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Chapter Seventy-Seven: ‘Lord of the Rain, go calmly...’
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The rain finally ceased as Zeff neared the decadent mountain town of Rheinhal. It was one of the oldest settlements in Sair, but it hardly showed. A building older than ten years was a rare sight here, and the lush greenery combined with the first sunlight he’d seen in weeks gave the city a lively glow. It was something of a tourist trap, this place. Hotels, casinos, amusement parks, shopping malls, movie theaters, and more than a few out-of-season ski resorts sat under the immense shadow of the Waress Mountains.
They were the more impressive sight to behold, Zeff felt, living well up to their status as the fourth largest range in the world. Harsh silver-gray cliffs occasionally poked out from the otherwise high-reaching forests, only to be capped by snow at their peaks. They were the great dividing line, these mountains, between much of the continent and particularly between western and eastern Sair. The Wetlands and the Drylands. The Rainlords and the Sandlords. Ancient enemies turned modern rivals and kindred spirits.
Zeff’s thoughts went to Asad and his family. It had been too long already, he knew. He remembered Asad proposing his son for an arranged marriage with Emiliana, an honorable offer which Zeff found fiercely tempting. Join houses with his old friend? Become the first bridge between the Rain and Sand in history? And he knew that merely by asking, Asad ran the risk of upsetting the other Sandlords. It was not an offer made lightly, so it had been very difficult to tell the man no. That was more than six months ago now, and Asad had still not spoken to him since. Zeff would have to try harder to make reparations upon his next visit to Kuros.
He made his way toward the foot of the mountains, where stood the oldest reminder of Rheinhal’s ancestral heritage, Rhein’s Keep. Previously, the name Rheinhal belonged solely to the castle itself, but as the city flourished around it and came to be arguably even more famous for its wealth, the castle was renamed Rhein’s Keep to avoid confusion.