Arilash’s gate of ice and centuries and death was very high up in the sky, and below us was a ruddy desert wrinkled with mountains.
“This is awfully high up. Were you afraid that some Basic Bipeds would see us come in?” I asked her. We were on the official mating flight. That made it my job to be as mean as possible to the other females, and as nice as possible (including plentiful copulation) with the males. I felt obliged to start on one half of that, at least.
“Well, better high up than inside a mountain. Digging out isn’t such fun! Worst is if you have to turn into stone to keep from dying. Then you have to claw yourself separate from the living rock,” she said.
That sounded a bit defensive, so I tried to press my advantage. “So, you’re not very accurate with your fancy travel magic?”
“Not very!” she said.
Well, that’s infuriating. She didn’t spar words with me. Either she’s not used to being in an extended multi-faceted dominance contest (impossible, she contested with Roroku all the time) or she doesn’t think I’m worth contesting with. I probably should have bitten her. But I’m not used to being in an extended multi-faceted dominance contest, at all.
But Csirnis and Greshthanu were falling out of the gate, looking all battered and bitten. I’m pretty sure that Greshthanu was breathing on Csirnis in the cyclonette. At least Greshthanu is being polite. Or angry, if he hasn’t forgiven Csirnis for not living up to his feminine name.
I tried to fly up to help out, but I was still a bit dizzy, so I kind of half-flew and half-levitated. I have never felt more like a zeppelin in my life. (I wonder if we’ll get to see any zeppelins on this trip. There aren’t any on Mhel of course, we don’t let the mhelvul fly or have any technology to speak of.)
“Do either of you want some healing spells?” I asked.
“Tend to Greshthanu first. His wounds are more bitter than mine, and his mastery of the secrets of life is inferior,” said Csirnis. Of course Csirnis has impeccable manners. I wished I wanted to couple with him right there. That would have been just as impeccable. Of course I didn’t want to do that; I’ve never managed to actually want to copulate.
“Sure! C’mon over here, Jyothky!” Greshthanu obviously expected me to be polite. I wasn’t feeling terribly polite. So I flew over him, by means of levitating more than he was doing so he fell past me, and landed on his back, and healed him with the Rose Rescaler.
Which got a snort of disapproval from Greshthanu. Not that he can manage the Rose Rescaler himself. I doubt he knows healing spells better than the Great Titan Sanitarium. But of course he’s got grown-up magic, and can cast it from afar.
So I bit him. Not that it hurt him much, with Rankotherium’s Hoplonton still snugly wrapped around him.
Which got most of my other fiancés staring at me. They had been whooshing through the triangle and plummeting casually towards us. “Jyothky? Poor little Greshthanu, what is it you are doing to him?” shouted Llredh.
Greshthanu turned his head to peer at me. “Yeah, what are you doing?”
“Teaching you some manners, or trying to. It’s pretty hopeless,” I said.
And that got some scowls from the others. Ythac wrote to me, «Are you competing as a boy? Or is Greshthanu competing as a girl?»
Right. Horrible manners on my part, trying to establish dominance over one of my fiancés. That would have to wait until after marriage, if we’re being traditional. I wrote back, «I need some lessons in manners too. Thanks, Ythac.»
Looking At Hove
I didn’t much want to talk to anyone I was engaged to right after that, and there wasn’t anyone else in the whole world I had so much as met. I thought about flying back through the cyclonette, but (a) that would make me look even less polite, and (b) my parents might kill me. Probably they’d just decide I hadn’t really left yet and send me back to Hove. Polite fictions are very important for dragons.
“I am grown up now. There’s no going back,” I told myself. By thinking it so it wouldn’t make me nasty to veriception.
So I looked around the world that we had so carelessly chosen to be our home for a dozen years. I’ve never been in a Typical Toroid before. Mhel is a Basic Ball. And my parents weren’t much for travelling, so I’d never been anyworld else.
Hove is shaped like a donut with quite a big hole, except reversed: there’s empty space where the donut has dough, and there’s stone and outside-the-world where the donut doesn’t have dough. We’d come in on the outer equator, more or less. Looking down, you know your eyes are lying to you. Geography tells you the world is curved, but it looks flat. That part is just like on Mhel. But on a Basic Ball, the world really curves away from you, like you’re on the top of a hill, and you can’t see the bits that are far away from you.
