I found this manuscript written in D'ni, resting upon the age you wished for me to investigate. It was hard to find. The book you directed me to led instead to a nexus age, which contained twelve separate linking books. They led to a variety of ages, each most assuredly not what you were looking for. However, one of the books led to an abandoned office building in Barcelona, of all places, in which I discovered a well hidden linking book.
It led to the age you were describing. However, there was no life on the age. It consisted of the decaying edifice of a dome surrounded by an inhospitable sea of clouds. What I did find was this manuscript. It's narrator gives little clue as to who he might be, nor can I be sure how old the paper is, but judging from the age of the office building and that of the paper he couldn't have been here more than fifty years ago.
It is curious then that the complex ecology he describes in the manuscript has completely vanished. All that is left in the age are the crumbling bricks and clouds. Many things in this manuscript remain unanswered, which leaves us all to wonder who exactly built the dome. And the ending of this narration is, as of yet, unwritten.
In any case, I pass this on to you, to make of it as you will.
A Theology of Buttresses
I have decided that it is time to write on all that I have discovered here. This place is described by the members of the Eleven Buttresses as "The Dome", in such a manner as we might say "The World." The nature of the place is clearly defined in the name, it is a dome. Description, inevitably, must begin there.
The dome is as other domes that are known to us, constructed in accordance with the regular architectural rules of stress and tension and what not. Its sheer size, however, is extraordinary. The base of the dome, "The edge of the world" as the dome's inhabitants call it, is such that it takes me a little more than one solar cycle of this place (Equivalent to our days but are a bit longer) The dome then tapers, in a regular fashion, until the top, which is comprised f a perfectly rounded hole. This hole takes about five minutes to walk the circumference of entirely.
The dome is supported by eleven separate buttresses. A curious number, yet they support the dome well. Each buttress also comprises a nation, thus the locals' word for buttress and nation are exactly the same.
I am getting ahead of myself.
The most curious thing about this dome is that I am certain that it was constructed. By whom, I am not sure. Yet that fact is indisputable. From the samples of rock that I have taken I have discovered evidence of masonry, mortar, and of ceramic. It has become clear to me that this dome is not a natural rock form as I assumed when I arrived, but rather a truly fantastic feat of engineering by some unknown race of people.
It is in an obvious state of disrepair. I have found whole portions of it missing, great holes in the sides leading to a presumed demise.
One of the other curious things is that so far I have not succeeded in finding the ground.
The edge of the world gives way to a sea of clouds, through which constant lightning storms can be seen (Implying that there is some ground, I have only to reach it). I presume that the dome is attached to this ground in some way. It is most obvious to me that I am on a celestial body. This world is subject to the regular confines of gravity, and the dome was obviously constructed with this in mind.
Nevertheless the ground is invisible to me, and I have no idea if the dome is merely the tip of some great structure which rises high into the sky, or if the ground is merely permanently covered in a great layer of mist, and is only six feet away from the edge of the dome. I didn't want to run any tests on this subject.
The hole at the top of the dome offers no answers either. The inside of the dome can be made out from the hole, fraught with cracks that show its age, but before the bottom of the structure can be reached there are again, clouds. I cannot say whether or not it is an unusual phenomenon to find clouds inside a building because I have never encountered a building this tall.
It does not rain upon the dome, but every night the entire dome is coated in a blanket of dew. This is where the life gets their water.
The flora and fauna of the dome are interesting. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the lack of diversity in the ecology. There are so few species that I find myself at a loss as to how they can possibly survive with a web of life this rudimentary. (The locals of whom I have been referring are not amongst their numbers; upon testing I can only conclude that based on our definitions they are not alive.)
The largest species on this dome are avian in nature. I have catalogued what appear to be seventeen different species of animals, not including the species domesticated by the locals, who each have their own place in this domes complex ecology. In the interest of discovering if any of the birds ever fly to the ground I attached electronic tags to them and conducted a study. So far none of the tagged birds have left the dome, leaving me to conclude that the ground must be very far down.
