NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Forty

The next day, after the brightening of the second dawn, Allisa and her two large companions went to examine the pile of bark fragments that sat where the last stone might be expected to be, and into which the three grubs had disappeared in that prior night.

It was not, they quickly noted, a mere large pile of bark fragments. Rather than lying at random and separate, the fragments were arranged in various lines and rows, aligned with each other in places and at square angles to each other at others. They were also not the usual crumbling fragments or bark or twig that one encountered casually while strolling or gathering good seeds; they seemed, in most places, to be hard and fresh, as though part of a living trunk, although they obviously weren’t.

“A singular pile!” Sonorandelan noted, “Are there such things in any of your stories, storyteller?”

“Indeed there are,” Alissa replied, “although not in those stories that are my particular field of interest. It is said, in some stories, that in past times there were those that produced arrangements of wood and bark, in hopes of creating, so to speak, stems and trunks and indentations of their own, to last for many seasons.”

“Ambitious!”

“For certain,” Alissa said. They were moving slowly into the large hollow place in the center of the pile. It was dark and irregular, and full of unfamiliar fragrances.

“The stories that I know are cautionary tales, advising the listener not to bother, essentially. They are of the same time, I believe, as the stories about making marks on leaves, and how futile that is, and interfering with more essential activities.”

“And yet here we are, guided by markings on a leaf, and looking here and there for items of interest within an intriguing arrangement of wood and bark!”

“Well, yes,” Alissa allowed, “we do seem to be. It occurs to me that we may be… unusual people. Although I would never have thought that I was.”

“I have always known that I was,” Sonorandelan said, “and I expect good Glomorominith is the same, to the extent that mere words could make an impression there.”

“Glomorominith”, noted Glomorominith, whose head and antennae were moving here and there rapidly, in an attitude of searching for something nearby.

“Do you suspect something, friend?” Sonorandelan asked, and at that the person addressed emitted a happy “Yes!” and began moving off deeper into the comparative darkness.

The others followed along, and found themselves descending into a kind of square-edged tunnel or burrow, that led to another hollow place beneath the ground. It smelled more familiar here, Alissa thought, more like earth and plants and less like… arrangements.

“Well!” Glomorominith hummed from up ahead, and she saw a dim greenish light from beyond the large rough form.

Moving to the side and forward in the dim space, with all of her eyes open, Alissa saw another of the stones, standing at the back of the space, against another squared wall of arranged wood and earth, the smaller stones embedded in its surface giving out a subtle leafy-green glow.

“Just as one might have expected,” Sonorandelan said with satisfaction, coming up on the other side.

“And!” Glomorominith exclaimed, “and, and, and!”

With a rustling of antennae, from somewhere nearby in the dimness, there was now produced a sheaf, so to speak, of long thin dry leaves, apparently attached together at one end.

“And here we have the armoyse itself! Saving us a search or a journey back to my collection.”

“Here in this burrow? Has it not gone bad?”

“It seems to have been expertly dried,” Sonorandelan said, running sensitive antennae over the bundle, “and protected from the elements. I would say that these have been here for a very long time, but still have their scent and I would imagine their taste. And also…”

“Hm?” Alissa prompted.

“And also I would say that a fair bit of this leaf has been broken off very recently. Perhaps our pale acquaintances.”

“Oh, the grubs?”

Sonorandelan’s voice held amusement, “Yes, the grubs or small mammals or whatever they were.”

“Perhaps they knew the old stories as well, and used the armoyse in the circle of stones that first night after we met them.”

“Perhaps they did! Shall we follow their example, and take the remainder of this leaf out to the circle with us from this dark burrow?”

“The stories mostly recommend interacting with the circles in the twilight.”

“We shall, then, indeed we shall; and we will eat and sing until then.”

The three of them went back up the stairs and out of the crumbling old house, without recognizing or touching any of the old books on the shelves, or the odd apparatus off to one side, because these things had no meaning to them. Which was really just as well.

Fling Forty-One

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