To Tame a Beast
The ropes were thick with soot and grease. They hung heavily from the pallid, white belly of the sky-beast. Stirred by the breeze they undulated and twisted; never still. Uyildi sat in the shadow of the sky-beast’s titanic form, on the hard, unyielding surface of the black-stone field and watched ropes. They snaked through the air a cubit-score above her head, as the sky-beast drifted lazily about its tenuous tether to the spire of the gnarled and crooked iron-tree over two hecto-cubits cloudward.
Uyildi knew the theory, as all the dust-folk knew the theory. Climb the iron-tree as high as you dare, then leap from its branches and try to catch one of the sky-beast’s trailing tendrils. Most failed here. Missing the rope entirely, or catching it but being unable to hold onto its slick surface. People burst like ripe melons when they hit the black-stone from those heights. Then there was the not inconsiderable matter of climbing the ropes all the way to the sky-beast’s back. A few had tried to forgo the leap and reach the pinnacle of the iron-tree so as to clamber along the mooring ties. But that high in the tree the footing was treacherous, the way narrow and sharp. They always fell.
The way along the sky-beast’s spine was said to be slippery and shifting, like walking on churning sand, and with the wind and precious few hand holds nearly all who made it this far plummeted to their deaths also.
In living memory only two souls had made it to the gateway. The doorway which was said to lie in the centre of the sky-beast’s spine. Neither of them had returned.
Uyildi stood up and checked her equipment. Her family’s great-wrench lay tightly strapped across her back, nestled against the weight of the persuasive form of the sacred hammer. She ran her hands through the spools of her ascending ropes and trialled the motions of her rising clips and fastening hooks. Last of all she flexed the wing sheathes beneath her arms. If she fell, like hell was she going to die like a fool.
She knew the invocations and incantations to summon forth life from the beast’s turgid heart, her mother had taught them to her ever since she was a child. Reading from the wafer thin tube-spools, all yellowed and cracking; a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.
She also knew what awaited those who could awake the sky-beast from its ageless slumber: mastery of the skies. It was a risk worth taking. It was why there was always someone willing to try.
Uyildi took a bite of hard white cheddar and washed it down with chill stream water from her canteen.
Then she set off to the roots of the iron-tree, to start her climb.
(This piece was declared the “winner” with the title of Word Boss)