Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 184,867,935 Issue: 484 | 4th day of Running, Y13
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Habitarium Havoc


by therons

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This is a tale of a diminutive Mootix, determined to save her village from the ravages of invaders.

     By the time of the 36th Level early in Y13, the Habitarium was thick with storage silos. So busy had the Workers worked that to walk from the Gazebo to dip one's toes into the cooling waters of the Lake meant wending through a maze of dozens of tall structures.

     On such a walk the young Mardella Mootix looked up through the shadows and wondered what might happen if the great reserves of water toppled from the massive bowls overhead. Mardella shivered and hurried on, scurrying along the narrow passages between the towers of twisted branches. As she sat in the sunshine at the edge of the Lake, dipping her antennae to flick her pretty green face with droplets of pool water, she wondered what it was all about.

     As a wee babe, she could recall vast fields of greenery. The trees where her Daddy cut wood had seemed so very far from the safety of the nest, and all she knew of the rock quarries was the dust on her Uncle's face. She remembered the Flower, of course, the all important One Flower. They all did. From that came their sustenance; it was the reason the Ancestors chose this place above all others to build their homes. Of all the produce they stored away, the villagers treasured the pollen from the One Flower the greatest. Without the pollen of the One Flower, their bellies would always rumble, the Younguns would never grow tall, the Elders would grow frail before their time. Their life here was determined by the bountiful pollen of the One Flower.

     Mardella sighed then, as she sat by the water's edge and wondered whatever had made her world change so much in her short life? Where once was a vast meadow of grass now stood a mass of gloomy, oozing, creaking towers. Her older siblings no longer chatted cheerfully and laughed and bounded along, but were bent double under bundles upon their backs, their eyes downcast and their feet stumbling through the dark alleyways. Mardella felt a deep sadness befall her as she watched them struggle with their heavy loads, yawning as they went into the shadows. The only open space left in the sunshine was the sparkling surface of the Lake and a small circle of bright light about the One Flower. Yes, Mardella thought, the One Flower is Most Important, standing there tall in the middle of the Meadow.

     Not only was the Habitarium a dark forbidding place now, but more Blue Meanies came every day to scare them with big mouths full of tongue and teeth, and whipping tails. Mardella was puzzled by this. When pressed for answers, her Dear Ma would only say that everyone knew the Blue Meanies were here before us, they were the first clan to live in the Meadow. These words did not make much sense to Mardella, who knew the Pinchits and the Larnikins were different clans but they were friendly folks. The Mootix, the Pinchits and the Larnikins had always been a tight-knit community. Mardella did not understand why the Blue Meanies came to wreck everything, not even if they were from a different clan.

     Mardella could not stop herself from blaming the Blue Meanies when there was trouble each time they appeared, uninvited and unwelcomed. When the Blue Meanies raided like that, the towers crumbled, the water spilled from the rooftop bowls and the silo walls collapsed. Mardella knew her people were at risk when she saw a Blue Meanie. The Workers were always so tired after the Blue Meanies had been each day. Such a lot of work was required to shore up the silos that less and less harvest was gathered. Thank goodness, thought Mardella, the One Flower stands alone, with the little space left around it where the sun shines in on the grass, a little space just big enough to keep the One Flower safe from toppling towers. Their very being depended on the One Flower.

     So much was changing and so fast that Mardella resolved to do something herself to change the weary faces of her folks. She knew they needed rest more than any other single thing, for they yawned while they worked and dragged their feet when they walked. When they went home after dark the Workers still needed to mend their homes before dropping off to sleep for the few hours they allowed themselves before trudging off to work at sunrise. Everyone needed more rest than they were having and she resolved to make that happen.

     That afternoon, Mardella called them together to relax awhile at the Gazebo. Her tinkling voice was not all that endeared Mardella to them, for she spoke also with her hands, bobbing her pretty little head as she encouraged them to leave the work for a short time to rest before they returned to their arduous tasks. She spoke with such sincerity from the gleaming white steps of the Gazebo that not one Worker argued with her as they settled into the grass and very soon they all lay snoozing at her feet. After all, she had reassured them, the Blue Meanies had already come three times that day and they were unlikely to reappear before tomorrow.

