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(no subject) [Apr. 19th, 2006|11:40 pm]
The hallway running at right angles to our current hall was somewhat narrower than this one. On the left, it ran back perhaps thirty feet and terminated in a stone wall punched with small round drainage holes, which had drooled rust stains in long streaks down the stone.

It was difficult to approach the back wall, however, because about ten feet in, rebar began to emerge from the concrete wall at head, chest, and knee height, stretching most of the way across the corridor, leaving only a narrow clearance with the opposite wall. The corroded metal bars were staggered so that it was possible to work one’s way around them, which I did, but Mirabelle and Heinrich had to stay back.

Hung from each bit of rebar were dried fish, two or three to a bar. They had flaky silvery bodies and bright, blank eyes. String looped the rebar, and then had been wrapped around the bodies of the fish with varying degrees of skill, ranging from simple double loops over the fins to a complex macramé adorning the largest of the fish. The string was an unbleached hemp twine, dusted with red where it was tied to the bars.

The corridor smelled faintly of seaweed and dried fish.
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(no subject) [Apr. 19th, 2006|09:09 am]
Left from the nexus this time, and past the fox’s cell, the hall continued a fair distance. A doorway opened on the left, and another hall crossed this one at right angles about fifteen feet past that.

The left hand doorway opened into a medium sized L-shaped room, with the familiar concrete walls and a flagstone floor. On the far wall, down at the end of the crossbar on the L, the wall had been cut away (or poured this way to begin with) in a large opening running the length of the short wall, from about waist height to a foot from the ceiling.

The opening, rather like a large picture window, looked out into a small, square courtyard.
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(no subject) [Jan. 25th, 2006|09:54 am]
I went out to our latrine pit this evening to attend to certain vital processes, from which explorers are no more exempt than anyone else—and saw red.

A lot of red.

Red is generally the last color you want to see when attending to said vital functions, especially when you’re a hundred miles from the nearest physician, but in this case, I hadn’t gotten even as far as the pit.

The trees were absolutely covered in a shockingly vivid scarlet, the color of fresh blood, hanging in great papery globes and inverted cones. For a moment, my mind flashed through shapes, looking for a match, and all I could come with was some kind of incredibly fast-blooming giant wisteria, or perhaps a colony of paper wasps with astonishingly colored nests.

It wasn’t until I realized that some of the papery red bits were coming loose and drifting like confetti in the mild breeze that I realized that they were butterflies.

The butterflies were scarlet, edged with black, with hints of fuschia around the body and a great black eyespot on the lower wings. They were not terribly large, with an average wingspan not quite as long as my thumb. But there were thousands—hundreds of thousands—possibly even millions of them, all hanging in great trailing chains from every branch in this one particular glade. The sound of their wings was a whispered “Shusshshshsh…”

I collected several samples—dead ones lay scattered on the ground like bright flowers—but I suspect that no sample can convey the impact on the viewer of the sheer weight of butterflies. They had become less like insects and more like some bizarre architecture, growing in vast buttresses and columns from the trees. Some monarchs behave similiarly during migration, settling on groves of trees in incredible masses, so it is not an unheard-of behavior, but it was one I did not expect to see out here.

We did have to move the latrine. There are some things you just can’t do when millions of tiny little compound eyes are staring at you.

The next day, a little after dawn, Heinrich woke me up, and gestured at the sky. I looked up, and saw a vast column of red butterflies, like a plume of scarlet smoke, drifting slowly west on the wind.
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(no subject) [Jan. 23rd, 2006|09:44 am]
This page was misfiled. Again. It is from Terra Absurdium vol 4, and furthermore, it was folded into a very unflattering bit of origami depicting what appears to be a shrieking monkey wearing senior librarian’s robes. The acolyte responsible left three years ago to become a belly dancer, which job she was, in all honesty, rather more suited for, but she obviously could have had a lucrative career in creative paper folding, too. - Vo

Margin note from Acolyte Wen: I had to recopy this page from the archives. When I suggested it’d be faster to unfold the origami one, the old coot about took my head off. The origami’s got pride of place on his desk now. I think he’s finally going senile or something.

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(no subject) [Jan. 17th, 2006|09:16 am]
Heinrich grunted the grunt of being grudgingly impressed. I said “Whoa.”

The room was basically square, with a very high ceiling, and a large alcove on the far wall. Set partially within this alcove was an enormous spiral staircase that reached up into darkness.
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(no subject) [Jan. 16th, 2006|11:27 am]
The lake path ran a surprisingly long way, close to half a mile, the wall to our left unbroken by anything more than the occasional small outlet pipe. (The third such pipe was marked with a set of the by-now-familiar white triangles.) We heard more bird calls, and the occasional splash of fish or frogs or other small marsh dwellers. Once, there was a startle of giant wings, and a great grim heron launched itself out of a stand of cattails and sailed low and slow across the water before vanishing into the fog. It appeared to be the familiar Ardea herodias but of course, without a specimen, it was hard to tell, and for once, Heinrich was too slow off the mark with the frying pan.

