Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Into Valentine Valley

Leaving the station behind and above me, I travelled northeastward and back to the original spot where I had first encountered Mr. Roo. As I gazed out toward the open ocean my periphereal vision picked out an odd sparkle coming from the North. The flash was momentary but upon focusing on the area of its origin I was able to detect a patch of white, like distant snow upon the ground.

Curious, I travelled that direction until I came into Pinehouse county and upon another inlet, a northernly sister to the one I had just left. This one, however, seemed gripped by the effects of some sort of micro-climate conditions. Ice choked the entire inlet and a decent amount of snow desperately clung to the evergreen tree branches. Icicles dangled from a large wooded bridge spanning the inlet itself.

The area must have held some significance for the local natives as the entirety of the area was embellished with ribbons, decorative lights, candles, and small posters. The area appeared to be a communal gathering place for celebrating some festivity. One sign encouraged ice skating but warned of thin ice while several other places featured open air tables, chairs, and even opium den-like cushion arrangements. The air temperature was surprisingly comfortable given the wintery surroundings so time spent lounging on a cushion or relaxing at a tea table would not be unbearable. The whole area carried a feeling much like early Spring, warming air but with snow on the ground. I am not sure how such a mix was maintained.

Upon realizing the date I can only assume this area is intended for some sort of cupid-inspired festival for the upcoming Saint Valentine's Day. Indeed several, if not all, of the small posters features some version of the michevious love-bringing cherub. I can only surmise that this area has been designated for a Valentine Day's gathering and celebration of courtly and honorable Love. Or, well, I suppose given what I have seen somewhat of the Mainland and its culture, its an area for lovers to gather for some time together or, forgive me for saying, a tryst. At least, I noted happily, there were no altars to the almight Dollah here which seem to be everywhere there is a social area.

I did find a most surprising presentation. In what I have to assume to be a somewhat sarcastic gesture or perhaps a nod to the darker side to the romantic holiday, I found a large tombstone. If I had any doubts as to what the nature of the celebration could be, they were washed away when I saw the name carved upon the headstone. Perhaps the celebration to come held a darker side which was celebrated on the Mainland? However, I leaned towards something of a darker but less serious humor.

I explored towards the ocean, climbing up the small ridge that protected the inlet from the ocean's wind. A splendid view greeted me as well as a fine coastal home which had been constructed to obviously take advantage of the view. Unfortunately, like many of the other homes I have seen, it stood empty. From it I looked northward again and saw an interesting structure standing like a lone sentinel against the sky. Drawing nearer, I saw it to be nothing less then a grand work of art.

A gigantic flower, perhaps forty to forty five hands high, reached upwards while away from it several petals were locked in mid-air, frozen in place by an invisible force as they appeared to be blown away from the flower and out towards the ocean. At the ground a simple plaque read, "Imagine... Peace."

I stood sometime struck by the piece and the message. I found it beautiful. I wondered if I was looking at some sort of war memorial from some past war the Mainlanders had fought. Perhaps, it was simply an artistic statement for world peace? Why had the artist placed the piece here at the defining place between three elements, Earth, Air, and Water? I found myself moved and captivated by the simplicty and message of the piece and spent much time sitting underneath it, the ocean wind playing about me and the coast spread out to me left and right. I also took several images of the art piece for not only archival purposes but as my own form of artistic expression. My thoughts wandered further. If we are to imagine Peace, where does one start? I would imagine with understanding and is this not, in part, what this Expedition is about?

Once again, I am shocked by the intelligence, creativity, and careful thought exhibited by the Mainlanders. Not only that, there appears to be such a wide spectrum of individuals here of a variety of different species. And with a single artistic piece, this artist had been able to speak to all of them, Caledonians included.

Once finished here, I plan to camp underneath the sculpture. It shall be good to wake up to it and see it against the morning sun. From here, we will follow the coastline northward.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Startling Concern and A Decision Made

Something has happened which has brought a certain level of concern towards not only my safety but that of Miss Ofeq's as well. I did not mention it in the latest three part installment but I feel it is necessary to include it now.

After travelling back down to ground level, Miss Ofeq and I were surveying the area for a suitable campsite. We had moved several yards away and discussing the station above us when, simply by chance, I glanced in the direction of the blue teleport circle and saw the beginning of a rolling series of fiery explosions. I yelled an alarm and for Miss Ofeq to jump clear. My own jump landed me upon the thick grass and carried me by its impetus further down the hill and away from the roaring heat.

Gaining our feet again once it was over, we were both shocked and alarmed by what had happened. There had been no one else around that we could see or detect. For all intensive purposes it was if a bomb had been dropped directly near us! But to what end? After some investigation I found the teleport circle to be completely untouched. I could find no further explanation for what had happened. I slept fitfully that night out of extended nerves and the fear that the explosion had been meant for us. However, to calm my faithful readers, both Miss Ofeq and I have seen Mainlanders toss and ignite explosives for apparently no reason and it was quite possible we had merely been "in the wrong place at the wrong time." Since no other attacks became apparent and neither of us could find or reckon of any motive as to why someone would attack us so, the matter was placed to the side.

I wish I could say that was the end of it.

Over the past few days spent in and around the station I had the good fortune to meet several interesting individuals. I was also able to find out a bit more information concerning the Stargates. While investigating the station's game room, I was able to have a small chat with Mr. Pontchartrain again as well as meeting a rather interesting alien humanoid which identified himself as a Mr. Mitch Griswold of the Asgard High Council.

