From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Erevday, Nineteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Forty-Eighth Day in the Trees
I have seen something beautiful today.
Where the path skirted around a tall hill, there was a trail, leading up. There was a sign there, which read "Maish Trascible, Merchant."
We were suspicious, naturally, but the cautious hunter catches no game, and so we made our way up the trail. It was surprisingly well-worn, with grooves that seemed to have been left by a cart.
At the top, I saw a ship. It was like those that sail on water, but larger. What I could see of the bottom was wedged, rather than flat, which seemed strange to me. After all, what if it encountered rocks? But at the time, I thought of the swamp, and how deep the water there was. I thought that it simply was made for deeper waters than the Trescu. Above the deck were two tall pieces of timber that seemed to have been the trunks of trees once. Between them stretched ropes
However, it was clear that it had not sailed anywhere in some time. It was half-buried in the soil of the hill, and had been converted into a building. It had a doorway set into the side, and there was a chair on the deck over it. In the chair was a person.
This person was furred, being black and white. Torne said that he looked very much like an animal he knows called a badger. The person called down to us, telling us to go through the door, and that he would meet with us in a moment. He disappeared, and we heard him moving across the deck.
When we opened the door, we found ourselves in a very cramped room. I had to crouch down to fit, and the place was full of odds and ends. I saw many lengths of rope, tools and odd items on the walls, and numerous boxes everywhere.
The person we had seen on the deck came in right after we did. He was heavy-set, and wore a red shirt and brown leather pants. One of his legs ended in a foot carved from wood.
He was a nice man, but a hard bargainer. In the end, we traded two birds we had caught, half of my money, and the remains of my old robe. In return, we got a coil of rope, a tent, and heavy cloth Torne assures me he can sew into winter robes for me. I also traded for a small knife for carving, though I did not tell Torne. Despite his sometimes irritating chatter, he has been a good friend to me these past few cycles. I intend to carve for him a walking stick.
After the bargaining was done, Maish invited us to stay the night. While he gets visitors at least once a week, they rarely stay long enough to talk to him. Most of his customers are woodsmen or from towns in the woods. He knows of Pella Veypal, and apparently it was he who sold them the metal used to make the spheres that descend into the swamps.
His story is interesting. The ship, which is called the Wild Maiden1, was not a ship of the water. Instead, it was a ship of the air, and Maish was the second mate on board. They had been exploring the woods from above, when they encountered a terrible, swift storm. It crashed on the top of this hill, and when the storm was over, it was no longer in any condition to fly. The magic sails that allowed it to move in air were torn, and they had no replacements.
Most of the crew went home. Maish stayed, however, having lost his foot in the crash. Before they had left, the rest of the crew and the captain helped him convert the ship into a home for him. They took what supplies they could, but ended leaving the bulk with Maish.
In time, others learned of the ship, and that there were supplies to be had there. He began to trade with those who came to him, and soon had made a reputation as a reliable merchant for those in the woods.
When he has no more of an item, the Trading Company sells him what he needs. When he said this, Torne blanched, and took a step back. Seeing this, Maish shrugged. "I don't deal in slaves," he said. "But I have to live, and there's no one else I can buy from. I wish there was someone else I could trade with, but there isn't. It's that way for a lot of folk in the woods." Torne nodded, but I could see that it bothered him.
We sat on the deck that evening, and he bade us watch just past the hills on one side of his home. To the west, he said, though I am uncertain that east and west have any real meaning here.
As the sun sank lower, I gradually became aware of shapes in the distance. They were tall, whatever they were, and thin. I soon was able to discern their nature: They were buildings. Tall, graceful spires, topped with domes. They were bathed in red and yellow from the sunset, so that I could not tell their true colors. They seemed transparent at first, then began to gain solidity. I could not tell just how far they were, only that they were beyond the next hill. Still, they had to be quite large, to be visible so far away.
Shapes moved between them. Something in the city was flying. I tried to look closely, but the sun made it difficult.
"Boats," Maish told us. He handed me a long, tapering tube made of metal, with glass on either end.
I looked through it, and I saw that he was right. They were like boats, flying from building to building. There were people in them, but I could not tell what they were like. I passed the tube to Torne, who likewise gazed through it.
Then, the sun sank behind the hill, and the city vanished from sight.
It was called the Glittering City, Maish explained. Torne nodded, saying that he had heard of it. Apparently, it can be seen from any hill in the woods, if one looks during the sunset. If you try to reach it, you can never find it.
There are also stories of an old human trying to reach it, who can never reach it. Maish claims that he once met the man, that he stopped for supplies.
Maish said that he had been told it was a city full of angels, cast out of a distant heaven, but still too virtuous for the many hells outsiders like him have conceived of. The old man was a devil, trying to find the nearest salvation. Torne said that it was the city where the stars rested during the day, and that it became visible when they prepared to take their places in the sky. The old man was a shooting star, who had become lost when he'd landed, and was trying to make his way home2.
No matter what the city is or who its inhabitants are, I found it a breathtaking sight.