Work Header

visible cities

Work Text:

Many long years have passed since Milo's journey through the kingdom of Wisdom. He is older now, which is to be expected: hardly anyone grows younger in the course of many long years, though the lessons he learned as a boy have kept his heart lighter than most.

The way into other worlds had been easy enough to find, once he knew where to look, and oh, the things he has seen.

Still, as exciting as his life has been, he thinks of his friends from Wisdom often, especially Tock, especially lately, for he never seems to have enough time. There's always something to see, something to do. There are mountains to climb and oceans to swim, and he's been climbing and swimming for so long now that he has quite forgotten what it is to do something that is entirely for himself.

"I'm as tired as can be," he murmurs, a wistful smile on his face as he strolls home, careful as ever to take in all of the sights along the way, for no matter how many times he walks this path, he always finds something new to delight him.

When he arrives at home, there is a box waiting for him, the packaging the same wonderful blue that he remembers from his childhood, and he smiles so brightly that an unhappy gentleman passing by the window at that exact moment suddenly remembers all of the kind things anyone had ever done for him and immediately hurries home to hug his children.

The tag on the package reads:


Dear Milo,

Congratulations, Explorer! You have been selected to contribute to the Excyclopædia: A Comprehendium of the Worlds Beyond Worlds.

Your application for this edition of the Excyclopædia was very well-received by all of the Editors, who are greatly looking forward to seeing more of your work.

"I don't remember making any such application," Milo says. "But I'm glad it was well-received."

He reads on.

The Excyclopædia is, of course, a publication dedicated to describing the worlds beyond.

Milo smiles. It has been a very long time, but he no longer feels the need to inquire, "Beyond what?" for he knows that there are invisible borders, real and imagined, that most people never see.

We hope you will find the contents of this box helpful as you begin your adventures in preparation for your contributions, and we eagerly await your submissions.

A holiday really does sound lovely, he thinks. A chance to get away, really away, and perhaps see Wisdom again, swapping strange orthographies with the Spelling Bee and listening to the Humbug's tales of derring-do and keeping time with Tock. Yes, a short trip is exactly what he needs; he resolves then and there that he will go.

When he opens the big blue box he is pleased to find the same familiar style of cardboard items from his childhood, only this time, there is no tollbooth, but there is

ONE GENUINE ADVENTURING KIT, he reads, pulling out a piece of paper on the top of the other items.


"I suppose I'm experienced enough," Milo says thoughtfully, thinking over all the exciting places he has been and wondering where he will be off to now. "Hmm. There don't seem to be any instructions."


Two (2) cautionary signs, to be used with caution
One (1) aviator's hat, to be worn while aviating
Three (3) postcards, suitable for posting to and from the worlds beyond
One (1) journal for recording your thoughts as you travel

"Aviator's hat," Milo says, curious. He rummages through the box, careful not to bend any of the cardboard as he does. The hat is old and well-worn, and he tucks it into a satchel that he keeps by the door, just in case. Into the satchel go the postcards and the journal as well, and then he begins to look at the signs.

These particular cautionary signs, Milo notices, are for use on a runway, and suddenly he understands why this kit is for experienced adventurers only.

"I'm certainly glad I took those flying lessons," Milo says, as he places everything back in the box, grabs his keys and his satchel, and heads out the door, destined for the airstrip and the hangar where he keeps a small aeroplane. He bought it years ago, now, but it has lingered unused for too long.

He doesn't even feel the least bit silly as he sets up the cardboard signs on the runway and prepares to take off; he only feels excitement, the same kind he feels when he opens a new book, or an old but beloved one. Just before he takes off, he looks over at his satchel, where he can see the the floppy aviator's hat that had come with the equipment poking out of the top of the bag. "Oh, why not," he says, reaching for the hat and settling it on his head.

He isn't terribly worried about fueling the plane-- the little electric car he'd driven across Wisdom should never have stayed charged as long as it did, after all, and he supposes that perhaps it goes without saying, as so many things do-- and he has extra food in the travel satchel, so when the wind is right and the gauges are checked, he decides it's time to go.

The little plane trundles down the runway, and all the while Milo thinks of how lovely it will be to find himself back in the land of Wisdom after all this time. He has so many new words to share with King Azaz, and so many new formulae to scribble out for the Mathemagician, and so many wondrous stories of people and places to tell the Princesses Rhyme and Reason.

But then he passes the checkpoints and suddenly he's zooming through an entirely unfamiliar sky, not at all like the one he left behind him years before when he hurried home from Wisdom. The land beneath him is beautiful and green, and as he flies over a low-lying mountain range, in the distance he can see the tall proud spires of a large city, its banners flying high on white towers.

He lands a safe distance away from the city.

"Well," Milo says, pulling his satchel from the plane and stepping carefully out onto the grass at his feet, "I suppose I had better get started."


