Excerpt from The Fountains of Aescalon

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It was a World Tree.

Not the entire world of Migurd, but there was a gigantic tree connecting the surface far below us to the entrance to Aescalon. It might as well have been a World Tree, as bent and gnarled as any jeebroak on the windswept Plains of Judgment on Nexus, but still challenging most mountain spires for height. The tree was massive, far bigger than the aperture we'd just transited, even at its crown at least twenty times the height of a man in thickness. It was drenched in mud and soil and pebbles and rocks of all sizes, anywhere there was anything resembling a horizontal surface, and the course of a river ran downwards from here, perhaps all the way to the surface two ithirds beneath us. The riverbed was largely dry at the moment, but I had no doubts that it could become a raging cataract on almost no notice. Everywhere, lesser trees rose from its rough, almost corrugated bark; bushes and lesser plants down to mosses and lichens clung where-ever there might be moisture. Pools formed where the bark and the dirt or mud allowed. Loose rocks and gemstones lay where they had been swept by the latest flood. Birds and small animals went about their business, unperturbed by our passing. The air was alive with the sounds of alpine forest, birdsong, the buzzing of insects, and the occasional chittering of rodents.

As we exited the transition zone and real gravity returned, I re-activated my cart's anti-gravity. It was returned to normal function, but I took just enough weight off the wheels to minimize the effort I needed to pull the cart. Haraldsson might be oblivious to the fact that my cart was now much easier to pull; but he'd have to take notice if the wheels stopped turning. I wanted to blend in as much as possible for now.
"There are often storms here around Ygg," he said, playing the role of tour guide "We've gotten lucky today. There are usually clouds, and sometimes the wind gets so fierce you have to hang on for your life. Occasionally, even Ygg must break in the face of the storms. Every year, someone gets blown to their deaths when the place they chose breaks off."

But the storms that tested Ygg, also fed it. Everywhere the vegetation was the verdant green of well-watered plant life, except where riots of colorful flowers in every possible combination obscured that green covering. I wondered that the toxic stew of metals and other elements and the compounds they could form hadn't poisoned everything from here to the plains far below, but evidently Ygg and its inhabitants had been here for a long time. They had quite likely evolved to incorporate the witches' brew into their biochemistry, which explained why the animals I saw were completely unconcerned about our presence.
As a purple squirrel-like rodent popped up and chittered at us, its fur tinted by permanganate, Jarl Haraldsson confirmed my hypothesis. "Don't eat any of the plants or creatures of Ygg. Even if they look edible, they're poisonous. Nobody knows why. We can share rations with you if you require." He was solicitous with a purpose - he wanted my knowledge of how to handle the diligar, or as much of it as he could use.

I could have told him why the life here was poisonous, but he wouldn't have understood. "I accept, and will share in my turn if the journey has not ruined my food," I told him.

There was a wide road along the great trunk, down the tree by the circuitous route offered by the tree. Now that we'd walked a little way, I'd had a chance to observe that there was a mountain beneath us, the detritus of all that had been swept off Ygg built up on the plain. Periodic glimpses informed me that a town or city covered most of that mountain. I didn't know if Ygg itself was the first of its kind, or if it had periodically toppled and been replaced. Perhaps as we descended, I'd discover that Ygg was several trees twined together. I was actually getting curious. As noted, this place broke all the rules we thought we knew.

One conclusion that I found strongly supported by evidence: however aged and enormous, Ygg was vibrantly alive, and being nourished by the strange energy that I'd noticed in the waters of Aescalon, which tickled half my operant senses with its seemingly boundless energy. It was therefore plausible that Ygg had been here a long time, possibly even geological time, constantly replenished by the power it was being fed. Ygg may have been ancient, but it was green and growing, verdantly alive and healthy.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on May 6, 2018 6:46 AM.

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Review of Akrad's Children by Jeanette O'Hagan is the next entry in this blog.

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