Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--
Okay, here we go: the fabulous City of Aket... Uhm, I'm a little
ambiguous about just how much I should tell to anyone in the Nokhso
world. But that's where the story goes now, so I'm locked in. We
can edit it later.
Aket is a secret place, very well hidden, difficult to get to, with
guards posted and security traps to keep it that way. The entrance
is protected against anyone stumbling in by accident. They really
don't want Nokhso people (you guys) finding it, for obvious reasons.
So I'm not going to say where it is, nor offer interesting details
about our journey to get there, full of hidden clues for any clever
treasure hunters to follow. In fact, I should probably just LIE
about the route, to throw any rabid squatch-seekers off the trail...
if only I could lie, that is.
But if I'm going to tell you ANYTHING about what I experienced in
Aket, I will have to admit that the entire place is underground.
So now you're probably already imagining "the fabulous City of Aket"
as horribly cold, dark and dank, a cave without sunshine or fresh
air, a gloomy pit where the sasquatches are doomed to hide, squalid
refugees from the eyes of humans and Google Earth. Well, that's
what I imagined.
Dagrolyt took me there, waving to guards I never saw along the way
to the entrance. We passed a little stream, where we washed all
the stink off us because it was not the custom in Aket, which was
fine with me. Already this mysterious Bigfoot Burg was beginning to
sound like a civilized place.
When we reached the actual entrance Dagrolyt told me: "We're here.
Now we must wait while those Alutna agents observe us to determine
if we may enter Aket or not."
"Huh? What Alutna agents?" I hadn't seen even one.
"They're well hidden-- never mind, here they come!"
Four Nokhons came out of the forest from four directions. One of
them gave us a signal to follow him, so we did and the other three
walked close behind us. We were led into a... let's just say an
"entrance" leading into total darkness. The three Alutna behind us
dropped away and the one ahead guided us into Aket, leading us by
holding Dagrolyt's hand, him holding mine. I was completely blind,
but our guide walked fast, sure of the way.
But then our way became visible, vaguely at first. The lighting was
a combination of daylight mirrored into the passage and some kind of
phosphorescent moss growing on the walls which glowed faint blue,
dim, but just visible enough to follow. The deeper in we went, the
brighter the sunlight became.
Of course, ever the excited young scientific explorer, I was asking
what kind of moss could glow like that and wondering where daylight
was coming from. Our Alutna escort was amused at my amazement. "I
dunno, it's always been like that in here," was all he had to say
about it, with the squatch equivalent of a shrug. He didn't know or
care how it worked.
Eventually we came to a big bright chamber with switch-backed stair-
ways carved into the stone wall, the last check-point to Aket. If
we had been enemy invaders (most likely humans) the guards above
could simply roll rocks down on us as we tried to come up those
stairs. Potentially a pretty effective defense system, although I
couldn't imagine squatches actually doing that to anyone, since they
don't kill anything.
The Alutna who had escorted us through the tunnels called up to
another guard above and we were given permission to come up the
stairs and enter Aket through a rift in the granite wall.
I'm not sure how to describe my first view of Aket. Majestic, exotic,
mysterious, beautiful? Not dramatic enough. Incredible, amazing?
Too clichéd. Thing is, it was REALLY AWESOME but I don't like how
dumb that makes me sound.
But yeah, AWESOME it was and even more so because of the light. It
was so open and bright that I assumed we'd come outside again. It
took a moment to register that we were actually inside a really huge
cavern under a ceiling of granite bristling with glassy rods, big and thick
as trees. Those rods were transparent and evidently long enough to
penetrate all the way up to the surface above, because sunlight was
shining down through them. Sunbeams were criss-crossing every which
way, aimed at mirrors of "chromed" rocks or crystals that reflected
the light around evenly. So it was a sunny day inside that chamber.
I don't want to get into a detailed scientific report right now about
the illumination of Aket, but can't avoid mentioning it because the
place could literally not exist without that light. Besides, it's got
to be about the most amazing work of ancient engineering I've ever
It may have once been a natural cavern but I noticed that large
expanses of ceiling were supported by three gigantic stone columns,
definitely man-made. The more I looked the more flabbergasted I
became at the scope of impossible constructions involved in just the
And that was just the box we were in. Looking out over the cavern,
the City of Aket was the real surprise. There really was a city!
