The first argument was about whether Kyspert had gravity at all. “I tell you, all I see is lumps of twinkling stuff floating in the sky. And when I say ‘sky’ I mean ‘everywhere’,” said Gemuse. Being immaterial herself, she was weightless and could not easily tell up from down.
“They’ve got tails, Gemuse,” said Itharieth, scrying on a minikin and speaking to her with some elaborate spell. “Long tails of plant material hanging down underneath them. And when I say ‘underneath’ I mean they’re all pointing in the same direction.”
“They’re not all that determined about going that way,” said Gemuse. “They’re twenty, thirty degrees off from each other. I’m going to bet on wind and no gravity.”
Gemuse was wrong about gravity, for once. Kyspert had a definite “up” and “down”. One may forgive her, for hoven vision is none too useful on Kyspert. There is nothing like a sun or moon. The myriad scorals — floating, living sky islands — glow in the middle infrared, and twinkle in visible light. A bit of ocular rearrangement allows a dragon to see by scoral-light, which is still murky and confusing, but not nearly as bad as the twinkling.
(Itharieth was wrong about Kyspert having gravity too.)
As ghost and minikin approached the side of the nearest scoral, they saw the people. A kysp looks somewhat like a pair of headless weasels stuck non-head-to-non-head, or a furry rolling pin with long furry tentacles instead of handles. The tentacles fork near the tip, and then end in a pair of flat flexible furless rough-skinned diamond shape, with a dot at the wrist which proved to be an eye. The body is somewhat under a yard long, and rather slender, making kysps one of the smaller kinds of small people; the tentatails are about a yard each.
Oh, and legs. Three rings of three legs spaced evenly, or three lines of three legs spaced evenly: short two-jointed legs with three-taloned claws on the ends. The kysp was hanging on to the waxy plants and the scoral itself with two lines of claws. As soon as it saw the ghost, it squeaked in alarm (indicating to both biologists that it had a respiratory system, and, in fact, that Kyspert had an atmosphere, which they hadn’t checked), and grabbed a hanging vine with two of the third line of claws, pushed off, and swung away, and vanished in the undergrowth. Or whatever one calls tangly plants that grow on the side of a floating sky-coral, sidergrowth or something.
They knew immediately that it was a kysp(▶), and not some unintelligent animal. It had been wearing saddlebags on a leather belt around its waist, and it left behind a picnic basket which contained Kyspert’s equivalent of bread, cheese, and wine.
(▶) The expedition had a list of names, concocted mainly by Tultamaan and Questhraum. Whenever a world was worth exploring at all, it got the next name on the list. The inhabitants are named based on the world: Kyspert is inhabited by kysps, Hove by hovens, Mhel by mhelvul, Chiriact by chirs. When the world has two species of inhabitants, we do something haphazard with the second one. When the world has a name other than “The World” in the local tongue, or when the inhabitants call themselves something more specific than “People”, we make them use our names when we conquer them. (This didn’t happen on Hove, which we didn’t conquer, and which the hovens do not call Hove, ever.) One might argue that this is impolite.Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.