The Woods by Moonhawk64
Disclaimer: I don't own The Village or anything related to it, nor am I making any money from this.
A/N: Yes, I quoted directly from the movie for a goodly part of this, but only for the parts setting up what's different from the movie, as there should be no need to quote the whole thing verbatim since it is 99% the same (except for what the villagers call the creatures). The title is actually the original title of the movie, until it had to be changed because another movie with the same title was also in production.
I also plan to post a version of my movie-based sequel: Whom Love Chooses to Unite that conforms to - and expands somewhat on - this Alternate Universe.
Edward Walker guided Ivy into the Shed That Is Not To Be Used, holding out her hand, to touch that which the Elders had kept secret for so long.
"There's an odd smell." She murmured, confused. This was a sharp but musky odor, not the scent of scorched wood, from when Noah had set fire to the roof; those shingles had been replaced long ago. Still, this scent was familiar, somehow. She had smelled it recently, but could not remember where.
"It is ahead of you." Edward encouraged her.
"What is it?" Ivy asked, her curiosity piqued.
"I cannot explain in words." Edward told her, but in truth, she would not believe any but her own senses in this. "It is just a few steps."
Ivy continued on into the shed, hand held out. As her papa had stated, it was only a few steps before her questing hand encountered something. She felt of it carefully. It was...smooth and hard, narrow and curving. She felt down until she encountered a sharp point. Long claws...? And then, suddenly, she remembered where she had smelled that musky odor before...on her porch, before Kitty's wedding, as she stood, hand held out, much like now. Only, then, no claws had touched her fingers; instead, it had been Lucius's hand that had taken hers and pulled her to safety - as she'd had faith that he would. But, now that she knew what was before her, the memory of his safety fled, and terror took hold of her.
"Those Who Dwell In The Woods!" Ivy gasped and tried to flee, only to have her papa's arms wrap protectively around her and hold her in place.
"Do not be frightened!" He continued to hold her protectively. "It is only farce!" She whimpered, and Edward spoke again, soothingly. "Do not be frightened."
After a moment, when she had calmed, Edward let her touch the costume again. She felt of the rough robe, which she could not see, but knew was bright scarlet; The Bad Color. She reached upward, touching the mask, which was the head of a wild boar; the dangerous creatures lived in the woods, and were sometimes hunted with long, strong spears for their meat and hides. Soon, Ivy was satisfied that the outward trappings of Those Who Dwell In The Woods was not a living creature.
Edward took Ivy outside, and sat with her, leaning against the shed's solid stone wall, answering her questions.
"There did exist rumors of...creatures in these woods. It is in one of the history books I used to teach in the towns."
"The...screams from the woods?" Ivy asked, still not sure if she was ready to believe Those Who Dwell In The Woods was not real. But Edward's words somehow did not comfort her.
"The creaking of trees, and squeals of the wild boars, most likely. We simply let the others believe it was Those Who Dwell In The Woods."
"The Ceremony of Meat." Ivy countered.
"Taken, most likely, by the wolves and coyotes."
"The drills? They are farce, too?" Ivy asked.
"We did not want anyone to go to the towns, Ivy."
"What about the animals? The skinned ones? Is that farce, too?" Ivy countered, becoming angry now at the massive deception that had kept all the villagers in fear.
Edward tried to take her hands in his, but she was having none of it.
"I believe it is as we have told the villagers; a wild animal, perhaps suffering from some sickness. We remain vigilant for such a creature, but I do not believe it will happen again as such an animal has surely perished of the madness by now."
Edward at last poured out his reasons for the deception to her, then, speaking of sorrow and loss and pain so deep as to be soul-shattering. And all caused by the violent and wicked people of the towns. The towns, so feared and hated that the Elders would do anything to protect those dear to them from the terrible things there, that they had left everything behind to come here, to give their remaining families a chance at something brighter, something better.
"Forgive us our silly lies, Ivy." Edward's voice broke. "They were not meant to harm." Ivy was chagrined and appalled. Her papa, always so strong, so wise, hiding such anguish as this...all the Elders, hiding such anguish as this...
"I am sad for you papa." Ivy told him, understandingly. "For all of the Elders."
Edward placed his old, gold pocketwatch in one of her hands, and a piece of paper in the other.
"On this paper has been written a tool of medicine." He told her. "It is common in the towns."
He gave her directions for journeying to the nearest town to fetch that which would, hopefully, save Lucius's life. Then he gathered the Village Elders to tell them what he had done.
