It's still a while until sunset, but it takes some time to get back to the village, and if one of them has gotten lost again, you don't want to have to go looking for it in the dark.\n\nThe sheep are spread out in small groups across the wide open land between the forest and the river, communicating with each other in that amusing and indecipherable language of theirs. From the sound of it, one might think that they are distressed, but they are not; quite the opposite. It is here that they feel safest, in the quiet places between the river and the trees.\n\n[[Count the sheep.|Counting]]\n[[Call the sheep to you.|Calling]]
There are two paths to the village, both about equally long. One leads through [[a small valley|Downhill]], past the ancient grove; the other winds along [[the edge of the forest|The Edge of the Forest]].
The flute is a simple instrument, but its sound is ancient and profound, merry and yet poignant in that way the old poets knew so well. It is the voice of the wind, harnessed for a moment by the will of mortals, but never quite controlled.\n\nThe origin of the music remains unknown to you. Sound can travel far here on Mount Lycidas, especially in the quiet hour of sunset. Perhaps what you are hearing is another shepherd on the far side of the mountain, or a child exploring the vales near the village.\n\n<<display 'Before the Grove'>>
You decide to take the upper road, the one that leads along the edge of the forest. The wind is stronger here, but still quite pleasant. The sheep happily march towards home; they know this path well, and never get lost here.\n\nAn [[owl|The Watcher]] watches you from atop a branch, waiting for darkness to fall. Its eyes reflect the orange-red [[sun|The Sun]] as it disappears behind the horizon.
"Come here, come here, follow my voice!" you shout again, but the sheep is too confused to find you. The echo does not make it any easier.\n\nYou'll just have to [[follow|Don't Worry]] it. Hopefully it hasn't broken a leg.
A Pastoral Tale
A vision comes to you of Mount Lycidas in the days long ago. It is as the stories tell: a place without life, where broken things are discarded. A wasteland of dead machinery, heaped to darken the sky.\n\nHere the ancients began their journey; here they made themselves from dirt, formed the shapes that now dance with you out of a thousand broken [[bodies|Light]].
You step closer, and feel a sense of awe rising in you.\n\nThe creature has eight legs, very much like a spider. But the legs are covered in fine reflective scales, which shimmer blue and green and a little red. It is currently using two of its legs to clean its wings, reminding you more of a cat than of an insect. Its head has two large compound eyes, strangely expressive for an insect.\n\nIt turns as you approach and looks at you. It takes a step towards you and inclines its head. Unable to resist your curiosity, you [[extend your hand|So Close]].
<html><img src="Arcadia3.jpg"></html>\n\n[[Begin|Sunlit Meadow]]\n[[Credits]]
.passage { width: 600px; text-align: justify }
No snakes to be seen today, but quite a lot of fish. They shimmer in the water: blue, orange, yellow, red. Some of them have gotten rather big. Here and there you also see a few [[frogs|Frogs]], and for a moment a [[newt|The Newt]] surfaces and looks around.
Suddenly [[something|Something]] glittering lands gently on the bridge.
The stars are only faintly visible, except for a few, but you know them well. You can imagine the constellations that are up there, know which stars will rise and when.\n\nSeeing these lights, these tiny particles that have travelled millions of years from the suns that produced them, that are arriving right now and allowing you to see the beauty of the universe, makes you feel the immensity of time and space. All those years, all those vast distances; you are nothing compared to them, and yet you are everything, because you are alive, a tiny point of being, of awareness, in this immensity.\n\n<<display 'Crossroad'>>
The song is wild, and alive. It is beautiful and terrible at the same time, and it sweeps you away. You are like a twig caught in a mighty river, and you are rushing towards the ocean. Perhaps the ocean will destroy you, but it does not matter, for the twig never knows that it is not the river.\n\n<<display 'The Others'>>
Red, blue and green dragonflies are just some of the many small flying creatures that live by the river. There are also [[swimming birds|Birds]], [[butterflies|Butterflies]], and of course entirely too many [[gnats|Gnats]].
You have reached a [[fork in the road|Paths]].
The ancients are not gone. Like the trees of this grove, they persist: their essences, their thoughts, remain in the world. In the relationships between particles, in near-invisible patterns, their song continues.\n\nThey have become one with the [[light|Awakening]].
You follow the river upstream.\n\nThe landscape is rougher up here, still changing and forming. Large rocks jut out from the ground, creating an almost maze-like environment. Children from the village sometimes come to play hide-and-seek here, but the sheep often get confused, poor things.\n\nYou could [[call out|A Voice In The Wilderness]] for the sheep, or just [[look for it|Between The Rocks]].
