Among the cotton castle of this sky world I dubbed Cloudlandia I found a man. I found more than that, but the man was even more curious than the magic-wielding giants who lived there.
The further I walked into Cloudlandia, the more form it took. At first it was a land of white and grey cotton, rolling together to form a thundering castle with a moat arcing of lightning. Yet the closer I came, the more form it took. There was water which did not run, it floated. There were waterfalls, but they were still and clear and silent. There was the lightning moat, beneath it were raging dark clouds, constantly writhing. But there was also verdure. Grass of a lush green, leaves of deep purple. The purple reflected in all the water and with the lighting gave a mystical feel, as if the place was not already mystical enough.
A strange fire burned but did not move. I stood near it. It gave off no warmth. It was frozen, but not in ice. No, it was still like the water. It rested on top of a small pillar, an obelisk or totem engraved with images of swirling things and creatures with tentacles and other things which I have never before imagined or seen.
Another fire Stillfire stood just thirty meters away. Between them was something I didn’t notice before. It was so large that I thought it was another piece of this strange land. An ivory gate, gilded with azure and gold, reached high into the sky. Still the castle behind reached higher.
Something in me churned. It carved out a pit in my stomach, but instead of filling with tension the pit filled with wonder. Without my realizing it I reached, as if beckoned by the gate or drawn by something on the other side, and touched the Stillfire. When I realized what I had done I drew back, bracing for the pain of the burn. But the fire was without temperature. It was not hot, nor cold, nor the same as the air. It was nothing. Or it was something else. And something else it was. It was a small sphere of another dimension, a portal into a magical or spiritual realm, but I didn’t know that then.
With my touch the flame moved, flickering. With that a great rumble came. The gate drew back, allowing me to see the other side. The flame danced and changed color until the gate was fully withdrawn. Then it paused, still again, but its color was two. The center of the Stillfire was silver, and its edges were rose gold.
My attention quickly drew toward the gate, demanded by the presence of a man. His beard was thick. His hair was long. We had the same eyes. He wore no shirt and was tattooed with some sort of glowing ink. His legs were covered with, well, pretty comfortable looking pants. I’d call them elephant pants. His feet were bare, of course.
His voice had a familiar cadence. Almost as if it were my own brother talking. Something about hearing it, I didn’t like it at first. But, for some reason, I had to listen. “My name is Solomon Grimm. And I am a great descendant of ancient past.”
Yes. Descendant. Not ancestor.
Before I could answer, he spoke again. “Come in. I’ll answer half of your questions. Or less. I don’t always remember what was written about you.”
I shouldn’t even have to say it, but I will. Of course I went in.