Northbound

J.L. Weinmeister

Many of you are tired the next morning due to the excitement from last night. You’ll be happy to know our next stop is a city on the other side of the lake, and we’ll be taking a boat there. You gather up your belongings and meet me outside the inn. I lead you to the lake where we board a small sailboat. An elvira uses magic to manipulate air and propel us across the glittering water.

It’s cool out, so the spray from the water doesn’t feel particularly pleasant. You sit away from the edge of the boat and keep your jacket fastened. While the lake is large, the journey takes less than an hour due to the magic powering our movement. We dock at the edge of the city of Cosimia.

Welcome to the northern territory of Linea, home to the mellowmira. It’s likely the people who are responsible for the disturbance last night live here. Just in case the elvira get any ideas about retaliating, I secure us an inn on the northern side of town, keeping us as far away from the border as I can.

You notice a lot of differences between the mellowmira and the elvira right from the start. The mellowmira have lighter skin, yet their eyes and hair are darker. They’re not as lithe and graceful as the elvira, and they tend to be more muscular. You also notice the vast majority of the people you see are men.

When you explore the city, you’re surrounded by stone buildings. None of the structures are made of wood or cloth. They’re all large, multi-storied, and fully enclosed. All of the craftsmen, artists, and merchants you see inside them are male.

I recommend the women and genderfluid individuals travel in groups with at least one male in them. While the mellowmira most likely won’t harm you, it’s still better for you to take precautions. We’re visiting our first misogynistic society.

We stay in Cosimia for two nights, so you have nearly two days to explore the city and the surrounding area. We’re still in the Tuemaris Grassland, but we’re near the boreal forest of the north. There are mountains to the east, the same ones you saw in Omari and Aria. There’s only one mountain range on Linea, but it’s thick and spans almost the entirety of the continent from north to south.

As a result, the mellowmiran settlements are completely divided. The larger cities and the capital are on the western side, and the smaller settlements are to the east. Most of the fighting takes place in the east because it’s harder for the mellowmira to defend themselves there.

While in Cosimia, those of you who are male find plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied. You can watch performances in the theater and take part in athletic endeavors. There are teenage boys who are happy to teach you their ball games and how to fence. You join in and find they’re quite good despite being younger than you.

Those of you who are female or non-binary either spectate the men’s activities or stick with me. The mellowmira know not to mess with me because of my nationality, so you’re safe in my company. I introduce you to some female acquaintances who are happy to show you a glimpse of their day-to-day lives.

You notice their homes are cold and unwelcoming despite being exquisitely decorated with fine art. The mellowmira believe a man’s wealth and status are reflected by the art in his home. They believe women are only useful for domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning, and caring for children.

All of the male children you see are under the age of ten, as they start school after that. Girls are taught by their mothers. Girls as young as five help their mothers around the house while their same-aged brothers get to have mock battles with their friends.

The mellowmira have almost always been at war, so gender equality hasn’t been high up on their to-do list. Social reform in general hasn’t been a priority. There isn’t enough food for all the mellowmira. Living so far north limits their growing season. They rely mostly on game meat, and even that isn’t enough because their populations are too high to be sustained by local resources. They have to import large amounts of food, which costs the monarchy a lot of money. In turn, it costs the people a lot in taxes. Poverty is extremely common on this side of the border, though it’s certainly not a stranger to the elvira.

I hope being here and seeing the lives of these species will show you that life in this universe isn’t perfect. The falarsi have their gender divide, and the elvira and mellowmira have their war over land and resources. While there are many things magic can fix, it isn’t a cure-all.

I want you to keep this in mind as we continue our journey to the various planets. I also want you to see both perspectives on the war. On Earth you’re used to seeing history through the eyes of the victor and current events through the lens of your nationality or political beliefs. Being a foreigner allows you the rare opportunity to see both sides of the conflict. While this trip is mostly for your enjoyment, there’s much you can learn if you pay attention.

You mull over these thoughts as you lie in bed the night before we leave Cosimia. You wonder what could possibly motivate two groups to be at war for as long as the mellowmira and elvira have been.

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