Travels through Farynshire: Over Pippleford

These travelblogs were written by Mabel Govitt before all the changes in Rookpot. I’m going to continue to publish them as a reminder of what joy Farynshire once was, and the hope it can be again.


The next stop was the village of Over Pippleford, nestled on one of the bends of the River Pipple as it meanders slowly to the sea.

Over Pippleford’s limestone cottages are white washed with roses and violets entwining up through trellises, their front gardens filled with summer flowers, their rooves thick with thatch. The green in the middle of the village has a small cared-for cenotaph surrounded by faded paper poppies and a couple of wooden benches. A post office, greengrocer’s and butcher’s face the green. Another street leads to a field with a cricket square neatly shaved in the middle and a white shed serving as the pavilion. Most importantly, there is a pub: the Forest River that sits right on the bend of the Pipple.

Score one for the Forest River: it serves no green ales. There are some refreshing lagers and cool mountain wines, but I went for the homemade lemonade, and Felix tried the local waterweed fizz. He sipped it cautiously and pronounced it “gritty but not unpleasant.”

Most of our fellow passengers from the coach were in the Forest River. We shared a table with an older couple who were making their way back to Sylnmouth from a trip to Tiws.

“We go every year, every year,” said Mr Bill Ness. “Spectacular, it is. Great for kayaking, and we tried jet skiing this year too.”

“Then in winter we go to Mytten Fawr,” said Mrs Sandy Ness. “For the skiing.”

“Have you ever seen a wolvern?” I asked.

“Wolvern won’t come near the resorts up there,” said Bill. “I doubt there’s any in the Bloon Peaks at all – too many people, far too many people. You need to go further into the mountains if you want to even catch a glimpse.”

Felix and I glanced at each other, thinking about the loping shadow in the mist during the crazy journey back down Gwyrddlas.

“’Course, there’s plenty what have seen ‘em,” continued Bill. “You hear stories from all the instructors up there. The mountains must be riddled with wolvern if you believe all the folk that say they’ve seen one!”

“How about seafolk?” I asked.

“Near Sylnmouth? Hardly likely, hardly likely. If there are any left these days – they’re rarer than wolvern, I reckon – they’ll be in the less populated parts of the coast, away from Sylnmouth and Riversouth. Are you headed that way?”

“In a roundabout way,” said Felix, before I could enthusiastically leap in and tell the Nesses that Felix was from Tor Calon. I wasn’t sure why he did not want people to know, but I kept quiet anyway.

Bill picked up on Felix’s evasiveness, though. “You’re not from Farynshire, right, Mabel?”

“No, Bristol. We’re studying in Rookpot.”

Bill looked expectantly at Felix. “My family lives on the coast.”

“Near Sylnmouth?”

“Further up; nearer Tropsog.”

Bill looked like he wanted to ask more questions, but remained silent.

“Was this your first visit to Gnivil Forest?” Sandy asked me, after an awkward pause.

“Yes. It’s beautiful.”

“I always think it’s like another world,” said Sandy. “So peaceful and still compared to anywhere out here.”

“That’s the foresteens,” said Bill.

“Are there some in there, then?” I asked, perhaps too eagerly.

“Of course. All over. You didn’t see any?”

I shook my head.

“Mabel’s very interested in the Peoples,” said Felix.

“Everyone is,” smiled Sandy.

“I’ll tell you something, though,” said Bill seriously, looking me straight in the eye. “You might yet see a foresteen. They don’t just live in the forests. Most folk don’t realise that it’s the foresteens what are the widespread of all the Peoples. Most folk think it’s the wolvern, but they mostly keep to the mountains. Foresteens can be found all over, all over.” He might have winked at this point, but I was distracted by the arrival of our lunch.

As befits its name, the Forest River boasts a menu full of fish, freshly caught from the clear-flowing Pipple. I was quite excited at the prospect of such a fresh meal, much to the amusement of my three dinner companions from the coast. Felix and Sandy did not even choose a fish dish. Bill went for a deeply filled fish pie.

I had never had perch before, mainly because it wasn’t something my local chippy offered covered in batter. The fish melted in my mouth, along with new potatoes, green beans and garden peas glazed with thick yellow butter. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was, but we hadn’t eaten anything at the Lake of Doom, so my last meal had been Bea Proke’s hearty breakfast in Hen Ffydd.

Felix had ordered a duck salad, and made quick work of that too. I felt like I could just order another perch, or maybe carp this time, but there was a dessert menu, so we went for that instead.

There was a pleasant burbling of contented conversation in the pub of happy travellers enjoying their meals and surroundings. The Pipple babbled along outside, shallow and slow moving in the summer months, the mountain waters in no rush as they made their way to the sea.

“Where does the river come out on the coast?” I asked.

“It merges with a few others further down, and they join together to make the Maw Cauldron. You should check it out if you’re heading in that direction, though it looks most impressive in winter when the waves are up and it’s properly churning.”

“Does the Darkflint come out there?” I asked.

“It’s got its own mouth further up the coast, near Riversouth. I assume you’re going to Riversouth?”

I nodded.

“Have either of you been there before?”

I shook my head.

“A couple of times,” said Felix.

Bill nodded, and again did not press Felix any further. “It’s a beautiful city,” he said to me instead. “Very different, very different, from your Rookpot.”

“Is the Meyrick in residence?” asked Felix

“I believe so. It’s usually widely announced if she leaves the city, and I don’t recall hearing anything.”

“Will that make a difference?” I asked.

“There’s usually more going on if the Meyrick is in the Palace.”

But we weren’t heading to the coast yet. We left the Nesses and the rest of the coach party, all heading down to Tropsog, and we caught one of the twice daily buses from Over Pippleford north to join the County Road.


By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)


The Protest in Dameg Square

Firstly, thankyou to everyone who came out to show their solidarity in opposition to the current administration. Dameg Square was packed – which is always great to see, no matter what the occasion. But it is especially heartening when it is in the spirit of defiance against injustice.

