The sarane hatchling slept through it all. He did not notice when the air became thick and hard to breath, the way he was juggled between her arms as she reached back to free the tools or to give one a break as the other helped her to crawl. He did not wake to her mutterings, a small victory for her as half of the reason she muttered was in hopes of keeping him from waking and making the crawl that much worse. He did not care that the air grew cooler as Haix worked her way back, nor that he rose into the air as she found herself able to turn and walk once more back, albeit hunched over him like a beast with its kill. That he was still asleep and not moving, other than a few small kicks and a whack from a wing, was a small blessing Haix held onto as she made it back into the original tunnel, drawing herself up to her full height and shaking her legs out one by one.
Then there was no time to consider that this tunnel would prove the same as the first, Haix flicking on the light and hunching over again to start making her way down the second tunnel. 124
She tripped several times as she made her way over the rough stone, more due to her own limbs disobeying her than the uneven surface over which she traveled. The lack of space in the tunnel worked to her advantage when it happened, the tools on her back slamming into the ceiling to arrest her fall with a trickle of dirt. When it happened, she was free to reposition her legs so that they would properly carry her weight once more and then free the tools, rather than trying to clean up the mess that would be a crushed sarane from her chest.
This tunnel did not shrink as the other one had, but after she had tripped yet again, this time prompting a harder kick from the sarane that almost saw him slip from her grasp, she began to crawl as she had in the other one. The crossbreed traveled alongside her, sometimes journeying a small distance ahead as it had been unable to do in the narrower confines of the other tunnel. She chose to take that as a good sign, hoping that, whatever instincts had been built into it, it would want to go outside rather than deeper down as it grew hungrier. 125
There are other tunnels appearing as she travels, tiny pools of shadow that the angle of the flashlight refuses to define further. Each of the tunnels are small, much too small for her to have entered even if she had discarded the sack and the sarane to crawl on her belly. No attention is paid to them other than to listen for something crawling within them, a sound that might mean she would need to test how well Stalker could fight. The only sounds to be heard were the shuffling of her own making, the tools on her back clinking against one another and the walls, and the clicking of the crossbreed whenever it moved out of range of the light.
But eventually, she cannot crawl any more. The tunnel has widened and grown in size so that she could stand if she wanted to, but her legs refuse to let her do so. Calling the crossbreed back, she placed the sarane on the ground and pushed him closer to the wall. With one last wave of the flashlight to prove nothing else was moving in the tunnel, she shut it off and fell onto her side with a hiss, arms too stiff to let her down slowly and the pain in her shoulder reminding her why she should have tried anyways. Then she closed her eyes and even the pain could not keep her awake. 126
Haix woke up in darkness to something crawling on her. Her first thought was to remain still, to figure out if it was hungry or just curious, and where exactly it was crawling to. The thing snorted, and suddenly slipped backwards as its claws slid across her scales without piercing them, squeaking in dismay as it hit the ground with a thud.
Squeaking. That broke through her confusion instantly, and she groaned as she pushed herself into a sitting position. Her muscles still ached, but were no longer felt like lead. Stretching them out helped remove some of the stiffness, though her shoulder felt like she had been stabbed again as she stretched its respective arm. With the stretching completed she switched on the light to find the crossbreed curled up by her side, raising its head to blink in the light. The sarane was gnawing on the sack, and she snarled at it as she pulled the bag to her, shooing it off before digging into it.
The last of the food was distributed, plenty to keep the sarane sedated and the crossbreed somewhat satisfied. She kept a single strip of meat for herself to take off the edge of her hunger, consoling herself that she would be able to eat the fat hatchling if it came to it. Then came the last of the water, and at least in that she was able to take her fill.
Then, with all the things put away once more, the sarane in her arms as she stood and the crossbreed roaming in front of her, they followed the tunnel further.
They wandered for a long while, up and down different tunnels as the paths split and doubled back, some ending in tunnels too small for even Stalker to worm its way through, though Haix refused to go through any more that she could not easily crawl through, others in walls of stone. The sarane hatchling woke after a few more hours to complain once more but, without any food to give him, Haix dropped him onto the ground and let him test the length of the rope.
