81st Turn, Seventh Year, Fourteenth Cycle, Erevday
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From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim

With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library

Erevday, 14th Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn

Eighth Day in the Trees

Souja is doing better. She woke me up several times last night for food, and she's regained much of her former energy. She makes a buzzing sound at times. I wondered at it at first, but it seems to indicate that she's well. I pet her in the evenings, and she lays by my side. Sometimes she rolls on her back and savages my arm gently. So tiny, but already so fierce. She will be a very good hunter when she comes into her full growth, I am sure.

Will she need to learn to hunt, the way conlins must learn from their parents? Or will she know already, the skill engraved on her heart, as with sarlifins? If she does not know… Would it be so terrible? I will take care of her. I can hunt for the both of us. She is welcome company in a strange land, and I would be glad to have her by my side.

Still, there is no reason to worry about things that have not come and I cannot change. I do not know what will happen, and making plans on a maybe is building a palace on a dune.

Today, we found a most remarkable thing. It was a stairway, by the path. It was of the spiral kind, made of metal and stone. It soared high above the earth, supported by nothing but air. Vines trailed in and out of the railing, and spiders had made their webs underneath. It looks as though it should fall in the first storm, but it looks old to my eyes. Still, things weather more quickly with frequent rain, or so I have heard.

I nearly passed by, but I could not resist testing the staircase with my weight. Gently, carefully, I placed one foot on the stairs, and then another. It held, without even a creak. Feeling bolder, I went up another stair, and then another. Then I was walking up the spiral of the stairs, climbing clockwise towards the canopy. I counted the steps as I went, and was soon in the hundreds. When I had reached the two-hundred-and-seventeenth step, I stopped to rest. Souja jumped down from my pack, and looked at the stairs.

As high as we were, there were fewer vines, though there were more spiderwebs. I saw one brightly colored spider eating a dragonfly, hunter eating hunter1. Then a small green and yellow bird swooped down and swallowed the spider. Was this an omen? Or just a reminder that there were many hunters in these woods?

Once I was rested, I continued up the stairs, Souja following behind. She occasionally stopped to sniff the vines, or bat at near spiders, but she always caught up quickly when I got too far away. After another fifty steps, she climbed up my tattered robes, and rode the rest of the way on my shoulder.

After four hundred steps, we passed through the canopy. The stairway continued even higher. Now that the way was no longer curtained with trees and vines, the height was dizzying. I must confess, that I froze for several moments, while the forest spun below me. I clutched the metal railing, and my color went dark with fear. After several minutes, and Souja's puzzled growling, I reined my fear in, and continued upward. After another fifty feet, I reached a platform. On the platform was a weathered bronze bell. A metal inscription underneath it said "In case of Peril, ring bell."

After some thought, I decided to leave it alone. I am not in any extraordinary danger, so far as I am aware, and did not wish to find out what would happen if the bell was rung in vain. Still, I cannot imagine what sort of peril a bell might help with, nor why it need be capitalized.

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