Zy, perhaps infected by the Lord’s returning sense of urgency, watching the work going on as the riders ambled along the u-so’s central track, rather envied the villagers their quality of time. For the riders, time was fundamentally inadequate – the day always ran out, the night always came on, and for the Lord, at least, it seemed as if they had never ridden far enough. For the riders, time was always fleeting, they seemed to beat it before them like partridges as they went and send it whirring off ahead, leaving the human beings behind, earthbound and stalled. Perhaps it was partly RezIsimgria’s fault: they had been travelling for months now, and they had come great distances, and yet here they were, still out on the edge of nowhere (as the common people said), still thousands of karsts from their destination. Then they would ride again the next day, and again the next day would run out, and the village they reached would be similar to the village they had left that morning, and the Sea of Trees – after all, only a part of the Endless Plains – would seem pretty much the same, day after day.

For Zy, there was a kind of enchantment about the forest, the sense that you could lose yourself there for years among the snows, the resinous air, the frozen streams, the soaring, gigantic pines, the little tracks and the higgledypiggledy villages. On paper, certainly, on the map, there you could see progress, ground covered: but in the flesh, on the pulse, in the daydream, under the branches, the outside world, the “great world” as Zy had heard it described, appeared to have vanished: and every day, the MelZia Track looked the same, and every day the night came, and the riders were forced to interrupt their journey.

Sai, it was like King Canoopay and the Magical Theatre of Djing. The Sea of Trees was like scenery on the stage – such wonderful scenery, so life-like, the world of a forest in spring, where, one night, Princess Afsanay, daughter of King Canoopay, had crept in secret into the Theatre of Djing, set up in the grand forecourt of King Canoopay’s palace, and heard a golden bird sing, fluttering among the branches of flowering plum and flittering through the bamboo glade that, as you looked from the seats, seemed to go on and on, deeper and deeper, under the moonlight, so Princess Afsanay had stepped up onto the stage, and walked towards the back, but found no end to the scenery, and the night air was mild and full of the glittering, sparkling song of the golden bird, and the buzzing and sawing of night insects…

Like Princess Af, the riders had wandered into this magical forest, where they found, no matter how far they rode, they never had enough time, they never seemed to get out of the forest…


Excerpt from Mask [i] | Volume 10 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 9

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