Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Edge of Sconth

We're leaving Sconth today. I'd like to stay longer and see more of the city, but the art most people like here is a lot more geometric than anything I do. Only two people have bought drawings since we arrived. Besides, we've been here over a week, and if we're going to reach the Railway Regions, I'd rather be on the Train before it starts snowing.

There's no sign of the slope we climbed on the way to Sconth. It's moved on to some other part of the Mountainous Plains. At the moment, the Plateau of Sconth seems to bordered on all sides by the Greenhouse Cliff, one of the only completely vertical regions of Hamjamser. Ever since the Cliff arrived, Sconth has been surrounded by the thick cloud bank that always follows it. The Plateau looks like an island in a sea of mist. Owners of dirigible leaf carriages are flying around on the surface of the cloud, pretending they're in boats. The butterflies that run the hotel have been back and forth to the Cliff all day to gather the bright tropical flowers from below the edge and enjoy the rare warm weather in November. It hasn't been warm enough for them to fly outdoors for over a month.

In a few places, where the cold air meets the mist, small showers of rain have been forming a few feet above the cloud's surface. I've heard there were a few four-foot-high snowstorms last night.

Looking down over the edge of the Cliff, past the scrub and scraggly trees that protect the Plateau's farms from the constant wind of the Mountainous Plains, the glistening canopies of rainforest trees are just visible through the mist. It's a surprising sight in late Autumn. Bright beetles and hummingbirds fly up now and then from the seasonless clouds, hit November in Sconth, and hurry back down again. Farther down, a faint orange glow is just barely visible through the gray. The volcanic vents that keep the Cliff tropical are down there somewhere. We're bound to meet at least a few salamander hunters when we cross them. (Salamanders breed perfectly well in captivity, but the farms like to get wild ones from volcanoes now and then to prevent inbreeding.)

I had hoped to get to the Railway Regions directly from the Mountainous Plains - it would have meant considerably less climbing, for one thing - but I've always wanted to see the Greenhouse Cliff, so I don't mind that much. The climb should be interesting. We've brought several cube turnips, hung by the leaves from Plack's harness like blocky purple saddlebags. They'll be a nice change from my usual diet of potatoes, smoked sump squid (my apologies to Commander Squish, but it travels well and tastes good, no matter how badly I cook it), and whatever else happens to be growing nearby.

Plack, incidentally, is not happy about the appearance of the Cliff. He's just started growing his Winter coat; tropical weather is the last thing he wants to travel through right now. It's not as if we have much of a choice, though, unless an airship shows up before we leave.

The main road through Sconth now reaches the edge of the Cliff and takes a sharp turn over the edge, twisting along between the lush undergrowth that sprouts from every crack and patch of dirt. The road was carved centuries ago into a groove in the stone; the Cliff hangs overhead like a damp gray roof. With the trees growing like leafy pillars at the edge of the road, it feels almost like the cloister of a monastery.

It will probably take us a while to get to the bottom of the Cliff. It's hard to travel quickly when the entire road consists of switchbacks.

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