You read about the Wordwood: you know what the official line is. Branches Bend in Submission Provice, valued part of the Perfected Empire, governed by an archduke at the behest of the Prefecture, plurality faen population, ancestral faen homeland, population centered in a few urban citadels separated by miles and miles and miles of empty woodlands. You know nothing about the Wordwood.

Branches hardly bend in submission. Yellow Teeth Remain Sharp and her death squads rolled in and killed everyone they found, basically, which was just one of the dozens of atrocities committed by the Prefecture since our Occupation began. They burned and humiliated and degraded us. They dressed us up in silly flower clothes and they called us traitors, as if the hens should feel loyalty to their fox.

“Everyone they found:” this is the key. For the Wordwood is vast, and it contains contradictions and multitudes. Maps of the Isle of Word encircle the Wordwood with names and townships and coastlines, but the interior is a vast black smudge, a hole from which anything could come boiling out and up. The Prefect’s censors and taxmen and child-stealers have their enclaves, roads, and fortresses, but the spaces between are large, and they are far from empty.

There are villages, towns, whole nations inside the Wordwood. It’s larger on the inside than the outside; it’s a cyst where the Mother Countries overlap with someplace else. Someplace unfriendly. That’s where Esther Redhands went to found her Sibeccai Free State (it does exist I assure you), and most of the Children of Liberty too. Monstrous vibrations clamor across the landscape from out that thorny well, and give the aristos nightmares. They still worship the Million Gods in the hinterlands, stick to the old zoetic ways, or what they say are the old zoetic ways.

There aren’t many spaces left that aren’t under the boot of the Most High or the Prefect, one or the other. The Yomno islands, maybe, them as are protected by the giant squid or whatever it is out there they’re so afraid of. The Wordwood doesn’t have a giant monster patron, though. The Wordwood is itself a giant monster, a huge Bad Place. Trees grow in the shapes of runes, in the interior. I’ve seen it myself. And the runes they form are not runes of peace and vigor.

Why hasn’t the Perfected Empire subdued the interior? Don’t you pay attention in your history classes? They say they already have, many times over. Kort Whitefoot was a rune-carver three hundred years ago, and now he sits decaying in his ramshackle little ducal palace at the edge of the Wordwood, forging census reports and surveyor’s maps of the interior. He doesn’t want to rock the boat further; you don’t get to be Undying without getting canny about who butters your bread. It helps, no doubt, that Living Memory doesn’t penetrate the Wordwood. Out of sight, out of mind, dig?

SEE ALSO: The Blue Roses Blooming Squadron, the Day of Sever Errors, the Empire of Perfection, Esther Red-Hands, Living Memory (Gaps In), Monstrous Vibrations, the United Imperial Peace, the Yomno Islands, and the Zoetic Mystics.


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