speculative prose

Enchiridion of the Soltite, restored by Xue Xihe



Given Gratis. Not to be reproduced for the lucre of any individual, party, and most definitely not the Cily state.


Ignorance is to cave in the dark. 

           —Emot Ush, The Cosmopolitan Cosmopolitan

It has come to our attention that the high bounties the state has set for the immolation of our text have raised exponentially the circulation of it. Thus, support has proliferated around our cause for universal globegoing, and the deliverance of Emot Ush—our head pamphleteer—who has been arrested for smuggling and sedition on pain of death. The Dear Reader—and, indeed, Counterfeit Publishers—must be commended on their efforts against despotism.

Rally with us at the National Gaol at Rela on the strike of the twelfth hour of the Day of Departures, lest the law betray reason, and yea, the very justice it is built upon, to make us the final bastion between a good man and a death in some cage, out of which even Solt cannot lead.


If the Soltites so oppose the embargo, then let them be shipped in crates, and loosed upon our neighbours, whom they flatter ceaselessly. The laggards and the stowaways can row them out. I shall be granting them all a boon.

—Cil the Dry

Fellow Wayfarer, on the occasion of embargo in the Communeweal of Yon, we needs must trust in our guide the Seabridging Solt, god of travels, He the Lighthouse of Serendipity, Maze-Puzzler, Dearheart who gardens life. Subsequent to the recent desecration and destruction of sites, relics, and monuments sacred to Solt, this pamphlet has been compiled for posterity. Our audience extends not only to devotees, but all who love lives beyond their own knowns—for this is the heart of all travels—and those divested of the prospects of visiting us. Wherever you are, and whoever you are, we, like a seed on the wing of a bird, are glad of finding you. Til we release Yon from the gyves of a tyrant, let us remember the way it was, and should be, and dream of freedom as blithe, and as ready, as Solt’s breath.


…Yon, Yon, forever fly your flag of flags…

Land of Lands, Yon’s former national anthem

Yon harbours as many flags as names: You, for instance; Yoy, for another; or here, as we know it; and so on. Our mainland of Yon is an island whose petalled perimeters Solt traverses in one revolution of the sun. Many a mortal has followed in his footsteps, and the swiftest of these left his rosehouse by the sea to coast the shore. Upon his return no trace of his hometown remained.

The current capital is Xyle, a jungle-mantled fort at the heart of the country, though only an elect few live there. The most well-peopled cities are Jyer—the former capital—to the northwest, huddled about a bight of the Yon Ocean, and to the southeast Vilish, facing the Solong Straits. Those raised in these and other ports speak at least the lingua franca Quelar alongside Xilian and Yorrish, and like to be learning at least one or two more at any given time.

From the coastline let fall your eyes on archipelagos glistening on the horizon like coral and pearl. Larger islands, like southwestern Lillea, whose highest peaks garner snow in winter, and northeastern Newa, are bustling ports themselves, and bridged to the mainland as a gift from Solt. Pray you behold beyond and before them our karsts to the east and atolls to the west. There small settlements thrive, some in handsome houseboats in the lagoons of atolls, others on the atolls themselves, living off the land, and plenties upon plenties of the sea. About the karsts cluster villages built on stilts and towns carved into cliffsides. At low tide some of these islands can be walked across. To serendipity some owe fortunes, friendships, and marriages made there on the sandbanks.

Alas! Cil forbids passage to these islands, long ours, and ours theirs, such that families are rent, merchants left without livelihoods, scholars severed from subjects, ourselves lessened of greater fortune and knowledge, and so on. He has come to power claiming that it is these people from the farther lands, some of whom are our flesh and blood, who are taking what is rightfully ours, at work, in the schools, and anywhere else imaginable, plotting our demise, their corroborations drowned by the waters that divide us. Pshaw! We might be more inclined to believe a man who could swim.

In the country you would have expected to meet the gamut of cultures and complexions and combinations thereof. The embargo presents us with the possible death of diversity and thereby a grave loss to our culture, the peace, even the economy…

(If one must know, the official currency is owos, each worth twenty wheels, themselves worth a hundred sandals. However, bartering throughout the country is still common, and foreign goods prized highly. For how much longer none can predict.)

