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Let There Be Light: Sc.24

By E4-NG
Created: 10th May 2022 03:30:50 PM
23rd May 2022 09:27:10 PM

  1. >By the time the two of you make it to the griffon settlement, two days behind the fire-buyer’s retreat, you can already tell much has changed.
  2. >Like your dragon friend said, it is just a short distance from a riverbank, though the vertical distance between the water and the griffons is quite large.
  3. >With wings, you suppose, this is little different than a short walk.
  4. >That wildgrass-stranded cord around the neck of the one you met was no unique thing; it seems griffons are quite skilled with the use of straw and other materials.
  5. >Shelters of lean-tos consisting of little more than a framework supporting a crudely-thatched roof are still more sophisticated than anything you’ve seen elsewhere.
  6. >From the look of patterns on the ground, many of these have been recently repositioned.
  7. >In the center of the little settlement is now a huge fire pit.
  8. >The shelters have been arranged to surround it, opening towards its warmth.
  9. >Well, some are.
  10. >Others have been flipped over so the roof slants towards the fire instead, you’d guess to provide darkness to occupants while they sleep.
  11. >The shelters almost look as if they’re built to some sort of standardized pattern.
  12. >While quality varies, they definitely share similar forms and construction methods.
  13. >Outside this ring of shelters, exposed to elements, are other stations that seem dedicated to certain tasks.
  14. >You can’t see anything in the way of tools, like the ponies of the earth had, but there are different raw materials stockpiled in certain places.
  15. >Over here, a pit with hay or straw, weighed down by stones.
  16. >Over there, some stacked, crudely-broken lengths of large branch of small log.
  17. >Some of these look beyond what you’d expect from their physical capabilities.
  18. >Perhaps they’d been getting help?
  19. >In the center of all this, the fire pit was definitely a step forward.
  20. >Its walls stood half the average griffon’s height.
  21. >While this wasn’t much to you, it was much more substantial than the little rings you’d been scavenging for your campfires from whatever was present.
  22. >This was not over-engineered; the fire itself was much bigger.
  23. >The flames flicked into the evening sky about as high as your chin, about as tall as the shelters surrounding it.
  24. >The broad, flat stones that built the wall were arranged in an alternating, almost interlocking way.
  25. >Anything above this wall, however, was in a sorry state.
  26. >A couple griffons were attempting to build some sort of skeletal structure around the fire at a higher level.
  27. >They were not finding much success.
  28. >Squawks of dismay echoed when some branches themselves caught alight, falling into the pit to fuel the flame.
  29. >One of these poor griffons was the one who started this mess, a couple nights ago.
  30. >From what you could tell, they were in charge of this operation.
  31. >Not standing back and directing, but from how the others looked to it whenever anything went wrong.
  32. >Poor thing.
  33. >Maybe you can help.
  34. >You step in past the perimeter of stocks and supplies ringing the tiny village, towards the center of activity.
  35. >The fire-bringing griffon notices you before the others, and rushes over to you before you can step through the ring of shelters.
  36. >Even with the avian facial features, you can tell the poor thing’s flustered.
  37. >Noire steps close to it and leans down to eye-level. “What is wrong?”
  38. >The griffon looks back and forth between you and Noire, then utters a few clucks.
  39. >Noire turns back to you. “She’s trying to make your cooking stand.”
  40. >You chuckle and shake your head.
  41. “Ain’t gonna work with sticks.”
  42. >You hold a hand out to the fire, a gesture you hope is understood as a request to lead, or asking permission to enter.
  43. >They can understand your words, but your body language is much more complicated, what with arms and hands.
  44. >Fortunately, something approximate goes through, and the griffon nods her head then turns to lead you to the center.
  45. >Her interaction with you drew almost every other griffon’s attention, and they all watch you and Noire intently as you come to stop beside the fire.
  46. >Like when that griffon first came you you, they have crude cords of shells around their necks.
  47. >All except those attempting to build a structure around the fire, including that molly now.
  48. >They instead have rougher cords, grass splaying out of the cord to give it a wavy and spiked appearance.
  49. >Whatever cultural development was happening here must be moving very quick.
  50. >Was this natural, or more of Noire’s acceleration at work?
  51. >Noire’s already kneeling, taking her packs off by the fireside.
  52. >You do the same, shrugging your backpack off and dropping it to the ground.
  53. >withdrawing your little steel frame, you already know the fire before you is far too large to do anything with this.
  54. >Seeing it makes the fire-keeping molly excited though, and she chitters at some of her spiked-cord companions.
