I'm Bearthing. I like to write which means that I like to plot. I am a prime plotter. I plotted for this. You see, I will ask for a lamp. People say, "Bear, what can you do in the arctic with a lamp?" Many a thing, friend. The shade can be a blanket. The bulb can be shattered and used to cut tree and eat seed. The bulk of the lamp itself can give a Grendel a good thumping. The cord, I've found, tastes much like licorice. You know, in a pinch.
THE EPIC OF BEARTHING THE UNDESIRABLE
Day 1: 12/30/2012
[The journal appears to have been chewed, torn, and snowed-upon in numerous places. However, most sections are still legible, if one sort-of squints a little here and there...]
You must understand that this is a mistake.
I do not recall the specifics of how I was separated from my clan and placed upon this destitute waste of an island. I know that I awoke in a room full of translucent blurs, fey and blinking, who handed me a thing bound in gnarler skin; this thing is called Journal. I know that I thought it food, and tried to eat it, until these creatures – some form of Shee, I assume – gave me a magic wand named Pencil. At that point knowledge filled me. I felt unpleasant. I felt like a vessel for something, a mere system through which a powerful force could flow. I could write.
But then I fell asleep again, or was put to sleep – and I found myself rubbing snow off my ruff some fuzzy-time later, in a noisome and moist cavern. Outside, clouds huddled together above the landscape, somehow comforting in their relative fluffiness. I saw that I had a knapsack, and Journal was with me, tied to Pencil. Inside of Journal I scanned my eyes over scribbles and knew the term reading.
Someone, however, has forged my own biography on the back cover! Someone has sent me here against my will!
Allow me to list you the mistakes.
The painting inside is not accurate, as well as embarrassing. It seems this mysterious Enemy drew me in my youth, when I appeared mostly Siamese. No, I am also part Hardman, through my great-grandmother, Stompy the Will That Old Noodle Ever Shut Up? You can see it in my proud little ruff. I will sketch a more faithful depiction.
I am a prime plotter, sure, but only when it comes to pillaging. You must plan to pillage, and I have pillaged many villages successfully. Ettin villages, Norn villages, Grendel villages, Grettinorn villages. My own village, once, when I was bored. That is why they call me 'the Undesireable.' Or perhaps it is because I do not bathe. Olfactory warfare, you know.
A writer? I did not know how to write until just a while ago, when the concept of it entered into my consciousness through what I believe to be Shee-magic. Had you asked me to sign my name on a contract, I likely would have eaten it, then eaten Hand, then attempted to eat self. (I have a bad habit of eating self, Journal. This I will only confide in you. I ease it with Orange Nice-Nice Potion, but we all backslide...)
As for 'lamp' – what is lamp? Can this be eaten? Are there lampfruits? Note to self: search the land for lampfruit, as it appears to be a useful thing.
I wonder, though.
Could it be my epithet comes not from my inability to cease pillaging or my questionable hygiene, but because I was always different? Not in appearance, no, my clan is homogeneous – likely because we tend to share the same siblings, cousins, and parents. (Our family tree is more of a hedge.) But perhaps – this is a big question – this Enemy knew my potential. It knew I was a window waiting to open and a lock waiting for its key.
You know, Journal, I rather want to go back to being an illiterate barbarian. Already a migraine is gathering up inside my skull from all this – all this – thought. The answer to my kidnapping, to my lost honor, must lie on this island.
So I must search for the Enemy here.
And I will be victorious, and for a thousand somewhat-incestuous generations my clan will sing the epic of Bearthing the Undesireable!
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 2: 12/31/2012
It is balmy and tropical temperature today – brings to mind the world on which I was raised – yet when I stepped outside in the early morning, bits of snow dusted my coat. I stood there for a while, disbelieving, and before I knew it, I looked like one of those rotten ice-licking Fimbul norns, covered completely in the white stuff! Dirty, dirty Shee-magic, all of it. Remember this, Journal: if I find them they are getting a wallop to the face, too. And a Fimbul norn, too, just because my hate is reaching heights I did not think imaginable before I arrived here. Bah!
I do not think Shee are ultimately behind this, however. Merely the middlecreatures. And my tuition is rarely wrong.
[In the margins, seemingly after the whole situation, someone else has written, indeed, all the times Bearthing has in fact been wrong. There seems to have been many, including at least six involving makeshift explosives and, for reasons unknown, hoppities.]
But I had to venture out and make my name. Not a single creature had an epic devised for them simply for standing around. (Except for, perhaps, Joey the Adorable. Do not let the epithet fool you: through some black luck he was born with a grendel's head, and, as is suiting for such creatures, we made a super wonderful trophy of him when he – ah, died. The nornlets just love him now!)
For a moment I stood upon a high hill, Journal and Pencil in tow, calculating my needs for this grand journey. Then I sat upon a high hill, reeling from the migraine from said calculating. Then I got up again, inspired. One cannot travel to meet the Enemy on honor and glory alone, if only because those words are not in Handish vocabulary.
I figured that I was going to require:
* One (1) Magma norn. I need a torch and a camp, and they can breathe fire, yes? [Again, writing lines the margins, this time Bearthing's own: “Is that racist, Journal? Do I care? Fine, then: Toxics eat garbage, Chichis are unfaithful, Bengals bathe too much, Bondis are slackers, Treehuggers are sissies, Astros think they're above it all, all Harlequins look the same to me, Fallows hit the manky too often, and I have never met a Zebra that made a village worth pillaging. Fine. All out of my horrendously-mutated system now.”]
* Three (3) blankies. Er, not for me, you understand. Creatures of my make do not need covering. These are for you, Journal, and you, Pencil, in case I must preserve you in some way.
* Many (1 infinity) foodstuffs. I must search out the lampfruit!
* One (1) fort. A base of operations is essential.
And I have weaponry against the Enemy, should I find it: cannot Journal and Pencil serve as my shield and sword, respectively?
