Chapter Twenty One
The River Kasora begins in a snowfield hanging far above the jade city from whence it draws its name. If you’ve climbed the Road to the Sun to reach it, the snowfield marks a significant event. It’s the first time that the mountains have given up their otherwise relentless attempt to try and kill you. The pass opens unto a broad and gentle field blanketed by snow eternally trickling down from both the mountains and the sky. The field starts out nearly as flat as the bottom of the caldera and forms a stretched-out horseshoe more than three kilometers broad and just about as thick at its middle. It becomes the very top rim of the valley below. Then it starts to drop. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the land tilts both down and toward its own center. It bows to a gravity it alone can feel.
The curve of the snowfield steepens as it descends, looking more and more like some mad confectioner’s funnel. Here and there plumes of steam poke holes in the blanket. The steam is caused by water bubbling up from the heart of the Spine of the World. The springs form a network of tiny braiding streams. The courses meet each other, first as little more than seeps, then as rivulets that flick around the rocks and pebbles the heated waters have themselves exposed. While the brooks follow the snowfield down, they come together, tumbling ever faster.
By the time you hear, in the distance, a sound that is somewhere between a moan and a roar, the streams have formed a creek. It runs through a channel down the center of the snowfield, now in an undeniable descent. The creek grows. By the time it forms its first waterfall, it’s too broad to jump across. By the time the slope overall has steepened enough to imperil anyone’s footing, the creek has perhaps hit an underground lake and become something that might arguably be called a river.
The moan, you understand, is growing louder now because you are nearing the end of the protected area, and because it is the wind. The snowfield starts to drop away, fast. The river churns white, a constant torrent. You could not throw a stone across it. A vast something impends. The roar you’ve heard is water falling. The slope becomes such that no sane man would stand upon it.