An Englishman In Medecia
Ros Pendrake and Hargas Bay
Ros Pendrake stands on a small granite island a short distance from the shore of Hargas Bay, in the extreme south of the province of Skye. At low tide it is possible to wade from the shore to the island, and at one time this was the only way to reach it. About two hundred years ago, however, one of Graegor's ancestors constructed a causeway, and it is now possible even at high tide to cross to the castle without risking a soaking -- unless, of course, you choose to cross during one of the notoriously bad winter storms.
The castle is actually more of a fortified mansion than a true castle, and occupies a position so utterly lacking in strategic value that in all its fifteen hundred years of history it has never once been attacked, save by the sea which surrounds it.
The sea, however, is an implacable enemy. Graegor believes that in less than another two hundred years the castle will have to be abandoned. The island on which it stands is irretrievably in retreat, losing another few inches of rock with every passing year, and the east wall of the castle already looms precariously over a crumbling cliff. There are some forces before which even a family of sorcerors have to bow.
Hargas Bay, viewed from the island, seen through the typical drizzle, with the hills of the Brag of Trégor in the distance. The shadow of Ros Pendrake can just be made out on the right of the picture.
The castle sprawls across most of the island, and appears not so much to have been built as to have grown. The central buildings are almost unchanged from when the castle was first established fifteen hundred years ago, except for the addition, some two hundred years ago, of a tall octagonal tower whose uppermost rooms are now used by Graegor as an astronomical and astrological observatory (those two disciplines still being regarded as one in Medecia).
Stretching away from the central castle are a multiplicity of rooms and towers, no two alike, constructed by various ancestors of Graegor as their whim or fortunes dictated.
The causeway that leads from the island to the shore is itself an architectural curiousity. It is built of an almost glaringly-white stone, clearly imported from somewhere quite distant, utterly unlike any other part of the castle, and boasts a balustrade of such baroque delicacy that one wonders how it manages to withstand the onslaught of the rough winter seas.
The island is at the eastern end of the wide crescent of Hargas Bay, where the cliffs are at their highest. From here the beach sweeps away in a long curve to the west, where the cliffs fall away till they reach the valley where the Gowmer River reaches the sea.
Whilst it is possible to walk along the beach to the river mouth, and exit the bay at that point, there is a quicker way which leads up a cleft in the eastern cliffs. Rough steps have been cut into the rocks to make the climb easier, though it is still more akin to mountaineering than to a casual climb up a staircase.
At the top you find yourself at the south end of a broad heathland. To the northwest can be seen the hills of the Brag of Trégor, a vast moor that marks the boundary between Skae and the neighbouring kingdom of Ardegne. To the northeast is the lesser moorland of Morden Brag.
Directly to the north, on those rare days when the view is not obscured by sea mists or the seemingly perpetual drizzle, can distantly be made out the roofs of the village of Garrick, and beyond them the dark green line that marks the beginning of the forest of Withermede. This forest lies in the lowlands between the two moors, and stretches northwards for nigh on a hundred miles. A road, or rather a rough track, leads through the forest, mainly following the side of the Gowmer River, but my host dissuaded me from taking this path. The forest, or at least some parts of it, is of an evil reputation, and is normally regarded as a place not to be travelled alone.
Instead, I was to go east, skirting the southern and eastern edge of Morton Brag, across the low heathlands between the Brag and the coast.
- Skye: The fact that this province has the same name as a Scottish island would appear to be a coincidence. As far as I know, there are no connections between our world and Medecia. The presence of an English traveller in Medecia is a rarity, to say the least.
- Times and seasons: Medecia is in many ways a twin to our Earth. It is marginally larger, and has a somewhat greater proportion of land to sea; its day is almost the same length, though its year is longer by a few days. How much of this is coincidence, and how much is the inevitable consequence of its astronomical position (it being about the same distance from Ka, its sun, as Earth is from our own Sun), I am not enough of a scientist to say.
- Graegor Pendrake: the current owner of the castle, previously president of the Sorceror's Guild in Ardegne. The Pendrake family have owned the castle and the island for just under a thousand years, though the current incumbent is single and without children, so it is possible that the castle will pass into other hands in the not too distant future.
- Gowmer: [Editor's note] More correctly, Gauma, a name which means 'sluggish'. Quite probably the name was intended as a direct contrast to Hésl, 'swift', the name of another river in Skae, which the narrator renders as 'Hazel' when he encounters it later.
- Garrick: [Editor's note] Again, our narrator is providing an Anglicised rendering. The name is Garaq, probably a contraction of Gauma Braq, 'Gauma Bridge'.
- Withermede: [Editor's note] Uithran-Míd, 'whispering wood', though nowadays it is pronounced uithermíd, which the narrator's version almost exactly reproduces.