"Entirely Devoted to the Sky"
It was Chippewary the alchemist
who truly learned how to harness the wind.
She had studied the making of sailcloth
and the fixation of pigments into the fabric
so as to stay colorfast without losing suppleness.
Something in the stinking steam that came
from the fumaroles made certain colors brighter,
especially the treasured malachite green,
and so she took to pitching sails over
the vents to set the dyes.
In this manner Chippewary
came to be holding onto a sail
when the vent released a vast cloud
of boiling steam, which caught the cloth
and billowed it -- along with attached alchemist --
high into the sky above the Free Islands of Lisande.
Chippewary had the presence of mind
to snatch the fabric into a pouch and thus
descend rapidly instead of plummeting.
The fall broke her ankle but not her resolve.
After that she ceased pursing dye
and turned her eyes to the sky.
She learned how to make pouches
larger and lighter, how to predict
the behavior of the vents and
capture their blazing breath.
In time, Chippewary wove
baskets to hold herself beneath
the strange spherical sails and
once again saw the world as
a bird sees it, now without
fearing her imminent death.
The Rainbow Sails were amazed
by her ingenuity, and offered her
a place among the favored captains.
Gently as a summer breeze, she declined,
for the wind was no longer a whim to her,
but the highest home of her heart.
She had become entirely devoted to the sky,
and the sea was only her history now.
Chippewary fixed a rudder to her skyship,
filled it with the hot exhalations of the earth,
and soared away into the air
in search of a horizon.
* * *
"A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the study of so vast a subject. A time will come when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them."
— Seneca, Book 7, first century CE
Sulphur vents exist on volcanoes and near hot springs.
Sulphur is frequently used in dyes and occasionally in mordants. This reference relates to sulphur mordant for malachite green.
Read about the history of lighter-than-air craft.