Forbidden Foods: The Gladen

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“Do you realize that because of your actions, our entire village could be destroyed?” The elder hissed into Tia’s pointed ear with a look of disdain.

Tia looked straight ahead as she fought back tears. Her translucent, fragile wings were tucked together behind her, and her short blue hair was covered in dirt, “I’m sorry,” she breathed, almost inaudibly as the elder circled her.

He was many hundreds of years older than her, but he wasn’t yet stooping, and his own wings were pressed tightly together at his backside in a flat, sharp triangle. “There is no amount of apologizing that will undo this: you’ve gone against our oldest and most important rule,” he looked at her squarely with intense eyes. They were filled with both anger and regret as he continued, “You know the consequence of your actions…as do all of us.”

Tia was a young fairy, not yet a hundred years old and unbetrothed. In the moment that the elder had been looking at her, she felt all of her dreams and aspirations fall out from beneath her. What replaced them was a feeling of hollow fear and apathy, and she knew what he was going to say even before he said it, “Yes…I understand.” She knew that no amount of begging would save her. Their village had survived for thousands of years in a forest that was unspeakably ancient, and the rules that had kept them alive were absolute.

She realized also, that she would never see her family again. She was standing inside of the elder’s home, high up in a old tree. When she’d been found, she was brought there immediately, and she wouldn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to anyone.

“I don’t want to do this Tia,” the elder looked away from her, obviously pained by the position he’d been put in, “But you know that I must.”

Tia nodded once. She’d made a choice in a moment of empathy and desperation, and now she was going to pay for it by losing everything that was important to her.

The elder uttered a small whistle and a guard wielding a spear entered with a somber expression. He gave the young fairy girl a cursory glance before thrusting a cup toward her.

“Tia, drink,” the elder said firmly, though this voice was laced with sadness.

The blue haired girl took the cup from the guard with trembling fingers. The beverage, whatever it was, smelled of berries and tea leaves, and she drank it quickly, so as not to drag out her ill fate. Seconds later, she began to feel dizzy, then the room went dark as she felt herself slump into the guard’s arms.

Tapping. The sound began faintly, but was quickly becoming louder. It was a constant, yet deliberate tapping, and it was getting so loud that it was beginning to hurt her ears.

Tia’s eyes opened suddenly as she felt something slimy sidle up beside her. Before she even knew what she was doing, she raised her hand and spoke a simple spell, “Lumil.”

Her palm began to glow with a soft green light as the space she was occupying was illuminated.

Then, Tia screamed.

The bulbous brown face of a giant grub came into view. Its milky white body was semi transparent and its thin legs wiggled about as it tried to figure out if Tia was hostile.

The fairy’s screams died down as she realized what she was being faced with. Although scary looking and overall unpleasant to touch, the insect larvae was harmless to her and had probably bumped up beside her by mistake. Still, it was blocking her path to the tunnel out, and she assumed because of its presence that she was inside a dying tree.

Before she could consider moving it, however, The tapping that had woken her up started up again. The tunnel began to splinter and cave, and Tia gasped as another round of tapping turned into a booming cacophony.

Splinters of bark dust exploded everywhere as sunlight flooded through a rough opening in the bark. An orange beak broke through the opening, and Tia screwed herself tightly back into the small tunnel. The grub attempted to wheel backwards, but it was already too late. With several more decisive strikes, the assaulting bird forced its beak into the opening and hooked up the helpless grub before yanking it backwards through the opening.

Tia bolted forward through the now open tunnel, frantic to escape a similar fate. She held her still glowing hand in front of her as her heart pounded in her ears. Behind her, she could hear the bird knocking around for more food, and she had no intention of letting herself become a meal.

The tunnel twisted every which way, but it didn’t seem to be moving upward. A slow claustrophobia began to gnaw at her as she considered the prospect of being buried alive by the wooden walls, but she shoved it into the back of her mind as she pressed forward.

