Goonbell was a small place nestled precisely in a crest of mountain ridges that Aerin thought the village would only likely be visited by those that knew exactly where it was, for it had obviously been constructed in such a place that no living thing could happen to stumble upon it. Smoke billowed of course from fires raging in its heart but as the smoke filled the sky it mixed with the heavy mountain cloudline like grey paint on an artist’s pallette. The village sprung to life behind every clump of trees or heavy gorse bushes. So readily did its wooden huts merge with the forest and bracken that surrounded it that as Aerin and Orpheus walked the few feet from one small clearing to the next what they had seen before them became completely obstructed from view. Aerin dipped her head and stooped at a drinking place where fresh icy water smoothly descended from a stone shelf carved into the rocks that gently directed a small tribute from the river to be used by the village folk. She allowed the clear liquid to pour down upon her hair and neck to wash away the residing dirt before also taking time to clean her hands and scrub the days travelling from her contoured face. After alleviating the distinct mud and dust from her skin she bowed her head lower to drink her full, taking pleasure as the water splashed inside and outside her chapped parched lips, the spilling water caught on another stone slab but occasional splatterings spotting her worn boots. Whilst Aerin drank she thought to herself that if she had not known the village existed but had stumbled upon the first dwelling, she would quite incorrectly have made the assumption that it was a singular hut, perhaps owned by a hermit. The mountain provided great protection cloaking the village with fern, pine, rock and crevice. A steep mountain wall provided shelter from the north and west whilst the remaining directions of sight were covered with thick forest, backed by the river beyond.
On the last two or three hours of Aerin and Orpheus’ journey their progress had been slower and slower as their route bent away from the bristling riverbank, cutting instead through deep forest that had hacked at their clothes fiercly by thorn and bramble. Nettles clung to Aerin’s bare legs and coarsened her skin, whilst sweat had poured from her brow, precipitated down her nose and collected neatly in the collar of her smock as flies had battled about her face that had started out to cause an innate sense of frustration whereby both travellers swiped fruitlessly to dislodge the bugs but ebbed away into reluctant resignation. Though the small mountain village of Goonbell’s location demonstrated an overiding purpose to hide itself from prying eyes and strange beasts its residence appeared very welcoming to Aerin who, it was later proclaimed, was acknowledged to be the first stranger to set foot in Goonbell for six whole years.
By the time Orpheus pulled off his green hood and held for a moment Aerin’s shoulder to guide her into a large shack established on the brim of Goonbell, Aerin’s body seemed to sigh in relief and she gladly was led and pushed down onto a large curved bench that mapped the wall it rested against. Orpheus deposited his large sack by an old man perched on a high stool in the entranceway, opening its draw-cord as he placed it so that stranger could peer into its contents. The old man positioned himself on the edge of his stool and hunched over slightly whilst his left arm rested on his walking stick. Aerin could not make out details of the old man’s face accept the tip of his rugged jaw and the long beard that fell from it since the rest of his face was disguised by the shadow from the owner’s large black rimmed ancient and well-loved helmet. The only action the old man took to acknowledge his two new guests was to tip his curled pipe in their general direction before taking a long draw, allowing the smoke to curl from his lips. Aerin’s attention quickly turned away from the old man towards the intriguing contents of the shambolic shack. Dotted around the wall of the shack (for it was round in shape) were wooden shelves and cabinets liberally situated at odd intervals, which were filled with many interesting objects, jars and potions (the contents of which were of varying consistency, colour and shape none of which Aerin recognised). Upon the hayed mud floor lay numerous large hessian sacks filled with various produce, fruits, vegetables, meats and grains. The hut was adjoined to another and Aerin, if she tilted her head to one side, could peer through its doorway to witness further shelves filled to the rafters with cut wood, another weave, fabric and cloth, another metalwork and arrowheads. Orpheus later told Aerin at supper that much of the goods may then be traded further down