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    Thread: Life goes on...From Avalon to Avalonia

    1. #1
      TXU Sr. Member kevin398's Avatar
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      Cool Life goes on...From Avalon to Avalonia

      Life goes on…from Avalon to Avalonia


      Chapter 1: Growing Up

      James was a young man about the age of consent , barely 14, but still living at home and helping his father support their village here in Valley Number 2. They fish and hunt and gather what ever they can and do a decent job of keeping people fed and clothed in these underground valleys.

      Valley 2 has the town of Avalonia where James lives, and one called Agoria filled with orcs and another much, much further away called Ironsville loaded with dwarfs also existed. Each and every one had at some time in the past been explorers and treasure hunters, but after wandering the Underground World for ages they finally settled down to have children that then too had children, now going on 5 generations, if everyone’s memories could be trusted.

      Their town had mostly Humans, but there were a few Humanoid Cats and even Foxes among them, left overs from a great Union that explored these caves ages ago…and finally got lost here. So now all the Humanoid people lived together while the other towns had creatures of like kind living in them. Trade happened occasionally, since not everyone has the skills to do everything, and even with some Magic users around tools are needed to dig and till the soil and grow plants for food to top off what they gather from hunting.

      Once James asked how so many creatures got down here if it wasn’t normal, and got a long winded speech about how God himself made these caves this large and great looking and only HE knew for sure how they got here. Maybe from the Upper World over very long periods of time, or maybe he just dropped them here to feed his new children, but whatever the reason, wolves, deer , apes and lizards all were abundant in different places, and so walking alone outside of town was forbidden.

      James was still going to school and would soon be getting tested for Magical abilities, something few had these days. His father had a tiny bit of fire magic, just enough to not worry about starting fires when he was away on day or week long hunting trips, and James hoped he would be that lucky when his turn to test finally came.

      But meanwhile work went on and then school for a few hours then work again in the evening, and with him training to read and write in school and his father training him to gather food and protect himself doing it, James was fairly busy when he was out traveling.

      Some old folks talked about a place above them, a place that was bright half the time then dark the other half, and kids that never saw real darkness outside of some caves, thought that was incredible. Here the rocks keep the light going forever and you sleep when you get tired, its as simple as that, or when your mother lets you, which is part of James’s worries now.

      She was a bit of a slave driver and even his dad stopped her from running James raged while he was away. But she demanded he knew how to take care of himself, find his own food and how to stay warm when breezes blew through at certain times of the year. Where these came from no one knew but they knew for sure that only 3 valleys this big could not have formed alone, and the strong and brave among them explored even today looking for new ones and new places to hunt.

      But to no avail so far, and many laugh saying that if it was that easy their fathers would have found them, or their grandfathers, and after hearing that for a while many just admitted it was right and gave up the hunt.

      But Legends still exist about monstrous apes as big as houses, and pigmen as tall as any human carrying vicious weapons, and few went looking alone, and those that did seldom went into areas they didn’t know from times before, reducing their chances of finding new areas to near none.


      Chapter 2: Keeping up with the Jones’s


      James walked into the school room the next day and sat talking to his friends. 6 of them went almost everywhere together, and were the best of friends, and 4 of them were just crazy enough to think they might be the ones to find a new land someday while everyone else in class laughed at them for thinking that.

      “If he puts his mind to it I believe James can.” Clare, a pretty little red headed fox girl said loudly, and everyone noticed that she sided with James almost every time too.

      “Thank you Clare I appreciate that.” James said softly and it looked like he just made her day as every one around them tried hard not to say anything, while James went on, as dense as ever.

      The teacher came in and said today they would all get their Magic tests, and he opened a tiny bag and dropped several small colored stones on the table before them. One by one they stepped up and tried their hardest to get a reaction from any of these stones, and one by one they went back and sat down sadly as all the others waited their turn.

      Stanley, one of James’s friends got a weak reaction to Wind, and another classmate got a decently high reaction to Water, something no one expected at all. And when James stepped up everyone knew he would have a reaction to Fire, mainly because his father had and the skill was hereditary.

      But what happened next got everyone’s attention, as he held the tiny red rock out between two fingers and called for fire…and a flame shot up 2 feet from his hand… and he screamed and dropped the rock, thinking he was getting badly burned. But he didn’t, and even the teacher looked impressed saying that this was the highest level reaction he had seen in many years, and after the shock wore off the entire class applauded him as James looked too scared to speak.

      “Those with Magic reactions stay after school, everyone else…dismissed.” The old man said, as everyone ran out to tell the town they had 3 Mages now and they all had to be tested again and again to make sure, then training in their specialties got started the next day.

      “The Training stones are just that, stones found in Nature like any other. But they are rare and the bigger the stone the bigger the reaction you can get from it. With this tiny shard everyone here shows ability. If it were larger, say as big as a setting in a ring, then your abilities would be much more powerful.” The old man explained as Stanley was ready to go out looking right that second, but got told to shut up and sit.