The best way to acquire all the others is by force, you understand. But I could not find another creature for miles around from which to take all these things, and I am certain any Magma that attempted to colonize this horrid place has long-since gone to the Sparkle Reaper. Unfortunately, I had to settle with – argh – simply making or finding materials and shelter, unattended. (I will leave this part out when I recount it to my clan, Journal. Imagine, me! An anti-pillagist! Anyone who declares themselves against pillaging soon finds their village, in fact, pillaged.)
At noon or so, underneath a jagged cliff side, I found the rocky ruins of some old statue, its features unfamiliar to me, its head hollowed out.
A slate nearby said something about Ozymandias king of kings look upon my works ye mighty and eem coo blah I do not really care whose this was, for it is mine now. Fort Bearthing! I spent the rest of my hours scooping all the snow out of the head of the statue and now have a rather dry, dark space in which to lurk. Base of operations: created. Or found. Or I suppose I could say I pillaged it, since it was somebody's, once.
Fortunately (I must write quickly, for the sun is setting) countless boney little carcasses had amassed in the cave. They do not appear to be Shee or grendel or ettin or norn or any unnatural combination of the four. I must, therefore, consider them edible until further notice. I am not hungry at the moment – adventurers do not hunger so quickly! – but I will devour them before someone discovers my cache.
The strangest sensation has fallen over me: I am being watched. Numerous eyes are upon me, I know this. My intuition is rarely wrong.
I rather need that Magma norn, now.
And perhaps the blankies, too. So cold. So – cold –
[The writing drops off into a long illegible line, eventually falling off the page entirely.]
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 3: 1/1/2013
[This page is smudged and wet, the hand hurried.]
Ah, I must write quickly, Journal! Today's weather, once again, has confounded the living cheese out of me – warm enough to stand outside, but abhorrent enough to make one require Orange Nice-Nice Potion. Bits of gray goo are falling from the sky. Gray goo! I thought this a sending from the Enemy until I stepped into it a few minutes ago and saw that it was a mere annoyance of a henchman. A bit like snow, but wetter. And more slippery, for I promptly fell and bumped my noggin.
Great evil! Another name added to my hit-list.
Ahem, so: excuse the illegibility of this entry. Yet how do I summarize such an eventful day before Grey Goo washes it away?
I am staring now at Fort Bearthing, sitting on a boulder under a naked little tree, and Fort Bearthing is staring back at me.
This place is ancient, and whether its malevolence came with millennia or the Enemy simply created the land that way, I cannot say.
Allow me to elucidate on what happened last night.
What, Journal, is the only thing that could defeat a creature in her prime – a creature such as myself? A ghost! You see, one cannot hit ghost; one cannot hunger for ghost; one cannot push ghost. One cannot even eat ghost, for I have tried, and single-handedly got manky banned for the entire clan.
One can, however, like or dislike ghost. And a ghost can like or dislike norn. A ghost, I believe, inhabited me last night. Chalk my disorientation and unconsciousness up to the drastic decrease in temperature if you want, Journal, or perhaps a lack of food; I am made of greater stuff. This was clearly supernatural.
I was lifted into the world of the Sparkle Reaper, where a multitude of beings – all resembling the smoke drifting up from a campfire, except in a thousand different colors – spoke to me:
I peered around for a moment to make sure my great-grandmother Stompy was not among the deceased. That woman could hide me even from the afterlife.
“Yo, er, dead-heads,” I said, tapping my foot. “You're impeding progress towards my destiny here.”
“Survive – and find the Enemy...” they besought me. Or, rather, warned me. It became clear (after yet another horrid migraine) that I had not planned for my own survival as well as I should have, especially in such unfamiliar territory. As much as it pains me – literally, since I am genetically predisposed towards arrogance and a complete lack of moral compunction – to admit it, I had to find aid in the midst of this arctic badland.
The dead do not lie. And they give decent advice, I have found.
I only wish they had not momentarily killed me to talk in the first place.
Of course, I still hate everything about this territory of the Enemy, as I should. And I will probably pillage the heck out of whomever I meet after they have served their usefulness.
Hopefully the lampfruits shall make up for all of this.
That I woke up at all is not a miracle, Journal, so poo on such platitudes! I am, after all, part Hardman. Take note of the 'Hard-.' We could fall from the tops of Bramboo canes and survive with, ah, at least one IQ point intact.
I woke up outside of Fort Bearthing, however, with you and Pencil next to me. Someone – or something – had dragged me out here.
In the mortal realm, I am not alone.
When I tried to return to Fort Bearthing, however, I saw what I drew above: that the place is haunted. I do believe when the Sparkle Reaper put me back, he forgot to put a bandage over the hole, so to speak. And all the yelling and berserkerly stomping and pillaging in the world did not scare the ghosts away. In fact, they stared right at me. Through me, I would say. And I did not like that feeling.
There is no dishonor in tiptoeing away from an enemy that cannot be defeated.
Glad we made that clear, Journal.
Now, to find who dragged me out of Fort Bearthing. To have done so, they must have braved both my odor and my fierce visage. A welcome comrade. For a while.
After regaining my senses, I wandered around for a good half a day in an attempt to find this other – survivor.
“A free get-out-of-pillage card for the nearest creature who can hear me!” I called out. “Once-in-a-lifetime! There is an Enemy I must defeat, and we may share that same Enemy!”
I suppose I must wait. Nearby there is a lake, solid ice, and with my claws I have drawn fish out of it. Er, what appears to be fish, anyway. I ate them raw. An unfit meal for a warrior, but feasts always wait for the victorious.
Ah, Journal. I hope my – argh, quote unquote 'savior' – was a Magma norn. And I hope he has lampfruit, and something to keep the Grey Goo away. I look rather miserable and not ferocious at all. Jerk Enemy. Jerk Enemy land.
Happy Jerk Year.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 4: 1/2/2013
The ancestors must be smiling upon me today, Journal! (Or, in Great-Grandmother's case, grimacing with all the subtlety of a freshly-spewed volcano rock.) I have not only found another living creature, but she is a Magma norn. Ah! I can already smell the victory on the air. Or perhaps that is my own fishy breath, for I think I extincted an entire aquatic species in eating last night. Survival of the fittest, indeed!
