Founders Valley Pt 1

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KARRIN CURTIS

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A Backrooms Story
⤷ Massacre in the Founders Valley, pt. 1

“Tell me a story.”

Naomi was laying atop the cargo, her head upside down staring at her sister, Karrin. Naomi was a bright one, with a wide grin, missing tooth, and long tangles of hair cascading over her face. Across her face were freckles and shining green eyes so full of life, glowing in the fluorescents humming ever presently above.

Karrin glanced up. “Get off the boxes first. You’re not supplies.”

Naomi disagreed. “I’m totally supplies. Look! Blah.” She stuck out her tongue and played dead, squeezing her eyes closed in mock slumber. “Still don’t know why you’re walking.”

Karrin liked walking on long trips. It made her feel strong; like her legs were doing something useful. She shrugged at her sister and swung her arms purposely. “Something to do.” Some deliveries were nice and short adventures. A couple of cycles between friendly faces, Mama and Tonton would deliver the supplies, get paid, and be onto the next settlement just like that. But now they were on a much longer job. Karrin had never been to the renowned Alpha Point and her excitement to see the big city was at first uncontainable, but once the journey stretched on to dozens of cycles her enthusiasm had quelled to a dull simmer. Sleeping on the sleds got boring, so the next best thing to do was to walk alongside them.

"Tell me a story KC." Naomi whined, dangling her arms limply in defeat. It seemed they were both tired of the journey. Karrin called it the brainmush, the familiar Porter feeling of being in one level for too long. "I'm bored."

"A story huh." Karrin pondered for a moment before a mischievous grin crawled at the corners of her mouth. "Ever hear the one about a little girl in carpet heck, with the brainmush?” Karrin playfully shouted, and poked Naomi on the nose with her sleek walking stick.

"No!" Naomi retorted with a squeak and grabbed her face in mock surprise. "Not the brainmush!" She giggled and rolled off the sled, landing on the carpet with a soft thud on all fours. Her voice got growly and dark. “You know what happens to peasants who wander the halls with brainmush, Karrin! They turn… nasty.” With a grumble and hiss, she flailed her arms menacingly as the supplies slowly rolled on ahead of them.

And so, storytime turned into game time. Karrin smiled and struck a pose with her stick, ready to strike at the vicious feral before her. “Back, foul beast! Or I’ll show you what a Porter can do!” She spun the stick in a flourish and held it with a purposeful grip at the ready. When Naomi lunged at her in a playful leap it was a simple matter for Karrin to deflect her sister's body and fling her to the floor in a tangle of giggles.

"Ow, fuck! What the hell!" Naomi coughed out through her laughter. She scrambled back to her feet and pouted, striking a similar combat pose as Karrins. "Not fair you have that stick, or I'd have bit your eyes out." The sleds continued on.

A voice called out to the two roughhousing girls from ahead; Mama Margaret with a stern tone. "Don't you angels get lost now. Come on." Since every room looked the same it was far too easy to get separated from one another in the Halls. The two looked up sharply at Margaret's tone and jogged to catch up.

"Yes, Mama Margaret!"

"Karrin was about to tell me a story about the brainmush." Naomi had caught up to Margaret's sled and hopped onto it, taking a seat next to her and leaning into her rough cloak. Margaret reached around the girl's shoulder and hugged her in, keeping another hand on the reigns of the six-legged canines that pulled the sled.1

"Oh? Karrin the storyteller!"

Karrin stepped up next to the sled, keeping pace and twirling her walking stick. "Was not. I was about to kick her butt for turning feral. Save you and papa from getting your eyes eated out by a Hall monster."

"Eaten." Margaret corrected. "And besides, Naomi would never eat my eyeballs, would you? They'd be awfully yucky." The girl under Margaret's arms giggled and protested loudly, defending from a playful tickle. Karrin exclaimed.

"Not like she could! You'd slice her up quick as a flash wouldn't you Mama."

Margaret nodded. Nothing had snacked on her eyeballs so far, and Margaret had no plans on giving any tormented beast or twisted apparition the pleasure any time soon. "Quicker than you could say 'don't mess with Mama' that's for sure!" And she laughed, a contagious hearty chortle that Karrin smiled at warmly.

Naomi held out a tiny fist, putting on a playfully serious tone. "Nothing bad would ever happen to us while Mama and Tonton are here."