Mr. Griswold helped me to understand that the stargate I had experienced were only part of a much larger network, this particular one actually being one of three systems total. The names of the systems being Arcturus, Prometheus, and Cleary with each system carrying different destinations. So, if travelling along a string of gates within the Arcturus system and one wanted to get to a destination within a Cleary system, you would have to find an Arcturus gate that would lead you to a destination where you might also find a Cleary stargate. From there, you could use the Cleary gate for your original destination. Also, travel with these devices COULD carry you far away from the Mainland. For instance, explained the small Asgardian, Asgard itself was not to be found on the mainland but only through one of these Stargates. Hearing this I realized that at the beginning of the fourth week, I would be facing a decision. Continue as planned along the shoreline and eventually move inland or explore more of these stargates and take our expedition along the systems mentioned? It was a choice I would mull over for several days.

My discussion with Mr. Griswold was pleasantly interrupted by a message coming in to me from a Miss Beverly S. She had heard of the expedition and wanted to point us in the direction of a place called Sanchon. After discussion over crystal, she found my location and travelled to meet me there within the station itself. A tall woman wearing a one piece brazen white bodysuit and long fire red hair greeted me. What was the most startling, however, was her eyes which burned a kaleidoscopic rainbow of colors. The next to startle me was her size. I am no small man, measuring in at around 20 hands high, but as I greeted her I realized that she must stand nearly 21, if not more. When asked of this she said she was "designed" this way yet when asked if she was some sort of clockwork, she replied that she was not. I came to find out that she was a member of a group of privateers in the area of Sanchon. An area, she said, that she was sure I would enjoy. Her confidence and manner reminded me of several female wayfarers I had encountered in my earlier travels but it was, most certainly, not the type of personality one typically encountered in Caledon.

It was during this meeting that the next matter of great concern transpired. Taking in her breath, Miss S. drew back and pointed to something behind me. Turning, I saw a circular object with the most peculiar features drawn or placed upon it. Due to these features I was unsure exactly what I was dealing with at first but all was brough clear when Miss S. declared it a bomb!

How it arrived so near my person, I am unsure. My eyes had been towards the door most of the time and after the departure of Mr. Griswold and others who had visited, I was sure that no one had placed anything behind me. I do know that there appears to be a technology that allows some to teleport items much like they teleport individuals. I could only imagine that it was this same type of technology which had placed this bomb behind me.

Miss S. named it a "Zeeky H. Bomb" and explained that it would only go off if certain words or phrases were uttered. I was caught a bit off-guard with this and said as much to her. What manner of attacker were I, and possibly, Miss Ofeq dealing with? Someone who obviously enjoyed fire and pyrotechnics but were they also a madman as well? We moved away slowly from the device but it would appear that it was set to go off at the mere mention of its name. Luckily, a speaker or recording of some kind announced its intention to explode seconds before it actually did so. I dove, twice now in the same number of days, over the billards table as the explosion rocked the small game room we had been speaking in.

Little was damaged besides bits of the floor and wall but I am sure it would have been quite different had we not evaded the conflaguration. I was happy to see that Miss S. had been able to leap to safety as well. Drawing my shock baton may have been a bit useless at that point but it did make me feel better. And, again, there was no evidence to help me understand the matter either. Why is it someone would be attempting such things on us? Shortly after that thought my thoughts turned to Miss Ofeq and I was forced to excuse myself from the charmng Miss S. so as to find her and inquire to her safety. I found her safely researching an area of the station and I was greatly relieved.

Neither of us know why this might be happening. Both of us are taking extra precautions from here on out and will be keeping our eyes open for further attacks.

As to the decision of which way to travel, I have decided that we will return to the ground for now. We must stick to the root of our mission which was to explore the Mainland and not be distracted by the Stargates at this time. It appears to be such a large undertaking that, upon the completion of the current expedition, I shall return and begin mapping the gates. We know that the Mr Pontchartrain's station is here and if necessary, we will return to it and reconvene. For now, we will stick to the Mainland and carry onward.

While keeping one eye open for bombs.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Through the Gate, Part Three

It was suggested that the escape pods would be more entertaining. I was also told that the station itself was actually not far from the sim, or county, in which Mr Roo had found me and used his Stargate.

And here I thought I had been transported to the other side of the Mainland!

Laughing at this, I said that if it were truly the case, I would take the escape pod. Mr. Roo agreed to this and Mr. Pontchartrain said he would lead the way in order to illustrate their proper usage. Walking over to the pair of escape pods against one wall, he folded his wings against his back and entered. An automated process began and the see-through doors folded directly onto him In a wink, the pod dropped through the floor. I stood and watched it disappear into a small dot, fading from view and plummeting to the ground below. Mr. Roo was next and after he had disappeared I was faced with climbing into the next pod which dropped from holding in front of me.

Taking a deep breath, I climbed into the pod and as the green tinted doors closed directly in front of my face I allowed myself a childish grin. What could ever go wrong? There were a few mechanical sounds, I steeled myself for the worst, and then the pod was released. I dropped. Looking up, the station seemed to fall upwards and away from me. The rush was exquisite as I tumbled like a rock toward the ground below. However, I barely had time to be concerned before some gravity adjusting controls took over and the pod landed on the ground once, bounced slightly, and then rolled onto its side. The green doors opened and unhurt and filled with adreneline I stepped upon solid earth again.

Standing next to a blue energy teleportation disk, we said our goodbyes at that point. I inquired if it was possible for Miss Ofeq and I to use either the land or the station as a base point for our next camp and, of course, the wonderful Mr. Pontchartrain agreed. We would be setting up camp slightly higher up the slope as I didn't see the need for random escape pods to be falling around our tents. Within moments, Mr. Roo and Mr. Pontchartrain had moved over to the lift disc and were on their way back skyward. I suddenly found myself by myself for the first time in several hours. It was at that point that I began to feel overwhelmed by what I had seen and experienced.

I had come to the expedition expecting to find an odd culture with scantily clad natives practicing odd and wayward social practices. But this? This was not what I had been expecting! If the teleport disc to my left had not been sitting upon the ground I might have actually believed, like Bottom at the end of a Midsummer's Night, that I had just experienced some dream or figment brought about by exhaustion and poor eating habits. But I knew that simply by stepping onto that disc, immediately or days later, everything I had experienced would be brought back to me in clear and crystal confirmation.