The newt looks at you for a few seconds, wondering whether you are a threat, before diving back under the water. Its back is completely black, but you get a momentary glimpse of its bright purple belly. Then it disappears in the mud at the bottom of the river.\n\n<<display 'What is That'>>
The bee is flying quickly; within moments, it is no more than a tiny bronze speck in the far distance. So small, and yet so important; what would the world be without them? It is their daily journeys that spread the seeds of change, their neverending work that makes variety bloom on the slopes of Mount Lycidas.\n\nYour sheep are annoyed by them sometimes, but you speak a blessing for their presence in the world.\n\n<<display 'Before the Grove'>>
When did that sound come so close? It seemed to be coming from far away only moments ago, but now it is here with you in the grove, echoing amongst the trees. The players - for they are many - move in the shadows, move all around you, playing their song.\n\nIt comes closer and closer, [[surrounding|The Dance Begins]] you.
Written by [[Jonas Kyratzes|]].\n\nCreated with [[Twine|]].\n\nCover image based on ''The Course of Empire: The Arcadian or Pastoral State'' (1834), by Thomas Cole.\n\nAll other images are from public domain sources.\n\n<html><center><img src="ornament.png"></center></html>\n\n''Arcadia: A Pastoral Tale'' © Copyright 2012 by Jonas Kyratzes\n\n[[Begin|Sunlit Meadow]]
When the sheep get lost, it usually means that they have wandered up or down the river. They can't cross it, and they almost never go into the trees without their shepherd. You walk up to the shore, careful not to step onto the small [[blue salamanders|Blue Salamanders]] that live there.\n\nYou can see a long ways downriver, but the sheep isn't there. A deer stares back at you from where the river disappears around a bend, its antlers scouring the air for information. Recognizing you as fellow mountain-wanderer, it relaxes and continues grazing.\n\n[[Upriver]], then.
"Come here, come here," you shout. Your voice echoes, startling a small creature that runs to hide in a bush. Probably a rabbit or something of that kind.\n\nYou hear a sheep-sound in the distance. You detect the distress in it, know that it is crying "I am lost! I am lost!" \n\nYou could [[call out|Come Here]] again, or [[follow|Don't Worry]] it.
They move around you, their goat-legs dancing on the fallen leaves, their heads adorned with horns. They are shadow, they are light. You know their names.\n\nThe dance continues and the forest fades, though the ancient ones are with you still. You hear the rustling of leaves, and waters flowing. The flutes and the drums take you with them, across time, to the [[beginning|In the Beginning]].
You turn for a moment to look at the sun. Such an old thing, yet so immensely powerful. Enough to bring life to billions of beings, to make the world grow for uncounted ages. It is something to be thankful for. One of many blessings.\n\nYou've almost reached the [[bridge|At the Bridge]].
\n<html><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="leaves.png"></a></html>\n\n
But they are not bodies, you realize. They cannot be, for their bodies returned to the earth long ago. And then, with the clarity revealed by knowledge, you see them in their true shapes: patterns of [[information|Memory]], beings of [[light|Eternity]].
There is a dance going on above you. You have glimpsed it before, up on the meadows, but now you see it clearly for the first time. The light and the shadows and the leaves, always intertwined, never at one, moving with perfect grace to the song of the wind.\n\n<<display 'The Others'>>
All is quiet. The sheep are gone; they're almost certainly in the village by now. Which is where you should be.\n\nYou take one more look around. The ancient trees stand mute, like monuments, reminders of where you came from. Where all of this came from.\n\nTime to head [[home|Home]].
The song is inside you now. It [[flows|Flowing]] through you, moves you. It is like a rushing river, and it cannot be resisted.\n\nThe last rays of the sun dance between the [[leaves|Leaves]], and you dance with them. The song rises as you move with the light and the shadows, your feet moving in [[patterns|Patterns]] both alien and familiar.
"Come here, come here," you call out. The sheep hear you, start moving towards you. A few of them, a little group by the river, continue to graze, too enthralled by the plants growing on the shore.\n\n"Come here, you foolish creatures! The river-plants will still be here tomorrow, but the sun is setting and we have to go home."\n\nThey finally register your command and join the rest of the flock as it congregates around you, still chewing. Thirty-nine sheep are before you; one is missing.\n\n<<display 'More Sheep'>>
What is this movement, this dance? Why are these moves so graceful, so weighted with meaning, when so many others are not? Why do you recognize something, something you cannot put into words, in these patterns? There is a truth here that cannot be denied.\n\n<<display 'The Others'>>
The owl's head turns as it watches you go by. It is unsettlingly beautiful. You wonder what it is like to see with those eyes.\n\nSeveral bees fly past you, all heading in the same direction. There must be a hive somewhere around here.\n\nYou've almost reached the [[bridge|At the Bridge]].