Secondly, thankyou to all of the “banned media”. All of the small radio stations still broadcasting, the mailing lists, the social media platforms, and websites like this one. Despite Adam Court’s relentless efforts in shutting down all opposition voices, there are still ways to hear or read non-Council approved information. Word of mouth does the rest.

The crowds started to build early in the morning, gathering outside the Council Chambers so that they could welcome the Councillors as they came to work. Soon the whole Square was filled with people. They gathered on the green by the gorge, lined the wide steps of the Museum, crowded round the Cathedral. Many had created placards and banners – some of which expressed outrage at the treatment of the wolvern (and of Botolf in particular), some at the Disemployment. There were many former Council employees and academics in the Square.

Ninth Councillor Edgar Bebb was a loud and prominent voice. He stood on top of the Museum steps with a megaphone! His energetic lambasting of the Office of the First Councillor was wildly approved of by the public.

The protest lasted all day. The police and the Appeasers arrived but, as there was no violence or trouble, all they did was skirt the edges of the crowds, some of them even got chatting to the protestors!

Some people had come fully prepared with food hampers, which they shared with everyone around them. Others bought supplies from the cafes in the cuts and streets around the Square. It was quite the party atmosphere! And it felt great to actually be doing something – out in the open, with thousands of other people similarly angered, moved or inspired to make their voices heard and allow their faces to be seen so that those currently in power know that they do not speak for us; their actions are not sanctioned by us; and we will oppose them.

When the First Councillor did show up (at 10am – does he usually start work so late?) a couple of eggs were thrown. One smashed at his feet. He was rushed into the Chambers by two massive Appeasers who seemed to be his bodyguards. The chanting got louder, and a tad more personal, after that, as everyone hoped that the First Councillor could hear us from his office. So, thankyou, First Councillor, for firing up the crowd!

The crowds dispersed long after midnight. We did not see the First Councillor again. I don’t know if he stayed in the Chambers until after everyone had gone, or if he snuck out some other way – the gorgerock under Dameg Square is riddled with tunnels and secret passages.

Now I guess we just wait and see how the First Councillor and his cabal respond. This was a mighty and defiant protest against their policies and actions. Am I being naïve in hoping they cannot possibly ignore such a large, powerful, peaceful; and mostly eloquent outpouring of public opinion?


Stay safe, vigilant and always ask questions. Ammaceadda.

Travels through Farynshire: Gnivil Forest

These travelblogs were written by Mabel Govitt before all the changes in Rookpot. I’m going to continue to publish them as a reminder of what joy Farynshire once was, and the hope it can be again.



As soon as we decided we were going to do this trip, we knew we had to see the Forests. Farynshire has two, very different, Forests. The first we came to, situated between the mountains and the coast, was Gnivil Forest.

It crept up on us. The coach pulled up onto a low ridge that gave us lovely views over the meadows and copses we had just travelled through. But that was nothing to the view of what we were about to travel down in to. Gnivil Forest lies entirely in one valley between two limestone ridges. A layer of thin mist draped over the lush canopy, as though the trees were producing their own microclimate. It looked like an exotic rainforest, but this was ancient British woodland, and all its trees were native. Although managed and looked after, Gnivil was not a hub of tourism like the Lake of Doom: there were no garish attractions or parks here. Most ancient woodland is managed in cycles and does not have room for very old trees. But in Gnivil there is no coppicing: the ancient trees are protected and allowed to dominate the spaces.

What everyone immediately notices about Gnivil is that it is living spelled backwards. This has irked etymologists over the years. Farynshire has three official languages: English, Welsh and its indigenous Musril. English might be the most widespread, but it is still the newest, and some hold the view that the name for Farynshire’s most ancient woodland should not derive from the upstart invader. Considerable (some might say obsessive) effort has gone into trying to tie Gnivil to some forgotten Musril word – the hope being that its connection to English is just an unfortunate coincidence. There are tomes written on this subject; it is in every guidebook for the county; there is probably a department in Rookpot Museum devoted solely to discovering the “true origins” of the name. One of my professors, Doctor Rhyll Jones, is passionate about this subject, and has written papers, and subjected his students to many lectures , on how Gnivil’s etymological roots are as Farynshiren as its tree roots. But however it happened, the forest ended up with the most appropriate name it could have.

There are no roads in the forest, so the coach dropped us off at the edge of the tree line. There are no signs announcing when or where you enter Gnivil: the road just peters out into a wide pebbly carpark. A few cars, four-by-fours and an ice-cream van were parked there. This was the only concession made to humans.

Spring is supposed to be the best time to visit Gnivil, when the trees are full of blossom and new leaves, and carpets of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses cover the woodland floor. But I can tell you that it is glorious in summer too. The warm sunshine makes the greens breathe with life, and there are still flowers in the clearings, and lining the wide corridors between the ancient misshapen trees. In Felix’s The Living Forests there was an excellent flora and fauna section, and we managed to identify wild garlic, violets, a bunch of what were probably celandines or buttercups, and a few fading primroses. There was also plenty of fauna: butterflies – smaller, more delicate than those in the mountain vineyard – and bees made the most of the flowers. Great tits, bullfinches and chaffinches flitted busily around their half-grown chicks. We saw a couple of woodpeckers who regarded us suspiciously from a head-high branch as we walked beneath them.

We hurried through all this, though, because there is one place that you have to go to if you’re in Gnivil Forest.

There are no sign posts in the forest, so you have to rely on maps and the well-worn trails. And few of the trails are worn as well as the one that leads to the Wise Grove. After a mile of walking through the peaceful forest, and across a few wildflower meadows, you come to the edge of a shallow bowl crater. A few saplings gather on the grassy banks, overlooking the group of seven trees in the middle of the depression.

Even I, who cannot tell an oak from a pine, could see that each one was a different type. Luckily Felix’s book had a whole chapter on the Grove. The most imposing one is the ash, because it is the tallest. The yew, with its peeling reddish trunk, was the wildest, and took up the most space. The oak’s twisted branches were clad in new green leaves. The elegant apple tree rustled on one side of the yew. The stunted thicket of hazel huddled close to the ash. Felix informed me that the other short one was an elder, and the least impressive, darkest and most ordinary looking of the group was an alder – but it would produce catkins at some point, which made it more interesting to me.

