The balloon was red and yellow. As it approached, it became clear that the man operating it was smoking a cigar.
Aren’t there rules about such things? Am I going to get into a balloon operated by a man who is smoking a cigar?
His crew of two had arrived earlier by boat. When the balloon was over our heads, the man with the cigar threw down the ropes, then the ladder. I climbed the ladder and crawled into the basket.
“Mr. Whitfield I presume?” he said matter of factly though loudly over the sound of the fire. It seemed a perfectly normal greeting but I had lived in a time when this would have been deemed a cliché or worse, a poor attempt at humor. The thought of all that made me laugh. A small laugh. I quickly added, “Yes, ah Mr. Northwind?” I had to shout as well. “At your service sir,” came his loud reply.
At that, he leaned over the side and shouted, “Jimmy!” He then removed his cigar and dropped it over the side. Jimmy stepped on it as he and the other man continued holding the ropes. “Are you ready sir?” “I am.” “Okay boys!” he said as he waved his right arm, “Here we go sir.”
The ferry was not running so I had hired Mr. Northwind’s hot air balloon for the day to travel up to Reverie. The day was warm. The sky had that Winterfell glow. The wind was just right – more than a breeze but less than a gale. It was a good day to explore.
I was headed to Reverie at the invitation of Ms. Dot Macchi, who has an estate there. Though she would be away, I had been encouraged to visit and explore the grounds. I had planned to make this trip earlier but Mr. “Quin” Oddenfen, who has been using Ms. Macchi’s estate as a base for his research work, had asked me to postpone. Now he had sent a message saying it would be an appropriate time to visit and requesting that I give him my impressions of his work thus far. I wasn’t sure exactly what Mr. Oddenfen’s work was about but he had told me enough to make me curious. He had talked of linking with other places but had never fully explained where these places were.
We landed in a clearing. Mr. Northwind let me off and stayed with the balloon. After descending the ladder I walked toward the Macchi estate which I could see through the woods. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Mr. Northwind lighting another cigar.
The estate sits on the southwest coast of Reverie, Weyland Manor to the north. It hosts two houses and a tower on the rocks just offshore. The larger house is Ms. Macchi’s cottage. I entered and found a dog nestled by the fireplace. As I stooped to pet the dog a cat spoke out. The cat had made itself quite comfortable on the couch and was clearly in a playful mood. I lingered for a few moments.
Outside again, I walked toward the smaller cottage which is where I assumed Mr. Oddenfen stayed when in residence. He was not home. Walking to this smaller house I had passed a clear, blue globe on a post. I returned to it and, after some hesitation, touched it. In a moment an elevator arrived, or rather appeared. Right away I had a suspicion about this contraption. Although its design was foreign to me, my experience caused me to wonder if this was, in fact, a time machine.
Inside there were two buttons, one for the Tower which I could see off shore. I pushed the other. The door shut and motion began. It was one raucous ride, I must say! It lasted several minutes. Even before opening the door, it was obvious quite some distance had been covered. But was this distance measured in space or time…or both?
I opened the door and walked into a very foreign place. Was it another world or another time? I was not sure. Nor was there a way to take measurements.
Some do find it strange that a time traveller would not wear even the most basic of measurement devices, a watch. Yet when one is travelling great distances such a simple meter would be of little value. And even if one had the extensive gauges available in a proper laboratory, these are only good for finding one’s way from here to there.
While time is, of course, a natural phenomenon, the measurement of such is a human concept done with manmade devices. A calendar, while useful in a given period of time, is a counting method based on rules that require an arbitrary starting point. There is nothing natural or “real” about it. It is only reality as we have decided to define and perceive it. If the train is to get from one end of its route to the other and successfully pick up and drop off its passengers, there must be a measurement of time. We must make an arbitrary decision as to what time it is right now for reasons of daily order. But as the songsmith Lamm once queried, “Does anybody really know what time it is?”
Enough philosophical and theoretical digression…
Wherever and whenever I was, I had certainly not seen such a place before. I was now glad there was no one else here so I could wander without concern. I would not be able to digest or catalogue all I would see on this one trip. Repeated visits and further investigation would be necessary to understand what lay before me. Most likely more trips than one would ever have time for. (Was that a pun?) The best I could do for now was a quick inventory of observations.
I appeared to be in some sort of remote outpost. The land was mountainous, the valley I was in was relatively small. There is no way to say what lay beyond the mountains. So it may not have been remote at all, again, there is no way to say. But it definitely had the “feel” of a remote outpost.
A river of hot, red lava flowed and burned down the mountainside in one area. I chose not to approach it. Nearby was an airship of a design I have not previously observed. Yet, inside it was appointed in a manner that arguably was not so different than something one might see in Caledon. I suppose from one world to another there are only so many ways one can appoint the inside of an airship.
Away from the airship was a structure that might serve as a station or home. The stairs leading to it brought me up to a main level with two rooms. They were empty. There was an observation deck, accessible by ladder, on the level above.
Back on the ground I looked up to see something in the sky above me. I can not say what it was as I must have been looking at the bottom of it. Its base was round, possibly of stone. It may have been a platform. As with the mountains, one could only imagine what lay on the other side.
My eye was drawn to a cave in the side of the mountain. The opening was wide enough – and it was lit well enough – that you could see before entering that there was a waterfall inside. I went in and found the light to be from two sources: a presumably natural opening in the rock above, which was large; and from crystals in the ground in two places. If there were others I did not notice.
I pondered the crystals for sometime. Taking a pencil from my pocket, I carefully and lightly touched one. Nothing happened. I poked a little harder. Something happened. It was not in a flash but there was a moment in which there may have been a sound or a mist or there may not have been, I am not sure. But after that moment the crystals changed color. I walked over to the other spot where crystals lay and touched one. That group changed color but a different color than the first. I touched it again and it changed to a new color. I went back to the first group and changed its color on touch again. I continued to use the pencil rather than the hand. The pencil showed no sign of deterioration (and worked just fine later) but I chose not to touch the crystals directly. After two more pokes which brought two more colors I thought it best to leave the crystals alone and walk away. I wondered if my touches caused more than just a color change but nothing around me had changed as far as I could tell. I can not say what these crystals are for. But I must say they were beautiful.
I left the cave and walked over to examine the only other structure I noticed on this visit.
It was a steam vent and steam was rising up from it but the source of this steam was not within my view.
There being nothing else to examine I boarded the “elevator” and returned to the grounds of Ms. Macchi’s estate. It was dark so I hurried through the woods to the balloon for the return ride home. Back in Laudanum I headed for The Emerald Inn to sit by the fire with a pint and my thoughts about what I had seen. It might be awhile before I would be ready to report back to Mr. Oddenfen. There was much to consider.