      “Don’t be ignorant!” The old man screamed as Stanley sat and looked properly warned about his outbursts. “ It might take months or years to find these stones around here. Some have been passed down from the Beginning Time to me, and that’s the only reason I have these now. But its not impossible to find these even now. Watch as you travel, stones of many colors exist all around us. Most are used in jewelry, others like these for Magic but none are worthless so keep that in mind. And stones this bright and colorful are not normal, in Nature they would look less so, dull and dirty looking, but find one hold it up to the light, and they are sort of transparent, like these. Red. Blue, Gray, Yellow and Clear…all exist. That’s all for today go home and get your evening chores done.” He ordered and they all walked out with Stanley still running a full head of steam about hunting gems.

      “Maybe we should skip our chores today.” He offered as everyone there gave him a dirty look knowing how much trouble they’d get into because of him.

      “I promised my dad I’d fish today to help out.” James said and went home to get his rod and a metal scoop he used for digging for worms. Stanley went home too but his mother was screaming with joy for him and his father patted him on his back and smiled. Their family never had Magical abilities, so this made Stan an Exception, a person of power that came to them from the Past, and they were going to spoil him even more now.


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      Chapter 3: Dangerous Trip


      James got his equipment and went down to the river, with Stan and George, another friend in tow. They offered to help if he had a good day and run fish back to the village so they didn’t dry out laying on the bank, and he agreed. He chose a spot about 30 feet wide and pulled up a few sods looking and did get a few worms and tossed his line out and waited. As Stan went up and down the edge looking for his Magical Stones.

      “You really are on fire about this aren't you…no pun intended.” James said as everyone got a good laugh.

      “I’m the first, an Exception to my Families normal path. I have to find my stone as I can learn my magic. The old man isn’t going to let me take the shards home so this is my only chance.” He said seriously as James admitted it wasn’t completely impossible, just highly unlikely someone would find one so close to town.

      “Then we’ll go into the caves tomorrow after work.” Stan decided and James just laughed but agreed they could try.

      ” I hear wolves are getting close to town now too, so maybe a little hunting along the way?” James hinted as they all agreed. But just then George had the oddest look and James asked why but all he did was point across the river, and as James turned he saw a huge black snake traveling along and it stopped to look right back at them too, and George was frozen in fear.

      “Slowly now…” James said as Stanley got up and grabbed George by the collar and got him to his feet. “ Go get help, my dad should be at home now, we need an archer tell them.” James said and he volunteered to sit here and have a staring contest with this monster and it seemed ready for it too. Stan dragged George along until they were a few meters away then he screamed in fear and ran, full out, towards town and James sat there staring, and didn’t move a muscle and even the monstrous snake didn’t seem to know what to do now.

      James knew as fast as they were moving they were at his house by now and his dad was an excellent archer. This monster was 30 feet away and James was guarded by a fast moving wall of water. Sure snakes can swim, but not fast, and if it approached him he too would be far away in an instant. But it kept looking around for something else to eat and James would make a noise to get it attention when it looked like it might leave but then a whistling sound was heard and the beast went into spasms of twisting and turning and rolling up in a ball then suddenly just went limp as James looked around at his father and Stans dad standing there all smiles.

      “I sent you fishing but I guess hunting will do.” Carl, James’s dad said as they both laughed and Stans dad offered to swim over and get it and when he did even he was impressed with its size. The head was as big as his and it was more than 3x his size in length and when he tried to hold it up for them to see parts were still hidden in the high grass.

      “ 20 feet if its an inch!” he screamed as everyone smiled and agreed there was a lot of food there, and he held the head under his arm and walked back across dragging it behind him and Carl helped him out when he got close and they gathered it up and everyone went back home to clean it and divide it up with those in need.

      They laid it on Carl’s outside table and he opened it up and took out the entrails, which one family was known for turning into pickled foods, and they got a large bag full and then he cut the head off and one old man took that for a decoration in front of his workshop, and then nothing was left but to slice this up into steaks, now with some as much as a foot wide and an inch thick. Many would eat good tonight, and James took a steak to an old lady down the street. Her health was failing and she couldn’t hunt for herself and they guaranteed her something from time to time, and when he knocked she called to enter and she was sitting knitting something as he said her dinner was here, and she thanked him seriously as he dropped it into her frying pan and waved and went back and even before he got home a bit of smoke was seen coming out the chimney and he knew she’d be good for a few days at least.


      Chapter 4: Caving

      After such a good day James got time to go caving with his friends. Carl reminded him that every cave had some creatures in them, from small lizards that were more of a nuisance to larger dangerous things. And if he and his friends were going to kill anything…anything…it needed brought home with them. ‘Waste Nothing’ was the Hunters moto and Carl pushed it to the maximum.

      “Yes father…” James said as he strapped on his explorers belt, with two small knives he used for cutting through foliage and anything that might attack him. His skills with these was improving, and since he had no skills in archery, his father worked until he found these for him and that gave him some defense on these cave trips, something that every person made from time to time.

      “Stay on the well marked paths!” His mother called as he just waved her away and left with his friends, as she looked more than a little frightened for him and his father give her a nice hug saying that James was a young man now and soon would be out on his own, and she growled saying he’d never marry ‘that creature’ that lived behind them if she had anything to do with it, and he saw her hatred of half humans showing more as she got older.

      “She cares for him and has for years, you cant deny that.” Carl whispered as she slowed down a bit but it just wasn’t in her to like Half humans because there were these stories….and Carl just shook his head saying that most of the trouble makers from the past were long dead, and Orcs were 5x more trouble than Half Humans ever were. But she wasn’t listening and he finally added that it would always be up to James and not her, and at that she saw where his allegiances lay, and it didn’t surprise her that much.

