I was feeling sad. After all, it was the last day of the Faire, and soon I’d have to take a portal back to Awenia and pick up all the pieces I’d left dangling for the last two seasons. I flew up to one of the clouds that hover over the Fairchylde in Isle of Shadows, and, well, OK— I just kind of felt sorry for myself for a while.
I promise I didn’t sing that song. For long.
Of course, then I noticed how much there was to see from this vantage point….
First of course, there was the Fairchylde Herself, and that just made me want to look farther and farther.
We came to the coast once more early on the morning, and even as the Sun rose we could see its light glittering off the blue domes of our destination even before it fell across the seas beyond.
It was said that Zodiac had been founded by a company of Royales who departed the fair city of Magnificat many years ago. I had once visited Magnificat as a traveller riding alone, and the memory of that journey remained never far from my thoughts.
As we left our mounts fed and watered on the outskirts of the city, so I was able to see a certain resemblance within these dome-topped halls and the spire-topped palaces of that ancient place. But more than that, this city brought to mind legends of the great temples and river of the Golden Delta, while the walls of water that fell straight and true down hand-made cliffs brought forth tales of the floating retreat of Sanctum, said to be held aloft on pillars of crystal waters.
You have to go. That’s what everyone says, anyway. Sometime in your life, where your life is defined as that period of existence between physical birth and physical death, you must at one time or another visit the Spirit Valley of Kuruk. I will note that visiting the Spirit Valley of Kuruk is a challenge, because it has appeared only once in my physical lifetime (that I know of).
Once I heard that the Spirit Valley was visible and within a day’s travel, I just dropped everything and went, all by myself. I felt it needed to be a personal and solitary journey.
One thing no-one will deny is that the Valley itself is singularly beautiful. With a landscape marked by stunning chalk paintings (which look to be well-kept by those who live there), it’s easy to just stand there, awestruck, when you first enter the basin. For me, the paintings were overwhelming. It was only after I had taken many of them in that I began to notice the rock formations themselves, the many paths and caves. It seemed made by a miracle, the sort of place where anything could happen. So, as I stepped into the Valley, I was prepared for a magical experience.
And magic did occur soon after I took that first step. For there, asleep on a rock, was an adorable turquoise kitty cat with ickle pink ears! I couldn’t help it: I squealed.
Now, if you’ve ever woken up an adorable turquoise kitty cat with ickle pink ears (and who hasn’t, really?), you know that the adorable turquoise kitty, as a rule, does not like to be disturbed while she is sleeping.
From the high mountains around Auxentios’ Pass, we at length descended to warmer lands. For the first part of our journey down from that strange, steam-powered town nestled in its high pass, we were led by one of the clanking, hissing machines that so startled and amazed us on first seeing them.
Driven by man sitting in a closet-like space below the rounded belly of the mechanical beast, the machine walked with a clumsy, yet sure-footed grace in response to the levers he pulled and pushed. A second man seated before him in that iron closet used the long funnel extending before it to blast our path with steam that cleared away the frost and ice, allowing us safe passage over the smooth rock that might otherwise have been as treacherous as glass beneath feet and hooves.
Even after the machine had stood aside to let us continue down warmer slopes towards the tree line below, it was hard not to keep looking back up the hard rock path to try to catch sight of our strange companion, even though we all knew we had left it behind and the echoing sound of its heavy footfalls echoed down to us as it made its way back up to its home in the snows.