Shortly after the dawn on the second straight day of walking, we came to a clearing. Off to one side , we could see walls, much like what Angry Food and Tristain had built, but with the fallen trees standing upright instead of on their sides. These walls also had some sort of structure on each corner, with an opening in the middle. To say the scale was bigger would be a bit insulting. This was easily hundreds of times larger than the one Tristain and Angry Food had built.
“I suppose that’s our ‘beginner’s town.’ Time to put on our ‘we’re new’ face.” Angry Food and I both looked at Tristain with confusion. I don’t think either of us understood what he was saying. It’s nice to know that I’m not always the only person who doesn’t understand what is going on…
As we neared, several people came out of the opening before it closed behind them. They approached us carrying long branches that were unnaturally straight and sharp. Looking at them, it appeared they were similar to what Tristain and Angry Food had used to fend off the bears from inside their own defensible structure. These people wore clothes that appeared to be woven from some of the forest’s plants. The clothes seemed durable enough, and they would be much cooler than the bear furs that Angry Food and Tristain wore.
“Who are you, and where did you come from?” The man at the head of the group of five spoke. The two people on either side of him started to circle around us slightly, keeping a set distance. They held their sticks at length, pointing towards us.
Tristain looked at Angry Food, and shrugged. She motioned towards him, as if she was offering him something. He sighed.
“Uh, we came from one of the giant, erm…” He looked back at me, “You said, Gaia Tree, right?”
I nodded. Yes, they are Gaia trees. It was odd, but for some reason, rarely Humes did come from the Gaia trees.
“Yeah,” He turned back to the people with the sticks. “We came from one of the Gaia trees, and have been wandering, trying to find other people.”
They lowered their sticks to the ground, and smiled. “Ah, fresh from the Enclave then. Who is that behind you? Only two come from the Enclave at a time. And her skin is a different color.”
“Ah, hah, yeah, uh, she’s a dryad. She’s safe, no need to worry. Haha.” Tristain played it off like it was no big deal, but even I could tell he was just laughing nervously.
“Hah, yeah, okay, we’ll need the boss’s approval to let her in the town.” He motioned to one of the guys at his side, who turned and jogged back to the wall. “Either way, let’s wait in the shade.” He spun around as well, and walked back towards the wall. As we followed him, the two men from earlier tailed behind us.
The two in front, the apparent leader of the small group and one of the other men, kept talking. They would occasionally glance at me in a way that made me uncomfortable. It was a look that I couldn’t appreciate from anyone other than Tristain. In fact, it made me feel downright uneasy. It felt like they were evaluating something.
I shuffled closer to Tristain, and grabbed his arm. He looked startled at first but patted my head and smiled at me. I felt better after having his approving smile.
* * * *
Following our wait in the shade of the wall, having received disapproving frowns from Angry Food and stares from people on the top of the wall, the large door began to inch downwards.
“I wondered about that, draw bridges are simple after all,” commented Tristain as he watched.
The people keeping tabs on us had a few other questions about why we carried the things we had. Hearing that we wanted to trade them, he nodded approvingly, and commented on our forethought despite recently leaving the enclave.
The ‘Draw Bridge,’ as Tristain had called it, fell the last bit of distance with a reverberating crunch of wood, and a small gust of dirt.
After the small cloud dispersed, we saw several figures emerge, walking on top of the fallen door. One is wearing much nicer clothing than the rest, stained several different colors. It almost looked nice, even a bit pretty, like a wilting flower. There are several men on either side, each wearing clothing similar to the men we had already met. There are also two women, but both are naked, except for a collar around their necks. One has a bulging stomach, while the other seems in mostly perfect health. Though, she has a bruise healing on the side of her face.
Tristain frowned at the group, and I could feel him tense up through his arm. His anxiety seemed to bleed into me as I heard him start grinding his teeth. I didn’t like him feeling this way, and stepped back a bit, but still held onto his arm.
He looked at me, noticed my own sense of heaviness and forced a smile. It wasn’t as reassuring as he was hoping, though it helped that he recognized the weight that began to press down on me. Despite always fighting with Food, he thought about us and how we felt.
Before anyone could say a word otherwise, however, the woman with a bulging stomach quickly raced forward towards us and spoke: “Mika? Is that you?”
““Huh?”” Both Food, and Tristain seemed surprised. The blood relations were clear though. Both were almost equally delicious. I could tell just by looking at them.
“It’s me, your Mother!”
Thanks for the support! I am in your care! Whew.