But never you mind about me. We shall get back to me, of course, but in order for this story to have any coherence, I must, at least, write some on others. How did I meet the Magma, then? It happened quite like this.
As I told you, Journal, I was waiting yesterday, and quite restless. Waiting, of course, is for the pillaged, but it seemed to be the correct thing to do. I knew that the Enemy was itself watching me for any chink in my armor, any weakness. There are none, of course – I do not wear any armor, obviously – but I did not dare walk more than a mile in any direction. Perhaps the Enemy would grow a lampfruit mirage in my midst. Perhaps it would lure me in with a pile of Orange Nice-Nice Potion. Perhaps it would disturb the ghosts in Fort Bearthing, and they would drag me back to the land of the Sparkle Reaper once more in a barrage of chimes.
This is called being cautious. Hm. “Me very cautious.” Blah! I do not like the taste of it on my mouth. I shall not do this thing again after today.
Eventually, however, I needed to stretch my muscles, and I smacked right into an orange blur – a Magma norn, I saw, as my eyes focused again. She looked rather happy to see me, so I assumed the Enemy had conjured her as a distraction. At first I held you and Pencil up in defense, stomping and yodeling and attempting to scare her off. But she simply told me she had been the one who pulled me out of Fort Bearthing (though she did not refer to it as such, and I corrected her).
It seemed she was also being cautious, for she had on boots, and a scarf, and other such sundries. Nonetheless, she, too, looked exhausted – and quite miserable. I knew then she was a real thing, a living creature, for why would the Enemy send such a lowly thing against the likes of me? Ho ho!
The Magma wondered if we should stick together from now on.
“Huzzah!” I cried, lowering my guard. “Then you and I are comrades. Have you heard of the Enemy?”
She said she did not.
“Have you a Fort, at least?”
She said she did not.
“...Can you breathe fire?”
She said she could not. Obviously, she is not of barbarian make.
“Bah on you,” I commented, and made to wave her off – but decided that I could use an extra set of paws. Not that I cannot build my own shelter, of course; simply put, I needed time, and I did not feel I had it. So, in a few hours, we set up a pleasant-enough place on a hillside, and I grudgingly let her stay. I must admit I stomped about when she started a fire herself, by – of all things – rubbing two sticks together with no dragon-breath whatsoever. A very disappointing Magma, I must say. But useful, nonetheless. This I must admit.
So now we are sitting and staring at each other. Rather a lot. I do not think either of us knows what to say. I certainly do not, though a word is inching its way into one of my 255 lobes: manners. Manners? What are manners? My theory: it is the meal that comes after dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, manners. We should have manners, I suppose, if only I had not over-fished the lake.
After I close Journal for the day, I mean to tell her my story, and she could tell me her own. Perhaps there is a set of facts that coincide, some missing link in the chain of this grand arctic mystery.
I will begin now.
“My name is Bearthing,” I'm telling her. “Called 'the Undesirable.' I am a warrior of the umpteenth generation and I have been brought to this land by a great Enemy...”
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 5: 1/3/2013
Today has been a day of learning, Journal. It has briefly crossed my ever-expanding mind that my skull soon may not be large enough to hold my brain – I wonder if I will explode? Hm. Bearthing the Explosive. Bearthing the Mind-Blowing. The Headless Bearthing?...I do not like the sound of any of these. I must get home soon, back to sweet unconscious destruction.
For now, though –
WORD 1: EMPATHY
The Magma is called Panda-mist. She does not seem to have a title -- I will have to call her by her breed -- and it is clear to me why: she comes from a land ruled by a Hand! I squinted at her as she spoke of her home, of a Hand with 'a few screws loose.' I do not know what this means, but it sounds rather ettinish. I do not hold with ettins. [In the margins, from Bearthing: “Note to self: ettins usually behind everything. Enemy = ettin? Me approach and/or find gadget ASAP.”] Panda-mist the Magma is quite obviously someone's pet; pampered, perhaps. As unused to the landscape as I, but for different reasons.
“Bah!” I said to her. “Hands are madness and to listen to them is worse. Why, back in my clan, we have an Eat Hand Ritual annually! Of course,” I added, “that is the only time the Hand ever makes an appearance. And only with a Hand-ful of Orange Nice-Nice Potions. Otherwise, nothing. Hm.”
I leaned back, taking in the heat of our campfire. She seemed to be somewhat sad despite her laughter, and occurred to me, for some reason, to cheer her up. “I shall tell you the epic, or really the tale, or actually it's quite more of a story, or perhaps a drabble, of Killjoy the Learned. We sent him, for obvious reasons, to find the Hand. When he came back many a year later he spoke Handish, and taught it to all of us, so that when we roasted the Hand we could at the very least interrogate it while we were poking it with sticks. It said something about a wool-fling-run. We assumed it an insult and gobbled it immediately.”
Recalling the situation made me roar with laughter – so much so that I fell over, holding my stomach. Panda-mist the Magma did not seem to like my tale so much, however. I rubbed my cheeks, wondering why I wanted to be so – so – nice. A better word insinuated itself: empathy. I felt – volcano rock?...firework?...bad.
I felt bad for her.
WORD 2: MANNERS
“Hm,” I said again, after I ceased my chortling. “It is an evil Hand who sends it subjects to distant places without consulting them first. You should --” I meant to tell her to eat it, but perhaps, to someone who is unused to that sort of thing, such a suggestion might seem taboo. That term from last night came up again: manners. Manners is not an after-dinner meal after all, I realized; manners is knowing when to say something and where to do something. To be, er, polite.
I am becoming quite lame.
“You should at least hit it, if you make it out of here,” I remarked, finally. “Not even my clan would throw a Magma into the snow.”
[More notes in the margins: “Entirely true, by the way. We would instead stomp on their little lava houses and enslave them to make fires for us. Of course, I know better now. Second note to self: study Panda-mist – bring home to clan, use as personal chef, see if she is good at baking chili pepper cookies?”]
