Water dripped from the stalactites in the caves, their waters causing ripples across an otherwise calm lake. The lake reflected a soft white light emanating from the cave’s only exit. The quiet chatter of hushed voices echoed gently through the cave, the noise agitating the hanging bats as they tried to sleep. Deep through the winding caves sat the Ratmen and the Scientist; the little belongings that survived their journey decorated the small cave. The scientist’s soft lights circled the top of the cave, filling it and the nearby chambers with light. The scientist lay shivering under the few torn blankets they managed to bring with them.
“We need medicine; he will die.”
“Nothing survived; we must wait for the others to return.”
The two remaining Ratmen sat nearby the scientist, discussing what they should do with the time they have. But their voices fell silent as a new noise caught their ears. They stood as soon as it reached them; they grabbed the broken pieces of furniture as weapons and waited. They stared at the two entrances to their cave with their complete focus. Their grips tightened on their makeshift weapons, and they felt their hearts increase the pace as the tension built. The sounds quickly became the sound of scraping. Three distinct long claws crept out of the darkness, a long, hairless, and thick arm followed. A nose filled with course hairs sniffed into the air, cold white eyes remained still in their sockets as their ears twitched. Their hunched body sulked through the cave with rolls of flesh cascading over one another in a seemingly endless wave. Its tail dragged behind it as a dead weight, the occasional twitch being the only signs of life in it. It stopped its trudging and turned its head slowly to where the scientist lay shivering. It inched forward on its feet as its sniffing intensified, its ears focusing more intently in his direction. Snarling, it lowered itself onto all four of its limbs, ready to pounce. Its footing changed as the sound of wood on rock filled the room.
“Here, come.” Shouted a Ratman as he slammed his wooden stick against the rock wall of the cave.
The beast turned its whole body and realigned its pose, striking towards the Ratman. It snarled and slobbered as it galloped at full speed.
“How, so fast.” The nearby Ratman said as he watched the mole beast move across the room at an increasingly impressive speed.
The mole creature collided with the Ratman, striking blindly with its long claws, the missing strikes carving deep wounds into the stone behind the Ratman.
By the time the others returned, they found the scientist lying on the ground of the cave with his blood spilled. The Ratmen who were in the cave with him looked even worse than he did, their bodies cut to ribbons and their flesh being eaten by the pierced mole creature. It turned its head and screamed with a shrill that cut through the ears of the Ratmen. They Dropped what little they held and rushed towards the beast; raising their crude weapons, they lunged at it; with the cost of two more lives, the monster lay slain on the ground.
“Master!” The Ratman leader screamed as he ran to the scientist’s side.
He ran his paws under the scientist’s body, feeling the warmth leaving his body. The scientist coughed up blood as he rolled to face the Ratman leader.
“This is me, everything I am.” He spluttered as he brought a small book from under his robes, seemingly untouched by the toils of the journey into the caves. He pressed it into the Ratman’s paws. “This knowledge is how I will live on through all of you.”
“No time to argue. My time has come, life is just a resource, and we must not cry when it is spent. We must look where to find more.” The lights in the cave started to falter as the scientist’s words became quieter. “Learn my art, and use it to survive. Then, burn that village to the ground, use the toxic lives of those living there to start a new life.”
The Ratmen started to cry as they knelt by his side, one of them taking the book from their leader and flicking through the pages.
“Crying is good; let out your emotions.”
“You will be missed, my Master.”
“I am not your master because you are not my slave. You are My cre…” His words faltered as his life left him, and the lights overhead were consumed by the complete darkness of the cave.
There was a few moments of darkness then the Ratman with the book muttered out words that created a single, small light. The Ratmen collected as one group and surrounded the small sphere of light.
“Let this light be the reminder of the man who brought us from fearful rodents to creatures of potential. We are not slaves, we are not vermin, we are Mycre.”
The Mycre all nodded solemnly as they each remembered the scientist from the memories of him that they had.
“How many are we?” The leader asked as he looked around at the others. “Just six? We have lost many.”
Another Mycre rested his paw on the leader’s shoulder.
“No, not lost. They are still here.” She said, pointing to the light. “And here.” She added, pointing to the leader’s heart. “And here.” She added, resting the leader’s hand on her stomach. “We must breed; as old lights disappear, new ones must be made.”