      The kids entered the caves and lit their torches. In here it was completely dark and without these they would never find the marks left by others that led them through to the doorway at the far end of the tunnel, and Stan was looking at every stone and in every crack and soon James found himself doing the same thing just watching him.

      “What about this one?” George asked showing them a reddish stone but it wasn’t see through at all but James mentioned it might be worth something to the merchants and so he kept it. They followed along until they found a smaller cave off the side, barely big enough to slide through sideways, and it wasn’t marked as explored either.

      “Let me see…’ James mentioned and handed his belt to Stan who was cheering him on.

      “My mom said never leave the marked path!” George whined as James admitted his mom did too, but that wasn’t going to get them any silver or gold because these caves were walked almost every day.

      He slid in gently and almost got stuck once but a little wiggling and he got past that and 12 feet further in it opened up into a nice big room, and as he turned to look the one wall shone with half a dozen colors and he cheered as Stan was screaming to know why.

      “Throw me one of my knives and my gathering bag.” James said as Stan agreed and his entire belt came flying in and landed just inside the door.

      “What did you find? We get our share too!” Stan yelled as it echoed through the cave and James was laughing saying ‘no problem come get some’ and Stan tried once but as soon as it got the slightest bit tight he backed away whining that it wasn’t fair.

      George hadn't a prayer getting through that crack at his size, so James was the only one getting this treasure, but half an hour listening to them crying he offered to share, since they were part of his Team and they thought that sounded better.


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      Chapter 5: Riches to Share


      James was making a good bit of noise back there chipping away using one knife handle to pound on another, but it took no time to see that he wasn’t gaining very fast at all and so he gathered what he could find and worked his way back out to the others.

      “Let me see!” Stan screamed and jerked the bag from James’s hands and when he looked inside he saw rocks of several different colors and when he saw a blue one he grabbed it held it out and called for Wind…and nothing happened.

      “They aren't see through, none of them are.” James added while George admitted he found one or two out here that he was keeping too, but Stanley all but cried.

      “Remember Stan, the teacher said that it might take years to find a proper stone, you cant expect to find one so easily.” James mentioned as Stanley just nodded but was severely upset by now. James gave each of them 2 stones to sell and they finished their first trip and went into town to sell their wares, and each of them got a few silver for them too and for the first time they had cash of their own they got from caving and many applauded them for it.

      But James was planning ahead and there were a lot more colored stones in there. So he spent one silver on a small hammer and chisel set and another small gathering bag too so with 2 silver he was set up better than anything he already owned.

      They said they’d meet again later and each went home to be cheered and applauded. Today they were officially men, making their own way in town, and James’s mom cried that her ‘little boy’ was all grown up, and when Carl asked if James had his eyes on a woman yet he got growled at for it as James just laughed.

      “For Gods sake dad I haven't even gotten my own place, or really seriously started a business yet. But honestly? I kind of like this exploring/mining thing I got going now.” He said as Carl gave him a big hug explaining that mining for gems and ores was Hunting too…in some odd way… as James laughed along.

      Two days to rest and Stan and George were in front of Jason’s house yelling for him to get out of bed and go to work, and Jason walked out laughing saying he was up long ago, and waved to his mom and started out towards the caves again.

      “I got tools too…” George said, showing his hammer, and Jason approved as Stan asked how he was going to get in there, even he wasn’t small enough for that, and George just smiled and Jason saw a plan, and Stanley was never good at planning ahead.

      They got back to the crack and Jason squeezed in again, but a minute later George started in, only went part way then started chiseling away as Stan watched from outside.

      “You cant cut through a whole mountain with that.” He whined as James called back saying that Stanley only tried once and gladly quit trying because he didn’t really want in here, it was too much like work. And Stanley growled saying that wasn’t true, but George dropped a nice sized rock chunk and it made a nice echo in the chamber, and he moved a few feet further.

      “George checked and saw that only half a dozen rocks stopped him from getting in here and so today he’s fixing it, and with all of us in here we can explore even more.” James added as Stan asked why nobody told him about this, or why James didn’t cut those stones out of the way himself so they could all get in.

      “Why? I can get in here why worry if you didn’t want in here to begin with?” James asked as Stanley got dumbstruck and George said he really did want in there, and he wasn’t shy about getting work done to do it.

      “And why should we expect James to share with us for nothing? He’s been more than a friend about it all this time.” George mentioned as James thanked him for saying so.

      “Well I’m not going to be a miner for long.” Stanley added sourly,” Once I find my rock I’ll be the towns Master Mage.” He went on as even George got a huge sigh after hearing it for so long and Stan growled at him for acting like that.

      But just then James heard something, and shushed them both and after a minute he grabbed what he had and slid back into the crack, as a big shadow appeared out of nowhere and stepped into the light of the torch that was still stuck in the hole in the wall where James put it.

      It was a large black ape, bigger than James by a factor of 3 and it sniffed around, checked out the torch and then sniffed some more at the crack, as James pushed George all the way back out.

      “Lets get back, right now..” James mentioned dragging George as he went as he asked why and James took a second to tell him, and George was way ahead of them after that.

      They went straight to the Mayors home and when he invited them in James explained it all and the Mayor looked pretty seriously in thought for a minute.

