Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Backpacking Burro: Cowell, Part 1

The fire, now dead at my feet, was all the proof that remained of the strange events of the previous night. Well, that and the fact I was quite clearly part gazelle. The sooner I found some kind of clue to help me stop this blessed war-in-waiting, the sooner I could go back to being human again. I stiffened my resolve and began to explore.

I stood at the base of the elegant white lighthouse and surveyed my surroundings. The lighthouse itself stood at the end of a sandy spit of land with the open ocean to one side and the main body of Cowell Village to the other separated by a narrow canal. The spit extended quite a way from the lighthouse, past some squat, white buildings to a grey stone bridge that arced gracefully over the canal. I decided the best place to start would be the lighthouse itself, after all the doors were open…

Inside, the lighthouse looked as though the owner had just popped out: the computer was on, work was spread out on the desk seemingly left mid flow, hell! there was even a half painted lump of wood with the paint still tacky on its surface on the desk!

Looking around the room I seemed to be in the home of an inventor, or collector, or builder or businessman. Photographs showed the same tall blue figure again and again and declared his name was Salazar Jack. I made a mental note and vowed to contact him to see if he could shed any light on my predicament.

For now I started at the maps on the wall, one seemingly ancient and one new, and wondered what they had in common. The older map (I did not recognise the landmass – was it from this world? If so, could it be from before the last Shamanic war led to the downfall off all that had gone before?) seemed to have symbols written over it, although what they said I could not make out. I’ve never been great with codes, I couldn’t even make out the simple one that lay next to the computer…

Behind me there was an ingenious brass lift (or elevator, I believe some people have been known to call them) and I surmised it would take me to the very top of the lighthouse – all the better for gaining a good view of Cowell and the forest beyond. I stepped in and pressed the button. Somewhere behind, below and above me, gears shifted, machinery whirred and a steam engine began to labour. I rose smoothly into the belly of the lighthouse. I passed through private chambers and up into an ante-room that, via an opening in the wall and a walkway bolted onto the outside of the lighthouse, led up to the very top of the structure.

The winds, fanning the powerful flames that burned in the large central fire as a warning to passing ships, buffeted me and I held on to the handrail as I cast my gaze over the immense serenity of Kahruvel forest. Trees, tall and proud, circled rocky outcrops like an ocean around tiny atolls. They marooned buildings and cut off pathways like floodwaters let loose in a city. I could see from here that my previous day’s explorations had only shown me a fraction of the forest’s majesty and I found myself itching the return. Later, I told myself, first let’s explore the village.

I retraced my steps back through the lighthouse and emerged once more onto the sand spit. Next stop, the small white building, which, upon closer examination, seemed to belong to a fellow called Champie.

Inside I found an array of objects, from a broken vase to a small electronic gizmo of indeterminate use called a GINI. I couldn’t make head nor tail of any of the things on display so I wandered away...
...and up some steps and found myself on a small veranda with chairs arranged around a table on which lay three maps. I took a seat and studied them closely. They satellite and photo maps of the surrounding area and the close up on Cowell boasted helpful tagged pins pointing out each major location. I memorised each and moved on.
As I rounded the building and headed to the bridge, the sun framed the small bell tower and I found myself rooted to the spot at its beauty.

It took a drifting cloud to move me on and at last I crossed the bridge that led over the harbour and into Cowell proper...
But as I stood on the bridge, gazing at the boats gently bobbing below me, I noticed a large monolith behind the buildings I was now heading away from. I double back and went to look.

The stone needle had been carved into an octagon design I had seen in the shape of the lighthouse and there was a similar pattern inlaid into the floor around me. What could this mean? A simple design the architect liked, or was the a significance to it I had yet to uncover. Whilst pondering this, I rose and walked slowly back to the bridge to explore the other half of Cowell.

To Be Continued...

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