WORD 3: SELFLESSNESS
As if all this education was not enough – I feel as though I have guzzled a clan's worth of Orange Nice-Nice Potions while randomly smacking the buttons of the long-pillaged Learning Machine – yet another term appeared in my consciousness soon after the previous. Panda-mist the Magma offered me a fish; I shook my head and pushed it back towards her.
“Ah! But I have eaten today, and you have not. You can have it,” I said, then blinked. “Er. I do believe I just offered you something purely out of benevolence.” I blinked again, shifting uncomfortably. “Alright. Here is a plan. Tomorrow, you and I, we are going to venture out, and we are going to do some exploring and fighting and some gosh-dang pillaging. I cannot stand sitting around acting like my great-grandmother on a Nice-Nice bender. Hmph!”
When she looked apprehensive, I lay a paw on her shoulder. “Of course, we will come back here. I am simply restless, and I insist we put that to good use: we must stockpile food and determine all the dangers of the Enemy's land. We can keep track in Journal – ah, I see you have one too.”
Odd. Are there other creatures on the island? Do they have Journals?
And yet – why do I care? Oh, Journal, tell me: will I unlearn all this learning? Will I figure out how to be cruel again? Such anxieties. I do not think I will sleep properly tonight.
Sleep is for drunken Fallows.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 6: 1/4/2013
[These pages have tiny droplets spotting them where snow has fallen onto the paper.]
Panda the Magma got us trapped in some kind of Hole Of Death!
Alright, so it was not entirely her fault. But it was not mine, either. The day's events had been relatively mild, up until then. In the morn when we awoke, the sun shone, and though it was chilly, not a cloud meandered across the sky. I gathered up two of the longest, strongest sticks I could – an endeavor itself, in these badlands – and sharpened the edges to a point on a nearby boulder. After I tossed one to the Magma, I gave her lessons on spear-poking. (One does not need to stab to provoke an opponent. No artistry! A good poke in the nose is all an aspiring warrior needs in order to subdue her prey.) She took to it rather well, I would say, for a pet. Not as good as me, though. I have almost rendered many a creature 'the Eyeless,' not excluding myself.
When I deemed us ready, I marked a big symbol in the snow in front of our shelter, so we would know, immediately, if we came upon it again. The Magma commented that it looked like a frowny-face, and raised a yellow eyebrow at me. I did not understand what she meant. True norns of the clan do not simply leave welcome mats in front of their Forts!
“Do you wish to be ransacked?” I asked her, tapping my foot.
The Magma mentioned we did not have anything left in the shelter to ransack.
“That is where you are wrong, my comrade,” I said. “One can ransack nothing, you know. Why, Cheeseball the Klepto ran off with a whole bag full of grendelese nothing when I was a lass –”
She quickly conceded to my point, possibly because I poked her in the belly a few times with the blunt end of the spear, or possibly because I was born with a genetic condition called Diarrhea of the Mouth. It appears whenever I talk, though I cannot detect it myself. It is very severe, I am told. (But what does not kill you makes you stronger, Journal.)
Time, as they say, to pillage.
It snowed, and continued to snow, around mid-afternoon. So thick became the nasty stuff that the Magma and I were practically buried. I could not see, and I feared – yes, Journal, do not mock me! – for what might become of her delicate disposition. After a thunderclap migraine, I had an idea: taking her scarf for the briefest of moments, I stretched it out as far as I could, then tried to wrap her entire little body in it. With any luck, I could keep this creature alive until the end of the storm.
But lo! The Magma is of a tougher, and more intelligent, make than I originally thought. She shouted that we should place the snow at our backs, as we would still be scouting out the land – just in another direction, and with visibility, too. I admitted, grudgingly, that it was a good idea, then promptly took credit for it myself. (Pillaging ideas! How novel! I would bring it back to my clan, except I do not think we have any new ideas, exactly. We all share the same one, like we all, for some reason, share the same siblings.)
In a half-hour the storm ceased. I have experienced rainstorms abruptly end in such a manner, but this smelled suspicious. And when this beautiful thing emerged at the tail end of the last dying flurry –
– I stomped around and held up my spear. Did I not expect this many days ago, Journal? Clearly the work of the Enemy! Well, my comrade and I were not taken in so easily.
“These are lampfruits!” I exclaimed. “Er, I assume. But they are not good lampfruits – they are evil, of the Enemy. This is simply a mirage, or a shared hallucination.”
The Magma nodded and expressed a belief that if we bit into them, we would find, soon enough, that they were simply poison mushrooms, or snakes, or the cuisine of Toxic norns. (All edible, but only for a certain amount of time, you understand.)
I looked at the Magma, and she at me; I could tell we were both voracious. We had forgotten, in our spree of poking, to pack any food, and I saw that the sun was quickly dropping towards the horizon. If we did not eat, we would be exhausted the next day, and I did not want us trapped in yet another erratic storm. And perhaps – perhaps – these lampfruits carried legitimacy. Perhaps I have become too cautious on this island.
She scratched her chin. I scratched mine. We trudged towards the tree. The Magma reached up first for a fruit, and I allowed her, for she needed to eat more than I did. Then I took a fruit myself, and chomped into it. [In the margins: “Tasted rather like lamps, in retrospect. I do not know what lamps are, but if they had a taste, it is this taste.”] We stood there for a moment, proud of ourselves for taking such a risk –
– and, stomachs sinking, fell promptly into this Hole Of Death, where we are now. After gaining our bearings, a conversation ensued.
Myself, stomping about: “Gargh! Fargh! Me extremely angry!”
Panda the Magma: “Maybe express self?”
Myself, confused: “...I just did, Magma.”
She, confused: “Um. I know. But it always seemed to help me.”
Where is a Hand to hit when you need one, Journal? Bah.
So I am writing by the light of the blue-gray crystals that perforate the hole. I see a tunnel, similarly lit, down ahead. The Magma suggested we rest up, try to find actual mushrooms, and then continue through the cavern.