The tunnel opened up suddenly and she felt a slight draft. The light from her hands was gentle, and didn’t pervade much past her own body, but she could feel and hear the presence of more insect larvae. She slowed her movement and quieted her breathing as she turned to face another çorum escort beetle grub. She steered away from it, only to be faced by another. She took a deep breath and reached over her head. She felt open air, and she looked up to see if she was close to some sort of ceiling. There was an opening to another tunnel right above her head, and she opened her wings slowly. Within a second, the faint sound of her fluttering buzzed through the tunnel as she lifted herself upward.

She weaved through another series of tunnels, using the draft she felt as a guide. Soon, she saw sunlight, and she sighed in relief as she moved toward it.

Her relief was short lived, however, as the threatening orange beak peeked it’s way through the opening.

Tia slowed her flight and tried to contain another scream. She couldn’t bear the thought of going back into the maze of the bug-eaten tree. It was likely that there were hundreds of tunnels that led nowhere, and she could easily get lost.

The secondary option, of course, was to risk being eaten. She knew that the longer she waited to make a decision, the worse the situation might become, so she closed her eyes and crossed both if her arms over her chest.

The magic she possessed was small, but as long as she was within a forest, she could draw almost indefinitely from the energy of the trees. The fairies of the gladen had almost no offensive magic to speak of, but they’d found clever ways to implement various spells, and the young girl had been taught a few. In groups, the Gladen were strong, and their territory was known by most creatures in the area, but alone, even the strongest of them would have a difficult time surviving.

Tia murmured the words of a spell and flew forward. She curled herself up tightly as she rushed toward the opening, and when she saw the curved beak peek through she flew even faster.

She was almost touching the bird by the time she released her spell. She flung her arms open as a flash of green light exploded from her body.

The bird, an average, orange billed woodpecker, flapped violently aside in fear and confusion as Tia whizzed past it.

Then, she fled. She had no idea where she was going, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to outfly the woodpecker. Incidentally, she glanced behind her and saw what she feared the most: the bird was coming after her. Panic rose up within her, and she funneled her limbs closer to her body in an attempt to gain speed.

Taking to the sky would be suicide, so she did the only sensible thing. Dipping her head, Tia swooped downward toward the forest floor and darted through an opening in the thick canopy.

She flew forward almost blindly as branches and leaves blurred past her. Her heart beat wildly in her chest as she wove through the forest. She was too scared to look back, but the mania that she’d been holding at bay intensified as she flew faster. She almost forgot what she was running from as she began to cry. The fairy had never been so afraid in her life, and the crushing loneliness of her exilement was beginning to sink in.

In her haste, she saw the spider web too late. One moment, she was whizzing through a collection of tangled branches, the next, she was completely stuck. It took her several seconds to realize what had happened, and her fear turned to a cold terror as she struggled to move her arms.

Her wings were stuck in such a way as to where she couldn’t move them, and she flailed and kicked to escape.

She was able to crane her neck, and when she glanced to the left she shrieked loudly.

A large, brown tree spider was approaching her, no doubt the owner of the trap she’d fallen into. It was moving at an easy, steady pace, but it would be on her within moments.

Tia closed her eyes and hung her head in defeat. Traveling the unknown forest alone was death, pure and simple. It was one of the first rules that the children of the Gladen learned: Don’t engage humans, don’t eat the forbidden foods, and don’t travel alone.

She took some comfort in the fact that her death would be swift. A spider was not a malicious creature, and it would kill her mercifully before it ate her. If it wasn’t a spider, it would have been something else, probably something worse.

The next several seconds were full of confusion. She was prepared to feel the hairy legs of death upon her when she heard a screech. A second later, she saw the cluttered mess of an orange beaked bird descend upon the spider. There was a violent tussle, and as the avian fought the arachnid Tia was thrown about on the web as strands of it were torn. The spider was half the size of the bird, but it wasn’t allowing itself to be taken so easily.

