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    Badger Days, Badger Nights

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    esayitch

    Posts : 11
    Join date : 2015-05-03

    Badger Days, Badger Nights

    Post by esayitch on Mon May 04, 2015 5:25 am

    Sweat trickled down Lar’s ample belly. He had been hard at work for nigh an hour. He looked up. No one was there beside him.

    The cave was large and silent, and dim wherever his eyes fell. But some things under the surface gave light of their own; gems of various colors and shapes and sizes. And he had them aplenty, but not for long. A mere Shrew in the church of the Eathfriend, Lar was young and curious, although not altogether content with his profession. He stood up and dusted off his rags.

    It was the summer solstice; the first after Lar had joined the church. And to any aspiring Badger, that meant the conduction of their ritual. Lars looked down at his handiwork. The various gems that he had come to acquire in large part as a reward for accompanying miners, keeping them hale during their work, and warding off any potential harm, all lay in a hole in the ground. Beside them rose a small mound of dirt that he had dug out. He sighed loudly, and picking up his shovel, began to cover his sacrifice; the gems that he had put in the hole. Gnomes far and wide believed that the Earthfriend would summon burrowers to carry this sacrifice far and wide, so that other gnomes might in time find them in the earth.

    When he finished covering the hole, he cursed loudly. He could scarce suffer boredom as a child, and the man he had become was no different. He wished he was above ground, breathing the salty sea air, not this damp stench. But then again, he wished he was many things. Thin. Shrewd. Witty. Smart.

    He was none of those things.

    He put his hand in his pocket. Something was there, hard-surfaced and small. He took out the small gem. A diamond by all appearances. He had forgotten it there. His superiors would frown if they knew he kept something to himself.

    He sighed and cursed again. “They will not know,” he suddenly heard himself say. “I will not open this hole again, and in fact even if it was still open I would not put it there. I mean to keep it.”

    His voice was not low, nor loud. It did not echo in that cave, and for a while afterwards he wondered why he spoke those words aloud. Yet now that he had, there was no going back, as it seemed to him. He pocketed the diamond again, threw his shovel over his shoulder, and began the trek to the surface.

    esayitch

    Posts : 11
    Join date : 2015-05-03

    Re: Badger Days, Badger Nights

    Post by esayitch on Fri May 08, 2015 5:32 am

    “Left, here,” he heard himself say.

    The leader, Hotho, turned to look at him. He was a gruff gnome of wizened stature and gray hair amidst bald patches. He was clad in a studded leather jerkin, a shortsword in his hand and a dagger at his thigh. Lar was probably half his age. For a while Hotho did not speak.

    Lar glanced around at the miners. They were tired and stank of dampness and sweat. They had lost two of the company in a collapse not two days past, after the massive earthquake struck. Lar could have raised them from the dead, by the blessing of the Badger, but they couldn’t get to the bodies without risking everyone. After that the miners spoke very little.

    Hotho shook his head, in disbelief or ridicule, Lar could not say. They had been undergrounds for nigh on a month, and their supplies were dwindling. Most of what they had mined had already been shipped out, but the earthquake had rendered their way out blocked and impassable. Thus they found themselves looking for another passage.

    “Tha’ can’t be right, Badger,” said Hotho. “We’ve walked tha’ way ‘afore, tha’s why we’re back ‘ere now. I’d expect yer t’see tha’....”

    Lar cast a sweeping glance over the miners, allowing his gaze to settle on none for more than a second.

    “There are things there we have not yet found. Earthfriend light the way!” He proclaimed. Suddenly, there was light over the opening of the corridor, and light shone from within. But it was different; a bluish hue, tinged with purple, barely flickering. “T’is a sign,” Lars concluded.

    A murmur broke out amidst the group, until at last Hotho silenced them. “To work lads, go on, you see it already.”

