From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Rokday, Nineteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Forty-Fifth Day in the Trees
We're finally out of the swamp. I'm glad to be free from there. It could have been worse, but I hope not to see it again.
Early this morning, we hit a fork in the road, and, since either seemed as good, took the right.
We travelled for hours, and the path was very uncomfortable, full of rocks to trip over. Torne was in somewhat better shape, being able to step lightly over them, but this slowed him down as well. By late afternoon, we were both feeling out of sorts.
We were just about to stop and rest when we saw something unusual. It was a big metal structure sticking up above the trees. It looked like a building, but there were things moving on it, and so we decided to keep going. Torne was very curious.
We soon walked around a bend and saw the whole structure. It was big, nearly four stories tall, and it seemed to stretch a quarter-mile in either direction. The moving parts were cylinders moving up and down, giant gears turning, and other machinery.
There were people there, too. They were crawling all over the machinery, climbing up, climbing back down, and pressing buttons in various places. They looked like humans, though Torne said that they clearly weren't, having pointed ears and gray skin.
We walked up to one of them, and asked what the machine was. He told us that it's the Engine. He said the word as though it were something very important. He then told us that he's only a sub-technolyte third-class, and that we should talk to the Abbot Engineer. He told us where to go, and so we went around to the other side of the machine, where there was a stairway up.
We climbed up to the top, and there we saw a man with a clipboard, looking over various gears and tubes. He made notes on his papers, grunting in satisfaction. Then he saw us, and looked very dissatisfied indeed.
"Who're you?" he asked, brushing back his long, white hair in irritation. He had hair on his face as well as on the top and sides of his head, and it reached nearly to his stomach.
We told him who we are, and what we're doing walking through the woods. He looked at us with suspicion, and then told us that he and his were the Monks of the Engine1, charged with protecting it from harm. The Engine, he explained, ran the universe, and that they had to keep it running smoothly. He went into a long history of the Engine, telling us that it had been made by the Grand Architect, made with the Tools of Creation, to keep things running when he wasn't watching. If anything went wrong, it could spell disaster.
We listened politely, and then said goodbye. They're clearly mad, all of them, but they believe it, and we felt it best not to argue.
We walked back around, and by chance, we noticed an open panel. Inside the panel, there were a number of buttons, including a very large red one.
Torne looked at it for a moment, and, making certain no one was watching, reached out and pressed the button. Nothing happened. He pressed a few of the other buttons before I took him by the collar and pulled him away. I felt there was no point in incurring the monk's wrath.
We made camp several miles away, under the ruins of an old tower.