Chapter 18:

A Dishonorable Attack

Keio (9-K-O-512)

Location: underground, by the lake
Health: on the mend
Additional effects - rested from sleep

I wake on a soft bed of swamp moss. The badgers didn’t lie - my health has indeed improved. Before, the slightest movement provoked an unpleasant roar in my ears, but now I can easily lift my head. Even my arms have stopped shaking and twitching so horribly.

There’s still no strength in my legs. So I cannot get far on my own.

Something glows on the floor of the den, in the gloom. Of course, my landing suit. I climb into my clothes and pat the pocket, bulging with several handfuls of cloud-truffles.

Oh well, if the body ain’t willing, the mind must be sharp. Maybe the badgers will share more of mother New Moon’s bloodware if I make myself useful.

They’ve set a few fist-sized plant pods by my bedside. Fresh spring water sloshes within. I drink in great gulps and listen to the sounds of the den.

A rush of paws, a barking, a clatter of tools...

But something is off. The barks are anxious, the footsteps pass me by on all sides and fade.

More and more badgers scramble by in the dark and I realise - they’re fleeing! Fleeing deep into the ground underneath the set, to the heavy hatch in my memories!

I sit, clueless. Even if I knew where to go, I could never catch up to the hurrying badgers.

The footsteps recede… but what was that?

Yes, I can hear the boom of human voices from the upper passages. The attack Badass warned about has begun.

Another moment of bewilderment… and I know what to do. The humans must not discover that there is something hidden deep below the den. If I trouble them enough, they might not try to delve further this time.

My mind made up, I crawl out of the cozy sleeping warren and start climbing up the nearest passage.

The voices come closer: shouting, throwing tools around; someone loses their footing and slides roughly into a side corridor. I gather my strength and keep crawling up, faster and faster, to reach the humans before they penetrate the depths of the set!

Then I hear panting and rustling ahead in the dark. Someone is crawling up to me!

We collide at a bend in the corridor. The smell of a woman’s sweat, plant fiber and wild hair fills my nostrils.

I whack in the approximate direction of the intruder’s face. Someone’s stout arms grab me, pulling me upward.

I sink my teeth into my opponent’s arm, without thinking. I am not prey!

“Ow, shit!” the woman screams and elbows me in the face. She pulls my throat into a chokehold and I can barely stay conscious.

As in a dream, I hear gruesome blows falling on furry flesh, and the crunch of breaking bones.

They are dragging me on.

I can’t breathe freely until we emerge into bright daylight.

A stocky, hairy man stands on the edge of the swamp in the burdocks, pointing his spear at the entrance of the set. A mad light shines in the man’s eyes and his clothes are dripping with blood. He is covered in badger skins, tails, paws and bone pendants hanging from his belt and neck.

A whole band of people is shouting behind him, fortunately empty-handed.

But down on the ground, two furry shapes lie still on the wet sand.

“Well, Naiscy, managed to grab something?” The hairy man swears and spits. “Huh, that’s all I got!” He turns a dead badger over with his foot.

I gasp for air - it’s the female with the mark of the new moon, one of those who healed me. Maybe she was coming to help me when those vile robbers caught her...

You monsters!

I bite the woman again and again in my fury and despair gives me strength to wrestle free.

I ferociously launch myself at the hairy man… but with the first step, my legs fail me and I fall into the burdocks, face first.

“Grab her!” someone shouts and already a couple of village idiots are pushing me down with their full weight.

“What a curious thing I found.” The woman who had crawled into the den holds her bitten hand close, protective. “Looks like one of ours, but…”

“Crazy with the swamp fumes,” guesses a harsh-voiced man.

“Or a local savage, bumped off one of ours and stole everything!”

The rest of the hunting party is keen on shouting their contributions.

“Let’s bring her along,” the bitten woman finally decides.

“Wait,” says the harsh-voiced man. “Look at all that loot. She might have something dangerous on her. Never know what she might do on the way.”

“Yeah!” several hunters agree in unison.

A woman with a scratched face quickly steps up, rips my equipment belts from my clothes and binds my hands behind my back with rough vine rope.


The raiders haul the dead badgers on their backs like sacks and walk single-file toward the treeline.

I stumble after them somehow, not even bothering to fall in step.

“Can’t you go more quickly?” grumbles the hairy man.

I just stare angrily in response.

The hairy man spits through his teeth and just throws me over his shoulder without further ado.

The dead female’s snout now swings in front of my eyes with each step.


Fortunately, the trek isn’t long.

The ground is already rising, the burdocks give way to tall grass.

The raiding party stops in a clearing of deciduous trees. A couple of hunters wait for them there, busy with a dazed badger.

When they throw me on the grass, I can see the smaller party better.

I can’t believe my eyes - that’s Badass, along for the badger hunt just like the others!

But why?

“You fool!” I yell at him. “What have you done?”

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