      “You never explored further than that first room then?” he asked as James agreed saying he was being kept busy working there. “ You should never turned your back on an enemy, take this as a lesson in caving.” The man said as James said he didn’t know there was an enemy, and the mayor smiled and nodded and James saw the whole…more exploring things coming into play.

      “Apes are serious threats to Humans, they are carnivorous, but they also make some nice steaks at that size.” He mentioned as Stan laughed saying no one could get in there to fight one, but James reminded him they were working to fix that, and the Mayor nodded it was a good idea, and he offered them a license to everything they found in there, even if others could get in later, and the deal was struck.

      “Now the big question is this…where does that cave lead to? Apes of that size are rare, so it’s not connected here.” He mentioned as everyone took a minute to think about that as the Mayor sent Stanley out to gather some friends and Carl and half the men in the village were there and he announced that James and his Team had staked a claim to that cave and he would make sure no one stole from them, and then added that apes were being seen and that it might be a good idea for a hunter to follow them next time, and Carl volunteered instantly and it was settled on the spot.


      Chapter 6: Cave Hunting

      The next day Carl was waiting when the boys got ready and the four of them went back into the cave to the large crack James had been using. Carl looked it all over and almost made it through himself, but James waved him away and went in and after half an hour cutting and banging he offered for him to come in, and Carl made it through with no troubles.

      He took a minute to see where James had been working and patted him on the back saying there was a lot of silver in that wall, and then they checked every wall, and a few stones shone on them all.

      “Probably some sort of seam in the Earth…” Carl mentioned, as he looked it over carefully, and as he did he heard a rustling sound and pushed James back against the wall and dropped down to one knee and drew his bow. The animal walked in from curiosity more than anything else. It heard some talking and to a large ape that’s the dinner bell. But not today, as Carl’s arrow struck home and went in half the length, and after a second gasping it turned to go and fell face first onto the floor of the cave.

      “Nice shot…” James added as Carl got a big grin and said ‘yes, yes it was’ and they both laughed. Carl had planned for this and threw one end of a rope to the boys in the other chamber and after a few minutes cutting the animal into pieces he had them all dragged back to the second chamber and Stanley thought he was going to throw up, as George asked him where he thought his meals came from…and that did it …as Stan ran down the tunnel out of sight, but not out of sound.

      “Nice big animal… you were right.” Carl said as James shook his head no and Carl asked why.

      “This one was smaller…” James mentioned as Carl’s face dropped and he saw the blood puddle at their feet and he ordered James out of the chamber, and he was right behind him. “What?” James asked.

      “If this one is smaller than the first, then its got to be a full family in there, and we just killed one of their kids.” Carl mentioned as James looked bad thinking it and George went ‘eww’ and Carl nodded agreement to both of them. “It wont take any time for them to find out, the smell alone will do it. George, go home and get your dad let him what's going on and I need some help and have him bring a few guys with him.” Carl said as George went running.

      “Where’s Stanley?” he asked as George laughed and said ‘throwing up’ and Carl shook his head sadly for him. His parents spoiled him his whole life and it was showing now.

      “I’m here, I’m alright now,” Stan said walking back in slowly but he certainly didn’t look alright as Carl told him some adults were coming and he could go home, and he didn’t ask twice either and away he went.

      “I’ll stay,” James added as Carl got a big smile and agreed saying he knew what the real world was about and he never thought James would run away now.

      “While we wait,” Carl said and sat down along the wall and James joined him.” Have you put a claim on Clare yet? I know you’ve been keeping an eye on her for a while now.” He hinted as James looked sad listening to him and Carl knew why.

      “Mother would kill us both in our sleep.” James hinted as Carl got a chuckle at that.

      “ Clare loves you, you know…” Carl added as James just nodded he knew.” If she makes you happy then its OK by me, and I’ll handle your mother. Once you’re out and have you own place then she wont be a problem.” He added as James wasn’t so sure.

      “Just take time to think about it, there aren't that many girls as nice and friendly as she is in our town…unless Orcs do it for you.” Carl said , laughing as James got a sour look on his face and looked away.

      “I’ve been thinking… a nice place by the river maybe…” James whispered, and Carl saw he really was thinking that far ahead.

      “Her dad mentioned…just off the cuff you understand…that she’s getting lessons from her mom in housekeeping and cooking, and her moms a really good cook too.” Carl mentioned as sounds came up the tunnel and Frank, Georges dad and 3 others came running in and Carl had two carry everything back to the butcher that they already had, and while they were talking a roar was heard from inside the crack and Carl and Frank went in and saw yet another big ape and took it down too.

      “Best day hunting in a long time.” Carl mentioned as he cut this one up too and Frank stood guard over him.

      “No one will starve tonight for certain.” He added and after this all got dragged away they explored a bit further and after about 50 yards the big tunnel split and one side stayed wide and the other got narrow again but there was the sound of running water there and Carl mentioned that was probably how these caves got formed, after many years of flooding and overflow from a stream or river further away.

      “The rivers do get high during the cold season.” Frank mentioned and decided that this area was probably safe for a few months yet…once this ape problem got taken care of.


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      Chapter 7: Reports and Decisions

      They all went back and Carl and Frank reported to the Mayor what had happened. The new tunnel was bigger than first thought and long enough even they hadn't seen the end yet, but that sound of running water made some worry about exploring further, but the men that had seen it thought that they would be safe for at least a few months yet.

