Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Seventeen: Naimian (Continued)
Previously: Zack was led to a heartwood lift, a three-tiered wooden elevator, inside an immense tree.
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He was crowded toward the center of the heartwood lift by a hundred naims. Bulgy, regaining his sense of importance, commanded, “Surwood!” To Zack’s amazement the entire three-tiered structure began moving downward. As it dropped, Zack saw two levels go by, each with multiple tunnels leading off under the ground. When they reached the lowest level, the lift stopped and the crowd began shoving like elementary school kids on a field trip. Zack was shuffled down a set of tiny steps to the lowest floor of Naimian. Tunnels ran in every direction, all lit by aromatic sap-lamps.
“Awesome!” he said, and was about to ask how the lift was powered when he saw the answer: just a few feet away was a creature as large as a cow, but closer to the ground and covered in thick, matted fur. It was harnessed to one of three massive rope pulleys located under the heartwood lift. “Is it friendly?”
“Muldywarfs?” the muldy master asked. “Muldies is gently-er than anything.” He reached up and scratched the muldy’s massive chin; its big pink snout quivered rapturously, its toothless mouth fell slack. The muldywarf master pulled a worm as thick as Zack’s wrist from a tunnel wall and tossed it into the muldywarf’s gummy maw. The creature mashed it up, emitting slobbery sounds of pleasure. It would have closed its eyes, if it had any. It didn’t. It saw with its big fleshy feelers instead. Two other muldies pounded the floor with their immense sickle-shaped claws.
“Awright, awright, yer duppy beasties, I haven’t forgotten yer. Who’s my luvvy muldies, eh? Who’s my luvvy muldies?”
Zack was led on a four hour tour of Root Naimian, riding a companionable muldy named Clodd. Every time he started to object that he really must return to Kellansend, the naims, who were constantly competing for his attention, drowned him out with, “Looky here, Master Zaggyzim, it’s the third tallest tunnel in Naimian!” or “That there’s the biggest Mushroom Chamber in all Ismara!”
Naimian was a city of inconceivable size. Root Naims cared for the roots at three different levels which stretched out for a hundred miles in every direction. The massive rainbowwood trees had no taproots and surprisingly shallow root systems, so the only way they could continue to stand century after century was to mingle their roots together—they literally held each other up. “Knitter” naims traveled the tunnels their whole lives, weaving root ends together and directing nodular hairs toward moist, mineral rich spots.
Zack lunched in a huge underground chamber with two thousand naims. It was paneled in the most richly carved rainbowwood he’d seen yet, with stories illustrating Naim history covering every square inch. They feasted on stew made from roots, mushrooms, and some kind of sausage—the origin of which Zack dared not ask—and then began their ascent to the Crown.
“Garwood!” Lyffwin ordered, elated to finally be in charge. Zack had been burning under her hot stare the entire time they’d been in Root Naimian (she clearly blamed him for visiting the wrong place first). The triple-braided rope untwisted into three separate strands as the muldywarfs began pulling.
It took ten minutes to reach the sixty storey-high Crown. By the time the lift arrived, a thousand Leaf Naims were breathlessly waiting to show Master Zaggyzim “the most beautiful-est part” of Naimian. Zack looked out over the endless city in the sky and said, “Whoa!” Crown Naimian was indeed breath-taking: because of “girl-stuff” like the multi-colored weipals (seed-bearing blossoms) that grew in the high boughs and propellered down to plant infant trees; but also because of “guy-stuff” like stairs and ramps and tunnels and bridges and levers and wheels and gears and pulleys!
Just as Root-Naimian was populated with muldywarfs, Crown-Naimian was populated by grookwarfs, big emerald-colored birds that dwelt alongside Leaf Naims (Zack saw grookwarf nannies dividing pre-digested worms between naim toddlers and bright green chicks), weaving boughs together, enabling the rainbow giants to weather Sur Kellan’s autumnal gales and wintry squalls!
Zack suddenly burst out of his mental cocoon:
What am I doing? I have get out of here!
Thoughts: Have you ever stumbled upon a “pocket wonder,” a place so marvelous you couldn’t believe you’d never heard of it before?
To read The Wishing Map 78, click here!