I emerge from the cavernous depths that have been the last miles of my journey: a journey that has taken me from the frozen steppes of the northern frontier to this, the very edge of this sprawling continent. I blink uneasily in the harsh early light, and allow the warm rain to embrace my face as I turn to the east and the winding unkept path that marks the route I must take. As I step forward, my bag heavy on my back, filled only with the essentials I dare not leave alone, I espie it in the distance. My final destination can be glimpsed between the heavy and fortified walls that punctuate this barren and detail-less realm.
It rises menacingly from the water. Even from this distance, it dwarves the figures and temple-like constructions around it. It’s scale causes me to freeze for one long moment. It is still a good forty-eighth of a days hike from me, but already it dominates the skyline. In that moment I know that my destination is, despite all adversity, now close at hand, and that it will be watching me as I approach: teasing me with cul-de-sacs and detours.
A long moment of hesitation. And then I stride on to meet the creature. For I know that in it’s hidden depths, deep in its hideous belly, is the woman I seek. Swept away nearly one half year ago from her home and her country, cursed to be hoisted thrice-weekly above the thousands strong throng that choose to live their cursed lives within the creatures belly. Lifted high into the air, to be tossed and pulled this way and that by ropes and other cunning devices, clad only in the thinnest of garbs imaginable, swept this way and that for the voyeuristic pleasures of the heaving multitude.
It is for her that I have made this journey. Knowing that the hardships I have endured are meaningless compared to those she must have faced. As I strode the world freely, she was pulled hither and thither upon it. Spat up upon foreign shores, to be allowed but the barest glimpse of the world outside the great creature, a glimpse that brought with it the illusion, the promise even, of freedom and choice, before being dragged remorselessfully back into its depths.
I hurry along the path. I ignore the lashing of the downfall. I am already soaked, a heady mingling of sweat and rain in this humid place. I haven’t washed for days, the floods and the acid-spitting wildlife precluded it.
As I move purposefully forward, a sudden vibration seems to enter my body. She has bent agents to her will, and sometimes she can use these minions to pass messages. I know how to decode these missives, arriving as they do not in the claws of ravens, nor on the flights of arrows, but as carefully typed words on the front of my journal and map.
She writes of The Drill. A cruel ritual that the creature seems to find a heady delight in. The most delight seems to be gained by springing it most unexpectedly upon it’s victims, and it seems that The Drill may be starting very soon. My beloved is required (or rather, is enforced, as the scent of punishment for the most minor of sins hangs heavy in that place) to spend hours in some display of penitence to her masters, to be paraded before them once more, in a cruel parody of power and hierarchy. She fears that The Drill may be starting very soon, a fact which would reduce the scant hours our reunion has been favoured with to substantially fewer. What cruel Gods or Demons are these, that toy with me even now, so close to my goal after so many months?
I walk faster. Picking my way through the detritus.
The behemoth grows larger, and my anticipation with it.
(I managed to visit Petra in Lisbon for a few hours during her cruiseship contract. The drill was cancelled, and the quest was successful.)