XXXI – Old Conceptions Trashed

Bert took a moment to study the situation. One thing I could have sworn I saw was that the pile of lumber up ahead was actually, in a weird sort of way, staring back at us. The trees had twisted their trunks in our direction, branches extended, and seemed to be daring us to travel further down that road beneath them. Our little adventure underground was getting weirder all the time.

It was then that Bert flourished his spear and the drums started up again. This time, however, they were pounding out an intricate, short series of beats. In response, the outer files of Furrys on either side of the column, shifting their shields to their backs, reached into their side pouches, and pulled out three pieces of gear consisting of two short shafts and a double, straight pronged tip. The pieces were joined together leaving each Furry carrying what looked like a long hafted, double prong pitchfork. Each Furry so equipped twisted the bottom of the pitchfork shaft and something startling happened. Between the two prongs lightning sparked, remaining constant and dazzling bright.

What in Hades were those things!? That was the question I posed to Bert.

“Simple, Varus friend. Drums sometime not enough to make trees behave. Then Shock Staves come into play. Trees hate getting burned by power touch. ‘Course, there other ways of getting shrubbery to behave themselves. Look at sides of road under trees.”

The army had begun to move forward at a brisk pace, and as we neared the length of road directly beneath the trees, I saw what Bert was talking about. On either side of the road was a wide, white strip of something that let off the same fierce glow as the Furrys’ pitchforks. Also, between the road and those deadly looking white strips was a foot high curb made up of some kind of grey cement. Bert beat me to the punch.

“Glowy places use same force as Shock Staves. Anything land on those places wind up pile of cinders. Glowy places not particular about what they fry, so curbs there to keep anyone from leaving road. Smart idea, huh?”

I had to agree with the little guy. That road was the darndest thing I’d ever seen, but if it kept people alive, so be it.

The passage through the forest was swift and, mostly, without incident. The Shock Staves and other deterrents keeping the trees well at bay. That is except for one small branch that had somehow managed the impossible and gotten itself onto the roadway. It immediately went after a Furry drummer, sparking the little guy in the rear end. He ran up and down the column yelling “owowowowowowowow”, sparking branch in tow, until a Shock Stave blasted the branch onto the glowing strip. There was a sizzling sound and that was that.

And so we marched on. Out of the forest, where we camped three times before moving on in our last leg to Avanwy. Finally, on the fourth day, we reached the city. What I and my men saw left us literally speechless. My boys and I had prided ourselves in calling ourselves Titans. What we saw made us feel totally insignificant by comparison. I had expected Avanwy to be a large Furry town. Boy was I wrong!

Far from being a native village, the place was monolithic in scope. The army had halted a short distance from the main gates, where the fun began.

Bert strode to the front of the column and shouted a command in Valparta.

“Anatoc ta vocu docanna!”

Whatever he had said, the response was epic. The army’s clarions sounded an ear splitting verse accompanied by the deep roll of all of Bert’s drums. The Valparta troops gave a thunderous shout and slammed thousands of spears against an equal number of shields. The noise was deafening.

The response from the walls was not long in coming. Trumpets sang and drums rolled, accompanied by something I had not expected. The shrill tone of pipes!

Bert’s bunch, not to be outdone, pulled a rabbit out of the hat with yet another surprise. From further back in the column came the sound of answering pipes. How many musical instruments did Bert’s troops have anyway, and where were they getting them from? Those bags of theirs certainly didn’t seem deep enough to carry everything they had pulled out so far. The answer, however, would have to wait for another time. We were on the move again.

The army moved forward and, in response, the massive gates of Avanwy slowly opened. As we drew close to the city ramparts, the scale of things become very clear. Those walls towered far over our heads and the mammoth, now open, gates of the city dwarfed us into insignificance.

As we passed through, I could see what those gates were made of. Metal. Lots of deeply engraved metal. The gates had swung inward so that we could see the bright metal facings of each gate.

Literally thousands of engraved figures covered the surfaces, showing battle scenes depicting what seemed to be the city’s long, warrior, history. The core of each gate consisted of huge, non-glowing, timbers. I guess the Valparta had overcome their taboo against using massive amounts of wood. No doubt the timbers had been obtained during their battles against the encroaching forests.

As we marched through the gates, another thing struck me. The thickness of those titanic walls. We were, quite literally, walking through a tunnel of not less than forty feet of thickness. Whoever had taught the Furrys to build had taught them on a grand scale. It was that thought that sobered my thinking. The little guys had never seemed to me to do anything that was unnecessary. That meant that the huge architecture was necessary, not frivolous.

The crazy forests alone shouldn’t have made this amount of building necessary. What kind of enemy were they really facing? My chain of thought snapped as we entered the city proper. I was going to have to redefine my notions of size.

Chapter XXXII

Published in: on March 5, 2011 at 6:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

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