Inside a Typical Toroid, the world curves in on itself, so the neighboring continents and oceans and the tops of clouds are painted across the walls of the lower sky. Or sometimes you have the illusion of being in a huge valley, until you have your eyes far-focus on the sides of the valley and you see boats and whales in an ocean that looks vertical to you, but is not. The tops of clouds are the most disorienting. I’m used to looking down on the tops of clouds, not across or even nearly up.
Looking up, the sky is just crazy. There’s a huge bar of world across the middle of the sky, with continents and oceans all upside-down to you. That’s the central pillar of the world: the hole of the donut, if you will, as seen from inside the donut. The Word-Fox says that it’s called “Godaxle”, not that there are any gods here except the one we brought, and not that Hove actually turns. The stuff on Godaxle is too far away for my eyes to see anything on really, except for scatters of light along cities and roads at not-really-night.
Night’s not really night here, and that’s craziness too. Most Typical Toroids have only one sun. Hove has four suns, all moving along the … it’s not an equator exactly, equators ought to be on the ground. Center-circle, is that the right word for it? If you slice the donut vertically, you’ll get two C-shaped halves with circles at each end. The sun would be in the middle of one of those circles. The bright one is Virtuet, according to the Word-Fox: a tiny sun of actinic eye-aching blue-white, zooming quickly around the Godaxle. I suppose we’ll call its period a day, even though it’s somewhat shorter than a real day or even an official standard day. (That’s wrong, isn’t it? When I think “real day” I’m thinking of a Mhel day, and we’ve left Mhel behind.)
Next is Verdinet (yes, the Word-Fox told me that name, and all the others; I won’t mention the spellwork again), a big smoggy green tetrahedron. It’s not very bright. It’s huge — bigger than a dozen moons in the sky. It doesn’t move very fast. I wondered what would happen when Virtuet smashed into it. Not much did. Verdinet glowed green, and Hove got a lot dimmer because the main sun was in a cloud. After a while Virtuet zoomed out of Verdinet, leaving the cloud all full of turmoil. After a while it settled down back and looked like a very peaceful and serene smoggy green tetrahedron.
Next is Curset. It’s a black ball. It’s even faster than Virtuet. It hasn’t caught up with Virtuet yet — early tomorrow, if I’m any judge of speeds and chases. I’ll leave some space to fill in what happens when it does, here: This is me editing a previous day’s diary entry the way I said I’d never do. When Curset catches Virtuet, it totally clouds it out for, oh, maybe three hours, leaving the world all illuminated with just dim pink and green from the other two suns. Which I think is a lot longer than it should take for Virtuet to get out. It looked to me like Curset slowed down with Virtuet inside of it, but not quite to Virtuet’s speed. Oh, and Curset doesn’t slow down for Verdinet or Floret, just Virtuet.
Right, Floret. Floret looks like a sea anemone cloud to me — but those things are oversized tornadoes, not cute little stinging tentacles. It’s on the opposite side of Hove from Verdinet, and moving just as fast. It’s too far away for any sort of accurate kineception really, but that’s my best guess. It gives off a nice pink glow. It gets really bright when Virtuet goes through it, and goes out entirely when Curset engulfs it.
I’m sure that most of this doesn’t matter much even to hovens. The part that does matter is day and night. Noon is when Virtuet is directly overhead, except when it isn’t. Night is when Virtuet is behind Godaxle, which is about six hours a day. Eclipse is when Curset engulfs Virtuet; it’s about three hours long, it can happen any time of day or night, and when noon isn’t, it’s because it’s eclipse instead.
This has Serious Practical Consequences. Mostly that we’re going to want sleeping caves deep enough to keep out the sunlight. Night’s not really long enough, eclipse isn’t reasonable enough, and everyone’s temper is going to be feather-thin enough even if we all get enough sleep.
I suppose it has more serious consequences for hovens. Though what’s more serious than nine highly cranky dragons around, I really can’t say.
The further sky is all muddly and marbley. I can’t see too many details: a sea here, a mountain range there, I guess they are. The red streak might be a desert.
The wind seems to mostly go the same way the suns do. So I’m pretty sure there’s air all the way through the inside of the toroid, and all of the same pressure except where it’s hot or cold or something. Ghastrantos had one of his characters (Mielar, was it?) fly all the way across Toku Spoka in Wings Over Doux-Saloux, and Toku Spoka is a Typical Toroid too, so I suppose air like that is Typical and the way that Mhel does it, with air thinning out the higher you go, is unusual.