Many thoughts swirled around my head as I stood and stared out towards the ocean. I had stumbled upon something so grand in its technological scope, I felt, that it could uproot and change the very fabric of Caledon should all the details be provided. Where was my responsibility in such things? Was it mine to report truthfully and faithfully and possibly suffer the slings and arrows of disbelief or should I keep the information to myself until it was more fully researched? Perhaps clandestine entries to Mr. Shang would be more in order before supplying such information? At that point, I found myself in a twisted knot of ethics. Obviously, you are reading this now so I must have come to some conclusion regaradless of my trepidation. However, those minutes standing at that spot, were intense and meditative.

Eventually, I activated my flying crystal and flew down towards the ocean to gather my bearings. I found with some delight that I had come out only slightly westward of the inlet near the riverboat and the "Dancing Lady Pub." I flew over the comfortable looking old world cottages. Landing back at our small temporary camp, I jotted down crucial notes and thought further of what I had seen.

The following day, I retraced the path with Miss Ofeq and this time, I played host. I warned her of what was to follow and I watched her reactions carefully. She was amazed and shocked much as I had been but, at the same time, delighted by what she was seeing. Lke myself, she recovered quickly and immediately began wanting to research and analyze different devices. There was only one moment of distress upon the station and that was during the presentation of the outside landing strip. She appeared quite hesitant and nervous to walk out the strip's full extent. Since this was within minutes of arriving, I have attributed it to the first shock of contact this place can have.

In touring the place again and in watching Miss Ofeq's reaction I came to realize one very important thing which lies at the crux of why you, my faithful readers, are even reading these entries. Indeed, it lies at the core of our very expedition. We who are journeying upon the Mainland are not merely exploring and learning in an attempt to gather what we can from it. We are not trying to bring the Mainland to Caledon. Are we here to learn? Absolutely. Are we here to document? Most certainly. Yet, the one thing that must be held solid against the wonderment of new devices, new creatures, new experiences is that we are here, in fact, to bring Caledon to the mainland! To share with it our culture and the things that make Caledon great not to be influenced, in turn, by who or what may, or may not, make the Mainland itself great. That is part of our mission and whether we accomplish it will be the true test of its success or failure for us.

Our journey continues onward and the story is far from finished. You of Caledon, take what I have presented and do with it what you will. I am now more convinced that Caledon will not buckle and crumble at mention of such devices or experiences. No, she will persist.

For myself, I have now had a more intimate look at the breadth and scope the Mainland holds for us and, I wonder, will ten weeks truly be enough? For the past week Miss Ofeq and I have been residing near or within this great station but will be moving onward soon. The rest of the Mainland awaits us.

Through The Gate, Part Two

What came through the gate was not what I expected.

In truth, I had expected a human or something human-like. I've had experiences with many strange creatures in my travel but I suppose it is a flaw of my race that we are a bit ego-centric when it comes to species. When told someone is arriving, the first thought my simple mind will have is the image of a human being. I have not investigated it thoroughly but I wonder if this is the same with all races?

Regardless, what stepped through the gate was not human. I was presented with a bipedal black and white form. The first thing that registered being a majestic feline tiger head. This was followed by a stout white fur torso striped with black swaths and covered by an unbuttoned blue work shirt, two white curving horns arching outwards from the vack of the head, a pair of white and black reptillian wings sprouting from the back and, finally, a pair of squarish black sunglasses. He surveyed us after adjusting from the gate travel and with a tilt of his large head greeted us with a noble look in his eye. This was my first introduction to Chesyr Pontchartrain, dracowolger.

After introductions were passed, I learned that we had come through the gate to be standing in his own personal floating station. At this point, Mr. Roo graciously seemed to hand over host duties as Mr. Pontchartrain offered to show Mr. Roo and myself several upgrades as well as offering me a tour of the station. I, of course, agreed and followed behind my new host torn between the fascination at where I found myself and the odd combination of beasts which he represented.

Our first stop on a circular teleportation device was a medical station. It featured several beds and an array of stunning and impressive equipment the likes of which I have not seen before. I must admit that much was lost on me as I am no doctor however I must stress that it looked to be the finest of equipment that would place most medical offices I have encountered to shame. From there, we teleported back down to the station and landed on what appeared to be a long landing strip for incoming craft.

Now, at last, I stood on ground that I was long familiar. In my travels, they go by many names, docks, landing spires, hubs, ports. I have stood at many in wonder, some on a coast, some floating amongst purplish clouds, some dangling from the top of the tallest mountain of an impressive range. The first encounter with a new port is always a thrilling moment. And, as I hurried with my imager to take images, my first thought was how the readers from Caledon would take this amazing piece of construction? We stood there for several minutes as I breathed it all in. I am sure that Mr. Pontchartrain said something but I must apologetically confess I did not hear him stunned as I was by the scope of the station before me.

From the landing strip we walked directly to the station where the main hangar doors opened to reveal a large and accommodating space for vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Four airships unknown to me but all looking sleek and powerful, floated around us. Mr. Pontchartrain mentioned with a smile that all the ships were free to be used by guests. Luckily, I had recovered myself enough to remember that statement and store it away happily for the future. We stood here for some time and spoke of airships and the capabilities of them. As we did, I made what records I could of ship types, sizes, and construction notes for those back in Caledon. Within a few moments we were moving onward to see other areas of the station.

I was taken to a commons area adorned with a wonderful circular fountain where stood several stalls and booths operated by the airship and transport companies known to pass through the area. Mr. Pontchartrain pointed out a dirigible airship created by someone known as Cubey Terra. By the way he was spoken of Mr. Terra appears to be someone that has gathered some fame to himself from his work in the department of airships and other transports of similiar character. The airship that appeared on display within the small stall certainly appeared of stout and solid construction. I could have wandered there for some time but we were moving on. Our next stop was a dining and gaming hall that featured one or two of the clockwork gaming devices I have grown used to seeing here on the mainland as well as another large poker table and a billiards table. A clockwork device similiar to the one that had scanned me upon entering through the Stargate floated behind a small bar and offered drinks to any that arrived.

