Nimbustown – Week-of-Rivers, 5th Cycle, Sunday
Nimbustown is located high in the Longspine Mountains. It is a remarkable city that juts from a sheer cliff face, a series of ledges and narrow platforms on which the Zephyra make their nests. Below one’s feet lies a dizzying drop into the Blustercloud Valley. It is not a city designed for flightless creatures—no stairs or bridges connect one ledge to another—and so Mortimer and I were each assigned a pair of Zephyra chauffeurs who carried us about on specially-designed chairs that they bore upon their shoulders.
Zephyras are a proud and dignified people. Their economy is based on herding and harvesting clouds. The peoples of Helth Steppe and the Greenwood contract Zephyra cloudherders to shepherd rainclouds down out of the Longspine Mountains to water their lands. Without these cloudherders, the lands to the east of the Longspines would be as dry and drought-stricken as the Pablik Desert, and the Greenwood would be far less rich and verdant than it is today.
Illustration 5.1 – Click image to hide/show clothing
Lalash Wishling is one such Cloudherder, and my primary subject for this chapter. She seemed overjoyed to meet me and help me in my research. She was excited and nervous during our conversations, as if she had been waiting all her life to discuss sex, but had never had the opportunity. She explained that sex is an extremely private affair in Zephyra culture, and that social attitudes are conservative in the extreme. Despite the fact that the ledges of Nimbustown are without walls, and the nests in which the Zephyra sleep are exposed to view, nudity and sex are absolutely forbidden in the city.
In traditional Zephyra culture, sex is only engaged in for purposes of reproduction, and it is considered immoral to take pleasure in the act. Zephyra couples fly into the depths of a storm cloud to have sex. The interior of these clouds is so dark that the lovers cannot even see one another. Most Zephyra have therefore never seen another naked Zephyra.
For Lalash and her friends, however, nudity has become a form of glorious and erotic rebellion. She is the founder of a group of young Zephyra, known as the Sky Dancers, who engage in illicit, naked flight.
“Sky Dancing is a rejection of the puritanical attitudes of our culture,” she explained to me, in the quiet lilt of Whispertongue. “We gather in secret, on a natural ledge, high up in the mountains. We undress, and then we fly through the air together, leaving our clothes behind, soaring naked through the sky. There is something indescribably erotic about being utterly exposed up there, with nothing but the wind and sun and clouds against our flesh. We feel free in a way that seems impossible in our daily lives.”
Lalash’s description of Sky Dancing reminded me of the giddy thrill I got from skinny dipping for the first time as a teenager, or streaking through the men’s dormitories back in my student days, but for Lalash, Sky Dancing is something more than that. It is a form of political defiance, a far more transgressive act than skinny dipping or streaking were for me.
Although it is not technically illegal (the Zephyra do not have an explicit code of laws) Sky Dancing is a risky enterprise. Anyone caught engaging in this sort of behavior would be shunned by mainstream Zephyra society. Lalash is the only member of the group who has publicly outed herself as a Sky Dancer. She is an outspoken evangelist for the group, and publicly encourages others to try it out. As a result, she is a social pariah and has a difficult life.
“It’s worth it,” she told me. “Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes I think it would have been better to keep it all secret, but then I go flying with my friends, naked and grinning, and I know it’s all worth it. Many of them never would have joined if I hadn’t gone public. Anyone who wants to join knows they can come to me. I believe every Zephyra has this urge within them, even if it’s buried very deep, and the only way we’re going to let that out is by being honest about our desires.”
Sky Dancer membership is steadily growing, and Lalash believes that in time more members will come out of the closet, and when that happens mainstream acceptance will begin to grow.
Although Sky Dancing is a deeply erotic activity, sex does not come into it. Lalash, in fact, is a virgin. After a flight she sometimes retires to the interior of a cloud to release the thrilling arousal in masturbation, but this is always a solitary pursuit.
On my final night in Nimbustown, Lalash brought me to the secret ledge and we stripped naked together. I wrapped my arms around her neck, my legs around her waist, and she held me close to her beautiful, blue body. Then she launched into the air, beating her powerful wings, carrying me with her. Thus burdened, she did not have anything like the stamina, speed or agility that the Zephyra usually possess, but for this researcher the experience was absolutely thrilling nonetheless. We soared above mountaintops, into the cool wetness of clouds, down into gorges and up again, riding warm currents of rising air. Lalash’s body was warm and soft again mine. Maybe it was the working of her stomach muscles against my crotch, or maybe it was the sheer exhilaration of the experience, but in mid-flight, a thousand feet above the Longspine Mountains, I achieved a sudden and startling orgasm that made my whole body shake with pleasure.