The most numerous animal upon this dome are the slugs. They appear to be able to photosynthesize, yet the suns energy is not their only source of food. There are so many different species of slug I have found new ones every day. These slugs comprise of the most common form of food for the birds.
Where you find animals you will, as every ecologist knows, find plants. The plants are numerous in variety, comprising various species and subspecies specifically evolved for surviving in different altitudes upon the dome. None of them are more complex than moss or lichen. I have identified a strange type of algae microbe that lives out its life in a day and reproduces at night, laying strange microscopic forms that can only be called eggs which bloom when the dews cover the dome at night. This algae is the major feeding ground of many of the slugs.
Microbes are quite prevalent; I've noticed many diseases and other harmless parasites that exist alongside the birds and slugs. The most numerous life forms, however, are the fungi. They exist in such a startling diversity, and certain breeds are the main food source for a few specifically evolved birds. Some of these fungi approach the height of a young sapling tree. This fungi appears to sustain itself on the "egg-forms" left by the dew algae. This is a completely different function of fungi than what I am used to seeing in a biosphere; here it is a keystone species. I doubt that the ecosystem would survive long without it.
I cannot see how so divers a population could've evolved on its own, and so I am left to conclude that a much more diverse biosphere must exist, or existed previously, upon the ground. A few species then managed to colonize the dome, somehow, and evolved into the present relationship they have today.
The biggest riddle of this dome are the people.
They are about half a foot tall, and are made out of a substance I can only call clay. Their cultures are numerous, and describing the political relationships, languages, and art are subjects that could take up several books.
Theology and mysticism dominate their lives, and also their conflicts. They are dogmatic and barbaric, and I am utterly fascinated by them.
What I said before about them being non-living is true, although they can reproduce. But they aren't carbon based or silicon based, and require no need of sustenance other than sunlight. This is confirmed both by my studies and by the peoples own folklore, confirming that they have at least some ideas of their own physiology.
They have only one sex, thus the concept of gender is completely alien to them. They reproduce in a manner similar to human sex, where two beings come together and create an offspring. In this intercourse one being is takes the "seed" from the other and harbors it inside its womb. A being that is pregnant cannot create seed, and cannot fertilize one of the other beings.
How they are animate is quite another matter.
Were the laws that govern this world functioning correctly these beings would be mere mannequins of mud. However they somehow have self awareness. I have identified some organ similar to a brain, but rather than being three dimensional it is two dimensional, consisting of numerous "layers" each corresponding to its own cerebral function.
And, although the idea seems preposterous to me, I can only conclude that they were somehow fashioned by some creative, and I believe hominid, force. The myths and legends of these people refer to a race of god kings, of the same build and proportions of themselves except vastly elevated in size. In fact, I happen to bear a striking resemblance to one of these "gods". You can, dear reader, infer the disasters that this has caused.
Furthermore, in all the languages of all of the tribes of the buttresses the myth is more or less the same. The race of gods created the people, and then set them upon the dome to be its caretakers. Each one of the buttresses (A universal metonym of all the languages of the eleven tribes is the synonymous meaning of buttress with tribe) refers to instructions laid down by the gods as to the upkeep of the buttresses. Then the gods left, and left their homunculi to care for the dome. It is said at the beginning that all of the tribes were united in the upkeep of the dome and its twelve buttresses. However, inevitably, splits occurred.
You see each of the eleven tribes is involved in a complex web of feuds and alliances all centered around one theological argument: The type of stonework used to design a buttress. There are some who argue that there should be only geometric forms represented in the buttresses, some tribes say that the buttresses should not be dwelt upon, no they should be reserved as temples, in contrast to the other tribes who construct their vast cities upon the buttresses themselves. The arguments over the buttress designs could also fill many books, in fact it does. Each tribe has anywhere from three to thirty tomes related to the complex theological practice of buttress design.
