And so it came to pass that the King came into the plaza and announced he had found a new valley in which the people would dwell. He had seen the new place – the Fourth Valley – in a vision, he told the crowd, and had quietly brought engineers and builders there some time before. After they had been hard at work for a while, he began inviting a small group of Orange Guards to visit the Fourth Valley site and make suggestions to the builders. Finally, when all was near readiness, he told the people of the Grand Plaza, and bade them visit the new home he had prepared for them.
Some liked the new valley, some didn't, but the King made it clear that that's where the community would be moving. Because the current valley had been so good to him, the Moonbat climbed up to Passionate Heights and sat on the very edge of GBCW Point to have one last look around the old place.
The Moonbat had no intention of jumping, but from this vantage, he came to understand a little of the clarity that was always claimed by the would-be Cassandras who did take the leap. From here, one could see everything in the Valley, from the orange-tiled roofs of the burgeoning town to the craggy rocks where the trolls lived.
Several features were prominent: in the center of the small city stood the massive bulk of the Imperial Castle, where the King and his Chosen Ones dwelt and held court. The castle sat to the left of the Grand Plaza; along the entire plaza-facing wall were balconies from which the Chosen Ones could address the crowds on the plaza. Day and night, they appeared on their balconies, and kept The People informed of both the news of the world and what they thought about it.
On the other side of the Grand Plaza was the Speaking Rock, a natural formation which ran the entire length of the plaza. At its southern end, the path leading to it fell below the level of the plaza and hugged the side of the cliff before trailing sharply downward into an impossible-to-climb scree slope; standing on the plaza's Search Corner allowed one to survey (and sometimes even find things in) the vast Memory Hole that yawned behind and below the Speaking Rock and its approaches. The King permitted the People to try to ascend the Speaking Rock once per day; this was their one chance to clamor their way onto the loftiest end, known colloquially as "the Reclist." From the Reclist, regular denizens of the Valley could address nearly as many of The People as those speaking from the balconies of the Castle.
It wasn't an easy process, getting onto the Reclist end of the Speaking Rock. The queue formed at the foot of the Reclist, beneath an ungainly contraption known as The Algorithm. It was a kind of pulley device with ropes leading to both the Speaking Rock and the Plaza; the idea was for a speaker to jump in at the front of the line, grab the end of a rope, and start shouting whatever it is s/he wanted in the direction of the Plaza. If people on the Plaza liked what the speaker had to say, they would grab their end of the rope, and haul the speaker up to the Reclist. Only a relative handful were so blessed by the crowds; most people who sought to ascend found themselves pushed steadily backwards by new entrants to the line, and thus ended up slipping southward, down an ever-steeper slope on an increasingly-narrow path, until their work fell into the Memory Hole.
The Moonbat smiled a little as he remembered all the times he had clamored for a spot on the Reclist, and was nearly overcome by yet another wave of gratitude toward all those who helped him onto it over the years. He thought about trying to write a list to thank everyone who'd made this particular valley such a welcoming place for him and his screeds, but he knew he'd inevitably leave off a name that should have been on, and so decided to convey his thankfulness in the most heartfelt and expansive of manners:
"To everyone in the Third Valley," he shouted from the top of the highest crag in the Passionate Heights, "who ever dropped me a kind comment, rec'd one of my scrolls, or sent me spiritual or electronic kindness in any way: My eternal gratitude! You made this community one a hell of a place to spend way too much of my time!"
More quietly, he sent another round of love to his friends and novia from a village they once shared. Like so many of the numberless independent "renegade" settlements that sprang up on the periphery of Third Valley, it was gone now, and had been for some time, but life in that village had meant a great deal to him. So did being asked to write at Never In Our Names, Bits of News, Progressive Historians, and Docudharma, and the way that Swordsmith conceptualized (and made happen!) the idea of turning a diary into a book.
The important stuff attended to, the Moonbat sat again on the edge of the cliff, letting his gaze drift over the rust-colored fields and groves of eternal autumn that surrounded the village proper. Different groups met in those groves and fields, he knew, and he'd even dropped in on a few of them, though by no means all – he never spent much time, for example, in the Escher-inspired clubhouse labeled "I can haz pooties, woozles, and featherbutts?!," but he knew at least a few of the people who did, and appreciated mightily that they had created their own little corner of the Third Valley to call their own.
Ah, yes, the Moonbat thought, there's the fields and flowerbeds of the Saturday morning series people, and that place over there must be the Cheering and Jeering amphitheater, judging by the raucousness of what sounds like a neverending party. That satellite dish over there must be where the followers of Saints John, Steven, Keith, and Rachel gather, and I'll bet that Xanadu-looking set of yurts over yonder is where the book people spend their time.
Looking more closely, he could see the Eternal Flame of IGNT atop a little hill, its steady brightness a nightly reminder that patriots are made by actions, not merely words, and that far too many people over the past five years have gotten the news that no military family member ever wants to hear. Scattered about the Valley, he could make out the little outcrops and personal-sized speaking rocks where people spoke to those who sought out their words. He himself had learned a lot by sitting at the foot of these promontories and listening to the prophets and the ranters as they patiently educated or provocatively raged.
At the base of the steep slopes that ringed the Valley was a trail known well to the Moonbat; his eyes followed along its course until he saw the hour's Rescue Ranger, patiently giving one last listen to those soapbox speeches that didn't get enough tugs on the Algorithm ropes to gain one of the coveted Reclist spots above the Plaza. They do their work tirelessly and professionally, he thought, and it's a damn fine recognition of their faithful service that the Rescue Rangers will be outfitted with a brand-new stable and a bunch of high-powered spotlights when the emigration to Fourth Valley is complete.