Nevertheless, those who refuse to share their plate, trust, or friendship—whatever the reason—are still ill tolerated. The Potential Tourist should cancel their plans if at odds with such values.

Ah, but when the Esteemed Guest can at last come freely: do not be alarmed when a stranger invites you to their house; it is customary to house and feed travellers gratis. Accept; prepare to make a friend for life.


Hail, Treader of Trails! Blister our feet, that callous by callous we may turn every corner of the maze of life. Season us on our way in sweat and story. Fly, villainy! And serendipity thrive.

Prayer of Peregrination

The Cily state threatens the way of life of the Yonan Soltite. It is a great comfort the faith lives on abroad. However, we are concerned particular aspects of our worship—often inseparable from Yon’s culture and identity—will be eradicated. Pray it not be so, when Yon is once again free. In the meanwhile please peruse this enchiridion to help reify us, our past, and our future.

Temples: The floating or drifting temples of Yon are built as abodes for Solt, and travellers in need, with every comfort in mind. They contain, at a minimum: a bed, reserved for Solt (and potentially a companion); a pallet for the traveller; cushions; a fan; blankets; medicines; spare footwear, often hung on the eaves, which should be shaped into a sacred animal, object, or domain; and a game of mazes. Solt himself will on occasion load a temple with food, drink, and keepsakes for all.

Templeboats and their ancillary ceremonial skiffs, each no larger than a sandal, used to be seen drifting every few minutes, often all the way to Nu, but those close to the coast have been seized, and those farther out sailed to further shores; it is there one must go on pilgrimage to worship at their altars, and see them for oneself.

Temples of the land take the form of globular palanquins borne by votaries night and day. These can become quite palatial, like the Great Temple of Ime, whose size dwarfed that of the administrative seat, no doubt to the ire of Cil, who has tried to seize it for who knows what nefarious purpose.

Only last summer he campaigned against us. Many shared dreams with Poyna of the fall of the Golden Lighthouse of Vilish, and the relics therein. The votaries of the Great Temple of Ime, struck with fear, raced to the south, til their shoes holed, they blistered, and then bled; how they bled! Their blood browned every flagstone on the thoroughfare of Devar, where they sheltered, when one of the party of fifty collapsed in the heat. In the night the brave votaries knocked on every door. Hundreds accompanied them on the long march to sea, til at last at dawn the Golden Lighthouse of Vilish flashed and filled their eyes with glory.

They prayed over the ocean’s voice as they ferried the temple southward, relic-laden, rowing amain away from the wind and Cily fleets, now lice on the horizon, now looming over the pale reaches of Vilish, now crowding out the colour of the sea. Soon the party was beset on both sides, many clutching others, speaking their last words, though they could barely be heard over the explosions. From the south pirates had sailed, swiftly and without notice, as through clouds. The votaries resolved to throw the temple overboard, lest it suffer some ignominious fate to either evil, and had already weighted it with their anchor, but as they looked to the near southern outlands in grief, there flew the banderole of the Soltite upon the pirates’ mast. Thanks be to blessed serendipity! Whereupon the pirates, though taxed with the Cily ships, in full Soltite spirit sent armed men out on a pinnace to help row their family of faith out of the fray. And so the Great Temple of Ime alighted with nary a nick in it in the lands of Nu, where pious riders of doughty ponies awaited to transport the temples and Soltites to safety. The Nuans are themselves pious Soltites, for they are a nomadic people, and have long been neighbours and friends to our cause; it is there, in fact, that many Yonans have been welcomed, seeking refuge. Now in Nu’s distant mountains one might steal glimpses of the sphere of carven cloud and wave, easily the greater burden of ten yurts.

Desire paths: It is common practice for a Soltite seeking protection where there is no path to dedicate their use trail to the god. This is done by blowing a grass whistle thrice, or saying a prayer, or carving an orison onto a grass boat. To dedicate a path for the purpose of guidance to treasure is to profane it. The offender loses favour with Solt, and is forbidden entrance to all his temples forthwith.

How to float a leaf boat: For the hull, take a broad, curled leaf and stick it with a pared twig, which will be the mast. String more leaves onto the mast as sails. Adhere with wet earth. Familiarize yourself with each leaf, that they may shape the ship in their own ways: for instance, bamboo may bend in on itself into a mast or reinforced hull. You may etch a prayer into the leaves themselves, or onto your medium of choice, to be ferried as cargo. In time Solt should reply with his own boat of leaves bearing some favour of his love.

