The Ship That Sailed To Mars,

By William Timlin


questions? comments?

This is Part Three - Mars










The Arrival
The Landing
The Presentation
The Celebration
The Log
The Temple
The Zoo
The Palace Gardens
The Princess' Chambers
The Sorrow
The Request
The Forest
The Forest Fairies
The Iron Hills
The Thunder City
The Prince
The Tower
The Raising of the Towers
The Return
The Finished Palace of the Princess






Now they were come to the ultimate fringe of all the Outer Worlds, and solitary and splendid before them blazed the Golden Star of their search; and the Air Sprite bade them a gay farewell, for his usefullness was ended and their way lay clear before them.

A little awed at the fulfillment of their dream, the Old Man and his Fairies gazed for some time at the radiant World and then turned to hurry on the preparations for their imminent landing. And so the Space flashed by them, and over the figurehead Mars formed bigger and bigger till it filled the heavens.

That their coming had been observed was certain, and whilst the surface of the land was still but nebulous and opalescent, a cloud of moving specks was seen rising through the clear warm air towards them, till in a little while the Ship was surrounded by a multitude of Fairies mounted on a variety of Creatures, and above the beating of wings was heard a musical roar of welcome.

So escorted, the Ship dropped slowly towards a Shining City.



As they arrived at the City of Mars, it was coming on to evening, and the Ship floated down through a wonderful purple twilight and came to rest, buoyant as a flower, on the placid mirror of a broad canal, from whose pellucid depths came flashing a band of Mermaids to bear the Ship to where, on a marble causeway, stood many of importance in that City, to welcome the visitants.

Then as the Old Man - the first to step upon the Quested Land - bowed his greetings to the crowd, lining the water's edge, like a border of flowers in a garden, one evidently to be considered as Lord Mayor gave them a ponderous welcome in the name of the King.

And a shout went up from all assembled, and a peal of silver trumpets sounded. From hidden towers elfin bells rang gladly, and from those creatures circling above came a rain of flowers, fragrant, softly-falling. Behind the causeway rose a wing of the Royal Palace, of rosy gold-veined stone and from an upper window a princess looked down.



Through those fantastic streets, the Old Man was conducted, and his Fairies and Bearers, with all the Earth-sent presents followed after. And the air was goblin-haunted with the breath of thin sweet music from balconies overhung. Under the fairy lamps the moving medley of the crowd could be dimly seen; the diaphanous figures and smiling faces of the women, the gnomish features of the men, or the incredible mask of some impossible Beast shambling on its way.

The City rose before them: there, in the dimness, a quaint shop; nearby, a slim-towered palace, and behind and away, roof over roof, tower and spire, dome and minaret, twinkling into the sky. And on the height over which the City climbed, stood a Fairy Temple of bewildering beauty.

In the Central Hall, whose extent was the soaring height of the Royal Palace, the Old Man talked with the King, one old and wise, and one who must indeed have seen the making of Fairyland; and gifts were given and received. And near the shoulder of the King stood a slim Princess, whose dark eyes gladdened as they looked upon the Old Man.




From his room high up in a tower, in the guest's wing of the Palace, the old Man saw a gossamer mesh of lights break out all over the City, for the night was fully dark. In a chamber nearby he could hear the excited chattering of his Fairies.

Arching above his head were the Spangled Stars, the Worlds he had so fearfully navigated. A steely, sullen glitter in their midst showed to him his own Earth, and he perceived it was near the line of those Planets which the Gods, growing weary of their presence, brush off with careless hands into the flaming, headlong incandescence. Maybe its life was yet only another hundred thousand years.

Now already the City was ablaze with lights of welcome, and Fairy bridges across the Great Canal were as shimmering half-hoops of jewels; boats and wonderful barges moved in slow procession along the water-ways. At a courteous summons, the Old Man and his Fairies descended and entered the Royal Barge - a gemmed, beflowered dream - and were seated near the King. Regally they sailed through the widening water-ways between acclaiming crowds, and the Ship That Sailed to Mars was towed behind. Amongst her maids in the prow of the Royal Barge the Princess smiled happily.




