Put plainly, Summit is a big damn mountain, its peak pushing into the Heights, its slopes descending in uneven valleys and subpeaks down into more temperate altitudes. It’s an inversion of the norm, with a flat underside and prominent peak above instead of below. Maybe it got flipped upside down back during the who-knows-when. The mountain wears a grand, white crown of ice, the summit of Summit locked in a perpetual winter, or near enough, where frequent flows of clouds gather and disperse their payloads, shrouding it in mist and snow. On fleeting, magical mornings you might catch sight of the entire island wearing a cloak of frosty mist, a low cloud ceiling flowing down the slopes like vaporous mirrors of the streams below.

The icecap is the engine powering Summit’s life, and the whole of the island has been crafted, whether by nature or human hands, into harvesting that boon. The steep, rugged northern face has been turned into a big meltwater and rain-catcher, the water-carved gullies and falls carefully dammed up and managed. Below the barren peak are subpeaks and ridges containing fertile valleys packed with carefully terraced farms, all fed by the tightly controlled supply of water descending above. Patches of alpine forests coat much of the middle altitude, the woods another boon to the isle’s economy. As the island widens into a disc, a network of rushing rivers and retaining lakes crisscross the landscape. Below, the underside has its attendant satellite bergs and islets, though some of these have been brought in, slag and dross rock tugged down from Grindtown, raw material for a constant effort to patch hairline leaks in the vast bulk of stone above.

Not one drop wasted, if the residents can help it. Supposedly, Summit’s water tastes better than any other source in the Northwest. I’m skeptical of any such grand claims as a matter of course, but in this case, I’ll give them the nod.

Summit’s main city is on a shoulder of a headland shrugging out of the eastern side of the island, about a third of the way up from the isle’s disc of rambling hills and flatlands. Funnily enough, there’s a bit of a chip in that little mesa, a notch visible from the north if you’re looking at it edge-on from the skies. A literal chip on their shoulder. Summiters don’t find it terribly amusing when you point it out, though.

Yet that very same attitude runs through the history of the place. Geographically speaking, Summit is the heart of the Northwest Frontier. When you reduce the map of this grand old expanse to hard lines and points of interest, Summit should be more of a hub than Hub. It’s the biggest island in the Northwest, pushing toward the size of a small plateau, though that’s a recently acquired distinction on account of the what’s now the Dross. And it may be a fleeting title, depending on what folk uncover up in Ferron after the storm.

But Hub’s much bigger and is a plateau, with all the stability and security that provides. All the tasty water in the skies won’t win you enough favor when playing against a stacked hand. So, Hub was the first destination when full-scale Orventian Imperial patronage landed in the Northwest and dispersed from there. And while freeports like Gloria and Reaches grew up as secondary points of interest and investment, Summit was left to forge its own path, more so than most anyone else out here.

Wasn’t much of a surprise when Summit became a hotbed of anti-Orventian sentiment years before the War. Call it jealousy if you will. Perhaps the generational disdain of a people spurned. So, they became Coalition by default, rather than desire. Summit raised its banners in defiance of the old order as soon as the time was right, leading the charge and mustering a mighty fine fleet. It forged alliances with the nascent Coalition nations and, for a heady few years, it was the king of the Northwest that it rightfully should have been all along.

Unlike other anchors of ‘freedom fighters’ or flag-waving Coalition ports, Summit had the shield of its resources to dodge the worst of Imperial retaliations. A few minor incidents aside, no one was foolish enough or cruel enough to attack the dams and pipelines, even if it would force a surrender from Summit. Better to isolate the head, in this case, rather than cut it off.

Very little was sacred during the War, and especially afterward. But the water was.

Now, after all that noise and rabble-rousing and defiance, these days Summit might be the most authoritarian little government in the Northwest. Through the successive bouts of infighting, losing battles against the Imperial fleets, and ‘Lition groups temporary asserting control…the water still flowed. The Summit Water Company ran their game through all of it and now they run the island, quite literally top to bottom. Everyone docks and refills at their blessing (payment required). Every town on Summit has their company men and women keeping the system’s sundry moving parts spinning in their streams. Bit by bit, their word became law.

Perhaps some places always flow to a specific destination.

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Copyright © Michael L. Watson 2017