The Goatmen of Aguirra is one of my favorite stories and, based on comments, popular among my readers (thankee!). It appears in my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, as an individual ebook The Goatmen of Aguirra: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and was serialized in Piker Press in 2019.
I’m sharing it here because a friend is having some challenges using 1st Person POV, and The Goatmen of Aguirra uses 1st Person POV throughout.
Hope you enjoy.
The Goatmen of Aguirra (Part 1)
705015:216 – We’ve landed in a grotto, near the center of Hochebene’s Altiplano, but closer to the Towers of God than not. On one side of the grotto is the only run of clear water for some thirty kilometers, and I’ve noted with Sanders that this could be a problem as all native fauna encountered thus far follow the same biologies as we. Immediately upon landing, Sanders ordered Tellweiller, Nash, and Galen to construct a blind. We are now a boulder, one among several, that slid into the grotto when we lowered a rumbler to cover our landing.
Nash estimates two standard hours before sunrise.
Early estimates indicated Aguirra was three and a half to four billion years old. Now, with readings coming in about the deep core and mantle, we place it closer to five. Gravity is one-point-one standard and the atmosphere is quite like Earth’s only sweeter due to a higher O3 content. There is also a free floating enzyme, essentially carbolic anhydrase, which explains some of the evolutionary adaptations on the planet. Everything we’ve observed is based on the nitrocarbon cycle – everything we’ve recorded from space and robotics shows up as a variation on some earth fauna – and the carbolic anhydrase probably helps redaction and reduction in the O3 rich atmosphere when a stressing agent is introduced.
Due to the atmosphere there is a perpetual slight pink tint in the sky, much like before an intense electrical storm back home. This area, Hochebene’s Altiplano to the Towers of God, is a paragneiss formed we’re not sure how long ago by glaciation. It is difficult to estimate because the atmosphere mediates the planetary temperature such that weathering is neither gradual nor minimal – Hopkin’s Bioclimatic Law doesn’t seem to apply. There are seasons in the temperate zones but without the fluctuations of four true seasons. Summer temperature extremes range from -19°C to 33°C. Winter temperatures also vary by about twenty degrees, from -25°C to 5°C. These temperatures are for our current location, 43°N, 8000m altitude, and, as I’ve mentioned earlier, shrouded to the west by the Towers of God.
To our immediate east is the rock wall we worked hard to resemble, the rise of the grotto, then the expanse of the high plain for several kilometers. Although comprised principally of paragneiss and granite with only slight eruptions of soil, a hardy tundral grass grows in clumps all around. Our guess is the grass serves to anchor what little soil there is in place. There are wind storms – one is due in another hour – when Astarte 217 rises over the altiplano and begins churning this high, thin air with the thicker, deep valley air far below.
These grasses are richly verdant, their tops a slight yellow as if gently burned. Galen collected some samples when the blind was completed and says the yellowing is a pollen. Thus we learn immediately that these verdant clusters aren’t true grasses and that there is some pollenizing agent, perhaps only the wind, which is at work. If the robotics sent into these highlands hadn’t met such abrupt and catastrophic ends, we might know more about Aguirra’s highland life, at least in this area.
There is still a carpet of snow, albeit thin and frayed in some areas, stretching a kilometer from the entrance to the altiplano to the Towers of God even though this continent is now in high summer. The snow, Nash says, is due to the altitude and rarified atmosphere. Even with the carpet of white, this is a desert, with cold, dry steppes leading to the Towers.
In contrast to earth flora, there appears to be no treeline. While there are no trees on the altiplano, there are five here in the grotto ranging from two to two-fifty meters in height. They appear something like succulent scotch pines, kind of chubby Christmas trees. They have no root systems and, according to Galen, all five trees are extensions of the same growth and are more like vines than trees, growing like Sequoias in the northern California forests. If they are vines, it explains their limbs being naked on one side and holding fast against the grotto’s walls. They’re being succulents so close to a clear water supply indicates that the water might be seasonal.
There are several similar although much smaller trees, these resembling elms and birch although Galen’s report might show different, growing to our west and in the runoff fissures of the Towers. From there these trees grow up to the crowns of the Towers, becoming deeper and denser with altitude, giving the appearance of twin green-haired giants out in the distance. Based on this and other evidence Galen claims these are not true “trees”. If Galen’s contention about the succulents is accurate, there are but one or two of these “trees” sending their shoots, binding and girding like some giant’s phylacteries, up the Towers.
The most noticeable feature of the landscape, the one we all knew would be most breath-taking, are the Towers themselves. We are eight kilometers above sea level and the Towers rise another eight above us. They are the largest vertical features on all of Aguirra, even and symmetrical in every geologic detail, with their expansive flat plained plateau heads, each five-point-five kilometers in diameter, separated by zero-point-five kilometers horizontal and a four kilometer drop. There are a few passes down the Towers, more like torrents than actual passes in their slope and grain, and various hanging, piedmont, and steppe glaciers coming down the Towers’ sides. The best climb, if one were necessary, seems to be along a bergschrund on the immediate faces of each.
Tellweiller has no explanation for the Towers’ formation, although it is obvious from their age they were formed in the prebiologic days of the planet.
Although I am not a religious man, standing at their feet and hearing the winds, it is not difficult to imagine the whispers the ancient Greeks heard about Mt. Olympus. I can understand why these features were named the Towers of God.
Continue on to part 2.