I crossed the stone bridge I had fled across only the day before. The stream beneath it burbled away to itself as if nothing had happened and the trees swayed gently in the wind, their leaves singing to no one in particular. Worn stone paths stretched out under my feet only to vanish under moss and earth a short distance ahead. At one time I would hardly have noticed this small detail, but now it struck me as proof of the antiquity of this forest, an antiquity at odds with the apparent newness of this world.
From where I had entered the forest, I knew that to the west lay the ever busy Abbott’s airfield and that would take me out of the forest altogether, so my best option was to head north and east, deeper in to where the gentle foothills began to take me upwards towards the cliffs over the sea of Rodeo.
The hike was easy enough, my new limbs seemed perfectly formed for such exertions and I soon found myself cresting a rise and looking down on what appeared to be an archaeological dig. No one was in sight and only startled birds answered my shouted greetings. I dropped down into the dig itself and stood in the middle of an octagonal stone dais surrounded with inlaid lines that formed a beautifully simple geometric lotus flower bordered by at least five large stone pillars. The whole area pulsed with a strange energy that caused my fur to tingle as though moved by a gentle breeze and I could feel a warmth seeping through my boots into my feet. It was if, inside the small stone circle, energy was leaking from the ground below. I could almost see waves of it moving up around me. I squinted hard, trying to block out the shafts of dappled sunlight streaking trough the treetops, when, as though it had always been there but I had merely looked past it until this point, I saw it! A skin of rippling, wavering energy like liquid glass rising from the stone dais and up along the length of the standing stones! I was stood in the middle of it and could feel it moving through me, weak and fluttering like the timid beat of a sparrrow’s heart. It rose and rose, sliding up the stones, billowing and shimmering as it went, until it reached the top and dissipated into the atmosphere with a small gush of silver light.
I stood for the longest time watching this amazing light show, marvelling at its beauty, wondering at its purpose. Nothing I could do seemed to affect it; no touch, object or interference disturbed its quietly repeating pattern. Often I lost sight of it and it took an act of focused will to see it again. After an hour of my observations and experiments, I decided to give up for now; I had the rest of the forest to explore and my stomach was beginning to complain. I left the stone circle and its strange venting energy behind and headed towards a crumbling aqueduct just ahead.
I passed between its still sturdy legs, the arch above me had long gone, and the remaining structure looked equally precarious, but still the aqueduct bore a noble air. That it was still standing at all after the last Great Shamanic War wrought so much destruction on the world was a testament to the great skill of its builders and its own fierce tenacity. I patted the stones as I passed and wished it well.
Beyond the aqueduct the path gave way to grassland, and the trees began to thin out. The sound of a racing stream was close and I headed towards it. It led me a short way west to where a fast brook raced through the trees away from the direction I had come in. I followed, watching my footing as I went, until I reached where the stream leapt into space and tumbled hundreds of feet over a cliff into the sea below. I stood on the precipice and gazed down at the small inlet below. Across the small bay, on a rise overlooking the sea, stood (why did I want to say ‘lurked’?) a half collapsed stone tower. There, I thought out loud to myself, is where I would rest and eat.
To be continued…