by Chris Wayan, 2006
dedicated to Poul Anderson for his remarkable world-building
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The Kyrie Archipelago lies on the western rim of the Diomedes Region, 750 km west of the Ro Islands off southern Kilnu. It's an all-day flight over deep ocean, but the winds are usually light, and the weather's mild--this is a drybelt with a Mediterranean climate.
Your first landfall in the Kyries is Flame, a steep, triangular, volcanic island about 100 km long (60 mi) rising in the middle of the chain. Flame isn't named for its volcano, currently dormant, but for a flowering tree endemic to the island that daubs the uplands patchy red and gold each orbital spring, and again in fall with lurid scarlet berries.
From Flame it's an easy two-day flight either north to Kyrie itself, 300 km (190 mi) long and half as wide, or south some 1300 km (800 mi) to to Cibarra, nearly as large. Seven more isles are over 50 km wide. Lebbird orchards dot the islands, but nowhere crowd the native jungle. You can spot their villages easily enough--inspired perhaps by Flame, lebbirds plant orchards as much for color as for food.
The Kyries are fertile and safe to travel from end to end (lebbirds are social cats, welcoming visitors), yet they have an undeservedly ugly reputation, because they're the only flyway between the Diomedes and Polesotechnic Regions. And that flight is fully 4,340 km from Wersgorix to West Isle. That's 2,880 miles, for you non-metric holdouts.
The Kyrie Gap is by far the longest, riskiest tranclusteral flyway on Lyr, and demands pinpoint navigation, particularly if you're eastbound toward the Kyries. At its best it's three full days on the wing with no rest, but if you miss West Isle and the atoll-chain directly behind it, it's about 1500 km/900 mi further to the main Kyrie chain, broadside to the flyway and hard to miss--if you live to reach it.
Yes, Lindbergh crossed an ocean nearly as wide in a single day and night. But he did have a little something called a plane! Lyrans fly at barely half the speed of the Spirit of St. Louis, and cross by their own unaided muscle power.
Or rather, they try to. Most live to see West Isle rise from the sea on the third day, but one in six dies out there, unseen. If a bad headwind kicks up near the end of the passage, there's little you can do; you gambled against Mother Sea, and you lost.
There's a reason Lyran poets call this stretch of the Rijn Sea "the wine-dark hole."
It sounds foolish, reckless, suicidal. Are Lyrans insane?
Well, for centuries, there were no alternatives. No deepwater ships! Boats hauled coastal cargoes along the Polesotechnic chain, but deep-sea navigation developed slowly on Lyr. So for young, rebellious, emigrant lebbirds from Wersgorix, flying was until recently the only way to cross the Rijn Sea. The few who made it populated the Kyries.
But in the last century, all but the most reckless emigrants have bypassed the Kyries, which have grown quiet and a bit backward. On the other hand, no more bodies wash up on the tide! For now there's a safer, if much slower, way between the clusters: the cheetaurs, a flightless centauroid species native to the Polesotechnic Strip, have begun sailing across the Rijn Sea, though their ships are crude and crossings aren't frequent. Cheetaurs like veldt and hate rain--unfortunately, Lyr has lots of the latter and only scattered patches of the former. So the cheetaurs have become reluctant mariners, establishing colonies in the savannas on the dry northwest coast of Diomedes.
These are primarily cheetaur settlement ships, not traders or commercial passenger vessels. But they always welcome a lebbird or two, for winged scouts are useful and reassuring. Cheetaurs are by no means confident sailors! They can't even swim. It's not that they won't learn; they're lean, muscular, dense-boned creatures who sink in seconds, just like gorillas or chimps. Being strong has its disadvantages!
Or, to flip it round, human flabbiness is one more piece of evidence in favor of the theory that we're a semi-aquatic ape. Fat isn't just food storage or insulation--it also floats, after all!
So if you're a young lebbird longing for new lands, you can either sail as a scout in a crude, slow ship full of inexperienced sailors and run a 5% chance of shipwreck and a 95% chance of adulation, or fly on your own, and run a 16% chance of drowning and a 100% chance of misery.
It's really no wonder than more and more Lyrans take the slow route.
But you are human. You can swim, you can float, you have strap-on wings and a huge ego. And so you decide to risk it--you glide leisurely up Kyrie and out to West Isle, then do nothing but train and sleep and eat for a couple of months (Lyran months--that's only ten days or so on Earth) and then head due west into the Rijn Sea, heading for Wersgorix. I admire your determination and courage!
Just not your judgment.
TOUR LYR! The following route snakes around Lyr, covering all major features:
Ythri -- Polesotechnic Chain -- Troisleons -- Roland -- Oronesia -- Gaiila -- Flandry -- Diomedes -- Ak'hai'i -- Averorn
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