When I awoke, light was streaming into the room through a window beside my bed. When I realized I was in a bed, I sat bolt upright, startling the villager watching over me.
"What is it, other-kin?" Another female. Her voice was similar to the one I heard the night before, but a lower pitch.
"Not used to bed. I don't have this." the strange bird-woman seemed to shrug her shoulders busily. The feathers on her back rose and subsided. A sound like laughter came to my mind.
"Easy enough to make. The elder wanted to know when you awoke. He is on his way and will show you to the quarry." I looked down under the covers and saw that I was wearing a strange and new set of clothes. They were red and blue and adorned in places with a golden thread. I went to scratch my head and felt that I was wearing a cap. I looked at it a moment. It was red with the same golden thread along the hem and fit snugly to my head. I put the hat back on and let my eyes wander to my gear. Beside the bed a suit of iron armor sat, sculpted to a divine perfection. The helmet was adorned with gentle scrolls that looked like wisps of cloud. Upon examination I realized that the scrolls were not engraved at all. Instead it looked like they were there all along, before the helmet itself was even made. None of the other armor looked beaten or shaped; not a single sign of shaping by force existed on the armor. Puzzled I searched my memory and did not recall seeing a blacksmith nor a loom in any of the houses. They stood either empty or with scant furnishings. In this room I saw more furniture than I ever had. Around me there were shelves of books and two tables with chairs beside them. I looked up and saw a head pass the window.
"The elder has arrived." she stood and went to the door. I saw it open but her arms did not seem to unfold. The elder walked in and my host nodded deeply to him. He came to my bed and looked down at me.
"Do not stir unless you are ready." he said.
I felt more than ready. A feeling of lightness filled me, bringing a feeling of floating upward. I almost sprang from the bed and stretch up and down. I looked down at my hands again as if for the first time. They looked younger, clean and unworn by toil. My nails were even neat and cleaned. My feet looked the same. My eyes snapped to the elder's. A glint like pleasure and mischief flickered in his eye.
"Many more questions, other-kin?"
"Work first. You must mine the stone for your tower and then return to me. I will tell you all you want to know."
"Wait, the healer. She was beautiful... I mean. She looked as I, other-kin, human." I heard my words and noticed they flowed easier. The elder's shoulders shrugged busily and I heard him laugh.
"You mind-speak better. She spoke of the stories, yes?"
"Work first, other-kin. Answers will come. Some at once, others in their time." With that the elder rounded and walked to the door, which seemed to open just as he came to it. I shouldered my pack and left my armor. I followed the elder along the gravel paths of the village. Behind one of the houses he showed me a place in the sand where it was sifted away, revealing a naked shoulder of stone. This again seemed very neat. The edge of the sand looked as if it was... rolled back... by a wind or water. A clear outlined was defined by the sand. The area almost had an exact geometric shape to it.
"I cannot dig here. This looks like so much effort was made to..."
"No, other-kin. As little effort was made here as a thought." I puzzled a moment and looked into the elder's eyes. "Work, other-kin. Return to my longhouse tonight or after you have finished the roof on your tower. I will wait patiently." I lowered my pack to the ground and opened the flap. I procured a stone pickax that looked as if it were pulled from the ground in one piece. The wooden handle was no longer sealed in place with a crude pin mechanism as I had used before. Instead it was flush with the stone head, which wrapped snugly about the wood. I looked down the handle and saw that there was no space that a grain of sand could slide between the stone and wood. They were as one. Much like the helmet and armor, it showed no signs of working or shaping and in its river-rock smooth surface there was the etching of a bird with the ends of the pick as twin beaks.
"Peculiar tools you choose to use, other-kin. I do not understand, but one uses the devices common to them, I suppose. Enjoy your work." the elder rounded and walked away toward his long house.
I set to work mining as much stone as I could. The work itself was easy and light. I barely broke a sweat after a half an hour. I set the pick down and looked at it. Was there some magic at work here? I opened my bag and found another of my picks. It, too, was a symbol of perfection with the relief of a similar but different bird. I used the device for another half hour and the work was similarly easy. I threw the pick on the ground next to the other. At the bottom of my bag, among other sundries, was a wooden pick. This was an older piece that I had made after my first broke. I wasn't sure if I would need it, but I thought it would help here. I looked it over briefly and noticed even it had a relief. The wood itself was smooth, as if it were planed and shaped with sand paper for hours. The relief was of another bird, similar to, but different than the others. The grooves of the relief were smooth and felt as if the wood had grown this way. I looked down this pick's shaft and looked for the seam of the head and the handle. There was nothing. It looked as if it were procured from a tree in one solid shape. I swung the pick and set to mining again. Last time I used a wooden pickax it took a good bit of time to break off enough stone to create a block. This time the work went smoothly and easily, though still slower than with the stone picks. I set this pick alongside the other two. I looked at the three of them for a bit then realized day was still waning. I grabbed one of the stone picks and went back to working. Before long I had enough stone to make good progress with my tower. I hefted the bag and felt its weight. I lugged it back toward the elder's longhouse. Night was still some time from now and I was confident that the villagers would not turn me away tonight to the darkness. Tonight the elder would tell me much about this world.