Thelonius Bricklebook may have been a loquacious and brilliant badger for his species. Eloquent, loyal to a fault, and self-conscientious enough of his personal hygiene to keep it from becoming a nuisance. A perfect badger familiar, in his own opinion. However, he did not fully count on the necessities of working with an eight-year-old girl, or even the cutest little death goddess of vengeance. Case in point, trying to journey back to the Murky Meadows.

Theolonius stuck his nose back into the hole, preparing for the trudge back to the Murky Meadows.

“We’re going that way?” Bethany asked.

“Absolutely,” the badger said. “We have a couple days of travel before we get back to Clissandra, so we really should get a move on.”

“Not getting in.” Arlyle said.


Bricklebook stood on his hind legs, and stared.

“You said you were going to help.”

“Bethany did.” Arlyle said. “And if we go, we aren’t going that way.”

Bricklebook started, and stopped, and started again. “Do you know the way to Murky Meadows?”

Arlyle’s mouth barely opened before Bethany interjected.

“No crossing planes without permission!” Bethany said.

Arlyle folded her arms, and huffed. She did promise, but she wasn’t going to like it.

“And we need to find a way to get to the Murky Meadows…” Bethany trailed off, and smiled weakly to Thelonius. “Though, maybe not something so small, Mr. Bricklebook?”

“Small?” Thelonius sniffed and tucked his head further in. “I may admit to a certain, well, snugness to my method of transport. But I assure you, there is comfort, there is warmth, there is…”

“Down.” Arlyle said. “No going down. No going in.”

“But…how…you, dear madam, are a goddess!” Thelonius exclaimed. “Make it work!”

“I’ll make…”

“Mr. Bricklebook.” Bethany patted the badger on the head, smiling. “Can Ari and I talk? Alone?”

He bristled, but relented. He inspected his tunnel as the goddess and her worshipper wandered off. The badger muttered about structural support and a host of architectural words that may or may not have been homonyms of each other.

Bethany laid a hand on her goddess’ shoulder. Calm, understanding. She looked at Arlyle, concern on her face.

“No underground,” Arlyle muttered.

“No underground.” Bethany agreed. “No more caves?”

Arlyle looked up at Bethany, and gripped her hands. She squeezed tight, not letting herself nod. The girl could not imagine. Could not comprehend centuries, millennia passing by in one’s own tomb. Trapped, losing one’s own self-identity. All the while the drip, drip, drip of the caves echo in her clay jar.

Not underground. No caves.

If Bethany understood any of this, or even thought of it, she didn’t let on. She hugged Arlyle like she always did, and whispered close. “We’re having an adventure, best friends!”

The girl turned to Thelonius, and kept the smile up. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bricklebook, but we cannot go in the tunnel.”

Thelonius sighed, and waved his tunnel goodbye. “Then how do you expect we reach the Murky Meadows?”

“Which way are they?” Arlyle asked.

The badger scrunched his snout, and thought. He pointed west, and a little north. “Maybe a league?”

Arlyle cracked her knuckles, twisted the crick out of her neck, and nodded. “Okay, hang on to Bethany’s hand.”

“Why?” Thelonius asked, even as Bethany grabbed his claws.

“If we cannot go down, and walking overground would take too long…” Arlyle’s eyes darkened, and she finally smiled.

“Then we must go up.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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