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The Inbetween

 

A Fairytale For Adults

 

Chapter 1 – Prologue

 

Nobody remembered any longer than the Fire fell from the sky, but all the people who lived in the bones of the great city, still feared it would happen again. The giant Golden Tower overshadowing everything was a reminder of the might of the ruler. Nobody ever saw him but his troops instilled fear and the people where consent with the promise of protection in return for unwavering loyalty and if people disappeared every once in a while to never return, they just assumed they had somehow deserved their fate. After all, they had not disappeared. And you must have done something wrong.

 

The city was once the most marvelous and admired city in the old world, but it had not been its biggest. Nowadays it was Moloch of festering proportions; it was growing like a cancerous disease. In the east only bordered by the Nevermoving Sea. The Nevermoving Sea was according to the Legends once a vast, blue and beautiful Ocean, full of life, providing fish and opportunity. After the bombs fell it grew dangerous, it moved like it had its mind, and what it engulfed it would never let go again. Sometimes it moved, but it was unnatural, and People hid in their homes if they were unfortunate enough to live because of it. All the ships in the harbor had started to sink a long time, and now they were home to the weird and feared collectors.  Nobody would journey any longer on it, for that would be certain death or worse, nobody knew what the Sea did to those it took.

 

The Collectors were strange people who just appeared one day long ago, long after the Rain of fire. The rumors said that not even the Golden Tower would march against them. But obviously, that could not have been true, for the  Tower was almighty, and all-seeing. The Collectors kept vastly to themselves and their silent. They looked much like Humans, but all had blue-copper skin, lidless full black eyes without an iris, and stories told if you’d stare long enough into them you’d see into your soul, and most people would descend into madness if they would be forced to see their true selves. The Collectors seemed content building their labyrinth of ladders, platforms and small dens in the skeletons of the old vessels. They mostly kept to themselves, though sometimes group of them could be seen collecting abandoned animals and things in the city, if confronted by a passer-by the group of them would just smile and stare at the passer-by until they would leave. Other rumors only told by the crazy people only whispered in the shadows where darker and said that they would steal souls of those who wronged the world. They never ventured into any area where the Shadow of the Golden Tower fell.

 

On the West, the City was growing into the vast desert left in place of the once prosperous and plentiful Midlands. Most humans settled in this area, always building, dreaming of a better life, working on the vertical farms, constructed from the remnants and glass plates brought in form the southern Glas Desert by the dwarfs. They were short lived as all humans are, and after 40 years or so they would get sick and die in agony, but so was life since the Rain of Fire fell. Their society was ruled by the lords of the underground, who spoke their languages, and dressed pompous and adhered to their old religions. They were organized in what they called family, their bonds of choice stronger than any blood and their punishments harsh and quick. The families were each headed by a Godfather or mother and, in turn, they were their members of the Human Council. Though adhering to an honor code they easily felt wronged and kept a rule of fear and violence over their subjects, but the Golden Tower left them to their devices as long as they kept the order and were loyal.

 

In the North, the city bordered in the Ice Plains, domain of the Faerie, thin long lived people with white and bluish skins and long ears. The other tribes and people whispered that you’d never see an old elven and wondered if they’d ever died if not ridden by sickness or violently forced into the next life. The Plains also were home to giant beasts made up of fur and claws, the Faerie hunted and tamed these beasts and made it possible for tribes of the Small People to harvest the riches of the dark forests.  The small people lived a simple life of hard work and lots of food; they dwelled in caves avoiding the castles in the giant trees the Fairie preferred and loved to listen to the Faerie songs. Though longer lived than the humans, they as well would die and usually after 150 years their lives ended by old age.

The Faerie, in fact, were long lived, and their eldest remembered the day the Rain of Fire felt, they remembered then they grew sick, and they had not yet forgotten the changes. These Faerie knew the ancient world, even though they all were children, they knew the secrets of the Golden Tower and the Tower left them alone out of fear they may share its secrets. In turn, the Faerie kept to their court and devices and were careful to limit contact with the other people, out of fear the Golden Tower may suspect treason and war would destroy what was left of the world and what had been rebuilt in the millennia since.

 

In the south of the city where the homes of the Dwarfs, harsh and sturdy but small people known for their strength and form their artful woven, colored and decorated hair and beards. They’d mine the mountain ranges for metals, stones and they lived in the vast caverns they built, they feared the Golden Tower and rarely ventured into the reaches of the City from where they would see it. The Golden Tower was content with hatred for them, but as they feared it and kept loyal out of fear they were allowed to perform their necessary tasks and stay outside of the city.

