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As previously stated, it appears that plate tectonics plays an active role in shaping the face of Dragaera.
Ten millions of years before, a battle had taken place. On one side had been billions of tons of rock, mostly granite, wishing to go east. On the other, billions more tons of rock, mostly limestone, sandstone, and shale, desiring to travel west. The battle lasted for hundreds of thousands of years of pushing, withdrawing, looking for avenues of escape, and head-to-head duels of pure strength. In the end, the limestone had succeeded in passing beneath the granite. The victorious limestone, except for occasional patches, remained invisible. The granite could be seen for scores of miles ... Its base was near enough that individual evergreens could be see, yet trees at the top were merely a blur. The peaks further back, and higher, gleamed white with snow in the early morning sun. Those still further back showed faint white that the sun couldn't reach. (Brokedown Palace, Chapter 1)
The Wandering Forest wrapped itself like a sheet around the base of the Mountains of Faerie. Here and there, intermixed with trees, brooks, weeds, and shrubs, were outcroppings of granite--an advance guard, as it were, for the eastward march of the mountains. Some of these where almost high enough to be considered mountains themselves, or at least hills. They were new, as such things go, and hadn't been around long enough to develop a layer of topsoil for the use of grass and trees. Only occasional weeds sprang from flaws in the rock. (Brokedown Palace, Chapter 3)
Taken at face value, this collision would appear to look something like this:
Head On Collision
There are a few problems with this theory, however. For one thing, the narrator claims that the visible mountains are all part of the west, which means that that portion of the Eastern Mountains which extends along the east coast of the Spearhead Channel are a part of the western plate, not the eastern one.
Second, the west coast of the Shallow Sea is described as a vast plain, with no mention of mountains:
South Mountain has ... quite vanished behind them, and they are making their way along the vast plain occasionally dotted with forests between the Shallow Sea and the Laughing River ... Near the end of the day, they found a small village called Barleytown, which is in the southern portion of the district called Agate... There was not much to this village--that is to say, it consisted of what had once been a posting station ... and a small inn ... the only one for fifty miles in any direction. (The Lord of Castle Black, Chapter 49)
Finally, the east coast of the Shallow Sea is quite chaotic, and again, there is no mention of mountains.
I came up with a more complex theory that also explains another feature of Dragaeran geology that was puzzling me: What feeds the Adrilankha River?
It flows 2,000 miles, according to Steve, and to flow that distance, evaporation would have to be countered by an influx of new water. It can't be runoff from the Eastern Mountains, as the Laughing River is between the Adrilankha River and the Eastern Mountains. Between the two rivers is grassland; the Forever Plains to the north and the Sorannah to the south. That leaves the west, and since water flows downhill, that means the area to the immediate west of the Adrilankha River is at a higher elevation.
The east coast of the western plate was probably continental shelf. As it advanced, it consumed sea floor, and pushed up island arcs ahead of it. Two examples of this on Earth are the east coast of Asia and the north coast of Australia:
Active Continental Shelves
It was these island arcs that collided with the East, not the continent itself. After the collision, most of the shelf between the two continents rose above sea level due to some combination of uplift caused by the collision itself, backfilling from the inevitable erosion of the Eastern Mountains, or even the natural lowering of sea level that can occur after continental impacts. The Adrilankha River now flows along what used to be the eastern coast of the western plate.
Since the eastern plate was subducted by the western plate, my guess is that there were no mountains along the leading edge of the East, which almost certainly indicates that while it might be "desiring to travel west," it was not primarily moving in that direction. The presence of the Grimwall Mountains (which run roughly east to west, and are presumably rather young since they are high enough to prove an impediment to raiders from the north in Brokedown Palace) would seem to indicate that the east consisted of two plates itself, one moving south, the other north.
I guessed that the northeastern plate was moving southwest, and the southeastern plate was moving northwest, but in both cases primarily north/south. The western plate collided with them mid-collision, as it were.
It is even possible that the Collier Hills originally began as an archipelago to the southeast of the western plate, and became land-locked after the collision.
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Copyright © 2011 Bryan Newell, unless otherwise noted.