Chapter 15:

Tales in the Dark Setts

Keio (9-K-O-512)

Location: underground, by the lake
Health: weak
Additional effects - enhanced nature-vision, impaired movement

I press my palms against the sage’s and the invisible world, pulled away from me for a while, opens before me again.

We are protected here against the dangers of the aboveground, I hear the shaman’s thoughts in my head. And if the humans should push deeper into the setts, we can hide behind the great hatch.

The great hatch? I wonder.

Our minds’ eyes dive deeper under the burrows, then pull back to the vaulted chamber.

Later, says the sage. But tell me, how did you come to have so much of the forest power? Humans don’t usually know how to do that.

I pull a cloud-truffle from my pocket, handing it to the sage. I ate them. Accidentally...

The shaman tastes the mushroom and the glow of his life-shape flares larger, brighter. He passes the truffle to the next badger, who passes it on in turn after having a taste.

Mighty, thinks the shaman.

Mighty-mighty, I hear the vague mumble of several voices, and I can now sense the presence of the rest of our companions in the joint consciousness.

Where do those grow? the shaman asks. They give much more power than milk-caps or root growths.

I conjure myself to the giant spruce’s top, touching the branches under the clouds, with their blossoming knots.

The mother tree. The shaman nods. What’s in the roots, is in the top. But how did you climb up there? I can see and feel that your body is gravely broken.

It’s true, my body doesn’t work well right now, I admit, ashamed. The strength of the tiny machines failed too soon. But I didn’t climb up the spruce, I climbed down.

Down? the others wonder.

Yes, down. I’ll show you…

I retrace my journey in my mind’s eye, from start to finish: the burrow, the hills, the elk, the forest, the spruce thicket, flying through the air, the waterfall, the river, the ice fields, the sky, the northern lights…

I feel the shaman grow restless.

Wait, let’s go back.

The entourage of badgers gathers close around the shaman, putting their paws on his back. I feel their presence much more clearly.

You’re saying that a great waterfall rushed down from the ice? asks the shaman. Show me more of that flowing water.

I circle back to the ice’s edge in my thoughts. See, that’s the river. At first it was a small stream, but it grew huge near the edge.

A new voice speaks in the shared consciousness: If there’s open water so far on the ice, we can expect a great break soon.

A great break, the other mental voices repeat. Big ice falls into lake. Much trouble.

Trouble? I ask, worried. Will there be a flood?

We’re not afraid of a flood, explains the sage. The swamp protects the shores, disperses waves. But our kind knows and can attest: when a lot of warmth is pushed out of the deep underground, enough to break the ice, the great frog will emerge.

Great frog, great frog, the other badgers hum in unison. Great frog brings much trouble.

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