      “It’s our claim so we’ll explore it.” James added as the Mayor agreed but Carl said he wanted to go along one more time, and see where that water sound was coming from, and James agreed.

      “ Father and son trip?” he offered as James laughed and agreed and George mentioned that with the new path opened he and Stanley could do some mining too, and everyone agreed.

      And the next day they took off from hunting and went caving, all 5 of them, since James’s friend Collin was finally done with his make up tests that he failed in class. Now the entire Team was here and three stayed out in the outer room working while James and Carl went on searching for that sound again.

      They found the T in the cave and turned right and followed that as it got narrower and narrower until they were sideways squeezing their way through. But it wasn’t too bad and after maybe 20 yards they slid out into a bigger cave now more than 6 feet wide, and wore smooth by the flow of water.

      “I knew it, its an overflow of some kind.” Carl whispered as they snuck forward to find an opening, and light beyond. But it wasn’t a new valley just a large room with what appeared to be a lake in it with water coming in from above making a small waterfall in the center of the room. There were plants around the lake that Carl had seldom, if ever, seen and he said wait here as he slid in to gather samples and he was well along doing that when a grumbling sound was heard and he quickly returned to the mouth of the cave where James lay watching.

      In a few more minutes another ape appeared and after sniffing around a bit it dove into the lake and splashed around a while until a larger female screamed and walked in and dragged him away again. But she was huge… many times bigger than the ones they had killed so far, and a new story was born to be told when they returned.

      Carl tapped James on the shoulder and pointed back and he agreed and as they turned to go something caught James’s eye and he whispered and Carl stopped while James took his torch and looked all along the floor near him, looking for whatever caught his eye before. It took a few minutes but off to the side at the bottom of a wall he found a rock sticking out that was shiny, and…purple…and he looked around making sure the creatures were gone and chiseled it out and took it home with him as Carl said making too much noise that close might cause troubles, and James asked if either of those was getting into the little tunnel they were in, and he admitted they never could.

      “I’m getting into rock hunting,” James admitted while Carl admitted there was good money in it, and when they got back outside James took it to the teacher who took a few minutes to look it over carefully then nodded saying it was indeed a Power Crystal, and only one family in town could ever use one like it. James was sent down to the towns clinic and when he entered the old man asked if he needed help, and James just smiled.

      “Maybe I can help you.” He offered and held the rock up and the doctor grabbed it immediately and tried it and it glowed a beautiful purple color and he looked impressed by it.

      “ 5 Gold.” He said without a pause and James agreed, and only after the deal was done did he admit that they, he and his daughter, had been treating people using the same stone for years, and it was only half this big, and James said he was glad to help and took his cash and went home.

      “You had a really good day today.” Carl said as they ate and James admitted that now he could afford his own place, and his mom nearly dropped her cup hearing it but Carl agreed he could and James went on telling them right where he would put it, and Carl reminded him that Power crystals were not native to this valley, but he found one the first day in the other area, and he better keep a sharp eye out any time he was there.

      “And that’s a nice little lake too.” James hinted as Carl got a big grin at that. “ Bet there's some huge fish in there we haven't seen in ages…maybe ever!” he went on as Carl smiled and agreed, and James’s mom looked left out of the loop tonight as the men went on and on about what treasures might be waiting there.


      Chapter 8: House Raising


      The next day after work James and his friends were down by the river again. He laid out where he wanted his new house and two of them started cutting away the brush and weeds down to the bare dirt. He then measured and after trying a few designs he decided that a large single room to live in and another off the side for the bedroom was probably best for now and they started laying out rocks they got from the river and soon had a nice frame made a few inches deep. They gathered a wagonload of soft sand and mixed it with other things like Lime from the little quarry at the mouth of the cave and water from the river, and in a day the five of them had a stone floor made, and then went home to let it dry.

      James mentioned that he was being careful because the river does go up and down a little but not badly, and so his place was on a little rise a few feet above the rivers edge and a few feet higher then it normally got. When his dad came by the next day he agreed it would be far enough away, baring anything really odd happening, and that the size wasn’t going to be too hard to build either. And when they decided to work on it again, James had 12 people there including stone cutters and labor to help gather stones they would need.

      In a day the main walls went up and the doorway got filled with a wooden door his dad bought for him. The windows were just open holes to look out and a few dozen smaller stones made a nice smoke stack to cook in.

      Altogether it was done in a week, and James made a big thing out of having his own place now, when he was walking around town, and of course the word got around, and a certain sexy little fox was there within another week ‘just to see the place’ and James agreed, and she stayed most of the day and when she left she went home to gather her things.

      The official ceremony was simple, as all things were in this world. They stood before their friends and family and pledged their love for each other and kissed and it was over, and Carl mentioned that they better be careful, because feeding a family takes a lot more than feeding a couple, as Clare’s face got red and her dad got the biggest laugh about that, and gave James a hug and welcomed him to the Family.

      “I’ll do the hunting and mining, and you take care of yourself and the house, deal?” James asked as Clare agreed and their new lives officially started together that day.