Near to dawn the Old Man sat making a last entry in his log. He wrote: "I have come as was intended, and must have been decreed, to a most amazing Land, called Mars, a land peopled, not by Things of various and curious deformities, but by Fairies of unusual grace and beauty.

And their chief City is of amazing opulence, and is built around and upon a hill, and canals radiate therefrom through wooded valleys, and flowers grow everywhere. One notable plant, flowered like an orchid, drifts growing through the air. Their beasts, harmless and subservient, are grotesque and weird to look upon; and many are winged and are ridden aloft. The delicate arts of these Fairies are shown in the tracery of their wonderful bridges; their palaces are a white delight, and their fountained terraces and gardens of a beauty undreamt of by men.

They have in profusion the jewels and precious metals known to Earth, as well as others not to be recognised by me. All are happy, although I heard a doleful hint of a horror called the Thunder City, and saw a single black-cloaked figure brooding alone amongst the crowd.




Although the Old Man's Fairies had now left him, to live with more congenial spirits among the King's Barge Builders, he was scarcely aware of their departure, so busy was he exploring the wonders of that City. 

Everywhere his presence passed unchallenged, and his friendly greetings were smilingly returned. Or an Elf would run out from some low-browed jeweller's shop and press a priceless ruby into his hand; or a Fairy would strip off her necklace of moon-stones for him, and many banquets were given in his honor.

Now the Martians have a belief that all was once miraculously created, and to the Creator they have raised a temple on the apex of a hill. Myriad-pinnacled, with daring spans of flying buttress and airy bridge, everywhile they had added to it, till in time it had become an ineffable shrine of gratitude and joy. And it was a place of supreme happiness. The Old Man spent much of his leisure for many days wandering along its terraces and up and around the great central spire, or viewing the treasures with which the palace overflowed, and sometimes with him went the Princess.




Now the City has a Zoo of great magnitude, and of which the Fairies are not a little proud, and its making was thus: - 

On their arrival at Mars, following their flight from the Moon, they found the land fair and free of Man or Fairy, but roaming its woods were harmless but inexpressibly Hideous Things. Many were like unto the evil thoughts of a maniac at moonrise; others were sluggish, amiable beasts, and then there were those Monsters that flew.

Then, as it was rather trying to the feelings of even Fairies to step into a dell and find a towering monstrosity dosing in that cool retreat; or wake up in the night to see an un-nameable thing with creaking wings, perched upon the couch's end, they organised a Great Hunt, and nearly all these pests were driven in and housed, and caged in a place appointed. 

There, amidst a herd of mooncalves, the Old Man saw the Cow, which he had presented to the intensely gratified Princess, and its demeanor was one of complete bovine content and absurd complacence; for ever there came multitudes to see the wonderful and fearsome creature from Earth.




At the close of his day's wanderings, the Old Man would come back gratefully to the Palace Gardens, and sit near a fairy fountain in the shade of some unknown tree, while the trailing blooms of the Air Plant floated slowly along on the scented breeze.

And often the Princess sat with him, her slimness curled amongst silken cushions; and her dresses were always of fragile fairy textures, rarely woven and quaintly patterned. Away behind her, rose the balconies of the Palace, huge against the sunset.

Sometimes she was pensive, as he talked of the Terrors and Storms upon Earth, and other whiles her manner was as one having some grave request to make.




One day the Princess led the old Man to her chamber, which it was said many artisans had slaved over for years to make beautiful. The walls were of dull-polished silver, damascened with golden ornament, and set with sapphires; the furniture was of silver, and the hangings of peacock silks. And when they were alone she told him what had shadowed her eyes for many days. 

When the City of Mars had been founded and builded for years, and all was peace and joy, a Fairy more venturesome than the rest, set out one day over the hills. And he followed the moons for a long while, and flew over marshes and mountains, till, glistening in the distance, he saw the jagged crests of what have since been called the Iron Hills. Over them hung a perpetual and gigantic Storm-Cloud; Lightning ran down the gorges like water, and always the Thunder rolled.




