Darius Wilkinson, newly elected Warden of Margot’s Peak, faces the harsh realities of setting up a new community outpost in a post-apocalyptic world. Prowling cougars do not compare to a restrictive social structure that has left him with responsibilities to a harem in the mountain wilderness.
Genre: Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Erotica, Harem, Mature, Smut
The forests had deepend since I was a little boy. Once, great fires had turned the world to ash and sundered the sky in a grey cloak of snow. Now, pushing my way across the game trail, I found myself dizzied by the heights of birch and aspen overtaking a logged foothill. The old equipment had long since become one with ivy and the molehills, rusting in their partial graves.
I shifted the threadbare pack on my shoulders and chewed the bit of venison jerk I held between my teeth. Birds chirped overhead. They dashed in and out of treetops, a twitter of colourful plumage flashing under the dappled sun. One could lose themselves in these woods, thinking the Great Upheaval had never touched this little Eden. Yet, I knew better. Ever present, in a constant state of decay, tiny cabins and sprawling mansions fell into ruin beneath the leafy eves of Margot Peak’s behemoths.
Reasons might abound for why a lone man would ascend a foothill well past the last outpost of what could now count as civilization. Warden of Margot Peak had been mantled upon my shoulder three months past on the Birthing Eve. A time of great care in the dead of winter, when snow would pile up against the door; it was on that night that roles within the community were brought forward and bid upon. I found myself, a joint of mutton barely at my lips, baffled as to the overwhelming vote that bid me a Warden of the eastern face of the mountainside that overlooked the Cairn Valley and the handful of communities that called it home.
“A great honor!” “Surely, we need a man in his early years able to make the climb.” “You’ve been up in the hills since you could toddle.” These were all reassurances thrown my way as I wiped mutton grease from my beard in an effort to appear civil enough to receive any praise, let alone this type of praise.
“We need a new outpost.”
These quiet, solemn words, provided through a deep, aged voice, were the ones to silence the log sided town hall building. Candles flickered in the windows, bidding the last and darkest night to let us awaken in our beds to a new year.
“Mayor Schulz?” My voice cracked unceremoniously, ten years past when it should have stopped.
“Build yourself a cabin, fine enough for a Warden’s family, a fire tower to watch the hills, and a spot of land you can see a new village spread across. These are your tasks, Darius Wilkinson.” The ancient man, liver spotted bald head reflecting under the candles, held out a gnarled hand to offer a golden pendant with a garnet stone inset swinging from a heavy chain.
Gingerly, I took the warm metal and slipped it over my head. A pit dropped in my stomach with the weight of the pendant sitting against my breastbone. There was no denying the roles assigned in Cairn Valley. The community knew what was best to preserve the status quo. I was yet another cog in the wheel to keep the machine going, what little of it there was left.
A deer’s white flag drew me from my morose musings to the game trail beneath my feet. I had yet to find motivation to leave it, or to explore the handfuls of buildings that lingered just at the edge of sight within the undergrowth. I hoped, against rational hope, that if I stayed on the trail, it would lead to water. There was no point in felling and stripping logs if there was no water to quench my thirst.
One would think this a punishment, to be thrown headlong from the Valley and out into the unknown. It was, however, a privilege, if ever there was one. If the cabin held through the first year, and the fire tower held through the second, a call to establish a village would go up, and soon, there would be a spreading of the people once more. Agriculture on the mountain face could see to a new food crop and improved trade. I would oversee it until a time that a Mayor would possibly be needed, and that in and of itself held privileges a common farmer or tradesman would never experience.
Common farmer. That was what I had been, until the Mayor had handed me my role. The Valley, high in the hills above a desert landscape, kept itself cool in the summers by way of meltwater from snow capped peaks. The air lay crisp against my skin, chilling the higher I trudged.
Snow and avalanches would be possible issues living against the mountain’s face, but no more so than the valley would suffer through the melting springs. The ground leveled off beneath my pondering feet, jarring me from my musings. Drawing a few deep breaths, I studied the ascent and hoped to catch a peak of my prior home. Little houses dusted a lush green carpet like so many upended toys upon a rag rug.
“Where will you go, Darius? Where would be safe for a Warden’s Cabin?” I asked myself outloud, if only to break the silence of the mountainside and feel a sense of the familiar. It would not be long that I would live alone, as long as I could build fast enough. Yet, loneliness would be a comforting bedfellow if it meant my cabin be safe and true for a family.
Walking on, the game trail peeled away from an ascent to head north toward the cul-de-sac of the valley’s range. As the sun laid bars of shadow across my path and I thought myself in need of a second or third day of hiking through the bramble, a gurgling splash enticed me to walk on. The trail teetered along a rolling edge, teasing whether it would fall away into the underbrush or continue in tight twists around the rockface. Turning, it revealed a descent to a flattened jut-out not more than a man’s height below.
Feet firmly on the grass beneath the game trail, I marvelled at the denseness before catching the darkness creeping in at the hedgerow. The air around me thickened, and a mist settled into the hairs on my arms and across my beard. I pulled the pack off and rummaged in it to find my tinderbox and flint in desperation to fight off the onset of night that had come about quicker in the niche than I had anticipated. A click. A spark. A few puffs of breath had a fat-drenched torch dripping but lit. It took several careful turns about the field to discover the source of the gurgling stream. A natural spring tumbled off the edge of the rock on the west side, not more than a handful of steps from the rock that led up to the game trail. With a bit of work, I could create a rock-dammed pond that might water sheep and, with luck, people. I would need to assess that in the morning, though. No good would come of me bumbling about in the woods at night, far from the community, far from help.
Having stared at the stream until the Milky Way stood in sharp relief against the pitch-black canopy, I turned to my task at hand – a tent. I was not yet comfortable with the idea of keeping a fire. There was a possibility of dry grasses and dead trees that would send Margot Peak roaring, a red demon that would spell destruction for Cairn Valley.
The tightly patched cover kept moisture from wicking into my clothes, and the bedroll took the brunt of the prickles out of last season’s grass. An owl had plans for me to forgo sleep, but the yip of a fox sent the creature off down the mountain for a quieter hunting ground. Watching the full moon ascend across the tent wall drifted me to an uneventful sleep.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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