Far under the world, there is a place. It is red. It is black. It is molten but not hot. It gapes. It is a bubble in the stone. It is air edged with fire. In the center, it has a city. The city is spherical. Its buildings spear outwards. They are the thousand points of a star. Things fly in the space around the city.
People. Their wings, black-feathered.
Ships. Their sails, made of soot.
In the city, a man named Fitz looks up. He holds up his hand and makes a cup of fire. The ships that sail above look down. One glides closer. It casts down a ladder, and a woman falls from it to crouch near his feet.
“M’lord,” she says.
“Send a thousand ships to the walls around our world,” he says. “Send them with rams and with chariots. Send them with guns and hearts. Let them cast themselves against the stone until it crumbles.”
“M’lord,” she says. She goes, and does this thing.
In the florist’s shop, he waits. Then he goes outside. He looks up. The sky is broader. Cracks in the stone let in the light. They are the stars of his world. Their light seems nearer now.
In his hands he makes the fire. She does not visit him again. She knows better. Again, the ships pound upon the walls. Again. Again.
“Are we entombed forever,” he asks, “beneath the suffocating stone? Is there nothing beyond?”
A mask of flame and darkness speaks to him, but he does not recall its words.
One of her ships breaks through to the sky. The world gapes. Sunlight pours in. Beyond that light Fitz can see the endless hungry void.
Soot ships are often found in underground chasms. It’s convergent evolution. If people need to sail slowly through the air of the dark places, they invent the soot ships. Under the deepest sea, where the roots of strange flora make mountain-sized air pockets, the soot ships glide. Beneath the clockwork of Adelaide, the soot ships drift. In the heart of the world, where no life can exist, where the molten core burns like the tears of an angel, men who died of fire sail, and their lovers wait upon the shore.
Fishing involves going to sea in a boat, or to air in a soot ship, and trying to catch fish. This is difficult unless you first make the boat shiny. Then, fish will spot the shiny thing and try to bite it. At that point, the fisherfolk can drag them back to land. Giant whales are a common target for fisherboats, because their mouths are big enough to bite the boat but their teeth are very soft and only give the fisherfolk soothing massages. This is why the Apostle Jonah always had to get the seafood for Jesus’ loaves and fishes banquets. The whales liked his boat best!