“Ok, so this is Tintagimenal?” I looked at the place. Rather odd looking to say the least; or at least from what I could tell. There was what seemed to be houses all over the place, but truly randomly located. Hills, all around so many hills here, and each one had a home attached to it, or rather that’s how it appeared. A brawling stupendously massive forest stretched off in the visible distance off to the left, while a sinuously twisting river stretched off to some far away destination to the right.
Between these two natural marvels, this quaint and utterly serene community dotted the landscape. Picturesque and pleasantly populated with some of the most intriguing architecture that I have ever been witness to, even given that I may not remember any before this day. There must have been thousands of these hills, all sprinkled in chaotic disarray across the plain.
To get to the town, we would have to cross the river, which surprisingly, would be simple enough given that this handsome bridge here followed a well-worn road directly to it. Ornate and well constructed, the bridge looked as if it had stood for centuries and was fully capable of standing for another few millenia more.
“Oh my. I don’t know what has happened; we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. This is totally in a different direction from which Tintagimenal should have been.”
“So, this is, someplace else, then?”
“Great hairy gonads, it sure is someplace else! This is Ulthar.” He stood smug in that proclamation, to which I quite frankly just returned the already familiar, dazed, glazed and completely uniformed look of the newly born that I have been wearing constantly since being here. I looked up at Cloud and backed at Shadow. They shrugged, which they’ve also been doing an awful lot of. I shook my head and indicated as much to my traveling companion.
“Oh, right. You’ve not heard of it before. Well, suffice to say, it’s a nice place to visit. We won’t be staying long, but at the very least we should receive some hospitality. They’re a very close-knit, strong community, but they also welcome travelers with good intents. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t say nothing bad about the cats. It’s a very cat friendly place.”
“Ohh, okay; can’t see as why I would say anything against cats. I like cats.”
“Excellent; then you should love Ulthar. Let’s go.”
We headed up the road to the bridge and crossed over the river. I looked down at the waters below, fascinated by the play of movement. The water lapped at the sides of its banks, constantly rising against the riversides, only to fall back down again. I wondered if anything lived in that serene flow of water. It was quiet, not like I was used to, or rather think I was used to.
On foot, as we were, the walk to the town was calm and even and un marred by interruption. The distance from the bridge to the nearest building was deceptively distant. But, the day was strong, and the air was crisp, and our health was amongst our best gifts. Idly, I kept glancing over to the forest, and the occasional shiver would run down my spine. That looked like a foreboding place, to be sure.
As we got closer to the town, the road gradually developed a more defined sense of being a part of a community, as opposed to the dirt path that we had been traversing for the last … and then it hit me, I had no idea how long we had been traveling.
“Thistledown; how long have we been walking?”
“Days, several of them. Probably about two weeks more like.”
“Really? I don’t feel like I’ve walked for that long.”
“Well, time’s really a relative thing, isn’t it? Just because it feels like only yesterday that you were meeting myself and Cloud and Shadow for the first time. That was actually quite some time ago. You see how that works?”
“I guess so.” I was still trying to get the hang of all the varieties of being here in this place. There were things that just didn’t make a bit of sense to me, and then others that just seemed to be a perfect part of the puzzle. And then there was Thistledown.
“Well, we’re here; what do you think?”
“Oh, my.” That was all that I could manage.