The Log of Amelia Primrose: Part 7

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11 May 319

More than a week's journey northwards, I fear we are reaching the limits of our endurance. While we barely stopped at all during the first few days of our flight north, we are now being forced to rest for as much of the day as we walk. We've rationed the last of our food, even supplemented by what we have managed to hunt and gather over the trip. Unfortunately, especially for the children and the wounded, this has only sapped their endurance even more.

Tonight, we are encamped on a beach, which appears to be some sort of large bay or sound; we must be on the far side of whatever peninsula was north of our island before. It is a somewhat reassuring sight, since we have much greater chance of being discovered along the coast, but there has still been no sign of civilization so far. However, there has been no sign of any of the creatures that set us on our way either, so we thank the gods for that particular blessing.

Duncan has become withdraw and consumed with his thoughts over the course of our travels; he has taken the brunt of the blame for our predicament, though mostly from himself. I have tried to console him, holding him for hours at night, but he says nothing and has taken to skipping meals the last two days. I have reminded him that we were much worse off when we were first wrecked upon the shore, but that does not seem to help his spirits.

From now on, I'll be tucking everything after the first diary entry behind the cut -- click the link below to see the rest of this installment.
12 May 319

This morning we set off east, along the coast, and discovered something extraordinary -- signs of previous habitation! It seems that our long journey may be at an end for now, but first I should explain what it is we found.

Butte at Sunrise.png
We set off at the first sign of sunrise this morning, up along the coast, and not long after we started, we spotted a tall butte to the north east, rising from among the forests adjoining the coast. While it was easy to see that the top of the butte was strangely devoid of the trees that choked the hills and shores surrounding it, Duncan was the first one to notice that there also seemed to be oddly shaped rocks at the top -- rocks that seemed to be shaped by human hands.

While this was not a sure sign of civilization, our circumstances had perhaps led us to hope for more than was reasonable. Immediately, our weary band was set abuzz by the thought that we would finally be able to stop and find a place to settle down again. I admit, as much as I tried not to let myself get carried away, my heart was also buoyed by the thought, if only to allow us to focus on a new task and distract Duncan from his thoughts of despair.

Butte from Forested Shore.png
It did not take long for us to get close to the butte, after picking through the trees carefully to make sure that there was no sign of creepers or giant spiders. From the beach, we could see the trees clustered at the base of the mountain, but no sign of any way to climb to the top; the sides were quite sheer, with few handholds that even an experienced climber could use to ascend safely.

Collapsed Entrance.png
However, we when got closer to the base of the mountain, we could see a cave hidden behind the trees. Though overgrown and partly collapsed, it appeared that it may not have been entirely natural, at least at one time. Duncan and a few other men crawled in to investigate while the rest of us held our breath, hoping to hear good news. Only a few moments later, Duncan reemerged from the cave with a look of relief on his face, waving over a few of the other men and telling them to bring tools. I could not help myself and ran to him, begging him to tell me what he saw. He took my arm and led me inside the cave, pointing to a hole in the wall where Mr. Tyler was climbing through, pulled by Mr. Yancy.

Behind the Cave.png
When Mr. Tyler finished climbing through, Duncan gave me a small boost so I could see through the hole. Behind it stretch a wide staircase, and on the wall Mr. Yancy had placed a pair of torches to illuminate it -- clearly in sconces set there before we arrived. It was clear that we were not the first people to come this way, and that this had been carved from the stone long ago. Duncan helped me back down to the floor while the other men helped him dig out the rest of the entrance to the stair, a flurry of picks and shovels invigorated with the hope that our journey was over. Even over that din, we could hear Mr. Yancy and Mr. Tyler shouting in amazement at what laid on the other side of the barrier.

The Great Staircase Revealed.png
It took nearly an hour to clear the rubble from the entrance to the hallway, and once we did, we were greeted by Mr. Yancy and Mr. Tyler, who motioned us forward, glancing upwards and downwards, as if they could not believe their eyes. Once we met them on the landing at the top of the staircase, we could see why. The short stair was nothing but a taste of what awaited us, for inside the mountain we found a giant staircase, one that stretched up to the top of the mountain and down as far as the eye could see, a great shaft with the sunlight pouring in from the ceiling. It was like nothing I had seen before; the effort it must have taken to hollow out this space was awe-inspiring.

Ruins at Griffon's Nest.png
When we reached the top of the staircase, we emerged at on a plateau at the top of the butte, in the middle of some ruins. At one time, there must have been a fort atop the mountain, with a commanding view of the surrounding land.

The Southeast Desert.png
To the south and east of the butte, a stretch of desert covered the land, dotted with small oases and isolated cacti.  It was much more vast than the small, sandy stretch north of Fort Upton, so large we could not see the end of it even from the butte's lofty vantage point.

The Butte Beach.png
Looking down to the west we could see the small beach we came in from, covered with trees; the forest wrapped around the butte and continued to the north, over a small sheltered valley and more hills and mountains. Our newfound perch was perfect; high above the surrounding land, with an excellent view of our surroundings and with little chance of anything sneaking up on us from below. It seemed the answer to our prayers.

While the other men went to help the rest of our raggedy mob up the stairs to the ruins, Duncan and I stayed at the top of the butte and embraced, his sense of relief almost bringing him to tears. There were few words to say that could express what we were feeling at that moment, so we stood there in silence, letting the wind wash over us.

By late morning, everyone and their meager possessions had been brought up to the top of the butte; while there was still a great deal of work to be done, setting up a suitable camp, I think the view did a great deal to calm people's nerves, so impressive it was. While everyone was concerned with practical concerns, getting us food, wood for the camp, finding a good source of water, and, for many of the mothers, keeping their children away from the edge of the mountain, I spent some time walking through the ruins. While I was thankful we had found this place, I could not help but wonder who had built the fort that had once stood here, and what had become of them. It could have been a Crusader fort, but it seemed older; I doubt a few hundred years would wear a fort down to the scattered stone walls that were all that was left here.

Cleared Entrance.png
By the afternoon, a great deal of hard work had cleared the cave-in blocking the entrance to the towering stairs in the butte, and we were able to start chopping down trees and hauling the logs up to the top of the mountain. By nightfall, we'd managed to bring up enough wood for some small fires and to begin building some temporary shelters, though the darkness -- and the danger of slipping off the edge of the cliffs -- has ended that for the most part tonight.

Duncan is calling me over, so I will cut this entry short; tomorrow begins a new day of work building our new home, and I look forward to it. For the first time in more than a week, I feel almost safe -- and hopeful about the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Chas Blackwell published on February 25, 2011 8:36 AM.

The Log of Amelia Primrose: Part 6 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Log of Amelia Primrose: Part 8 is the next entry in this blog.

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