Look at that! She does not want to try to escape. Not that there is one – it seems the storm never really stopped at all, and the drive of snow has plugged up the hole down which we fell.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 7: 1/5/2013
I have learned a new turn of phrase today: 'fear the worst.' I do not like it. I do not fear anything, and certainly not the worst. In fact, I consider myself the worst thing to be feared by just about anyone or anything. It would be quite counterproductive, therefore, to have nightmares about me when I am obviously at the top of the food chain. When it is working properly, at any rate.
Yet I can see precisely why creatures use this idiom.
The Magma and I spent yesterday evening – what I presume was evening – munching on the greyish fungi that grows here. (As we both escaped belly aches and visions of purple grendels, I believe that the mushrooms are safe. Let this be a boon to any creature trapped here!) She pointed out, quite astutely, that we should exercise caution around the icicles down here. I agreed, and, afterward, we took a brief nap before continuing on our way.
And continued on our way.
And continued on our way.
Do you see, Journal, what I am insinuating here?
The tunnel narrowed until the top barely scraped our nornish heads. I do believe we walked for eight or nine hours, though I do not know for sure. (I forgot to wind my internal clock before I got here. Every time one thinks she never needs something...) Same tunnel; same crystals; same icicles, and they almost fell upon us once or twice! Ah, I live for such peril!
But a thought came to mind: since it was impossible we were going physically in circles, perhaps the Enemy had magicked this place so that it simply appeared that we were. In other words, I had a distinct feeling we might be trapped, and not in the way I originally thought. I did not want to admit this to my delicate comrade, so I said nothing –
– and stubbed my toe on this contraption.
“Ack!” I exclaimed, then looked down. “What in the name of the Shee is this infernal thing?”
The Magma's eyes brightened; she came forward and poked it on with the blunt end of her spear. It spoke to us in a melodic tone.
“You look like an angel,
Walk like an angel,
Talk like an angel,
But I got wise...
You're the devil in disguise! Oh yes you are...”
“Huzzah! Another creature,” I said, and poked it the same way she did. It changed its tune:
What a wonderful phrase!
Ain't no passin' craze...”
I made numerous attempts to hold a conversation with the thing – the Magma, for some reason, giggling as I did so – before I went to stomp all over it in my frustrations. She took my arm, however, and told me that it played music. It was, I quote, a Box Of Boom. A type of toy. It reminded her a bit of home. She leaned forward and pressed a button, so that its sounds became soft and – dare I say it? – nice.
“Oh, I'll tell you something,
I think you'll understand
When I say that something:
I wanna hold your hand...”
“Hmph,” I hmphed, though I felt sleepy, listening to the Box Of Boom. “This better not make me weak, Panda the Magma. As it is, I have become a touch too soft for my liking.”
She smiled, and promised it would not, and we decided to settle in for a while. We both fell asleep fast to the tune of the Box Of Boom, leaning against the side of the tunnel. Somehow its magics made me feel optimistic. For an achingly brief period of time, I forgot about the Enemy all together, and I dreamed of home. Later, I awoke a little before the Magma and let her sleep while I crawled a bit further down the tunnel...
I think I will tell you what I saw tomorrow, Journal.
Because it is magnificent.
And I will pillage all of it.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 8: 1/6/2013
GOLD EVERYWHERE GOLD GOLD GOLD ALL KINDS OF GOLD AND SWORDS AND SHIELDS AND SPEARS ALL MADE OUT OF GOLD
GOLD NECKLACES AND CROWNS AND RINGS
AND GOLD BOXES OF BOOM TOO AND THERE IS A GOLD TABLE AND A WHOLE GOLDEN FEAST
MINE MINE MINE ALL MINE HAHAHAHAHAHA –
[The writing becomes illegible, then turns into a giant unidentifiable scribble of some sort as well as a series of numerous rather disgusting pictograms.]
Ah! Excuse that. Actually, do not excuse that. When I return to my clan, I shall be Bearthing the Absolutely Loaded!
Of course, that requires getting out of this cavern, and I am unsure where to begin in looking for an exit. The Magma has tasted the food and bravely ascertained that it is safe, but even I must admit that such goods will not last forever.
I have allowed the Magma a portion of the loot, if only due to logistics – I tried to scoop up all the gold and food and Boxes of Boom in my arms. Unfortunately, as my arms are only eight inches long and this cavern is about six metarooms wide, it soon became a vain endeavor.
So, she gets her share, because leaving all this behind would be a terrible waste of booty.
And because I enjoy her company.
Do not laugh at me like that, Journal.
I have noticed the loot is covered in frost – sometimes thin and slickly, like ice, and sometimes so thick that one can pick up a veritable snowball of coins. The Magma noticed a similar thing, and asked me how this could be so, if it is so temperate in the cavern.
“And why,” I asked in return whilst swimming in the coinage, “is it temperate in the cavern? I have noticed this land has a layer of what I believe to be ice that never melts underneath the shrubs and trees. A perma-frost, if you will. It should be quite cold in here, but it is not. In fact, I feel as though I'm sitting in a steam-pool...”
I have just rubbed my chin. It tingles. I am told that the Shee have hair on the back of their necks that stands up when they are startled or detect someone's presence. Chin-tingling is the nornish equivalent – or, rather, the equivalent in my own clan, as the sheer amount of organs we are missing after all the inbreeding barely qualifies us as actually living, much less any kind of creature. (Makes for a good defense, though. Poking us is like poking cheese.)
At any rate, someone is here. Someone besides Panda the Magma. Or something.
Alas, Journal, we must depart for the day. With the Magma I shall root out this something, for we have claimed what is rightfully ours!
“Come forth, foul creature!” I will cry. “Battle us for your booty!”
I expect some sort of snow-ettin is behind all this, so I do not expect the fight to last very long –
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 9: 1/7/2013
[These pages are charred and warm to the touch.]
Ah, Journal! I thought I might never find an hour to write in you again. I must be quick.
Panda the Magma sneaked out with this map.
(See a bigger version on the next page.)
I pilfered it from the Shee-Dragon's stocks, then wrote on it myself. And the Shee-Dragon, idiotic creature, not only let the Magma go, but told her how to get out, for it considers her kin. (They are both creatures of fire, after all.) Ha! This shall be its downfall. She will bring a horde to distract the dragon, and I will conquer its horrifying self.
As much as I despise saying so – I am stuck. Underneath this Shee-dragon's great lardy tail. No amount of spear-poking will wake it. And oh, it is angry at me for pillaging its loot.
Well! I am angry at it for generally being a jerk.
Tomorrow, Journal, after this whole upset of a situation is finished (and I have taken my share of the coinage, not to mention the gold cheese and Boxes of Boom), I will explain, in detail, precisely what happened. I do not think the Shee-Dragon is the Enemy, but I do think the Enemy produced this monstrosity. I am getting closer to my answers, Journal, ever so closer.
For now, I must –
[The rest of the page is burned.]
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 11 & Day 12: 1/8/2013 & 1/9/2013
The Shee-Dragon is sedated, Journal. For now. It seems to subsist wholly on the fungi that grows around the cavern – the golden feast remains untouched, except for those small scrutinized moments it allows me to take a bite. So, much akin to a Bengal norn or some other feline, the Shee-Dragon is all about play, with no interest in gobbling me up.
I believe it will be slumbering for a while, so I will take the opportunity to explain just what is going on. For reference. And for future generations. This is my epic, after all. (Not that my people will be able to read it. Hm. Note to self: use Box of Boom to record self narrating in Bibblish. Or perhaps create a picture book.)
As I said in my entry two days ago, the Magma smuggled out of this dratted cavern with a map. She has not yet returned. Perhaps she has abandoned me. I cannot blame her. That is the way of the pillager; all for one and always for one. Alternatively, perhaps she has perished out there in the cold. I should have attempted to find a golden sweater for her before I sent her out.
Either way, I rather – miss her. Yes, yes, I know! I know, Journal. You musn't mock me. This place has softened me so, like old cheese. But I enjoyed her company. Though she was not blood, it certainly felt like she was, from time to time. And she taught me numerous things I would not otherwise know – my migraines have almost gone away completely! (Or my lobes have dissolved into Grey Goo. This, too, is a possibility.)
There is a word on the tip of my tongue (or rather, my Pencil). F-something. F-r. Fr. Fried. I believe it is 'fried.' She is my Fried, and Frieds are supposed to remain together, much like a warband, or worms and detritus.
Here is another word: conscience. I think it is a disease. Imagine having ATP decoupler all the time, except instead of meeting certain death, you feel as though your heart is melting through your nostrils!
Remind me to try to find lemons when I return to my clan.
The rest of the story goes like so.
The Shee-Dragon speaks to me when it deigns to drop down to my level. After the Magma left, it turned one glassy eye to me.
“How you amuse me, Tiny!” it rumbled.
“My name is Bearthing the Undesirable, soon to be Bearthing the Dragon-slayer and Bearthing the Absolutely Loaded, as soon as I deal with you. Watch yourself, you – you geat,” I replied.
It chortled. Steam rose up from its nostrils.
“I am put in mind,” it said, “of all the others who have come before you. I do believe you have met them?”
The spirits in Fort Bearthing! A deep sense of vengeance filled me. I wriggled, trying to chomp on the dragon's tail. And every time it laughed, longer and louder, the anger only rose higher and higher in me; not even Orange Nice-Nice Potion could have saved me in that moment. Nonetheless, the Shee-Dragon picked me up with its thumb and forefinger, and I dangled as though a Hand had grabbed me.
It expressed its boredom as I tried to paw at it. “So,” it said, “I will answer three questions of yours, if you so wish. Though, as you are a greedy Tiny, I cannot imagine you have anything worthwhile to ask.”
For an instant, I stopped swatting. A glorious opportunity to discover more about the Enemy, who was practically right in my paws! My migraine returned as I thought about my questions, and again, I missed the presence of the Magma. She would likely know what to say.
But I tried my absolute hardest. “Can I have more than three questions?”
“I am not a genie, Tiny.”
“Flib. Er. Ah. Alright. What are you?”
“A Shee-Dragon. Hah! My theory has come to life.”
One more. Minutes passed as I calculated the correct way to ask what I needed to ask.
“How did you come to be, Shee-Dragon?”
Its expression seemed to flop, and it dropped me unceremoniously into the coinage beneath it. I splashed around in the booty for a bit before finding air again. The Shee-Dragon, as I glanced up, did not seem angry; simply distant, far-off. As if someone had suggested for it to look self.
“The same way,” it replied, grimly, “everything else on this island did.”
With a hiss it got to its feet and ate in silence. Before I could stalk away, it wrapped its great tail around me and kept me securely against its scaly bulk. I poked it a thousand times with Pencil, my rage building, but it did not seem to notice me.
So, here I am. Exhausted, but pensive. Hear me out, Journal, for my own theory is coming together.
1. The Enemy has strange magics.
2. It is using these magics to create the creatures on this island.
3. It is some form of Shee, and, in its arrogance, it is imparting a bit of itself into these creatures.
4. Like all Shee, it enjoys sport. (And tea, but I have yet to figure where this comes into play.)
5. It has called Magma and myself – and possibly others – to come play.
Is all this simply for some evil Shee's enjoyment?
I do not know.
I am not sure I want to.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 13 & Day 14: 1/10/2013 & 1/11/2013
Panda the Magma returned yesterday!
...By herself. No horde of warriors in sight.
Flib, thought I.
When I craned my neck around, however, I saw that she had brought with her a Box of Boom – the same one, I realized, into which we had stumbled before this entire Shee-Dragon disaster. I could not imagine what she planned to do. The Shee-Dragon had countless Boxes of Boom, many of which were gold-plated, and I did not imagine it would accept her tribute.
(Er, not to scale.)
