I took in the vista slowly on my final ascent from the canyon holding the river that over the last grueling days(and the end of three week’s journey by foot and inflatable boat) had taken me through the mountain passes.
The canyons snaking through the terrain look like wrinkles on the ancient face of element-scoured earth. At first it looked like a thriving desert landscape, but upon closer viewing it became apparent that most of what had seemed to my eyes at first as vegetation was in fact ruins almost completely ground down by what must have been thousands of years of erosion.
Myths related to me spoke of a great city that once laid here, in a time before The Horrors, ancient events that are taboo to speak of amongst my people. Taboos that also prohibit the exploration of this plateau.
I had little use for taboos in those days. They bored me. I thought myself above such superstitions. Now, as I’m older and wiser, I can see the wisdom in them. I speak to you now of these taboos because you will need to know these things soon enough. Be careful about whom you pass this knowledge to any further, for you may be met with incredulity or even hostility for doing so.
A harsh dusty wind blew on my face as I turned it about to face a thing that I would never have expected.
From a large hill upon the earth, an immense tower of stone rose at least a mile above the surface. It looked nothing like any building I had ever encountered before, nor like any natural thing. Trees and shrub were growing from cracks in the rock, the monolith seemingly indifferent to such minor aesthetic impurities. At the top, at the very edge of my vision, a glint of light. A window?
As I gazed slack-jawed at the view, I noticed going towards the foot of the tower a group of bipedal creatures. They walked with the gait of great apes and were covered in thick beige fur. As they reached the foot of the tower they immediately started climbing the great column. Their ascent bore little resemblance to how humans would climb. Seemingly bearing little regard for their own lives, they would leap and weave upwards on the stone, confident that they would find grip, and scrabbling for hand-holds as little stones would rain down from their effort.
I knew in my heart that this citadel held the object of my quest. I would have to enter it to have it relinquish its secrets. Though I did not know why. Would I have to climb onto the backs of these brutes to get to the top? Or was there another way in?
Looking about the base of the tower, there seemed to be an opening. A door, perhaps?
I began my approach, and after an hour of walking and then half an hour climbing the hill, I got closer. I decided that avoiding the apes would be prudent, and snuck past some of their shelters at the base of the tower.
But when making my way around a large square stone, I came face to face with one. I froze. She had a large flat mouth on a big round head. Her beneath her fur, under short protruding horns her eyes looked big and black and without intelligence. Our eyes lock for a moment. And then she carries on building a makeshift shelter. Or nest. I pass on and come closer to the opening. It is wide and tall, big enough to hold this house that the chieftain before my had built. There are bigger houses in other tribes, though you have not yet seen them. And I assure you that this opening would hold all of them at once.
I passed the threshold and made my way deep into the tower. I marveled at this place. Surely this was not a monument built by nature, but no human power I can conceive of could possibly match it. Though I rarely thought of the gods those days, at that moment they were close. Surely this place was wrought by the gods. What naiveté.
As great as my marvel was at the great corridor leading to the center, it was easily eclipsed by what awaited me at the center. In the gloomy (but existent?) light, I beheld the base of a great spiral staircase, large enough for twenty people to stand abreast on a step, and worn smooth by heavy traffic millenia ago.
I began my ascent to the top.