Friday, June 3, 2011

Fairgrounds: Ithilnin

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by Jess C. Scott
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As Ithilnin, the Elven rogue, wanders around the fair exhibits of the glorious Panama-Pacific International Exposition, he muses on the evolution of transportation. He thinks of the underground train system he’s accustomed to, 120 years in the future.

[Excerpt: from Chapter 7 of The Other Side of Life]

Nin swung himself up into the carriage, and then held a hand out to lead her in. Anya could see him, standing over the control panel. “Our side project—it’s nice what a little bit of magic can do.” His voice was more muffled, though Anya could still make out what he said. “It’s our underground train network.”

Nin scanned a hand over a flat black screen, as a demure, programmed voice greeted him, “Hello, Nin.”

Anya stepped in, as the interior lights began to come on, giving the carriage a luminous glow. The carriage could hold about ten individuals, maybe a few more, if they were all Anya’s size.

“I could probably live here, if I had no other choice,” Nin remarked, standing before the flat black screen. “You can change the mood setting too.”

Anya looked up at him, removing her goggles when some lights in the carriage came on.

Nin moved one of the controls on the panel—and some classical music came on via the speakers located in the corners of the train carriage.

“The Blue Danube,” Nin said, taking Anya’s hand.

She froze, grinning back at him. “I can’t dance.” Not with the grace and elegance this type of dance required.

“Worry not—the waltz is a dance performed in triple time.” Nin’s arm rested on Anya’s lower back, while his left hand lifted up Anya’s right hand, in a poised, but relaxed position. “Just flow...”

As it were, the music had reached a slower segment. Anya followed Nin’s lead, as he gently dipped and raised their bodies with each step, enhancing the flow of their movements.

They glided together to the enchanting waltz music, till the music started to pick up in pace and intensity, and Nin stopped abruptly. Their bodies were still in a frame, and his head was held high. Anya turned her head to the side for a moment, and Nin tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. Anya edged back a little, when he seemed to lean in, as she leaned further back, resting on his arm that was supporting her back.

“Is…this your secret hideout?”

Nin held her gaze for a second, before bringing their bodies up again. He let her go. “Oh no…this does way more than that.”

Of all the moronic questions to ask…Anya thought to herself. But he wouldn’t have kissed me—it was just part of the dance. She placed a hand on the cool metal interior of the carriage. “How did this begin?”

Nin was more than happy to share the story. “Dresan and I were standing on a street one night,” he narrated, with a theatrical, dramatic flair. “The road glistened before us…it was empty…it was ours. We cast a bet…to see who could travel the fastest on two bikes we hijacked. We tried to cheat, using magic.”

“What kind of magic? Did it work?”

Nin shook his head. “We knew of an old spell for speed. We chanted it—nothing happened. But later that night, I found an old discarded train carriage”—Nin put a hand out—“this train carriage, underground. This time, the spell worked!” Nin’s energy and zest for innovation reminded Anya of Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a book by one of her favorite authors. “Dresan and I added a few more functions along the way. Tavia worked on the portals, which work a little bit like movable train stations. One thing led to another. We have a nice way to travel now.”

Nin was glowing with excitement. The train was a perfect example of art and science—of magic, and logic—coming together in harmony. It was proof that the two disciplines could not only exist side-by-side, but could be combined, to create inventions that had never been accomplished before.

Anya looked at him, in quiet admiration. “Where does this go? Why does the magic only work underground?”

“Anywhere—as long as there’s one of our passageways, to exit. We travel station to station underground, then walk a bit to the specific openings above ground. Which usually come in the form of doors hidden in trees…”

Anya thought back to the tree, which led to the narrow staircase, down to where the elves lived. The band of Elven thieves she knew, that is. She could have passed hundreds, or even thousands of trees, which led to passages she had never known.

“It travels at an exponential rate—basically,” Nin continued, “it keeps going faster and faster…so you can get to faraway destinations quickly, too.”

Nin didn’t answer Anya’s second question about the magic’s selective properties. He liked saving the better things for later. Before Anya could re-ask him, he took a seat next to her. “Hold on.”

Anya sat still, her senses engaged in wild anticipation. She took a deep breath, as the train approached the blue portal.

In a second, the surrounding scenes were shadows flitting amidst a brilliant burst of cosmic light that spread out like an ocean’s infinity. The train sped ahead. Anya stayed close to Nin, holding onto his hand as tightly as she could, exhilaration burning through her.


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Guest post created for SteamPink event by Jess C. Scott author of The Other Side of Life
© 2011. All rights reserved.

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by Jess C. Scott
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Other Side of Life
by Jess C. Scott

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* image source Palace at 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition

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