Mr. Pontchartrain seemed very excited to show me something he called a holodeck and so I continued to follow him to what would be yet another amazing discovery. The room we entered was oval in its construction. A narrow gangplank stretched from the entrance door outward to a centrally located circular standing area. Featured upon one side was a rectangular control panel with an interface that seemed similiar to those I had seen in the medical facility. Windows all along every side of the room lent a spacial sense of freedom and of being detached from the rest of the station.

As Mr. Pontchartrain moved his large furred fingers over certain areas of the control panel the room suddenly changed. I was forced to keep from dropping instinctively into a crouch or, even, all the way to the floor. However, my instinct seemed to stumble into my common sense when I realized that the floor itself had disappeared! We were standing, seemingly without support, over a snow covered and cloud capped mountain range! This was Mr. Pontchartrain's holodeck.

My vertigo was quickly ignored as I spun in place and everywhere I looked was an amazing vista as if, with a flick of a switch, he had catapulted us directly into a massive still image captured by crystal. Astounding! No hiss of steam, no clicking sound of gearworks disturbed the scene. Even when flying, there is a sense that you cannot experience the totality of it as you deal with buffeting winds or holding your body right against the downward pull of gravity. Not the case here as the viewer need only stand still upon a floor that appears to not exist and absorb the wonder all around them.

We cycled through several views, some of a natural subject matter and some that appeared to be taken within great adorned buildings. The uses for such a device, not only for recreation but for medical or educational purposes, began to assault me. And it was at this moment that the first thought of apprehension gathered itself to me. Would the public at Caledon believe my story so far? Such astounding devices that might very well change the very face of who and what Caledon is today? You see many things being the captain of an Otherworld ship and due to it, I adjust rapidly to change. Though even with the previous training, I found myself hard pressed to fully understand the technology being used easily upon this station. What would a person from Caledon, who had lived their entire life on the ground, say to such wonders? Know, dear reader, that it is only after long and thoughtful meditations that I decided to tell this story.

My two hosts and myself discussed several different things as we stood there. Occasionally, Mr. Roo and Mr. Pontchartrain would share a technical discussion. Eventually, the holodeck was shut down and travel continued through the station. Mr. Pontchartrain showed me a room set up specifically for using crystal imagers as well as a very intriguing and technical Mainland version of a crystal imager that he called a camera. It looked very interesting but I believe I will stick by my old Fey hand-me-down for now. Besides, it was given to me by a good friend.

Our travel took us, finally, back to the hanger where Mr. Pontchartrain mentioned that he would need to leave on business matters soon. Indeed, the hour had grown quite late and I imagined Miss Ofeq might have begun to wonder why I had not returned to camp. Miss Ofeq! She would have to be shown this place, these devices! Mentioning this, I received a warm hearted invitation from Mr. Pontchartrain to come to the station and avail myself of its services at anytime. A grand and honorable dracowolger indeed!

At this point, I had the question of how to get back to where I had started my day. I voiced my concerns and was instructed that I could use the Stargate or, if I wished, I could use escape pods to make my way down to the ground...


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Through The Gate

~~A note to my readers -- I am sure that upon reading these next few installments, some of my readers may be shocked or find themselves unable to belief such grandiose claims. Some Caledonians may have some previous knowledge of what I am about to share while others may go so far as to cry "trickery" on my part. I wish to assure that although what has happened during this stage of the expedition is quite amazing, there is no slight of hand here. These events, technological devices, and processes I will be describing are very real and very much in use. I have yet to understand how their discovery upon the Mainland may influence Caledon. For now, I shall leave it to my humble readers to discern and speculate this for themselves. ~

His name was Mr. Seijin Roo and he explained that he, seeing me in the distance had been curious of my presence. He asked if I was enjoying the nature preserve. Not realizing I was standing in one, I affirmed that I was and introduced myself and my mission. He bade me sit upon another hovering disc he summoned and then asked if I would follow him so that he might be able to show me around a bit. In his words, "The nature preserve is only part of it."

I folded myself onto the small disc and found to my surprise that once cross-legged I was very comfortable. It seemed some sort of energy field held me securely in-place on top of the disc so what appeared to be a dangerous and rather clumsy device was, in truth, very comfortable and very secure. I discovered with some surprise that the device was powered by my own thoughts which not only left my hands free but also placed great control upon piloting the craft. Mr. Roo stated I should fly straight upwards and by merely thinking it, I did so. Following his directions I soon found myself several hundred feet in the air and looking at a massive floating castle in the sky. It was his project and he thought I might enjoy viewing it. He was correct. As it would happen, the floating castle was only the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Landing and walking around on the thin floating platform that held such a grand structure, Mr. Roo guided me over to a large, hollow circular device which was constructed of what appeared to be two interlocking metal rings with odd runes carved upon the inner ring. Seven metal flat pyramidal pieces formed a type of pointing lock upon the outer ring. There was a mystical air and otherworldliness to the device which I recognized from my previous travels. It is a sense, an aura that one picks up after dealing with things of antiquity and power. Call it a tingling to the skin or knowing in your very spine. Whatever this thing was, it was old and very powerful, most likely created from a strong mix of technology and magic. Or, perhaps, created from a technology so far advanced that in its use it would appear as magic to us for hundreds of years. I had no idea what abilities the device could perform but luckily Mr. Roo did not make me wait for long.

