Eric's Story: Interlude 1
Previous part:

Hugh Sacristan, meanwhile, has borrowed a computer and is sitting in his room at the Age and Country Hotel, working on  the second of the games contained in the brown book.

He knows, at this point, only what he has been told; that, under the earth of New Mexico, there is a vast ancient city that belonged to a pre-human civilisation known as D'ni. They had knowledge which enabled them to write books that could allow the reader to travel to other worlds, other...dimensions, he supposes. Nevertheless, their civilisation fell, and only one survivor escaped; the man Atrus.

This much, Hugh knows, is real. He has seen parts of D'ni, though he has no idea where they are, since he arrived there by the power of a Linking Book. Other explorers, called to the area by a mysterious mental tugging and inveigled into enacting an obscure ritual by the holographic ghost of Atrus's daughter Yeesha, are even now running around down there, half-heartedly seeking further evidence of the power of the D'ni, or simply playing around in the ruins. 

These five games, made over a period of years by a small company located in the Northwest, apparently represent a highly edited account of the vicissitudes of Atrus's family, and their interaction with an unnamed individual from the surface who seems to have popped up at regular intervals to resolve some crisis or other. Hugh remembers reading that the initial game was supposedly actually set at some point in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, but he has no idea whether this is true or not.

Hugh, for his part, unlike some of the other residents of the hotel, has no interest whatsoever in how the Linking Books work, or in learning to Write in the D'ni manner. For him it is enough that they do work, that by touching the illustrated panel on the front page one can travel to a different Age, a different world. He has seen, on what other explorers call the Uru journey, the ruined magnificence of the D'ni's legacy, the decayed machinery of Teledahn, the colossal forest of Kadish Tolesa. The Ages in these games, by comparison, seem small, unimpressive, and yet in their way beautiful. 

The origin of the games intrigues him. Where did they get the information? More importantly, why did they choose to make games out of it rather than take the more obvious path and reveal this discovery to the world openly?

The answer is clear to Hugh, since it is the same thought that has been bothering him since he came to this place; the revelation of the D'ni and their Art to a humanity still locked into the toxic spiral of consumption and production, still prone to the madness of war, still all too likely to fall into the trap of thinking itself a god...would be disastrous. What befell D'ni would certainly befall the entire human world, and it would not take any ten thousand years to do it. 

It's not that we're any worse, or any weaker. We've just come too far down the wrong road, and we're too proud to ask directions, he thinks.  We could be worthy...but not yet.

The thought brings his mind back to Gutteridge, the missing electrician, now somewhere loose in D'ni with an unspecified "she." That thought in turn brings his attention back to the game. He flicks the wooden ball set in the rock with his cursor, and it reveals a symbol that looks like a K, and a creaking, or possibly a croaking sound.

Okay. The K is three in D'ni numerals, I know that. But what does that noise mean?

Next part: