Into Moose Valley

A First Glimpse

On a world as far away as the edge of a dream and as close as the end of a slide there is a broad, fertile valley snuggled down between two high mountain ranges, running down into a wide natural harbor. In the valley at the salt water’s edge, on either side (though more to the south than to the north if you want to be exact) of the river (which runs, jumps, plays and falls from the high mountain lake where the two ranges meet in the west all across the valley) lives one of the two strangest and most wonderful towns ever found anywhere.

If you are ever so lucky as to sail there, the first you see of Moose Harbor is the tall, graceful lighthouse. Its lamp never lets sailors go astray in those waters. The light pierces any obstacle, never hurts the eyes and always shines the color to sooth one best in any storm.

Once in the harbor itself, on a calm day, you can look down through the deep water at the stone ruins and all the fish and the young alligator who live there. Of the town, you would see to the north of the river the Port where boats and planes and hot air balloons and zeppelins and bicycles and land ships and space planes and all sorts of other modes of transportation may easily come to discharge their passengers or cargo, take on new passengers or cargo, refuel, recharge, re-provision or just relax without causing anyone any bother. Near to the Port floats the Inn. The broad, multi-story, comfortable, wooden building with the bluish slate roof drifts about over the water with a nice bit of lawn and a broad patio out back where one may sit and enjoy the sea air. If you do not happen to fly for yourself, just give a tug to one of the ropes which tether it in place and it will float down to the ground for you in short order.

Many of the other buildings have similar qualities, though most are content to stay on the ground if not always in the same place. There is the Moosiversity which makes up most of the town to the south of the river. It has classrooms in other lands and times that you reach just by going through the correct door at the correct time just like you would to reach your math lecture in a more ordinary school. Read more

The Bear in the Basement (Part 4.2)

Minion did not think she had done the house justice, so she spent some time working out the floor plans, and then she just had to redo the house descriptions, so here’s the first part of this one again, but better.

Just inside the front door, Maddy found a short but wide hall, lined on both sides with dull, metal coat hooks, a little over her head. The sound of approaching footsteps sent Maddy skittering out of the foyer. Directly ahead lay a narrower stretch of hallway, filled almost to overflowing with shadows that bounced Maddy to her left into a huge, dusty room, striped here and there with thin bars of bright gold that leaked past closed shutters, plus a broad swath of light from the one bow window of three in the long stretch of wall to her left that the shutters did not cover. 

A second uncovered window was set almost directly ahead. At the far end of the dim room, it seemed more like a bright painting of a forest scene hung to one side of the wide fireplace. Part way down the right wall, nearer Maddy, a generously spaced staircase led up to the second floor.

I wonder what we are going to do with all this space, Maddy wondered as she listened to her footsteps echo down the approximate acre and a half of dusty wooden flooring. We could probably have fit half of our old apartment in this room alone.

Like the hallway across from the foyer, the staircase had no windows to light the way, so Maddy bounced past the risers, and on through the tall arch set in the wall beyond into another echoingly empty room. 

Only about half the size of the first room, it still seemed to take an age to cross. Another picture window opened in the side wall. The trees danced gently in the late afternoon sunshine, though Maddy gave them only a glance. 

A door without a knob in the right hand wall drew Maddy’s wandering path. A worn brass plate drew her curious hand. With only a slight pressure, the door swung open. Just inside, Maddy stopped for the first time in her explorations to examine the big old kitchen.

There were several immediate differences. While the first two, empty rooms felt cold and remote, an air of warmth and welcome and warmth filled the kitchen, and not entirely because it had all the windows uncovered, and for some reason the previous owners left it mostly still furnished. That late in the day, little sunshine hit the windows or the wide stretch of lawn beyond.

The room was not exactly a rectangle, with one corner bitten out just to her right, where in the first room Maddy found the staircase. Two closed doors led into this mysterious section. Probably a basement and pantry, or a small bathroom, Maddy thought, though she had no inclination at that moment to explore either.

In the corner opposite these, to Maddy’s left, a discolored patch of floor and wall showed where a double width refrigerator and freezer had stood. Beyond this, a white painted door with a smallish, square window led outside. Pale yellow curtains framed that window, when all the others, so far, stood bare on the inside, though shuttered without. 