By calling out a key phrase, a wash of energy seemed to flood from the device and the rings began to spin. One ring would spin against the other and the runic devices would rotate to one of the rectancular pieces upon the outer ring. A loud mechanical locking sound would emanate and then the ring would spin again. All the while, the energy around the device was building. Finally, after three loud locks, the energy I had been hearing began to turn into an audible hum which, in turn, became a loud pop. Upon this last sound, a blue energy field appeared in the center of the circle. This was the portal, I was instructed, for instantaneous travel to another location where another device was waiting to recieve any travellers. This, he claimed, was a Stargate.

The opening to the portal did not last long. The blue field shimmered and winked out. After stepping down from his hover disc and speaking another combination which caused the device to begin spinning, my host explained that he was calling for the gate itself to choose a random destination. Once finished we would this time step through. He also assured me I would be able to return here so as not to cause much deviation from my current path. I must admit that at that moment I was filled with a mix of trepidation and immense excitement. I did not know the man well and, the thought raced eagerly through my head, he could be leading me into a trap. I had no idea where I would be going and my reliance upon returning to an area I did know rested solely with this man who knew the secrets of the Stargate. As the hum built it matched my growing level of exhilaration and when the blue field popped into view I was quick on his heels as we jumped through the portal.

I would like to say that there was a immense feeling of electricity all over my body. Perhaps a nauseous turning of my stomache as if the very fiber of my being was being turned inside out? In truth, there was little feeling at all and that was perhaps the most disturbing. One moment I was leaping blindly to my fate at the turst of a complete stranger and the next I was standing on the other side, upon a raised platform and surrounded by cold and heavy blue steel walls. Behind me stood another Gate. A little further ahead were long windows which curved outward and revealed a wide cloudless horizon which suggested we were very far above the earth. Around me began hovering and buzzing an odd clockwork device that seemed to take a great interest in me. I realized I was alone and my heart lept to my throat as I had the thought I had been decieved indeed! My hand went for the Webley. Then, there was another popping sound and through the portal strode Mr. Roo.

We gathered near the device and within moments the watery blue field vanished leaving us in the metal room. In the newborn silence there came the thrumming sound of a huge engine which seemed to subtly vibrate the metal plates under my booted feet. The clockwork device buzzed more about my head and declared in a strange voice that I had been scanned and found safe. Where was I? What was this device scanning me?

I had only a few mere moments to try to simulatanously gather myself and launch my questions to Mr. Roo before, suddenly, just to my left, the Stargate began to hum again. Stepping back quickly out of instinct, I turned to Mr. Roo and asked him if he had was the reason for it.

"No," he said, "there is someone else coming through."

~~To Be Continued~~

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Small Review Upon The Third Week of Travel

I find it necessary to take some time to clarify a few things I have learned recently. This is, in part, due to the most amazing of adventures I have recently experienced and will be chronicling shortly! Since this will take several journal entries to collect, express, and correctly archive what happened, I thought I would take one small entry to catch my breath a bit and fill in whatever small cracks I might have overlooked so far.

I spent a small bit of time back at the Lorax game hall and struck up a small conversation with a few natives who were sitting at the automatic clockwork game devices. Among them were O9 Nakanihon, pictured here, an interesting fellow calling himself JibbaJa Jarvis, Denise Electricteeth, and Mr. Paster himself. Fortunately, I was able to get several questions answered. I discovered that a "Lorax" is a type of small creature that lives among and saves trees and forests. Given Mr. Paster's mission, this makes quite a bit of sense now that I know the full concept. The mechanical devices that the natives sit in front of for long periods of time are, indeed, a form of clockwork gaming device. In addition, the fortress I saw a few days ago with a roof full of flying devices, called "helicopters" by the natives, is not actually a fortress nor is it a military base. It is simply the residence of a wealthy local individual.

I have also learned from others I have spoken to that there is very little in the way of formal government here on the Mainland. There appears to be some in the form of a particular family that exercises control over things such as land and discipline. However, no one I spoke to seemed to be able to tell me where I might locate them and it appears they deal in the affairs of natives very light handedly.

The final bit of information I have discovered is that the land of the Mainland is divided up into areas much like there are counties in Caledon. However, upon the mainland, these areas are called "sims." What the history or foundation of the name might be, I do not know. Their names for the counties are very strange indeed but, in all ways, they seem to function very similiarly to Caledon counties.

After breaking camp in the Lorax forest, I decided I wanted to spend a bit more time in the area of the Dancing Lady Tavern. Arriving to the area, I was delighted to find a large steam-powered paddlewheel riverboat carrying the name of the S.S. Indigo docked directly to the front of it. What I failed to mention last time was that the coastline I had been following which led me to the pub had turned into a narrow cove that terminated into shallow v-shape, high ridges rising upwards from either side. Into that small cove, the Indigo had pulled and docked. Unfortunately, no one appeared to be on board and the state rooms, as well as the captain's bridge appeared deserted.

Why it had arrived was a mystery but I will not argue that it was a very welcome sight indeed. Taking a small tour of the vessel I inspected the large paddlewheel and its mechanics. I also wandered the vessel for a short while and found it beautifully constructed and quite spacious. It had been awhile since I had been granted the good fortune of standing on such a vessel. I paused on the upper deck to make some more notes and enjoy the view before moving onward.

Moving up the narrow cove, I stopped to enjoy a small collection of old world houses. I think I would do well to be able to afford a simple home such as this one day. A small cottage with a majestic view of the ocean would be fine with me. A place such as this would make a fine ground based office for an airship captain, methinks.

Travelling onward, I flew over the cove and onto a stretch of rolling land that although without much in the ways of trees or forest was strikingly peaceful. As I was standing there enjoying the scenery and trying to decide whether now was the time to strike more inland, I was approached by a man who sat upon a black and circular hovering device.

Like the appearance of a geni or a mysterious Fey, from that point forward, things were destined to never be the same...

