Urbis Morpheos & Astra Gaia 2
Two figures emerged from alleys to the side of the street in which we stood, that I saw were Voaranazne and Kirishnaghar. Voaranazne had forsaken mallead life and become an agen; his eyes were human, hazel, bright with knowledge. But Kirishnaghar’s eyes were frosty blue and glowing like lanterns. As I watched he changed into a gryphon – I grasped the symbolism after a moment’s thought. Auzarshere sobbed once more, sighed, and then the light of his emerald eyes was lost forever. He stood hunched, an ordinary agen: a constructing agen. Voaranazne was also of the constructing gender.
I turned to face Kirishnaghar. He stared at me then said, “I will remain a mallead, the last of my kind.” A lop-sided grin appeared on his face. “You will admit that shape-changing is a kind of transmutation.”
I nodded, and turned around to face the haven. Much work lay before me.
My balloon was prepared with the minimum of fuss on a hill at the eastern edge of the plateau. No Mahandrianan knew I was departing, and so I was able to slip away from the haven without difficulty. I felt more than a little guilty, for I had made friends in Mahandriana, but with the New Council in session it seemed the best thing to do. Also, I wanted no embarrassing goodbyes.
There would be three travellers: myself, Metaxain and Hoss. Kirishnaghar had been asked if he would change his form to that of a dirigible, a request he had refused with the comment, “Those days are over, make your own dirigible this time.”
I hoped to fly the one hundred and fifty leagues to Hirhoadiog on northerly winds, but with prevailing westerlies I knew I would have to ride the rest of the way, though that possibility was not so bad as walking the whole way back. I approached the balloon carrying my sparklehawk Hezoenfor, a bulging pack on my back. The basket slung underneath the hand-stitched balloon was spacious, despite carrying many provisions. The balloon itself was gigantic. A simple hot air device generated lift. I found myself looking forward to the journey.
And so without ceremony we were away, rising slowly at first, drifting north-east, sailing over the conifer trees of the Signivins Forest, until after half an hour I was able to spot the great river system separating the Signivins and Qavail Forests: natural and manufactured. I shuddered, knowing I was leaving the arms of nature for vile artifice.
“You seem unsettled,” said Metaxain, standing beside me.
I nodded. “I was recalling what I suffered in the Qavail Forest. I have to take that place back to nature.”
“Of course,” I said, “but I will drop you off at the Sonic Forest first!”
Something in Metaxain’s posture told me that a thought had passed through his mind.
I added, “You know many things, do you not?”
He hesitated, and I knew he would say something unexpected. From his pockets he took two objects, a pebble and an egg. For a second I thought – from where did he get an egg? He held these objects out in the palms of his hands and said, “Which of these two, the hard stone or the fragile egg, best represents Gaia?”
I pointed to the egg.
Metaxain returned the egg to his pocket. “It is this,” he said, weighing the stone in one hand then throwing it over the edge of the balloon basket. “It will land hundreds of yards below us, probably without a scratch. Gaia is not fragile. Gaia will survive.”
I nodded, understanding his metaphor. “It is of course micro-organisms and plants that are the essence of Gaia.”
Metaxain nodded. “As a shaman of trees, I understand this.”
“But… I must somehow overthrow the manufacturing ecosystem. Knowing what I now know, I cannot leave this planet as it is.”
Again Metaxain nodded. “Agaiah exists, just as Gaia does. But do you recall certain words of Rhaingorol the shaman?”
For a few moments I searched my memory for the words he meant. “‘Interconnected-ness,” I replied, “might make a mockery of your stance.'”
Metaxain grinned. “I remember you telling me about that encounter. Much of Gaia lies beneath the soil, a profusion of bacteria and other micro-organisms. Such life can never be killed by Agaiah. Rather, the existence of Agaiah has caused Gaia to take on a form different to that of a few million years ago. Gaia has changed and the planet is now inimical to human life, but Gaia cannot be destroyed so easily.” Here he paused, before saying, “You cannot become the steward of this planet. Your task now is to bring true balance between natural and manufactured – if such exists. The question inevitably arises of the place of the two golden disks in all this.”
I looked away, deep in thought.
The days drifted by like so many fluffy seeds. Some days we were only able to progress a few leagues before unfavourable winds forced us to set the balloon down and make camp, but these days were full of interest, even pleasure, as we discussed what had happened to us and what was to come. Other days we sped north, twenty, thirty, forty leagues from dawn to dusk. In this haphazard manner we sailed over Guiskrid, Qentheoz and the mountains of Ata.
In five days we crossed the wastes of Ghantha Ke Liye. Below us the land twinkled where native ore was being mined, purified and forged by autonomous mining machines. Then on into the damp lowlands of Hirhoadiog. Hundreds of rivers scored this land, sweeping east to west along the trench that formed it. I knew that, during those brief periods when the Ice Shield retreated, this trench became a channel of sea water.
Days of drizzle came and it grew chilly as a cold front swept in from the south-west. I recalled that my home land was rarely free of snow: bad snow. I looked out over the rivers and lakes below me, but saw only desolation. After a month of difficult flying I left Metaxain at the Sonic Forest.
“We shall meet again, in Mahandriana,” Metaxain said.
Theeremere lay some distance away, but the winds were now so unfavourable I could not countenance the balloon. I decided to ride Hoss back.
It was only when I arrived in Theeremere that I realised another journey lay before me.