At last, the path ended, at a broad expanse of reedy islets, basically mud and grass and metal cut by meandering streams, stretching as far as the eye could see in the fog, which wasn’t very. It would probably be possible to walk a little distance across the marsh, but with the sharp wire root systems in the mud, I did not want to risk Mirabelle’s hooves—or my own!—on such a venture just yet.

A giant gear, twice as tall as I was, thrust out of the water at a slant, like an ancient shipwreck, webbed with dark weed near the waterline. The metal reeds grew particularly thickly in the shadow of the gear, which makes no sense at all, since the entire system is in a large room underground, and cannot possibly have harsh weather or winds or blazing sun or anything else like it, and anyway the reeds are made of metal to begin with. Perhaps it was simply an aesthetic decision by whoever placed these artificial reeds, like a meditation garden for someone who was not terribly enamored of raked stone.

There was a single doorway at the end of the path, in the lefthand wall; a plain, unadorned rectangle punched in the wall, with a single spar of rebar running across the top. We went in.
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(no subject) [Jan. 15th, 2006|11:46 am]
Right from the nexus, the hall ran twenty feet, and came to a threshold. We had to step down a few inches, and the concrete gave way to packed earth, although here and there, square blocks of cement protruding through the pathway indicated that we had by no means reached the bottom of the maze.
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(no subject) [Jan. 14th, 2006|03:23 pm]
Deciding to give the foxboy plenty of time to get away, we turned instead to the round pipe leading from the small nexus up the hall from the fox’s cell.

The pipe was just wide enough to allow a mule entrance, but it was not wide enough to allow a mule to be turned, and while mules are fully capable of backing up if they feel like it, they generally exact a heavy price from their handlers in the process. We decided to take a very quick look inside the pipe, leaving Mirabelle at the nexus, and see if there were any immediate openings where a mule could be turned.

It turned out that our conversation about what we ought to do lasted rather longer than our actual exploration of the pipe. The pipe went in, made three tight hairpin zags, and then dead-ended at a large grille.

The grille appeared to open high on the wall of a room, with a split-level ceiling dropping low to the right. Below were the remains of a fire and a pile of random debris.

It took a moment because of the angle, but eventually I realized that we’d come out behind the grille high on the wall of the place where we’d stayed when trapped by the rising water in the room full of mussels. That was our old fire. If I craned my neck, I could even see the neat stack of nested mussel shells Heinrich had left next to the other debris.

The grille was relatively solid, despite the rust, but I suspected that Heinrich could smash it out in relatively short order, given a pressing motivation like approaching death. We couldn’t take Mirabelle, but in case something very bad happened, it was nice to know of an escape route.

Assuming the tide was out, of course.

The only other notable detail was on the inside face of the grille itself. At the very bottom of the tunnel, so small that I would never have noticed if not for the color, were a set of ten tiny line drawings of a bird in various postures--hopping, perching, in flight. The drawings were in bright yellow, and a band along the top of the bird's head was filled in with the same vivid color. I had to lay my cheek along the floor to get close enough to examine them. The bird's eye was no larger than a pinprick, and if there was a signature, it was so small that I could not make it out at all.
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Terra Absurdium, vol unknown [Dec. 31st, 2005|07:26 pm]
The following was probably cut from Terra Absurdium vol. 31, as it bears a thematic resemblance to the tuber section previously located, but may also have been from an earlier work. The location where this section supposedly occurs is unknown, although several badly water damaged pages preceding it mention “the unspeakable east.” (Predictably, Eland has spoken about it anyway.) As with several other unpublished sections, the contents are so preposterous as to invite the question of whether Eland was serious, but as usual, if it was a farce, he kept a straight literary face throughout.

These pages and the accompanying drawing were brought to me by a temple rat, who found them in a crawlspace under the eaves. – Vo

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(no subject) [Dec. 25th, 2005|01:11 am]
The square room that interlocked the room with the root wall was empty. On the far wall, another door opened into a very small nexus, perhaps four feet on a side. A corridor ran off in each direction, two unremarkable hallways of the common sort to the left and right, and forward, a circular pipe-mouth, tall enough for Heinrich to walk, and just wide enough for Mirabelle.
The pipe looked fairly intriguing, I admit, and I was just about to suggest that we head in that direction, when Heinrich put up a hand in a gesture for silence.

I cocked my head and listened. Mirabelle chose that moment to make a grumbling in her nose and shift her feet, but after a few seconds, I heard it too—a very faint clinking, the sound of metal on metal, or possibly stone. It was coming from the lefthand hallway.
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