Master Resort said there was some information in the archives. We went down to the dungeons, where some of the storage rooms were. They were dark and damp, but we found the crates we were looking for. After we searched for about an hour, Master Resort gave me a book. It was a personal accounting of the battles against the Moonriders, written by Eric. I wonder if I might be able to keep it?
I took it to my room and read it. It was a much younger Eric that wrote this, not much past his teens. It was a day-to-day journal of his experiences, observations and knowledge of the nine-year war against the Moonriders. Actually, the war wasn’t against them. The ‘Moonriders’ were considered gods in an adjacent desolate Shadow beyond the Kolvir range. Their followers were the ones that conducted the war and came to be called Moonriders. According to Eric, ‘the Moonriders’ never participated in the war at all. I wondered if it had anything to do with Faiella being Queen at the time.
It was fascinating reading, giving me an insight into Eric that I never had before, but it didn’t give me the information I needed. I required more specific information. I gathered my notes and things and got a horse. I had a bit of traveling to do.
Beyond a certain pass through the Kolvir range, by arduous effort, you may find the route to Ghenesh.
Ghenesh is a steppe desert of harsh gray colors north of Amber’s mountain range. A nomadic and very lean people live there; much used to deprivation.
The climate is continental. Summers are warm to hot, depending on elevation, and winters are intensely cold. Winter conditions are harsher here than other parts of Amber at similar altitude and latitude because there are no mountains to shelter Ghenesh from cold northerly winds. The mean annual temperature varies from -2 to -6 C, with winter mean temperatures of -20 to -28 C. Annual precipitation here is about 100 to 150 mm, although total precipitation varies considerably from one year to the next. Most of this precipitation falls during summer.
Vegetation tends to be homogeneous across vast areas of the desert steppe and distinct from the vegetation of grasslands. It consists of drought-adapted shrubs and thinly distributed low grasses. Hardy goats and dogs are the only domestic animals that survive here. Dogs are trained to hunt small game. Goats are tasked with work.
The nomads of Ghenesh call themselves ‘walkers’ in their own tongue. A child becomes adult when proficient at walking the desert for a week without help from the tribe. It is in Amber that they are known as the ‘Moonriders out of Ghenesh’. This is a mis-translation of the thanks the Walkers give in battle to their sister-gods.
Walkers are deeply religious and worship female gods who ‘ride the moon’. These sister-gods are all born of the stars and live on the moon. They appear as fierce girls who carry long knives and drink goat blood to honor the Walkers.
Women control mysteries in Ghenesh culture, bringing forth weapons, children and magic. Women choose the best mates and there are elaborate social competitions restricted to gender. Women best other women for resources. Men aggress against men. Magic of the nomads produces no visible effects or energy translations, but does seem to provide spiritual substance to the nomads.
In this society, both genders scout, hunt and train to survive harsh environ. Much work and social activity is done at night, when small animals are awake and temperatures cool. Children learn in actual hunting parties from an oral musical tradition.
The nomads have keen senses that they say are a gift from the Moonrider sister-gods. In war with Amber, even day-sleeping war parties could not be surprised though sentries were not typically used. Walkers believe that they rise to the moon after death and live well with the sister-gods there. Walkers are fearless fighters, capable of overpowering three times their numbers head-on (if they can close) with Amber’s regular forces. Only royals stood well against Walkers and many attempts to close access to Ghenesh were bloody disasters.
The nomads’ long-range weapons are slings. Long knives are their usual weapons, though during the war they prized captured swords of Golden Circle design.
The war with Amber started over theft of weapons and goods from the northern-most trading route through Arden. It was only settled when Prince Benedict brought Amber’s forces to the narrowest gap of the pass and sealed the shadow veil to Ghenesh.
During the war, the Amber regular Army made two draws on citizens of Amber and suffered nearly 95% casualties. Rangers in the foothill woods were reduced by 75%. Veterans of the Ghenesh war still tell stories of the deadly silent strikes by the Walkers and their eerie ecstatic wails praising the sister-gods. It took Amber over a century to restore the fighting capacity of the military.
Ghenesh is a shadow subject to unexplained fluctuations in time flow. Amber time flow was consistently about five times slower, allowing much planning and recovery by Ghenesh war parties. The war lasted about two Ghenesh generations, or nine years in Amber. No other shadow so close to Amber shows this fast a time flow.