The Field of Strange Ships
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Most others do not visit. It is no longer forbidden, but those in the village have good reason to stay away.

But I visit.

There are wide fields, a flat valley near Grandfather Mountain. A long time ago it bloomed with tall grass and wildflowers, and many farmers made a living here, before flooding pushed them near the river. This was many generations ago: for all of my life, the fields have been bare dirt.

I remember as a young girl, taking walks with my father from the basin to the field. We often talked, as I loved his stories of times past, of how much things had changed (and how much they had stayed the same). When he had more energy, we would play with a sheepskin ball he had fashioned, throwing it back and forth, seeing how far we could go.

As I grew older, he began telling me important things. About how my mother had died giving birth to my younger brother, or how the village council took bribes from the interdimensional caravans which visited occasionally. This last one he told me could only be spoken out here, in the field.

My father did not live much longer. He fell off a stone path while delivering supplies to the satellite array up in the hills. We found his mutilated body and gave him a proper burial. I was 11.

When I was 12, the ships began appearing.

My brother was the first to notice. As we carried fresh fruit from the market, he glanced off in the distance.

"Look! Nella! There's something there, something big!"

I looked. A bright glint could be seen from the field.

"What is that?"

We set down our supplies to gaze it for a bit. It was very large, but not tall at all; it stretched out from edge to edge, but did not resemble a dish. It had an unusual shape that we could not make out clearly. We were only confident it was metallic.

After gathering some other villagers, we traveled towards the field. None of us knew what to expect, a few brought hunting-axes. We all walked in silence as the ship grew in size the closer we got.

Finally, we stood adjacent to it. It was immense, a smooth yet hewn hulk of metal blocking the sun, as resistant to our tools as the mountain. One portion, cleanly mirrored along both sides, were outstretched like great canopies of metal, suspended far above reach. When walking under its belly, the noon sun appeared like it were dusk.

Along its long edge, it must have been four houses in span. It stood, indomitable and unmoving. It dwarfed the largest structure in our village by far.

It had a few strange protrusions at strange angles, making it appear almost flat. Smooth metal covered all its surfaces, save some small areas near its rear. It was covered in strange markings; the priestess said it was unlike any script they had ever seen.

That night, there was brief discussion. The town seemed wary, but also enticed.

The next day, the interdimensional trading caravan arrived, more than two moons ahead of schedule. They told us that a strange attractor could be seen on their Wayfinding maps, and had come to see what was causing the disruption. We quickly brought them to the fields.

There was a second ship.

It was much smaller than the first, but every bit as immovable. Its metal could not be dented, and despite being lower to the ground, it still imposed on those who dared to walk near it. A similar sequence of markings were seen, though not quite the same.

The traders seemed fascinated, saying that the dim-routes were far better because of its presence, and even promised an improved schedule. The village was uneasy.

Many moons passed, and with it grew a slow feeling of acceptance towards these unusual new fixtures.

The village council said the ships brought good luck. The traders came with more and more new goods: an unusually-soft thick black material, a wider variety of enchanted woods, and my favorite, a golden tubular fruit. Rumors spread about Mahek, the council elder, visiting the ships late at night.

The fortune did not last long.

One morning, a thin pool of black liquid covered the path towards the Bell Shrine, a place where the children often play. It had an entrancing quality, little swirls of rainbow appeared as it flowed. The children were found splashing it about themselves, staining their clothes, faces, and tongues, all while giggling.

Their laughing began to change into crying as they fell ill. The priestess was called, and they immediately identified the fluid as a cursed substance. What it was, they could not say, but they called for the able-bodied women of the village to don thick sheepskin and gather it into temple vessels for safe storage.

Soon after, the rice paddies became coated in it as well. We cleaned it, and also discarded the stained plants as a precaution.

That evening, the village gathered around the central fire. There was anger, and fear, as rumors and shouting and discussion of evil spirits came hurling out. Most were fearful. Some argued this was all coincidence. Two men got into a fight and were sent home. I sat quietly and listened.

Over the next moon, eleven more ships appeared. Four were identical. Some farmers reported trees growing thin vermillion mold among its higher leaves, and dead flowers littered our dirt roads.

It was at this point the priestess intervened. They prophesied that things would get worse for as long as the worship of the cursed ships continued. Many murmured at this, especially the wealthier members in the council. Some frowned, annoyed that their rumors were confirmed only now. But as the priestly word could not be easily overturned, soon the fields were warded and access was restricted.

Children and elders continued to become sick, but it was manageable. Trade declined, or at least returned to previous levels. The Wayfinder has been marked, cautioning travelers to avoid the fields.

I still miss the variety of goods.

Some time later, Mahek was exiled. It took nearly a year to choose a replacement elder.


I still visit the fields. I walk among the ships, thinking of my childhood, my community, my family. Sometimes I go in quiet joy. More often I go in mourning.

There are many more ships now, some far larger than the rest. Somehow, they are as clean as the first day we laid eyes on them.

There has been some talk of moving our settlement beyond the Gray River. But I do not fear the ships. Instead, I am drawn to them. They have a kind of terrible beauty: they stand tall, unmoving, and carry with them a mysterious danger. I walk in their shade on hot days.

But most of all, I visit to feel small.

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