Thursday, 1 February 2007

Crossing the Inlet

As the wind dropped I cast off, and set a course to the South, still searching for the turn in the coastline. While taking navigational readings I caught a flash in the air far to the South and East of my position. Was it my imagination or a distress flare?

I coaxed the balloon to a stop and focused on that patch of sky for a moment. As I strained my eyes, I kept thinking I saw a glow or a sparkle, but was never entirely sure if it was merely a trick of the light. If it was real, it was far off, at least ten regions or more by my reckoning. If only I’d packed a telescope. I unclipped the Ordinal flare pistol and sent up my own in response (carefully aiming to avoid the envelope, of course). The flare burned brightly and as it lazily drifted down from the sky I stared South-Eastwards hoping to see another… But there was nothing. It must have been a trick of the light… Still, I have carefully noted down the time and bearing, just in case and have forwarded the details with this report.

I reset the venting and began Southwards again, keeping a close watch for further flares or signals.

Once more the coastline appeared empty of people. Maybe most of the mainlanders migrate inland, heading into the interior to shelter from the strong winds that blow in from the coast?

Buildings of a variety of architectural styles swept by below me, of particular note a little hillside town, but as is becoming usual, no inhabitants.

It appears that at least for now, the weather was in my favour; the wind strong enough to speed my journey, but not so fast as to render the balloon's steering vents ineffective.

As I crossed a spur of land I noticed something in the water below me; a huge sea monster looming out of the depths. I snapped a picture as I took evasive action and realised how similar it is to one Fuschia had said she’d seen on her travels. Maybe it is a common species in the wider Grid. The creature remained still, as many of the creatures I have encountered have done. I wonder if this is a self defense mechanism for mainland creatures, to freeze so as not to be noticed?

Soon I was out beyond the creature and land, over a large stretch of water. The coastline slipped away into the haze to the North, the stormy conditions barred my way further East and so I continue South. Hopefully this route would cut across the inlet and save having to travel the extra distance by following the land.

Everywhere was water now. In all directions it was all I saw. I obsessively checked the compass to ensure my heading was true. The winds and storms of the untamed grid still raged to the East of my position.

I began to wonder if I’d miscalculated or misread my heading. Maybe I had reached the East coast and was now simply heading out to sea, on a small sheltered channel. If I did not spy land within the hour I was going to turn back so that I could locate solid ground again and follow that, rather than just foolishly striking out into the unknown of this “inlet”. Maybe the flare I had spied earlier was from a ship that had made the same mistake as I and had ended up stranded or lost.

At last…land!

However the land I encountered was not as welcoming as I had first suspected. In clear sight of any visitors stood a grotesque statue. I am afraid I cannot fully describe it for fear of sounding uncouth, but I have included a photographic plate but have sadly once more been forced to remove certain sensitive areas of the picture for reasons of good taste.

I pressed onwards, now heading North. At least I was heading in the right direction, once more.

As I searched for a suitable landing site for the evening, a shape began to appear out of the sunset. I had thought it maybe just another tower or a lighthouse that the coastal mainlanders seem so keen on building, but no it was something else entirely.

It was a huge statue of a lady holding aloft a burning torch, wearing a crown and holding a large stone tablet. But what was it for? What did it mean? Was it a depiction of one of the “El El” deities or simply the work of an ambitious artist? These questions and many others raced through my head as I stepped from the basket back on to dry land and prepared to make my camp. Maybe the scholars of Caledon can divine some meaning from the picture.

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