Another fireplace stood next to the door, narrower than the first, and with an odd array of hooks and bars inside, and a heavy, black, metal door set in the stones to one side. Beyond this array of old methods for cooking stood a surprisingly modern, gas stove and oven that seemed far more out of place, though not unwelcome in that shadowy, old house. Pale wooden cabinets and counters lined the remaining walls, except for another door leading out the far side of the kitchen, and two windows, left of the door, and right of the stove.

What dominated the room, however, was a vast expanse of high table in the middle of the room. The heavy wooden top matched the counters and cabinets. It had obviously seen a lot of use, but equally, it had seen a lot of care, too. The top rose almost as high as Maddy’s shoulder, a good height for an adult to work at standing up, but it also had six tall, comfortable looking chairs with backs, seats, and arms lined in the same pale yellow as the curtains arranged along the two long sides.

Bear in the Basement (Part 4)

Maddy walked through the front door into a short hall. There were hooks all along both sides of the wall at about shoulder height for an adult. Those must be for coats and things. She quickly departed the foyer as her parents brought in the first load of boxes beyond the entrance lay a big living room. It was huge. There was a large fireplace in the far end of the room. She wandered through the living room. 

There were three, large bay windows on the same side of the room as the front door. There was a staircase off to one side. And on the side of the room from the windows was a large arch going into a dining room.

Maddy wandered out through the dining room. With no furniture, these two big rooms were like vast caverns. The kitchen was just beyond the dining room. While the front two rooms felt cold and remote, the kitchen felt warm and welcoming. There was a back door, a basement door, a pantry door, and a large, gas cooking stove. Also the kitchen had a small fireplace that looked very old.

Right in the center of the room was an old, battered wood table. The table was large and heavy, made out of a light wood. It had six chairs around it. Maddy wandered down a small hall from the kitchen, past a small bathroom, to the front door. And that was the first floor.

She sighed and began to drag herself to the staircase and upstairs. She got to the top of the stairs to see there was no real hallway. Instead, the stairs opened into a wide space. Around that space were five doors standing open. The one to the left was the big bedroom that would be her parents room. The next door was the upstairs bathroom. That left three other rooms for her to look at and pick one.

The first room was a small room with one window. Maddy did not like that one very much. It was small and very cramped feeling, even for her small, nine-year-old frame.

The next room was a big one. It had windows on two walls. This room let in lots of sunlight. Maddy, though, did not like the look of the closet door. She opened it to see a huge closet. It had a sinister feeling. This was the type of closet that boogey men crept out of in the wee hours of the night to spook children. No, she would not pick this room.

She sighed, that left only one room. She hoped it was a good one. Crossing the open space, she saw her parents had already brought up a dozen boxes. That last room was right beside the bathroom.

The Bear in the Basement (Part 3)

The house was large, but not nearly as large as the wall, gate, and long drive might suggest. The two and a half stories under the high peaked roof had once been painted a light green, but much of the paint had peeled away, exposing grey, weather stained wood. Broad windows were generously spread around that side of the building, as if the builders meant the house to have bright, sunny rooms inside, but dark green shutters hid most of the windows dark, leaving the building looking cold and forbidding.

Four chimneys stood proud of the sharply peaked roof, like sheep heavy with wool scattered around the metal rooster weather vane, shifting back and forth slightly in the light breeze that set the trees whispering without quite coming down to Maddy’s level.

There were four chimneys standing above the sharply peaked roof. On top of the roof at the front of the house, was an old weather vane. It had a metal rooster on it, shifting slightly back and forth in a light breeze that did not reach the ground.

“Go on in and look around while we start unloading the van. The last door on the front of the house is our room, but there are three others for you to pick from,” Maddy’s mother said, already reaching for her first box while Maddy’s father unlocked the front door.

“Don’t worry, kiddo. The sleeping bags and other camping gear should only be for tonight. The rest of our furniture and boxes should be here in the morning,” he said, pausing to muss Maddy’s hair on his way past.