To the surprise of many historians, Druidism had never been widespread in Farynshire. It had certainly been there, but not as extensively as some might have guessed given the pervasiveness of the Welsh language and Welsh names. One theory about the Wise Grove was that it was the centre of their limited influence. The official guides and respected academic publications could find no other credible explanation for the careful plantation and arrangement of seven different types of tree. And these official explanations, of course, went out of their way to avoid the word foresteen.

The literature would mention tree spirits, and would often recollect the many myths from various cultures about world trees, living trees, the believed powers of trees etc. but it was all just backstory and scene-setting, it was never addressed as anything remotely serious. And it was in this context that Farynshire’s “living trees” were sometimes mentioned.

There are, of course, any number of books on foresteens, like there are on all the Peoples, but they are always shelved in the folklore or mythology section in book stores, even in the Lilac Beech. These books write that the seven trees in the Wise Grove are slumbering foresteens.

Now, I’m not saying I believe this theory, but there is definitely something … different about the Grove. The whole forest is serene and peaceful, and when we went we could feel that the trees, the birds, the butterflies, the bees were all enjoying summer with a smile. But I got the feeling as we walked down the banks of the Grove that the seven trees were not smiling. It was not sinister or even unsettling, just sombre and a bit subdued. It felt like a place for Serious Business. It was a place of respect. Everything was hushed here. It was a contemplative place. Neither of us spoke a word until we had climbed back up the banks through the on looking saplings. We didn’t take any photos.

I would love to say that I saw faces in the trunks of those trees, but I did not. I don’t know if foresteens even have faces. I looked at each one, right into its knotholes, and they all have their own characters, for sure, but they still looked like … trees. According to folklore, if one of them awakens and looks at you, they can see into your very soul, which does suggest they at least have eyes …

The birds did not seem at all bothered: they landed in the branches, or scurried through the leaf litter. I think there are blue tits nesting in the oak, which showed no signs of caring.

We looked back down at the Grove from the top of the bank. The leaves were thick and bright and gilded by the summer sun in gold. There was a slight haze over the hollow making the trees look slightly out of focus.

I recalled the over the top tourism at the Lake of Doom: a blatant attempt to cash in on a local legend about one of the Peoples. The thought of something similar happening to the Wise Grove made me feel sick to my stomach. Viewing platforms sunk into the raised earthen banks, open-sided vans selling plastic figurines of each of the trees. But this would never happen. Gnivil Forest was a Natural Park and protected. And the idea of interfering with the Grove seemed like blasphemy.

We left quietly. The Grove instils respect and reverence in all who visit it. We were back at the car park before we had a proper conversation.


Mabel Govitt (by kind permission of Ammaceadda)

The Sentry

Readers beyond the Daggerrock Mountains will probably not have heard of the County Voice. It is Farynshire’s oldest newspaper, established in 1759, and has been published weekly through revolutions, political upheaval, two World Wars, and the distancing of the Peoples. It was shut down last week by order of the Office of the First Councillor.

Apologies, that’s not strictly true.

The official explanation is that the Voice has been amalgamated with a new publication, the Sentry. This merged newspaper will be known as … the Sentry.

We got a clear indication of the scope and coverage of our new weekly paper when the first issue was published yesterday. It has a very narrow, specific focus – apparently Rookpot is the only place worth reporting on in the whole county. You would be hard pressed to know which county the city is even in. It might as well be called the Rookpot.

What this means, of course, is that it has been made increasingly difficult to find out what is happening in the rest of Farynshire, particularly the mountains. But I’m sure that’s just an unfortunate oversight …

A number of journalists have resigned in protest of the amalgamation. I hope at least a few of them continue to report on the workings of the Council, and how those policies are affecting the wider county. If they need a platform to publish their articles on, I am more than happy to offer this blog.


Stay safe, vigilant and always ask questions. Ammaceadda.

The Lake of Quietus

These travelblogs were written by Mabel Govitt before all the changes in Rookpot. I’m going to continue to publish them as a reminder of what joy Farynshire once was, and the hope it can be again.


Our train was in no rush as it ambled slowly through the foothills on its way to Lake Doom, Farynshire’s largest lake.

OK, its real name is Lake Quietus. For most of its history everyone thought that that referred to its still and peaceful waters. But the true meaning of the word is the fulfilment of a debt. And once the story of the debt became widely known the lake became associated with Doom.

Legend has it that the lake was once home to a community of Lakefolk (basically, seafolk that live in a lake). This was unusual as seafolk are usually seen on the coast. I don’t think any of them live in rivers or lakes any more. But this community did. The local human Baron kidnapped a mermaid princess after seeing her bathing in the shallows and losing his heart to her. The Lakefolk demanded her return. The Baron refused, and this led to a violent conflict between the two Peoples. The Lakefolk tried to rescue the princess, but most of them perished. Finally a noble human knight took it upon himself to rescue the mermaid princess, and because this is a fairytale legend, he succeeded. The King of the Lakefolk was so grateful that he gave his daughter (the poor princess who had already been forced into one marriage, but I’m sure she really loved the knight …) to the knight along with the entire lake, as he was moving his people back to the ocean. The knight and the princess went on to rule their now mostly empty kingdom fairly, prosperly and peacefully, and had many fishesque children – which the locals are said to be descended from. I’m not sure what the moral of tale is supposed to be, but that is why the lake is called Quietus – for the debt paid to the knight for his heroics.

Lake Quietus does not sound nearly as interesting as Lake of Doom, though, and there are so many weird and fascinating places in Farynshire that a catchy name is an essential marketing tool. So the legend has been reconfigured slightly to emphasise the attacks, kidnapping, violence and wholesale exodus and has assumed the nickname Doom.

And the locals really capitalise on their famous legend.

It’s basically a giant waterpark, and a very popular tourist destination in the summer months (who doesn’t want to be able to say that they spent their summer holidays at the Lake of Doom?). After the peaceful paradise of the mountains, it was a bit of a shock to arrive at a place full of shrieking children, stressed parents, and glassy-eyed holiday reps.

