The gem drake said nothing of other things that might be too fat to fit in the little tunnels, and Alma almost swore the living statue looked sheepish as he ducked his head downwards. Then he was off to another spot in the bubble of stone, slowly traveling around it with his snout in the air. “Sniffing out those rocks? Find me some super shiny ones, and I’ll see to it we don’t run outta gems for your meals again.” Alma thought for a second as she dropped the chalk back into the cart, fishing out a rope and some stakes. “Or bones. Might be able to trade the bones for something good.” The gem drake paused in his investigation as she spoke, then resumed it with the same exaggerated care. “Look, I know you don’t eat bones, but the books say they’re more like rocks than bones now. And we can trade them for gems. Don’t be picky.” Walker did not even look back at her.
Well, she had other things to do. She picked up the puppy, who was squirming so much that she was not sure an ounce of the drug remained in his system, and quickly looped the rope around his neck. 151
The other end of the rope was tied onto the stake, and the mallet was pulled out from under the map. Finding a spot far enough from the walls of the bubble that she did not fear a worm slithering out and dining on the pup before she could do anything, she held the oversized nail with one hand and started beating it into the ground. A few strikes later, and it was nearly flat into the earth, the rope bunching up just under the head. Then she did the same for Walker, hammering his stake into the ground with enough slack that he could dig for hours.
She hoped he would. If she had enough, she might waste one to pay one of the fancier carts to take them all back to the city. One with enough cushioning that the trip home would be like traveling on a cloud.
There was still plenty to do before she could join him in hunting for the stones. A pair of battered tin bowls were pulled out, and she dumped a bit of kibble into one, and some water from her water-skin in the other. Both were placed near the puppy as he began to rise, then picked up and moved as Walker’s rope threatened to tip them over. 152
“Pick a spot and dig. You’ve circled this room three times already,” she said, flapping a hand ineffectively as he continued on his fourth circuit. “There has to be something around here, else all those familiar holes wouldn’t. Be. Oh no.” Alma stared at the holes in growing horror. Sure, the sarane had kept away all humanoid miners, likely killing of those who were stupid enough to take the risk. But would the presence of a sarance scare gem beasts away? The sarane back at her kennel had no interest in rocks as far as she had seen, only caring about things they could rip and bleed. So would a sarane have tolerated, say, a tiny gem drake waddling in and harvesting all of the gemstones, the gem beast leaving holes where it had plucked the treasures from the walls? Alma pressed her head to her hands as she pictured it, letting forth an explosive sigh.
The woman completely distracted by her horrible revelation, the pup woke not to her fussing over him, but the taut rope of the gem drake slowly pushing him in a circle. He stared at the ceiling as he traveled in an arc, waving his paws around as he tried to change direction. 153
When that failed to work, the pup rolled onto his side, paws kicking at the sandy earth. When this failed too, he yelped and rolled onto his other side, paws wrapping around the rope. The ground beneath his side stopped moving, but he started to nibble on the rope. He kicked at it with his hind paws, and the rope suddenly started sliding away from him, slipping free of his mouth with a small trail of drool. With another yip, he rolled onto his legs and started crawling after the toy, yipping happily as he batted at it with one paw.
It went loose, flopping onto the sand in front of him, and he pounced on it, twisting around like he was fighting a snake. He did not notice the thing of gemstone that casually walked up to him until it clicked loudly, then made grinding noises when he froze on his back and locked eyes with it, the rope still in his mouth. He yipped again, the noise muffled by the rope in his mouth and wagged furiously. The pink statue moved closer, still making the grinding sounds intermittently, and the tail began to slow, coming to a stop against the inside of his legs. 154
“Hey!” The sound echoed painfully in the small space, but the pup did not look away from the scary pink thing. Walker however did, twitching his head upwards as a pair of gloved hands scooped him into the air. “The pup’s not a rock. You can’t eat him.” The gem drake squirmed in her arms in protest, long tail wrapping around one of them as he tried to free himself. “No, I don’t care,” she snapped, and the gem drake fell limp. “You’re actin’ like he stole your favorite rock. Cut it out.” She put him against one of the walls, keeping herself in between him and the pup. “Find us some gems. You won’t find any in him. He’s not a rakai.” Walker took one step towards the pup and herself, and she snapped, “No! Find rocks.” He turned away from them with a twitch, acting as if the wall had suddenly grown infinitely more interesting. “Better. Good statue.”
