Pastorale [over Choinxeia; 1 Hispis 4385]
Nothing exciting is happening today! I hope!
I have finished my morning exercises (I seem unable to break that habit, even if I am on vacation). Now I am sitting in the flame of Strayway's starboard candle, being fireproof, writing lazily in my fireproof journal with a spell because my favorite pen is not fireproof. (I should do something about that.)
I am watching the scenery.
Down below is Choinxeia. Even I don't usually see it like this. We are somewhat over a mile up, by my request. I rarely fly this high with my own wings. The last time I did I must have been thirteen, adolescent, and utterly upset with ... I can't remember who or what. I don't think I was sightseeing in any case.
I can see both edges of the world-branch from here. Choinxeia, like most branches, is some fifty miles wide, and ... I don't even know how long. It's still fifty miles wide fifty-seven thousand miles out, I happen to know, and so are its side branches.
It's not perfectly flat on top. It's hard to tell from up here, but it's dished: lower in the center, almost a quarter-mile higher at the edges. Also it's tilted towards the main trunk, a lot less than that: maybe a mile's drop in three hundred miles.
And oh! Here's how you can tell it's dished! That squirming silver line is the Omblou, the main river of this part of Choinxeia. You can see it wiggling this way and that, but trying to stay towards the center of the branch. Of course it can't. The branch is combie over here. That means that there are dozens of short thin crosswise mountain ranges, running almost from edge to edge: ridges in the underlying world-bark. The Omblou can't go over them generally, unless there's a surprise valley or an energetic river spirit, so it makes little horizontal lakes on the outward sides of each range, and then spills over on one side or the other, pouring towards the main trunk as best it can.
It's wonderful territory for Orren, since it's full of lakes; but it's not very good land for anyone serious. Or at least not for big fields of wheat and lentils, and vetch for the cattle. If I remember the map properly -- and I am not going inside to look at it! -- we are over Ulmarn. The figs from Ulmarn are the best on Choinxeia.
Or I could look outward, away from the main trunk. Choinxeia is a very wide fifty miles under Strayway, but off in the distance that same fifty miles isn't very wide at all. I'm reasonably sure that that dot is home, is Vheshrame, but at this distance it's just a dot. It might be Daukrhame, or a small mountain. The branch wanders outwards, pops out side branches here and there, zigs lazily, zags just as lazily.
The sun is nearly straight outward along Choinxeia today. (That's part of why we chose to leave yesterday -- the sun won't be in our eyes as we fly. Or behind the main trunk, leaving a big shadow stripe, which is nearly as distracting.) In case you're from a different world where the sun is, I don't know, square like a star or something: our sun is a big crystal globe that rolls on a track in the lower part of the sky, eighteen degrees up from the horizon. It rolls around the whole sky in twenty-seven days, which we call a "month". [The actual word sounds more like "sunth" in Ketherian. -bb] Flokin, our brainless but hard-working fire god, lights it every morning, precisely at dawn.
(That is not an oxymoron. Dawn is frequently defined as the time that decent people get their cley restored, and it is somewhere between An Interesting Coincidence and A Highly Symbolic Gesture On Some God's Part that the world gets its main light restored at the same time of day.)
As I said, the sun is a crystal globe full of fuel. Flokin lights it at dawn. It must be a rather large globe, for the flame takes a long time to spread to the whole of the sun -- it takes precisely nine hours. Which is quite confusing when you think about it, since on some days (like today) the fire moves very fast at first; it has already covered seven-eights of the globe, and if it continued at that rate, it would have filled the whole globe by the second hour after dawn, not the ninth. It's going to slow down soon though, or, if it doesn't, it'll be the first time in 4385 years that it hasn't. Other days, it might barely have spread at all by this time, or even by half an hour before noon, but then it rushes to get the rest of the way.
At noon, the sun is full of fire. Immediately the flames start to die out. Sometimes quickly at first, sometimes slowly, but it always takes exactly nine hours to go all the way out. (After which we have nine hours of solar darkness in which to best admire our gaudy night sky, or sleep, or enjoy the company of members of the appropriate species, as you see fit.)
