Finally finished my journey.
I am Acren, first navigator of the uplifted.
For generations, we watched as the downthrown struggled in the dirt to survive, and despite the misery of their labors, they seem to be thriving. We watched as the fishers of the coast and the growers of the valley found commonality, and the tracks between them were no longer lost with overgrowth, while the cairn-like buildings they called homes grew to surprising breadth and complexity. The sacred breath does not emerge in that land, yet they have learned skincraft regardless so they might festoon their heavy rafts with wind-breaks. Now, fisher-ships bob toward the horizon every week, and some even seem to find their way back.
Many uplifted stories justify the downthrown fate. Negligence, or waste, or frivolity: the downthrown earned their status dozens of ways. Only in the last decade have we stopped to seriously consider that their lives are merely different, rather than worse.
With this revelation, we have undertaken to descend and meet with them. The skincrafters and windhunters worked in tandem to create a great hunter-ship: a vast balloon held aloft by the breath like those heavy ships the downthrown use to rock in their waters. Such an accumulation of breath is required that the ship must be weighed down with weeks of drinking water to descend, and as their lands yield no breath with which to refill, we must lighten our load at each stop.
26: Less than a day out, we encounter our first crisis: I strayed too near a nesting great-rukh that saw us for the threat we are. Tavid muttered about wasted opportunity for meat, but even he’s not so foolish as to believe we few can hunt such fowl without the entire village behind us. If we cannot find game on our return, though, I wonder how desperate we’ll be.
54: Knowing we must shed most of our weight before ascending back to home, the plan is to pass by the downthrown settlements closest to our cliffs until our return voyage. Even with favoring wind, this process takes longer than expected. A week goes by. During the nights, Parshen holds the course, and on the seventh night she wakens me to a curious sight: the stars here are luminous lanterns hanging higher than even our bravest windhunters would climb. Are the uplifted not the highest dwellers of the creation? The elders should be told, that we might plan a pilgrimage to these new neighbors.
23: Though we have passed out from under the lanterns’ overhang, a new great height soon appears: a wreck of a tower, taller than any cairn the downthrown have ever piled. We fly through its ruined reach, marveling at ancient engravings.
13: Despite our strange discoveries, we find few downthrown settlements to visit, and our plans to trade for supplies seem foiled. We prepared a hunting-net, as well as a scoop-skin for condensing water, and both measures are more than sufficient to refill our reserves. I have to cut loose a ballast-boulder to make up for the excess.
53: Our hunter-ship seemed too low: we drift dangerously close to the ruined cairn-fragments that dot this plain. This made no sense, as our breath supply has not much depleted and we have not taken on extra supplies beyond our our equilibrium. Tavid pointed out the sharpness of the edge, like the uplifted border, but upon passing, this cliff proved more abrupt than expected. The land itself is uplifted, a mere metal tether chaining it to the downthrown soil below. We debate, but find concord: this miracle is the sign to return. Our reversal is ponderous, but our windbreaks true, and we begin making our way back toward the flying island.
53: The uplifted island is a marvel, but we ponder the tether below. There is no sign of breath holding this material aloft, yet it flies as surely as we do. Though we meant to meet with the downthrown, this may be a far more important discovery, and we must bring word of it home.
13: Our supplies are not much diminished when we reach the wilds of good hunting, but it is an opportunity to take on more food and water. I cut another boulder, and we spend the days optimistic about how well we have handled the journey. We have well-proven our fitness for this lifestyle; we should teach our kin.
23: Perhaps this confidence was folly, for upon spying the tower ruin, I resolve to tie off and examine it more closely. I thought we might find some connection or clue to the uplifted island. I had pinned our cord and encircled the structure to ensure the hunter-ship would not break loose, but no sooner had we set foot on the stone than windbreaks slipped loose on a gust and strained against the structure; the sway of the floor was worse than any fledgling vertigo. We struggled to regain the ship as a pillar far below gave way, and though we escaped with minimal damage, the tower is half-collapsed. We lost much of the cord, and I am hot with frustration.
54: The lanterns we saw were living! Living orbs of liquid breath encasing a burning heart; they are floating ever lower. Were our situation more desperate, we might try catching one, but they remind me of the star-jellies that sometimes float out of the lake at home. Tavid’s kite dissolved when he tried to catch one three summers ago, so he is quick to agree: we leave these alone.
26: The great-rukh is out hunting. Tavid wants to take an egg, for we have no other token of our journey, but Parshen overrules: we are less than a day from home, and we must bring them news of our findings, not feathered vengeance. He grumbles at our decision, and I know it will not be long before he gathers other hunters to raid the nest.