As she nodded, glad to have stopped whatever the heck the gem drake had planned to do to the pup, she felt something pull against her boot. Looking down, she could see the houluh fiercely pulling on one of her shoe’s laces, yanking at it like a vulticus with a rat. 155
“Ah, so this is the thanks I get then?” she asked with a laugh, shaking her head at the pup. “Here I go, saving you, even if you’re a magic mind-eating beast, and you decide to eat my laces?” The pup made a gah-wuffing sound as he slid in the sand, holding onto the shoelace as she pulled her foot back. “Ah yes, very fierce. What a monstrous beast you are.” Alma laughed, then slowly crouched down to look at the pup. As her hands touched the ground, he released the shoelace, skipping back a few steps to whirl in a circle. He barked again, a small yipping sound that reminded her of Tin when that houluh was still a pup, and she laughed back at him. A grinding sound from behind her made her look back at Walker, and she repeated her earlier “No,” to him, waiting until he faced the wall once more to look back at the pup.
Who had apparently taken her lack of attention as the perfect time to launch his assault on her gloves. She could barely feel any pressure from his nibbling as he dug his paws into the sand, trying to take the glove back with him. 156
With an adorable pup in front of her, and hearing Walker’s sullen scraping at the wall behind her, Alma ran through the checklist. Her mind felt her own, and when she yanked back her hand from the puppy, she did not feel any need to instantly give it back. A quick inspection of the glove showed it to still be intact, and free of any horrible ooze beyond shiny puppy drool. Alma looked down at the puppy, the houluh yipping as he tried, and failed, to hop high enough to reach her glove. “Not a horrible twisty beastie then, are you?” she asked, waving the hand just out of his little leaps. “Not going to make me starve a kennel, or murder poor old Tin?” The pup fiercely yipped, then resumed his earlier attack on her unprotected shoelaces. “You’ve got fresh kibble in the bowl, you know. Probably taster.”
Walker came back again as the puppy launched his vicious assault against her ability to tie her shoes, and Alma stretched out an arm to block the grumbling gem drake. “No. Get the gems.” she reminded him, giving him a pat on the head. “I’ll be giving you attention later.” Seemingly calmed by the head pats, Walker returned to his inspection of the walls. 157
She never fully understood how the gem familiars worked. With things like the worms and buzzing bug-birds, they were clearly normal animals. Both sought regular food items that one would expect to feed a beast, both moved and acted like living things. But the gem beasts did not. Kill them properly, and they shattered into a perfectly normal collection of gems. Feeding them meant collecting gemstones and letting them have a small chunk of them once in a while, but the kind of gem did not matter. Walker had eaten a small fortune in gemstones in the time she had him, before she had taken to buying shards from those who worked the gems, and few of those had been a color anywhere close to his pinkish purple body, yet his color never changed. Neither did he poop anything out in any fashion. “I kept him in a sandy room once, just to test that,” she told the puppy while she slowly dragged him by the shoelace back to the cart. “Left him in there for a few days after feeding him gems, to see if I could recover any of it.” She shook her head at the memory of it. “Nothing.” 158
“Don’t understand the magic behind it. Then again, don’t understand a lotta things. You included.” She reached down to pat him on the head, only for him to latch back on the glove. “You can’t grow unless you get trained so ‘Order’ herself can grow yah or something. And yer babies can be special only if a rock gets tied on you during the breeding.” She made a face as she said it, feeling weird to have said it to a pup. Still, it was not like she planned to be one of those weirdos who bred everything they owned. “The sarane are an exception. Need that money, even if Drips only lays uglies.” The pup gnawed on her glove for a few more seconds, uninterested in her tangent.
“Anyways,” she said as she pulled her hand back from the pup, “why would the goddess of Order care? I think it’s jus’ another weird labs thing. They say it’s the gods, but since when have the gods done anything here?” The pup yipped, head tracking her glove as she gestured, and Alma laughed. “Ah, you’re a believer then, pup? Think you’re more than a fancy orbaru?”
Patience was more than just a virtue in the mines, a place where predators of all kinds could burst out from behind even the most solid of walls, where even the most secure tunnel could collapse and trap a gem beast until they were nothing but the stone they were made from. He was not a particularly bright specimen, but he knew the value of waiting, of searching for a larger hoard when a single gem might be little more than a distraction, or watching a hoard to see if something had burrowed deep into the gems. He could be patient.