How to create your own grass whistle: Solt wooed Poyna, the goddess of story, with a grass flute no longer—and certainly no wider—than his littlest finger. Solt devised the craft waiting for a caravan delayed half a day. On occasion he has attempted to teach the art to his subjects, either with little success, or much secrecy, for the art has never been publicly performed by any mortal.

However, grass whistling can be accomplished by simply plucking a blade long as your thumbs, holding it between them, and blowing. Prime material includes sea-red and soltflute, a fragrant grass with birdlike blooms on it, tall as the waist, young green, sweet to the taste, and salubrious. Softflute is native to Yon.

One long shrill is recognized throughout the country as a cry for help to which all Soltites are obliged to answer.

Five short toots call for companionship at camp.

It is sweet to the ear then to hear it accompanied by a low drone, promising provisions.

Should you hear in reply a certain impossible melody, and you will know it when you hear it, listen. Solt himself may come bearing the gift of his presence, or, being shy of temperament, merely play an accompaniment: a blessing, besides. But those with whom he played he will not forget; one day, when he knows you better, he will come. Patience. When he approaches, he may appear as the image of his legend, a young man of heart-branding beauty, whose eyes of amber you will weep to see yourself reflected in, whose red-gold skin burns and dances like fire behind each blink in his company. For here are you together. He will lift you up should you kiss his feet—as though to say that we are equals, pray there shall be no formalities between us—despite that you might beg to do it for all time. Resist the urge to entreat him. In his compassion he will ignore your trembling. Instead he will ask of the condition of your own feet; he will gift you with extravagant sandals, or slippers in winter—whatever the case, the most comfortable you will have ever worn, but which will never wear, amongst other souvenirs, likely from a recent jaunt. Soon enough to be near his endless love and beauty will be merely transporting, not excruciating; you can play a game of mazes, whereupon speak as friends, perhaps of his travels and yours. He will make a fire, cook ambrosia on it, and provide his bivouac, which smells of him, of earth, and smoked salt, and green, green leaves; when you awaken you will find him full in your heart, never to leave, and the bivouac for your keeping, able to be folded up and stuffed into a bag no larger than your palm, conforming to any fold no matter what you put in it: a housewarming gift.

He might come to you before or after without so much ceremony, as a lost child crying, a weathered old man, someone you passed on the street. Were it another it would most certainly be a test. But with Solt one can never be sure.

Ablutions: These are prescribed for Soltites before meals; however, it is also becoming common practice amongst followers of other faiths, or those who proclaim none, after studies in Biannual Journal of Prophylaxis proved its efficacy in the prevention of disease.

Before aqua vitae of fermented silfflower is sweetened or garnished for drinking, one should set aside enough to fill a small basin. Salt should be sprinkled generously into the solution. Encircle the image of the sea. Reflect upon the reflection. Note the play of blues amongst the islands of light. Immerse all hands to partake of the table. Libations may be availed from the excess. To be resourceful, you may leave overnight spare cuts of cloth in the solution, perhaps to make a stole of silk waves. For the dessert the wine of blueskinned grapes, or a mixture of red and white, is also acceptable.

Of the form of mazes: Every Soltite will agree the utmost pleasure of a maze is to lose oneself in it: the sweetness of comelycurrant hedges sweetened still by the gratitude for eased appetite; the surprize of topiaries guarding dead ends from full resentment, so noble in their deed they may become the destination; the beauty and being of flowers; fountains from which to drink, and otherwise relieve the heat; and birds, that ever sweeten the air with their song, dipping their wings in birdbaths because they are free.

Mazes must exist. Their value is as inherent as the shape of a life. We do not know of the love, or even acquaintance, of mazes in so many places in the world; for us too near looms a future without amazement, without anything by which to be amazed.

A maze is an anthology of pathways: a place of places, connections, interstices, somewhere you get lost. It may have many terminations, or none, but must have at least two ends, either one leading in or out. You often end up where you start. Mazes are of anything: mazes, maize, jungles, caves, burrows, mirrors, dreams, words. Like a tree growing you should not know—yet ask—where its branches will go, if it will flower, or fructify, or turn leaves. Like the gift of life the maze must be loved into beauty. If ever you construct a maze of your own, Gentle Reader, as in the following activity, build but with your heart.