Returning to the legend, each tribe claimed that their way of buttress design is "true" and as the tribes split off from each other the other tribes "lost their way" and began designing the buttresses in a way that is heretical.
In the beginning there were said to be eleven tribes, one per buttress, but the Julats were eliminated taken over ago by the /o, who have seized their buttress and transformed it, reshaping it in their image. (The Julats are now enslaved and forced to "defile" their own buttress by restructuring it in the /o way. There is, I am told, a growing movement within the outlawed Julat church, which meets in secret, for independence, which they will probably soon achieve.)
Another common folk myth of the beings is the underworld.
There is a general consensus that the underworld lies below, in an area that was built by the gods known as a sanctuary. It is said that this is the land of the dead. (As imagined many theological arguments as to this fact exist, such as whether the homunculi enter the underworld feet first or head first, or whether they are reincarnated or not.)
Not every tribe is constantly at war with the others; however, sometimes alliances are formed. For instance; the /o and the Grieae are in agreement that the sacred proportions of each buttress are to be such that the dome's buttress should descend at a perfect angle that exactly equals the ratio we know as pi. (Because of this they are able to shelve their differences on the practices of making sacrifices of domestic animals upon the buttresses, something that the /o consider profane but the Grieae sacred)
Before I go further I think I should lay out each of the twelve tribes, their name, nature and the theological buttress design favored by each. Each of the names of the eleven tribes in their own tongue translates to "The true people."
The first tribe I encountered was the Tsoghall. They favor the construction of towers upon the tops of buttresses, claiming that the gods commanded that they build towers tall enough to pierce through the sky. (The tallest of these towers when I stand next to them reach my waist.)They live with these towers, and although they are not opposed to living upon the buttress it is considered profane to touch certain areas of the buttress. This is characterized by the red sandstone that their buttress is mostly comprised of. This stone, called in Tsoghall Kuerizemie is considered the holiest of holies. Any who touch the Kuerizemie are shunned for three days, and deprived of food and water.
For this reason the Tsoghall are known as the fungus farmers. As has been said the homunculi have no need of sustenance per say, so the practice of farming is viewed as eccentric by the other tribes. The Tsoghall use the spores they collect from the fungus to create a variety of walkways that span the Kuerizemie so that they may travel from tower to tower upon the buttress without touching the sacred stones.
Thus the Tsoghall do not carve their buttress, as is common practice amongst the tribe, because defiling the stone in any way is profane. Their towers are only built on other sediments buried in with the Kuerizemie.
The Tsoghall have two names in the common tounge: Ghuirt-Riea tower builders, and Fruieahl which roughly translates to farmers.
For want of a better way of ordering the tribes I shall now move clockwise around the dome. This brings me to the Creava. The Creava are truly curious. They believe that the gods commanded that no straight lines be used in the upkeep of the buttresses, and they attempt to imitate the confines of what they call "organic stone."(It is not a good translation but it is the closest I could get.)
The Creava are best known, however, for the practice of what we would call magic. They have a series of alchemical and mystical practices that are...peculiar. I am unaware if they actually work, but I have witnessed some rather strange events. They have written these secrets in a series of encrypted tomes, which they guard jealously from the other buttresses; for fear that they would learn their mystical secrets. (Of course, being mistaken for a god has its benefits.)
These practices tend to be bizarre. For instance: At noontide taking a feather from one of the domestic sparrows that the tribe keeps as mounts and walking thrice clockwise and chanting the name of your worst enemy causes him to drop dead within a year. There are others like those and also more sinister ones. The Creava have holy days upon which they have large magical orgies. Any children born from that union are called "star-blessed" and are fostered amongst all the members of a community.
Many of these practices have yielded effects that I would call...paranormal...and all of the other tribes live in constant fear of the Creava and their magic. (Except for the Grieae and the Xthinga, who champion reason over magic and believe it to be nothing more than a load of mumbo-jumbo. I wish I could agree with them)
The names of the Creava in the common tongue are numerous, and often derogatory. They are called the Blazhenfornen, the magic-makers, or the Guirame, the warlocks.