Well, okay, a town. Not a big town, but a true archeological wonder
in the tradition of many classic ancient temple complexes found around
the world, only this one was inside a cavern. And completely unknown.
It was all pretty compact, of course, there was only so much room in
which to spread out, but I was struck by just how harmoniously it all
fit together, not cramped or crowded at all, everything structured on
levels or shelves.
The architecture itself seemed to be a mixmash of styles from other
ancient cultures. Highest up, the far wall was a sheer cliff, but
with three openings carved into the granite which reminded me of
Hopi Cliff Dwellings. There were also several small waterfalls
gushing out of the wall.
The next level down sported what looked like a Mayan temple perched
on a shelf of its own. Zillions of stairs cut into stone ran down to
a wider shelf with a big "town square" framed by three large cubical
buildings suggestive of ancient Greece. Farther down, what looked
like Babylonian hanging gardens. And at the bottom, water, a lake or
pool fed by those waterfalls. Pretty scenic.
But equally fantastic was that there were trees and green plants
growing everywhere down there-- inside that cavern, inside that
And this was hardly some ancient abandoned ruin; I could hear voices
down there, a hum-buzzing of people, even over the splashing of
waterfalls and the other natural echoes of that big cavern. Then I
saw them moving around below, certainly more Nokhontli than I'd ever
seen gathered at any one place before. Hundreds, at least.
I admit that I wasn't really prepared for the WOW of Aket--I'd
actually expected it to be...you know, a disappointment. Not that
I was hoping for a "city" by the standards of modern civilization,
especially not in size or population. But hey, for a guy majoring
in anthropology and archaeology, this was nothing less than...
AWESOME! I felt like Hiram Bingham discovering Maccu Piccu. Hell,
make that Tarzan finding the Lost City of Opar! This was an Indiana
Jones movie, a fantasy sci-fi adventure, Saturday morning cartoons--
except that this was REAL!
None of this was new to Dagrolyt, of course. He pointed to the big
"town square" below us, "That's where The Three Elders hold audience,
usually around mid-day. It's too late today, we'll have to go there
Dagrolyt led the way down the endless stairway chopped into the cavern
wall. It was just wide enough for two big guys like him and me, which
was good because there was no railing of any kind and it was a nasty
long way down. Especially because those steps were also thousands of
years old and you could see it: so worn that they were rounded and
slippery and pitched towards the brink. I found myself hugging the
cliff as we went down.
Of course, Dagrolyt just skipped down them, totally unconcerned about
that deadly drop right beside us. Didn't seem to notice.
I was noticing everything. I heard that we passed over a waterfall
somewhere below us, but was afraid to go to the edge and look down.
The stairway switch-backed, so we neared it again. Dagrolyt stopped
when the water-roar was just under the edge of the slippery stairs.
"We can take the quick way down from here," he said, pointing over
the brink. I carefully crept to the edge to look down.
"You've got to be bloody kidding me," I said in English, but he
understood by context and laughed.
"It's safe enough," he said, "as long as you follow me," and sprang
off the edge.
Well, we were still at LEAST a hundred feet above the rocks downstairs,
but the waterfall was gushing out of the cliff side with enough force
to arc out over to the lake below. I watched Dagrolyt drop into the
thick stream and be whisked away into the arc, gone in the spray. A
few seconds later he surfaced from the lake and waved up to me, alive
and in one piece.
Well, I wasn't EAGER to do that. But when I checked out just how
many more hundreds of steps I had to go down to reach the bottom and
having seen that Dagrolyt had survived it, all I had to do was
overcome my own craven cowardice.
Dagrolyt waved again, "come on in the water's fine," you know. I
could have ignored that, but then saw that others below had noticed
me, crowds looking up at me. Also some girls. I was in plain sight
of the whole town. And the longer I hesitated, the more they seemed
to be discussing "that guy up there, seems afraid to jump". Pointing.
Beginning to laugh, I supposed. So of course I jumped, less afraid
of dying than to be considered a chicken.