~~To Be Continued~~

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Strange Shores

I awoke, checked over the camp, and then attended towards the matter of exploring the large gothic buildng which rose upward from the northern hillside, clouds swirling near its pinnacled roof. The way was uphill, steep, and for speed of approach I used the flying crystals. As I neared, I saw now sign of actvity for such a large structure and at it's doors there were no guards. Testing the doors, I found them unlocked and after calling several times, I allowed myself inside. The feel of the place was meditative, peaceful, but also there was a loneliness to the place carried perhaps by the sound of the wind moving through the abandoned structure. The building had been kept up, that much was obvious, but by whom and how often, there was no sign. No adornments besides the lavish stained glass windows brightened the place, no couches, no chairs, no flowers, no rugs to make the place feeled lived in.

In a way, I felt like I was visiting someone, paying my regards to an old ancient but long forgotten king. And it felt as if the old noble was carefully watching me in return. I could feel the weight of the structure all around me, and below me as well. Much work had been placed into the building and I had the feeling that it seemed so much was going to waste here. Coming across a beautiful outdoor garden space, carefully tended but still carrying that forlorn feeling, cemented this opinion.

It would seem that its designer was not without a sense of paranoid cleverness as I nearly met an unfortunate fate while moving from room to room. Luckily, I take great care in my explorations and because of such practices I have lived through several close encounters without a scratch. Opening a massive door, I nearly tumbled forward into a room that was not there for the doorway opened up directly above an unfinished underground level. Had I been rushing through the doorway I would have fallen a decent 25 feet unto the cold and unforgiving stone floor below. Catching my breath but curious of the lower floor, I lowered myself down with the use of the crystal. I was disappointed however in finding no other clues as to why such a door existed. I suppose it is possible that I had simply wandered into a unfinished portion of the building but with no signs of warning or care, I have to assume that it was all part of some fiendish trap. It added a mysterious air to the rest of the feelings I had about the place. I let myself out the way I had entered and closed the doors gently behind me. As I walked towards the northest to see what else I could see, I looked over my shoulder at the palace behind me and felt as if its eyes watched me till I was lost in the trees.

A little more to the north, I moved past numerous homes, also vacant until I came across a wonderful hillside retreat. A lovely creek waterfall bouncing down a stone covered hillside, flowers, a mated pair of swans, and the most splendid tents filled the area.

Gloomy thoughts of lonely abandoned kings were washed away by the energy of the place. As I enjoyed the area and began taking images with the crystal imager, I realized that I was not alone. Looking to my right, I saw movement through the trees. Using my imager, I was able to get a better look at what appeared to be a female native working on some project or attending to the nearby trees. So as not to alarm her, I called out quietly but received no response. Attempting better contact, I made my way over the creek garnered me a wet cloak and boots. I stopped nearly sixty feet away and called to her again. Finally getting her attention, she asked if I was speaking to her. I smiled and affirmed that I was and then introduced my self and my quest.

I was rewarded with her running away from me like a faun. Around the trees and up over the hillside, she disappeared from sight before I was even able to say another word.

Letting out a long sigh, I wondered yet again what it is about my presence that seems to frighten some natives into either silence or flight? Is it the weaponry I carry at my side, the elven blade and the stun baton? It cannot be the Webley as it is tucked discreetly under the inner foldings of my coat, secured by a firm harness. Perhaps it is my size? Could it be that I am somehow considered grotesque or monstrous by some of the natives? I imagine such a thing could be true since it appears the Mainland consists of many varied and different cultures. Also, if Miss Ofeq were with me perhaps the female would have acted differently? Who is to say for sure?

I pressed on and explored the area further, finally following the shoreline upwards into a small secluded inlet where I found a fascinating pub. From a distance, I was struck again of the old world feel that I consider so comforting. Not knowing it was a pub at the time, my curiosity was piqued by an odd adornment on the roof of the building. Flying closer I could see that it was some form of moving image of an athletic looking woman dancing the same moves over and over. Not sure if I was looking at a form of magic or technology, I decided to land and have a closer look inside the building if possible.

Opening the unlocked door I was delighted to find a well-stocked yet empty of patrons pub. Wood panelling, low lighting, and a well stocked wall of various spirits all added up to a comforting glow. The lack of patrons, or even owners, I treated to it being so early in the morning. Seeing a spiral staircase I ascended it and discovered not only the answer to the odd image on the roof but a shocking sight.

What I can only surmise is a place for festivity and celebration, I found the entire upstairs area had been taken over with swirling lights, floor, and music. The entire area was filled with a feeling of celebration and jubilation. Tucked away in a corner is what appeared to be a small podium for the master of whatever ceremonies went on in this place. Flanked by two large rectangular boxes that appeared to be some sort of listening or porjection device, the rest of the podium was filled with switches and dials of whose purpose escapes me. On odd curving glass shield rested above the control panel which struck me as interesting. It appeared to be some form of protection which led me to wonder if the was some danger involved in being the leader of these particular ceremonies? Or, perhaps, the shield was simply for the equipment itself? But, then I wonder, from what? Regardless, I moved about the room, taking images for archival purposes and what measurements I could. I decided to name the place the "Dancing Lady Pub" in my notes in honor of the strange device I found earlier on the roof.

Coming down the stairs, I encountered another odd sight. A large winged man, pale-skinned and white haired, stood in the center of the lower level looking at me. I greeted him as I have done all the natives but he seemed to just ignore me and moved to the bar without saying a word. With the experiences fresh in my mind concerning the female earlier, I have begun to believe that the natives practice some form of silence to newcomers. I know of some cultures that will ignore newcomers to their lands on the grounds that they may be spirits or ghosts. Could this be something similiar? If so, I am now more curious about it then before. My other thought is perhaps they have been told by some central leader to ignore me and other members of the Expedition? Could this be due to some sort of paranoia or fear?