How to play a game of mazes: All over Yon, all the livelong day, people are piecing together a game of mazes; it is the national pastime. Children fold their own wayfarers (or use spare sandals in their place), and draw tiles from scraps of old schoolbooks, despite parents’ warnings that Poyna records such incidents in her Ledger (a necessary myth). Lovers draw games impromptu in sand. Many keep their favourite sets in purses alongside their wheels and talismans.

Here is how you too can play: decide what you will use as your wayfarer. Next, draw a maze with as many dead ends as players, making sure the path is of an even width throughout. The simplest game for two players can be made by dividing your maze three by three into squares. You may want to increase either the complexity or the size of your maze if you wish to play longer, or with more than two. You may also divide the maze further: four by four, five by five, and so on.

The rules are: for your turn, place one tile from the pile next to each player’s starting tile, and move your wayfarer one tile. On your next and all subsequent turns, you must continue tiling paths for every player, and then move your wayfarer another tile in any direction. The game is won when all the avatars meet on the same tile.

There are infinite possibilities once you become experienced in the making of mazes: tiles may be triangular, rhomboid, &c; and paths as complicated as you can plot them. Peruse other games for inspiration; there are numberless regional rules and additions. Notable sets exist. When Yon was a thalassocracy, an unknown merchant prince commissioned a maze set with articulated figurines of Solt and Poyna, both jewel-eyed, gilt-girdled, organza-gowned; tiles of inlaid jade; and a functional fountain of agate as the centrepiece. Jyer Square is a game of mazes, a hundred by a hundred tiles, which you slide along the flooring to play. Many variations on this concept exist—one island hidden deep in the maze of the Ylin Canals is wholly dedicated to hosting such games. We shall not divulge its whereabouts for fear that it too will be destroyed.

In some “arcane” Soltite sects, the game is used for divination; but trust not those who would ask for anything in return for the “goodwill of Solt.” They are frauds, and no friend of Solt’s.


Forevermore stay peace the hand of fickle tides, lest the pillars of the past let fall the stories of the future.

—Qaes Xaesl, History of Xyle

We were convinced roads will outlive us, not to mention cities, certainly forests, by more years lakes, more still mountains, and above all gods. Never a day dawn that you question that. Valiant Voyager, these are the treasures of our people that may not survive beyond us. If they disappear in the future, pray these words preserve at least the memory of them for the perusal of the Reader from Another Time.

The Maze of Jem has thrived for a thousand years. We most likely owe its continual existence to one of Cil’s concubines, but each day it remains with us should not be taken for granted.

It is longer than two nights to solve the maze, but the journey is interspersed with fruit, drink, and acres upon acres of slow, wind-rocked swings in whose ensconcing none, not somnambulists, not insomniacs, have dreamt badly; they say it is the blessing of Poyna. Always, beware the flying bushbabies; befriend them at your own peril.

In yore when Jem prospered under the queendom of Feaze, the fountains were filled with wine channelled from an underground mirror image of the maze above, the tunnels named the site of many a heist, intrigue, and tryst. Now they are once a year for the Night of Homecoming supplied with the finest vintages grown on either side of the Ylin River, the wine glittering with strange prancing stars, each partnered to a spark of nitre overhead. It was Feaze who extended the gardens in her later years, introducing the flowered arbours where she would rest on her walks with her beloved pygmy owo Wo-wo, breathing silfflower, which she—in vain—believed would cure her of her infirmity.

The palace of Feaze—itself a maze of rooms, trapdoors, and secret passages—has been outfitted as a museum accompanying the gardens, where you can learn of her time, and view Feaze’s collection of curios from her pioneering explorations. Through them one may explore whole worlds in fruit pits, the histories of nations enfolded within fans, and the fortunes of all the isles stashed in one parure; Feaze admired the miniature as much as the monumental, and records suggest it is that quality, other than her beauty, that made her such a loved queen. It is free of charge.