Dragging her feet on the way up the front steps provided time for a good look around outside before facing what fate had in store. Other than the detached garage, which  looked like it started life as a bar, Maddy could not see another building in any direction. Who knew what might be hiding in all those trees? Maddy opened the door quickly before trying to answer that question.

Rather than going upstairs to pick her new bedroom, Maddy set out to explore the ground floor first.

The Bear in the Basement (Part 2)

Maddy stared out the window in the sudden silence accented rather than dispelled by the chattering violins. The trees had pulled away from the car, but they still stood like a wall just beyond the edge of a wide swath of grass grown just a little shaggy, not quite in need of mowing. Then someone in the front opened a door, and even the stringy voices went quiet.

Even after spending more than enough time in the car, Maddy made no move to unfasten her seat belt. When, she wondered to herself, and why did I become scared of trees. They were fine in the parks, for shading picnics and running around. In their little squares of dirt in the sidewalk, they were nice to stand under on hot sunny days. I wonder if it is the way they outnumber the people and buildings here.

Maddy knew quite well that it was silly to be afraid of trees. The worst they could do is fall on her, and even that would take some outside factor rather than a deliberate treeish attack. It made more sense to be afraid of what might be hiding under, behind, or in the trees, but sitting there, Maddy knew that was not it. She was afraid of the trees themselves. She could feel them watching her.

Suddenly, a face and shoulders blotted out most of the view, and Maddy had to blink once or thrice before she brought her thoughts out of the shadows and back into the van, and she recognized her Mum. With the carefully judged heave it took to open the minivan’s door without having it bounce back shut, Mum released the silence to go run among the shadows, while strange bird noises and a soft, but pervasive whispering rustle investigated the inside of the van.

“Come on, sweety. Let’s go explore our new surroundings,” Mum said, smiling. When Maddy sat blinking a moment longer, Mum’s smile turned commiserating, and she unbuckled the seat belt and lifted the girl to the ground. In spite of everything else, Maddy had to smile back. She was proud of the fact that none of her friends’ mums would, or maybe even could still comfortably carry them. Mum was not particularly big, at least not compared to Maddy’s uncles or father, but she stayed active, and if need be (even if just to amuse her audience) Mum could carry Father on her back, or over her shoulder, if he did not struggle too much. She said more of it was knowing how than strength.

Maddy tucked her hand in Mum’s. Together they rounded the van, and Maddy got her first glimpse of the new house.

The Bear in the Basement (Part 1)

Maddy sat staring out of the minivan window. Walled round on two sides by stacked boxes, it seemed like the trip had lasted forever. Father had taken a job in a town far away from the city, so the comfortable apartment–with the marks recording Maddy’s growth, and the odd little corner just the perfect size for drawing in while Mum typed, or edited, or sat growling at the characters who refused to do what she wanted–where Maddy had lived all her life had been torn apart. The movable parts had gone into boxes and a big truck, while Maddy had to say goodbye to all her friends, and squeeze into the little non-box filled corner of the van and move away to a house and a town that she had not even seen, yet.

Nothing but tall trees and the dark shadows underneath could be seen beyond the edge of the highway when the van turned off at an exit that did not even have a gas station to mark the junction with the small, two-lane country road. Maddy was not impressed.

From beyond the wall of boxes, Mum’s voice melded easily with the quick, energetic violin music playing through the van’s speakers. “Maddy, are you awake? We will soon be there.”

For a little more than an instant, Maddy considered pretending to be asleep and keeping quiet, but that would not change the view outside the window. “Yes, Mum. I’m awake.”

Maddy looked harder, trying to see past the trees. Maybe, just maybe, she caught a glimpse of a building or two back beyond the shadows, but Maddy could not be certain. They had driven for a very long time, and even a summer’s day comes to an end at some point. 

The minivan turned away from Maddy’s view, and the going grew rougher. I wonder if Father just turned off the road, or if there is really a driveway under us, Maddy wondered to herself. After only a few seconds, they stopped, and the sound of a window opening crept into the music, like an odd, sibilant percussion line, followed by a bigger, more metallic rattle. When they moved forward again, with a damp, organic breeze with an unfamiliar sharp note still exploring the van’s interior, the sight of an open gate set into a tall, stone wall shocked Maddy. 

