Brother Vespasian listened to the gong's subtle harmonics echo and fade into the aurora-filled twilight of another cold, pristine morning's observance of the dawn. It was the only sound his Order allowed themselves to make in their strict observance of precepts that had been ancient before humanity first trod the then-dry sea-bed of Riskail's only functional, stable eco-system. His glossy-black metallic eyes reflected the shimmering witch-fire flickering along the rim of the Great Rift. A creature of ritual and habit, Brother Vaspasian slowly, methodically examined the Etched Plateau as it came into increasingly sharp relief in the growing sunlight. The aurorae faded, the shadows became stark and stygian. The criss-crossing straight lines of the nearer, rim-ward lines and tracks formed a visual symphony to his mechanical eyes. Within minutes he could clearly discern the humingbird, the owl and the moth patterns that had been scratched into the dessicated, airless soil and outlined with low piles of broken rocks and pebbles on either side, arranged so as to capture the sunlight and be visible from above. The lines were beautiful, a work of art composed by a member of his own Order and carried out by a small group of tireless robots programmed for a crude form of intuition and no other intelligence, a suite of responsive mechanical hands that executed the artistic vision of the various monks of Brother Vaspasian's Order who achieved a distant rapport with the machines in the course of their contemplations. The machines acted out the impulses that they received from the monk's subconscious minds and were a form of devotional automatism that was technically a form of necromancy. Like most of his Order, Brother Vespasian was, for all intents and purposes mummified, his long exposure to the cold, dry air of the High Cliffs had long ago robbed his flesh of most of its moisture, converting his muscles into a dark red-brown form of jerky and rigidly locking his legs into a posture he hadn't changed in eleven hundred years.