Yet the Shee-Dragon plucked the Box of Boom from the Magma's paws and stared at it intently.
“I possess numerous music-machines, Fire Tiny,” it said, tilting its head to one side. “Why would I want yet another when I can simply keep this Smelly Tiny around for my amusement?”
The Magma puffed her chest out and explained that a Box of Boom could sing for the Shee-Dragon, but I never could. She motioned to me.
“I concur,” I said, nodding furiously. Then she motioned to me again, and I immediately recognized the look in her eye.
“Er. Ah. I cannot sing. Look, see --”
And I belted (or perhaps squealed is a better use of my new-found vocabulary) out a rather obnoxious manky tune from the old days of my clan. It is in Bibblish, so it is hard to recount here; basically, it is about a Hand, a grazer, and a – er. Well. You understand, yes, Journal?
The Shee-Dragon certainly did, for it roared and slammed me across the cavern with its tail to stop me. Though it hurt – oof, my belly aches still thinking about it! – I grinned at the Magma when I reappeared out of the sea of booty. I may be the brawn of this operation, Journal, but she is certainly the brains.
“How dare you disturb my ears so!” rumbled the Shee-Dragon, yet the Magma stood her ground. She said that the dragon should take the Box of Boom if it wanted me to stop, yet the geat was not fully persuaded. It dropped the Magma's tribute into a pile beneath it, opining that it was no more special than any of its other Boxes of Boom, and it would not let me go.
The Magma shook her head and told the Shee-Dragon it was special.
“Huh?” I said.
“Hah?” said the Shee-Dragon.
She came forward and pressed the button. Sang the Box:
“In my midnight confessions,
When I tell the whole world that I love you...!”
“That – that song,” the Shee-Dragon remarked, and as the Magma changed the tunes, its eyes brightened. I have never seen such a look in my life. “I thought I had lost that music-machine...”
The Magma grinned. “Consider it an addition to your collection. Will you let Bearthing go?”
Groaning, the Shee-Dragon swatted us away down the tunnels. It curled its tail around its gift. No, Journal, we did not flee. We ran strategically in the other direction of danger. Quite a difference, if I may say so.
“Get out before I reconsider,” the Dragon said. “GET OUT!”
(...Still not to scale.)
So I did not get to pillage a single thing. I am displeased with myself at the moment. But I kept one chilly little coin, and a Magma. That may be enough for today.
We settled into the tunnels again, munching fungi once more before taking a long (and well-deserved) nap. Today, however, it seems we are back at square one.
“What to do now, Magma?” I asked. “We must find a way out before I go mad of pillage-withdrawal.”
She blushed and said that she thought I made the decisions between the two of us.
“Well,” I remarked, “that may be so – in fact, it is so, hmph – but you are obviously the thinker here. You will come up with something, no?”
With a nod, the Magma settled into slumber again, seemingly content. Before I could tell her my theory about this land, she was dreaming, her paws twitching this way and that.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 15/16/17/18: 1/12, 1/13, 1/14, 1/15
It has been a while, Journal. I apologize. I feel as though I have not had the ability to write the last few days; so much happened, and then nothing.
Back in the tunnels the Magma told me, of all things, that she had befriended a grendel there. Apparently, he lives on this island. Yes, Journal, he lives here, on this frozen piece of [“I am crossing this word out here, apparently an expletive; who knew that she could develop knowledge of Handish curses?” – Anonymous]. The Magma stopped me before I could say any more, but I do not trust him. I will not tell her this, but, believe me, Journal: he must work for the Enemy! Grendels naturally thrive in the jungle, and one that developed an immunity to the cold must be dangerous, indeed.
But not too dangerous for Bearthing the Undesirable and Kind-Of Loaded Because I Have A Gold Coin, At Least! Though, when I bit into the coin, it bent in half. Hmph.
Anyway: I believe this grendel is taking advantage of her natural Magma gullibility. He has muddled with the wrong warband, let me tell you, Journal! I will make another poking-spear (or six) and be on the watch for him. Prepare to get poked, snow-grendel.
The grendel, to my great dismay, accompanied us out of the tunnel – we found the hole through which we originally dropped, thanks to Magma – and he waved and left us. Yes, you better go, grendel. He was this close to getting poked to certain death! (Well, you cannot see my paws, but you can imagine, Journal.)
We were battered with a small flurry, but it was much easier going back to our shelter than it was to where we had fallen into the Shee-Dragon's tunnel – probably because my frowny-face mark out front did, in fact, come in handy! The Magma decided to take time to rest when we crawled inside. Bah. I suppose I must put up with it, because she is my Fried and Frieds accept each other's, you know, flaws and lack of pillaging and things.
Note to self: train her in the perfect art of barbarism. For now, I think I will sleep. Angrily.
Last night I poked her awake.
“Panda,” I whispered, then shouted: “Panda Panda Panda Panda the Magma!”
She twitched awake and blinked at me. For a moment, she looked horrified, as if I had alerted her to some danger, but I simply laughed and put a paw on her shoulder. I told her we were fine, for now – unfortunately. I was bored, I admitted. So I suggested something that had been rolling about my admittedly oversized skull for a few days:
“I have seen,” I began, “great white furry creatures running about this place, fishing and such. They look somewhat like us – they can walk on all fours or on twos – except that they are much wider, and bigger, and, er, more ferocious. I believe they might be a form of Bear, the being for which I was named. I posit that we capture a baby Bear, and raise it as our own, and use it against the Enemy!”
(They look rather like this, Journal. I can see the resemblance between me and it. What a majestic creature! All it needs is a ruff, and purple fur.)
Leaping up, I grabbed a newly-minted poking-spear. “What do you say, Magma?”
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 19: 1/16/2013
The Magma expressed great enthusiasm (I, er, think) at my plan to capture a young Bear! And now we have stumbled upon
imminent death the most fantastic adventure I could have possibly imagined. Ah, what a wonderful story I shall tell when I return to the clan!
