Chapter 6: Excursion
Aliya looked at the map carved into the stone at the heart of the archives.
“A map of Bridgeworld — the world as it is currently known.”
On the west, a range of mountains were depicted as running from North to South, while in the centre, an elaborate carving marked “ATLAS” depicted what seemed to be like a mountain, although it looked man-made rather than natural.
In the east, a long river ran from Northwest to Southeast, connecting the sea in the North to the Ocean in the South. An engraving that looked like the giant statue of Snez’hana the Huntress marked what Aliya assumed was the location of the Huntresses’ Den, although it looked much farther inland than she remembered. After all, it only took her a short walk from the village square, which was itself not too far from the docks where Nat the Riverman had dropped her off.
“Turns out this is a much bigger place than I thought,” said Aliya under her breath, “Then again, I thought I was looking into a tiny cottage, which turned out to be massive on the inside, so why am I even surprised?”
“Things will start making sense to you in due time,” interjected Pi, who was patiently standing behind Aliya as the latter continued staring at the inscribed map.
“So that Star thing that I see in the sky, is that this Atlas thing? What is it?” asked Aliya.
“The Atlas Mine sits atop a rift at the heart of Bridgeworld, from which the magic-infused Azurite rock is mined. But that which you call the “Star”, that isn’t the mine.”, replied Pi.
“Then what is it? Anton said he came from there, but it doesn’t look like anything on this map,” probed Aliya.
“That is because it isn’t on the map. The Citadel is an abstraction. Many have looked upon it, and some have tried to reach it, but none have succeeded. It seems to exist in the collective perception, and everyone can see it, but no one has yet successfully studied it. It is a paradox: it always looks the same, regardless of where it is observed from, and its location is anywhere and everywhere at once. Therefore, it cannot be marked on the map because we do not know where to mark it,” explained Pi.
“That’s a deeply unsatisfying explanation,” grumbled Aliya.
“Your dissatisfaction has been noted,” replied Pi.
“I think it’s time for some exploring. I’m not going to make sense of things sitting in a library, although it also seems that whatever my life was before, I’m not heading back,” said Aliya.
“Indeed you are not, no one has ever been known to leave Bridgeworld in its entire history,” replied Pi.
“So, how do I get around? This map hardly looks to scale, the Den is much further inland than my short walk from the village square,” noted Aliya.
“On the contrary, this map is to scale. The village from which you came is actually located here,” said Pi, pointing to a small mark just at the edge of the eastern coast.
“Well if that’s the village, then the Den can’t be marked correctly on the map, it’s miles away,” argued Aliya.
“As you may be noticed,” Pi began explaining, “the Den is much bigger on the inside than on the outside. Perceptions of dimensional space and time can be manipulated here. You may move more quickly or slowly than you think or feel, and space, too, can be configured to the needs of those who wield the powers of the land. The door by which you entered is simply one of many entrances to the Den. And every entrance is also an exit.”
“So you’re telling me that there’s some sort of teleportation going on here?”, asked Aliya.
“No, there isn’t teleportation. That doesn’t exist. You physically move, but space and time can be folded to a small extent within certain spaces: stretched and folded, shaped into a specific form which is more conducive for traversing or for inhabiting. After all, it’s all mathematics. That’s what we do,” replied Pi.
“So I simply walk?”, quipped Aliya.
“You could purchase an ox or a donkey from the marketplace, they do come in useful for longer distances, especially if you’re bringing in a sizeable consignment of loot,” said Pi.
“How classy,” remarked Aliya in jest.
“So how do I get to… that?”, asked Aliya, pointing at the Atlas mine on the map, which stood quite a distance from the Den.
“That’s easy, follow me, I’ll show you the Terminus.”, replied Pi.
“The Terminus. This just gets stranger by the day,” thought Aliya to herself.
Situated at the far end of the boulevard, behind the great monument, was the building in blue stone that Aliya saw when she had first entered the Den. It was much more elaborate in design now that Aliya was standing before it, with intricate carvings etched into the stone that were imperceptible from afar.
On one side of it was a large tract of expansive woodland, training grounds for survival and combat for the Huntresses. On the other, there stood a small circle of stones.
Aliya had seen that configuration of stones before on the map, but they were located near the Northeastern regions of the world, some sort of summoning circle.
As if capable of reading Aliya’s mind, Pi started to explain.
“You may have noticed this layout of stones on the map, where the summoning circle is located. The Summoning Circle is used to summon Legions from other worlds into Bridgeworld, beings such as myself. The ritual artificially triggers a portal event, the same event that brought you here, although in your case it was purely spontaneous and random.
The ancient Huntresses, aided by an unknown wisdom from the Northern realms, succeeded in deconstructing and controlling this power to a limited extent, and constructed the Terminus. From the Terminus, one is able to move between the Den and a set of fixed locations via a temporary portal event that is constrained in its range. These waypoints served as an important way for the Huntresses to escape from the perils of Bridgeworld as they go on their Treasure hunts.”
“So THIS is teleportation,” said Aliya.
“Well, I suppose you are right,” admitted Pi.
“Which one gets me closest to the Atlas Mine?”, Aliya continued.
“That one,” said Pi, pointing to one of the stones.
“Do I just walk into a stone?”, asked Aliya, seemingly confused.