Then they saw the sunlight.
There had been a gradual brightening of the tunnel, but Haix had not realized that the light of the flashlight had been replaced until she got closer to the wall and the window of light on it. The breeze coming from it, cold but fresh, was noticeable now, and Haix eagerly hopped up for a better look. Then she untied the hatchling from her arm, fastening him instead to the sack she let fall from her harness. The crossbreed was told to stay back as well, the sarane taking to keeping the farthest point he could from the mining creature.
The pickaxe was pulled out of the sack, the creatures reminded to keep back, and, over the course of half an hour, Haix broke down the wall keeping them from the above ground world. 128 ((Stalker-38.0 Gala-15.0))
((New trip)) Stalker had considerably more training than Walker. It knew how to attack with a quick kiss of poison, to literally sink into the shadows as if they were water and travel through them just as easily. It could soar through the air and see with sound. What she had failed to train it in, a fact it reminded her of with a click and flutter of wings as it flapped on top of an empty cage, was pulling a buggy.
And that was how she ended up walking backwards, dragging the buggy all the way to the mines and repeatedly scaring the crossbreed off of the top whenever it settled there. She would drag the tools, pull the many riches that they would find in the mines if the crossbreed was of any use, but she was not carrying the crossbreed in anything short of a sack. And it almost seemed to realize that, soon giving up on laying on the lid to walk alongside her.
His walking alongside her soon turned into a problem of its own. Every time she stopped by a new tunnel mouth, the size of it ranging from gaping fissure that could fit a thundergug with space to spare to holes that she would have had to crawl through, their size suggesting that the only reward she would receive for her efforts a bite from whatever animal burrowed within. Each of these tunnel mouths were paused by, the flashlight waggled around for those that turned into a wall of shadow, and Stalker never reacted to a single one, remaining by her side no matter how promising a tunnel looked to her.
It should have at least shown some minor interest in one of the tunnels, even if to escape the open sky like so many other mining familiars did, but it never took a single step into them. At the next decently sized tunnel mouth they found, she dragged the buggy in with her, the crossbreed following her closely.
The price for a cart ride to the mines was only a credit. Carts with wheels that did not make the occupants feel as though they were going to be tossed out with every bump or crack driven over were much more costly, and those with cushions and fancy coverings that kept away the sun and rain were enough to steal away any meagre profits one could make on a simple mining trip. But a normal cart, drawn by whatever beast of burden that the labs had yet to kill off in their insanity, built to carry loads of gems and beasts away from the mines rather than towards it, was only a credit.
At least it was only one credit on the way up. She had overheard the carter talking with one of his unloaders about the percentages they took from those who employed them for the return trips, of the gemstones that caught between boards and slipped into pockets. It made her job as a city guard feel a little less well paid.
She had no doubt the leashed gemstone drake would have been furious had he been any brighter than the rock he was made of if she employed said carter on the return trip, but the man would undoubtedly be gone long before the pup in her arms woke. 131
Said pup had slept through the worst of the bumps, and Alma took full credit for that as her backside slammed against the wooden slats once more. The carter did not bother to apologize for the route, hadn’t done so beyond the first one with a laugh and wiggling his butt comfortably onto the padded seat at the front of the cart. With whatever profits Walker dug up for her this time, she would have to be sure to buy a cushion, one filled with the down of young chiryma that had never known a day of stress in their life.
She had to marvel at whatever drugs had been put into the pup for the assumed kennel transport when a particularly ambitious part of the route nearly sent him flying from her arms, the gemstone familiar beside her digging his claws into the scratched wood of the walls to keep from learning to fly. She had hit the ground of the cart like a sack of coal that time, wind knocked from her as she slammed into the floor with the houluh pup limply dangling from her grip. He had slept through that impromptu flying lesson, one she was sure her other houluh would have loved. 132
She had rolled into a more comfortable position on the cart’s floor for the rest of that section, the ball of warmth that was the pup clasped firmly between gloved hands and her chest. Her own cart was near enough that she could only be grateful that the knots had held so far, or else the driver would have had quite a time trying to get the red out. She had held too, until the driver had cackled something about her getting shuteye while he and his not-horse did all the work. She had laid there for a few more minutes out of principle, pressing her feet to one side of the cart and her back to the other, before moving back into a sitting position to better see where they were and how many more boulders the blind idiot was going to drive them over.
Walker was less interested in what was in front of him than the path they were leaving behind, and she had to yank on the rope more than once to stop the gem drake from tumbling over the side and becoming nothing more than a pile of amethyst himself. It was tempting to let him try, especially after a bump sent him flailing into her lap. 133
As she held the pup with one hand, she shoved the drake back before his razor-sharp claws could do more than mark her creased leathers, glad she had splurged on heavy clothing. The claws were her fault, a sign that the drake had not been dulling them down on hard stone due to her reluctance to go out to the mines, a reluctance strengthening with every bruise on her rear, and she resolved to buy him a chunk of rock to burrow into. Rock itself was much less expensive than the gemstones he liked to eat, although that was changing.
The puppy kicked her before burrowing into the space between her arm and body, and she asked the driver, “How much farther?”
Well, she tried to ask him, the cart sending her jaws clacking shut in the middle of it, and the carter laughed. “Jasst a bit. Bout a quarter mile around the bend.” He laughed again as she looked ahead, the path they were taking around the mountain seemingly nothing more than bends. She considered asking which bend, but she was rather opposed to the idea of biting off her own tongue. So she sat there, wondering what color of cushion she would get. 134
Cushions were not very expensive, as they were thankfully sold by carts and non-official shops staffed by family members and stalls made of easily moved fabric and wood. They would need to be cheap, though at the moment she would be willing to spend her entire month’s salary on one made of straw, because of the crash. The reminder of pricing and the crash, was a welcome distraction from the cart and the many bends it had already passed. She held the pup tightly, and glanced beside her to see that, for the moment, Walker had decided to be Stander instead. With one last glance at her own cart to be certain the knots were not about to become undone, she let herself think back to the main reason she had come out to the mines that day.
Gemstones had become worthless. Well, no, they had not, but suddenly the value of things like diamonds and starstones had plummeted without any visible reason why. And with that plummet, suddenly those who sold shards for familiars to consume had sold their stock in a panic, trying to keep ahead of the falling prices.
Which meant Walker was out of food. And she was not keen on him eating the rest of her meager collection of stones. 135
Having to feed him gems, even something as criminally undervalued as jade, had felt like feeding her child to a dragon. She had done it anyways, not trusting that his training would hold for as long as it took to find something less valuable for him to snack on. Losing something like the starstone to the hunger of a tiny gem drake worth less than such a gem even if he had been shattered was not something she wished to experience. And simply killing him and purchasing a new one would mean training a new gem sniffer to hunt down shinies for her to add to her collection or trade with. With how dull gem familiars were, it could be months before she could risk taking a new one into the mines.
So, she had watched the last of her jade crunched into worthless green dust, tinting his faceted insides and making him appear almost grey for the day. She consoled herself with the knowledge that he did not need to eat often, usually as little as a stone of the jade’s size a month, and that she would be off duty for a few days in about a week. She had even entered a contest, using the booby prize to pay for the houluh pup snoring in her grasp. 136
Silver: That's okay, things can change a bit. :3
Sept 27, 2021 5:42:43 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Since the Bellafaux are the dumbed down but bigger version of them. Love the fact that they got stats of their own now though! Finally they can be trained! <3
Sept 27, 2021 0:06:11 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: Hmm, for some reason it doesn't feel as if the Bellaroxi has the right move set when looking at the old entry of them in text.
Sept 27, 2021 0:05:02 GMT -6
Renathan: -points at the sushi monster- Him go 3 Miles an Hour. Lookit him go.
Sept 26, 2021 21:31:10 GMT -6
Twilight-Claw: That just means rl has caught up with you, it can happen. X3
Sept 23, 2021 10:10:22 GMT -6
Renathan: I'm gonna have to get caught up on all the updates, I've let myself fallen behind sooo badly.
Sept 22, 2021 4:47:08 GMT -6