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Chapter 23: Mushrooms

Toreus and Shakorja led the group as the plate dwellers guided them to their village.

It had not taken much talking to convince the dwellers to do this. It seemed that, despite myths to the contrary, they had a quaint custom of hospitality. Any stranger found in the underground would be given shelter, food and drink.

This was a far cry from the savages of legend who waylaid and even ate people caught wandering in the netherworld. It made the Prince think of something that his mother had once told him. “Toreus, it is best not to believe stories told about people by folks who have never met one of them. Always let your own experiences form your judgment.”

His mother was right. He had found that people had a bad habit of telling evil stories about strangers. The plate dwellers were hospitable. What other good customs did they have?

They’re not flesh eating zombies, thought radioed Shakorja. They don’t smell like meat eaters. I smell fungus—mushrooms.

Yes, transmitted Toreus. I have heard that a staple of their diet is mushrooms. They also eat Trongoroth cattle. That’s most of their meat. Except what they trade with surface people.

The village was in a junction where six corridors met. There were no huts because there was no rain down here. But there were partitions around living areas for privacy. Another plate dweller custom no doubt. One carried down from the surface world when their ancestors relocated here.

They were guided into one of the enclosures. A really big one no doubt reserved for public banquets and perhaps meetings of tribal elders—perhaps even guilds. There was a round table at its center surrounded by low sitting pads.

The guest sat on these and were served steaming bowls of some sort of fungus soup follow by casseroles and roasts. There was even a kind of wine no doubt made from mushroom and finally a roast of something that tasted like lobster but was, most likely, the flesh of Trongoroth cattle.

Colin ate heartily as was no doubt his custom. A soldier should never turn down a meal. In war you don’t know when you’ll eat again.

“This reminds me of an old saying in the Rangers,” he laughed. “We Rangers are mushrooms because we are always kept in the dark and fed manure.”

“We had the same saying in the lion men,” laughed Toreus.

While they were eating the repast served to them by the dwellers Joss Carpenter stepped into the enclosure where they sat.

“Uncle Joss!” shouted Leo and rushed to hug the tall man around his thighs.

“Well,” said Toreus. “You show up in the strangest places.”

Joss held up the Grimoire in his hands.

“I had help.”

“I’ve heard of those,” said the Warrior Prince. “But I have never actually seen one.”

“Not so much an aid as a reminder that there are much bigger and more powerful forces at work here,” said Lois.

“The Time Sorcerers,” Toreus nodded.

“And all the other elder races I’d guess,” said Nathan.

Toreus thought of the Seraphians in the alley again. Yes, there were other elder races at foot here.

“Cthulu,” said Colin under his breath.

“Perhaps,” said Toreus. “But we won’t concern ourselves with all of that now.”

“What will we concern ourselves with?” Colin asked.

“Our first mission—get the Taylor family to safety.”

Around the dinner table just about everyone nodded.

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