Lookout Kate here, reporting for duty. I’ve been up in the crow’s nest, watching the land of Fantasea grow closer.
Fantasea isn’t like the other lands we’ve visited – it’s a place between places. The West is a vast lake, full of islands which smell of extraordinary cooking and extraordinary people. A significant part of Central Fantasea – often inconveniently – is entirely invisible. But we were headed to the North of Fantasea, which, if you weren’t looking carefully, you could mistake for a forest. We landed at the edge of the wood, Satnav Steven studied the map, the Ever After deployed its wheels, and we trundled down a dirt path, into the deep darkness of the wood.
Navigating Fantasea is more exciting and perilous than most places, because it’s like walking a tightrope. Step off the path and you might find the ground giving way and yourself launched suddenly through time and space and story, into Middle Earth or Earthsea or Wonderland.
‘Everyone keep your hands inside, please – and catch the Bandicoot before she gets over the edge! We don’t want her ending up in Narnia again!’
In-The-Know-Joe reached out and caught Twist just as she got her front paws over the railing. He stroked her fur. ‘I know, I know. You want to explore,’ he whispered in her ear, ‘but the snow in Narnia gets in your whiskers and gives you flu. There’s nothing worse than a snotty Bandicoot.’
Fantasea is one of the richest lands in the world. The air smells enticing; of the winds of a thousand worlds and – perhaps unexpectedly, given how few great adventures involve washing – of clean laundry. There were many places we needed to go, and deciding where to go first was difficult. Everyone had a different opinion.
‘One at a time, crew!’ said the Captain. She took off her magnificent hat and shook her head. ‘Honestly, it’s like herding squirrels.’
I wanted to make the journey to Lyra’s Oxford, to see if we could find an alethiometer – it would make the job of a Lookout much easier, I thought, to be able to read the secrets of the world. Our Captain had a deep longing for the Pensieve, to store our memories safe forever. Cook Conomos thought we could do with a trip to Wonderland, to pick up some shrinking and expanding potions; useful for expanding rations.
But in the end, necessity won the day. The ship’s superb artist, Copy Kat, was in need of a new set of paintbrushes. There are many good paintbrushes available on Fantasea – just look at all the talking paintings – but the best, the really exquisite, fine-tipped paintbrushes, can only come from the ear-hairs of an enchanted elephant.
So we took a sharp right, towards a place where a cluster of black holes grew on great black oaks. We soared through the largest of the holes and into space.
‘Hold on!’ cried the Captain – and we found ourselves flying through space – so fast I could feel my ribs rattling in my chest – towards Discworld and Great A’tuin.
Great A’tuin is a turtle. A big one. On the turtle’s back are four world-supporting elephants, and on the backs of the elephants is the Discworld, one of the most chaotic and sharp-witted worlds in the universe. Nobody knows the sex of Great A’tuin, though several spaceships have been sent to find out: but Great A’tuin is a private turtle, and people who get too close tend to end up more dead than they’d originally planned.
We swooped as close to Great A’tuin as we dared, steering clear of their claws, and Copy Kat leaned far over the edge with a pair of nail scissors. The front left elephant flapped its ears at us, annoyed, and as it did so Kat snipped off five fine hairs.
The elephant trumpeted – not hurt, but insulted – and we veered away into space, Kat clutching the hairs in her hand.
For a few minutes we stood on the deck, watching the great blackness of the universe, and the millions of stars. It was extraordinarily beautiful; the kind of sight you wouldn’t dare even dream of.
Then Satnav Steve spoke. ‘Captain,’ he said, ‘is this a good moment to mention that we’re lost?’