Margaret nodded again. "Never ever, little one."

Tonton, more professionally known as Master Antonio, rode ahead on another sled keeping his mind on navigation. In his hands was a steaming mug of tea; sludgefairy lily and dragonwing with mushrooms, a mixture which helped Porters keep a sharp focus over long trips. Slung over his shoulder was Antonio's sturdy crossbow, the long and polished wooden tool which had protected his family for many many circuitions. Atop his head rested an extremely wide and shallow conic hat made of light cloth, decorated with dozens of hand-inked drawings of creatures and landmarks.

Together the four were the Curtis Porters. Reliable. Well-travelled, and dangerous. And; for this trip escorting a sizable caravan of volunteers to help bring provisions and medicine to Alpha Point, the UNCB's bustling city of the deep Halls. They were to travel a long road — ninety-seven cycles — and had to be well provisioned for the journey. A caravan of Palmers on pilgrimage to the Halls' valley of founders followed in toe, wheeling carts and wagons and hauling packs of supplies and food for delivery to the people of the Point.

Naomi wiggled underneath Margaret's arm. "What's the founder's valley like Mama?" Karrin glanced over at the question, curious to hear what she might say, and orbited a little closer to the sled as she walked. Margaret's face scrunched into a ponder. How long had it been since her last visit to the valley? Ten… twelve circuitions? Naomi was not even born yet. Karrin was a little larva of a girl, babbling and staring at the world through large curious eyes. They were porting Flat Gas to arm settlements against the creatures of the Halls, but it was a very short visit. With child in tow, the Porters Curtis left before the gas could bring disaster — but the danger pay was worth it for Karrin. Margaret's gaze clouded over with the fog of memories thought to be lost. How big they've grown, her little angels…

"Mama?"

"Oh yes." Margaret came to. "It was a very long time ago since we last visited. I'm sure it is quite different now. But…" She adjusted in her seat and reached her arm back up from around Naomi to grab the reins of the sled dogs. "The valley of founders is old. Older than Mama. It's just more of the same: hallways, lights, carpet, and boring sadness. But it draws people in somehow… like walking downhill even if you can't feel it. A huge area of space that wanderers just… wandered into. Over time, that made the Point."

Karrin had grabbed a hold of the sled and hopped onto the back of it, sitting among the supplies and getting comfortable on a crate of batteries. When Mama told stories it was always important to listen.

"The Point!" Margaret chuckled. "Oh, for all the talk about it, it's really quite a dump. For the Halls it's rather nice I guess, but nothing like you girls have seen in the deeper levels. Here life is hard. It got so big so quickly that not everyone could live there anymore. They've had to spread way out, making little patches of gardens all over with the seeds Porters bring them, making tiny households all around the valley so that people don't get too cooped up altogether."

Margaret leaned closer to Naomi and gave a little wink. "These Hall folks can be really rude to each other. Mama's had to rough a couple up in her time." Naomi giggled, and Karrin couldn't help but smile. She'd seen Margaret's talents at diplomacy many times before. Mama always knew how to get her way.

"The valley has all sorts of weird things in it though. It's the biggest and oldest city I know of in the Halls, and it's collected a fair share of oddities in its time. You'll see it all soon, just a few more cycles now."

Ahead of them, Master Antonio brought his sled to a slow halt by giving his dogs a curt whistle. Margaret nodded. "Might be closer than I thought. Let's go see what Tonton is up to."

The three brought their own sled to rest, with Karrin and Naomi running to the head of the caravan, eager to see what Master Antonio stopped the march for. Margaret eased her way out of her seat and patted the sled dogs on her way up to Antonio, reminding them of how great a job they've been doing.

Antonio greeted the girls with a warm smile and tired but sharp eyes. He held out a barometer to Karrin, and explained: "Air pressure is rising." She looked at it puzzlingly as she grabbed it, tilting the device towards her sister so they could both ponder the needles on its face. The two tapped at its glass to see if one would shift away from the tracking marker, and it jumped slightly at their touch.

Master Antonio stood and stretched his old bones, joints in his shoulders and knees popping in satisfaction. Margaret sidled up to them and shot him a curious glance. He responded with a casual thumbs up and a look of proud exhaustion.

"We've entered the valley."

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