Just what kind of place is this? She craned around, watching the gate start closing by itself until the boxes behind blocked the view. Maddy leaned into the boxes at her side, trying to see past the seat in front of her to catch her first glimpse of the house ahead of them. She could see very little, no matter how she pushed and leaned, but it took at least another minute or two before the minivan came to a stop, and the engine noise fell silent.

Moosepedia: Matilda

Name: Matilda, Momma (to one very special moose girl), Formerly Melio Muse of History

Biography: Matilda has always been fascinated by different cultures, and all the stories of how they got to be the way they are. She greatly enjoys teaching others the stories, as well. This pairing naturally led to a lifelong calling as a teacher.

It was through her study of those stories that Matilda, as Melio, found the evidence that led the Moosympians to abandon Moosympus.

It was through Matilda’s daughter, Miranda, the lost child of Moosympus, that Matilda met the first children of the Valley, and started what would become the Moosiversity, with branch campuses in Funtown and the Valley of the Frogs and other places.

Domicile:  When Matilda and Miranda first built their house in Moose Town, it ended up being quite a bit larger than they expected, with a whole floor and several common rooms more than they thought there should be. The extra space came in very handy when lessons for Miranda suddenly swelled into a full boarding school one morning.

It did not take long after that for the Moosiversity plans to blossom in minds and on drawing boards as a major part of the new town, Moose Harbor, that would tame the delta at the river’s mouth.

Matilda and Miranda’s house was moved to form part of the campus between the first of the dormitories, the first laboratories, and the orchard. Matilda still takes in boarders who are too young, or too shy, or have some other reason not to thrive in the dorms. And, no matter how many administrative duties running such a complex Moosiversity may generate, Matilda always has time to teach and spend time with her daughter.

Interests: Matilda always enjoys learning new things, She and Miranda often take one or two of the more… interesting classes together, things like ice cream making with Lady Moo, or Dirigible Flying and Maintenance with Mary, or Ballistics with Marmaduke. 

You never know what or who she will take an interest in next.

Moosepedia: Maximillian

Name: Maximillian (He usually goes by Max.), Formerly Maides

 

Biography: Though, as Maides, Max preferred to stay in his own subterranean realm, and rarely visited Moosympus, he is still considered to be one of the original Moosympians. He is Meus’s oldest (and largest sibling, and one of his closest advisors.

When Meus set out to establish Moose Valley, he invited all of his siblings to come along. Memeter had taken to wandering the worlds, employing her craft as she saw fit, and felt no need for a fixed abode among the other moosey ones. Moseidon had established his own society of meremoosen, deep under the salt waves, and could no more easily adapt once again to life on land than he could easily abandon or transplant the other meremoosen to Meus’s new settlement. Mestia left their mountain home well before the end, and while the others still communicate with her not infrequently, none of them really know to where Mestia moved, at least not yet.

Only Max, of all the siblings, went with Meus and the larger part of the other Moosympians when they moved to the Valley. He was more than ready to set aside his old job and his old name. There are some indications, however, that suggest that Max still has more to do with his old job than the sculptor, stone mason, and architect he appears to be might suggest.

 

Domicile: Max is naturally a very big moose, and he has trouble reducing his size down to something more of a kind with most of the other Moose Valley residents’ daily wear proportions. He, also, tends to be rather shy, and uncomfortable with large groups, so he built his home in a nice set of limestone caves right off the underground headwaters of the southern of the two tributaries that form the Moose River.

Max chose not to replicate the vast manor he left behind. Instead, he has a much smaller space, with a bedroom for himself; a sleeping room for Max’s best friend, Lee, with a pool in one end that connects to the tributary; and a third bedroom built to Max’s size, but with clusters of furniture on several levels built to the sizes more comfortable for his smaller friends and family. The kitchen, dining room, study, and parlor are furnished with the same courtesy in mind. With Miltin’s active help, Max even has elevators and monorails from the different levels and different rooms, so that overnight guests do not have to spend half the morning climbing out of bed and hiking to the dining room for breakfast. Some people do not appreciate cold eggs.