I left the pub behind me and a little disheartened with the lack of contact, travelled back to camp to organize my thoughts and these notes. I believe we will be breaking camp soon, perhaps tomorrow, and moving onward as we enter the third week of our expedition. As normal, I plan to continue North and eastward, following the coast until I find a reasonable path deeper into the heart of the Mainland.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Forest, A New Friend, & A Fearful Concern

As we travelled eastward, Miss Ofeq and I found ourselves in a delightful pine forest. As we moved through it, my plan was to aim towards the shoreline. As we did so, I and Miss Ofeq began to hear the faint sounds of chimes and other mechanical alarm devices coming through the branches like chirpings of clockwork birds. Breaking free of the treeline, we came to a large open and flat stone shelf set up from the shoreline and which contained a wide variety of devices that resembled the altars of the Almighty Dollah. The devices lined the area and were the source of the several different types of bells, whistles, and flashing lights we were hearing and seeing.

Steppng into the area, we saw only two natives standing near the altar-like devices, one of which was in a similiar bowing meditation. Because of this, we immediately assumed we had found yet another sacred area. The natives took no notice of our arrival and, in truth, paid us no mind even when spoken to which is something that I have yet to get used to so far in this expedition. Miss Ofeq began taking measurements of the area as well as making several sketches. I moved to the altar-devices themselves to investigate them. One in particular caught my attention since it too carried the same symbols we had seen back at the large temple which were the images of "those rewarded."

However, as I drew closer I realized that we had stumbled upon something else entirely. Now, I am sure my reader will understand that, as an airship captain and someone that has been to many ports, I have seen my fair share of gambling dens and establishments that would, perhaps, be considered far out of the realm of polite company. My job, at times, has carried me into such places. And, faith forgive, I've been known to frequent a few of the higher class ones so as to test my luck with a game of cards. I'm sure such knowledge would shock Miss Ofeq as well as many of my other social contacts in Caledon but, alas, it is the life of a freelancing captain.

As I studied the devices I began to realize that they were nothing more then a form of automated gaming for coin. Though borrowing heavily from the previous altars they served another purpose entirely. And, in the name of science and experimentation, I deposited a few coin and worked my way through the device. From what I can tell, after depositing said coin and then pushing a button to wager an amount of it, three clockwork wheels begin spinning. When those wheels stop, particular images are revealed and then, if the images line up in one of the proper patterns, you are paid off an appropriate amount for your wager.
In this image, I had scored one "rewarded follower" and, in turn, had won a slight return on my money. My experiments continued for a few moments with an interested Miss Ofeq standing by but, as I assumed it would happen, the machine ended up taking my coin when its wheels did not spin to a beneficial alignment. Miss Ofeq, attracted by the sounds and lights, decided to also give it a go at a nearby device. Her coin suffered the same as mine. Luckily for both of us, we did not wager that much from the beginning.

It was about that time that we were approached by a very friendly native with a large rambuctious head of dark curly hair. Wearing a shirt that reminded me of the temple to the Dollah with its colorful swirls, he greeted us and welcomed us to "The Lorax Foundation Casino." I quickly introduced Miss Ofeq and myself and explained our mission and what we were doing. In turn, he announced himself as Galen Paster, the operator of the area. I was pleased at his congeniality and his willingness to answer our questions.

He explained that by running this establishment, he was using the winnings offered up by the very machines we had used to purchase more land for more of the wonderful and thick forest around the area. In a way, I had to give a roguish grin and applaud him for what I would consider his Robin Hood way of doing things. A gambling forester. He also went on to state that in an attempt to be beneficial and to aid others, the forest was home to some without their own home whom he had granted the freedom to place a small tent or campsite. Hearing this, I asked him if we might be able to avail ourselves of the forest for our own basecamp. Such a thing would allow us to rest and recover from forays out into the mainland. I promised him we would not be long, a few days at longest, a week at most, with the only burden upon the land a few tents, some crates, a small fire, and a hovering airship. To my delight, he agreed to the proposal!

Wishing us well, he moved on to attend to his own business and we moved on to explore the area. Moving up the stairs to the next level was a large oval table. As we explored, we found two more. Again, I am no stranger to these things and my only pause in investigating them was due to not initially recognizing them. Several years ago, I allowed a young man to serve on my crew as a way for him to get further along on his own journeys. He brought with him a good work ethic and a pair of sharp eyes. He also brought along a game that he said he had learned in his homeland. An odd variant of the gambling game called poker, it involved a player receiving only two cards in the deal and then making use of a central area of five cards. He taught the game to me after a small scuffle had been broken up between my crew and, after getting my brain around it, I found I enjoyed the game for its skill. We played for some time before I eventually dropped him off near the Goldcrest Mountains near Dahlastein.

What we had stumbled upon here, I believe, were tables specifically for the purpose of card games, if not poker itself since the name emblazoned on the table seemed to strike me as similiar to the name of the game taught me. As Miss Ofeq went about her measurements and I took what images I could, I found myself slightly disappointed there had not been a game going on. It was more for the better for I would have wasted far too much time there! No, such a thing can transpire when there is not an expedition to attend to!

Pleased at finding an area to call something akin to home for a short while, our conversation leaned towards what we had seen in our own solo adventures. Miss Ofeq mentioned seeing some manner of flying craft, possibly of military purpose back a small pace to the west. Surprised that I had missed them myself, I had her take me there immediately via the flying crystals so as not to waste a moment further. And, yes, I had somehow missed what appeared to be a strong military base hidden amongst the jumble of small buildings!