  55. “This is steel,” you say, holding it up to her and her companions. “You’re not going to be able to make this for a long time.”
  56. >You look back to the fire in thought.
  57. “There’s other ways, though.”
  58. >Looking back to the firekeeper, you gesture at the fire.
  59. “May I?”
  60. >She nods hesitantly.
  61. >You look back at the construction, hand son your hips, eyeing the size of the flame and the state of the hearth.
  62. >The top of the flame licks the horizon, where the sun’s already set.
  63. “You know what? How about I demonstrate. Lets get some food cooking.”
  64. >The griffon nods vigorously, this time.
  65. >Then she turns and squawks at another, one with shells like the rest rather than her acolytes’ frayed chord, who quickly takes wing and disappears from sight.
  66. >Whatever the message was, other griffons seem to understand it, and they snap out of their rapt attention on you and Noire to bustle about towards ends unknown.
  67. >When the one who took off returns, they’re carrying a load of fish.
  68. >The others gather around, chucking shells at them and taking fish away.
  69. >You turn to mutter to Noire.
  70. “Definitely currency.”
  71. >She nods as they finish their exchange, though a few remain.
  72. >Most of these go the firekeepers, with a couple left, apparently for you and Noire.
  73. >When the griffon reaches you, you toss her a few shells from the pouch the firekeeper left behind for you.
  74. >The fishmonger looks surprised for a moment, before clucking, taking the shells, and leaving you the two fish.
  75. >You turn your attention to the construction of the firepit.
  76. >The construction was rather brilliant, even if accidentally
  77. >Flat-ish slabs of stone, mostly the glittering schist formations dotting the island’s interior landscape you are now more certain than ever Noire created specifically for a rudimentary building material, layered on top of each other’s ends in alternating directions.
  78. >Each “stack” of the ends created more solid corners, at very shallow angles, leaving the “faces” of the structure with voids every other layer.
  79. >Heat radiated out from these from the depths of the fire’s base.
  80. >While the gaps may have been enough to slip a filet between, it wouldn’t leave hardly any room to manipulate it.
  81. >You need to, then, carefully remove one of the stones.
  82. >How to do this safely without causing the collapse of the structure due to its interleaved nature puzzles you.
  83. “Hey Noire.”
  84. >”Hm?”
  85. >She peers over to the spot of the firepit’s wall you’re contemplating
  86. “If I open some of these out, can you conjure up some sort of support for the then-loose ends? And give me a couple stones about this height, flat on the top and bottom.”
  87. >She nods, and the stones you requested appear at your feet.
  88. “Thanks.”
  89. >Getting one of the ends out is more difficult than you imagined, even only halfway down the stack.
  90. >Noire helps out with her magic, supporting the weight of the rest of one corner.
  91. >You carefully swing a stone out, watching the other corner it’s supporting to make sure nothing shifts dangerously.
  92. >Your work is helped a little by the wind picking up slightly, driving the flame away from you a bit.
  93. >Once you have it swing out perpendicular to its original position, Noire lifts a small column of rock up to support the now-free end.
  94. >You repeat this process with the stone directly above it in the face, swinging that out as well, so the two look almost like a tiny gate opening to the flame within.
  95. >Inside, within the base of the fire, you can just barely make out part of a smaller, inner ring, much more like the ones you build for your camp.
  96. >They certainly outgrew it quickly.
  97. “Alright, uh, lets copy this one a couple times.”
  98. >When Noire does, you lay them down in front of this little gate, building up to the level of the opening you just made.
  99. >You take your drawing slate and show it to her.
  100. “Fire won’t hurt this, will it?”
  101. >She shakes her head. “It is supernaturally resilient.”
  102. “Good, cool, alright. Let’s do this then.”
  103. >You lay the slate down on the layer you built up.
  104. >It’s not perfectly level, but it’s good enough for a cooking surface.
  105. “I think I just reinvented the oven.”
  106. >”Invented.” Noire turns to you and smiles. “It is the first time, on this world, at least made by mortal hands.”
  107. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, since you did the one back home obviously.”
  108. >Among many things, you are also now an inventor!
  109. >You wave the firekeeper over.
  110. >She quickly flutters over to your side, opposite Noire, and looks down at your work.
  111. >You pick the slate up – it’s already warm – and waggle it.
  112. “You’re going to need something like this yourself.”
  113. >You put it back down on the opening.
  114. “We’ll be cooking on it. Bring on the fish!”
  115. >The firekeeper nods with excitement, then turns and barks at her acolytes.
  116. >They spread through the little village, calling the rest of the griffons – who had been observing you at a distance – back closer, and marshal everyone into a rough queue.
