Sunlight spilled over them from above, filtered by a thin layer of algae on the windows, hanging ivy and orthostichella. The group crawled up from the manhole one by one, only to shield their eyes from the unexpected brightness. Time had distorted itself during the course of their dark, tunnel journey. Most of them hadn’t realized they’d walked, climbed and crawled throughout the entire night, only to emerge at first daylight.
As the sunspots faded behind eyelids, the band of Fae gaped at their surroundings. Even they couldn’t have expected this. Xan brushed some dust off his army-green sleeve, in order to hide the flush of pride that had risen in his cheeks. The people here had put a lot of work into this place they called home.
“Welcome to the Greenhouse.” There was no hiding his smile as he spoke, drawing in a breath of rich air through his nostrils. “What do you think?”
Gwydd leaned in on her spear as she looked around. Traces of the Human world were there, but nature seemed to have taken over and this band of humans cared for it. She looked at the mousy girl who had spoken up about the greenhouse first and smiled. That would be the one she took in. Easier to teach the ones more willing and more excited about the nature than one who seemed to hide their enthusiasm.
Her pixie brethren moved from the band, already starting to explore, to find points where they could be look outs and one exhausted pixie just found a spot to sleep. Gwydd nodded to Xan with a praising smile on her face and took the young girl by the hand to lead her to her brothers and sat her down.
Willow moved to Xan and, with lips parted in awe, couldn't speak for a moment. It took a breath from her and a touch to his arm before her words came. "This is paradise amongst the wreckage. You have all done so well to nurture this. Rest here will be most welcomed. We all should rest."
Their trek had been long. While some of the fae seemed recharged by the sun, several still looked tired. Gwydd, on the other hand, was fueled by something else, entirely. She looked at the girl after they sat. "What is your name?"
The girl, rather exuberant, almost bounced. "I'm Ion! You're Gwydd, yes? I heard some of them say your name. I like the pixie kin." Gwydd nodded. Her hands were busy in the mud, drawing out the symbol she noticed on the door, earlier. "Ion, what does this mean?"
“Oh, that?” Ion twisted a lock of hair that was slowly dreading. “Radiant. It’s what led us to you guys!” She added quickly, grinning at Gwydd. A youthful boy, nearly a man, commented as he approached.
“Close, sis.” He corrected the youngling gently, “It means radiation.” Before going on at the mouth, he stuck his hand out toward Gwydd. “Hi, I’m Hadron." His warm smile reflected the sun. "I manage the…well,” his arm swept around the Greenhouse. “All the foliage and gardens here.”
The feral pixie looked up at the boy as he spoke. Eyes, an vivid green, followed his every step from the mask of near black colored mud that painted them. He corrected Ion and introduced himself. He offered his hand and she took his arm, greeting in the old way. "I am Gwydd. And your leaves look nice."
She found herself holding on, just a bit too long before she pulled away. Gwydd moved back to her drawing. "Radiation? What does that mean to Humans that you would need to symbolize it?"
Hadron felt color rise in his cheeks, “Thanks, it really is a labour of love.” He released his grasp on her arm awkwardly. “As for the symbols, they were really before my time but as the story goes, back in the days before the Lockdown, The Man used these to label poison and toxin. Radiation was dangerous light, biohazards were a sort of natural poison. It must have worked, a germ pandemic escalated. People were so afraid of the flu, or killer bees, or hay-fever that piled into the cities.”
“Cities are gross!” declared Ion, taking her turn at drawing in the dirt.
The young man smiled at his little sister before turning a sky-full of blue eyes back to Gwydd. “Everyone believed they were poison-types of warnings, until a scavenger party reported they’d found one on a wedged door. Well, that’s when we discovered that really they were actually signs that led to the outdoors – not warnings, markers meant to scare off the unwitting.
"Radiation is just the sunlight, Biohazards are just the untamed woods or overgrowth – but the more The Man polluted the land and used up resources, the less attention they wanted to draw to it, so they labeled it all hazardous and used these as markers for secret ways out of the City when the Lockdown came.”