‘Allyria’ from The View From Above
Excerpt from Adrift Amongst the Lands, the best-selling collection of articles by Edwin Windsheer, published IV.E 990. Windsheer, a well-known author across Odom for his essays, histories, poetry, and fictions, is praised by some as a keen-eyed observer of life amidst the Lands, reviled by others as a muckraking scoundrel, and viewed universally as an inveterate gossip, most especially by those Persons of Import with whom he concerns himself. He is currently traveling the Aether aboard the luxury airship Sapphire, from where he transmits a weekly dispatch to several magazine and newspaper publishers via Aethergram. These dispatches are printed in an ongoing column entitled, “The View from Above,” and most-often are comprised of the author’s observations in his travels, covering everything from the flora and fauna of various lands to individuals he has encountered, second, third, or even fourth-hand stories he claims to have come across, and of course a hefty dose of his own envious social schedule. Add to this an often-times scathing perspective on the political and social events across the Lands, and one grows to understand something of both the author and his work.
The View from Above is considered by even Windsheer’s most devoted detractors as his best work to date, perhaps because he makes no attempt to conceal his bias; which is to say, he views all the nations he writes about with the same even-handed scorn. An Allyrian by birth, he claims no loyalty to any one nation, as his pen has been shown to prove time and time again. In View, Windsheer set his mind to relating the different characters of the Odom nations. The piece excerpted here is taken from the beginning of the work, and centers on Allyrian life and culture.
I wasn’t born so much as made, springing fully-formed with pen in hand from the inkpot upon my tutor’s writing desk. If there was anything worth observing before, it would have to be the dreadful weather, which still commands my memory to this day. I have set foot upon scalding sands in Yethra, and taken the waters beneath the broad fronds of the palms in Saith-below-Dawn, and yet can still close my eyes and remember those Cliffside winters, still feel that cursed rain trying to turn my bones to mud.
I tell a lie. I remember the sweets my dear, darling Mother of blessed memory [note: Windsheer’s mother is, according to the most recent information, alive and well and living in Shera.] fed to me when she thought Father was not looking. I remember Father’s scorn at his discoveries of the same; a milk-fed weakling of a child, he called me, and he was mostly correct. Some of us are born to words, not actions, though it vexed him unto his deathbed how it was he had sired the former and not the latter. [note: Windsheer’s father is, in fact, deceased.] If he took the question up with Mother, I shall never know, but I shouldn’t have put it past him.
Thus, my memories. Sweets, yes, and books abounding, and sheafs of foolscap and ink-stains and sharpening the ends of quills only to have them bend and break. Long walks along the edge, alone, staring out into the expanse, staring at the clouds swimming at the edge of sight. Wondering, always, ever wondering, what lay beyond in those far-flung Lands, what remained to be discovered…
To be born to Allyria is to be born unto history. With quiet, yet discernible pride, even the lowest of us can recite the facts, tell of our mighty navy, our scientific advancements, our gifts with working the Aether. We speak of our Land, secure and intact, infinitely defensible by the Grace of the Rose.
Oh, it’s always about the Rose, my dears. As if there were no other flower to bloom beneath the expanse, no other sweetly-scented blossom with which to adorn our Monarch-Constant. She that has ruled over us from the dying embers of the Second Age, She who, some whisper, took wine with the Iyonia before their Land was condemned to memory, who, others claim, walked the dread paths of the Trathe before they, too, were wiped away to leave only broken ruins and scraps of lore. And it’s not too far a reach, then, to wonder if our dear, benevolent, beautiful, hidden Rose was not in some small way the harbinger of their dooms. After all, we who call ourselves Her Subjects are raised from swaddling to the refrain, “There has Always Been a Rose for Allyria.” We sing her praises in chapel and town square, hear our fresh-faced youth declare their love, eyes a-shining as they stand at-arms, all polished and festooned, filed in ranks on deck of the ships that sail – and battle – in Her name. The Rose, our gentle sovereign; the Rose, our proud defender; the Rose, virgin daughter, tender mother, wizened crone. The Rose is not the symbol of Allyria, the Rose is not our Monarch, no, no, she is far more than that.
The Rose is Allyria, and We Shall Not Forget.
There has always been a Rose for Allyria, so the saying goes, and raising the hand to shield one’s eyes, squinting back through history, it is hard to disprove the claim. The myth, of course, is that it has always been the same Rose, which one supposes is possible, if grossly implausible. Yes, I’ve heard the stories, but let us not forget how those same tales end. The witch or wizard who bandies the Aether about like a child playing round-about-ball, forever beautiful, forever young, only to have the Aether reclaim what has been taken, and whoosh, an instant later, beauty vanished, youth forgotten, their very form brittle, ashen, soured and devoured. Not all these only stories, neither, or have we forgotten the tragic tale of the First Marquess of Cascadia, that Morgan Sabre of blessed – or a’cursed, if you’d rather – memory? Work the Aether at your peril, my friends. That which gives with one hand shall take with another, and often does, at that.
