We took the Old Bridge to Shaddach-Mel, Quyvern, Lost-Man-Souls, and I. We had set out early, by sunlight and moonlight, to see the roads that could only be tread then, and we feared nothing, for we had our Stone Swords to guard us, dreaming their deep dreams.
Quyvern took lead at the foot of the Old Bridge, the tangle of runestones known as the Salt Stair, where every step is shaped with carven serpents of dull white crystal, that look poised to strike. As we ascended the air grew warm and smelled of tin, for the metal forest burning off somewhere to the north. We whispered unholy blessings to each serpent as we passed, the naughty old spell-song of the Serpent Empire, whose hissing troops' marching would be accompanied by unhallowed references to hemi-penes and giving it to her up her egg-slit.
At the top of the stair began the Old Bridge proper. Once the aqueduct for the Godwater, its one end lay somewhere in the uplands where Sea-Turned-the-River, and ran east and south down to Shaddach-Mel. We passed in single file along the upper edge, for the ghost of waters still live in the deep v-shaped cleft of the Old Bridge, and a journeyer might drown in those old memories, even with a Stone Sword.
So we walked, clutching our cloak's filter-sleeves tight around our faces whenever we passed through a blue-tinged cloud, and so going traveled through the ruins of Armach, Kale of the Seven Statues, and great bowl-like Vascoigne that was carved, level by level, into the great strip-mine where once a mountain had stood. There, looking into the toxic pool at the center of the dead city we encounter an eye-harvester.
This one was bald, with a hook-like nose and wisp of pale ginger beard, with skin dyed the color of old paper, grey and brown, with hints of marbled blues and reds. His eyes watched the dipping form of the hawk, as it fetched something from the harsh black waters with its talons. The bird returned, depositing its catch into his waiting hands, and with a small sharpened spoon the hook-nosed figured began gouging the eyes from the six-limbed fish.
Quyvern nodded a greeting to the man, just as the eye-harvester popped the three blue-black orbs into his mouth. The sorcerer, for his part, only answered with a series of quavering tones, his own eyes going wide and dark, pupils dilating as he saw what the fish had seen, during its life in the caustic waters, tainted by generations of mine-tailings. None of the three knew what life was like in those darksome depths, what strange creatures might find home in a water that burned the skin off hands that bathed in it, and would never satisfy any natural thirst, burning straight through the inferior flesh of humans.
"It is summer," the eye-harvester spoke in a hoarse whisper, his own pupils shrunk down to pin-pricks, "Summer fumed in her palace; wavering back and forth on the polished marble, chasing the days before her, stirring up warm, wet storms flash with lightning and ring'd with thunder in her passage. On her fingers were heavy rings that blazed each with the heat of a different hour of a different day: here was a dry blazing sun from the desert, set in a ring of bone, and here was the warm, wet siesta-weather of the coast, where dogs lie panting in the shade, on a ring of polished jet, and here too was the pale summer sun that melts the last of the arctic frost, and lays bare the wet mud from which the moss which the caribou licks, set in polished jade. Always she rushed, seldom to linger anywhere, bare feet beating on the white marble, and ever with a purpose. There was a small shadow ahead of her, and this shadow she chased where'er so it would go. And sometimes she turned one ring on this shadow, and sometimes another, so that the shadow would bake or broil, stultify or dry, and where'er she went, she could never escape the untiring gaze of Summer..."
We passed him warily, and continued on the road to Shaddach-Mel.
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