 

As the city kept growing and growing it also rose into the skies, it had done so in the old world, and its tallest building towered several miles. But with time the lower parts grew as well as did the underground, dug out by the fearful and sick, the vast tunnels and caverns grew, and the Tower and the rich stored forgotten riches and society grew as well. The Tunneldwellers their proud people, though to be honest they did not have much to be proud about. They fought the mutated beasts and each other for pity honor, and every once would talk about rebellion out of tradition, and their forces would clash with the Towers forces, the survivors were taken away never to be seen again. They too had legends, about the cause of the rain of fire, but these were only whispered from one mouth to one ear in the darkness of night, for if the Golden Tower would learn of this, they would surely be wiped out once and for all. The Tunneldwellers and up a lot of the population and each of the families ruling the smaller towers, descendants of the rich and wealthy of the old world, would pay them for rediscovered tech, to prolong their own short lives or at least spend them in luxury. They’d also farm and harvest the glomming mushrooms, which provided the main ingredients for the mushroom beer the city had as its drug and alcoholic beverage.

 

The core of the city was made up of the towers of old, in them dwelled the descendants of the rich, wealthy and famous of the ancient world. They were houses of might with their enlisted armies, waging war against each other and providing a government for tasks the Golden Tower would not care about, for its sole concern would be instilling fear in all its subjects and loyalty. They would live the same short lives but always tried to extend it with uncovered secrets from the old world. In rare cases, this would work, and some houses had traditions of freezing or mummifying their dead or even just the dying, so that they may rise once again after they would have found a cure. These were the sleeping armies of the houses. Their Towers would extend for miles into the sky and the ground, only out made by each other and all by the Golden Tower.

 

The Golden Tower was in the old world a monument to the ruler, mad men and his cronies, who came to power through fear and lies. The Tower was sore to the eye but, plated golden, reflecting sickly light everywhere. Its whole surface indistinguishable, and its halls filled with servants both human and machine. Protective shields and technology of unseen proportions defending it against any threat. It’s halls filled with tasteless and mindless hoarded riches and art, only to be enjoyed by the ruler and his family and loyal cronies. It’s only product fear, disgust, and hate. Nowadays nobody would enter, it would only spit out armies of black clad faceless soldiers, acting upon the slightest perceived wrong or even a spoken word. Hated and feared by all its subjects, it dwelled in self-content and riches alike. Nobody had seen the ruler or his cronies in millennia, but they evidently still ruled the city and the e remnants of the old world that was no more.

 

This was the state of the world into which the two human children were born. Their parents living the lives of most humans, farming during the day and sleeping in the nights, dwelling in fear that they may catch the Golden Towers attention through some misdeed or slight. Laura was a tomboyish blonde with purple eyes and a petite but lean build and tougher than she looked. Her neighbor, named Dan like all males in his family, was vigorous and muscular, almost 6 feet tall but not the most intelligent, he had followed the adventurous Laura all his childhood, though he had learned she as a girl would need his protection. Laura had accepted this, but most of the time she had to protect Dan, and though he was a year older their relationship was more that of an older sister to her kid brother. Both their parents were nearing the end of their lives, and As Laura turned 15 and Dan 16, they turned to the family ruling their hood for the traditional request to have them married off. Laura was not content with this and hated tradition as she was a free spirit and would have none of this, she did not want to live her life as a peasant. Breeding kids and household would be nothing she would want to do. Dan, on the other hand, would not mind and was looking with pleasure at it. He’d have a wife and kids and live his life as any human was supposed to, after all, it was not his task to question tradition or life.

In the evening Laura packed a few things she deemed useful into a small backpack she hid beneath her bed, she also had some food and water, and a bottle of mushroom beer packed up. For Laura had decided she would not go off and marry anyone, she would live her life as she wanted. She had not even told Dan. Laura was feeling sad but knew Dan would not understand and either tell her parents or just stop her himself. She liked Dan, but he annoyed her at times just so much. She would leave, she would travel the city and to hell with the Golden Tower, to hell with the family, to hell with the Hood and to Hell with all of it. Laura had the urge for more. She would not consent to mediocre-ness.

At the same time, Dan was drifting away into sleep following his evening mushroom beer. He’d be off in the next days to the Hoods ruling Clans stronghold to get the permission for marriage. Dan hoped he’d get permission to marry Laura, he loved her, and he dreamed of a family with her. She had told him a hundred times she’d have none of this, but she’d come around for this was how it had always been, what else could she want to do, and if not he’d had to help her accept this. After all, he had to protect her for he was strong and tall and a man. He would go to her in the morning and sit her down for a talk.

 

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