Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 19

Because life can be interesting when you are a character in a video game…

The airship was moored to a platform just along the waterfront from where the real ships came in. It turned out to be a boat-shaped basket which could hold perhaps eight people if they stood close together. Above the basket was a bright red egg-shaped bubble, decorated with some kind of complex heraldry and attached to the basket by ropes. At the back, behind the basket was a large whirling device which Pew told her was called a propeller. Which made sense as it was this which propelled the airship along.
Pew and Glory both ran up the stairs to the top of the platform and jumped into the basket. Milla followed them more cautiously, wondering what would happen. It didn’t look very safe to her. Indeed, no sooner had she got in than the ground dropped away below them. Milla’s stomach felt as if it was still on the ground, but the rest of her was high in the air. She gripped the sides of the basket and closed her eyes, waiting for her heart to stop pounding and her stomach to rejoin the rest of her body.
When she finally managed to open her eyes, she saw an amazing sight. There, beneath her, were hills and fields and forests, rolling away. In all the time she had lived in Wrathburnt Sands she had imagined what other places the Visitors talked about might be like. Over the last few months she had pestered Pew with questions about the places he had visited and so she thought she had some idea of what to expect. But the reality was incredible. Her fear evaporated and she stared with awe and wonder at the world.
Then the ground below became stoney and bleak. There were massive wooden houses almost tall enough to touch the bottom of the ship and a group of giants waved their huge cudgels and snarled up at the passing air ship.
“They don’t seem very friendly,” Milla said. But Pew and Glory were bickering about something they called ‘stats’, throwing initials and numbers around fiercely and apparently oblivious to anything else. It was odd to think that they took this incredible journey so much for granted that they didn’t even look at the view.
The airship had begun following the course of a river and then suddenly Milla’s stomach dropped away again as the river thundered over a cliff and the airship plunged down with it. For a few giddy moments she thought it had lost it’s magic and was falling, but Pew and Glory didn’t even stop their argument, they both just grabbed the edge of the basket and carried on. Reassured, Milla looked down again and felt as if she could see to the very edge of the world, but a world that was now purple and brown. And very flat. This, she assumed, must be Seersucker Swamp.
Odd creatures like giant slugs and worms and other things with tentacles that Milla really didn’t want to know anything about, slithered in and out of the rusty looking pools which pocked the surface between close pressed tussocks of purple grass. There were occasional trees with trailing branches and uplifted roots, with the same purple foliage and grey trunks. These trees grew more frequent as the swamp progressed until the airship had to swoop to avoid it’s canopy. A pathway snaked through the swamp, marked by posts with skull shaped lanterns and the airship moved to follow it towards some kind of village which was built on stilts with walkways connecting the various buildings.

We will return to Wrathburnt Sands by E.M. Swift-Hook next Sunday.

Return to Wrathburnt Sands was first published in Rise and Rescue Volume 2: Protect and Recover.

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