But it was okay, the current snatched me and carried me all the way
down through the surface of the water so that the impact didn't even
hurt, although I could hear the lake closing around me with a juicy
"spla-goosh". It was deep, no rocks, no pain, my kind of lake.
When I came up I saw that Dagrolyt was already sitting on a stone dock
beside some stairs leading up to the city, talking with some guys there.
I swam over, trying to make a graceful entrance for all those people
watching me... soon realizing that nobody was. Guess once I HAD
jumped I was no longer amusing or interesting.
Except maybe to a couple of guys squatting on the dock with Dagrolyt.
He'd evidently been telling them about me, so they politely introduced
themselves. They seemed interested but reserved, not sure if it was
okay to be associated with anyone so involved with those wicked
little Nokhso-folk. Although when Dagrolyt mentioned that I had
passed my purification with the personal blessing of the Elder
Da-nama-hat himself, they became almost overtly chummy.
There at the bottom level of Aket the Lake was bordered by low rock
walls and wild green gardens of bush, even a few trees. None of it
looked cultivated, but there were edible greens of many sorts growing
all over the place: nettles, thistles, ota, typical squatch food; and
there seemed to be a lot of it. I saw several folk plucking and
eating, although one seemed to be harvesting crops in any organized
Dagrolyt and I went upstairs to the next shelf, or second level, a
flat narrow ledge with some square stone buildings here and there, but
most of the bakhl were carved into the cliff itself. Entrances and
passageways had been cleanly cut into the granite wall. A few Nokhons
wandered in and out, up and down stairs, but there wasn't much traffic
going on, the pace here seemed pretty slow. Call it the suburbs.
Here too were several gardens of edible greens growing, also on the
roofs of the buildings.
It looked as if thousands of people could live there, but most of it
was unused and empty. I later learned that Aket had once housed over
4000 inhabitants in ancient times, but at present there were only
about 400 people actually living there. Most Nokhons never enter
Aket, or maybe just once in their lives and only a few live there
permanently, the rest are visiting teachers and students.
Actually, I was also told that there are no thousands of Nokhontli to
fill up all those rooms anyway, their population is currently so few
in this part of the world, due to birth control being their way of
adapting to the constant encroachment of modern Nokhso civilization.
But back to the tour of Aket. Dagrolyt took me through one of those
doorways in the cliff face, putting us in a big empty room. It was
literally just a hollow stone box, no furniture, nothing except for a
pile of bushy fir boughs piled up in one corner. That room was well-
lit, however, by sunlight reflected from three of those mirror-stones
mounted on the far side of the cavern. Spotlighting directly in
through three window-like slots, which seemed pretty ingenious.
"If you are accepted to study at Aket this is where you might live,"
Dagrolyt told me, "it's a dormitory for students and apprentices."
"Ah, nice and comfy granite," I think the irony was lost on him, "do
you stay here too?"
"No, in Aket I must stay with the other Sha-hakas, two levels up from
here. The idea being that we all mingle and exchange ideas, I with
other wizards and you with fellow students. It's usually fun and
you'll make lots of new friends."
"But there's no one here," I observed, feeling lonely already.
"Of course not, they're all hanging out at the Town Square."
The third level, two shelves above the lake, was the center of the
city. That was the deepest and widest ledge with the most open floor
space, where most of the actual buildings in Aket stood. They had
resembled Ancient Greek architecture from above, but were all simple
cubes of various sizes. Some buildings were even 2-3 stories high,
but they too all seemed to be empty.
The layout could have resembled a Downtown, or a shopping mall as you
know them, but was nothing of the sort. There were buildings, but no
shops, no restaurants, nothing to buy, no souvenir booths, not even
apartments where people lived. One could eat, however, since there
were gardens of edible greens everywhere, but of course no money was
involved, since squatches don't even recognize the concept.
And yet there was lots of traffic on that level, pedestrian squatches
coming and going about their...whatever... business, alone or in
groups. In fact, there were suddenly more Nokhon people than I had
ever seen gathered in one place, over a hundred easy. This was the
Bigfoot version of Manhattan!
I mean, really: everybody was moving faster than Nokhontli normally
do, more intently, involved in the big city life-style, places to go,
people to see. It was the first time I saw sasquatches actually
looking BUSY (except for during a Kha-rat, of course).
