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I head down the stairs and exit the lighthouse, walking slowly towards the shoreline. The rocks here are precarious and snow-covered; I do not wish to lose my footing.

One building out here is finished, or at least, it has walls and a roof. It crouches on the edge of the water, a soft glow coming from behind frosted glass. I approach and push open the door cautiously.

A lamp sits in a corner of the room. Another corner holds a wide chest, which contains numerous building materials. It's enough to fashion a boat from, at least.

I lower the boat into the frigid water. The snow has finally stopped enough to look out across the sea. There isn't anything I can see out there, not yet. I start rowing.

The sea is calm, quiet. The shore slowly drifts away, lost in the haze of distance I set a course with my compass and keep rowing.

There isn't anything out here but water, this boat, and me. I am approaching the point on the map, but I do not see where I am supposed to go.

An island drifts in through the mist. It is small and sharp, made of the same jagged rock of the coastline. A glowing stone floats several meters above the tallest spires. I climb out of the boat and begin to investigate.

There is a tiny building nestled among the stones. It seems familiar. I creak the door open. Inside the building there is a chest filled with boats. A trap door sits in the middle of the floor.

I open the door in the ground and begin climbing the ladder. It is a long way down. I hear scrapes and rattles from behind the walls as I descend, finally reaching the stone floor at the bottom.

There is a tunnel here, that leads in only one direction. The path is lit by glowing stones in the floor. I begin walking.

The tunnel is long.There are no gaps in the stone, nothing of note except the occasional turn and the glowing path on the ground. I continue to walk.

There is a door in the wall of the tunnel, outlined in glowing stone. It is heavy iron. I step forward to inspect it, and hear a click. The door swings open.

I find myself in a small room, furnished with bed, table, lamp and a painting of mountains at sunset. They do not look like any mountains I have seen before. The door swings shut as I step across the threshold. I will rest here for now.

I continue down the tunnel. Each turn in the path is actually a fork, but there is only one direction to go every time. The other routes were never carved, merely affixed with signs, giving names to places that don't exist.

Along the way I encounter other iron doors. Each one opens onto a small room. Furniture and equipment is arranged as if these rooms were to be used, completely ignorant of their current location. Each one is different, a diorama of some larger structure; windows show vistas of solid stone, and doors guard thresholds to impassable places.

I've reached the end of the tunnel. A ladder beckons to me. I pull myself upwards, passing open floors on my way. Each one is haphazardly carved; abandoned resource collection projects are littered with irregular lighting and overflowing reserves.

I climb up out of the hole in the ground and find myself in a short hallway. It leads me to a place I've been before. I'm within and beneath the structure of disparate stones near the Mountains of memory.

There is still the unexplored cavern that continues on beneath me, sloping gently, darkness pooling around the torches along the walls. I suppose it is finally time to see what lies below; my map has no more points of interest.

There is a sign I didn't see before down here, placed next to the first torch:

gate is this way
-->

I will rest here for now.

I climb down, down, the ground below me shifting between awkward staircase and helpful stalagmites. There are torches along the wall, but they become more sparse the further I descend.

I have reached a dead end in the cavern. There is a ladder that descends further. I climb down it. An unsettling sound calls out from the distance. The further down I go, the louder it gets.

I arrive in a small chamber. The floor is uneven except for a small path that starts at my feet. A large obsidian gate sits in the center, humming an uncomfortable song. I suppose this is why I'm here.

I approach the gate slowly. This is the source of the noise. Its murky surface warbles as I approach. There are reflections there, but they do not belong to me or the room I stand in.

I walk through the gate. The air shimmers like a turbulent river, the song becomes deafening. I am somewhere else now. I stand in a different room; the stone is different, the air feels wrong.

There is an iron door here. A sign above warns me to make sure it stays closed. I approach, and it opens for me. A long tunnel waits on the other side, sparse and uniform. A single glowing line illuminates it from the floor.

The tunnel is narrow, made of the same stone that composed the gate. There is a tumultuous bubbling coming from beyond the walls. I continue forward, following the glowing line.

There are small windows every so often, spaced unevenly. Outside, the landscape is red. An ocean of lava is fed by a chorus of falls. The ground is ablaze in certain places. Shapes move through the smoke. I do not answer.

The tunnel is long, so long, but the sounds from outside never cease. There is a larger window, still narrow, but wide. In the distance, a vast structure rises from the fiery sea below. It seems like a place I desperately want to visit but never want to set foot in.

I've reached the end of the tunnel. I am in another small room made of the same dark stone. There is another gate here, singing the same uncomfortable song. I move to it quickly, hoping to find myself somewhere else.

I arrive in a tiny room, no space for anything but the door behind me and the ladder ahead of me. I climb it quickly.

I slump on a floor at the end of the ladder. There is another ladder ahead of me, but I must rest for now.

I climb the next ladder, up and up, the sounds below slowly swallowed by the hum of the earth. Everything is calm again, and I hope it will remain so.

I pop up through a hole in the floor of a small room. It's filled with empty beds. Half-empty chests offer pickaxes, shovels, and torches.

I exit the room, and find myself at the edge of a long wooden bridge, drawn between where I stand and the far wall of what I now recognize to be a massive crevasse. It goes on for a long time in both directions. Various bridges link sides together, filling in the gaps in a path that leads up and down.
I move upwards.

Follow

The dim starlight above is gradually replaced the the dawning sun as I make my way to the surface. A tall fence surrounds the perimeter of this chasm. I move through a small gate at the far end of the fence and find myself on a gravel path through an unfamiliar forest.

I walk for a while. The gravel path eventually falls away to make room for an old road of mossy stones.

The road ends at a tower, sharp and angular, irregular geometry contrasting harshly with its surroundings. Its doors are propped open. I enter.

The inside is empty; where the floor should be there is a spiraling stone staircase, lit through the middle by a line of light. I descend.

The staircase is short. At the bottom, there are tracks, humming faintly in the dim light. A single cart sits next to a small cluster of machinery.

I step into the cart, sitting awkwardly within it, and pull the lever on the machine. There is a clank, and I am rapidly carried away through a small glowing tunnel.

The cart stops at the end of the tracks, a small room with a ladder leading through the ceiling. I am tired, but the climb is short this time.

I am still in the forest. I can still see the old mossy road, or at least one similar to it, that resumes not far from where I stand. I endeavor to follow along it again.

I do not have to follow it for very long. It ends at the large stone staircase, rising up to form a massive bridge over a wide river. High on the opposite bank, a massive structure of gleaming stone sprawls in the sunlight.

I climb the stairs slowly, the building before me rising up as I approach its ground level. Absurdly large columns, tall windows, and curled towers splay out from every angle. It fills this entire space. At the center, a massive open archway greets me.

The inside is even more elaborate. Spiraling stairs flare out to fanciful balconies. Fountains burble next to manicured trees. A smaller archway opens at the far side of the space. I walk towards it.

I stand at the top of a set of wide stone stairs. Below and around me, encircled by a meandering wall, are the foundations of a city.

The streets are all built, but nothing else is. Stone outlines suggest where the buildings would go, shapes outlined in the soft grass. The only completed project here is the wall, and the gate I can see at the other end.

I finally arrive at the far gate. Its arch opens out onto a rolling plain. I do not know where next to go. There is no path any more.

I suppose I'll keep walking.

~~~

@barrow barrow i love this thread, its so poetic and lovely and aaaa

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Queer Garden

More queer, more garden.