A Rose is not The Rose, I think we would all agree, yes? How one follows upon another, that is a story for a different day, and a story I, at least, am not fit to tell. But there is no doubt to me that what this endless flowering has brought Allyria has made our Land the envy of all of Odom; the proud and cold Hollern, only now assembled under one name, one flag, by their Regent’s mailed glove; the Court of Stars, shivering in delirium and delight beneath their crystal chandeliers and silk bedding; even the Vaunuk, True Aethermen to the last of them, afraid of nothing they can see and ever-wary of that which is beyond their ken, even they would admit, witch or not, the Rose has watched over Allyria, and so Allyria has prospered, her fleets ranging far and wide, her people making homes in Lands far-flung from their birth. And those very same Vaunuk would, in their next breath, ask, What Price to Pay?
What price indeed?
…the character of the people that comes from such security of home and hearth, of crop and clothes? An optimism, of course, born of faith in the Rose, certainly. But just as we are tended, protected, nurtured, so too do the people of Allyria put great stock in honest intention and honest work; in devotion to duty, no matter how small; in industry and in honor; in fair-dealings and fair-play. Outside the pell-mell tumult of grand, glorious Shera, in the Northlands, for instance, or east, along my homeland of Cliffside and its surroundings, the people reflect this most-well. The land is bountiful, but nothing is reaped with ease, and in fact, those who call these parts of Allyria home would view that which is too-freely attained with the greatest of suspicion. The forests still grow thick and dark at their hearts. Featherwood is in decline, as it is throughout much of Odom, and those groves that still remain are enclosed within Forests Royal, from which no game nor wood may be harvested without a Writ of Cull, and those acquired only from the Court of the Rose itself.
Allyrians are proud, and speaking as one, proud to a fault. Shera-pride is not Cliffside-pride, but both arise from the same seed, and all share the same essential character. Where the nobility of the Fueille greets the Sphere and us, its humble inhabitants, with arrogance and a demonstrated noblesse oblige, Allyrian smugness is of another sort entirely, and defies boundaries of class and wealth. Viewed from without, the Allyrian attitude is consistent, and universal.
We’re just better than you.
Sorry, sport, there it is.
The only thing that makes this remotely tolerable amongst the other nations is that no Allyrian, no matter how low nor how high, would ever dare actually say such a thing aloud. To do so would be beyond rude. It simply is not done. We’re better than you, but don’t let that bother you; you needn’t ever know.
Viewed from within our borders, from Hevering Rise to Branyne, or as the locals call it, “the Drops,” this manifests as a uniform pride from all you might enounter, though class makes its demands known wherever one travels. The understanding is implicit: all are equal, some are more equal than others. Outside the Domain of the Rose, this pride is more evident, but no less understated.
This is not to impugn the national character. In peace, you will find few more open, or more grateful for companionship, more generous. In strife, you will find few more devoted, loyal, and fierce. You will find Allyrian humor to be sharp, and even the lowest wit a quick one. You will find an emotional reserve, and a caution when speaking of one’s self, and yet, should you take an Allyrian your friend and prove your mettle and devotion, you will find a warmth in their embrace that would surprise even the most jaded soul. Should that embrace turn to the amorous, warmth should hardly do it justice…
This was over coffee, then, sitting with dear M and the Count K, following one of Sapphire’s sumptuous repasts. We were in open Aether, having departed Cuculu after the unfortunate incident with the geese, about which the less said the better. The Count’s mood was buoyed somewhat by the meal, his pride having been mended roughly in time with the restoration of his trousers. Our meal finished, we had retired to the aft skywatch to take drinks and continue our conversation. M sang a uniquely provocative version of “The Wishes of Thine,” adding a few of her own, and it was these lyrics that seemed to spur K into yet another elaborate examination of the character of the nations.
“So, you listen, then, Edwin,” he said, leaning towards me from his seat and waving one of the sweet-smelling cigarillos he had come to favor since Cité Rafael vaguely in my direction. “There it is, then, M, she makes my point.”
“And which point would that be, my dear Count?” I asked politely.
“Fueille through-and-through.” He sat back, his point made, yet apparently not enough to keep him from adding, “All lace and desire.”
M blew him a kiss.
“We come from Aether and Aether we return to it,” K said, ignoring her. “Our Lands are in us to the core, there is the science that even now is proving this. Thus, the Fueille are always Fueille, no matter where they go, the Vaunuk, too. And you Allyrians. It is only those of us of the Broken Lands who can claim any true independence of our character.”
“Hollern,” I remarked.
K glared at me, as he ever does when I mention anything that might touch upon Schrade or his unification.
“These new Lands, too, you see it upon them.” He drew on the cigarillo, watched the exhaled smoke twist away to join the Aether. “Tanitin, a hard place, savage and dry, and so, too, are the Earthwalkers upon it.”
M had returned, placing a glass in my hand. The sipping of its contents allowed me the opportunity to reflect upon K’s words.
“The science may prove you correct one day, K, my friend,” I said, finally. “But until then, I shall stand apart from it, I think.”
“That would be foolish.”
“Perhaps. But I will hold to it, just as I hold to the one wisdom I have acquired in my leagues traveled.”
This interested him, and he leaned forward again. “And what is this wisdom?”
“Wherever I go, my friend, whoever I meet, be they Vaun, or Fueille, or from Lands Broken or unified or freshly discovered,” I said, “they are always, ever, people.”
M and I left him to his laughter.