      They were living newly wed bliss for a month, and James agreed she was a hell of a good cook too, either fish from the river, or meat from a dozen sources she cooked it all and made it good, and James was never happier. Until the day he came back from mining to find Steve, the blacksmiths son there talking to Clare. They hadn't noticed him approaching and he heard it all as his face dropped into despair.

      “But I love you, how can you live with another man?” He asked as she reminded him she loved James since they were kids and only went out with him because she was lonely, it was never supposed to be a full time thing. But he wouldn’t let go and finally as James got ready to walk around the house and speak Steve asked if she wasn’t carrying his child…and James froze.

      “You agreed never to mention that again!” She screamed, “what if James finds out?” She asked as he did walk around the corner, and both Steve and Clare looked like they might run, but neither did.

      “I have one question, please don’t treat me like a fool and answer truthfully.” He said as Steve nodded he would and Clare looked away like she might cry.” Were you two sleeping together before we got married?” He asked as Steve agreed they were, and after a minute Clare agreed.” And your pregnant even now?” he asked, as she agreed again but went into a long speech about how slow he was to come around and how Steve was a really nice guy but she only wanted James and no one else…and he looked like he’d cry too.

      “Steve…” James said as the young man stood as tall as he could and waited for the end to come.” Go home, come back tomorrow.” He said as Steve looked shocked he wasn’t getting punished but he nodded and left.

      “Let’s take a walk,” James said as Clare tried everything to stop him but they went to his dads house then they went with them to her dads place and when the whole story came out Clare was in tears and so was her mother, and her dad gave James a hug and apologized for not knowing until now.

      “Steve has agreed to marry her and raise the baby, and I hereby agree that this child needs its father.” He said as everyone there agreed but Clare swore she loved him more but James just couldn’t raise another mans child as his own…it just wasn’t right.

      “You loved him enough to give him a baby.” James said as everyone there nodded.” Go move in with Steve, he loves you too and he’ll raise your baby right.” He said and through mutual consent the married was annulled and she ran away crying and when James’s mom stepped up to hug him his eyes said it all and she quickly stepped back and when he knew Clare had all her things gone he went home to get some rest before work tomorrow. And his mom named that day as the day he truly became a man.


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      Chapter 9: Working for the Future


      In a small town nothing stays secret for long. Steve’s parents welcomed Clare into their home and she thanked them and they did the ceremony too and she agreed. She wasn’t the happiest young bride but she realized that her plans had gone wrong because of her own failures.

      Steve was a great guy with a solid job as his dads assistant and student at the blacksmith shop. There would always be a need for things they made or repaired so money and food was never going to be a problem for them.

      James said nothing about it, even when asked, saying that Steve loved her and they were having a baby, that’s all there was to it, and after a while even his friends stopped asking since he was working hard to put it behind him.

      Their little mining company was doing pretty well, and James was the explorer/searcher of the group. If he found a new area with better rocks in it the rest moved there, and he went looking again. In a year they cleaned out that first room and moved into another further back. After the death of several apes they stopped coming in, and places were a lot safer to work in.

      And that just gave James more reason to keep looking.

      Today he was working in a small tunnel about 50 yards off the side of that lake they had seen before. That tunnel he avoided because of the larger apes there, but there were several small cracks and tunnels leading away from there and today he was down on his knees chipping away at some nice rocks when he heard a tiny shuffling noise, and before he could turn to see, a spear tip was hanging over his shoulder, and he turned his head to see a young woman there , wearing a loincloth and half top and looking both shocked and angry at the same time.

      “You…you’re Human.” She whispered as he turned slowly at give her a decent look too.
      “You seem to be too so what's the shocked looks about?” he asked as she had to think for a second before answering.

      “I know everyone in my village and you certainly aren't from there.” She mentioned as he agreed that he had never seen her around before either.” You a miner?“ She asked as he nodded and showed her the rocks he gathered and she nodded saying that ‘old man Phillips’ did the same thing for them.

      James slowly turned around as she watched him closely then sat back against the wall and smiled. He was in shock too, this was the first person he ever met outside of his village and he had about a million questions to ask if he got the chance.

      “How many of you are there?” She finally asked as James asked if she meant mining or in their whole village and she said all together and after thinking he said ‘probably near a thousand now’ and she was forced to sit down or faint.

      “We have around 200…” She added and he asked where they lived at and she just threw a thumb over her shoulder, to the tunnel she came from. “ WE thought we were all alone down here.” She whimpered as James laughed and that got her attention.

      “There are 3 towns I know of right now, ours, one run by orcs, another owned by dwarfs, so no… sorry… your not alone down here.” James mentioned as she looked as happy as she could get. “If you want I’ll show you.” He added, as she wiped away a few tears and agreed and he gathered his things and she followed him right back to Stan and the others who nearly fainted seeing him coming in with a girl that they didn’t know…and she was heavily armed too.

      “This is…what is your name?” James asked as she stood proud and said she was Valerie…and the boys nodded not saying a word.” I’m taking her back to the village to meet everyone, you guys coming?” he asked and they grabbed their stuff too and Valerie answered some questions they asked as they walked, and when they came walking down the center of town going to the Mayors house she was in awe of all the people there.

      The Mayor was in shock too for a minute, then called a special meeting to announce what was going on, as dozens of people rushed to see.

