Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dragons Eye - Part Fourteen

On Being  

The upper deck was constructed of light pumice and shell, braced by rope and hides. It hung suspended from a well patched long cylindrical gas-filled balloon. High baskets in the rigging carried air-dried fish.   

Four great sails, billowing in front, are filled with the Southern trade winds.   

The sky-yacht is skimming above the water, close enough to see shadows moving below the surface.  

Initially there were tears and recriminations. But the tears were soaked up by the pumice decks. The wind whistling through the rigging made argument difficult. Instead, they attuned to the new world. They learned to ignore the dim cold sun that swept through the sky, and orient to the cycle of the warm gas giant which their new home orbited.   

Belle recovered the first, silently thanking and cursing the old dragon lady. She stopped the fights by holding each of them over the edge of the deck until they saw reason.   

She pointed out what all of them knew. Going back to the unstable zone was not safe. Any return to their lives on Earth would have to wait.  

Bob showed no signs of wanting to leave. His smile was infectious. He attended to the four great sails, billowing in front of the sky yacht. When they needed to replenish the fish baskets for trade or food, he worked the nets as they slowly skimmed the surface. He climbed over the ship, draining the water collectors, and knocking off small wind parasites. He tended Growl and Wander who recovered slowly.  

Pete and Anthem retained dragon wings. Pete was still poisoned by venom and could not stand let alone fly. While initially able to fly on deck, Anthem quickly lost the ability – saying that while she could flex her wings, she had lost any other control. She said Gossamer, the alf, had given her something that had allowed an instinctive reaction, but that had worn off. Still, they both felt different and Anthem said she knew what Pete was thinking, although Pete said she was dreaming.  

Bob and Kathy had both had bad experiences in the spider realm, and discussed but finally agreed that they could not sneak around the edges in safety. Even before the boat cast off from the platform, brood spiders were moving to cut off any safe way back.   

For herself, Belle point blank refused to take the sky-yacht over the spider platform remembering the disaster that had almost lost the ship the first time.  

Belle treated Kathy and Anthem a little differently. She placed them both in an enclosed space and filled it with something mildly intoxicating, and then left them for a long time. Afterwards, they still had harsh words for each other and fought without quarter, but they also ate together. They started to make plans together.  

Wearing a smile, Belle set course back home. It would be a long trip. The trade winds would only take them so far – and then they need to move through slower skies.  

First stop was a larger trading platform with a medical facility and an opportunity to replenish the gas bags on which the yacht hung. While the humans were not permitted to leave the yacht, a healer came on board and spent 14 cycles attending to the injuries.  

In the simple beauty of the ocean world they all slowly healed. At end of cycle, after a meal, they nestled together on the top deck, sharing warmth and telling stories, searching for an elusive glimpse of a star–uncommon with so many other moons in the sky.   

Time passed.  

Belle told them about her voyages to each of the nine worlds. Of the press of the spider-kin and how some worlds had been overrun, while others resisted. Of the ravages of the dragon-kin, few in number but deadly and cruel. Of the deep homes of her own people, far under the waves, and the towers they had built to watch the stars.  

Anthem told them stories of the great cities of Earth, many of which she had visited. Of their great central towers and the wealth they represented. How cities sparkled like starlight and provided safe haven for millions like her.  

Wander told how he got his name and his exploits with great fish. How he battled the sky currents of the middle latitudes and survived the Southern ice plains.  

Growl told of the dreams of flying she had as a young wraith. She stroked Anthem's wings getting her to tell of how Anthem pounced on the spider-kin. That was a story they loved to hear and which Anthem loved to tell.  

One evening, as the gas giant set, with the smell of rain in the air Pete told of a similar evening, after a desert rain storm. He said that the smells and sky brought back a rush of memories - all incomplete.  

Pete said - When I was three, an older friend and I climbed a tall haystack, and spent an afternoon trying to work out what a hill would be like. Neither of us had seen one, but she was four and had been to far-off Nyngan, and thought we might be able to see one from the top of the stack.   

Growl asked – What is a hill?   

Bob said – You have them, but under water. Where the surface of the ocean rises close to the surface.  

Growl nodded – And the fish spawn there – We know them.  

Bob continued – But imagine the land continuing – and coming right out of the water, eh.  

Growl said, uncertainly – Maybe. (And we could hear her thinking about the fish.)  

Pete continued - I was a little bit worried about the adventure, because she had unexpectedly kissed me the day before.   

Growl jumped in again – Three is far too young to nestle.   

Everyone nodded in agreement.  

Pete said - But I really wanted to find out about hills, so I threw caution to the wind. I need not have worried. When we could not see a hill, we lay on top of the stack, hand in hand, and imagined what being on a hill would be like. She never kissed me again.   

Silence, as they listened to wind in the riggings and felt the vibrations through the deck of a cross wind.   

He continued - Once i got the hang of hills, it was hard to go back to the flat lands. Hills are as exciting as being on top of a haystack with a girl who kissed you yesterday. And just as dangerous.   

Kathy shot him a sleepy glare – Don’t you start, or I will go find some plates.  

Belle opened her eyes – No plates.  

Wander said more formally – When you became older, did you swim looking for her?  

Pete shook his head - Dad was a teacher, and soon after got a posting from the desert country into a town in the Australian mountains. I did meet her again, when I got kicked out of high school. The only place that would take me was a school for girls. She didn't want to know me.

Anthem could not help herself – You liar. You never went to a girl’s school.  

Pete shrugged.   

Bob said – Hard, bro, all those girls. You would have been beaten black and blue.  

Pete shook his head, remembering.   

Bob continued – This evening reminds me when I was young as well. I got a job repossessing cars to help support my mom eh. Not a good job.  

He stopped and thought about the job for a moment, while there was a discussion with the wraiths about what repossession meant. While the meaning was not settled with any certainty, it was agreed that it smelt like rotten fish.  

Bob continued – Yeah bro, nah. One day I drove to a small farm on the edge of the Canterbury plain. From a distance, it looked tiny – just two rooms, falling apart. It was like it was in a haze. Like there was a dust storm around it. Gets awful dry up there.  

Bob said - I came to an old iron gate and saw an older woman, skin browned by the sun and time. Might have been Maori, cant say. She said her partner was off gem mining and wouldn’t be back for months. Stacked around the house were hundreds of cartons full of tinned meals.  

He continued - But in the little garden around the place there were thousands of butterflies.   
He said – When I wonder why people live so far from home, I remember that place eh. I remember the magic of the place.   

And there was magic here. That night, just for a moment, they forgot the past and the future, and lived in the present. For one moment, if any had been asked, they would said they were content. On the deck of the sky-yacht, with the last light of Farsigh fading in the air. Nestled together in the spare sail on the top deck. Warm against the wind.  

But when Kathy looked into herself to tell a story, she found her heart was missing, and she cried herself to sleep dreaming of her daughter.  

Peter Quinton
March 2015

(No thing got hurt writing this part.)

This is a continuation of a story (a "braided yarn") that started on an earlier G+ post. Details and story at: 


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