Continuing clockwise you find the /o. The /o are quite warlike. As I have mentioned the /o have a sacred number cult. The proportions of their buttress are governed by the sacred numbers given to them by the gods. They have established a number of geometric proportions in the upkeep of their buttress that make the buttress truly pleasing to look at.
The /o have a number of superstitions, one of them being that doors are the most vile things upon the dome. They have no doors within all of their dwellings, because passing through a door is said to "cause witchcraft and reduce a warriors prowess in battle and in the bedchamber."
The /o go on numerous war campaigns. They consider the highest death to be falling in battle. I have already mentioned the Julats and their enslavement. That was a result of a long war between Julat and /o, brought on by the ancient feud Ro'eh Kal'ifrey started when he stole one of the /o's sacred tablets. He intended to use it to control the spiritual strength of the /o (The Julats are quite superstitious and believe in a type of force that resides within a people that I cannot translate properly. The upshot of it all is that the Ro'eh stole the tablet in an attempt to gain control of the /o. The /o retaliated, as one would expect their buttress to.) and brought it back to the Julat capitol.(Each of the tribes simply calls their capitol city "the capitol") A long bloody war followed.
The name of the /o in the common tongue is Rizhenadforen, the war-makers. This is what they are most known for.
Moving around the dome still further you find the Julats. Pre-/o war Julats seemed to have a buttress design based off of mushrooms, which they thought were the most sacred being that dwelled upon the dome. They find the Tsoghall's harvesting of mushrooms abhorrent as it "violates the natural fungal cycles" that dominate the dome. The two tribes have a constant rivalry.
As has been seen, one cannot mention Julats without mentioning /o, and vice versa. The enslavement of the Julats has greatly reduced their numbers. I have been able to gain little information on their religion and ideologies as they are heavily suppressed by the /o. Of the buttresses the Julats are the tribe I know the least about. Many Julats fled to the buttress of the Fooradh nearby, their longtime alleys. They have few theological disagreements.
The Julats have many names as well, the most recent being Kuiramie, meaning forsaken.
Continuing clockwise around the dome you come to the Fooradh. They are a curious people, even compared to the rest of the domes inhabitants. They have a complex water cult. They contruct numerous contraptions out of scrap metal to collect and ferry dew in "sacred proportions aligned with the movement of sun and moon."They, like the Julats, hold mushroom in high regard, but they do not worship them. They believe mushrooms to be the living incarnation of water upon the dome. This causes many theological arguments with the Julats, despite the two buttress's traditional friendship, because Julat theology clearly dictates that water is the product of the spores of mushrooms, that when released, "sail to the sky, cause a cooling effect, and then cause the dew to form."Julat alchemists have done extensive experiments upon this, and have concluded that water is the nonliving incarnation of mushrooms.
For this reason, in order to maintain their friendship, the remaining Julats and the Fooradh try to avoid the water debate.
The Fooradh are the most skilled in the devices of clockwork and contraptions. The have designed a series of steam engines that perform no practical purpose that I can see. Indeed, the scientists of the Fooradh claim that the steam engines are sacred and ordained by the gods to always be kept alight. That is all they will tell me; it appears that the steam engines are a sacred taboo amongst the Fooradh.
The Fooradh in the common tounge are called the Muirhtae or smoke makers, reference to the plumes of smoke that the steam engines cause, and also the Cruithne the derogatory term that refers to having a sexual infatuation with water.(It is considered quite vulgar, and mentioning it in front of one of the Fooradh causes them to swear by the steam engines that they will rip your fathers head off, for you were begat by no mother. A number of other interesting circumstances ensue afterwards, that may involve blood and a strange mushroom that looks like cabbage.)
