Rodorsceaft: Pillar of Heaven
The gnomes were responsible for first constructing the Spiral Path, a tremendously ambitious project. The Path is a walkway, barely wide enough for two caravans to pass abreast, built around and carved into the trunk of Mam Coeden. It is the means by which the humans and gnomes first came to the Branches.
The Path is a magnificent feat of engineering.
The Path is carved between 30 and 40 feet into the bark of Mother Tree, in most places. In general, the exposed edges of bark have been covered with pitch and then hay, dirt or (in a few places) gravel, making it easier for cart wheels to find purchase. The groove’s height is usually about 40 feet, though in some places it is lower and in a few is much higher. There is almost never a guard rail of any kind.
The Path angles upwards between five and ten degrees, with respect to the gravity plane. This provides for sufficient vertical movement that the grooves can be spaced a good distance apart, while not being terribly burdensome to walkers or beasts of burden. The shallowness of the incline does mean that the path is very long; a man on foot, or a loaded cart with a team of oxen, can make the journey to the lowest branches in approximately eight Solarian months.
The bark of Mother Tree is not smooth; it contains numerous crevices and indentations. In general, the gnomes simply built around these obstacles, though there are a few places where especially deep gaps were simply bridged. In four places along the trail, there are narrows, where the path drops down to between ten and fifteen feet wide. These narrow places are punctuated by built-out platforms or deeper indentations on which carts can park to allow opposing traffic to pass.
Sap-falls are an occasional seasonal hazard on the Spiral Path, in places where sap veins run too close to the surface. These are rare but do occur, generally fairly regularly. The mechanism that governs this schedule is unknown.
Main article: Bark-Town
Long before the Spiral Path was completed, the gnome workers were carving burrows deeper into the bark to shelter themselves against the elements. It is perfectly natural that businesses catering to the workers’ comfort and entertainment would spring up in the course of time, and it is also to be expected that supporting towns would also arise. The Bark-Towns, as they are colloquially known, are what these work-camps have grown into in the intervening years.
The Spiral Path was responsible for the first humans moving into the Branchlands. As such, it was perhaps one of the most important developments in the history of Rodorsceaft. That being said, with the development of airship technology, its importance has waned.
The Spiral Path, in modern times, still sees traffic, though perhaps only a tenth of what it saw at its peak. The Path remains the only practical way of transporting large quantities of livestock as cattle and horses don’t take well to airship travel; however, the expense inherent in this makes such endeavors a matter for the nobility only. The most common sight on the Spiral Path is huge trains of cattle following behind equally long trains of hay-carts; there isn’t any grazing to speak of so the food has to be brought along.
Occasionally, poor settlers or pilgrims make their way up or down the Path, though as airship travel becomes more and more prevalent, this is becoming less common. In truth, the Path stays clear and maintained largely through the effort of the cattle-herders; should a better way ever be found, or should the demand for cattle in the upper lands ever fall off, it is likely that the Path will fade into obscurity.