… across the darkling plain, before the gates of the city, we took surroundings with dontoscope and claviscope, the ear-bones of a mare, all the paraphernalia we had amassed on our journeyings, we sounded the hissings of the hidden cauldrons, we traced lines and thin patterns in the sediment, we tried by all means possible to establish where we were, but the shapes refused to fit, the maps giggled at us and sometimes we burned our feet as rare earths throbbed and moved. Is that what it comes down to, Fabor mused by the light of recent stars; that we should be lost before we are born? Is that Bethlehem? Is that the fabled city of Ur? Or are these the half-glimpsed tracings of distant constellations, reverberant with life, starved of all direction? And then we glimpsed the beast …

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