Yes, of course the sun drips sometimes, or flares up huge flames that scorch the lower stars until some elementals or something goes and polishes them. Doesn't yours?
Or I could look trunkward. "Trunkward" being one of our cardinal directions, viz., going towards the main trunk. Ketheria is the ring of nine branches at the top of the main trunk; it is where the primes were first created, 4385-4380 years ago, and the most civilized place in the universe. (Srineia, far outside Ketheria, is wild and strange and exotic, making it an excellent place for a vacation.)
I don't think Ketheria is going to be the top ring of branches for too much longer though, as Zi Ri ought to measure time. The World Tree has grown a lot since the first days, and the main trunk now stands hundreds of miles above Ketheria. Presumably it will sprout another ring of branches at some point. That shouldn't bother me -- more land to live on is a good thing, after all -- but it seems somewhat of a shame that Ketheria stop being the top of the World Tree.
(The other cardinal directions include: outward, which is away from the trunk. Rollward, which is the direction the sun rolls, and roll'gainst, which isn't. We also have 'north', which is the direction towards Reluu. Oh, I suppose I should mention the other big feature of the daytime sky. Our seven creator gods, Hren Tzen and Reluu and so on, sit in the middle sky. Reluu is usually a spiky silver crown, sometimes with Cani eyes or even a whole face. Hren Tzen is a Zi Ri with four bright rings. And so on. We're not so lucky as to have them stay there -- or, I suppose, to only be there -- but there they are, in case we wanted to forget who made the place.)
The main trunk, like the sides and bottoms of the world-branches, are covered with shaggy horizontal trees, huge vines the size of rivers, swaths of moss as big as city-states, and the occasional vertical desert of bare world-bark. It's possible to live in the Verticals. Many people do, but they're as likely as not to be Sleeth (who can get around easily there) or Gormoror (who enjoy a challenge). Lots of monsters do -- mainly because we have driven them off of the Flats and taken their lands and their treasures for our own; they would rather not live there. Most primes would call this a good thing. Vae and her non-prime friends aren't so sure. I call it an inevitable thing, and try not to fuss to much about who, exactly, it is good for.
Looking down, there's the ring of branches below Ketheria ... three hundred and some miles down? More than that? I can't remember exactly. Then the one below that, a bit further, and the one below that. They start getting a bit hard to see at the fifth one. We're going to the twelfth.
But first we're going to stop on the skybridge.
(Historical aside. There are three sensible solutions to the fact that there's not very much land to live on in inner Ketheria. These are: (1) use massive amounts of Locador to make more land; (2) colonize other branches; and (3) build more land in inner Ketheria. All three have been tried. (1) scares people more than it should, though it should scare them somewhat. (2) is very popular, except with the denizens of the branches we colonize. (3) is our next stop.)
I think it started out as a ring of wooden bridges around the main trunk, connecting Craitheia to Remseia to Aradrueia to Dentheia to Choinxeia to Braxeia to Mrasteia to Yistreia to Hybraeia to Craitheia. But we -- and by "we" I include two grandparents of mine, but it was before my parents were hatched -- expanded on the bridges. Now they're three-quarters of a mile wide, and fifteen stories deep or more. Made of wood mostly, with some rather substantial enchantments to keep them levitating in the right place. Not one enchantment -- that would be a bit big, even for my famous grandparent -- but, I should imagine, a separate enchantment for every quarter-acre or less. Lots of work for lots of enchanters.
It could be done without all that work. It could be done by spells, rather than enchantments. But spells can be broken by mistake once in a while -- or on purpose, for that matter. Enchantments can be, too, but they are considerably harder to do anything about. And if you're building cities, you don't want them falling down out of the sky whenever some child gets an exceptional spont cast to block her brother's insect-creation spell. Or, more seriously, whenever something gets a bit odd in the Temple of the Dark Trinity in Oorah Thrassen, where you're invoking three of our nastier gods on a regular basis. There's often a bit of stray magic that needs breaking after that sort of ritual, I should think, and best if breaking it doesn't break your city too.
And Oorah Thrassen, our ancient (and generally successful) enemy, is our next stop. I will finally get to meet some of the sorcerers I have been contending with for the last few decades. It should be fun.