Visit also, if time permits, the nearby monument to Wo-wo, before which is erected the perfect likeness of the little owo, and a botanical feast of all her favourite foods in life, which are, of course, complimentary to the guest. Rubbing the pouch of the statue is said to bring good fortune.

Xamen Ruins: Ancient Soltites mastered the long-lost art of the construction of vertical mazes. Mysteries yet abound about these ruins, but they were believed to have been the site of esoteric Soltite rites. The Maze of Three Planes appears to have weathered no time at all in subterranean caverns, accessible by a single tunnel whose location is known only by the most veteran of votaries. It is worth searching for such a votary to see such a wonder; to emerge in the Maze of Three Planes is to enter another world. There greets you an epitaph upon a downside-up tread, which reads, in Xamen script: Find that we are all lost. Beyond, stairs lead every which way, tier over tier of steps, to create who knows how many stories. Crawl past. The paths do not obey any modern rules of mazemaking: some flights climb down from the ceiling; others are double-sided; many terminate into nothing; shadows of stairs can be sidestepped and revealed to be paintings, and outlines of stringers merely carvings; and there are thousands, if not millions, of miniature mazes therein, curling into themselves at dead ends, or discreetly etched into risers. Those who have solved the maze know it cannot be solved.

The Serpent Steps stand as the other exemplar of Xamen-era architectural art. All that remains of them are the central staircases coiling round and round one another, poised like serpents sporting amorously, each step glinting, almost moving, like scales in a carapace, up to the clouds. They would have been reduced to rubble, if Cil had not realized halfway into its demolition that the material with which it had been made was impervious to all technologies available to him. Formerly more and more staircases encircled one another, like a braid, though the outer strands were a quarter the height of the inner stairs. The entire project may have been left incomplete, either on purpose or by desertion, but one wonders if such a sea-change as we endure now beleaguered the Xamenites also, and if the ruins were in the past of the past even greater than we know now.

Floating markets: High within the limestone outcrops off Newa, harvested are swiftlets’ nests, and gossamer spun to be sold, in yarns or bolts of their natural gold, celadon, or iridescent silver, or already embroidered into storied brocade, or pocketed girdles most resilient to theft, or whatever novel form the spider farmers have most recently devised. These wares glitter in row by row of vessels crowding the Bay of Newa: a floating market. We can no longer go there.

Most who grew up in Yon will recall as one of their fondest childhood memories a day expending allowances on finger puppets and candied fruit at a floating market. Before Cily rule, they could be found on any waterway of Yon, from the straits to the farthest shore. The embargo devastates the coastal markets; these nameless tidal towns, of which Solt was only one of many patrons, vanish like shadow into shadow. The ephemeral shipcities of intrepid pearlers, breadfruit peddlers, fried fish hawkers, all dissolved: salt in water. We cannot guarantee we remember each market as it was. There are countless more of which we do not know, and were likely never recorded. They are each a unique ecosystem: the great houseboats of the atolls contrast with the dainty catamarans of the Isle of Bom. The owo woollens and alpine jams of Lillea cannot be found anywhere else, nor the dyes and spices grown in the perfumed islands off Jyer.

At least most markets docked in other shores they called home, through which we might one day return to them.

If you ever do happen to visit the island of Newa searching for cloth of gold, you ought to visit the limestone caves from which it was harvested. Circumnavigate a karst in a vessel to admire its natural beauty, and you may find carven stairs, or in the larger karsts, sloping paths, at the top of which await transporting vistas, and peradventure a temple dedicated to a sprite of the sea. It may be a simple shrine, or an elaborate edifice, like the Limu temple, famed for its mosaic of the sea that surges into the great figure of Cerl, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, embodying both foam and flesh.

And still on clear mistless days upon the Lake of List craftswomen emerge. Upon their beaded boats they sit cross-legged, singing mountain songs, weaving coracles and hats or catching fish still floundering upon their spears, as customers consider their wares: necklaces of rainbow scales; bracelets of ageless flowers encased in amber; ammonite periapts; fossils of strange little beasts for the price of a bowl of noodles in Xyle. Most of the women, smiling and inquisitive, will only speak Xilian. Whether or not you do, stay at least for a song and a story.