As the Princess continued, the Old Man was able to sense the tragedy that had come upon the City of Mars, for the Fairy she spoke of had stayed amongst the Iron Hills, and the desolation and recurrent rolling Thunder had engendered a strange feeling which was Misery, although not then recognised by him as such. Yet withal he found it strangely pleasant. Therefore he stayed in that place, and could hardly bear to go; but at last he resolved to return. Out of hearing of the Thunder, the Misery departed, but the memory remained. To others he imparted the knowledge of his discovery, and thus it was, that during the past many had gone forth, and the strangeness of Misery had entranced them, and none ever returned. 

So Sorrow had almost come near to the city, and the Princess was almost sad, for, but a short time before, the prince to whom she should ere now have been wed, had stolen away, and was even now ruling in this dreadful City, and worshipping within the blasphemous Temple raised in honour of the Thunder 

Pointing across the gardens, the Princess showed the old Man the unfinished Palace of her Dreams, standing gaunt against the evening light.




Of late the Princess had often heard from the Old Man of the fearful and unfamiliar storms on Earth, and it was her hope that he might, in his knowledge and experience, clear away the trouble of her own people, a trouble against which Fairy Arts had long been futile, So she begged the old Man to bring his earthly lore to her aid.

And one morning, while the City slept, he set out on a dragon procured for him, and steered his way over the palaces, past the Temple, and beyond the hills, to where the broken shimmer of many lightnings showed him the course of his journey.




As he went, the land unrolled beneath him like a many-patterned carpet, and it was very fair. But as he was come close upon his quest's ending, his way was blocked by a forest of such mighty growth that his dragon could not overfly it.

Therefore he descended, and, hitching his beast to a river willow, he entered apprehensively amongst the towering trees, into a pathless gloom. Then suddenly, as he was forcing his way through the heart of the Forest where there was little light, there rose before him a Monster worse than any in all the Zoo of Mars. Its eyes glimmered madly red, and its tongue rasped suggestively amongst its spiky, craggy teeth, and its bloated body heaved.

A brooding silence hung round the place, and seemed to peer derisively between the trees. It was indeed a spot where any dreadful thing might easily happen.




To the old Man, standing there horror-stricken, the fearful stillness of the Beast and the ominous silence were becoming breathlessly oppressive, when little lights came dancing through the gloom, and there appeared in that dreadful place several Forest Fairies, carrying lanterns of dead dragon's eyes, seeking for their lost pet. And the joy of the creature at seeing them was less by far than that of the Old Man, who quickly made his presence known.

So that he should not be further affrightened, the Fairies escorted him gaily to the edge of the Forest, where, beyond a bare and miserable plain appeared the foothills that bounded the Thunder City. And faintly to be heard was the heavy muttering of the Eternal Storm.

The Fairies gave him a dragon for his further journey, for it did not seem right to them that one so infirm should toil so far a-foot.




His dragon soon over-passed the sordid plain, and rearing its head, rose at the barrier of the Iron Hills. Threading between the lightnings he came to the hill-ringed valley wherein huddled the houses of the Thunder City.

And the Thunder roared and dreadfully rumbled, and all things were bathed in an evil leaden light, for there was never any rain - only the drifting clouds, only a dry, hot fever in the air. Here one might easily go mad.

The Old Man landed on the hill side, and found the place an ugly, sinister City, crouching flat against the ground; and the Fairies there were incurious and wandered unseeingly, being too preoccupied with the Misery that frothed and brooded in their brains.




Wandering amongst low, flat houses in the gloomy streets, and passing black-cloaked stumbling figures, the Old Man came to what seemed to him must be the dwelling of the Prince, for it was larger than most and guards stood without.

Yet he entered unchallenged, and seeking, found the Prince enthroned in a dismal room, through the high-set windows of which the lightening flickered continually. And all the while the Prince cat brooding on the loveliness of Sorrow.

But the Old Man felt strangely happy, for here was a matter wherein a man might help a Fairy. It had been revealed to him as he flew between the long lightning flashes, how he might still this arrogant tumult, and now the plan was fully shaped.