The Lake sits in a wide valley between two round hills. It is dominated by Trident Castle, the large waterpark that has taken over the area. A tangle of flumes loop, curl and plunge up, around and down into the cold water. Pedalos, rubber rings and large foam structures bump into each other on the surface, crowded with people. At the deep end of the lake is the diving centre with three piers and a few motorboats berthed outside. Quietus’ depths contained archaeological evidence of a long abandoned community; some believed it was the Lakefolk community of legend, others that it was a human village that had been flooded centuries ago.

We headed to this end first because I wanted to see the Education Centre, a modern glass building that holds history in displays and glass tanks. Visitors are welcomed by the Legend of the Lake of Doom depicted on large display boards in curly writing and evocative imagery. Seafolk imagery dominates the entrance: watercolours of mermaids playing in the Lake, nineteenth century portraits of seafolken hang next to modern digital photographs of murky underwater scenes. Heavy wooden bookcases sit beside glass display cases. The bookcases are tightly packed with leatherbound volumes of stories, histories and mythologies of the Lakefolk specifically, but also broader texts on seafolk in general. The glass cases display artefacts recovered from the Lake.

I was in my element: I love museums. Rookpot has plenty: as well as the infamous Rookpot Museum in Dameg Square, there is also the Museum of the Walls, Cotton Production Through the Ages, Bookbinders and their Ilk, and a Museum dedicated to the Evolution of the Cobbles. All of them utilise small squares of card to provide details on each artefact. The Education Centre does the same thing, but each card gives two possible versions of each artefact’s providence.

A smokey blue clasp caught my eye. It had been worn smooth by probable centuries underwater, but it was still recognisable as a fish with a hollow eye where I imagined a jewel had once been set. The card beside it read:

This exquisite brooch was recovered in 1976 by one if the diving teams sponsored by Rookpot Museum. It was part of a small collection retrieved from one of the Weed Caves at the north end of the Lake.
Its origin has yet to be fully determined. Its design has been found in other waterside settlements in the mountains, especially on Tiws in the Bloon Peaks. It could also be evidence of the Lakefolk that are believed to have lived in the Lake, as per the local legends.

I doubt I’m the only one to imagine a mermaid princess wearing the clasp in her long golden hair (I have no idea if mermaids have golden hair in real life; quite a few of them in the nineteenth century pictures certainly did). It was a much more exotic and romantic notion than a cold human huddled in the mountains clutching the clasp as their only solace in a bleak, endless winter. When we reached the end of the exhibition I pretty much believed in the legend of the mermaid princess and her human knight. I bought a fridge magnet, a teatowel, and a book, History of the Legend, from the little shop.

Felix had not bought into the legend. He had followed me around the exhibition making scoffing noises and rolling his eyes. I suppose it must have seemed very strange to find such an entrenched seafolk legend in the foothills of the mountains to someone from Tor Calon on the coast where seafolk were occasionally still seen.

“Have you ever seen one?” I asked, not for the first time.

“Maybe. Not up close. We get dolphins and porpoises as well, and from a distance it’s hard to tell the difference.”

“Between a dolphin and a mermaid?”

“Well, yeah. It’s the tails.”

I had tried many times over the two years of knowing Felix to break through this evasiveness, and, like on this occasion, had failed each time. We were going to end up in Tor Calon at some point (if I had any say in the matter), so maybe I would find out more then.

The village of Quietus lies above the Lake and was home to people who worked in the waterpark and the Education Centre. It had been designed to look weathered – as though it had been there for centuries – but after the squat rubble houses and narrow alleyways of Hen Ffydd the wide tarmac roads and faux-Tudor buildings look far too modern. It does have lovely views over the Lake. I looked closely at the locals to see if I could discern any Lakefolken ancestry in their faces – unusual eye colour, slightly leathery skin, the hint of the remains of gills on their necks … but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, and eventually Felix got embarrassed and told me to stop staring.

We left the Lake of Doom on a coach that was heading for the coast, though we would get off before we reached the sea. I had never seen such blatant and crass commercialisation cashing in on Farynshire’s unique history before, and I wasn’t sad to leave it behind.


By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)

Travels through Farynshire: Mountain wine

These travelblogs were written by Mabel Govitt before all the changes in Rookpot. I’m going to continue to publish them as a reminder of what joy Farynshire once was, and the hope it can be again.


There was no trace of a hangover the next day – probably thanks to the sausages.

Bea Proke makes the best cooked breakfast: more sausages, bacon, fried and scrambled eggs, black pudding, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms (I had an entire plate of these), beans, toast, homemade marmalade and two pots of tea.

“Most of my guests are here to go walking and you need a big breakfast to prepare you for the Peaks,” said Bea Proke, as she brought two more racks of toast to our table.

This was our only full day in the mountains: we were catching the train out to Pubblynook near Gnivil Forest early the next morning. This limited our trekking options. The Myttens were out – we would need to hire an off-road vehicle to get to them. We could make it to either Tiws or Gwyrddlas’, but not both. The vineyards Felix wanted to visit were on Gwyrddlas’ verdant slopes, which proved the deciding factor, because although I would have loved to see Tiws’ lakes and waterfalls, especially on a hot summer’s day, there was not much else to do on that mountain, unless you were into water sports – which I’m not. Felix had also used Walking and Wine in the Bloon Peaks to show me that wolvern sightings were uncommon but possible in Gwyrddlas’ forests.

The narrow, hedge-bound country lanes meandered through fields in the valley, and they were full of summer flowers and new life: everything that was alive was enjoying the bright summer say. I’ve never really been one for nature, but even I felt that we had stepped into some sort of Garden of Eden where everything was colourful and bountiful and happy and living in harmony with every other living thing. There were probably fieldmice in the wheatfields. We saw hares chasing each other through wildflower meadows, and by the clear streams a stork and a flash of bright blue – that I initially declared to be a hummingbird, but on reflection was probably more likely to be a kingfisher. We saw the occasional farmhouse in the distance, but there were no other signs of human life.