 

Interests: Max and Lee provide most of the quarried stone for construction and decoration in Moose Valley. They even export some to friends in other places. He formed the great slides that gave the Slide Mountains their name, and serve to keep their grumpy, fire-breathing, northern neighbors where their periodic wildfires keep to the grasslands and away from the homes and settlements.

Even more than great projects like that, Max enjoys sculpture. There is a broad stretch of cliff at a point where the Moose River grows narrow and swift, where Max has carved a vast mural into the cliff, including all his friends and kin engaged in activities that help define who they are. The mural is rarely finished for long. Max is usually the first person newcomers to the valley meet if they came by one of the to adjust to a new way of life can be a good way to  make new friends.

 

Moosepedia: Moosette

Just so you know, I noticed Minion forgot to list Meus’s interests in last week’s post, and it has been edited to include that section.

Name:    Moosette, Matriarch of Moose Valley, Manu Tahura, the Beast of the River

Biography:

Long ago (Just how long, no one really knows, though it was well before the Moosympians decided to abandon Moosympus.), a moose was born who was not like her mother. She was smaller, more supple, and more curious than others her age, and when her mother moved on, leaving the young moose on her own, she was lonely.

The young moose wandered far, until she met a young human called Emma, who taught the young moose her first language, introduced her friend to many concepts beyond what an ordinary mother moose could impart, and gave the young moose her first name. Emma chose Moosette, after her grandmother Musette.

Girl and moose had many good times, out in the woods, when Emma could sneak away, but Emma eventually grew up and had to move away, leaving Moosette alone again. After Emma, Moosette met many humans, some nice, some very not, until she settled in a valley with no near neighbors closer than the islands well out of sight beyond the harbor.

Moosette had grown to mistrust many humans, though she never forgot Emma, so when humans tried to move into her valley, she would chase them away, but there were a few, if they approached her the right way, that she would help, for she had learned many things in her travels. They called her Manu Tahura, the Beast of the River, since the river that ran down her valley was more familiar than the wide spread of land, bigger than any of their islands.

It was only when Meus came to visit on his quest for a new home for his people, that Moosette found a people of her own, people like herself, who could accept and embrace all aspects of her abilities and history. With them, she built her valley into Moose Valley, and her proper home.

Domicile:

Moosette and Meus live together in Moose House, in the middle of the original town* in Moose Valley, with one side of the extensive garden against the river. Moose House is far larger than the two moose need for themselves, but they have a semi-permanent open house policy that fills up a lot more space.

Moosette’s kitchen always has fresh food and drink out for anyone who wants to stop by, whether there is anyone home or not. Moose House has extra parlors and living rooms for meetings, classes, and other gatherings that prefer a more homey atmosphere, or have some other reason to stay in Town rather than travel down the river to the harbor to use the more extensive facilities on the newer Moosiversity campus. Moose house also has space set aside for communal storage and a fair-sized, if rather specialized library, though most of those services are now handled by the Community Center and Marius’ Great Library.

In one, far corner of the garden is a shed where Meus keeps his old chariot. Meus is no longer the “King” of Moosympus, so the old contracts no longer apply. Moreover, the winds of that Valley are not the same as the winds of the Mountain, but the Valley winds like Meus, so every once in a while, when he has a good reason, Meus can still be seen riding his chariot through the sky, behind horses formed from the four winds as he did of old.

*(Residents generally refer to it as the town and the newer accumulation of buildings in the tamed delta where the fresh water met the salt, the harbor, but on the Valley map, it says, ‘Moose Town’ and ‘Moose Harbor’, as slightly more official names, if not very imaginative.)

Interests:

Moosette rarely leaves the Valley these days, but she is always interested in meeting new people. She makes certain that every newcomer, visitor or immigrant, to the Valley is properly greeted and made welcome, often changing her shape to something they might find more familiar until they get used to their new surroundings.

Moosette is the premiere shapechanger among the Moose Valley community, and often teaches morphing classes part-time at the Moosiversity, but her primary focus is the bakery she runs in Town, a gift from many of her friends when her Moose House kitchen started running out of facilities for all the baking she did for them and others.