Excerpts from the journal and correspondence of Milo, the Explorer, on his adventures to the worlds beyond

The city with the lovely white towers is called Minas Tirith. They have wizards in this world! I must remember to write the Mathemagician. The wizard I met in Minas Tirith was called Gandalf, and he seemed to be in a terrible hurry to find a particular scroll in the library of the city. It was dusty and dank in there and the light from the candles wasn't very helpful. Lucky I had brought an extra flashlight from the plane.

"Milo, my dear boy," he said, gripping my hands, "with this scroll you may have preserved the fate of Middle Earth."

I confess I have no idea what all of that was about, but he was a kind fellow, if a bit strange, as I suppose all magicians must be. He was in such a hurry to be gone that he never did explain. I do hope everything turned out for the best; it was a beautiful city.

To the Princesses Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason
City of Wisdom
Land of Wisdom

Dear Princesses,

Today on my travels through Middle Earth, I met a sweet, sad lady who looked as though she might be some distant relation of yours. She told me about her people, called the Rohirrim, and I told her about my adventures in Wisdom. She said she wished Rhyme or Reason would return to her lands. Perhaps you could visit her soon, if Wisdom could spare you.

I never did manage to find my way to the Top or Bottom Earths, for all my adventures in the Middle one. Perhaps another day. I hope this postcard finds you well.

Best regards,

After leaving Middle Earth, I flew north, as far north as I could go. When I landed, I walked for a time until I came upon the ruins of what looked like it might have been a castle, a very long time ago. It did not take me very long to realize, as I wandered through the ruins, and there was a large lion following me, which ought to have frightened me, but didn't. I suppose after seeing all of the things that I've seen in all of the places I've seen them, a lion is nothing to be feared, and this one had kind, old eyes and a voice to match.

The lion told me a long story about the four children who used to rule over this place, which he called Cair Paravel, and how they came to find it by slipping through a cupboard. I told him it didn't seem terribly strange, not after receiving a tollbooth to another land in the post. He laughed, then, and though it was quite cold outside, I don't know that I've ever felt warmer.

I flew due east across Narnia, zooming high above a wide crystal sea, at the edge of which the world falls away. To reach my next destination, I had to fly amongst the stars, and the little plane did very well in space.

Just as I was beginning to worry that I would not find anything, and that perhaps I should turn back, I came upon what looked to be a giant turtle, sailing through the stars, with four elephants perched on its back. I had never been to a place that was carried by elephants carried by a giant turtle, so I thought I should stop in and have a look around.

To Tock the Watchdog
Land of Wisdom

Dear Tock,

The city I'm visiting, Ankh-Morpork, has a city guard it calls the Watch. I did try not to jump to conclusions when I heard of them, but I was a little disappointed to find that they weren't relatives of yours. I spoke with a nice watchman named Carrot, who showed me all around the City, and his friend Angua, who seemed keen on the idea of having a dog on the force. They said if you're ever in the city, you should stop by and tell them I sent you.

Best regards,
To His Majesty King Azaz the Unabridged
Land of Wisdom

Dear King Azaz,

I do hope all of these postcards arrive in good condition, or in any condition at all. The postman here is a curious and excitable fellow named Moist von Lipwig who assures me that "neither rain nor snow nor glom of nit" will keep the post from getting to you. He reminded me of the Humbug, a bit. I'm still not sure what a glom of nit is. I think perhaps they could use a Word Market of their own here.

Best regards,


When Milo finally turns the little plane towards home, weeks and worlds later, there is another letter awaiting for him.


We are pleased to inform you that the Editors have accepted your submissions to the Excyclopædia, and we proudly present you with this bound copy of this year's desk edition. We do hope you enjoy reading your work, but also that you will read the work of our other contributors, all of whom have done outstanding adventuring. We thank you for your efforts, and we wish you well in all your future explorations.

Best regards,

The signature is still unreadable.

In the corner of his front room is a large package that he knows was not there when he left, and he frowns at it curiously. He unwraps it to find a rather sturdy wooden desk.

"Ah," Milo says, when understanding dawns. "A desk edition."

He pulls up the little chair that he keeps by the window and settles down into it. Just as he's wondering how to operate the desk, a panel on the top slides open, revealing a large book of rich red leather, with gold script proclaiming it to be, of course:


He opens the first page and scans the list of contributors and the names of the places they've visited. He doesn't recognize many of the names of his fellow adventurers, though some of them he's certain have come from the places he's visited:

Amelia Pond & Rory Williams
Bilbo Baggins
Calvin & Hobbes
Carl Fredrickson, Dug, & Russell
Christopher Robin
Eustace Scrubb
Gimli, son of Gloin, & Legolas of Mirkwood
James T. Kirk
Jean Luc Picard
Kathryn Janeway
Marco Polo
Martha Jones
Mary Poppins
Meg Murray-O'Keefe
Ms. Frizzle (& magical automotive transport)
River Song
Wedge Antilles

The list goes on and on, and the book seems to expand as he goes, growing pages and spilling forth more and more information about distant places and the people who have traveled to them. Though he doesn't know them, he feels a strange sort of kinship with all of them all the same, and as he begins to read, it feels like he's beginning yet another extraordinary journey, but a restful one, and he settles in, ready for another adventure.