Now, we take a step forward. More than 21 million years have passed. Many, many species have gone extinct, environments have changed and the continents have shifted considerably due to the heightened seismic activity. And still, the Galactyans survived, refining their intellect, skills and deviousness. Unluckily for us, their hatred grew just as much as their other beautiful qualities.
However, as is expected after so much time, there were some big, big differences from 21 million years ago.
For example, let’s go to one of the southern continents. At this precise moment in time, the planet is in the beginning of one of the Great Storm Ages, with some of the cold of the previous Great Ice Age still lingering on the planet. A great anticylone is currently ravaging the islands of the equator above our continent, with two more on their way in a couple of days.
In a mountain range in the northernmost peninsula, just some dozens of kilometers south of the storm’s edge, a large cave complex overlooks a valley of tall flowering trees. The entrance of the cave has been blocked by a series of stones piled on one another, with a large slab of roughly cut down wood to close it completely. Inside, a small community of Galactyans live.
A cave like this one is a rare find. The entrance is relatively person sized and easy to block out, the insides are not hazardous and relatively spacious, with a ceiling tall enough to be relatively comfortable, but short enough to keep in most of the heat. Deeper down, a large underground sweet water lake rests comfortably above a series of small hydrotermal vents that provide clean water and warm up the rest of the cave.
The community is formed by a couple of small families, thirteen individuals in total, that decided to live together and act as one. The whole continent is brimming with dangerous predators that, while nowhere near as intelligent as they are, are still particularly cunning, intelligent and most of the time, just as deadly.
One parent of each family, either the mother or father, goes out each day to forage and hunt, while the other one cares for the family and crafts new rudimentary items and simple objects from the resources they manage to get. You’d be surprised at how much stuff you could get out of the corpse of a kheriuun! ( for reference, the niche it fills is similar to a terran boar. Sort of ).The children and the two elders help their parents and relatives as well. However, they also do some activities for the whole community that are also valuable.
The elders tell stories and tales of all kinds, either hailing from memories of their past adventures and travels, or from their imaginations. Stories of Jathvan stampedes, Terdiuk ambushes and Qewina migrations. The stories helped the community after days of hard work and suffering. They also gave lots of inspiration to two… special members of the community. Qennit and Pashoin, a potter and a painter.
Such “occupations”, if one can call them that, had become quite respectable between the communities. While the value they brought to a group wasn’t material like a hunter or a gatherer, it was mental. They decorated the caves and other dwellings, helped the mental state of their families and provided comfort to everyone.
In our case, both of them were observing the great storm at starset, watching from above the cave entrance, and getting inspiration from the bolts of lightning and swirling clouds.
“Do you ever think about the lightflashes?”
“Constantly. I think I asked you to paint them on a good chunk of my pots.”
“What do you think they are?”
“Well uh… honestly, I have no idea. Besides, I think only Zaftir saw them close.”
“Grandma Zaftir? Really?”
“Yes. She hasn’t told that story in a long time, but if I remember correctly, it was a long time ago, when she was still little.”
“Woah. That long ago?”
“Pretty much. She and her community were fleeing from one of the western graywood forests when another storm came out of one of the big ones, and started coming towards them.”
“Oh that must have been so scary! Wait, how did they not get sucked in? One of the passing travelers said that basically nothing remains in the northern islands because the storms sucked up everything.”
“Well it was much much weaker. If the big storms were a ramming khatkan, the one grandma Zaftir and her family had to face was like a baby Terdiuk. Still, it made so many flashes that the forests burned for days and nights on end.”
“I see. Did she tell hoe they looked like. I want to paint one on the walls now.”
“She said they looked like the branches of an Igtam tree, made of this incredibly bright light, so bright to blind you for a while, descending from the clouds faster than you can blink. They apparently make your hair go up if they hit closeby.”
“What do you mean… up?”
“Imagine the spines of a korkis. Kind of like that.”
“Woah! I had no idea that could happen! I wish I could experience that.”
“Trust me, you don’t. It’s a very scary experience. But it does make for good stories.”
“I bet they do!”
“Anyways, it’s time to go little guy! Kur and Las are going to start setting soon. We don’t want to be out at night. The terdiuk get particularly hostile when the forest blooms.”
“Those scare me a lot. It’s good that I know how to paint because otherwise I would have to hunt them too.”
“I mean, you could always go gather the berries in the valley close to the moutains.”
“I like that place, but uncle Dayunn says that the patches are getting more and more brown each year. He’s not sure if they will last until I’m old enough to go out.”
“If those bushes die we won’t have enough food to stay here. I like the cave so much, it would be sad to have to go away.”
“Yeah… well, it’s starting to get very cold, can we go inside?”
“Sure. Want a hand getting down?”
“No need, I’m a big girl, I can do it by myself!”
“You sure are. Go in, I’ll close the entrance.”
“I’ll start painting tomorrow morning!”