Water theatres: Water theatres often accompanied floating markets. A troupe might set up a collapsible platform on stilts. Dramas have also been staged on rafts. On occasion the actors would themselves stand in the shoals, the water itself a platform. Sometimes in the markets themselves, a boat might on one side sell snacks and items featured in a whimsical performance staged over the gunwale on the other side; these encouraged audience participation. Most of them operated by night; the silken darkness of the water proves best for mirroring spectacles, and cloaking the methods by which they are worked. The coral and limestone archipelagos were favoured as backdrops for their dramatic landscapes.

One beloved play, Crossing, is about a pair of lamplit young lovers meeting halfway in a river during monsoon season, which is laboriously simulated, and leaves no body dry. Other favourites were revolutionary, such as Isles of Gold, featuring in most productions naval battles with ships in which the audience sat, and an effigy-burning finale. This no doubt plays into Cil’s restriction of them. However, one anonymous troupe of heroes still perform, sporadically, along the coast. Upturned Tortoise is their most popular production, and a classic of our time.


I hereby pronounce this land sanctuary for every being of root, claw, paw, and foot, for the conjoint and enjoyment of all.

—Queen Feaze, Royal Decrees of Jem

How it rends the heart to envision a world in which none could ever again breathe the sweet cool air of the Seafoam Forest, whose leaves froth blue-green in spring; or in winter mould owos out of snow on Mount Lillea; or swim summerlong through coral-columned fairylands below the Cerlong Sea; or press in a book of poems the first leaf of autumn; or stargaze by shroomlight on winterless banks. Feaze must have shared the sentiment, for she made fashionable the declaration of natural sanctuaries in which any individual is liable to be fined fifty owos for deliberately damaging any flora or fauna.

On a trip to Yon you will doubtlessly meet our national animal, whether in the flesh or as image: the owo, sacred to Solt, named after their contented utterances browsing upon a favourite treat, and as they are combed for their winter undercoat. The grooming ritual is the original basis of human-owo symbiosis. Owo are cuddlesome creatures, round in every aspect, in whose pouched bellies southerners travel during the colder months. The short-haired owo is endemic to the north, and sometimes caparisoned and mounted with howdahs for passage through jungle and swamp. In our peripheral islands pygmy owos are kept as lap-pets. All owos are long-lived friends, who nurture long memories, remember kindnesses, and elude the cruel in their own kindness, instead of pressing them underfoot. Sadly, the peace-loving giants have been in our past used as belligerents, as in the Liana Wars, greatly burdened with excesses of arms and armed men, so much that their numbers dwindled in the wild. With relief we put the practice behind us, but word has spread of a mass breeding initiative in the capital…

Such a practice led to the extinction of the greatbird in our lands. The greatbird featured with great frequency in Soltite art of the ur-Xamen period. Old tablets tell of the taming of the greatbirds, which flew us in the sky, but also of their demise, when we sought to abuse this power.

Other endemic animals of interest to the visitor include countless birds, the manatee, the whale, and the dolphin, all sacred to Solt. Consult a bestiary for a comprehensive description of these, and those that would pose a grave threat to life on a trek.


The stories of the world, which it is necessary to share, will not yield to an inhospitable mind. So do not play the umpire of another life. Listen to learn, and learn to love. Be generous. Carve canes for those advanced of age. Treat children with all the tenderness in you: pack little things for them, and be gentle with their dreams. Raise up the downtrodden, no matter how different they are from you; share their causes as your own. This is how to travel true.

 —Solt, in Footfall Windfall

Travelling light: Aim to travel as Solt does, bringing no more than you alone can carry, and no more than you will return with as souvenirs. To shield against the sun, wear a hat and a parasol. Outfit yourself as appropriate for adventuring. If you take medicines, or require aids, you should take as much as you will need for the trip. All else (yes, even your toilette) is—in most cases—inessential to life. That is not to say you should deny yourself all luxuries; rather, consider what role each item plays in your trip: a fine robe that becomes your beauty, which perhaps you plan to wear for a commemorative portrait, is worth bringing. If a talisman eases your anxieties about travel some, bring that. Solt would approve.

