyestring' had her sign painted on the mast, where it was very difficult to see from a distance of more than eight feet. Avrot puzzled a moment and then moved slowly toward his oar, with which he was going to raise the invasion alarm. But he was interrupted in his slowness by a shout from the wharf.

  "Golden Eyestring there! Handleweave is returned!" Avrot was so excited he fell into the river and sank to the bottom.

  Now people were running to the riverside to investigate the commotion. When they heard Handleweave was back they broke into wild genuflection and general exuberance. Mainmate Nuddy watched the scene with obvious satisfaction. The welcome was frantic; much more so than Handleweave had envisaged. Not even the clatter of the King's coach on the cobblestones of Hastybede Way could be heard above the rhythmic stomping of feet, traditional Almondese welcome, it seems. Terrified seabirds had already flown to higher places. The din was tremendous and must have been awe-inspiring to anyone who had never before witnessed a Gerouslian homecoming.

  With a wink and a wave Handleweave leapt onto the pier, caught his spur on a rope and sprawled to the ground. He was up in a flash, though, smiling widely with a face which seemed to fold back with every grin, and showing the people that all was well. He took advantage of the anxious silence caused by his fall to address the throng lining Bilewater Street and Ploverson Docks.

  "Close your mouths people!" he bellowed. "And hold your feet for these few words." He groped for the words to finish his speech. "I drink to your welcome, Gerousle, and I would be honoured were you to see it in yourselves to drink to the first voyage to the source of the River Lin!"

  A great roar concluded the Most Admiral's speech and was topped off by a flight of five-hundred hats. A bead of sweat dripped from the end of Handleweave's long red nose. He was uncomfortable in his soggy tunic and wished to be out of it and into his silk night dress and into his wife's bed. As he was looking about for a suitable exit through the human wall of revellers his eyes met those of King One-Thomas who had been watching the proceedings from the runner-board of his carriage.

  "This way, Robert," called the King as his footmen opened a channel through a group of revelling lobstermen who had broken into a large keg of Almond Water and were now pushing each other into the river.

  Thomas Gladwyn was a middle-aged man of considerable height and remarkable bearing for one who had been king a mere three years. His shoulders were extremely narrow and in comparison to his ample middle seemed no wider than his neck. He knew how to play king, though, and never forgot his position in front of the ignobles of the realm, of which there were countless several.

  King One-Thomas stepped into his carriage and was followed up by a very weary Admiral Handleweave. Inside the coach the King just stared at the admiral, a look of wonderment hanging from his face and resting gently on his lap. The cheers of the people lining Hastybede Way seemed like rain on a window pane. The world seemed very far away to Handleweave, and he found it difficult to speak, having fallen asleep. The King reached over and gathered up Handleweave's map cylinders, then he ordered the coach to drop Handleweave at his Admiralty rooms where Beautiful Glessinda would be waiting.

  And so ended the day; Handleweave dead to the world, and King One-Thomas proudly acquainting himself with the hitherto unexplored regions of his Kingdom now brought to life so vividly by Handleweave's maps and sketches. It was surely a day of satisfied curiosities, for Avrot, the lobsterman, had never before seen the bottom of the river. Just before he retired the King dispatched riders to Seahafen and Carrot to summon the Halfwhets, for as soon as possible he was planning to hold a Highwhet to discuss plans for the new territories.

* * * * * * * * * *

The morning broke bright and sunny warm and made it difficult for the hung-over populace to stay in bed. They were up clearing away the rubble of the night before and singing airs familiar to no-one who had never heard them before.

  Handleweave woke about noon and was handed a note calling him to the King's Palace. He was good at reading and told Beautiful Glessinda that he was wanted at the palace. He dressed quickly in his best tunic and rode over to where Mainmate Nuddy was staying. The two of them called for one of the lesser state carriages and settled back for the short trot to the Summer Palace.

  As they crossed the drawbridge, Nuddy spoke. "The maps, Most Admiral, where are they?"

  "King has maps, Nuddy. I imagine he wants to speak me about the Loteyns, for I still have the report on my person. He was not later called 'The Curious King' for nothing, mainmate."

  King One-Thomas was at the door to greet the two navals; in his hand he carried a map. There was a puzzled look on his face, just under the left eye. Behind the King stood Most Bishop Toddling, a giant of a man whose wrists were on a level with Handleweave's armpits.


[And that's as far as this novel ever got.... The oddity of the style was quite deliberate, I assure you. This chapter was written by Celius. --Grobius]

Odds and Ends

The Linborse Plant

The Linborse plant grows abundantly in the lowlands around the River Lin and the River Nee. It consists of a thick green stalk which grows to a height of around eight feet, though the Linborse of Greavis Plantations rarely stop below twelve feet. The stalks are topped with large leaves not unlike the ears of an Indian elephant in shape and size. They are greenish-brown, edged with copper. At the base of the stalk, which is red in the young Linborse, purplish in older plants, there is a large tumor of a substance similar to the meat of a mushroom. It is called Prang. The roots of the plant are extenuous and very fine. Every year during the months of Thermidor and Fructidor, the stems of the Linborse egest a sort of sweet sappy sweat which eventually dries and flakes off in the autumn breezes.

Uses of the Linborse

The inner portion of the Linborse leaf when dried and burned emits a smokey incense which causes hallucinations. The copper-coloured edges of the leaves emit a red smoke when burned and are used in signal towers. The entire leaf, if boiled thoroughly, can be eaten as a green.

