Chapter 8 Blood Fire

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The group gathers their belongings and follows the sound of the horn. As they move deeper into the forest the surrounding trees grow larger and thicker, towering above the group. The enormous tree trunks surrounding them make it feel as though they are shrinking.

Jaxon stops the group after walking for several hours. Progressively the horn had been growing louder as they moved through the forest, but the past thirty minutes had been silent. The horn had stopped.

A thick collection of trees block their path forward, growing so close together the trunks intertwine as they grow. The largest tree of the thick collection has a tunnel carved into its thick trunk. Bright sunlight is seen at the end of the tunnel.

Approaching slowly, Jaxon’s eyes search the walls of the tunnel. He touches the inside with his hands, feeling the smoothness of the carved walls. It’s man made.

“Amazing,” Meah gasps.

“There’s no other way around and only one path through,” Jaxon speaks, turning to the group. “If it’s a trap, we won’t be able to escape.”

The group shifts nervously. Eyes gaze upwards at the dark wood of the trees. The wall created by the thick trunks hides any view of what lies beyond.

“We’ve come this far, might as well keep going,” Ime says.

The group cautiously enters the tunnel, hands hovering over weapons. The darkness of the tunnel and the closeness of the walls remind many of the caves. Nerves rise and the group moves closer together.

They emerge from the other side of the long tunnel to see a depression of land, making a bowl shape. Surrounding the bowl are tall, white trees. They create a protective wall, keeping the city at the center safe.

The city is made of white stone and fills the bowl shaped valley. The size of it is awe-inspiring, especially to find it in the middle of such an ancient forest. There are no trees in the city, only stone and buildings. Three levels divide it, but there is no discernibility of what each level house. The buildings all look the same, made from the same white stone.

A tall tower takes up the center of the city. It is the largest building in the city in height as well as overall size. Balconies and windows cover the tower, representing different floors, but it is the top of the tower that is the most intriguing. The top of the tower is made entirely of a bright blue stone glowing with the light of the sun. Surrounding it is glass and tiny figures are seen standing around it next to large objects perched on the walls.

Two triumphant horn blasts from the tower send more chills through the group, as they stand awe-struck at the sight before them. The city glows with the sunlight and the movement of people amongst the white stone seems unreal.

Jaxon tears his eyes from the city and smiles at Ime, Meah, and the rest of the group. “Shall we go?”

Without responding, the group walks forward. They tread carefully down the hillside leading into the valley and another sight appears before them. A wide river crosses between them and the city, disappearing into odd shaped caves in the hillsides to the left and right. A bridge crossing the river, made of the same stone as the city, allows them passage.

Many in the group stare around at the tall white trees towering above the city like great walls. The tree with the tunnel they came through stands out with its darker bark, but reminds some of a great door.

The bridge is wide and allows the group to spread out and take in the approaching city. The stone is unlike anything Meah has ever seen. It is smooth to the touch and, though it is white, reflects light without blinding the observer.

The river flowing beneath the bridge is alive with fish and other small aquatic creatures. Along the banks men and women can be seen throwing nets into the rushing water. The nets are tied to poles, some located on the banks while others are placed in the water. Several of the fishers wade into the water to secure the nets and take down others that are full of fish. To bring the full nets in those on the banks reach with hooked poles to help drag the heavy nets in. When their eyes catch sight of the group crossing the bridge they stop to watch. Some wave with large smiles and some in the group wave back, eagerly.

The horns sound again, giving the two triumphant blasts, and Meah notices a large group of people gathering at the end of the bridge. Most are curious spectators, having ventured from their homes to see the new arrivals. They wear light, in color and material, clothes and some even carry baskets of food or other things. Children cling to their mothers in a childlike mix of fear and excitement.

Standing in front of the gathering gawkers is a line of men and women wearing plain, grey hooded cloaks. Blue brooches at their necks are the only splashes of color on their clothes.

The solitary figure standing in front of the cloaked men and women wears a cloak of white and gold with blue designs intricately embroidered throughout. He is the oldest among the cloaked group, his white hair resting at his shoulders and beard cut cleanly just below the chin. His piercing green eyes are full of youth, though the lines around them reflect the wisdom gained by many years of life. His hands are crossed in front of him as the group approaches and rings on his middle fingers echo the green of his eyes.

A smile grows on his thin lips as the group comes to a stop before him and he looks at each member of the group before speaking. “We welcome you travellers to our home, Eraunel. We have been expecting you.” His voice is strong, but kind. A slight rasp is the only tinge of age to reach it.

His green eyes come to rest on Meah. “Especially you, Life Healer.”

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