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The Valley of Humanity – Part 4

January 18, 2014

They walked for some time; Kele limped along, supported by Nelco who led the way. The mushroom forest stretched out in front of them and beyond that, Corran Wood; their village lying within its midst. The giant stalks of fungus stood at least thirty to fifty feet tall, their caps blocking the sun during the day. Now they helped darken the ground and foliage below them, creating a threatening tangle of hidden shadows and predators. Thankfully though, these lands were protected by the Alysmon hunters who took long shifts tracing particular circuits around the borders of the village. Kele could not see any through the uninviting darkness; but they were there, and it was likely they could see Nelco and himself with ease. The pain returned to him now, as they made their journey home. Nelco had managed to bandage the wound with what little supplies he carried with him, but only the village healers had the skill and items required for a more permanent solution. The journey through the dark canopy was awkward; the land’s imbalances, the swamps, the random rocky surfaces between the ground’s fungal growth, and tightly packed trees proved hard on Kele’s leg. Nelco guided him through the dark as best he could, but even the experienced hunter was unfamiliar with the mushroom field’s night-time alter ego.

During their journey Kele did not reveal the device to Nelco. He thought he would wait until after the visit to the healers, and almost certainly after the inevitable confrontational worry speech from his Mother, the Mayoress of his people. They emerged from the black underbelly of the giant fungal world after an hour. The sky was now completely dark, and the stars shone bright like a blanket of neon specks; the moon, with its uneven and fractured edges, shined fiercely upon the elderly earth. Below the two brothers, the warm glowering blimps beckoned them to the centre of a large oversized glade where their village stood tall and proud. It towered like an upright cone, much like a beehive. The glade was almost completely surrounded by a dense forest of Corren trees, the descendants of the great oaks of old. Three bridges extended out from different points in the forest towards upper, middle and lower levels of the village, each one disappeared between uneven walls of stone and wood that made up the exterior of Lycian, the village of the Alysmon.

The nearest bridge was to the east, they made their way slowly around the elevated rim of the glade. The Corren trees were tall and thick; their branches snaked and tangled together creating a formidable hanging maze above the two bothers’ heads. The roots half protruded from the ground like lines of submerged hippos. Menacingly tall even when semi-buried, the great Corren roots were almost as high as three Alysmon stood on top of one another. It was a struggle for Kele who had to shuffle vertically using his one good foot. Even with Nelco’s assistance it proved painful to make it on top of the worn wooded surface, but less so on the descent as Nelco had more control over lifting his younger brother down and placing him softly onto the ground; they continued on to the next obstacle. Nelco had always complained about the state of the forest that surrounded Lycian and had even questioned it with his Mother, but she responded each time with
“It’s a good natural defence against enemies and could very well save us one day.”

Nelco had stopped trying, eventually realising that nothing was going to change her mind, or at least make her consider his reasons for concern. He kept them close to him however, and very much alive.

After some time they reached the outpost that guarded the bridge. The bridge extended across the night sky towards the glowing structure in the centre of the glade. Small torches stood high on each joint between the long stretches of wood and rope, one each side, illuminating the lengthy path to the upper levels of the village. To the right of the village the rumble of the waterfall could be heard in the darkness, the occasional glistening peeking out over the black emptiness of the deep glade. Kele and Nelco reached the outpost; it was a collection of structures similar to that of the village: upturned coned bodies with rectangular protrusions, each with an oval roof and a small dirtied glass window. From random points underneath the inward slant of the structure, long beams of wood stood sturdy as support. There were three of these buildings grouped together in front of the bridge, all with glowing interiors. Kele could see some windows that were not alit; he knew that these were used by the warriors to keep a watchful eye on the forest, and them, as they approached the bridge. There were a few sentries moving around the torch lit centre of the three buildings, one of them spotted Nelco, who waved to him in a friendly manner, signifying that he and his brother were not foe. Kele, still supported by Nelco made their way over to the dark warrior who Nelco had signalled.
‘Nelco, you found him then,’ the warrior glanced concerned at the wounded Kele. ‘You both should head to the village quickly, he needs his wounds healed.’
He then moved quickly to the other sentries and spoke in raised tones; they followed his instructions and began to open the gate to the bridge’s entrance. Kele and Nelco proceeded across the great bridge carefully; it rocked slightly at the travellers seeking out their home. The two lines of torchlights stretched out before them, dipping, and then curving upwards towards the upper streets of Lycian. Feint columns of smoke reached out to the sky from the top of the village, partially camouflaged by the night sky. The two brothers made it to the entrance where more sentries stood guard at the gate; some with crossbows looked out at the bridge from dark windows, just like the others at the outpost. Another large warrior, carrying both a long knife on her waist and a crossbow on her back, approached the gate.
‘Nelco! Welcome back, I see you found Kele,’ she said.
Drala, one of the best warriors and hunters of the Guardship of Lycian smiled at Kele and he returned with something between a smile and a grimace through the pain.
‘You better get him to the healer,’ she said and crooked her head slightly to the right, towards an open window of the gate guard room.
‘Open then gate!’
With a mechanical noise of cogs, gears, and a long screech; the gate slowly opened.
‘Welcome home.’

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