Of course, the whole area is managed by the farmers and the Natural Park authorities. Farynshire has seven Natural Parks: designated protected wild areas. Three are in the mountains, including the whole of the Bloon Peaks region,, two on the coast, and the last two are the forests of Oes and Gnivil.

From the valley floor you really got a sense of the size and character of the individual Peaks. Skinny Peak towered behind us as a crude spire, whilst ahead Gwyrddlas’ slopes were dark green, leading to its rounded summit.

As the lanes started to gently curve upwards, wooden signposts informed us that there were a few vineyards in the area. Felix had chosen Huan Gwenynen, as one of his ap Hullin relatives knew the owner, and he had found it in the fold-out map in Walking and Wine.

Like the meadows below, the slopes of Gwyrddlas are well managed. The oaks, beeches and birches giveway to pine forests further up, and interspersed with the trees are the vineyards – lines of vines, mostly on the Peak’s eastern flanks that get the most sun. The western side has fewer roads and darker forests.

Huan Gwenynen was at the end of a rough path made into a tunnel by the overarching branches of tangled hawthorn, which beams of sunlight broke through to criss cross our path. The path led up to a ridge, and below the ridge lay the vineyard.

A white-walled cottage sat at the entrance to the vineyard. It was built in the same squat, rubblesque style we had seen in the streets of Hen Ffydd; a reminder that although today everything was peaceful and serene, we were in the mountains and it was a harsh environment in winter.

From the courtyard outside the cottage we could see a stable block, some long, low barns, and a modern conservatory at the rear of the cottage that looked out over the valley. A grubby grey sheep waddled out to greet us. As it got closer it looked more like a dog, but I was never entirely convinced. It snuffled around Felix who ruffled the dreadlocks on its head.


The sheepdog turned its head in the direction of the cottage. A bald man with a walking stick limped out to greet us. The sleeves of his checked shirt were rolled up to his elbows, his faded jeans were stained with dried mud, heavy workboots thumped in the gravel.

“Lost, are you?”

“Mr Cled? I’m Felix ap Hullin. This is my friend, Mabel. You were expecting us?”

“Of course I was, of course I was. This time of year we get all sorts lost on the mountains.” He shook each of our hands. “I’m Arawn Cled. This is Barney. So – one of the Tor Calon ap Hullins, eh? You’re a long way from home!”

Felix shrugged. “Mabel’s from over the mountains.”

Arawn did not try very hard to look interested in this information. “Did you come up from Tor Calon?”

“We came from Rookpot. We’re at university there.”

“Ah, doing the Grand Tour, are you? Well, you’ve picked a lovely summer for it. Will you be heading to Tor Calon along the way?”

“Maybe. We are planning on going to the coast.”

“If you see Henry, tell him we’ve got some new varieties he’s interested in. He sent a gentleman called Reuben up here a couple of years ago. Relative of yours?”

“My cousin.”

“He took back quite a few crates. I’ve laid out some samples so you can take back your personal recommendations.”

Arawn and Barney led us passed the cottage to the veranda overlooking the vineyards. The vines covered the slopes in regimented lines of stunted trunks and long, delicate trailing tendrils. The veranda was where Arawn brought his guests to show off his lush green empire. A long wooden table with a sturdy white table cloth took up the middle of the veranda, and was surrounded by chairs and a battered sofa, which Barney immediately curled up on and went to sleep.

“I’ll get Ruth to bring out some wine for when we get back. Follow me down.”

A wrought iron staircase – not unlike the one in the centre of the Lilac Beech – wound down one side of the veranda to the dusty track that ran above the vineyards. We crossed the track to walk amongst the sweet-smelling vines. The path between the vines was bare earth, but Arawn pointed out wildflowers like poppies, cow’s parsley, clover, and the occasional primrose (I wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget) that added drops of colour in the shaded roots of the vines. The vines themselves were carefully tied in ways to keep them secure and ensure productivity (Arawn did explain a lot of the technicalities, but I failed to retain most of it). Flowers bloomed on some of the vines, and bees worked furiously whilst butterflies floated on the warm air.

As we walked along, Arawn used his walking stick to flick a stone or move a tendril carefully to one side so he could peer underneath. Occasionally he whipped out what looked like a nail clipper to cut a shoot or a twig he did not like the look of.

“People are often surprised to find vineyards on a mountain in northern England, but it just so happens that Gwyrddlas provides us with an almost perfect location with regards to the right growing conditions. Just look at all of the natural woodland and other flora on her slopes. She seems to absorb the sun into her – it can feel almost Mediterranean up here at times. What can be tricky is the harvesting.”

“When do you do that?” asked Felix.

“We try to leave it as late as possible, so usually late September. But, as you can imagine, weather affects everything we do here, and the harvest more than anything else. We’ve had the snows come in August, and we’ve had summers stretch into October. The weather determines the character of the wine, and some years are better than others. The worst years are when we get wet summers – small grapes and a low yield.”

“How do you harvest?” asked Felix. “I didn’t see any machines.”

Arawn swung his stick around to take in their surroundings. “How would we get machines up the mountain and over the ridge? The closest we can get is the track below the restaurant, and the biggest vehicle that can get up that is our old truck. So we couldn’t use machine pickers even if we wanted to. But I wouldn’t use ‘em anyway. We use people from the local villages, and they have a discerning eye. They make sure we only get the best grapes.”

“How long has the vineyard been here?” I asked.

“Over sixty years. My great uncle planted the first vines here. He was born and bred in the valleys and saw the potential on the mountain slopes. Your grandad, Henry, came to see him when they was both young men.” Arawn bent awkwardly to scoop up a handful of dry soil. “It’s all in here, see? This mountain is ancient, with roots stretching to the centre of the earth, and all that age and wisdom in its soil feeds our vines, and gives our wine a timeless richness. You can taste the mountain in the wine. Would you like to try some?”

Ruth was Arawn’s wife: middle-aged, very fit, with a long silver plait hanging over her shoulder. She had laid out a few bottles of wine on the long table on the veranda, as well as bowls of salad, loaves of local bread, cheeses, pickles, a massive pork pie, and assorted fruit tartlets. Barney lifted his head curiously from his place on the old sofa, sniffing in the direction of the pork pie.