Upon the roof sat four large craft that must have been aerial in their design. Their design appeared to be inspired by beetles or insects and without closer study or inspection I can only surmise their lift was created from the spinning of large thin propellor blades mounted to their rooves and with another additional guiding propellor on the tail of the craft. And, no, we were unable to get closer to the building or to the aircraft due to, yet again, another invisible wall obviously placed there for security reasons. Alighting on a nearby roof, I looked over the craft from a distance and used the imaging crystal to its fullest effect in order to capture what we had found. What concerned me the most was this defense base in conjunction with the invisible walls I had encountered earlier which effectively sealed off the southern shore from entrance to the Mainland. If they had gone to so much trouble was the actual Mainland government concerned about, astounding as it sounds, an invasion from Caledon? From another nation? Of course, I had not seen any indication of ANY government so perhaps it was simply some form of civic defense.Again, without natives to interview, I was at a loss as to how the pieces fit all together. Perhaps by having a simple base camp for a short while, we will be able to get some of these questions answered. I do know for sure that if more information might be acquired on those airships, there will be inviduals back in Caledon that would not mind knowing of it. But, I am concerned that too much poking and prodding might end up with us burdened with an espionage charge and on the run. I will keep my eyes and ears open concerning them.

After thanking Miss Ofeq for showing the base to me, we returned back via the crystals to the forest. I evenually found not only a suitable landing spot for the shuttle, a small and perfect clearing, but enough space so Miss Ofeq and I could set up a few tents, a fire, and to unlimber a few crates from the Albatross' hold. As we set up camp, I happened to see, through a small opening of the trees where our next excursion will take place. Up on the hill, a building rose that shocked me with its familiarity. It was if we had simply gone a short distance and, in the distance, we had spied Caledon. It seemed a majestic and proud building.

Settling down to sleep in my tent later that night, I was struck with one particular and perplexing thought as I reviewed my day, and more importantly, my time with Mr. Paster. He had said that this place was called the "Lorax Foundation." However, I was quite sure I had never heard of a Lorax before and was completely at a loss as to what it might be. And for that matter, what was a "Trucker girl" which had been displayed on one of the gaming devices? These are the things that swirled in the mind of an exhausted adventurer.

I make for the structure first thing in the morning...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Simply Eastward

I had been right in estimating the invisible walls would not hamper our travel closer to the water. Travelling Eastward, I neared a small structure that Miss Ofeq had mentioned earlier. Upon first viewing the building I was curious to explore it. However, within a few feet of me closing on the doorway, an explosion of images launched themselves outward toward me as if blasted from an ill-fitted steam pipe. What sorcery or insane technology was this? Fierce images of an angry man, perhaps a warrior, powerfully holding up an image of worldly globe between thumb and forefinger. His expressions suggesting a sense of control or even violence on the globe in his hand. His lips pulled back, his teeth bared, multiple copies of the same image assaulted my senses!

I fell to earth rather roughly in surprise and made to retreat after gaining my feet. The images continued, spewing outward in all directions, flying towards the heavens like a flock of avians launching themselves toward the horizon. I stepped back quickly and snapped a quick image with my crystal device. In my haste, I forgot to toggle the settings to a more vibrant color. However, after looking at the image it conveys more convincingly the brutal feeling of the assault. Removing myself to a far distance, the images subsided even though I could still see several floating outward above the ocean and drifting on the winds above the nearby hills. At about that time, perhaps drawn by the first explosion, a native wandered over and triggered the images again. I am completely perplexed as to what it all might mean and there was, as usual, no one around to answer my questions since the previous native flew off in fright. Perhaps it was some odd security system but that does not answer the question as to why that particular image? Given the buildings location close to the aforementioned temple, perhaps it was image of the Almighty Dollah? If so, I must reconsider my understanding of a diety that I thought to be gentle, caring, and supportive.

After the last image had drifted away, I circumvented the area and headed more towards the water. I found myself in a small patch of land that seemed to be completely lost to a take-back from Mother Nature herself. Large flowering trees choked the area, the perfume from their petals intoxicating and calming me after my earlier upset. I stopped at a small rivulet of fresh water to take in a few cupped handfuls of dazzling crystal clear water. The taste of it was fresh and cool. After the small respite, I felt more then ready to continue for the day.

Finally getting a closer view at some of the architecture here, I find that I am absolutely amazed at its complexity. I'm sure Miss Ofeq would be able to give a much more detailed analysis of it. I am no architect and, unfortunately, not much of a scientist either. However, let me say that when I compare the architecture of what I am seeing here to what I am aware of in Caledon, I can note the vast differences between the two cultures. One of the first things I have noticed so far is the Mainlander's fixation on size and color. If possible, everything here must be as large as possible or, if that will not work, it must be as bright and garish as possible. And, as witnessed in the temple to Dollah, both will work just fine as well! I offer here a pair of images of buildings I have been able to examine so far. The one structure on stilts was part of a long string
structures built along the shoreline. A sign near their front indicates they are being offered for rental space. The floating home was a wonder to behold, hovering above the narrow bay on its transparent base. Could it be that I was inaccurate in my first assessment of Mainlanders not being educated? From these buildings, and others I have seen, is it conceivable that a majority of the Mainlanders are brilliant in the realm of physics, construction, and science? Unfortunately, as seems to be the case in this area, most of the homes stand empty or I would have otherwise attained an interview to learn more. One question that continues is where are the owners of these buildings?

However, as can be seen here, some of them do seem to understand the necessity and pleasure of a quiet, out of the way, spot for reflection and meditation. I found this small fountain outside a large, nay, massive store that had mimicked Greco-Roman architecture. Perhaps this, this small little handcafted exhibit to thouthfulness and peace, more then anything else I have seen so far, would indicate that Mainlanders are not that far removed from us Caledonians.

And finally, I am happy to announce that I have finally heard word back from Caledon! The Expedition has been announced and word from other explorers is starting to make its way there. From what I understand, most are still healthy and persevering. Below I am sharing several addresses which should allow my readers to peruse what is happening elsewhere with this fine Expedition! Also, take a special note to the address posted first which is none other then the collected information of my current Expedition companion, Miss Mylinn Ofeq.

Exhibition of the Life and Times of Mylinn Ofeq at the Watkins Museum of History

Proceedings of the Royal Society

The Explorations of Justy

For now, we are continuing to head Eastward but also moving Northward as soon as possible. It s my hope to encounter a decently populated area soon.