No matter how widely scattered the campfires or speaking-rocks, though, all the roads and footpaths which connected them led back to the Grand Plaza, where neophytes and old-timers alike listened to the speeches from the palace balconies and plucked worthies from the line of hopefuls to ascend the highest heights of the Speaking-Rock. They did so under the owl-like presence of the Sage, whose pavilion sat just off the Grand Plaza, but who often intermingled with the crowd.
Alas, an authority figure such as the Sage was needed, for the community, despite its overall allegiance to a certain brand of politics, could be factious and contentious. It wasn't just speaking-rocks and small communities that ringed the village – those feral fields and forests also contained a number of ghost towns and ravaged settlements, some the smoldering remnants of a troll-hunter raid, others abandoned due to some fight or another on the Grand Plaza. The ruins of castles from which bold adventurers had attempted to lay siege to what they considered the town's conformist ideology were scattered about the landscape, as well.
The village itself showed signs of these same sorts of battles, if one looked closely. The Valley had been permanently occupied for the past five years, and its structures were pocked with the scars of battle. Entire neighborhoods had been rendered uninhabitable by flung poo, and the presence of pie was still detectable in the oldest streets in Third Valley. Wars had raged up and down those alleys and avenues, with the torch and flamethrower the preferred weapons. Such fighting was bound to do a lot of damage.
It hadn't always been like this – not so long before, just a little while before the Moonbat arrived, there had been far fewer people in the orange-hued valley. On the fruited plains below, wars and rumors of war upset the townsfolk, and many made their way to the left bank of the River of Political Discourse, and thence to the valley, where they settled among people who thought more or less like them. All of them, for example, agreed that Oliphants made for bad kings and princes, and that it was better for everyone if the Asses sat on the government's thrones.
Though they did have to weed out some trolls that tried to sneak in from the craggy badlands or the mucky places under the Bridges of Bipartisanship, for the most part, the valley folk welcomed the newcomers. Long ago, they'd realized that with the strange acoustical properties of the valley, a person shouting loud enough (or about something interesting enough) could sometimes actually be heard on the plains and in the cities below, and could even help to direct the movements of the herds of sheeple on the plains.
These newcomers encouraged even more people to visit the little village with the orange-roofed houses, and many stayed for the promise of bringing "more and better Asses" to power through their own united action. Eventually, so many people came to the valley that the little settlement grew into a city in its own right, and even the Asses on the thrones down in the cities and halls of power started paying attention to what was being said from the town's soapboxes.
The idea was to use those collective voices to get the people of the fruited plains to change their ways, and start acting in the more responsible, reality-based manner of the people of the valley. Conviction that their ideas were superior to those of the Oliphants was one of the few things they all had in common; it was almost inevitable that they would disagree over how best to oppose them.
It was also inevitable that the King would eventually want to move to a new valley, one with even better acoustical properties. He had done so in the past, though not often – the Moonbat, now considered an old-timer, was naught but a n00b (though he did arrive in the Valley in time to be anointed with a "3" from Nyberg) the last time the King had undertaken a major revitalization effort, and even then, it seemed more like a major tweaking than the full-on hegira that this move to the Fourth Valley was looking like. Though there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the old timers of that era, the move to the Third Valley seemed relatively painless to the Moonbat – again, it was seen through the wide-eyed perspective of a total n00b – but now, almost five years later, he found that he was the one who was comfortable with the look and feel of his home(page).
The Moonbat stood, flapping his wings slightly against the Winds of Change which so often blew through the Passionate Heights. Already he could see the people below – his people – packing and preparing for the big move. Some were already disappearing into the toobz that would transport them to Site Beta in the Fourth Valley, others seemed to be hanging around the Grand Plaza, milking every moment for all it was worth. A handful could even been seen heading up the rocky trails and hazardous passes that would take them away from the Orange Valleys altogether, so upset were they are the prospect of the prospect of wholesale change – and from his fresh angle, the Moonbat could see that a few new piles of bones had been added to the heaps at the base of the cliff upon which he stood.
He sighed one last time as his eyes came to rest of the Cave of the Moonbat, its entrance lying inconspicuously on the fringes of the Progressive Quarter. The small field before it was the scene of many a lively discussion about the intersection of history and current events, back in the day. He had carved the place with his fingertips, and now he wondered about the new valley, where the plots already had sewer, water, and electric hooked up and the neighborhoods were all but pre-built. It wasn't going to be the same anymore, that was for sure.
The Cave would exist in Fourth Valley, in a manner of speaking – he had plans to establish a "group," and was going to offer "his" tag up to anyone who wanted to write anything on history – but it was going to be a different world. Third Valley had worked out very well for the Moonbat, and he looked upon much of the glitz in the new realm as a series of solutions in need of problems – "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and that sort of thing. On the other hand, he trusted the King, and in the idea that the King was doing right by his end of the social contract.
Finally, when it came down to it, nobody had asked the Moonbat his opinion on anything, anyway, so he cast one last gaze over the burnt-umber valley in which he'd spent so much of life for lo, these past five years, and shouted one more time across is plazas and peoples:
"Farewell, DK3.0! Thanks for one hell of a ride!"
Then he picked up his bag, turned his back on GBCW Point, and began the wearisome trudge back to the Cave of the Moonbat. There was packing to be done, and a long trek to an unfamiliar place after that.