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(no subject) [Nov. 15th, 2005|09:08 am]
Past the three hanging stone blocks, the corridor opened into a sort of blunt rectangular hall, with three square concrete pillars running down the center. This intersected with another room, at the far right corner, so the effect was of a rectangle and a square with an overlapping open corner.

The hall itself was unremarkable, lacking anything but the pillars, but one wall was rather interesting. The far left wall was unlike anything we’d seen before, a peculiar fibrous material, somewhere between bread mold and a roughly woven cloth. Heinrich obligingly cut a small square from one edge. It cut like turf, with faint ripping sounds, and when I teased out a few strands of material from the palm-sized square, it became apparent that they were some kind of tightly matted roots. The entire wall was completely rootbound. The roots seemed alive—there was a slight spring when pushed—but they continued to grow into a tight, almost woven texture, instead of pushing out farther into the room, as if bound by an invisible pot.

Under the square that was lifted out was a chalky, clay-like surface, crumbling and faintly sticky. I brushed a hand across it and it fell away in several places, revealing the familiar concrete. It appeared the growth medium for the roots, whatever it was, was only about a quarter of an inch thick.

On the opposite wall, for no apparent reason, was a dried oak leaf with two puffball mushrooms growing on it, their pale tan skins spotted and mottled with chocolate brown. The oak leaf was dry and brown and curling at the edges, impaled on a rusted nail. Granted that the wall was easily thirty feet long and fifteen feet high, devoid even of graffiti, it assumed much more significance than such a small object deserved, a small bit of punctuation in the middle of the wall, like an exclamation point, with puffballs.
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(no subject) [Nov. 14th, 2005|09:46 am]
We were walking back from our latest exploration when we startled a steamjack.

It was sitting on the steps in the room where the large red frog sat sentry. Its long arms and legs were drawn up and wrapped around itself like a dejected spider, and it must have been woolgathering, because it seemed as startled to see us as we were to see it.

We blinked at each other for a moment. It had large eyes rimmed in black, the whites showing all around the pupil, making it look like an astonished lemur. There was no way to tell the gender on this creature—it looked even more painfully thin than the last steamjack, with straps tighly binding any distinguishing characteristics. It was very pale, the eyes a faded blue, and its matted hair was the indeterminate gray-brown color that blond hair gets when grown in dreadlocks.

It made a wordless exclamation and bounced to its feet, stood shivering with indecision, and then leapt over the far side of the staircase. Heinrich made an abortive dash after it, but it crossed the floor in a few bounding hops and dove into a shadowed tangle of gears. When I arrived at the spot, Heinrich was staring glumly at a hole in the floor, formed by the intersection of slots housing two large gears, that I would have sworn a child couldn’t fit through. We could hear a brief scrambling echoing up through the slot, and then it was gone.
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(no subject) [Nov. 8th, 2005|10:45 am]
The corridor took a left, and three more doors opened up, in rapid succession, another set of tableaus, except that these were all more or less the same. In three small, square rooms, perhaps nine feet on a side, three identical stone blocks, which must have weighed several tons, were suspended from the ceiling by huge rusted chains. Each one was at a different height, the first around chest level, the second over my head, and the third only a foot or two from the floor.

Tied around one of the chains, in the first room, was a small thong, and from it dangled a battered parrot feather, adorned with a bead of inferior faience, and one of the small gears. Other than that, the stone blocks were the only features of the rooms.

The stone blocks nearly filled each room, leaving only a few inches of clearance to a side, and were a good four feet thick, the edges scored with chisel marks. Heinrich pushed at one, and found that despite being suspended, it was extremely difficult to get any motion going. A second push was greeted by a warning screech from the chains, making Mirabelle shake her head and snort, and we decided to leave well enough alone.

There was a splash of graffiti on the floor, far back under the lowest of the three, where somebody had obviously risked life and limb to crawl back and make their mark, but Heinrich was too large and my horns couldn’t possibly fit, so whatever he had to say would have to go unread for now.
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(no subject) [Nov. 4th, 2005|08:53 am]
We were walking down the corridor, past the ichthyosaur, when Mirabelle balked.
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(no subject) [Nov. 3rd, 2005|12:46 pm]
The hallway went up a flight of steps past the Bean Room, and gave the illusion of narrowing, although in actuality, the ceiling merely rose high into darkness. The remains of a rail up the stairs had rusted through, and left dangerous spikes hanging from the wall. We skirted them cautiously.