Dressing well: Dressing well is simply dressing comfortably. Consider as lesson Solt’s excursion to Nalore with no more than his parasol, a brooch of a bird, and one cut of cotton five armlengths long, as both clothing and storage. Each day of his visit he devised a unique drape, though on the eighth day he strutted nude in the court of the king. Fine bronzes still commemorate the event, and are occasionally draped in reproduction cotton to celebrate the other days of his visit to Nalore, during which he tunnelled a mountain, built a bridge, and paved a dirt road.

Beauty is becoming. Garments must fit. From these, choose the items that will provide you with the most utility, versatility, and ease of movement. For both frore climes and temperate destinations, pack garments of owo down, which breathes as well as any living creature, yet insulates and wards water. In finer substrates it is so soft one might now and then question if one had got dressed at all in the morning. Though gossamer is preferred over silk for vigorous exercise (for instance, passage through jungles), silk is recommended for all other situations in warm climes, as is cotton, if you are not getting wet.

Obligations of the traveller: Remember all Solt said to the Drunken Party stumbling and carrying on like cocks plucked bald on the occasion of their first trip abroad. They had been, on the way to a wedding, engaging in unprovoked fisticuffs, vandalizing property, and terrorizing women. Quoth Solt to the varmints (excerpt from Voyage Beyond the Blue-Green Border):

“‘No matter that you are abroad for business, studies, medical treatment, or because you have been abducted by pirates, one of these reasons, or some, or all, your citizenship in the world is never revoked by magic, nor by apathy—’

‘Whouze this???’ One of the Drunkards, vomiting on himself, and a little upon Solt, before falling unconscious to the ground.

Solt carried on, ‘So when finding yourself beyond your usual bounds, behave as you would were you a guest of a loved one, and at home treat each guest of yours as you would like to be. Share taels and tales with mendicants—’

‘Mendicunts!’ ejaculated the Eldest of the Drunkards, a lad of no more than two and twenty summers. ‘Pah! I’d sooner eat my own shoe. All of ’em good fer nuffinks who’re too lazy to find a job, scabbin’ off us hardwerking folks—’

Solt struck with his parasol. The teeth of the owo carved into the handle caught the lout right through the patch flapping over his knee. ‘Miserly cur! Just think! How some little turn of luck would change your life like so.’

The Eldest howled. He could not walk unassisted for weeks after, during which he lost his livelihood as a courier, and for another year slept on many a cold street and the odd passing temple. For now he would limp his way to yet another inn, and squander his fortune on yet more drink.

The Third Drunkard did not have any awareness of his surroundings. Drink bled the sorrow from him; he had curled up on the ground sobbing, ‘There was a storm, and the boat turned, and…and! He drowned in the sea. Oh! I could not save him.’

Solt crouched next to the Third Drunkard, and touched his shoulder. ‘I share in your loss. I remember him. His name was Oleander, and he was as sweet as the name. You are his brother Chance. He loved you well.’

Chance looked up at Solt, his face knowing, at last. ‘You! If not for you—’

‘It is not I you blame,’ Solt said. ‘If only.’

It began to rain. Solt held open above himself and Chance his parasol til dawn, when Chance had wept away all tears. He said to Solt, ‘Thank you.’

And Solt said, ‘You are always welcome.’”

Rudimentary physick for emergency use: Most physical accidents can be avoided with some circumspection. The rules are: trust common sense; make sure to take your inoculations; travel with a companion; do not overexert yourself, nor plan for a journey beyond your current ability; keep a wide berth of—and certainly do not touch—animals you do not know personally or by bestiary; wear long garments in thick wilderness; sleep with a net; perform ablutions before eating.

An electuary for the expedient treatment of wounds: gather liberal quantities of the blooms of sanguinaries, to be pounded, and then mixed thoroughly with fresh honey. Slather affected area. Eat the excess. The electuary will stanch bleeding, swiften the healing of burns, and ward the rotting of limbs.

To treat broken bones stanch the blood. Elevating the wound and pressing down with a sterile barrier will help. Bandage before applying a stent or sling.

To treat jellyfish stings douse vinegar over the wound. Tweeze the tentacle off. Immerse in hot saltwater for an hour.

To treat snakebite you may suck out the venom, but only if your mouth is free from cuts. Cut a course over the wound, suck, and spit.

In case of any of the above injuries, rush to the nearest physician, and pray to Solt for your safe recovery.