It's been a long time since something entirely new has appeared on the mountain. You know all the stories of course, you know the history of your people, but it's never happend to you personally. You've never had the honour of seeing something no-one has seen before, something that has no name.\n\nA winged spider. That would be a good name. You're going to suggest it to the others. Maybe it will stick. One of your ancestors named the dragonflies, you remember. That name stuck, too.\n\nYou wait a bit longer to see if the winged spider will return, but it does not. Having been so blessed today, you do not feel disappointed by that. \n\nThe sun has set now, and it is beginning to get quite dark. Time to go [[home|Home]].
The sky is full of stars now, and you don't think you've ever seen them be brighter or more majestic. You cannot help but stop every now and then to look up, to try and take it all in.\n\nToday has been a day of wonders, yet somehow the stars are no less magnificent. They overwhelm you, as they have always done.\n\nSoon the warm glow of village windows is in sight, and this too is a majestic sight. You can hear the sheep bleating in their pen. The door to your house opens as your approach, spilling golden light on the garden. Your partner is standing in the door, as beautiful as ever.\n\nYour dog comes limping out of the house, excited to see you. You pat his head as your partner walks out to meet you.\n\n"You're late. I was getting a little worried."\n"There's nothing to worry about. I'm fine. More than fine."\n"We've had reports..."\n"And?"\n"They're coming. It's true. They want to take it away from us."\n"We always knew this day would come."\n"It still frightens me."\nHands interlock now, like souls did long ago.\n"Don't worry. We'll fight them. We'll fight. And maybe they'll discover that there is more to Mount Lycidas than they know."\nAs if to confirm this thought, the mountain rumbles, adjusting, changing itself. Maybe tomorrow the sheep won't have a place to get lost in.\n"Now let's go inside, and let me tell you about my day. It was quite something..."\n\nAnd so there is talk and laugher deep into the night, and the stars shine on Mount Lycidas.\n\n\n<html><center><img src="vines2.png"></center></html>
The bird is like a star in the afternoon sky, its wings reflecting the light of the setting sun. For a moment you are blinded as it swerves suddenly to the left and flies off in the direction of the forest.\n\nWhen your eyes recover you realize that it is time to take the sheep back to the village. <<display 'Sheep'>>
Underneath the music of the flute is another, more ancient still: the music of drums. Like heartbeats they move between the trees, drums and flutes and shadows, closer than they should be, closer and closer until they [[surround|The Dance Begins]] you.
The [[ancient grove|The Grove]] stands before you.
You amble behind your flock, enjoying the warmth of the setting sun. The birds in the sky look as if they were made of fire, little dots of bright orange-red reflected light.\n\nThe [[wind|The Wind]] is getting a little cooler now, but it's refreshing rather than cold. In the height of summer there is a real danger of overheating up here, though right now it is very pleasant. Late summer is the best time of year, you think.\n\nThe first [[stars|Stars]] begin to appear in the sky. You recognize them like old friends.
The sheep have already crossed the bridge when you set foot on it. The river it leads over is not particularly deep, but it is quite wide, and sometimes there are [[snakes|Creatures of the River]] in it. Thankfully the sheep have an aversion to water, so they take the bridge without needing much instruction from you.\n\nBrightly coloured [[dragonflies|Creatures of the Air]] hover around the shore.
The wind carries the smell of baked earth, of trees and grass and slowly descending night. It is the feeling of late summer condensed into one perfect sensation, making you deeply aware of the infinite beauty of the moment, and aware also of its fragile, fleeting nature in the great onrushing river of Time.\n\nYou know, in this moment, that you are alive, that you exist in the now; and that one day it will no longer be so.\n\n<<display 'Crossroad'>>
You get up from the stone where you were sitting to look around and count the sheep. Eleven on the shores of the river; nine near the trees; fifteen on the meadow; four moving to join the ones by the trees.\n\nOne missing.\n\n<<display 'More Sheep'>>
Most of the frogs are sitting at the edge of the river, in the shallows. If they didn't move every now and then to catch flies and other flying insects, one could easily take them for rocks. Some can even retract their eyes to make the illusion more complete. You remember being fascinated by that as a child.\n\n<<display 'What is That'>>
You cannot see any birds at the moment, but that is not unusual. At this time of day they are often sleeping in the small thickets at the edge of the river, or enjoying the last rays of the sun further downstream.\n\n<<display 'What is That'>>
You walk between the rocks, from light into shade and back again. Small creatures rustle about in the bushes, startled by your presence. You wonder whether the sheep has managed to accidentally hurt itself somehow.\n\nSuddenly you hear a sheep-sound not far from where you are. It is clearly distressed, calling for its shepherd to lead it home.\n\nThe sound should be easy to [[follow|Don't Worry]].
