The series of follies - small buildings, in other situations often in formal gardens, designed to be decorative while often resembling some purpose-built building - known most commonly as The Red-Tree Follies dot the landscape in a wavering set of ovals from east to west, providing lovely places for a picnic, for an evening’s rest, or for a small wedding. They have been mapped and drawn, painted and studied in recent years. Still, much about them remains a mystery.
What we do not know about the Red-tree follies far outweighs what we do know, so we will begin with the ascertainable facts.
They are placed approximately every hundred miles in what we can presume or prove was open countryside or old ruins at the time of their building; thus every second or third place we would expect to find one has no folly, because the town their predates their build.
They range in size from approximately 7 feet on a side to 12 feet on a side, and imitate or duplicate in miniature many famous structures in the pre-collapse era and a few of those known to have been built in the post-collapse: the Parthenon, the Empire State Building; the Tower of Cloverleaf, the Sistine Chapel - or simply take architectural elements from a known style and play with them.
The largest two are the Parthenon-duplicate and one built around a central courtyard; the smallest is built like a stone version of a log cabin, a symbol of the former United States’ early colonial history.
(I will digress here to say that I feel those critics who complain that the Parthenon is not exacting enough do not take into period the scale in which the model was built, the purpose to which it may have been built, or the era in which it was built. Who can believe its architect had seen more than a faded portrait of the original, in an era in which printing was rare and television almost unheard-of?)
Almost all are made from a combination of stone, metal, and glass, with wood and cloth being provided almost entirely in furnishings, most of which can not be reliably dated to the original builds.
All are marked on the inside of each lintel with a carving or relief of a tree, marked or done in red stone or red glass.
Almost all are still in very solid shape.
About one in ten of them have a cornerstone marked with a date. Although it is often the tradition to insert some sort of time capsule in said cornerstones, nobody has opened any of these yet, and those two follies that are known to have been destroyed did not have cornerstones.
Combining the dates on the cornerstones, the markings, and local history in nearby towns, we can say with some certainty that the follies were constructed in a ten-year period around the end of the City-States Period1, approx. 90-100 PC2. Given the dates, we can assume that they were constructed by Ellehemaei Workings or an inherent magic of the earthen type, as they would otherwise take a team at least several days to build.
One other thing common to all of these buildings: They all have some sort of ground-level room, often with only a hidden door, while the “main entrance” is reached by grand stairs on a second level. This room is always secure, always has two entrances, and almost never has anything in the way of furniture except several oil lamps hung on the walls. In most cases, a casual observer would assume that the base floor is merely a plinth for the higher, more decorative levels.
It is my assertion that the original builder made these as shelters. When you consider the simplicity of the earliest structures, and the random simplicity of others at later dates, compared to the towering complexity of some, one can posit that what began as a hidden-way-station project, using the purloined letter method of hiding one’s shelter in plain sight, later became something of a hobby or a challenge for the builder. To bolster this theory, one of the most complicated structures, a Gothic cathedral-like building that stretches to seven stories at its pinnacle, was built over and around a much simpler structure and, by the dating, appears to have been built during a week in which unrelenting rain pelted nearby Chicago for seven days straight. It appears as if the builder took shelter and simply continued to build from the inside out as the rain continued. And, indeed, three of the nine stained-glass windows show rain scenes.
It is notable that, despite many church-like structures, not a single religious icon of any known large religion appears anywhere in the red-tree follies.
We return once again to the builder: who were they?
We can say with almost complete certainty that they were Ellehemaei. They were skilled in Earth-Working, and it was likely their best or foremost Word; other Earth-Workers of various ages have attempted to duplicate the more complicated structures and, while many can do so, it takes them a minimum of a week and often closer to a month to complete one mid-level Folly duplicate.
We cannot say that they were all built by the same person, but we can guess that they were, as many features - as mentioned above - remain constant throughout, including (rubbings have been taking) the exact lines and patterns of the red tree.
And as to the Red Tree - several towns in which it was common to note the names of visitors in that era note a visitor named Cyara Red Tree. One guard notes her as “stunning” while several other describe a brown-haired adult woman with freckles, a small wagon of some sort in tow, here to visit or to trade.
There appears to be nothing at all notable about this woman except her timing, but one has to wonder if this woman could be the Red Tree builder of follies. The timing matches.
As to theories that this might be Cynara Red Doomsday, founder of Cloverleaf, the Apiary, and Doomsday Academy, I can only say that I find it unlikely, but the woman herself has vanished, and thus we cannot ask her. I will say this: The architectural styles, aside from The Tower replica, are unlike anything we see in Cloverleaf or the Apiary; the Mayor of Cloverleaf is not known to have ever gone by another name, or to have ever removed the red streak in her hair; and I do not see how the Mayor would have had time to build such things if a third of what is attributed to her was actually in her hands.
However, as I write this, I am asleep in the “sleeping room” of one of the better-appointed Red Tree Follies. Although my light is electric and my vehicles waits outside, I cannot feel a little bit closer to the mysterious Red Tree.
Perhaps I will dream of them tonight, and perhaps those dreams will tell me more than my studies have.
- There is some discussion about the naming of this period. For this document, I have chosen to use those era names used by the Apiary University at Cloverleaf.
- Post-Collapse. The follies are dated either in Gregorian dates carved in Roman numerals, in Cloverleaf dates carved in Idu a’Iduþin, the ancient language of the Ellehemaei, or in dates that we cannot ascertain, often in Arabic numbers