Living and studying in Rookpot, I thought I was used to stunning views, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more magnificent vista than I did that afternoon drinking wine in Huan Gewnynen.

Ruth had brought five bottles for us to try, and she assured us that a ’88 had gone into the summer fruits trifle waiting in the fridge.

Arawn’s version of wine tasting was to … just drink a glass of the chosen wine. There was not much swishing, gurgling, or commenting on what kinds of fruit and wood we could taste. What he did insist on, though, was a particular wine for a particular kind of food. The clear sparkling white went with the cheese, followed by a more mellow pinkish variety with the pork pie. He gave us a list of everything we had sampled that Felix could take back to his grandad and cousin.

As the sun moved around behind us, it occurred to me (through something of a wine-induced fog, admittedly) that we had no plans as to how we were going to get back down the mountain. Despite the seven glasses of wine (and not counting the fruit salad ’88), I had enough awareness to know I did not want to try and get back to Hen Ffydd in the dark. A chill was creeping into the warm evening, accompanied by wisps of mist.

Arawn offered to take us back in his track, but Ruth insisted, as the most sober one out of all of us, that she would do that.

The truck had once been blue but was now mostly rust with one green door and a red roof. It had an open flatbed to carry supplies and wine. I’m not sure I could have made that trip back with my nerves intact without a good amount of wine inside me. Ruth clearly knew the mountain like the back of her hand – but that was of little reassurance to me when she suddenly swerved down sudden drops, twisted away from trees in the middle of the road, and skidded over mudflats. It felt like we were going to die with every turn of the steering wheel.

I spent most of the journey with my eyes squeezed shut, clutching Felix. But there was one point where the truck slowed right down and Felix nudged my attention to something outside. The mist was thick now and obscured the track completely (so Ruth was essentially careening down the mountainside blind). I did not understand what I was supposed to be looking at until I saw a shape move in the mist. It was a shadow, tall and dark, taller than Felix, with arms, a large head, and a loping gait. And then it was gone.

“Don’t often see them this low down,” said Ruth, pressing down on the accelerator again. “Not at this time of year.”

“What?” I asked, needing conformation.

“Wolvern, I reckon. Must have wondered what we were.”

I craned my neck around, trying to see through the mist and darkness. How may were out there? Would we hear howling? But there was nothing more. Just that one fleeting glimpse. But I have seen a wolvern.

Ruth dropped us right outside The Last Rest. She gave us each a bottle of Pink Huan and hoped to see us soon. There was no mist in Hen Ffydd – thousands of stars lit a clear sky.

I think it was quite early when my head hit the pillow, but the wine had made me sleepy, and gave me strange dreams about giant shadows swimming in fog.

We left Hen Ffydd the next day, after one of Brea Proke’s magnificent cooked breakfasts. Felix bought some blood sausages from the butcher’s on the way to the station.

As the train chugged southwards the only thing missing from the postcard-perfect scene of the five Peaks was a plume of smoke trailing behind us.


By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)

City Security

The tension is filling the streets. Dameg Square is virtually empty. Any Rookpotian, anyone who has even visited this city, knows that that is unheard of. Dameg Square is the heart of Rookpot – it’s always bustling with office workers, tourists and students. It’s where Rookpotians go in times of celebration, reflection and occasionally shared grief – a place to just be together. Now there are only the pigeons and the occasional squirrel in the tree by the gorge, watching those who work in the Square scurry to their offices. Sayce and his minions have managed to create a pall of oppression over their own city.

But not to worry! It’s all for our safety! We can sleep safe in our beds!

The reason Dameg Square has been abandoned by the general public is the presence of the new intimidating Appeasing Force – there are a couple stationed outside the Museum, the Council Chambers, the Library and the Cathedral. They haven’t done anything so far – but their mere presence has been enough to clear our most famous public space.

A document leaked online from the Office of the First Councillor has revealed that these security developments have been in the pipeline for a while. This document has been signed by Sayce’s communications guru, Adam Court. According to the twenty page report, the Council voted to establish a new security force to “watch over and protect the city of Rookpot’s boundaries from ill intentions and hostility”. Usually Council votes are reported in the media, but I can’t find any coverage of this one.

In case there’s any doubt what “watch over and protect the city of Rookpot’s boundaries from ill intentions and hostility” refers to, the new Appeasers in Dameg Square have sidearms. The esteemed members of the Farynshire Constabulary, our regular bobbies on the beat, are not routinely armed with anything but batons and CS gas. But now there is a small group of enforcers that answer only to the Council who are carrying guns. Not feeling any safer, I have to say.

My most pressing question is: who exactly have they been given permission to shoot? Followed by genuine curiosity and concern as to why are oldest and most venerated public buildings suddenly need protecting. The Museum, the Library, the Council Chambers and the Cathedral in Dameg Square have been open to the people for over five hundred years. They belong to the people. No one, not any Councillor, not the police, has any right to control entry to these buildings.

Verified sources have also confirmed that more Appeasers will be recruited over the next few weeks. Why does Rookpot need an armed force? What do our legitimate police have to say about this?

There are also plans to reinforce the city walls. This was the other bombshell announced by the Office of the First Councillor. Rookpot’s city walls consist of a few heaps of rubble on Wessentor that date back to the fourteenth century when Rookpot was a walled city/fortress. In more recent centuries they have been an archaeological curiosity, viewing platforms for those who enjoy looking out over the city’s gorgeous views, and a nice place to have lunch. Now they are going to be “reinforced and rebuilt to defend the cultural and civic centre of Rookpot”. It doesn’t say from what or whom Rookpot needs defending.

Needless to say, this is ominous. It looks like the Council are preparing the city in anticipation of some sort of attack. Attack from whom? The wolvern? Why would the wolvern attack Rookpot? Expelling Botolf of the Bloon Peaks Clan was rash, unnecessary and undiplomatic – but I doubt Geirolf would launch an attack on the city because of it!

But, of course, if my thoughts gravitated immediately toward wolvern than so would others’. And that feeds into the misinformation and paranoia that the Office of the First Councillor is spreading. Will people question it? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that quite a few Rookpotians will assume there is a threat because we are preparing for one. Why would our defences need strengthening if there was nothing we needed to defend ourselves from? I doubt Adam Court’s mind ever runs so linear. There will be other reasons – twisted, layered and far-reaching, and nothing to do with the wolvern.

So far there has been no comment at all from the Office of the First Councillor – or indeed, any Council office – about the “leaked” document. But I don’t expect there to be. The Appeasers are there – voted into existence, apparently, by our elected Council – what’s left of them.

What I am really concerned about is the planned protest in Dameg Square that is due to be held in a couple of days. The arming of the Appeasers feels like a distinct warning to anyone who was planning on showing up. I would urge you all to attend. This is a peaceful protest. In Dameg Square. We will not be intimidated out of the heart of our city.


Stay safe, vigilant and always ask questions. Ammaceadda.

We need another election!

This is the call from Ninth Councillor Edgar Bebb and other prominent (and now former) Councillors and academics.

Unhappy with the new Executive, numerous former Councillors, academics, and members of old-money families – led by Bebb – are demanding another round of elections, with the hope – no doubt – of ousting First Councillor Rigel Sayce, the Heads of Division, and the unelected influences that surround him.

I doubt this will work.

The main reason being, unfortunately, that the election that put Sayce into power was entirely legal.

Indeed, there was a sense of relief last year that we finally had a bona fide First Councillor and a full Council again after all that Koselleck hoo-hah. Ha – remember when we though that the height of political scandal was having the leader of death-cult running for the highest office in the county? Good times.

I’m mostly kidding. That whole business was sinister and awful. But what is happening now – what Sayce and his cronies are doing, and the ramifications it could have for Rookpot and Farynshire in general, is as insidious.

But unfortunately not yet overtly illegal. We know this because the prestigious law firm, Whittaker and Piper, have reassured us this is so. And they, of course, are legal experts – the foremost experts, in fact, in Farynshire law. They have an illustrious history of defending our county’s laws. They also have an illustrious history in defending the Sayce family too – just throwing that out there.

I agree with everyone condemning the Disemployment. It is utterly reprehensible and immoral. But I doubt that it is illegal. I support all of Ninth Councillor Bebb’s efforts. He and others are preparing challenges that will be taken to the County Court. But the prosecutors will be up against Whit and Pips. When was the last time they lost a case?

So I sympathise with those calling for another election. I wholeheartedly agree with those lambasting the Disemployment and the formation of the new Executive. But I don’t think legal challenges will change anything. Sayce is untouchable there because of who he has defending him.

So if the legal routes aren’t going to be effective, what can we do? Don’t stop challenging this Councillor and his cabal, that’s for sure. Definitely tie up at least some of their time and resources in courts and legal challenges – and we’ll report on everything that goes on there, keep you all informed. But I believe this Council will be taken down by a more populist movement.

If you think the Disemployment is wrong, immoral and incomprehensible, if you feel the new Rookpot Executive has no democratic basis, get on social media and let everyone know it. Let us know it. Do it anonymously if you want to – but get your voice out there and heard.

If you’re not happy about the direction the treatment and relations of the Peoples is going in, let everyone know. It is crucial that the wolvern know Sayce’s bigoted views are in the minority. He does not speak for all of us. We do not support or condone his views or actions. We want to be friends with all the Peoples.

We do need another election! But it won’t came from legal challenges and the courts. It will come from us and our demands.


Stay safe, vigilant and always ask questions.   Ammaceadda.

Travels through Farynshire: Ale and sausages

These travelblogs were written by Mabel Govitt before all the changes in Rookpot.  I’m going to continue to publish them as a reminder of what joy Farynshire once was, and the hope it can  be again.

It’s called Mother Aloth, and I am going to generously call it a restaurant solely on the quality of its sausages.

The setting itself is quite modest: a room in one of the squat rock buildings in an alleyway just above the station. The windows were small and filled with thick, pearled glass. The many cream and melting candles cast flickering shadows on the rough grey walls. The small tables crowded together, each draped in a red and white checked cloth. We showed up without a booking and were seated by the cave-sized empty fireplace.

A red-faced young man who cheerfully introduced himself as Col handed us each a piece of card. On one side was a list of local beers and ales, and on the other was a list of local sausages.

“Were we supposed to bring our own veg?” I asked.

“I think you get thrown out if they see any green,” said Felix. “On the plus side: not just pigs.”

“What do they have? Horse, chicken, deer?”

“You’re in luck: they do have sausages made from local venison.”

We decided to order beers first to help facilitate the more perplexing extensive sausage choice. To be honest, I wasn’t aware Farynshire had quite so many ales. Of course I had heard of Sylnmouth Sailor’s Froth, though I was surprised it was served in the mountains, the pubs in Rookpot usually had it on tap. The lager-like Canny Tongue was also popular amongst students. Dark Golden looked quite appealing: it was from a brewery in The Crundles, a hamlet just outside Rookpot. But I thought I should try something more exotic. The Jolly Jouster looked like a possibility; the Last Green less so – though Felix was tempted.

“You have to try a green one here at least.”

Green ales were a Farynshire speciality, and Felix was forever trying to get me to try one on our pub crawls around the city. But not even at my most inebriated would I try something that looked and smelled like industrial-strength toilet cleaner. Most of them were produced in the many micro-breweries nearly every Farynshire town seemed to have – usually a shed in someone’s back garden. Tropsog boasted that it had one brewery for every thirty people.

“Look,” Felix scrutinised the list of ales. “This one is called Skinny’s Own – it’s brewed right here! You have to try that one.”

I decided I might as well get it over and done with. But I was resolved not to finish it if I didn’t like it – I heard learned that lesson one fated night leading up to Christmas when one of our friends decided that brandy rum shots were the ideal way to keep warm. I had not liked the taste, but the idea had been appealing. According to other people, I was quite ill for quite a while. It’s probably best I have no recollection of the subsequent couple of days.