Before we set off, she got together supplies and I briefly wandered about our shelter site, looking for materials with which to sew a net; I could not imagine capturing the Bear any other way. (I could overpower it, for certain, but do you expect me to carry the creature back to shelter by myself, Journal? I do not think so.) I eventually discovered, soggy and washed up on the lake nearby, what I needed.
This only confirms there are other creatures here, Journal!...or, were. Survival of the fittest, I suppose, and Magma and I are quite fit indeed.
Well, I am, at any rate.
We set out in heavy snow that was ultimately nothing but fluff – you know, Journal, the evanescent kind that melts as soon as it hits one's fur – so it did not impede our progress. While we traversed, I poked at the ground in an attempt to find a hollow spot, a place where a mother Bear might have hidden her eggs. The Magma expressed concern that we might, once again, fall into the Shee-Dragon's tunnels.
“Bah,” I bah'd. “Then we shall capture the Shee-Dragon if we have to! We are more than prepared. We are simply looking for a being we can train to our advant –”
Beneath us, a bit of snow collapsed into – yes, a den! I leaped over and peered into the opening. At first, I saw nothing at all but a blinding whiteness, and in frustration I stomped about. But the Magma turned me around and pointed down into the hole at a series of minute black speckles.
A litter of newly-hatched babies: six eyes, three noses.
“Flib!” I said, kicking at the snow again. “We cannot capture these.”
The Magma raised an eyebrow.
“Well, we need to find Bear eggs. Babies do us no good, Magma. They are already bonded to their mother.”
She informed me that Bears do not lay eggs.
“What! Then how else do they –”
As she leaned in to whisper the rather, er, wondrous details to me, I noticed one of the babies crawling out to greet us, its nose twitching. With all the quickness of a retreating norn, I snatched it up in the net. It began to make a strange whining noise, wailing upward into a screeching pitch that, I am sure, can only be heard by ettins.
“Hey! Hey! Stop it,” I told the Bear. It did not listen to me, so I tried a series of languages: “Eem coo? Express self? Push Hand? Ack! Panda! Make this thing cease its yowling.”
I shoved the netted thing in her arms. She soothed it, petting its little stupid head and calling it a series of baby-names, and it seemed to enjoy her presence better than my own.
From behind us, a loud snorting echoed about, sounding quite like a gnarler searching for detritus.
Then it became a roar.
To make a long story short, we are in a tree. A rather tall tree, to be exact. At the top. The mother Bear is down below, pushing on the tree, and failing to scramble up to our level.
We still possess the baby in a net. I keep glancing at the Magma, who keeps glancing back at me; we keep going back and forth on what to do. She believes we should return the baby and never try 'this' – she says 'this' as if the situation amounts to a pile of stinky cheese – again. Bah! Barbarians cannot, and do not, quit.
“Imagine how the mother must feel,” the Magma besought me.
“I cannot. Quite literally, in fact. I do not have a sympathy gene. My clan is famous for it –”
The Magma sighed at me and craned her neck down at the mother bear. I am not sure what concerns her so, Journal! We can stay up here for days if we must. We shall win this war of attrition! We have water, we have our spears, we have our baby Bear, we have food –
I just dropped our food on the mother Bear.
I must say, Journal, this situation is growing increasingly...complex.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
Day 21: 1/18/2013
[This page is full of tiny polar-bear paw-prints.]
We are back at our shelter, now, and how? The Magma convinced me to release the baby Bear. Not without a fight, mind you, Journal! I would have remained until I sparkled to death, believe me. And I had plans: use the scent of my ruff fur to distract the mother, flee with the baby, and, above all, use wanton violence to express self.
But the Magma appealed to my better side, it seems.
So we lowered it down and waited and the mother took it back; after hours of my foot-tapping, the mother left with it, seemingly content. I stomped about for a while, and then we trudged home.
Bah. The Magma tells me that we do not need a baby Bear to defeat the Enemy; she tells me I am great and strong and astounding and ettins weep at the mere rumor of my presence. (Yes, those were her exact words, Journal. Look in her Journal if you do not believe me!) And while I enjoy her new-found barbarism, but I cannot help sensing that I have made no progress. I am still here on this island, and the Enemy remains a series of theories for me.
Then again, I have found a Fried.
No jerk Hand is going to take her back home, no sir! When we break the Enemy and destroy this place from end to end, I simply must smuggle her back to the clan with me. (And anyone else we may find, for that matter. We could very much use norns in the gene pool with all their organs still intact...)
The weather was mild today, and I paced around the campfire with my spear as the Magma curled inside our lean-to, chomping on a fish. All my thoughts lead to dead-ends, and my frustration was rising to a volcanic level even a Magma could not withstand!
She expressed the fear that our time was running out if we wanted to stick it to the Enemy; she could not explain why, only that she sensed it in the air, like a misplaced CA. I agreed wholeheartedly. [A note from Bearthing in the margins, written much later: “What in the name of the Shee is a CA? Knowledge comes; wisdom eludes.” A second note, later again: “Oh my goodness, I am turning into some sort of Nornfucious.” A third, later still: “And now I'm saying 'oh my goodness.' I simply must must MUST leave this place before I am as squishy as a boiled egg!”]
“If I was an Enemy,” I said out loud, twirling my poking-spear in the air, “where would I hide my coward jerk self?”
She suggested many places: in a deep den, on a high mountain, in a vault, under the ocean or a lake – places where one can enact subterfuge without much concern for their own well-being. I bah'd at her and told her that Enemies prefer Lairs or Forts or other such things.
“Although –” I began, and then stopped. A migraine stepped all over my brain as I tried to make a connection. “Although, you may be correct after all, Magma. A den or a mountain or a vault or an ocean can act as a Lair or Fort. But we must think. Have we seen anything unusual in our travels?...besides the ghosts in Fort Bearthing, and the Shee-Dragon, and the lamp-fruit mirage, and...”
I stuck my spear into the ground and crossed my arms with yet another 'bah.'
“I mean an unusual structure,” I concluded.
Don't care; I'm a bear.
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