Tia struggled against the web and tried to flap her wings. She was able to tear free on one side, but it seemed that the other would be too strong for her to escape from. It was then that the woodpecker flapped its own powerful wings in an effort to gain some leverage against çukurambar escort its new found prey. The dusty tips of the bird’s wings pummeled against her, and she closed her eyes and turned her head away as she felt it. The portion of the web she was trapped in finally gave way, and she tore her right arm free with her left before tumbling downward.

The ground wasn’t far off, and she almost didn’t make it, but she was able to flutter her wings fast enough to keep herself from falling to her doom. She raced off as the squabble above her continued, still unsure of exactly what, had happened. Her mind was wrapped in total fear as she once more proceeded to fly haphazardly through the forest, but minutes later she found that she was too exhausted to go on.

Tia slowed her flight and looked about tiredly for a safe place to rest. The sound of a waterfall could be heard nearby, and she ventured above the canopy for just a moment to see if she could find it.

She spotted it a short distance off and looked all around the skyline. There didn’t seem to be anything around, but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t. Her body ached and her hair and face were completely covered with dust. Her green tunic was likewise filthy, and the thought of going back down into the forest and trying to navigate to the fall didn’t appeal to her in the least. She decided to take the direct route, and headed straight towards the fall.

She arrived safely within minutes, and surveyed the area with a slack expression of exhaustion. The waterfall wasn’t very tall, it might have been twenty five meters from top to bottom. It was a powerful fall, however, and the sound of it crashing down into the pool below could easily be heard from high overhead.

The crest of the waterfall was cascading from an open maw cut into the side of a cliff, and Tia flew towards it. The wide cave that the flow spilled from looked inaccessible from either the top or the bottom, and the young fairy doubted very much that anything would be living inside. For as wide as it was, it was quite short in height, and it seemed far too confined for anything larger than a racoon to find residence in.

As she neared, the sound of the water below her was almost deafening. She approached the opening cautiously and peered inside. To her surprise, an otherworldly purple light was emanating from somewhere deeper in the cavern. She entered into the shade of the cavern slowly, scanning overhead for signs of bats or anything else that might try to make its home in such a cave.

She was relieved to find the cave empty of life. As she edged forward, the purple light grew brighter, and she found that it was enough illumination to see by. The cavern actually became narrower as she went, and soon the sound of the waterfall was a distant, almost tidal ringing.

She examined the walls and saw where the source of the light was coming from. Thousands of tiny glowing mushrooms dotted the sides of the cavern, collectively bathing the entire area with soft purple light. The light shimmered and danced over the surface of the water, and though the sight was incredibly gorgeous, Tia was too worn out to enjoy it.

She found a small divot in the wall that was large enough to house her, and she curled up inside of it. As she settled in, the events of the day caught up with her all at once and she buried her head in her hands. She had no idea where she was and she would never be able to go home. The very thought was soul crushing, and she had no constitution left to deal with the emotional turmoil. As the gentle whisper of the rushing subterranean river echoed throughout the mysterious cavern, Tia finally broke down and wept herself to sleep.

The broken fairy slept like she was dead. When she finally awoke, she didn’t know how much time had passed, all she knew was that she was extremely hungry. It has been nearly two full days since she’d eaten, and multiple run-ins with death was a thing that was known to burn calories.

She poked her head out of her hidey hole and glanced around. One she determined that it was clear, she fluttered out and lowered herself to the water. The river was far less placid than it appeared, and she drew away quickly when she reached out to touch the flow. She glanced up hesitantly in the direction the water was coming from, and decided that it couldn’t hurt to venture deeper inside.

Interestingly enough, the tunnel began to widen as Tia flew forward. The light from the glowing purple mushrooms intensified, and the tunnel began to move upwards at an incline.

Tia followed the up current and stopped when she saw a second tunnel on her left. The water flowing from the new tunnel was traveling much slower, and was smaller in size, and Tia assumed that it was simply one of hundreds of streams that came down to meet the waterfall. She felt gritty all over and she hoped that the water pooled somewhere further up; the prospect of a bath was nice, and the thought ankara escort of getting cleaned was almost as appealing as the thought of a large meal.She followed the split and headed in a new direction, still moving cautiously but with increasing impatience.

