FROM THE GROUND, the bird was an infinitesimal white speck lost against the isoluminescent glare of the midday sky. From the perspective of the seagull, however, the ground and its features were
clearly apparent in all their multiplicity and confusion. Below it now as it circled in its leisurely bank was the sparkling band of the Tongue Water, to its right the smoky bulk of the manufacturing district and beyond that the widening mainland, to its left the great city of Peridol.
There was more than just scenery transpiring down there under the bird's dangling feet, though. The seagull's unhurried path was carrying it around a wide coil of dark smoke that mounted even higher, curling and roiling, until an onshore breeze took it and shredded it into streamers and ragged sheets. Following the pillar of smoke downward took the eye into the midsection of a tall bridge. The bridge currently spanned the water less effectively than it likely had even a short time before. The center reach of the roadbed was obscured by steam clouds that were replacing the dark smoke with a puffier white. Here and there, where the steam parted, a few dying flames could be noted, and in more numerous other locations the surface of the water itself was visible through the bridge floor, rimmed by jagged holes and the raw edges of ruptured steel.
Wedged up against and partially underneath the bridge on its upstream surface, glinting and glittering, was a prodigious cliff of ice. Even to the seagull's inexpert eye, it was clear that the steam clouds had resulted from the contact, in the not-too-distant past, of the shorn-off crown of the iceberg with the incendiary fires. Since the center section of the bridge was exhibiting - in addition to the roadbed damage - a prominent sag and list, of dire structural import, it was also apparent that the supporting influence of the iceberg's bulk was keeping the larger part of the bridge from collapsing full-on into the water. A slender crag of ice that had not been clipped on contact with the bridge still towered over the upstream mass of the iceberg and loomed at a perilous angle over the bridge itself. Curiously, the uppermost section of this ice needle seemed to bear within it the crushed remains of what might have been a modest fishing boat.
Spectacular though these sights were, the seagull's interest was not primarily architectural. Crowds of people were apparent on every side; on the bridge itself, on the river-bank grandstands, even a few remaining bobbers in the water or on small boats being ferried to the shore. Flocks of other birds wheeled about as well, those of sea and land keeping largely separate but all diving periodically to snare some useful morsel from the water or the crush on land. With a glance back over its shoulder the seagull verified it was being trailed at a respectful distance by a congregation of other gulls, panting and bedraggled from some recent exertion though they appeared.
A few large sea-creatures were still visible too, as looming shadows beneath the surface or as splashing wakes of foam. Confused by the abrupt end to the Running of the Squids but still attracted by the lures, a school of leaping marlin were trying to thread the tight gauntlet beneath the bridge and break through to the open ocean downstream. A lingering leviathan, wisely deciding against pitting itself against the bridge, was beating its way back upstream against the current.