river with other tribes, but this was only accepted if with the permission of high council and set forward by the old man whose name was Cesonius. Most of the wares however was to be shared by the village people through all seasons and was carefully stock-piled accordingly. Cesonius furrowed his brow in contemplation of the contents of Orpheus’ sack. He dipped his hand into the bag and pulled out an intriguing-looking fish with large black eyes, circled with red and a silvery body, it was dead of course, but fresh. Orpheus motioned for Aerin to place the sack he had asked her to carry on the floor beside his own burden, which she hurriedly did not taking her eyes off the old man’s bristled lips. She opened it for Cesonius as Orpheus had done, and he seemed to smile. He peered up from his business and looked at his guests for the first time, he smiled broadly and held out his hand to them, much like Orpheus had done when he had first greeted Aerin. “My a dhannvon dhis kara” he croaked in a deep but cracking voice, Orpheus and Aerin repeated the sentence back to him. The ancient then curiously cocked his head first to one side and then the other whilst looking at the two bags of fish and stroked his great long beard. Before long he clapped his hands and beckoned his two visitors towards him stretching out his arms in a fine gesture to the goods stretched out before him. “Wha’ yea wan? Faree moight loiks sum keus, bara an sum sider for your tipple, you’s two ‘av got a lot’ear fish to spend!’ A foin catch Orpheus!”
Indeed Orpheus’ catch did seem wonderously large for it had only taken the pair of them but a few hours to catch on the eve of departure to Goonbell itself. Orpheus had first set his nets across the river right by his hut, stretching from riverbank to riverbank. The nets had glistened in the moonlight as the wee small hours of the morning had passed by. Orpheus after but one hour slipped into the water with a spear in each hand holding them high above his head. As he walked through the water towards his nets he had sung to the fish of their purpose, soothing their final moment. Aerin had seen the fish flicker on the surface of the water and had taughtened the nets. Orpheus then moved swiftly spearing those fish that turned to swim towards him so that before long his spears were full with wedged fish flicking their tails this way and that. He had swiftly signalled for Aerin to begin drawing the nets in, their weight having increased with the catch. As she had begun to pull the nets in Orpheus had launched his spears to shore then dived underwater to help pull the nets in. In exchange for his mighty catch of fish Orpheus chose four large loaves, two good lumps of cheese as well as two bottles of cider, tobacco leaves, a new knife, two cloaks, soap and leather soles for their tired boots. He also took some chicoree grains, beans, wood, rice, half a dozen eggs and several strings of bacon for them both. Lastly he added some new wire for his netting and proclaimed “Tha’ ‘ll do us”. Cesonius handed over two large hessian sacks much like the ones holding the fish and held them open so that Orpheus could place his goods inside them. Once they both were full Aerin hoisted one onto her back and Orpheus did the same onto his own broad shoulders. They shook the old man’s hand and wandered out into the night’s air.
Aerin had asked Orpheus how he knew he was getting a fair deal, what with the lack of pricing structure. Orpheus shook his head in confusion and smiled pointing at his recent acquisitions and proclaiming “fare is fare, fair is fare, ‘ho can put a proice on all tha’ man recquires? Oi would not enjoy my time on’t mountain if oi spen’ moi time cuttin’ all the wood oi need for the year an’ make all these nets an’ spears. Who can put a proice on happiness? As oi see it, oi gives sum of moi catch to the village that grew ‘n’ nurture me when I coud not get fish, to the village that show’d me how ‘n’ where to fish. In turn them fish feeds babies an’ the old who cannot fend for’em selves an that completes the circle”. Aerin then understood wholly the symmetry and simplicity of Goonbell and how and why it had survived in the mountains for hundreds of years and wondered that surely, in its origins, the city of Ilus had grown from such a simple barter system to become sullied with gold and tainted by the greed of modern men. She was heartened by the trust placed upon the Cesonius in the store and upon all those of the community to service it. It was such the antithesis of Ilus and its enhabitants forced devotion. Aerin vowed that it had been greed that had damaged the great city, those with power and money denying a voice to those with none and hoped with all her heart that Goonbell was never tempered by the manmade hammer of money.