  117. >You clean the fish as each comes, making sure to keep the filets for each individual together and slightly spread from the others.
  118. >You won’t remember who’s who, but you can trust the firekeepers for that.
  119. You get quicker at cleaning the fish with every one, and manage to finish the last as the first is done cooking.
  120. >By now the entire town is crowded in as close as they can get to you while leaving room for others, heads stacked around you three deep in a big feathery wall.
  121. >You look for one of the frayed cords and wave with a hand.
  122. >They wriggle out from underneath the pile and, in the cramped confines allowed to you, the head firekeeper, and Noire, delicately receive the cooked fish and shuttle it off to its waiting diner-to-be.
  123. >The fish is distributed quickly enough, each finding its way to its beak as they come off your slate.
  124. >Yours and Noire’s come last, after you’re sure everyone got their food.
  125. >As you enjoy your now-well-earned meal, some griffons come over and offer you shells, but you shake your head and wave them off, pointing towards the firekeepers.
  126. >They seem to be some sort of priesthood, you figure as you watch them.
  127. >The frayed cords, shell-less, strike you like some sort of vow of poverty.
  128. >Indeed, when the shells are placed before the head firekeeper, who gave all her shells to get that fire in the first place, she looks at them quizzically, before muttering something to another firekeeper, who takes them away… somewhere.
  129. >Mealtime winds down into post-food socializing as more finish their dinners, and you’re soon surrounded by a chorus of utterly alien bird and cat sounds as you and Noire finish your own.
  130. >The contented murmurs turn to squawks of alarm.
  131. >You bolt upright and look around.
  132. >One of the lean-tos, flipped to face outside rather than in, smokes, then bursts into flame.
  133. >Embers from the fire, you now see, drift around the camp now that the wind has picked up.
  134. >Noire disappears from your side, teleporting to the stricken structure.
  135. >Thatch suffuses with the orange glow of her magic.
  136. >The flames issuing from it seem to freeze, still as a picture, as you wonder what she could be doing to it.
  137. >Then, all at once, her magic winks out and the flames vanish completely.
  138. >The structure’s damage remains, but it’s no longer worsening, at least.
  139. >When the alarm dies down, a shocked silence prevails.
  140. >Noire takes the long and normal way back to your side, a half-eaten piece of fish sill levitating before her as she takes another bite.
  141. >”We should probably do something about this,” she murmurs to you when she’s returned.
  142. “We had ways of fireproofing things back home, but I don’t know of any primitive enough.”
  143. >You look around.
  144. >What could you do?
  145. >The firekeepers are all looking to you, and you feel a surge of irritation.
  146. >You’re supposed to be like a god, aren’t you?
  147. >What else is a priesthood for but to carry out your command?
  148. “Firekeepers! Keep your fire!”
  149. >Their leader starts, then lurches into action, her acolytes gathering up the griffons who have finished eating.
  150. >She looks up at the drifting embers, then extends her wings to sample the wind.
  151. >Off she goes to the outside of the ring of dwellings, some of her juniors following her with a few dragooned griffons in tow.
  152. >As a group, they lift the thatched wall, and move the structure back a good ten or twelve feet, before the head firekeeper gauges windspeed again, turning her wings this way and that.
  153. >By the end of the process the structure’s almost twenty feet out from its original position, leaving its contents behind to be moved by who you guess must be its owner.
  154. >They get to work on one of its neighbors.
  155. >With the distance set, other griffons start moving theirs further out, and you watch the ring expand as more finish their food quickly to join in the efforts.
  156. >All soon settle in this much wider ring, a distance you figure the leader calculated from her own experience with how bad the wind gets around here.
  157. >It also gives you and Noire a lot more room at your place before the fire, and you take advantage of it almost immediately.
  158. >You’re not interested in cooking yourself, after all.
  159. >You brush some soot off your clothes, then retrieve the pouch and cord that was left to you the night before last.
  160. >The firekeeper’s leader watches you approach, with an expression you read as consternation, or maybe even apprehension.
  161. >But you can see her relax when you put your remaining shells at her feet, stopping to withdraw a single one from the bag as a keepsake for yourself and Noire.
  162. “Use these to help that one fix their roof. If there’s any left over, keep it if this happens again. You’ll also need some sort of covering for when it rains.”
  163. >You stand straight again, then look around.
  164. “Oh, uh, and we’d like a place just for the night, if there’s any spare.”
  165. >She opens her beak in an avian smile, then clucks.
  166. >You could swear it sounded like ‘Duh.’

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