I had to wonder just WHAT they were doing. Dagrolyt informed me that
most of the groups were students following their teachers and it
suddenly occurred to me that I was actually standing in the middle of
a University Campus. Click, the place made sense to me.
Sure enough, many of those around us had shoulder bags, obviously
Sha-haka, both male and female. Those without were apprentices and
students. There were also "civilian" males and females, but no kids
anywhere. This was a place of learning and wizards and government.
Dagrolyt knew where he was going, but I was stumbling behind, trying
to look everywhere at once, checking out the weird architecture,
getting in the way of busy foot traffic. After always having
considered myself the most sophisticated squatch in the World, I
suddenly felt like a total Hick from the Sticks.
At the mid-point of Aket is a classic "square", a big open plaza
between two large cubic buildings, the cliff-wall on one side and a
cliff-edge on the other, overlooking the lower levels and lake. It's
called Ka'aga'ath, which means "the Flatness", but let's just refer
to it as the Town Square.
In the middle of that Town Square was a perfectly rectangular block
that looked like mirrored glass, about ten feet high, ten wide and
twenty long, flat on top. Reminded me of the Monolith in 2001--
although toppled over, and maybe except for the chrome job.
I already knew that this was the dais from which the Three Elders of
Aket made public proclamations because Dagrolyt had pointed it out
to me from above. Now he took me right up to it.
It was weird to be approaching a GIANT MIRROR in the Nokhon world,
where everything else is natural, plants and earth. Again I got the
impression that we were in a modern shopping mall, where widescreen
mirrors are no surprise. This mirror was not perfect plate glass,
however, but kinda wibbly and warped, distorting the reflections,
depending on from where you were looking at it.
Still, I could easily recognize Dagrolyt, myself and the scene behind
us. Made sure that I looked good, brushed my messy hair back a bit,
you know. Then noticed how a lot of young Nokhons seemed to be
pretty much hypnotized by their own reflections.
I could understand that, most of them had probably never seen any kind
of mirror before and then to come up to one this BIG! Of course, I'm
used to mirrors and was more interested in the mirror-stone itself:
like how the hell do they chrome rocks? I fingered it and learned
that it was gooey. Some kind of quicksilver?
"This is where you'll need to be tomorrow," Dagrolyt told me, "the
Three Elders will hold audience here at mid-day and there'll be a
crowd, so be here early."
"Looks like the crowd is already gathered," I said, referring to all
the people squatting or lying around the square, mostly in groups.
A hundred Bigfoot just hanging out.
"Well, this is The Place To Be for social and cultural interaction,"
Dagrolyt said, "it gets especially entertaining after dark. You
should probably just spend the night here."
"Okay, sounds good. But I'd like to explore the town while it's
still light. Let's go up to that building," I pointed to the next
shelf up, where I had earlier noticed the intriguing Mayan-looking
"Sorry, Dadamet, you can't go up there just yet. Only Sha-hakas, not
even their understudies may accompany them. This public level is as
high as you are allowed to go in Aket, for now at least."
"Oh, well, okay. Then we could..."
"Actually, I have to report up there now and meet some colleagues, so
I'm going to let you run loose on your own for awhile."
I was surprised, Dagrolyt had spent so much time on me lately that
I'd forgotten we weren't Siamese Twins.
"You going to be all right?" he was patient enough to ask.
"Oh, hey, sure, I've got a strange new world to explore. Uh... any
other special Aket DO's and DON'Ts I need to know about so not to
"Oh yeah, no screwing. Everyone is celibate while in Aket. No sex
here, ever, okay?"
I said "Ra," but wasn't sure if that was a joke or not. It was no
way near full moon, so there weren't going to be any shyøma-powered
temptations going on. But then again, Dagrolyt had seen that I
wasn't on the same horniness schedule as most Nokhontli. Dick in
Dagrolyt gave me some final instructions about what I was supposed to
do the next day, said, "See you tomorrow, after your audience with the
Elders," and went up the stairs without me.
Actually, I did feel a little insecure about being abandoned in such
a strange and weird place, but I couldn't expect him to hold my hand
night and day.