| [fragment lost] several days traversing the desert between here and the capitol. Several of the men have caught dysentery. I doubt the peasants boil the well-water, by the look of them they hardly stoop to cook their meat. Small wonder, then, that this record book should fall so easily into my hands.
Progress is slow. I must gain insight into the terrible breeding practices around here. Never in one place have I seen such asymmetrical people. Perhaps their chronic apathy stems from this, rather than the red dust plains that stretch out interminably in every direction. One might wish on God’s left hand for a cliff to hurl oneself off of.
The men have been playing with the cache of livestock skulls found when dredging a well. I let them carry on , as water continues to elude us this is the first fruit our efforts have borne. The land laughs at maps drawn in the capitol library, suppose the water-table is nonexistent? I shall have to draw up canal plans. Perhaps some of the sad-headed natives can be pressed into service.
Red. All water is red. Every drop is strained through several cloths and still comes out the color of dust. I have drunk ale with less body. Progress on the canals is slow, the peasants refuse to approach the dig site. A few educational beheadings do nothing, nor even the lure of money. I have yet to see a people so poor in both thought and culture. Their continued survival is a puzzle.
Superstition has taken half the men. Intimate pox the other. I can’t say which is more infuriating. The camp is like a symphonized lowing of cattle, no progress on the canals for more than a week. The soldiers cannot be ransomed from their fits, and if matters continue I may have to take drastic action.
The men have made another discovery in the soil. Today we met the previous owners of this valley. Men, women, all, skin leathered black, clad only in crude loincloths. It might be the site of a massacre but for their posture, the relaxation of their features. As if they gave into the valley sickness and lay down, pining to death. Men are threatening desertion. The Anterior Sergeant has requested transferral to another province. He has also refused to share my bed any longer.
My grief continues. The men on the aft side of the canal unearthed a great round stone and saw…something. The chaplain has taken immediate steps, lest someone develop a theological constitution. I must think alternatively. Rumors spread like the pox and don’t dissipate with sulfur tonic.
Progress, finally. The peasants have at last found use, one black limb wrapped in sack-cloth makes an adequate torch. The night-digs fare worse than the daylight crew, puerile fear gnawing on men’s minds like a worm. The Anterior Sergeant lamented that the night shift takes too far a toll on the men’s constitutions. I informed the Anterior Sergeant that his feminine concerns held no more merit for me than the grievances of dead peasants.
The plague of loose tongues flares ever-outward. Steps must be taken to quell idle minds. The villagers left sometime during the night, yet we could not track their silhouettes in the dawn. I will put a halt to frivolous talk. We are destroying the stone.
We found the dig idle, equipment abandoned. There was a sickness to the air, the men sat as if looking death in the face. I bid the artillerists to remove the blight on the land. The first charges would not set off, the power fizzed as if damp. Then [fragment lost] as if [fragment lost] had reared up and [fragment lost] men scattered, running in panic to the vi[fragment lost] sun did not set [fragment lost] mass [fragment lost]ith their arms held [fragment lost] still it continued[fragment lost] and only they were sp[fragment lost]
Another discovery. This time an astrolabe made out of solid brass that chimes in the wind. I ordered it melted down for casting. God knows what happened to the supply trains en-route from the capitol. The canals are not a total failure, red soup remains in their depths to slake the men’s thirst. The Anterior Sergeant hung himself today.
Finally—the convoy from the capitol arrives through the mountains. As I am now without the use of my legs, a substitute was sent in my place. I am to be swapped out, plucked from my roost in order that they might send a real hero to transfigure this place. I hold no bitterness. May he have more success than I did.
The wind weeps outside our tents. We must leave, as soon as possible.