From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Erevday, Sixteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Twenty-Fourth Day in the Trees
We had a very eventful day today.
We woke up to find that the rain had stopped. We made breakfast, and I decided to have another look at the pictures in the back.
I was looking at the gear picture again, and noticed that in the center, much smaller than the gears surrounding it, was what looked like a picture of a button. I wondered if perhaps this was actually a picture of a device. I imagined seeing all of those gears turning, all activated by the press of a button. I tried to imagine what a machine with so many parts might do (other than stop working, as clockwork tends to do with distressing regularity, unless you take special pains to keep out sand). I touched the painting again, this time brushing my thumb-claw against the button.
The gears began to turn.
Do not misunderstand me. The gears were not real. They were simply painted on the stone. But they still turned. I could see the grain of the stone beneath them, seeming to crawl underneath the paint, but the gears turned. I cried out, and Torne came up quickly, as did Souja. We stared at the turning gears, and I wondered what was to happen next.
The cave became lighter, so that my little lamp became of no consequence. There was no source for the light, but it seemed as bright as though the sun were shining through the ceiling. Near, the pictures began to move.
In the central image, the figure walked to the circle, which likewise seemed to move to the figure. It floated in the air, and then landed in front of it. It entered it, and then it flew off again. Another scene came to replace that one, and it showed the figure leaving the giant circle. It walked again, until it was standing on a hill above many other figures. It seemed to be speaking. It gestured to the sky.
Soon, we saw the figures building, making buildings, farming. The things they made changed over time, two-wheeled carts becoming four-wheeled. Buildings became taller, stronger. They made what Torne called pyramids. They soon had large animals they used to plow the field. Then we saw them learning magic. We saw figures turn from one creature to another. Objects floated, and then cities flew. A map appeared, and we saw a blue spread over it, like a stain. It seemed that this was where their empire had been, though I could not name the area the map was of. They made palaces in their floating cities, and lived like rich men.
Then circle returned. It landed on one of the flying cities, and again a figure went inside. This time, it emerged with a book. The circle flew away, and the figure brought the book to others, where they opened it. They did something with the book, figures standing all around it. I could not tell what they were doing. The next scene showed the great cities falling1. Only a few survived. They were tied to half-circles that helped them move downward slowly.
From here, there was only one figure shown. It walked, and the sun and the moon sped overhead, passing hundreds of times in moments. It kept going until it was in a forest, and then it found a cave. It went inside, and began to paint.
The story ended there. We stared at the pictures for a time, and then we left, Torne and I both wondering what the story meant, and how the painter had created such a strange mural.
We crossed another river mid-morning, on another of those mysterious bridges. This was made of stone, and could easily support my weight. There was something reassuring about crossing the bridge, as though it were some protection against mysterious pictures and beguiling dancers. It was irrational, but I felt almost safe for having crossed the river.
Late in the afternoon, we saw another strange thing, though I think Torne was more affected than I.
We were sitting on a convenient log when we heard something moving through the bushes towards us. We both stood, and Torne pulled out his knife. We were ready for anything, I had supposed.
We were not ready for a giant hand to walk cautiously out of the bushes.
It was as tall as Torne, with a long tail of green hair streaming from its "wrist." It appeared to be exactly like one of Torne's hands, save that it was a slightly darker color, and had no fingernails2. Nor an arm attached to it, for that matter. There was a tiny red eye in the fleshy area between "thumb" and "forefinger." I realized that it was not truly a hand, but rather an animal that looked like one. It moved toward the path, then turned and stared at us. It then continued across the trail, and disappeared into the bushes on the other side.
Is the entire world outside the Baro like this?