There was something on the righthand wall. My hand, trailing on the concrete, encountered a series of depressions and ridges, a shift of texture. I peered at it and saw lines, bumps, roughness, a discoloration. I went farther on, and the discoloration spread, became a great fanning blot shot through with lines, oddly familiar, but out of focus.
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(no subject) [Nov. 2nd, 2005|08:47 am]
The corridor from the Hopscotch Cathedral to the bean plants was the standard sort of corridor—large enough for two to walk abreast, with occasional gears and graffiti. We bore right out of the Cathedral, this time, and rapidly around a righthand turn. A small grill set in the floor drained some of the damp, and had a small white triangle and three wavy lines chalked above it. The corridor ran thirty feet, bent right again, and opened into a medium sized room with a freestanding wall, about ten feet high, in the middle.

On the back wall, six steps ran up to a broad, shallow dais. Two slender columns flanked the steps, concrete poured into rounded curves, and rotted hangings, like broken sails, formed a canopy over the dais, hanging in gathered, moth-eaten folds. The dais itself was empty, although holes and lighter patches on the stone showed where some large metal object had been unbolted and removed. (At least I thought it did. That a room in the gearworld might come into existence pre-looted was not only possible, but for all I know, standard.)

In front of the freestanding wall, blocked from the view of the dais, was the strangest element on the room—a wooden panel set on the floor, about a foot high, with five round depressions scooped out of it. Inset in the two smallest depressions were two glass marbles. Swooping lines carved in the panel connected these to the other holes. The next two had broken glass halves in them, as if there are had been large marbles in them at one time, broken in half.

The most impressive thing, however, and the one which immediately dominated the scene, was a great egg-shaped stone the color of curdled cream, larger than my torso, sitting in a carefully shaped depression in the wood. The size of the stone would indicate that if it was, in fact, symmetrical, the depression would have to be carved well into the floor as well.

Etched on the panel, circling the eggstone, was a phrase in Anuvian, which unfortunately, I don’t speak. I could recognize the characters, but the language itself requires a great many glottal clicks which anatomy forbids in my case, so I have never gotten around to learning it. I copied the characters down for later analysis.*

Being more than a little sensitive on the subject of eggs at the moment, I subjected the egg to great scrutiny, and I’m pretty sure it was actually a carved rock--there was a crosshatching of chisel marks--although whether that made it less likely to hatch, in this place, I have no idea.

*Eland apparently never got around to this later analysis, either, but the phrase he copied reads “This is the egg which brings the hope of a guest.” Had he had it translated, however, his inability to speak it would still have caused him to miss some of the meaning--Anuvian is a language riddled with wordplay, and the phrase “hope of a guest” is a pun on the name of one of the gods, a lion made of rain, believed to have storm clouds for entrails, which eviscerates itself during the monsoon season, and then sleeps for the rest of the year to regrow its internal organs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the rain-lion’s egg, however—Anuvians are very fond of shaggy-dog stories of interminable length and questionable humor, and may simply have seen the opportunity for a pun. -- Vo
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(no subject) [Oct. 31st, 2005|09:37 am]
Another day, another corridor. This time it was through the door in the Hopscotch Cathedral, since I really wasn’t keen on the brick passage again so soon.

We went left down the corridor, and came almost immediately to a doorway on the left. This was an unusual doorway, shaped like a squared off keyhole, much wider at the top than at the bottom.

We emerged near the ceiling of the room, on a high platform, mirrored on the other side by an identical platform running the length of the opposite wall. Stairs led down to the sunken center, where two large squares of green were separated by a narrow ditch of water.

On our wall was a very faded mural, less like plaster and more like dried mud affixed to the surface. I touched it delicately with a nail, and colored powder flaked off. It was impossible to determine what was going on—there was a hint of sky at the top relatively intact, but it degraded as it went down, so that there were only shadows of what appeared to be awkward figures. Some small object hovered among them, although it was so badly worn that it was impossible to tell if they were hunting birds, playing ball, or worshipping a particularly low hanging sun.

Carved across the bottom, but very worn, was something that might have been free verse or a description, although it shed no light on the events.

“First going
I listen,
To the child yonder."*

The green below, when we crossed to look at it, was plants. Bean plants, to be precise. While I was unfamiliar with this particular cultivar—the leaves were broader, darker, and waxier than the bean plants from the family garden in my youth—they were unmistakable. The two squares contained ten rows each, all lashed to tall fence poles, evidentally irrigated by the sloping ditch in the center. They were carefully tended—or perhaps they weren’t, for all I knew, the Gearworld had no native weeds—but they looked healthy enough. The water was a clear, wet brown, and as I watched, a water-skimmer slid across it on five delicate pontoons of surface tension.

This was the first example I’d seen of actual crops in the Gearworld. It almost gave me hope that there might be a regular ecology down there—or at least, that if we camped here, I might actually catch one of the inhabitants. This thought was oddly cheering--not so much that there might be inhabitants, but that the Gearworld had not quite broken me yet, and I was still able to hope that a crop meant a farmer. Perhaps at some point in the near future, we will stake out the beans (ha!) and see what happens.