      “This young lady is from another Human settlement called Phillipsburg and James found her in the tunnels today.” The Mayor said as she corrected him saying she found HIM because of his hammering, and he smiled and agreed. “Any ways we now know there are others and we are welcoming her here and any of her people that might to trade or come and live here with us. James will accompany her back to her village tomorrow and tell them this and carry a message from me personally. Now that she knows we exist I’m sure that her people will be just as thrilled as we are.” He added as everyone cheered and applauded and Stanley turned to George and laughed saying only James could go into a tunnel and find girls, and George tried his best not to laugh out loud over that.


      Chapter 10: Shocked Looks all Around

      Since they were going on a trip together tomorrow they decided she could stay at James’s place for the night, and he agreed too. They went back there and without a pause he set out his trotline looking for something for dinner and she laid down her spear and sat beside him for a minute.

      “So…you live alone here?” She asked and he said he did.” Don’t talk much do you?” She asked as he gave a big sigh and asked what she wanted to know.

      “How long has this place been here? I cant believe we are so close and never knew.” She added as he agreed to that.

      “ 5 generations they say…” he told her as she looked shocked once again.

      “We’ve been there about 80 years we were told. I’m part of the second generation I guess.” She mentioned as he nodded it was probably true.

      “You don’t like girls then? In my camp sitting talking like this would surely lead to other things pretty fast.” She hinted he gave her an odd look and said that here they liked to get to know people first, that just jumping into things always caused trouble later on.

      “Then that’s one thing that’s definitely different, of course most of the men in my village are middle aged or older, the entire last generation born were all females.” She mentioned as he nodded that would be tough then. “You’re the first man my own age, or even close that I’ve met…I must admit its nice.” She hinted as he just grumbled something about needing a bath and she said she didn’t, but he refused to say anything more and so she walked up steam a bit and soon splashing around was heard, and in spite of himself he really wanted to peek…but he kept it to himself because he was sure that’s what she expected too.

      “I’m naked now…” he heard as he just shook his head and smiled, it seemed she wasn’t going to give up, but all he said was ‘good now get clean’ and she grumbled something he didn’t quite make out.

      It took a few minutes but she finally came back and sat back down again and even her cloths looked a lot cleaner than before.

      “That was nice thanks, in our village all the water nearby is from some dug wells, and so we split up into smaller groups so that each well doesn’t go dry.” She explained and he smiled and said getting this close to a real river must be a shock and she laughed and pointed to his little house. “Talk about convenient,” She added as he got a good laugh in there about that.

      “I knew it…” She whispered to herself and he asked what she knew.” You’re good looking when you finally smile.” She said and just then the limb he tried his fishing line to started jumping and he pulled out a really nice carp about 18 inches long and said it looked like they ate well today, and she was really ready, saying fish were really rare in her village, and James saw that everything that happened made her happy to be here.

      They ate well and after that got some sleep, and when he woke up she was up and already making tea from some leaves she found along the river. He thanked her and drank some and finally they were ready, and she led the way back through the caves and slowly James felt the air changing from being stale to more fresh and they started down an incline and he saw light at the end coming their way.

      Valerie led the way and he saw 3 other ladies with weapons watching her and one waved and yelled saying they thought they lost her…then James stepped out into the light and mouths dropped all around.

      “I got sidetracked.” Valerie mentioned as the older lady there nodded saying she could see why. “ This is James and he comes from a village called Avalonia that I visited. He has a written message from his Mayor to ours, so lead the way.” She said as they all agreed but they were having a hard time not staring as he smiled and waved and they seemed happy he wasn’t angry because of it.

      They made it to the center of town and the middle aged lady knocked and an old man maybe 70 walked out and saw what was going on. James handed him the message and after reading it he cried openly and rung an old brass bell he had and everyone came running.

      “Our village is saved!” he screamed as many looked surprised and a few really happy. “ Now we know we are not alone. James here brought me a message from his Mayor...the Mayor of another completely different village not far from here. Valerie found him in the caves and brought him back to us with this great news! Anyone wanting to can go and see them, and anyone willing can move there. They have much fresh water and food and hundreds more people than us. So that is the reason for this meeting. We are no longer alone!” he screamed shaking the little bell as everyone cheered and as one lady reached for James’s arm from behind and she got her fingers slapped and Valerie moved in beside him instead, and everyone that saw seemed to understand.


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      Chapter 11: New Friends


      “I will be returning with James.” Valerie added quickly “I met nice people there and I feel there is much to learn. I suggest my patrol team go along, since if we will be traveling back and forth they will need to know the path.” She added and the middle aged lady was quick to agree.

      “So be it, but remember to be civil, these are the first Humans we have ever met here...don’t mess it up!” The Mayor said and his eyes made them all consider that making a bad impression was not going to be tolerated.

      “We can be there within the hour, follow me!” Valerie screamed and they started back and a few others tagged along too to see the path they would take.

      By the time they made it back there were 7 of them and their eyes popped to see so many houses and people at once.

      “Told you…” Valerie said as they agreed it might be more than even they had thought. “ Oh and check this out…” She said leading them to the river and their mouths were open wide.

      “James’s house is right down there, and he fishes from his front porch.” She claimed as James reminded her he didn’t have a front porch yet and they all laughed.

      “Its truly a wonderful place compared to our little hole in the wall.” The older lady added and she asked if James could let them stay with him for a day or two, and Valerie said only she would stay with him because ‘they had an understanding’ and the others looked sad thinking it.

