Raph loved this time of year. The early summers had the best weather for flying. There was never any wind and it was always raining. He knew most of the other pilots wouldn’t agree with him; they preferred the bright, cloudless days of late summer, where you could see for miles and the sky was a dazzling blue; most other pilots, but not Raph.

Raph liked the early summer rain. Soft, yet endless and impenetrable in it’s dull grayness it was the perfect weather for flying the air-bus. The passengers, even the restless ones, would eventually grow quiet and settle down staring out the window at the falling rain. The gondola would fill with silence and the only sound would be the faint thunk-thunk-thunk of the old engine in the engine car.

This was one such day, a Tuesday afternoon, going out from Kul Viller towards first Roed and then Tels. The gondola was barely half full with passengers spread out here and there, mostly humans, but also a few hobbits and a dwarf. There was also someone who Raph suspected might be an elf. He hadn’t looked too closely at first and never got a good look. Now the possible elf was in the far back corner, with their hood turned up, staring out the window. Everyone was staring out the window.

There was no pattering of raindrops and no trails of water like you’d get on the windows of the trains and trams in the city. The big bulging blimp that kept them afloat and which the gondola was hanging beneath kept the water away. Instead, a few meters out from the window at the perimeter of the blimp a curtain of rain was drawn. It was like floating quietly under a giant umbrella.

Far below the wet tree tops of Viller Wood could be discerned, stretching out as far as the eye could see. Raph knew they had about half an hour until arrival in Roed, but until then he would enjoy the illusion of the eternal rain and the endless forest.

Every now and then he’d try to explain his love for this particular weather to the other pilots back at the port in Kul Viller. Once in a while someone would nod understandingly, saying they agreed, but mostly the others would just jokingly ask him if he was sure he wasn’t a hobbit.

Many years ago, when he was young, Raph would have agreed. When he first started pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot he’d had dreams of the wide-open skies. He’d pictured himself as the captain of a large ship; maybe on one of the independent freight traders or on a top-flown long distance cruiser – the kind of ship the rich and the famous travelled with. He’d dreamed about getting to see the world from above, with the sun on his face and the wind in his hair.

Raph had even gotten a taste of the glamorous career he’d dreamed of. After a few years as second in command hauling wool from Gotecan Hills to Kul Viller he landed a job as second assistant navigator on the Marianne Sunshine. The Old Mary, as her crew called her, was an ancient top-flown cruiser, old enough to have had masts when she was first built.

She’d once been the finest ship in all the north, or so her captain said. She’d carried movie stars and diplomats, magnates and heiresses. It was even said that it was on the promenade deck of the Marianne Sunshine that the old king’s father met the duchess of Limen who were to become his wife and queen.

The Old Mary had been the perfect ship for a young ambitious pilot to start his career. Stepping on board her was a dream come true for Raph. Reality turned out to be far removed from his dreams though. Work was hard and demanding and the competition for promotion constant and ruthless. On top of that the company that owned the ship was suffering economical hardship and eventually went under. Marianne Sunshine was sold off and all junior crewmembers, Raph included were replaced by more senior employees of the new owners.

Three trips with the Old Mary had been enough for Raph to realize the glamorous life of a high-profile passenger cruiser wasn’t for him. He’d seen a little bit of the world; he’d even been to Knysvian and he’d seen the bridge. It was enough for him; the world is a wonderful place he used to say, but there’s no place like home.

Raph had gone back to Viller. He’d gotten his own command on an air-sheep, which is what the wool haulers he’d used to work were jokingly called. He met Jen, who turned out to be the love of his life, later his wife and mother of his kids. At some point a job at the air-bus had been offered. It didn’t pay as well, but it was still an easy choice. The hours were better, the routes were easier and he’d have more time to spend with his family.

That was thirty years ago now. At first it had been difficult, as they had to get used to living on his lower wages. Most of his savings had been blown then. In the end it had been worth it though and he can longer remember the last time he regretted changing his job, it must have been years ago.

It’s easy to get lost in thought up here he muses. He checks the watch and it’s twenty minutes until arrival in Roed. He has no idea where the last ten minutes have gone, and neither it seems, has anyone else. The passengers in the gondola are still silently staring out the windows. Soon, as they pass the Gnarly Rock, they will be woken up from their thoughts and contemplations. Like Raph they will look at their watches, knowing they’ve been awake all the time without really realizing the time has passed.

It’s the effect of the rain and the forest, it’s hypnotic in a way he thinks, and that’s why I love it. It’s peaceful like no other thing; it’s why I love this time of year. If that makes me a hobbit, then so be it, at least I’m a happy hobbit.

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