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Elmarune - Back in the Old Days

Click here for a quick sketch of Elmarune's history, from first to last, something I've researched for myself. 

Before Grandfather died, we used to sit and jaw. Well, mainly he'd talk, and I'd listen, gladly, because he told such amazing stories. Since that time, I've checked up on a few details in those stories, and here's what I've found. 
Elmarune didn't use to be as boring as it is now!

First thing he told me was about Elmarune at its most splendid. After a new wave of settlers (mostly from Uvantichrove) had finally subdued most of the planet's extreme wildlife and made the atmosphere somewhat more breathable and the climate warm enough to settle further into the temperate zones, they built cities around the main industries, based on a few market towns. 

One of these cities was Elmara, of course. Another was Septendria. It used to be a little mining town called Urug, so you can see why they renamed it. The location is still known; it's far away in the middle of the Red Desert, about five days' ride from where we often work on the farms. I've never been there, and it's the sort of place where kids dream of exploring and maybe discovering an ancient tomb filled with treasure, or a still-functioning computer system that will reveal its secrets. They say it was destroyed when the warlords came. But that's another story.

There's one great legend the old people still tell that comes down to us from that time when Septendria still stood as a beacon of civilised life to the rest of the planet, for it was a greater city even than Elmara City at its greatest. 

The legend starts in the days when great caravans of tall, balloon-tyred trucks would set out from Septendria for the outlying mines and camps, which were flung far across the mountainous dunes. The men and women who drove these trucks, the drovers, formed a loose band of comrades, for they had often to trust their lives to each other in a tight situation. They were the heroes of their time, linking the small settlements with the city and bringing the mineral wealth into the stores and smelters of Septendria against all the odds stacked against them. For it wasn't only the loose, treacherous sands of the desert that threatened their convoys, or the insane winds that howled out of the northern mountains, whipping the sands into scouring blades that could cut steel in an hour and clog air filters within minutes, but there were still massive predators roaming free in those days. 

The most feared of these Elmarunian behemoths was the karkimange. It had no fangs, claws or horns, but took the form of a flexible thicket of tendrils, often growing to fearsome size under the sands and creeping invisibly under its prey, to snake its twig-like feelers around and over, followed by the much thicker and more numerous grippers. Even the heaviest of trucks, if parked or driving slowly, could often not escape from such a sly attack. The karkimange would slowly pull it over and suck it under the sands, never to be seen again. If the truck's driver tried to cut the karkimange's grippers, the beast could whip one of them around him and suck him down, too. People supposed that the karkimange did not eat the steel of the trucks, but was not intelligent enough to tell the difference between meat and metal. Usually the crew could escape, but would then find themselves stranded in the merciless desert with no vehicle. The karkimange was one reason why the drovers chose to drive in convoys of three or more trucks whenever possible.

The crested snake was another deadly danger of the desert. Though not large, they would often creep up to a camp fire at night and bite the unwary drover, inflicting a poisonous wound that often led to death or delirious fever.

An invisible menace was the winter lice, creatures smaller than the head of a pin, which multiplied in their billions in the cooler months and could swarm over a convoy and into all but the tightest seals. Feasting on human skin, they would cause the most intense itching and often swelling. If the sufferer did not shower them off, they could cause serious infections as they chewed invisibly through layers of skin. Ugh! If anyone tells you the desert is empty, think again!

With all those threats, it sounds also as if the desert used to be a much more beautiful place. The weather-carved pillars and arches of sandstone used to decorate certain regions, before they were mined for traces of precious metals. After the rains the flowers of the desert were much more plentiful than now, or so say the records and the tales, so numerous that the drovers plowed their trucks through tall carpets of rainbow colours, often clogging the air intakes with the blossoms. Then they had to stop and get out to clear the intakes, wading waist-deep in the golds, flame-reds and deep blues of the great flowers. That's a sight that no one alive now has ever seen. Those flowers are long gone.

So in those days, so the story goes, there was an old woman drover who had been working the trucks longer than anyone could remember. Her name was Margume, and she stood taller than redcorn crops at harvest, and had hands like work gloves, though she had been known to weave a pretty bouquet of desert flowers around the campfire. Margume had always talked of going further than the fuel load of the trucks would allow, to explore the western reaches of the wide desert. But the mining corporation wouldn't allow that, and saw no need to waste a truck convoy on an old woman's dreams. Their scientists told them that there could be no more rich veins of minerals towards the west, so that was that. But still, Margume wondered, and often gazed into the sunset as she sat at the campfire with the other drovers.

To be continued...

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