     So that is how it came about that Mardella and just three Old Soldiers were awake that afternoon. The Workers snorted and snored in their fitful sleep by the Gazebo and the Nesters mumbled amongst themselves and dozed together on the nests as they did every afternoon. Mardella was pleased with her efforts. Tonight, she thought to herself with a smile, we will hear humming and whistling as the men go home. They will enjoy their evening meal, and wake with less aches and pains tomorrow. Mardella bounced with joy, and then settled down herself to doze with one eye open, watching the Old Soldiers who were also weary, as they plodded around the towers making small repairs as they saw fit. Some time must have passed in this pleasant manner, with the little Mootix stretched out on the white seat of the Gazebo and all the Workers curled up on the grass.

     Suddenly Mardella sensed danger and sprang to her feet. From her vantage point on the steps of the Gazebo she was able to see shadowy blue shapes moving amongst the towers. One, two, three... there! No! Four, five... her heart sank! Was that a sixth one headed towards the One Flower? Where, she wondered, were the Old Soldiers? Why were they not engaging in battle? Glancing over her shoulder towards the Barracks she could only guess. They, too, had decided to rest, for she heard deep snoring coming from within the Soldiers' Clubhouse.

     Light of foot as are all her kind, Mardella took only moments to be standing by the Tallness of the One Flower. Mardella knew she must protect the One Flower. There was no one else awake. How, she did not know, but she had to keep the One Flower safe. The One Flower must not fall, for the being of the whole community depended upon it.

     Her back to the Tallness, with pollen drifting about her in a glittering shower, she faced the Blue Meanie. The mouth was as terrible as legend told. The spiky hair stood high above the mean eyes, and the sharp teeth were close to her feet as the monster crouched ready to spring. Mardella took a great deep breath. She drew herself upright as tall as she could and stood very still. She put her dainty hands behind her back, closed her eyes tightly and gave the Tallness of the One Flower an enormous shake. Down came more pollen than she could ever possibly have imagined.

     The monster blinked, not once, but three times, then clamped shut its cavernous mouth as it sucked the sweet pollen from its tongue.

     Mardella trembled but stood her ground. All around her the towers crumbled as the raiders did their worst, causing havoc in the dark alleyways. The attack was fast and furious, uninterrupted and unhindered by the weary Workers and Old Soldiers who were still napping. The silos sagged and the water reservoirs spilled. Mardella stood firm, facing her monster in the circle of sunlight about the One Flower, all alone, determined the One Flower would come to no harm.

     The monster opened its great mouth to show all those terrible teeth. Mardella winced. When she peeped down her nose through her slitted eyes, holding her breath and imagining only bad things, Mardella saw an amazing thing. The beast rolled onto its side and gestured with the huge clawed paw. Puzzled and not believing her eyes, Mardella saw the monster begging for more pollen. Passive now, the beast waited quietly with chin rested on paws. Could this be true? Could this be the reason for all those past raids and all that terrible wreckage every day? A taste for pollen was what was driving the Blue Meanies to destroy their village, time and again? Was it pollen that the Blue Meanies craved?

     Bracing herself, Mardella reached out to the beast, her eyes tight closed and her hand outstretched, palm upwards in truce. The monster bristled its spiky hair, then laid it down to the nape of its broad neck in a gesture of submission. The beast purred ever so softly. Mardella slowly brushed pollen from the blue coat and dropped it into the fearsome mouth, then quickly drew her hand away. As the beast laid at her feet, waiting to be hand-fed some more pollen, the great bulk towered high above her tiny form. Mardella gently stroked the coat of coarse blue hair. In wonder, she examined the tribal tattoo of Meep above the tail which she now saw was merely a paddle for balance and not the spiked whipping tail of legend. She counted the eight stubby legs and saw no exposed claws. Mardella relaxed and looked into the depths of grateful eyes. Mardella had made friends with a Blue Meanie.

     The very next day Mardella walked to the Boundary beyond the Meadow. She was accompanied by the Younguns, carrying pollen to feed the hungry beasts before they invaded. Every afternoon for a very long time, Mardella and the Younguns visited with the neighbours at the Boundary, taking pollen from the One Flower to share. Many of the towers were dismantled, for the Workers no longer needed to collect such quantities of building materials to make daily repairs to the village.

     The sun shone down on lush grass where once had stood the crumbling towers.

     The happy sounds of whistling and cheerful banter were heard each day.

     Peace had returned to the Meadow.

The End

 
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