The small band of Outliers and their Fae companions wasted no time navigating an entirely different path back to the Greenhouse. They traveled with a steady, cruising pace, at first following the pipeworks, and then the biohazard and toxin warnings. Some miles later they approached the underground encampment from a disused platform and followed it up the way toward the front car.
Though Gwydd was stalwart at Willow’s side, the sheer pollution of the city was sickening even to her, and she too felt more queasy and tender than normal. Willow’s skin looked strangely dry.
“Let’s find you a mirrorpool of some sort so that you can contact Ry’llia.” She rubbed Willow’s arm in a side-embrace and slid open the train-car door.
The front car was effectively the community kitchen. Food was cleaned here, bunches of herbs were hung to dry and water filtered through a simple filtration system that was impressive in its simplicity. The humans had certainly done well foraging for themselves.
“Hey ladies! Welcome back.” Hadron’s smile faded quickly when he actually saw them and he moved to help Willow to a high cutting-block table central to the kitchen. “What happened up there?”
The warrior-pixie tensed her jaw as she spoke, “Willow’s type are highly empathic. They feel the course of energy, the land, people – it is just dark up there, poison. Do you have any water?”
“What? Oh, yeah, yes – jeez, where are my manners.” Hadron wiped his hands on a cotton rag and drew some clear liquid from the sink into two wooden tumblers. “Sorry. You both look like you could use some food.”
Gwydd accepted the water from him gratefully, their fingers overlapping around the girth of the cup. “I…thanks.” She wanted to take the cup but her hand lingered with a mind of its own.
“I need a bowl.” Willow’s soft voice broke the entrancement and Hadron turned toward a huge kettle suspended over a fireplace that had been built from a co-opted dishwasher.
He reached for a deep-bored pottery bowl, and lifted the lid off the simmering stew. Delicious wafts of carrots, celery, potatoes and basil steamed up, filling the railway car. Both Gywdd and Willow looked at each other, through the sound of grumbling tummies, exchanging a glance of pleasant surprise.
“What’s on the menu, then?” taking one strand of beaded hair, Gwydd tied back the rest of them.
Hadron winked at her over his shoulder. “Stone Soup.” He started ladling in soup from the wrought-iron kettle.
“Seriously?” the lady-soldier copped a dubious brow.
“Actually, yeah.” Reaching for a pot-holder, he brought the soup over to Willow and set her with a salvaged spoon. He caught the hint of question in Gwydd’s eyes and smiled good-naturedly. “We rotate who gets to add the stone, but it reminds us all that everything we do here is a community effort and that each part plays an important role in the whole.”
The petite girl huffed in a half-smile; fairytales – the folklore of her kin - were still subtly helping to keep these humans alive. Still serving a purpose, she was relieved and invigorated somehow by knowing that everything the fae were to this world hadn’t been utterly lost in obscurity.
Hadron gave Willow a big-brotherly up-nod. “I figure if you eat your soup, you’ll have your bowl.”
“So it’s to be held for ransom?” She pulled her white-blonde tresses off to the side, taking up her silver spoon.
He raised his shoulders in a shrug, holding up innocent hands. “What can you do?”Both the girls laughed and answered: “Eat.”