The cities of Loc and Madrian are full of monastic men. The monasteries of Loc are charged with copying and translating sacred texts, while those of Madrian are charged with illustrating them. A monk of Loc, having finished a text, brings his heavy folio down the mountain on the back of a donkey to the inn on the island between them. There he meets a monk of Madrian. Over a thick beer, the men discuss their faith, their dreams, and their cities. Some hours later, the monk of Madrian hoists the cargo onto his mule and disappears up the mountain pass to return before sunset. This transaction occurs again and again, and the monks live for these windows into the lives of their parallel selves.
On one such day, an encounter takes place, but this time, the monks, rather than talking pleasantly over their ales, argue and frown. The monk of Madrian, it seems, wants to reverse their production. “Why must our sketches be relegated to the margins of your text,” he posits, “when your writings might just as easily fit between the margins of our illustrations? You write in an ancient tongue which few understand, while my voice is unbound by language or text.”
The conversation continues on like this for some time and other monks approach and join sides, scrolling through their own texts to bolster their arguments. In time, the monks become tired and drunk and each stumbles up his mount to sleep and pray.
Many years later, a book is found in the monastery of Madrian. Illustrations burnish each page, telling in lush illustrations the tales and lessons formerly told in words. Diminished annotations line the sides of the books, as pictures formerly clung to the edges of text. It is a beautiful book, but the stories have no room for the imagination to wander. Whereas each word had once produced an image for the mind to bear, these images produce no words. They do not invite the mingling of one’s own dreams and memories.