Several brightly-coloured butterflies are sitting on the water-flowers that grow in the shallows. Such are the patterns on their wings that they almost look like flowers themselves.\n\n<<display 'What is That'>>
[[Look for the sheep.|By The River]]
Your eyes trace the patterns of the leaves as they drift, attempting to guess how they might move. Following a single leaf is easy, though strangely delightful, but following all of them at the same time is difficult. As was known long ago, the wind is a playful, unpredictable force that resists the easy predictions of mortals.\n\nAfter a few moments you realize that it is time to take the sheep back to the village. <<display 'Sheep'>>
For a moment you are afraid that the creature will bite you, but it only moves a little closer. It almost touches your hand, apparently as curious about you as you are about it. Then something startles it and it flies away, disappearing into the trees near the water.\n\nYou stand there, utterly astonished. The sheep wander off towards the village, but you are stuck on the bridge, so full of wonder you simply cannot move.\n\nYou have seen [[something new|Something New]].
You've often walked amongst these ancient trees, the oldest trees on the mountain, and wondered at their rough beauty. They do not have the elegant shapes of the trees of the forest, their great-grandchildren, but in their base materials there is a power that cannot be denied. They have endured, and they will endure longer still.\n\nThe sound of the flute is [[closer|Closer]] now, much closer. And there is another sound [[beneath|Beneath]] it.
The sun hangs low in the sky above Mount Lycidas, its rays bathing the world in the golden light of late summer. A warm, gentle wind picks up leaves and carries them across the meadow, patterns of green and silver drifting like [[a slow dance|A Slow Dance]].\n\nThe shadow of a [[bird|Look To The Sky]] drifts across the ground before you, almost seeming to chase the leaves.
You wake up beneath the trees of the grove. It is dark; the sun must have set some time ago.\n\nYou should probably [[get up|Quiet]] and see what happened to the sheep.
The ancients are not gone. Like the trees of this grove, they persist: their essences, their thoughts, remain in the world. In the relationships between particles, in near-invisible patterns, their song continues.\n\nThey are [[within you|Awakening]].
A glittering creature is sitting on the bridge, apparently not bothered by your presence. It is about as big as your hand. You have trouble recognizing it. Perhaps if you stepped a little [[closer|A Closer Look]]...
You walk back together, the sheep staying close to you, only briefly stopping by the river to drink. The flock is waiting, aware that it is time to go home.\n\n"Let's go back!" you shout, making sure the command registers with all of them. They start walking in their usual disorganized fashion.\n\nYou wish your dog was here, but his leg is still repairing itself. He wanted to come, of course, but you care too much for your old companion to allow that. He is in good hands, anyway, and you can take care of the sheep.\n\nThey know the way home, but you should at least [[keep an eye on them|Homeward]].\n\n
You become aware of [[others|Shadow and Light]] dancing with you. Theirs is the music, and theirs is the dance you have become caught in.
by [[Jonas Kyratzes|]]
There is a variety of stinging insects that live in and near the water. They are a lot less dangerous than the snakes, but far more irritating. The snakes at least have the good sense to avoid larger creatures whenever possible; the gnats do not. \n\nThe only good thing about the gnats is that they give the [[frogs|Frogs]] something to eat.
The tiny blue creatures crawl away from your feet. Their skin glints in the sun as they move.\n\nSoon they will be returning to the trees where they spend their winters, but for now they are enjoying the sun, gathering its energy for the long cloudy days ahead.\n\nPart of you wishes you could lie down on the rocks with them and watch the sun set behind the trees, but you should probably continue [[upriver|Upriver]]. Who knows where that sheep has gotten stuck?
You decide to take the path through the valley. Some of the sheep were already heading that way, anyway.\n\nFrom somewhere in the distance, you hear the [[sound of a flute|An Ancient Sound]].\n\nYou walk for a while without thinking about anything specific, simply enjoying the feeling of being there. A [[bee|A Little Bee]] buzzes past your ears, returning to its hive. The sky is slowly taking on the strange reddish-orange hue that presages the coming of night.\n\n
"Don't worry, I'm coming!" you shout. This isn't the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last, but it's hard not to feel pity for the sheep's despair. It just wants to go home.\n\nYou find the sheep easily enough, wandering confusedly between the rocks. It runs towards you as soon as it sees you, bounding like a lamb.\n\nIt's an older sheep, its ears still bearing traces of the logo its ancestors were once branded with. They get confused more easily than the younger ones, even though they've lived their whole lives in this landscape.\n\nYou gently pat its head, calming it down.\n\n"Follow me," you say, and you feel it reset its pathfinding parameters.\n\n[[Lead the sheep back.|Back To The Flock]]