Farynshire’s Coastal Path runs (as you might expect) alongside the county’s entire coastline. It is a great way to see all of Farynshire’s faces, because it runs from the wild Maw Cauldron, through the beautiful countryside, above Riversouth, and then passed the coastal villages on the wide sands, and right up to lonely Tropsog (Farynshire’s least appealing town, and not a place that will feature in these Travels). One day I will follow in the footsteps of those who have walked the entire route.
But I will have to save it for my retirement.
We planned on walking the Path from Riversouth to the seaside resort of Tel Yarridge, via the village of Aracely Cheth. Once at Tel-Yarridge, we could easily have strolled onwards to Tor Calon, where the rest of Felix’s ap Hullin clan live, but he insisted we swing inland up the River Spurtle and then make our way to Oes. I’m not complaining – that will take us through some of Farynshire’s most stunning countryside, and we’ll get to Tor Calon eventually.
From Riversouth you can easily join the Path across a small bridge that sits at the base of the Zag. There is no sign, but everyone knows that the shingle you step onto is part of the longest path in Farynshire. The path is much more gentle than the Zag, meandering up the green sward and onto the clifftop meadows.
The cliffs are known as the Sussen Orchelflilin (rough translation: the Southern Cliffs that overlook the Ocean – but it sounds more melodic in Musril) and they rise up and away from the White Crag, a long white wall behind Riversouth, that continues beyond Meyshore Bay, and ends up sloping down to Tel-Yarridge.
It is one of the most beautiful stretches of the Path, as it passes through the Bremey Meadows. The Meadows are not officially a Natural Park, but they do not need to be because they fall under the protection of the Meyrick and the White Palace. We can thank Aracely Tookley for this. I do not think he is much known over the Daggerrock Mountains, but he is the county’s most famous poet. You will see plaques and monuments to him in most towns and villages, because he did not call anywhere home until late in life, and he roamed Farynshire’s roads and highways, accepting hospitality where he was offered it. The White Palace never refused him a bed, so he understandably spent quite a bit of time in Riversouth. And he particularly enjoyed wandering in the Bremey Meadows. His musings on the Meadows are considered some of his most exquisite verse, and his words were so powerful that they persuaded the Meyrick of the time to place the Sussen Orchelflilin under the White Palace’s protection. Had this not happened they would no doubt now be known by the much less romantic Bremey Housing Estate.
To be fair, anyone would want to live here, overlooking Riversouth and the wild sea beyond. It would be glorious. But it is even more glorious to walk through the wildflower meadows that shiver in the salty winds whipping up from the waves. I wish we had bought a book that listed all the different kinds of flowers that grow there, but as we didn’t, all I can say is that most of them seemed to be yellow when we were there, and it was like walking through sunlight. In the summer the meadows are full of people enjoying picnics or sunbathing or just wandering, lost in their thoughts. There are also hikers, of course, walking determinedly along the Path, a destination in mind, map in hand, backpacks secure. We were in no rush, so we slowed down and let the power walkers pass us by.
There are no trees on the cliffs, not even any shrubs, and the only structures are the remains of seven round stone forts situated near the edge. They are known as the Stones, and they have watched over Riversouth for hundreds of years. Their true origins are lost in history, which many scholars have found strange considering the White Palace’s fastidious record-keeping. The Lilac Beech has shelves rammed with books and pamphlets containing theories, arguments and discourse on the origins of the Stones and why they do not appear in any official records. Some of these tomes are … fanciful, to say the least. The one I am most convinced by (one of the core texts on the reading list for my Understanding Riversouth and its Places module) is that they were built sometime during the sixth century. The stone the fort is made of has been dated back at least that far. The theory also explains the lack of any records because there is a suspicion that the Meyricks in the fifth century were at war with the seafolk, and either the records were destroyed in a battle, or there was no opportunity to keep any. The theory goes that the Stones were built as lookout stations, manned outposts that could warn the then small settlement of Kelsussen under the White Crag of an impending attack from armies from beneath the waves.
Before anyone gets too excited (like my first year seminar group did) I will point out that there is no archaeological, record of any conflict whatsoever around Riversouth. Plenty of ancient wrecks and archaeology have been found all along Farynshire’s coastline, and especially in Meyshore Bay, but there is so sign of any war from anything that has been recovered so far.
Although their purpose may not be specifically seafolk-related, it is likely that the Stones were built as outlook stations, even if it was only to guide ships back into the Bay’s calm waters. Three of the Stones are now just rockeries overgrown by weeds and flowers; one has only three of its walls standing, its roof has long since caved in; and the two furthest from the White Palace are the most intact. We went up the one called Norssenhin just because there were fewer picnickers scattered around it.
Someone has thoughtfully wound some rope around the crumbling central column that supports the spiral staircase – I’m not convinced this really makes it safe, but it’s the thought that counts.
Once you are standing on the weathered battlements you can see the incredible panorama of Meyshore Bay, the White Crag and Riversouth, the ocean beyond, and looking back, the vast shimmering expanse of wildflowers. You don’t even think about how it came to be there, you’re standing on top of the world, seeing the best of the world. Of course what you’re really looking for, what everyone looks for, is a glimpse of a seafolken in the waves. Maybe just a head or two, bobbing above the white surf, or even the flash of a tail as a mermaid dives back into the depths, or maybe possibly even the rare sight of a seafolken leaping right out of the water and performing an acrobatic marvel before disappearing into the ocean with hardly a splash.
We didn’t see any of that. We stayed for quite a while because I was sure a seafolken would appear at any moment. If you believe the graffiti carved into the ancient stone the sea is alive with hundreds of seafolk. There are doodles of mermaids, the names of those who have stood where we were, and dates of seafolk sightings. The most recent one that I could find was 2014, which gave me hope. In the end Felix had to insist that we leave if we wanted to make our reservations in Aracely Cheth. If we had thought about it we would have booked overnight accommodation in Riversouth and stayed on Norssenhin to watch the stars come out, and the city below come alive with illuminations. Something else I will need to come back to Riversouth for!
By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)