Ivy's journey was fraught with peril; the fearsome sounds at night which she had clapped her hands to her ears and sung a lullabye to drown out, the fall down the sinkhole and panicked scraping at her Robe of the Safe Color when she realized it was covered with mud and the Color could probably not be seen, The Dweller In The Woods, who had chased her, and whom she had killed by tricking it into falling into the sinkhole.
Finally, however, Ivy had come to the gravel path, and had hurried down it, as quickly as she dared, until she had literally run into the wall. Determinedly, she had climbed the wall, tired, but unable to give up for Lucius's sake.
Ivy dropped down on the other side, and sensed a wide open space. A high-pitched scream had rent the air, making her jump and whirl around.
"I'm at mile twenty-seven. There's a girl." Kevin Lupinski said over the ancient, but well-cared-for radio of his equally-old motorcycle. "I'm going to check it out." Kevin carefully let down the stand of the bike and climbed off. He straightened the old, much-altered uniform and approached the girl, studying her carefully. One never knew what one might encounter - mutants, bands of raiders, savages...But this girl seemed more...lost...than dangerous. She was also, as Kevin realized quickly, blind.
Her explanation seemed fantastic, but no more so than anything else in the past twenty years. Kevin took the pocket watch and paper she held out to him. The paper listed medicine and Kevin balked. Sure, this girl was willing to trade for it, but still, medicine was so rare and precious...
Kevin told Ivy to stay where she was while he went to the guard shack - one of the few still operating.
His supervisor, Jay, looked up from the other radio, which he was fixing, again. "I tried calling you on the walkie. Thought maybe you'd gotten into trouble with a mutant or something."
"Oh, no, it was just some refugees from the city." Kevin improvised hastily.
"Give you a piece of advice?" Jay asked, but it wasn't a question. "Don't get into conversations. Conversations lead to complications. This is an easy gig, Kevin. Patrol the border, keep out mutants and raiders. A few years ago it got out that this preserve was still here. Government wanted to take over and clear the land for cultivation, on account it was good, fertile soil. Fortunately, they were convinced otherwise because trees are too valuable as oxygen-producers. It was a very stressful time for me. Do not cause any trouble. Do not get into conversations." Jay went back to fixing the radio while Kevin nonchalantly palmed the medical supplies Ivy needed. As he turned to go, the radio blared to life.
"...mutation rates stabilized at nineteen percent and infertility rates at twenty-seven percent. The European Coalition reports mutation rates at twenty-two percent and infertility rates at thirty-four percent. Meanwhile, a gang of raiders broke through the barricades in Butler and left one hundred and eighteen dead and four hundred fifty-two wounded before retreating with canned and dried goods..."
"Uh, Jay, where's the maintenance ladder?" Kevin asked as Jay finally managed to lower the volume on the old radio. "There's a part of the wall that needs repairing."
"It's in the back, with the trailer for the bike." Jay replied without looking up from the stubborn volume control. Kevin left without another word.
Ivy sat on the ground, hoping for Kevin's quick return. Papa had said that the people of the towns were all wicked, and yet, he had sent her to ask for help, and Kevin had been kind enough to promise it. Were the towns really so irredeemable? Or was Ivy just incredibly lucky to have encountered someone who wasn't all evil? Either way, there was not time to dwell long on the issue, for Kevin returned with the medicines she needed, and Ivy had to hurry quickly on her way.
Ivy's return through the woods was uneventful, but still she worried - worried that she would return to find that she was too late, and Lucius had passed while she was gone.
Fortunately, when she entered the village, Beatrice informed her that Lucius yet lived. With a sigh, Ivy hurried to the doctor's place, answering questions absently, her mind only on getting to Lucius with the medicines.
When informed that Ivy had not only returned, but had been attacked and had killed one of Those Who Dwell In The Woods, the Elders attending Lucius's bedside had known immediately what had happened. Noah! Still, the Elders had voted to continue the village, comforted in the knowledge that in all the years they had been here, Noah was the only person who had committed any acts of violence, compared to what they had known before.
Ivy entered the doctor's place, then, and let the medicines be taken from her while she was guided to Lucius's side. She took his hand. "I'm back, Lucius." She told him. Everything would be all right now. The village would be all right, no matter what.
Noah lay at the bottom of the sinkhole, clothed in his Dweller's robe. His broken leg prevented him from climbing out, and he lay frightened and alone.
But not for long. He held out his hands in supplication to the figures in bright scarlet robes who stood at the edge of the sinkhole.
Finally, a place he truly belonged!