* A verse identical to this exists in the archives, bound together with an invocation either to or against “the people who sit upon their heels,” but it’s divorced of any context, and also badly degraded, on some kind of pounded mulberry pulp paper that did not hold up to the ages.
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(no subject) [Oct. 28th, 2005|10:23 am]
We had another encounter at our campsite last night—one baffling and a bit alarming, but not apparently threatening.

I was asleep, dead to the world, but Heinrich woke immediately at the sound of someone approaching. This was no silent mule-return, but a crashing racket, as a number of somethings came through the trees at high speed, blundering into things and making no attempt at stealth.

Heinrich slid out of his bedroll and crab-walked around the fire to shake my shoulder, bringing me groggily awake. The approaching noises woke me the rest of the way up. I sat up. Mirabelle snorted. I snorted too—there was a rank odor of wet dog hanging in the air, and it wasn’t Heinrich.

We didn’t have long to wait. The things blundered and crashed and finally ran directly through our campsite.
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(no subject) [Oct. 27th, 2005|09:23 am]
I was beginning to get the impression that this section of Gearworld was just plain bad.

A short corridor, made awkward by two large, staggered gears protruding from opposite walls, forced us to thread our way through single file. Mules don’t thread all that well. Still, Mirabelle was an excellent mule, and we got her through unscathed.

The next room, however, would put Mirabelle’s excellence to the test.

It was a large room, not particularly low-ceilinged, but so broad that the fifteen foot clearance seemed much lower than it was, giving it a heavy, oppressive feel. The floor was back to flagstones, although the mortar was tan concrete, as if the labryinth was reluctant to break too far from tradition.

Planted or sculpted or arranged or something around the room were bizarre constructions, like yucca plants made out of bone. Rows of broad, flat diamonds overlapped at floor level, rising up to nearly waist height, and from the centers, high, curving stalks with pointed, javelin-like “flowers” brushed the ceiling. Everything had the grey-white, pocked texture of old bone, the stalks sporting femur-like knobs, the flat diamonds resembling scapulae locked and interlocked between ribs. Some of the plants had sent out runners, long, slender threads that looked like articulated ropes of phalanges, terminating in miniature versions of the adult plants.

I wasn’t sure if they were silly, or horrible. Sometimes the line’s pretty fine.
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(no subject) [Oct. 25th, 2005|09:33 am]
The next room was unsettling. Well, more unsettling than usual.

A hundred yards or so down from the brick section, another doorway on the right opened into a square, high-ceilinged room, about fifty feet on a side. In the middle were statues.

These were not the crude, groaning statues that had so bothered me before. These were white marble, carefully, classically sculpted statues of the male human form, exquisitely rendered, smooth and detailed and cold.

The statues—fourteen of them--formed a square horseshoe in the middle of the room. They were closely spaced, barely a handspan between them, each in different positions, and each one was missing its head.

Despite not having heads, they were all turned inward, and all staring—headlessly—into the center of the horseshoe.

There was a crumpled, boxy thing in the middle of the horseshoe. We had to walk around the statues before we realized that it was an unmade bed.

The statues were pressed tightly around a bed, which had a lavender blanket and sheets that were still mostly white. The bedding had evidentally been pulled towards the head, and then thrown back. One of the pillows was on the floor. If someone were lying in the bed, the headless statues would be staring at them, fourteen eyeless gazes focused intently on the sleeper.

“They woke up, and saw the statues, and clutched the blankets,” I said.


“Then they threw ‘em back and ran for it.”


“What a thing to wake up to.”


The sheets had faded to the slightly dulled cream, stiff and dry, of aged bedding, the creases set as deeply as geological features. The bed had been here for a long time, and of course, away from wind and weather, the marble was eternal.

One might ask who would place a bed in the middle of a stone room, devoid of other amenities. One might also ask who’d place such statues so unnervingly around a bed, but I didn’t. I had a feeling they’d moved there on their own. They were the sort of statues that, when you turned your back, you got the feeling they were moving around behind you.

Left unsaid was the question of whether, when the sleeper had bolted, they’d gotten away, or whether something…else…had happened.

I had a brief, horrific vision of going to sleep tonight, and waking up to find all those headless white forms crowded around my bedroll. I squelched it firmly. Imagination is great in an explorer. The ability to turn it off occasionally, however, is a necessity.

Still, I was definitely going to make sure I knew where the sledgehammer was before I turned in tonight.

Set in the wall behind the bed, another doorway led away into shadow, and we fled gratefully toward it.
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