The Country WisdomEpisode 1 Chapter 2
Visit Altenor through the eyes of a young girl discovering the city for the first time.
Cedric Neumann & Laureline Brun
Finally, we arrived in sight of the suburbs and the base of the city. Between the houses, I could see gigantic steps. My father explained that they were the first rings of the Atorium of Altenor, the tower structure on which the city is built.
Before long, we passed tall fortified buildings. They were so imposing. I saw my father greeting acquaintances and paying guards. I tried to engrave these unknown faces in my memory. The number of cohors was impressive, at least as many as the humans. They were coming from every direction. In the first two minutes, I had seen more alacar and sticis than humans I had ever seen in my life; I didn’t know where to turn. I was equally struck by the appearance and poise of some of the humans!
“Nobles,” commented my father. They were so beautiful, so colorful! Their clothes and jewels shone brightly. I immediately recognized the rings and the Tower in the circular shapes of their attire. The women impressed me. Their hair, tied in intricate and elegant styles, also echoed the Atorium.
The moment my shoe hit the pavement, I felt myself getting more excited! I was focused. I spread my feet quickly… I was afraid to fall, but nothing… the ground vibrated a little from time to time but it was not turning for the moment. The hustle and bustle of the city soon monopolized all my senses. My father called me and grabbed my hand to lead me along. I barely listened to him, my mind absorbed, even overwhelmed by everything I saw around me.
Wherever I looked, people of all races, sizes and shapes were busy, talking, doing business. We had landed in the commercial district. It was the height of the city’s ethnic mix. My father explained that each neighborhood in Altenor had its own flavor, smell, and feel, and that unlike where we were, some were dominated by one species or faction.
My eyes kept ricocheting: humans, cohors, magnificent alacars… their sparkling wings made me dream so much… colorful sticis… their beautiful webbed hands seemed so soft and fragile! To my great astonishment, the city seemed to be an adapted habitat for them: water was visible everywhere. Small rivers ran between the streets, canals ran along the paths, and the current sometimes even ran through mills or strange machines. The village tinkerer would be jealous! All these inventions would be the subject of conversation for a long time.
I was in awe of the excitement of the new things and the colors, so much so that I tripped over a stone and fell flat on my face, letting go of my father’s hand and barely avoiding the manure. I was fuming inside, thinking of how hilarious my brother would find this moment if he could see me.
Suddenly, an unknown gloved hand appeared in front of my eyes. I looked up, still a little stunned. I saw a young girl with fine colored wings frowning… or feathers, I couldn’t tell if those eyebrows were made of feathers or not! She was beautiful. Almost unreal. An intense blue highlighted her sparkling yellow irises and golden circles were lost in the feathers of her head.
“Are you okay?” she asked, at my incredulous look.
“Yes, sorry… Yes, excuse me… thank you very much…” I hastened to answer, stammering and accepting her help to get up. I dusted myself off, very embarrassed by my peasant appearance.
The damsel smiled and continued her way while my father laughed at my astonishment.
“Hey, it’s not funny!” I cried, offended, “I thought that all alacars were proud and superior beings. Why would they stoop down to talk or even help humans the likes of us?”
My father shook his head. ” Well now, my little Mauve, maybe you’ll finally listen to me? And listen less to the nonsense from the village?” His cheerful tone showed that he was amused by my prejudices about the inhabitants of Altenor, he took a few minutes to (re)tell me about the alacars and (re)tell me his interminable warnings. My mind was already elsewhere. I felt stupid for believing my friends’ gossip, and I couldn’t wait to see their faces when I told them about my misadventure… embellished, of course! Was everything I thought I knew wrong? The rings didn’t seem to turn that often. The one we were on hadn’t moved an inch since we arrived. Although there were many guards, I didn’t see any fierce warriors armed to the teeth. As for the cohors, they seemed to be refined and polite; I’ll even say less unpleasant than our village baker and more talkative than our village neighbor, the beetle.