Saturday, June 01, 2013

Canyon Town, part one

We wandered in the canyons for several days.

There is, as yet, no reliable strategy for navigating a maze. Their constant shifting defeats any attempt to be methodical. Most people foolish enough to step into one simply wander around until they reach an exit - or, depending on the maze, perhaps something else of interest.

Wayfinders, being blessed with superhuman navigational abilities, can step into a maze and immediately find a perfectly straight path leading to their destination. As none of us were lucky enough to have this rare ability, we were confined to ordinary methods.

Nearly all of my supplies were, of course, in the wagons that had moved on without us. This could have been a serious problem. Fortunately, I have been a traveler long enough to have developed certain paranoid habits. I had with me a bag containing supplies (food, water, pens and paper; just the essentials) for several days. I try to keep this with me at all times, regardless of inconvenience, for just such situations as these. The supplies inside were meant for one, but could easily be stretched to three for a week or so.

Food, then, was not an urgent problem, as long as we rationed our supplies. Neither was water. The river that had carved the canyons was clearly long gone, but water still flowed through them in a sandstone aqueduct above the street.* Steps led up to it periodically. One of the first things we did was to climb the nearest staircase and fill our canteens.

After that… We wandered.

The city was carved right into the walls of the canyons, themselves carved by thousands of years of water erosion. The graceful, flowing lines of the striped stone dipped in here and there to reveal a window, a staircase, an arched doorway. Mirenza and I kept stopping to sketch particularly interesting pieces of stonework or take rubbings of the carvings on the walls. Mirenza was in her element - surrounded by stone and history and the elegant script of the canyon-dwellers' language. She pointed out glyphs, architectural styles, and geological strata with equal enthusiasm.

Most of the layers of stone were smooth - as smooth as sandstone ever gets, that is - but occasionally, we would find one with fossils embedded in it. The canyon-dwellers had added carvings to a few of these layers, so that the fossil ammonites and eurypterids had tiny stone riders or chariots hitched to them. One particularly large trilobite had an entire city built across its back, with hair-thin rope bridges crossing the gaps between segments.

Whoever the inhabitants had been, they seemed to have left in a hurry. The sand-drifted streets were littered with fallen jewelry, broken pots, wagon wheels rusted into arches of metallic lace.

This was when Mirenza brought out the machine she'd been carrying under her robe.

But I shall write more about that tomorrow.

* Anyone who has lived in a city will know that one never drinks anything that's been below street level.

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