Here Be Dragons Episode 3

Public domain image supplied by Wikimedia Commons."Copy of Al Idrisi Tabula Rogeriana".Source: Konrad Miller's collage of the Bodleian MS. Pococke 375 or possibly another based on the French National Library's MS. Arabe 2221
Image of a cave in a mountainside. Photo by Athena of Pexels.
Photo by Athena on Pexels.

Here Be Dragons 

An introductory story to The Peraverse

Episode 3

Priest & Praise

By DW Brownlaw

Copyright © DW Brownlaw 2020-2023. All rights reserved.

Zubin stood at the edge, to one side of Prentyze, giving every sign of relishing the baffling angle of the world below and none whatsoever of fearing a long plunge. 

Behind them the quiet voices of Father and Flammia were bickering quietly over something, barely raising their voices above a murmur, but there was a sharp edge to it. The young warrior snarled her responses, refusing to give a centimetre to the old man. What could they be arguing about that they didn’t want the others to hear?

Or was it just Zubin they wanted to exclude?

It was a blessing that the priest had the sense to stay away from them. If there was simmering irritation between Flammia and Father, there was bad blood between the girl and the priest since the attack on the airship.

Words of blasphemy could never be unsaid.

As if aware of Prentyze’s breathless attention, the priest said “After a harrowing experience, I find it calming to look on the wonder of Divine Creation.”

He turned from the peculiar sight and approached Prentyze, radiating sympathy. “Does the craft’s absence trouble you?” His voice was thin and sharp as his features but was still, somehow, reassuring. “Don’t worry, young man, I ordered it to fall back to Rimtown to recharge its power crystals and effect minor repairs. The crew will return on my signal. Your father and I agreed that if it delayed here, it might attract enemy attention, especially from that thrice-damned Watch Tower at Freeport city.”

Man and boy made the same thumb down cursing gesture towards the approximate north-west across the ocean, damning –to the supposed hell of the Underplane– Freeport’s intelligence advantage: its impossibly tall, impossibly thread-thin, sky-piercing black tower.

“May it fall,” both muttered in unison.

They smiled at each other, Prentyze shyly, recognising their shared reaction.

“You handled yourself well in the cabin, young man. Your obvious sympathy for the transgressor was immature and impetuous, but still forgivable; even admirable in a way. You are clearly intelligent and thoughtful, so I am sure you’ll understand it better in time.”

Zubin paused as he gave Prentyze an appraising look. “Please. Think of me as a friend.”

As conversation starters went, this was hopeful. Might it be possible to talk to Zubin? He seemed sympathetic, even approachable. Father hated hearing questions about anything outside weapons and armour, and Flammia seemed to wish him into non-existence. If anyone might discuss the enigma below, it was most likely to be the priest.

Speech was difficult while panting, but the present opportunity was too good to miss. Prentyze rose to his feet and gestured downwards, over the edge.

“Um ... Reverend, sir ... before we left Rimtown ... the Rimtops … appeared low and wide … just hills … and far away ... gentle slopes .... and yet, ... um –”

“Yet, now you are near the summit of those sprawling hills, you find yourself at such an altitude that the air is hard to breathe. What we believed to be a gentle slope now plunges almost straight down to the colony below us. Does this … puzzle you, young man?”

“Yes ... sir.”

Zubin moved closer to the edge to stare down at the impossibly angled world below. “You are not alone – it puzzles many a scholar. But, I am of the opinion that this explains why no one can cross over any of the three Rims to explore the Underplane.” He turned and crossed back to Prentyze. “And perhaps dragons, sheer drops, terrifying rock faces and the absence of air are not the only barriers. I have read a suggestion by Holy Saint Ryka the Seeker – you won’t have heard of her – that if it were medically possible to climb further, the Rim’s slopes would lean forward and over-top the climbers, leaving them beneath an under-hang preventing further progress. Of course, this is only a hypothesis; no one has flown or climbed high enough in the thin atmosphere to prove it true.”

This was amazing. Prentyze had learned more from this priest in one speech than from a year of listening to Father.

“Thank you, … sir –” Oh, curse this panting! It made framing questions difficult at the very moment it seemed he might get some answers. He tried to breathe deeper and gasp less. “One more thing ... if I may?”

Zubin nodded with grace, a warm, inviting smile on his thin lips.

“Our world down there, it tilts ... it drops away from us ... so steep … like a ladder propped against this mountain … Why doesn’t the sea drain away ... and gather where the … Eastern and Western Rims meet?”

Zubin smiled in an encouraging manner. “Oh, what a clever and perceptive young man you are. We know, from the Holy Barysian Scroll, that Divine Barys created the world both flat and level, encompassing its three edges with Rims to contain the seas and everything that lives on land. But the HBS does not explain every detail of His Creation. This permits us … scholars … to speculate, explore, and discover new truths. Some think the Rims are indeed tall mountain ranges and that they only appear to be shorter from the ground due to a distortion in the air. Though, what agency could cause this atmospheric aberration is unclear.”

“Like a circus mirror? … Or like a fire … makes the land beyond … seem to waver?”

“Barys be praised! What a contribution you’d make if you joined us in our various fields of … research.”

Prentyze’s heart skipped a beat.

Zubin had mentioned “scholars”, and said “us”, “our” and “research”! He was a scholar and collaborated with others! This was the world that Prentyze yearned to enter. Maybe this priest could help? He had to find out more!

Zubin reached out and tousled Prentyze’s hair. “As for the tilting-world phenomenon, perhaps you will become the first scholar to write a definitive paper on its cause, eh?” He moved past Prentyze to join the others; Edrei’s and Flammia’s work done, the group appeared to be reforming. The opportunity to learn more had passed, but it left Prentyze blushing and with a delighted grin.

Zubin thought he could become a scholar! Perhaps, with the priest’s influence and help, he could achieve his grand ambition. If he could persuade Zubin to talk with his parents, Father might allow ...


Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! What was he thinking?!

Father hated both Temples with a passion. “An unnecessary evil” he called them. There would be no permission there.

“Boy! Stop daydreaming! It’s unbecoming of a Brassard, what? Get over here, now.”

His father was always embarrassing him in front of others. Bastard. What did he want now? 

“Coming, Father.”

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