Continuing clockwise around the dome you reach the Grieae. Before we go any further let me make something clear: Nobody likes the Grieae. Common slurs amongst other tribes are that you were begat by a Grieae (And only a grieae-the worst insult possible, amongst all cultures, is that the being that gave birth to you fertilized itself. Remember that these creatures are non-sexual. Thus saying that you were begat by only a Grieae is an insult so terrible it could start wars. And it has) or that you are a blood-drinking Grieae. Only the /o treat them with any respect at all, yet even they have a propensity to be nasty.
These prejudices are very unfair. The Grieae are a fine people. I stayed with them for a while (they thought I was a demon and kept trying to offer me the entrails of a thrush, which I continually declined) and have found that they are a very kind, nice people.
This is if you ignore their propensity to sacrifice animals. They sacrifice various domestic birds at points upon their buttress which allegedly have "sacred proportions."They perform "ritual cleansing" by rubbing the blood of their kills upon their skin. They do this because they claim that the god-race has asked them to, and that by sacrificing birds at certain times upon the spots of sacred proportions is the only way to "stop the world from ending."
All of the tribes on the dome find this practice abhorrent.
It is imaginable to the reader what the names of the Grieae would be, and all of them are terribly offensive. I shall list none of them here. The Grieae are truly a kind people, much better than all of the stereotypes pinned to them, and their propensity towards sacrificing.
I shall continue clockwise around the dome, and come to an elusive people whose language is a closely guarded secret. As such I do not know what they call themselves. In the common tongue they are called Buirnazhed which means nameless, and that is what I will call them here.
The Nameless keep their theological secrets under lock and key. I know that they have a series of holy books that contain their teachings, but I don't know what they are called because they won't tell me. They won't tell me much of anything, actually.
Their buttress design is curious. They believe in burrowing into the buttresses to make homes; it is considered insane to build homes upon the buttress. They have numerous "sacred points" upon the buttress where it is permitted to make a burrow. They are marked by paces, and some complex mathematical operations involving prime numbers which I doubt I would understand even if they would tell it to me.
They have a reputation for being liars, and in light of that I am not sure if the tales I have gathered from them are accurate, or simply farces made to dupe me. Alone of all the buttresses they were unconvinced that I was a god.
I can make some notes upon their design, however. The buttress design is "a work in progress" as they claim. The nameless seem to exalt art above all else. When a young homunculus reaches a certain age they go through a rite of passage in which they take a portion of the dome and work it into the image of their creative spirit. The creative spirits of this people seem to me to be very incongruous, because the design upon the buttress is completely without symmetry or proportion. It is simply a mess of tamed curls and in places geometric forms. It is a true image of chaos.
The main name of the nameless has already been mentioned, but there are a few others, such as Dhortar which means stone-hiders.
Moving on you encounter the Uliam. They are the most reasonable of all of the tribes, which is to say that they are completely insane. They are atheists. Long a go a strange sect overthrew the Uliam church, claiming that the gods were falsehoods created by a secret order that was attempting to control the entire dome, and established a "cult of reason."
They hold the scientific method to a level of holiness that is nearly abhorrent. Rather than holy books or tablets they have books and books of mathematical theorems, which are qoted as fervently as any religious text.
They hold lines as perfect representations of art; indeed, representing curves upon their buttress is called heresy. For this purpose they have mined the dome to make it so that their buttress is no longer curved, rather it is a series of angular segments, each corresponding to a series of angles. A number of straight geometric trenches have been dug, to glorify reason and its manifestations upon the dome.
The name of the Uliam in the common tongue is Ghrotreinn or mathematicians.
The next buttress to encounter would be the Maghyars. The Maghyars believe in the construction of dreams. I do not entirely understand this concept. Apparently there are certain sacred places located around the dome where special trance states can be entered, allowing for the construction of Maghyars journey throughout the dome, collecting knowledge and attempting to find these "dream spots."
Each homunculi, apparently, is endowed with different dream spots. There comes a point when the young Maghyar must leave home and travel the world, searching for dreams.
Then they somehow make these dreams manifest by using a sort of chemical. When left to its own devices these chemicals "bloom" into forms of crystals, which the Maghyarclaim are representations of the dream world upon this plane. They claim, too, that crystals are living beings, endowed with their own spirits.