Moosepedia: Meus, Patriarch of Moose Valley

Name:    Meus, Patriarch of Moose Valley, former “King” of Moosympus

Biography:  Meus is a very old moose, though there a few older. Long ago, he founded the mountaintop city of Moosympus, where he led the other Moosympians (as much as they needed leading) for long ages of human history, until his people ran out of room and stopped having children, and they found that, in a very subtle way, their free interactions with and offers of help to their human neighbors was doing more harm than good, and the Moosympians settled on a plan to move.

Meus searched far and wide, over several worlds until he met Moosette, a moose of another kind, who invited Meus and his Moosympians to come live in her Valley.

Domicile: Meus and Moosette live together in Moose House, in the middle of the original town* in Moose Valley, with one side of the extensive garden against the river. Moose House is far larger than the two moose need for themselves, but they have a semi-permanent open house policy that fills up a lot more space.

Moosette’s kitchen always has fresh food and drink out for anyone who wants to stop by, whether there is anyone home or not. Moose House has extra parlors and living rooms for meetings, classes, and other gatherings that prefer a more homey atmosphere, or have some other reason to stay in Town rather than travel down the river to the harbor to use the more extensive facilities on the newer Moosiversity campus. Moose house also has space set aside for communal storage and a fair-sized, if rather specialized library, though most of those services are now handled by the Community Center and Marius’ Great Library.

In one, far corner of the garden is a shed where Meus keeps his old chariot. Meus is no longer the “King” of Moosympus, so the old contracts no longer apply. Moreover, the winds of that Valley are not the same as the winds of the Mountain, but the Valley winds like Meus, so every once in a while, when he has a good reason, Meus can still be seen riding his chariot through the sky, behind horses formed from the four winds as he did of old.

Interests:

Beyond his responsibilities to the Valley, Meus also has an abiding interest in the weather. He maintains an observatory, high up in the Slide Mountains to the north of the Valley. There Meus studies the weather patterns of the area, and makes certain that picnics always have sunny weather, kite parties always have enough wind, the farms get enough rain, and Crismoose always has snow.

Moosepedia: Cody Elias Tower

It has been put to me, by my minions among others, that I have an awful lot of friends for someone else to keep track of. Moreover, as we continue to go out Walking and having adventures, the number of people my archives cover will only continue to grow. My minion is one of those poor humans who is so bad with names, that she has even forgotten her own on occasion, and she thinks those of you who will only get to know us through these archives (and she) might benefit from some sort of reference stating who is whom, a picture, and a few things about us.

I like to be helpful, so, of course I agreed. I asked my minions who they should like to read about first, and they have both chose me for some silly reason. They both know me quite well, after all. They pointed out that you might not, and you might rather want to do so, however embarrassing I might find writing about myself.

Name: Cody Elias Tower

Biography: With so many stories going through his head, Cody has trouble remembering about the time before he became the Moose Valley Archivist. There are some who should know who say that before the Moosympians moved to their Valley, Cody had another name and another job the great flying city of Moosgard, and he does not deny it. Mostly, he just finds talking about himself… less interesting than all the adventures his friends have.

Let us just say that soon after the Valley’s foundation, Cody was seen sitting in a shady garden nook, writing in a great leather-bound tome, and he always seems to know what has been going on, even when the action is worlds away.

Domicile:

One of the supporting pieces of evidence as to Cody’s Moosgardian origins is his chosen residence. Even on the sunniest, clearest day, that Meus can come up with, a fluffy cloud often drifts a lazy circuit around the Valley. Though its edges are a fluffy white, the sun does not touch the center. Sunshine does not pass through most stone, and Mjollnyr’s castle rests on that cloud. The top of the castle’s tallest widest tower, Cody keeps and creates the Valley Archive, with his living quarters on the level below, each level one big, airy room, broken into sections only by the placement of furniture.

Interests:

Cody is almost always to be found in those two rooms, unless a friend has stopped by to invite him out for fresh air and exercise. His books can write themselves, but Cody likes to keep watch over all his friends, just in case they might need him to call in help.