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Chapter 4 - The Pepper Road

There are many instances of one or more individuals attempting to cross from the East to the West or vice versa near the Pepperfields.

For example, Fenar brings an army of horsemen from the East to the Pepperfields:

Khaavren ... cast his eyes eastward over the fecundity of the Pepperfields ... Pel murmured, "Easterners, if I am not mistaken. See how they sit bent over their horses?" / "Thousands of them," said Khaavren. (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 29)

And there he negotiates a peace that includes the right for Easterners to harvest peppers in the Pepperfields, and to end the practice of the Marquis of Pepperfields crossing over to the east to get horses:

Khaavren ... had heard that the Marquis of Pepperfield often organized expeditions into the East to procure breeding stock ... [Crionofenarr says] we no longer wish this passage through the mountains to be in the hands of those who use it to steal our horses. (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 30)

I think the "passage" referred to in that last quote is the eastern entrance to the Pepperfields, and is probably the same route used by all three of the above:

Another entrance is from the east, where a long, gentle slope rises from a gap in the Ironwall some four leagues to the north. (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 29)

And this was apparently not a well known route:

[The Easterners] lived with the threat from the west ... [Fenarr] resolved to go into Faerie and win peace from those who dwelt there. He built a mighty army from the people of the land ... yet he could find no way past the borders of Faerie. At last, in desperation, he went alone into the mountains to find a passage. As the days went by he became hungry. Yet he remained, searching for a way to pass the border ... [Wisdom] carried him through secret ways in the mountains until they came to a land on the other side, where the sun hid its face from the lords of Faerie. (Brokedown Palace, Prologue)

Though it can't have been a very well kept secret, since Easterners have apparently been using this route for thousands of years:

this is the only place where [Easterners] can grow the particular variety of peppers with which we flavor many of our foods ... / "For peppers?", cried Uttrik, in a voice of amazement echoing the thoughts of the others. "That is why, for thousands of years, you have been invading the Empire?" (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 30)

Almost 800 years later, Morrolan attempts to travel from the East to the West, but cannot find a way across the mountains.

Either Morrolan was unable to learn about this passage, or the passage was no longer usable.

A little more than 200 years after that, Miklos travels West, taking an easy path along the River of Faerie back to its source at Lake Fenarr, and then down the other side.

Is this the same passage Fenarr used? Miklos travels with a horse (Bolk) part of the way, and the reason given for why Bolk doesn't cross over to the West with him has nothing to do with the route being physically impassable by a horse. I suspect that this path could have been used by horsemen, and might have been the same route used by Fenarr.

However, on his way back a couple of years later, he cannot find this easy path anymore, and is forced to descend a thousand feet down a sheer cliff face:

It was around noon the next day that he began to hear the distant roaring of the waterfall. An hour later, after passing a ledge of rock that forced him into the lake up to his knees, he began to see the fine mist kicked up by the cascade. Then he was on a ledge above the falls. He looked down, but the bottom was hidden in the mist and spray. He remembered the climb up, though. Nearly a thousand feet, the water fell. Then the path had been easy. He looked for signs of it, but didn't see any ... He walked along the ledge for nearly an hour until he had convinced himself that the path was no longer there ... let us explain why it is that the path he had taken on his journey to Faerie was no longer there for his journey back. For thousands of years, water had been seeping into the flaws in the cliff face, slowly dissolving granite and making large cracks of the small ones. Few ever came this way; Miklos had been the last to use the path before it finally collapsed of its own weight and went crashing onto the ground at the base of the falls. The new cliff wall, while it had no path in it, was jagged and uneven. An experienced mountaineer would have had no trouble ... [Miklos] spent the rest of the that day [at the bottom], at the source of the River (Brokedown Palace, Chapter 3)

One knock against this being the traditional Easterner passage is that we are told that "few ever came this way" and apparently no one had used it since Miklos last used it two years before.

Either the Easterners are no longer harvesting peppers, or this is not the passage they use to bring them back to the East.

Around 26 years later, Vlad travels East from the vicinity of the Pepperfields, but appears to travel southeast using "goat trails" across the mountains:

There is a place in the mountain called Saestara ... Looking west, I remembered lots of painful scrabbling up paths that were made by and for mountain goats; looking east, I foresaw more of the same going down. Some distance behind me was a lake called Szurke, on the edge of a forest. I owned the lake and a little bit of the forest and the big manor house near it (Jhegaala, Prologue)

Why did Morrolan, Miklos, and Vlad not use the route that was sufficiently large enough for thousands of horsemen to travel through?

The route taken by Fenar might have collapsed or been otherwise closed, but if so, how are the Easterners transporting their harvests of peppers back to the East?

Or are they? One solution is that the agreement between the Empire and the East is no longer active. Perhaps it fell apart during the Interregnum, for example.

If it's still active, however, then there must be a path by which the harvested peppers can be transported.

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Copyright © 2011 Bryan Newell, unless otherwise noted.