From the Crown by Eoin Brennan

She wandered along the ice, sliding down minor cliffs and steep slopes formed entirely of ice, her grandfather’s beautiful spear tightly held in her little fists. Despite slipping and sliding she kept an air of grace, a grace paralleled by the beauty of her exotic features, though she thought of herself as, in fact, the plainest girl in all Golarion.

She was approaching, quite literally, the edge of the Crown of the World, the continent on which she had been born to a Min couple, hoping for a better life in distant and legendary Avistan. Deep in her heavy dark-coloured coats, Kyoko smiled, wrinkling her small nose and half-closing her large eyes; her grandfather had loved that smile.

“I’m almost there grandfather, soon I’ll be in Absalom, and I’ll fly a kite for you.” Surely, once I leave the ice, I will reach the great city of legends within a days, she thought. Kyoko paused to remember the stories from the time with her family in their caravan train of other hopeful travellers, but mostly she remembered the tales her grandfather told her, when they were all that was left on the merciless ice.

Absalom, where the streets glowed at sunset and the towers scraped the sky.

Absalom, where men became gods or sold their souls for more!

Absalom, where the peoples of the great nations could meet and trade at any hour, any day or night.

Absalom, the City, the Center of the World.

She trotted lightly now, smelling a difference in the air. As if Nature herself were singing a different tune. Kyoko saw the road below, full of people, real people. The first she’d seen since she crossed the caravan two weeks previous. They trudged along, carts trundling slowly and pulled by oxen or by enormous, wholly beasts, of a kind Kyoko had never seen before. She quickened her pace, now racing along the ice. Men below stopped and pointed at the small figure on the upper cliff. For them she was a fleeting image, a creature of ice, wind and snow, more elemental than young woman.

The merchants and travellers were winding towards the great stairs carved out of the ice, and its accompanying lift. There they would slowly, and cautiously climb the stairs down, their carts ferried by the lift. Kyoko, however, never truly understanding the limits of other mortals, raced straight for the mile-high edge; towering over the Kellid town of Icestair.

She reached the edge as the men below began to shout up at her most in shock, though some were jeering. The vast green of the cold plains seemed to stretch forever below, to Kyoko. Grinning, she dived sleekly over the cliff, soaring into the air, the wind and sky singing to her soul. She let a shriek of joy in response to the shouting men.

Nature’s song flowed through her, and she could feel every strand of wind, smell the ice she was leaving behind and see the vast green continent below. Embracing it’s call fully her body seemed to shift, dark coats becoming dark wings, furred hood becoming a white patch on the throat, and she became a cormorant the size of an eagle.

Occasionally, she cried out the call of her temporary new form, joyously shrieking while taking in the sight of the great plain below, and the little town. She had never seen so much green, such bounty! Is this what all of Avistan is like? she thought to herself.

The great lift trundled up, and she soared close, sounding at the men standing on it as it climbed upwards. They were so tall and broad to her eyes, with pale skin and hairy faces, nothing like the Tian traders crossing the Crown. She remembered her grandfather’s bristles and smiled inwardly, crying out again to the shocked-looking barbarian warriors.

After a few minutes she swooped in above a square in the town. She swung low over a market square, with sounds and smells she couldn’t even describe. Gliding into an ally, she became human once more, curling up her body to roll safely to a landing in front of a half-slumbering drunk. She stood up to her full, though unimpressive height, pulling her great hood back, to reveal her pretty little face and gently flowing raven black hair.

Kyoko smiled at the decrepit man and he grumbled at her in return, muttering something in Avistani perhaps, which she did not understand, though she caught the word Tian. She then wandered out of the alley, head swinging to take in the buildings, and the crowds on the streets she approached.

So many people, grandfather! Is this an Avistani city? Surely Absalom could be no bigger!