    After a few minutes of digging, they had it; a small thing, but smooth and symmetrical. Lars perceived that the miners were likely to think it the work of the Eathfriend himself, and nothing quite natural. It seemed to give a dim light of its own, and not merely reflect light. While it was given to Lar for safekeeping, Hotho was the one to give the gem its name, The Narrow Star, for ever after it would lead them through paths more narrow and treacherous.

    esayitch

    Posts : 11
    Join date : 2015-05-03

    Re: Badger Days, Badger Nights

    Post by esayitch on Wed May 20, 2015 8:11 pm

    When they had found the exit, Lar felt that it had already become too late.

    “C’mon lads, I can see th’light above yer. Yer gnomes! Yer rock gnomes! Son’s o’caves! And a Badger is with us basoides...” called Hotho, encouraging the miners. They had reached a sheer wall of jutting rock and shifting dirt, that seemed to fall in thin streams over their heads. “Earthfriend preserve you,” Lar heard himself say. A terrible sensation was welling up inside him, and he felt as if his chest was about to burst in flame. The miners had already began to climb the wall, attaching themselves to loose rocks and uneven footings using arts and knowledge that may seem arcane to other races, but were common knowledge to the Forgotten Folk.

    And for the first time since the collapse, they sang.

    Throw the ropes, forget the ladders,
    Our bellies empty, full our bladders,

    Grasp the stones, smell the earth,
    Climb the wall, nigh our birth,

    Nigh our birth,
    Nigh our birth,

    From the tunnels, 'neath the earth!

    The Badgers of the church of Segojan Earthcaller, who is also called the Earthfriend, are often tasked with the guidance and protection of miners and excavators. As such, Lar was used to often being the last to leave. But on that day, a great merriment was upon Hotho the leader, and he seemed a hundred years the younger. He smiled at Lar when only they remained, and bade him go before him.

    “Nay,” said Lar, “I will stay below until you are all safely out.”

    “Lad,” replied Hotho, “Don’ take this th’wrong way, aye? But I’d ratha’ you wen’ before... this climb ain’ so easy... and yer might find difficulta’ makin’ it on yer own without aid... I’ll be right behind yer, and if yer were ter tumble and slide, I’d be there ter catch yer.”

    Lars’ belly was suddenly itching. A fierce, insistent itch. He abstained from touching it.

    “As you wish, sir,” he said, and embedding one hand into the wall, he began to climb, with Hotho close behind.

    The climb was not the most difficult he had managed until then, but it was surely the most demanding. He had to test the stability of every jutting stone he could place his hands on, lest he try to push himself up on one that was too loose, and cause the entire thing to fall apart. Thus, slowly and carefully, he propelled himself higher and higher, until he could see the rest of the company some feet above him. They had stopped singing.

    And then, the earth shook again.

    Lar’s foot slipped but he held on using his hands. His foot slammed into Hotho’s head, and the gruff leader tumbled from the sudden impact and slid down the treacherous wall. “Is everything all right? Are you well?” Lar looked down and cried in alarm. The gnomes above were already beginning to form a living rope to aid them in getting out.

    Hotho rubbed his head. “Blasted fat shet...” he murmured, and Lar heard.

    Suddenly, Lar’s hand was inside his pocket. The gem was gone. He looked below and found it embedded into the wall, some distance below him. The gnomes were very close. I could get out now, he thought, and ever after wondered what would have become of him had he done just that. Instead, he began to go down again.

    “What are yer doin’?” protested Hotho. “I’ll get th’blasted thing, dun’ yer worra’.” But Lar was already nearly there.

    The earth shook again. Everything began to collapse.

    “Badger! ‘Elp me!” cried out Hotho. A steady, violent stream of dirt was pouring down on him, burying him below. He reached out a hand, and Lar grabbed it. Suddenly the wall shifted, and the gem began to sink out of sight. Lar looked at it with despair and confusion. He quickly apprehended that he would not be able to preserve both Hotho and The Narrow Star, and had to make a choice.

    He let go of Hotho. He went for the gem instead.

    And he got it.

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    Re: Badger Days, Badger Nights

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