Therefore he addressed the Prince in a manner which he considered was most suitable to one so absorbed in gloom, and which was carefully devoid of all the fulsome deference that ordinarily Princes loathe. "How lovely is the ugliness of Sorrow," began the Old Man. "And beyond words beautiful the vile thoughts of Misery, and to be carefully engendered this continuous Thunder, which might drive to awful Madness. Then how desirable to be increased." To this cunning observation the Prince gloomily queried, "How so?"

So the Old Man pointed out how the Iron Hills only attracted a few long flares of lightning, and the Thunder was in accordance; whereas, if a long, thin Tower of Metal, filagree fashioned and light, of a length to reach the clouds, and all covered with copper points, were to be made, extended across the Valley, and then hauled upright, the lightning would play on its myriad points, all along its tremendous length. Then the Thunder would rise to a fearful strength, and discomfort would be increased.




To the Prince the thing seemed good, and straightaway all were summoned dwelling in that City. And the metal was stripped from every house, and gold and silver were beaten into lengths. So in the weird light flickering across the valley, the work was carried on, and the Thunder pealed around them.

It seemed to the Old Man as if he dreamed, to see these speechless black-gowned figures moving amid that dreadful din, working absorbedly on the thing that to them would be an added sorrow. Around them crowded their weird houses, like unclean squat creatures, whilst here and there a window blinked like an evil eye.

And according to his example and direction, in a time the last rivet was tapped, and the Tower lay, a long glistening streak, stretching across the valley.




In the centre of the City's square, the inhabitants of that miserable lace were gathered round a deep, round hole, metal lined, wherein the foot of the Tower was fixed. Then, slowly, amid the crashing of the Thunder's deep reverberations, the Tower was hauled up by straining ropes, till it stood erect, its sides and million points shimmering and fairylike.

And the Thunder ceased, for the Lightning forsook the hills, and hurled down no more long thunderbolts, but crackled cheerily on the little points that the Tower thrust forth like beckoning fingers. The stammering blue glare from the Hills was gone, and in its place, the tower shone steadily and irridiscent.

And the Fairies all in a ring, gazed up, and slowly here and there a frown disappeared and a smile crept out, or a cloak back-flung showed a gleam of silk or satin, and the Fairies were their own fairy selves again.

And the Old Man in their midst beamed with pride.




Around that re-born throng flew the cry, "Let us return!" And one was sent before to carry the news, whilst others mounted, and, bearing the Old Man, rose on beating wings and flew towards home. Nor could the mighty Forest stay them, for they skimmed over its impenetrable top, on which strange things gambolled and played. Forward they went, on the journey they never thought to make.

And so they returned at last. And the City softly glowed, canal and palace, radiant tower and jewelled dome, fairy-lit and beautiful with flowers, light, and laughter, for the wanderer's return, and the Old Man from dreary Earth was the most welcome of them all.




That night for a space, every Fairy laboured, as only Fairies can, on the unfinished Palace of the Princess, and it was soon complete. Its marble terraces were builded, and its many towers capped, and its crystal-floored halls were lit with gem-hung lamps. And all brought gifts enough to fill many palaces, - hangings of many silks, and gold and jewelled things. One room, the Princess' own, had in it nothing but silver, sapphire, and moonstone, draped with luminous spider silk. 

Then the Prince and the Princess were married, and the bells rang out afresh, and on the scene shone the Double Moons the Old Man had so longed to see. All the evening, in the midst of all the merriment, the Princess held the Old Man's hand in gratitude that could find no words, and it seemed to him that here was a Land where a man might live gladly, and for ever.




Here it is that this most brief account must end, but there is much more yet to be told concerning certain great and little happenings on the World of Mars. Of the Old Man's visit to the Forest Fairies, and his stay amongst the Goblins in the heart of that far distant Planet. Of how the Fairies left in the Shipyard on Earth, distressed and anxious about the Old Man's lengthy absence, built a ship according to his design, and finally arrived on Mars. Of how the Tower with its head amongst the Lightnings became the wonder-sight of that mysterious world, - and strange indeed it seems to us that the most fairylike thing in that Land of Fairies should be a monument built by a Man.




The Ship That Sailed To Mars,

By William Timlin


questions? comments?

This is Part Three - Mars