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Dear Diane,

It’s a windy, late August night. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever ridden on a wagon. Even a MSF Hovercraft feels brittle when out in this part of the world, especially this close to the Rumeskan border, and here I am on a horse-pulled wooden wagon riding North, to what the buldanese call Tarr-Kurgo, lit. “the Black Mouth”. At least I’m getting further from Rumeska.

Buldan is an interesting land, to say the least. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about lack of sendphone reception or dry, freezing-cold winds, but the fact that it has managed to stay relatively untouched while being so close to major conflicts like Dead Wars I and II and still bearing faint echos of the Feuryan War is quite remarkable. It also helps that it is beautiful. As in, pre-Fleurite realist painting beautiful. The plains are a sea of de-saturated green and gold, connecting all of the tall and dark forests resting out and around the Carpus Mountain Range, which begins a couple hundred kilometers to the Northeast. As a photojournalist, the trip alone has already yielded some really good phototypes, and I am hopeful that it’s saving the best for last. I’ve heard countless tales of the mastodon-riding Kurgan, the red-haired Zsylf tribe’s peerless marskmanship, and the almost-supernatural tracking skills of the Brakko.

My interest, however, is not purely anthropological. I’d be lying if I wasn’t intrigued by all the talk of witchcraft, demon-worshipping and animistic belief spread throughout the region. I consider myself cautiously agnostic, and places like this, places that have such a reputation for being both metaphorically and geographically considered liminal spaces are just impossible for me to stay away from.

The intermittent rocking of the wagon becomes slightly less shaky, and faint warm lights can be seen from the spaces between the wooden boards that just barely shield me from the cold wind outside. I’m relieved, as we enter the town of Valpurgia, that it has public electricity. This most likely means that it also has warm water and hopefully even a wave station. The houses are small and very close together, though often separated by green areas and dark alleways. The gorgeous stonework on the streets is recognizably Rumeskan, and the thick, twisting dwarov trees give the town such an autumnal vibe proper of August’s twilight days on this side of the Northern hemisphere. I am only a couple of months away from the Hallowed Hunt Festival, and that’s more than enough time for me to become familiarized with the town’s population, customs, and rituals. I have to say I haven’t been this exhilarated in years. Perhaps I am indeed attracted to danger and mystery, and I am merely using my chosen profession to justify my fancy for thrills. Whatever it may be, I’m already here, and I’m not about to leave anytime soon. Might as well make the best of my stay and hope that one day I may be able to share this with you.

Love,

J.B.

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