The stalk of the Linborse can be whittled into any shape desired and then smoked and dipped in boiling Tokefluid and left to solidify and harden. Though not quite as effective as steel, it is much lighter and is of course easier to make. Used in roofing skeletons and other things of the sort.

The roots and Prang of the Linborse are the most edible parts of the plant and are extremely delicious in their many guises (Mauve Mandy, Delicious Pie, Borle Stew, and many others). The roots are usually boiled and then fried to make the basic dish, Fede. The Prang, when boiled for several days, forms a thick, stewy soup (Linborscht).

The sap of the Linborne Plant is drained in its liquid state (during the late summer months) and used as syrup. Mixed with Tokefluid and dung it is a magnificent glue. When the sap dries on the stalk, it is scraped off, ground up and used as sugar for those who can afford to buy it. Only the best Almondese families could afford it.

Lore of the Aboriginal Lotians/Loteyns (natives of Almondsey)

(a) Mythology: Lake Lotta (Etang) formed by the tears of the Mother Goddess Lott (in the original tongue, Lought-t') at the death of her lover-god, Thud, during the Mayday orgy of Timberslot (the annual fertility fest), whom she bit in the act of love, her bite being venomous: hence, the proverb, "bane falleth on whomsoever Baeth [Lotian for Mother] bites,/ Bitter are the gums thereof" -- signifying a great hero of the realm who falls as a result of his own ardor in serving the motherland. The story of Lott and Thud is told in many songs and heroic lays, e.g., Thud's Bane ("Jhol m-Jhud") (an ancient epic), "The Ballad of the Beloved" ("Idge m-Joim"), The Tears of Lott ("Penif m-Lought-t'"), etc.

Lott was the original of all living creatures, who was born out of her own womb in the Days of Silence, and whose labour pains were the origin of all sound, whose sweat the origin of the great seas around the island, whose afterbirth its foundations. The world she created as her playpen. Thud was the first man, created by her last in the series of living things as her playmate. From his seed, she gave birth to the men of Lotta, who annually worshipped Thud's birthday (Thudsday, March 5) and the coupling of Thud and Lott for the first time (Timberslot, May 1). He lived 1001 years but perished on the millenium of the First Coupling (the Lotian New Year begins April 1, the first day of the Lotian Spring), for it is said that his joy was so great that time that Lott forgot her venomous gums in her passion.

(b) Early Society: Matriarchal, the worship of Mother Lott, but soon after Thud's death his tomb became a place of pilgrimage, and in a few decades the guardians of the tomb (Tholflas m'Tulm) grew in power by benefit of the great offerings of the pilgrims (who were dignified with the title of 'Ding' for their pains: thus Ding Sordid Sonata, etc.). Eventually, the rivalry between the Tholflas m'Tulm and the Tholflais m'Lought-t' (Priestesses of Lott) led to open schism, and after many years the evolved religious and social systems were joined in useasy alliance by the marriage of Tholfl m'Tulm Mistre (the High Guardian, Mistre) and Tholfil m'Lought-t' Mistrei-s' (the High Priestess). The Hill people retained the old patriarchal religion of Thud, and the Forest people the matriarchal religion of Lott, but the bulk of the populace of the Lotians in the lake cities and river dwellings adhered to the new religion -- the Hill and Forest people remaining barbarians. In the Great Anti-Schismatic campaign these were driven off into the wildernesses, where they henceforth remained, feuding enemies of each other and of any other men who dared to wander there. The Thud-Laught-t's (as the followers of the new civilization were called) thus established dominion over all the island, save for the wildernesses. The Great Anti-Schismatic campaign is celebrated in the famous epic cycle of the Heroes of Thud-Laught-t' ("Arvas m'Thud-Laught-t'"), of whom the most noted are Niv and Ict of the Lake, Kueen the Hermaphrodite, and Chab the Drab, and their opponents Xfor of the Adherents of Thud and Hramei-t'Mishala of the Adherents of Lott.

(c) Middle Society: The dwellers of the lake city (Lotta) in the middle years developed a trade rivalry with the dwellers of Gerousle on the coast (then known as Jatta) -- neither of which are on the site of the places currently named so -- which soon led to civil war and the eventual splitting of the Island into two nations: Estalia and Almondsey. The citizens of Estalia preserved all the old ways in religion, government, law, and lore, and maintained the old civilization in its most culturally advanced and static form, holding sway over the interior of the island with the magic of old, whose seat of power lay in the Navel String of Thud preserved in the Great Temple and also in the supporting spirit of the goddess Lott (who had departed the Earth long before in the days of her grief). The line of Tholfl-Tholfil Thud-Laught-t' Mistre- Mistrei-s' ruled the city of Lotta as wizard-kings; they were the progeny of Kueen by Chab, while the rulers of Jatta were the progeny of Icti (Ict's mother) by Kueen, but the two lines were eventually united by Slish Kueen-Chab and Himzip Icti-Kueen, the parents of Sonata (as celebrated in the Song of Slish and Himzip, by the deaf minstrel Pawpa). ***********


[Enough already! There are several more pages of this sort of disconnected stuff. This is enough to provide you with the flavor. --Grobius]

Almondsey is noted for its walled towns

Here are three of them: Kajudder, Nuorgk, and Ffanshoe. (These plans are 'pristine' in that they do not show modern and suburban development. The keys have been omitted as irrelevant as these drawings are just as effective as decoration.)


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