Once the ale had been chosen, we had to select the sausages – which was even more of a gamble, as I had not heard of any of them. Mother Aloth is not a friend to the vegetarian. Felix chose grilled blood sausages. I closed my eyes and stabbed at the menu with my fork: Selsig Hog it was, then.

The tables started to fill up as we waited for our ales. Most of the diners were locals who did not need a menu and just ordered their usual.

Skinny’s Own seemed to pulse with a dark emerald glow – though it may have been the candles backlighting it. I regarded the tankard suspiciously: I didn’t want to spend my few days in the mountain ill in bed.

“They wouldn’t serve it if it made people sick,” said Felix encouragingly.

It probably didn’t make the locals sick. Their stomachs had been hardened through a remorseless sausage and ale diet. But I had only been in Farynshire for just over a year, and had spent that time in cosmopolitan Rookpot. I regretted now not preparing more thoroughly for this trip by indulging in more local cuisine.

I sipped the ale, letting as little as possible pass my lips. It was surprisingly sweet, with a definite vegetable twang – parsnip, maybe, or a young carrot. My throat burned a little as it made its way down, but it wasn’t toxic, and I could see how it could be a pleasant winter warmer. I decided, on balance, that I quite liked it.

The sausages arrived. Two plates with seven bursting, sizzling snorkels on each, accompanied by a basketful of assorted local breads, and a brick of yellow butter. We were suddenly very hungry indeed, and were already wishing we had ordered two plates each or a medley of sausages.

The room was now full of chatter, drinking, and the rich smells of many varieties of sausages. And this was in summer. I could only imagine how overbooked this place must be in the cold winter months when the absolute best thing must be a plate piled high with sausages and a tankard of ale.

It was dusk when we emerged into the cooler, fresher mountain air. The Myttens were gilded in bright gold as the sun sank behind them, and the slopes of Skinny Peak were bathed in the draining light. A train pulled out of the station below, blowing its whistle in farewell, chugging back to Rookpot.

It wasn’t particularly late, but we were full of ale and sausages, and tired from travelling, so we both had an early night.


By Mabel Govitt (with special permission from Ammaceadda)


The Rookpot Executive

Rookpot Council has been re-structured into a brand new and progressive administrative body: the Rookpot Executive.

I suppose this was the inevitable next step after the dissenting voices were “disemployed”. But it has still shocked the city. Rookpot Council has been the leading authority in Farynshire for centuries. Truth be told, it has not always been the most authoritative or effective office, but it has always been there.

Between the death of First Councillor Koselleck and the election of First Councillor Sayce we had an interim Council of Master Councillors, which was in power for less than six weeks. This seems to have set an unfortunate precedent. This was the first time, through necessity, that the make-up of the Council had changed since the other Peoples gave up their seats. And even before the last wolvern stormed out of Rookpot, there were always twelve human Councillors. The sudden vacuum of power between Koselleck and Sayce had to be filled by someone, and the Master Councillors were the only ones still around. These were long-established ceremonial positions that were appointed not elected and had no real power – but they were all we had after Jack Koselleck died. I seem to recall Adam Court in particular being very vocal in his outrage at the idea that these unelected individuals, with no political experience, were suddenly leading the county. You’ll probably not be shocked to learn that I can’t seem to find any record of this. He is now using the Master Councillors’ brief rule as an example of how Rookpot and the rest of Farynshire have recently accepted a new form of Council.

Apparently in these troubled times we need more decisive and proactive leadership. And this proactive leadership can only be achieved by reducing the number of administrators and executives making decisions for the rest of us. And so we have the Rookpot Executive, made up of four Divisions, each of which will be run by one of the existing Councillors (for continuity purposes). Anyone want to place any bets? I’ll eat my keyboard if Second Councillor Beatrice Slarrock and Third Councillor Gideon Sayce are not two of the four. Slarrock could not be wedged further up the First Councillor’s confidence, and dear Rigel is not going to dump his brother. The two remaining positions will no doubt be filled by Councillors who campaigned for Sayce during the run up to the election.

ETA: the Head of Divisions were confirmed this morning:

Head of Legal, Defence and Justice Division – Gideon Sayce
Head of Rookpot Division – Beatrice Slarrock
Head of Borders and Interior Division – Horace Smout
Head of Dedicated Public Service Division – Nathaniel Witherick-Foster

What this means, of course, is that seven Councillors have joined the ranks of the disemployed. Ninth Councillor Edgar Bebb has already made public statements about how the re-structuring is undemocratic. The Council is a result of a democratically held election, and this essentially a coup. A representative from the prestigious law form, Whittaker and Piper, has been defending the re-structure on the Local News television and radio programmes, and in a very long and overwrought piece in the Sentry.

These new Divisions have a new focus: the Office of the First Councillor’s priorities ie. the wolvern. Why the Council could not provide this, or adapt to provide this, has not been explicitly explained. But apparently the Executive was needed to take on new duties and responsibilities.

Edgar Bebb is mounting a legal challenge – in fact, he’s mounting several, because he is taking on the Disemployment and the establishment of the Appeasers too. But he says that this one is taking priority because the “re-structuring of Rookpot Council is a blatant attack on the founding freedoms, beliefs, tolerance and democracy of our city and our county”.

He also claims that it can’t possibly be legal because it happened so damn fast. There should be consultation, announcements, mootings and so forth. The dismantling of one of the central pillars of our civic authority should be discussed and debated. I suspect Whit and Pips have covered their bases in this regard by explicitly using he words re-structure and re-organisation, as though things are just being shuffled around rather than having their nature fundamentally changed. The law firm have also hinted in their statements and articles that this is a temporary situation, an emergency measure to deal with these extraordinary and fast-moving times and challenges. We shall see (where is by cynical font?).

Ninth Councillor Edgar Bebb (he was elected to the position, and will not forego the title until the public have voted him out of office) has this blog’s full backing. The Office of the First Councillor needs high profile opposition. And although Edgar Bebb has his work cut out by taking on Whit and Pips (and Adam Court, and now the entire Executive as well), we will continue to publish his progress and offer him our full support.


Stay safe, vigilant and always ask questions.   Ammaceadda.