Mirrored from Sythyry.
“The first bridge is there — mighty Gumdash where the wine-sellers gather — Gumdash, mother of a thousand bridges!” declaimed Xshaothshash. Xshaothshash can be dreadfully loud, perhaps as a consequence of being dreadfully large. Gumdash sprouted off the side of Greatbridge, all covered with towers and vines strung between them.
“How do they stay up?” asked Eric.
“Why should they fall down?” asked Xshaothshash. “That would be rude of them, and highly untraditional!”
“What’s holding them up on the other side?” asked Eric. “Greatbridge is supported by Norshub and Sothshub, you said. Gumdash is supported by Greatbridge on one end, but what at the other?”
“Now I apprehend your query!” said Xshaothshash. “At the other end of Gumdash — I have never been there but I hear the stories of travellers — there are seven great bridges, each with its own towers and palaces, and, of course, further bridges!”
“But there should be another support, a suspension, a buttress, an abutment of some sort,” said Eric. “Something surely must support its weight.”
“Greatbridge supports the weight of Gumdash — of every other bridge!”
A spidersen waved his forelimbs from atop a cart of books. “Excuse me, O human visitor to Ixange! You wish to discover our secrets of bridging, of the strands of inoson woven into brick and metal that support Gumdash? These are great secrets and not to be lightly revealed to mere foreigners! Yet — to you they may be revealed today! Purchase this book, which explains every mysterious secret of construction!”
I glanced my ice-head at the book. It was a marvel! A thousand colors gleamed from its shining covers — I had never seen a book with more than one color, nor one which had, it seemed, been dipped in flexible liquid glass. The lettering was crisp and precise, with none of the ragged edges that are the inevitable child of the printing presses of Yirien.
But it was not the only such marvel the spidersen’s cart was full of them. He had books on as many topics as Ixange has bridges.
- Bunfi cuisine!
- The entertainments available near Norshub!
- The architecture of Gumdash!
- The amatory excesses of certain human females!
- The contents of the Narbo’s museum!
- Bunfi poetry!
- How a new bridge is constructed!
- The amatory behaviors of human females presented with enthusiastic male badgers!
- Bunfi marital celebrations!
- The news!
- The amatory behaviors of certain popular entertainers!
- The amatory behaviors of human females determined to show their high regard for spidersen!
- The amatory behaviors of human females with other human females!
- The surprising amatory encounter of a female badger and a male shedu!
- The astounding amatory behaviors of three human females, and how fresh native fruits are incorporated therein!
(If I had the art to produce books of such beauty and precision, I would, I hope, write miracles of enlightenment — words as perfect and clear as the printing. I would not waste them on so much amatory behavior.)
“No!” thundered Xshaothshash. “You must not purchase this book! This spidersen is Der-dorm-darnu-dapp! A blugstard, a filth-monger, a traitor to the very spans of Ixange, a scoundrel of the first water! Depart, Der-dorm-darnu-dapp! Scuttle off to some domain of iniquity with you!” He roared. The spidersen darted into a cavity in the cart, depressed levers and knobs, and the cart rolled sedately off, impelled by some amazing motive power.
“So, no buying boffled books for toffled tourists?” asked Hditr, very innocently.
“What, what? Nothing of the sort! You are under the protection of Xshaothshash! Buy whatever books you wish! But never from the perfidious, the slime-purveyors, the filth-spawners among booksellers! Here and now approaches the cart of Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo! An honorable spidersen, a marvel of probity, a merchant whose books are full of the attar of cheerful veridity, a merchant who has paid his fees in full! You shall purchase what you wish from him!”
“Shall we…?” murmured Hditr. She inspected the wares of Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo, which were as miraculous as those of Der-Dorm-Darnu-Dapp, and, indeed, about the same, including the book revealing Ixange’s secrets. “I think I understand. I find that I require a copy of Seven Apparently Wholesome Badger Women Attempt To Have An Innocent Chat In A Bathhouse, But The Previous Bather Has Left Behind An Intriguing Apparatus And So All Seven Must Try It Out And From That Point Get Quite Carried Away.”
Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo waved her forelimbs, then clambered up and extracted that publication from the middle of a stack of similarly-named and similarly-themed works. “Madame is quite wise! This one is a masterpiece of literature, full of the wisdom of the ages, and utterly and wholly edifying! From reading it you are likely to attain a degree of peace and harmony not excelled by any book on Ixange!”
Hditr glanced through it. “It certainly depicts some very attractive badgers, giving excellent views of some of their best aspects. Tllith, what are your ears doing?” (They had scrolled up, which is a severe blush.) “Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo, I shall purchase this bumptious book.”
“Certainly!” Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo accepted Hditr’s coins. At a glance from Xshaothshash’s vast left eye, she tossed one to the guardian dragon. “A pleasure doing business with you!”
“You didn’t get the book about Ixange’s secrets…?” I asked.
“Nah,” she whispered. “I’m not after those secrets.”
“Just pornography?” asked Eric. Hditr simply grinned.