It wasn’t long before the tunnel opened up into a massive cavern. As far up as she could see, red and purple mushrooms sprang out of the wall in millions, throwing their strange light into the musty room, bathing it with seemingly supernatural glory.

At one side of the room, a small trickle of water eked it’s way down the impossibly tall wall and pooled into a miniature pond that was spilling over.

She approached the pond quickly and marveled at how pristine the water was. It’s crystal clear surface reflected her own face back to her, and it she smiled weakly. She dipped her foot in and shivered; it was cooler than she thought it would be, but it wasn’t cool enough to be called cold. Still, it was too cold to bathe it, so she did the next best thing and knelt in front of it. She cupped the water into her hands and splashed it on her face before going about the task of washing herself.

Several minutes later, the girl was feeling much better. She sighed as she tossed her short hair about to remove some of the excess moisture. Afterwards, she stared at the flow of water making its way down the rock wall and followed it up with her eyes. The presence of the water didn’t necessarily mean that there was another way out, but it did mean that the cavern wasn’t completely impervious.

Then, her stomach growled. It wasn’t a small sound, either, at least, in reference to her, and she looked down at her tummy and frowned deeply.

She looked about the cavern and saw no signs of anything edible. If course, she knew there was no reason for anything edible to be around, but the thought was nice. She set her jaw and readied her wings before flying upward in the direction of the water.

Such an ascent was tiresome, and it was several minutes before she reached the ceiling of the cave. As she suspected, the water flowing through was trickling through an opening that was only several times wider than she was. Not wanting to waste any more time than necessary, she flew to the opening and carefully landed just inside the threshold. Keeping her balance steady, she turned her body sideways and wriggled herself through.

It was rough going for a while, and at some points she thought that the opening was going to become too small for her to fit through. In the end, she was relieved to find that the water hewn tunnel ended, and she clambered through into an entirely different room.

Tia’s jaw dropped. The room she was standing in was so incredible that she almost forgot about her hunger. The walls were covered in glowing mushrooms, like the previous room, but here a series of great, thick tree roots were gnarled and twisted about. The roots jutted through the stone ceiling like huge living pillars, and In the center of the room, beneath the thickest part of the roots, was the most beautiful mushroom that Tia had ever seen.

The mushroom was tall, and its cap was wide and smooth looking and speckled with red dots. It’s beveled edges were immaculate, and it’s hue was pinkish red. It was many times larger than she was, but the most notable thing about it was that it was almost pulsing with magical energy. Being a being of magic herself, Tia could feel the power emanating from the giant fungus.

She drew closer to it, almost reverently, and as she looked up at it’s towering form her blood went cold.

“I know what this is,” she whispered meekly to herself as her breath caught in her chest. She was staring at one of the forbidden foods.

She’d only heard myths about such things, and the ideas and warnings pertaining to them had been ingrained into her since childhood. The forbidden foods were, as she understood them to be, any edible thing that had been imbued by magic. The stories surrounding the foods always ended in disaster and death, but as she looked upon the glorious, beautiful mushroom in front of her she wondered how many of the stories had been exaggerated.

Her stomach growled violently and she winced. She’d never been so hungry in her life, and the spectacle before her was offering the greatest meal she ever hope to partake in.

Even before she realized what she was doing, her wings were already humming, lifting her higher towards the cap off the mushroom. She landed gracefully at the top, and her mouth salivated at the faint sweet smell.

“I can’t,” her voice wavered as she looked down at the ocean of sustenance that she was standing on. “It’s not right…” her voice tapered off as she realized what she was saying. She had already broken every other rule: why should she exempt herself from this one? She’d been exiled, and there was no one around to stop her. She had nowhere to go and a short life expectancy outside of her tribe, so what, really, was the worst that could happen to her? If the mushroom was poisonous, she told herself, then at least she would die with a full stomach.

She knelt slowly and placed her hands on the soft flesh of what might be the death of her. “I don’t care,” she said aloud as she lowered her mouth.

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