They believe that after the soul of a homunculus has tarried in the sanctuary below they will return and inhabit some of these crystals made out of dream-stuff.
In any case, the Maghyars' buttress is beautiful. It gleams and glitters in the sunlight. Certain other tribes, such as the Tsoghall, call this profane, as it violates their scriptures. Each homunculus works on their own to bring a new crystal unto the buttress, and over the millennia their buttress has grown into a vast construction reaching to my shoulder, made entirely out of crystals of all hues and shapes. Within this chaos of quartz the Maghyars make their hidden homes.
The Maghyars are also the only tribes to love peace. They declare no feuds with any other tribes, and believe in pantheism. For this reason everyone else finds them either abhorrent or simply stupid, but all of the buttresses tolerate Maghyar pilgrims upon their lands, searching for the hidden dream spots.
The names for the Maghyars in the common tongue are numerous. They are called Cuivenien Meaning crystal-growers, and Ghruptar, which means mad dreamers.
Continuing upon the clockwise route one comes to the Enrique. The Enrique believe that the buttress should be adorned with colors as bright as possible. For this reason they harvest all of the fungi of the dome and process it to make rich dies which they paint their buttress with. They especially prize Maghyar crystals, for their shade of deep purple when crushed and added to dew. They have been known to steal from the Maghyars, which the Maghyars hate, as they feel it destroys their ancestors. This has created many tensions between the tribes.
The Enrique have a number of sacred purification and processing rituals, in which they sing a number of doras;long emotional chants, accompanied by flagellation, which they say purifies the dies that are created.
These chants are long and drawn out, and involve pitches which the human mouth cannot create. They are hard for me to describe; I have only seen the rite preformed once. They have a number of issues with the Fooradh ideologies about water, which they say is a profane desecration of the Fooradh buttress. They feel that by channeling water they are destroying the natural colors inherent in the stone, and making the buttress more dull.
The names for the Enrique are Cruitguirame, or color makers, Raidh or painters, and Sligheough or the masochists.
Finally we come to the Tabhare. They believe that stone is alive, and that it will only be kept living by their continuing worship of a large spire that rises out of the top of their buttress. It is unlike the material of the rest of the dome, and I don't understand how it go there. It reaches about up to my thigh. The Tabhare claim that it fell from the sky eons ago, and that it was a gift from the gods showing that their buttress design is clearly the one true way. There design of the buttress involves using certain pumice stone so that the buttress becomes completely smooth. Millenia of labor has caused the buttress to become nearly frictionless, although much smaller than many of the other buttresses.
The Tabhare house themselves not within the buttress but around it. Their dwellings form two lines on either side of the buttress, each parallel to it. Like the Tsoghall touching the buttress, unless during the sacred act of sanding it, is seen as profane. For this purpose the Tabhare have constructed multiple bridges that span the buttress.
The worship of the large spire has created a few holy days, goverened by the sun in relationship to the spire. When the sun rises in such a way in that the shadow of the spire is perfectly perpendicular to the buttress a holy day is held. All feast and have a great festival.
The Tabhare are called the Cuikileir, or sun worshipers, in the common tongue.
I have no summarized all of the contents of the dome. As can be imagined, my arrival upset the balance of the buttress. The inhabitants either claimed I was god or demon, and are currently fighting a giant war over it. (Other than the nameless and the Maghyar, who've remained neutral, naturally) The complex social institutions that they have based years of their society on have begun to collapse.
I had to flee after a number of /o decided that I wasn't a god after all and tried to kill me. I have made an encampment upon the edge of the dome where the rock rises up and where, I believe, the homunculi will not be able to reach. Although exploring this dome has certainly been an interesting journey in ethnology I do not desire to stay here much longer. I have secured some ropes extending over the side of the dome, and tomorrow I will descend over the side.
I wonder whether I shall find the ground.