They had just finished packing the cart. They discovered on top of her sizeable severed index finger, were other adamantite parts. One was half of an emblem glyph, with a clean diagonal shear. The other was the tip of a finger. The next was internal cabling, the making of which puzzled L’yophin. Another piece was a tiny curved plating of adamantite. L’yophin theorized it may have been part of the outer plating for a thigh or torso. The last piece was large tinsel of muscle fiber made of adamantite with plating attached. L’yophin likened it to an Achilles tendon.
It was traumatic for Soltana, something she did not expect. She had little idea of seeing bits and pieces of her old self would trigger an emotional response. She stored the feelings in her Soltana’s Contentions module for later. She needed to focus. Now that they had more parts, she could choose to integrate with them into her chassis, somehow. Or she could wait and use them as material for Chrysalizing. That also depended on the amount of limpid steel they acquired. Or if they would need the adamantite to barter.
The gobs had helped pack the findings and were nestled on Soltana’s chassis.
“L’yophin, is limpid steel worth more or less than the adamantite?”
Soltana’s eyes flashed in thought at the new discoveries.
“Much less. We may need a little to trade with, though. If they see you, they will ask if there is more. May shut down trade then and there. Seeing something made of adamantite will cause questions.”
“I see. Use any of the adamantite to purchase the limpid steel. However, please take a piece of your choice!” Soltana urged.
He looked back, smiling.
“Thank you. But I have tricks. Didn’t dump everything down abyss!” He replied with a chittering chuckle.
“I was curious of that. Where do you store all of your ore?”
The gobs gibbered at the spider. He glanced back with a raised eyebrows before continuing.
“Sold much of it. Smelted. Used for fencing. Tools. Repairs. More trade.”
“But mining here for ten thousand years, I’d expect… “
Ten thousand years was a long time to mine. Either he was slow, or it was a side hobby.
“This isn’t first estate…”
“What do you mean?”
“This is seventeenth home in Underrealm.”
“What happened?” Soltana asked, curious about how he had come to so many homes.
L’yophin pondered on that for a moment.
“Lost three to war. Four to Trows. Bored of six. One was bad spot; noisy neighbors. Lost one from unstable pitfall; but that was a good haul. Another was too close to other Scarabaeidae. And this makes seventeen.”
Soltana wondered how many times he must have started over.
She thought back to the pieces of herself. It was a deep concern for her.
L’yophin hooked himself up to the cart and began wheeling out with Soltana picking up the rear.
“L’yophin, If someone did this to me, then it tells us two things.”
“First, they are powerful.”
“Second, they saw me as their enemy, enough to deal with me. I may have known or done something in the past that was dangerous to whoever did this.”
L’yophin stopped his cart at that and turned around, staring with furrowed brow at Soltana.
“I may remember the details, which could put you in danger. L’yophin, you are my friend, and I don’t want to put you in any-”
L’yophin shut her up by placing his hand atop her head. He smiled at her.
“Soltana, you entered my life and nothing has been the same. You are a good baeidae; A good person. I cannot go back to what was. Don’t want to.” L’yophin began.
“The hermit life is dulling. I accept this change. With the exception of some gobs.” L’yophin said, smiling at the silly creatures.
They all gibbered back at him.
“I’m in this to the end now, your Adonai is guiding you. And me too, perhaps.”
“Thank you,” Soltana said.
The gratitude hung in the air for a moment as her eyes flashed.
L’yophin turned about, leading them out of the stinky cave.
As they returned to the main mineshaft floor, the gobs all gibbered in relief of their poor punished noses. The scarfed gob breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
“Do you supposed the goblins have woken?”
“Most likely. We’ll see what their temperament is. I hope they are nothing like Trows,” L’yophin replied with a sigh.
“Were Trows always like this?”
“No. Happened shortly after I arrived, when our leader went to the surface to declare war against humanity above; and never returned. I noticed many creatures became aggressive.”
The group had ascended the tunnel shaft ramp, making their way up.
“That is what I fear is coming.”
“What would that be?”
“The fear that evil is afoot. And not just for this planet, or galaxy. But existence itself.”
L’yophin nodded at that with a grunt.
“And where is Adonai in all of this?”
Soltana was silent, unsure of how to answer.
“I have dreamed of Him, but have only received commands and callings. I have not heard of any sign of Him.”
“Where is He?” Soltana inquired, a pleading edge to her voice.
They traversed the mineshaft ramp, entering back into the main mining trunk. It was a simple route to exit the mine and head home.
“What shall be done once we return?” Soltana asked as they entered the hallway to the ravine.
“We gather resources, treasure, and supplies. We then journey to Hive Vulnerado. Know some… Interesting baeidae to trade.”
Soltana didn’t know the context of what interesting implied but was hopeful regardless.
“Perhaps we can get more than just limpid steel?”
“I intend to. Need more supplies. Good way to get discount.” He replied with a spidery wink.
They began their journey back along the ravine, the Gobs clung to Soltana as their rock.
“L’yophin, how did you find this planet?” Soltana said, trundling along the smooth stone floor.
“I flew. Had vessel.”
“Do you still possess it?”
“Mm,” L’yophin grunted.
Soltana didn’t know if it was a yes or no but decided to not push. It was most likely a sensitive topic tied to the wars. The entrance to the cavern was in reach, and a few more miles would mean home. Her power was getting low.
Power: 2034/5000 QC
It would be enough to get home.
They exited outside back into the Underrealm. The cool air hung on them, the gentle breath of breeze blew past, refreshing them. The glowshrooms were silent, the glowworms along the miles of the ceiling had gone dark.
“Top’of’the’wake to you, mister spider,” the Hogboon greeted with the tip of his bowler.