      “Yes we do…” James added to show she was telling the truth.” She understands she isn’t getting any.” He added, as her face grew red and all the others laughed at her.

      “Until we know each other better.” Valerie added saying that James and his friends were old fashioned and didn’t get in a hurry. “But I’m patent if nothing else.” She hinted as he shook his head at her sheer tenacity and said fine then she could stay.

      That ended the entertainment for the day. They went back to the Mayors house and he said he’d set them up with places to stay for the night and then James and Valerie went back to his place and went looking for food.

      After walking the riverbank for a while she found a large reptile, over 4 feet long and pounced on it and killed it with her spear and James admitted they’d eat well tonight and they took it back and cooked part of it and he took the rest to town and sold it, and she said they could have kept more, but he said that hunters share with others here and she felt closer to the town than before and agreed it was a nice gesture.

      For a few days they were inseparable, and James’s father got the biggest kick out of them arguing about little things. Valerie had her own ideas about everything, and James made sure she knew that things were different here, and Carl just laughed as James’s mom watched closely to see if they really were secretly a couple.

      James’s friends seemed to think so even though James swore they werent until finally George got him alone for a moment and asked him if he was crazy, and James almost laughed out loud.

      “Come on she’s pretty, well made and seems crazy about you. You’re not going to do any better here.” He hinted as James agreed he had thought of that but he was just not sure he wanted a wife yet and George rolled his eyes saying that even he was looking…and one of Valerie’s patrol friends seemed ready to talk about it.

      James patted him on the back and said he should go for it then and after a minute talking George seemed ready, and James told Valerie that one of her friends got some ones attention, and she seemed happy for them.

      “Finding someone even close to your age is impossible in my village.” She mentioned and seemed sad thinking it, and James knew that if she didn’t find love here , her chances got slimmer and slimmer at home.

      “Well you are pretty…sort of…” he hinted as she smiled and waited.” Might make a good disposable wife.” He joked as she exploded on him screaming that a real man doesn’t take a woman then leave her hanging…and others on the street around them gave them dirty looks as James led her away.

      “But you cant take a joke… and are really noisy…” he added loudly as she slowly wound down as they made it back home, and saw that he wasn’t really serious, but now they had to fix a few things in town, and by now his mom had heard what was said….and James just shook his head thinking that dragging his feet and teasing Val might not be worth it in the long run.

      “Honestly you’re such a bother…” he whispered as she took his hand and asked if that was a good bother or a bad bother, and he smiled back and she knew that she was winning after all.


      Chapter 12: New Start

      It took a few days to let the word out’ that James was teasing her for fun, But by then his dad stopped by and invited them BOTH for dinner and James thought for sure things were getting worse.

      But they went and as they sat there at the big table James’s mom was giving Valerie the once over with her eyes and surprisingly seemed pretty pleased.

      Valerie offered to help with dinner and as the two ladies worked James and his dad went out on the porch and sat to talk.

      “I know it doesn’t mean much but…” Carl hinted as James just smiled.” This one your mom actually seems to like.” He said with a big grin as James got a chuckle in there.

      “Me too.” He whispered as Carl all but hugged him on the spot.” She’s good looking, if not a bit loud…can hunt and fish and cook and clean. Any man who she wished to be with would be happy to have her I think.” He whispered and looked around to make sure no one else heard.

      “So what’s the problem, there seems to be one by your eyes.” Carl hinted as James just sighed heavily and said he just wasn’t sure he was ready for a family of his own yet. And his dad gave him a hard slap on the back and mentioned that sometimes Fate steps in and you don’t get a choice, and James smiled and said nothing for the minute as the ladies called them for dinner.

      They had a nice meal of fried fish and vegetables and Valerie went on and on about James’s mom teaching her about spices and how to properly use them and his mom agreed with a huge grin saying that Valerie would be a fine catch for some lucky young man and Carl all but choked on his food and James tried hard not to laugh at the big push she was getting.

      They ate and talked and soon went home and as they got ready for bed James softly mentioned that his blanket wasn’t big enough for two people, and Valerie thought that sounded pretty good as a starting place and said she had slept in worse and colder places without one before. But finally he rolled over and asked her if she was ever planning on going back home again, and she didn’t smile this time but said she was leaving it all up to him now. And he laid there looking at the ceiling and finally rolled back to her and said it looks like they’d need a bigger mattress then, and she burst out in song and gave him the biggest kiss of his life.

      “Oh and your mom says this outfit isn’t going to cut it so she’s making me pants.” Val said as they both laughed and after a nice talk about family and friends they became a happy couple, and James was never happier to take her shopping the next day and get her a few things she’d need if she was staying, and she made sure there was no doubt about that, and all his friends shook his hand and slapped him no the back and to their surprise George came walking up with one of Val’s friends and it was the lady James thought was middle aged before. But it turned out she was just 3 years older than them and George gave James a wink and said he was into older women, and they both laughed.

      And the city inside the Earth got bigger and soon both towns were larger by a decent amount. They worked and played together and raised their families, and if the surface folks ever made it this far on purpose then there was going to be a real surprise for them. Because 40 levels down was a new world, and no one that had seen it ever left, and that was the Legend that many had dreamt of in the past but never really understood about…until now.

      END


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