But an eternity had passed since his last trip to the mines, and now his digger was distracted. She did not follow him through the smaller tunnels that he knew he had sensed gems hiding in. She had ignored the walls to be broken in favor of playing with the tiny, small-clawed rat she had brought, and she had been attacked repeatedly by said rat and refused to let him deal with it. So now he would dig into this wall, knowing something inside called to him even if it was not near, deliberately not turning his head to look at his human and the rat it was distracted by. 160
The human would resume the dig eventually. He was patient. He knew this. But he still felt the urge to look behind him, to place himself between the rat and his human. His human carried the hoard he found, and his human would dig to help him add to it. His human was then, in essence, a part of his hoard, but it had made its feelings very clear. Walker would leave it to play with the rat until it remembered how to dig.
“Sorry pup. That’s about as believable that a weaver won’t try to eat yah in yer sleep.” She patted the pup the best she could with him flailing around in epic combat with her glove, reaching into the cart with her free hand. Groping blindly, trying to locate the object by feel alone through her thick glove, she soon snatched it up. “But I still got a prize for you though you’re just a pup, it’s a-” she hesitated as she lifted the chisel out of the box, then shoved it back in. “No, it’s not that. Just give me a second here, I know I packed it.” She leaned over the box, separating the pup from his greatest foe as she pawed through her supplies with both hands. 161
“Ah! Here it is.” Alma smiled, ho;ding the object so it was hidden in her hands. “Got a special toy for you so you can stop eating my laces and gloves. The lady said they were all the craze with doggish pets.” The pup yipped, hopping up so that his front paws rested on her boot as he tried to see what she was hiding. She dropped it as he yipped again, the form of a cartoonish red bone falling from her hands to bonk him on the head with a squeak. It fell the rest of the way to the floor as the pup scrambled backwards, nose to the ground as he stared at it. When the bone failed to move, he began to bark at it, a steady stream of yips that led Alma to decide teaching him to be silent was going to be vital. But not right now. He was just a pup, and she did not want to try training him in a dark cave until she and Walker had at least mined up a few gemstones.
Remembering Walker, she glanced over to see him scraping away at the wall, the rope behind him with plenty of slack. 162
She did not know why the gem drake did not like the pup. Well, unless he was annoyed she was heaping her attention on the pup rather than smacking walls, but there was no way the rock for brains would be able to think like that. Maybe there was a smell about the houluh that the gem creature disliked, or maybe Walker was picky about the color. She laughed about that one.
The pup was inching his way over to the bone, and she watched him with all the interest of a spectator at the pit. He was trying to stalk his way towards it, nose pressed to the ground as though he could sink into it and hide himself from its sight. When he was only a few inches away, he pounced on the toy and it let out a squeak that sent him scurrying back a few steps to stare at it once more. “It’s nawt going to bite you, you silly pup. Yer supposed to bite it.” The houluh was not inclined to follow her advice, watching the toy as the seconds dragged on.
So she reached out with her foot and nudged it closer to the pup. 163
“Oh no, iss gonna getcha,” she said in the tone people reserve for infants of all kinds as she scooted it ever closer to the pup, watching his tail wag furiously as the rest of him stayed stock still. “Better get it, oh no, here it coooomess-” and with that he leapt onto the toy, biting at it with his tiny teeth. It squeaked madly as he flailed around on the floor with the toy, Alma laughing as she watched his grand battle with the tiny squeaky bone. It had been the smallest she could find, and yet it somehow still looked to be too large in the puppy’s mouth as he rolled across the dirt and sand, clutching it with his paws like he was some estharne in disguise. “You got it, pup-pup. Show that toy who’s boss.” He squeaked his agreement.
With the pup’s distraction worked out, she watched him a little longer. There were no signs of tentacles, no inwardly glowing lights, no god reaching out to strike her down for toying with a chosen beast. It seemed he would just be a normal pup, meaning the perfect friend to keep Tin busy.
With that thought, she went over to check on Walker’s progress. 164
With the pup squeaking the toy madly behind her, she crouched down next to Walker. The gem drake turned his head to look at her briefly, one set of claws still scraping away at the stone as if he had no time to waste for her words, then he turned back to the wall. Alma did not see any stones nestled in his curled tail, a usual sign that he had found something of use in his digging. Nor was there much progress in the tunnel he was trying to make. It was far away from the others that lined the back wall, which meant it could have gems that the other creatures had missed. “Or you’re just broken. Not sure how to fix that, so I hope there’s some good rocks in there.” Walker did not respond to her laugh, and she patted him fondly on his back spikes. If he had lost the ability to find gems, the least she could do was just toss him in as part of her collection. She doubted he’d mind a glass cage so long as she kept him fed. And it would be better to retire him that way than just smash him to bits for the amethysts that made up his form. 165
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