L’yophin on instinct pulled out his energy rifle, only to find it had been swapped for a very large tuber.
The spider dropped the tuber with a thump, staring angrily back at the one who spoke.
“Now, now, I don’mean any trouble. I’ve- Diniel have mercy.” Basil began, but stopped, seeing Soltana and spotting her Seal.
“Is tha’a Seal?” Basil began.
“Yes. who are you? How do you know?”
“Beggin’ your pardon, the names, Basil the Hogboon. I me’one with a Seal such’as yours.”
L’yophin’s anger subside instantly.
“I’m Soltana and this is L’yophin,” Soltana introduced.
The news hit her.
“Another Seal holder here… Close by…” Soltana murmured.
“Please explain,” Soltana urged.
The gobs all eyed Basil with curiosity.
“I me’her, on the roa’to your estate. I took her to Diniel, the Angel o’ Lineage,” Basil explained hurriedly.
“An Angel? Here? L’yophin, we’ll need to see him!” Soltana turned, seeing L’yophin furrow his brow in thought.
Basil lifted his bowler, scratching at his head.
“She didn’know who she was. Somethin’ mighty terrible happene’ to her. Diniel se’her straigh’, returnin’ her name, but she fle’.”
“But wha’are’ya?” Basil asked, peering in close.
Soltana felt the curious stare of the strange creature.
“I am a Lambent. I was lost, but L’yophin found me.”
“A Lambent? Is it like an Anform? Always wante’to meet one…” Basil said with a smile.
“Yes, I am partially an Anform.”
“Aye, close enough’for me!” Basil said with a wry chuckle.
The gobs atop Soltana gibbered a reply. The hogboon’s eyebrows furrowed for a brief second before returning to his more content state.
“You said you found her on the road to L’yophin’s mansion?” Soltana asked, which L’yophin perked up at that.
“Aye, an’so- when she ran- I suspect’ she woul’be here.” Basil explained.
“But we haven’t met a Seal holder,” Soltana explained.
“Just Gobs,” L’yophin added.
“An’thas the thing, she’s a shapeshifter. She’s dangerous. She can take the form of any creature she devours. She’s already eaten several Trows an’copie’ them. I was taske’ in makin’sure you were all safe.”
“I’m sorry, mister spider. Please lift your neck. I nee’to see it. She ha’a Seal on her throat that she canno’hide.”
L’yophin shrugged and tilted his head up, revealing blue-grey fur and no brand.
Basil breathe a sigh of relief. Until he spotted the gobs. One was hiding behind Soltana’s head.
It wore a scarf.
“Soltana, lassy. No’to alarm you, bu’one’of the Gobs migh’ be her- The one with the scarf,” Basil said, pointing to the now shy gob.
Soltana felt her processes skip at the thought they were housing one of the Seal holders incognito.
“Little one, can you please take off your scarf?” Soltana asked.
The gob bolted, tumbling down from Soltana’s chassis and scurried.
Basil blinked out and Rith Stepped, catching the gob. with a flick of a gesture, ripped the scarf free.
There he saw it. A mark upon the gobs neck.
A dark green freckle.
Basil deflated at that. All tension left as dew in the morning rise.
“Is’not her. No Seal,” Basil commented as he gently placed the gibbering gob down.
The gob looked perturbed as it began to gibber at Basil.
The gob continued its complaints to the larger hogboon.
“No I don’ have another scarf-
“Look I know you liked it-”
“No I don’ have a rag…”
“Yes I have’a han’kerchief but tha’s-”
“No, you canno’ have it.”
The gob continued to chitter at Basil, pestering him.
“No, You canno’have my bowler!
Basil rubbed his temples as the gibbering went on.
“Feh! Alrigh’take it then. Diniel have mercy!”
L’yophin and Soltana cocked their heads at Basil speaking to the gibbering gob. He pulled out a handkerchief and tied it around the Gobs neck, giving it a white cape.
“I’m sorry to have bothere’you, this is a very serious matter. Diniel has tasked me with findin’her an’keeping her safe,” Basil explained with a bow of his bowler.
“There weren’any others, were there?” Basil asked.
“There were two goblins that had recently changed, but no scarf to cover them. They look normal,” L’yophin explained, scratching at his temple as his eyes rolled with thought.
“Very well, then. If you see her, please crush this an’it’ll aler’me,” Basil asked.
His hands glowed with fae magic and a Laoch was created. The small stone idol resembled Basil, bowler, pipe, and all. He handed it to L’yophin who accepted it incredulously.
“As long as the Laoch is intact, a boon will bless either your crops, creatures, or hearth; your choice.”
“Very well. Thank you, Basil. If you are in need of hospitality my door is open.” L’yophin said, reciting a fae greeting.
“Aye! You know of the fae, then, good! I’ll take up the offer someday. Do’you smoke?”
“Only the best homegrown stuckle weed,” L’yophin replied with a proud smile.
“Patrician taste, my spidery frien’. I’ll accep’the challenge!” Basil said with a tip of his bowler.
“Wait! What is her name?” Soltana began before the hogboon could leave.
He glanced down, a pained look spreading on his face before he recovered.
“Aye, her name is Ruth.”
Soltana felt a chill in her processes at the name. There was a weight to his words.
She would not forget that name.
“Now if you woul’excuse me, I nee’to continue the search.”
Basil vanished in a blink as if he was never there. The energy rifle was left nearby, which L’yophin collected. He looked both shaken and excited. Shaken about the news and being accosted by a Hogboon. And excited that he was accosted by a Hogboon; and given a boon for his trouble.
“L’yophin, who was that-?” Soltana asked.
“That was a Hogboon,” L’yophin said with a grin as he eyed the Laoch.
They continued their journey back to the estate with their rewards.