Burial rites for the Soltite: If you have reached this section for reasons we feared, we share in your loss. The road go on for you, Friend. Ensure that the body is not immured at the moment of death. If you cannot return the body to its homeland, it is to be immediately cremated, and then the ashes distributed amongst those the departed loved in life; they are, for their own benefit, encouraged to scatter the ashes on their travels near or afar. The views from the sites are intended as souvenirs for the dead in their new home.


Find your nook
Board a book

—Dincius, The Wandering Library Graces the Ylin Canals

Solt and Poyna’s recursive, intimate relationship—and indeed, in some denominations oneness—has led to debate over whether the worship of one god’s realm can be substituted in place of the other. Glean yourself the parable told in Dream of a Maze:

A silence of a hundred years gloomed over Solt and Poyna after a quarrel about maps. How they ached to find each other once more all the while. One warm evening in Poyna’s library, they coupled again at last, their bodies binding a book together, Poyna’s skin the hallowed pages, and Solt’s the amber-jewelled cover. At a flutter of Poyna’s ink-dark eyes Solt drove them against a shelf. A book bounced off Solt’s head to the ground. The tome landed open, to reveal a split double fore-edge painting of a maze of mazes encompassing all three planes of the sloped pages. On one side of the book a woman stood thumbnail-tall, half-turned at the centre of her maze, a dead end. A man in a maze of his own mirrored her manner on the other half.

“I tried to go to you through me,” Poyna said. Taking care to keep Solt in, she picked up the book, titled Dream of a Maze. “I could not.”

“But I found you, in a book, just as you always are,” said Solt. “I find you in every book. Every word.”

Poyna laughed. “You always find your way.”

“Because of you.” They kissed again. “I dreamt a world without you, one night, and it was no dream at all; it was sleep without dream. In that world there was not I.”

“There, there. I am not going anywhere.”

“Nonsense.” Another kiss. “I thought you were going to come.”

“I better. With you, this time.”

“This time? Haven’t we always?”

“Ha!” They closed the book, and then tossed it aside. This time it landed obliquely; fanned out was yet another fore-edge painting in which the dead ends had now created one centre. The path opened. The figures were holding hands. “We’re almost there.”


Leave with leaves of leaves, leaving leaves and leaves.

Leaves of Leaves

O Reader, Voyager, it is near time to part. Cherished Friend, it is as though we have known one another a long time, and so this we do with great regret. Peradventure somewhen we shall reunite. Til then we shall honour and defend the ways that join us all to one another with our lives, so that in the future we might walk them still.

Fare with us. Treasure dreams of distant lands; they are the first step to surrendering conscientiously, and gladly, to the world. From there, no one can tell you where to go, or if you should go at all. All journeys, short or long, leisurely or perilous, yield gifts beyond any other means of receiving them, if embarked on in earnest. Travel heartens the heart and broadens the mind; and beyond the longevity, knowledge, and friendship it grants, it is an end in itself.

We globe-go to be subsumed by something much greater than ourselves. Every place is worth seeing, from the wartorn badlands of Zaz to the strandflats of Wyrsil to our very own Yon, should you be beached or stranded here during this cruel tide; every life harbours an argosy of stories. Seek them out; all the world awaits you. Go. Serendipity grace us all.


Issue 19 (Spring 2019)

Story copyright © 2019 by Xue Xihe

Artwork copyright © 2019 by Kat Weaver

Xue Xihe wonders about the unknown creators and stories behind the articles of vertu she has keenly collected during her adventures near and afar. Free handbooks, ticket- enveloped discs, brochures doubling as board games, lolly wrappers, and other novelties remain welcome additions to her treasury. As a cosmopolitan cosmopolitan herself, she frequents lands abroad and other worlds. She is a maker, too. Her poetry has appeared in Windfall: Australian Haiku. Tweet her about your voyages @_xihe_. She thanks you for reading!

Kat Weaver is an artist who sometimes writes and a writer who sometimes makes art. She has previously published written work in Apex Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, and Lackington’s. In addition to previous issues of Lackington’s, her illustrations can be found in Metaphorosis, Persistent Visions, the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows anthology, and Crossed Genres: Hidden Youth. She lives in Minneapolis with her girlfriend and two birds.



This entry was posted on November 14, 2019 by in Stories.
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