“You are the only female. I…”
“It is okay; I know what role I play in our journey. It is one I take with pride; even though I know what I will be going through, I am excited.”
“All have our parts to play; it will be hard for all.”
The Mycre grouped together, embracing one another, taking one last moment of peace before returning to reality.
A once calm lake that was bathed in darkness rippled with movement and was shining with the illumination of enormous spheres of light that floated above its surface. A chorus of chittering filled the cave with the noise of life. Mycre of all ages ran through the cave; the youngest played, and the older ones planned as those before them did, and those who proceeded them will continue to do. The bones of those who started life in the cave were mounted on the walls, with their words written on a banner above them.
‘The light of knowledge carries life from the jaws of death’
Before their bones stood a pedestal with the scientist’s journal, his bones decorating the wall space directly behind it. As the Mycre passed this wall, they silenced themselves, bowing their heads in recognition of the deeds done by those that came before them. The occasional Mycre would stop and take their time to read through the pages from the now sacred text.
“How did the scientist learn so much in one life and all by himself!” The Mycre marveled as it scanned the pages. “We will do you proud; we will take the town that took everything from you.” He added as he placed one paw on the cover of the book and bowed with his eyes closed.
“The light of knowledge carries life from the jaws of death.” He recited as a parting sign of respect.
His paws pattered along the cave floor as he ran off with his own book under his arm, its cover new and its pages just shy of a virgin. He ran into a chamber filled with other young Mycre; they knelt on the ground with books on their laps; at the head of the chamber was a lone, aged Mycre. He sat on his chair and looked over those who sat before him.
“Who here has something to show today?” He asked as he tried to lock eyes with any of his younglings. A single paw raised with confidence, the elder Mycre gestured for the youngling to stand.
“Since you were late, I expect you to have something worthwhile today.”
The youngling nodded.
“I was late because I was paying my respect to the Scientist and the Six. I can only hope that my work lives up to their name.”
He opened his book a few pages in, having to turn back to where his work was written.
“Your book seems to be rather an empty, youngling.”
“I know master, but my work is quality.”
The Youngling ran a finger across his work, tapping the last line he memorized the words that were written. Bringing a paw to his forehead, he recited the words written; pulling his finger back, a small flame flickered, and others in the room snickered. Speaking the next line of words, the others watched as the flame grew and roared like the flame of a jet engine, pushing his hand backward. Grabbing at his elbow, he held his arm in place. The other younglings were awed.
“What are the applications, Youngling?” The master asked.
The youngling turned to the wall and pushed the flame into the stone; everyone watched as the stone started to melt. Once his demonstration was complete, he extinguished the flame.
“We can use it to dig; tunnels would be much quicker to build if we could melt the stone instead of digging our way through the stone.”
The Younglings all cheered and started to clap.
“Make your way to the mining sector; we will let the Master decide whether or not your spell will be of use.”
The youngling ran through the halls carved in stone with pride in his heart.
“Been strange tremors of late; what do you think is causing it?” An old man asked as he sat at the bar in town, nursing the drink in front of him.
“Oh, so you want to know my opinion?” The bartender asked rhetorically. “I thought you all thought I was just a crackpot.”
“Urgh, you saying that you don’t want to give me one of your crackpot ideas?”
The bartender laughed to himself, pulling the stool from behind the bar he sat.
“Okay, so here it is.”
“Here we go.” Said the patron as he sipped at his tankard.
“You asked, so quiet. Now everyone knows of the scientist that used to live here and how he used magic to enhance his research. There was that incident where he accidentally let loose a monster or two on the town, which is why people did not like him much. His place is that walled-off area where the ground was scorched and salted, for whatever reason.”
“Yeah, yeah. We all know that much, but that was years ago; what has that got to do with the tremors that are happening now?”
“I am getting there; just drink up. So when he was here, he was hated just because of one incident. It goes without saying, but it was the church that started the hatred. Regardless the end result was the same, the ‘death’ of the scientist.”
“Oh, by the gods, what is that supposed to mean?”
“Because he did not die, despite what is written in the town history, I know the truth. You know how I mentioned the fact that the area is walled off? Well, it is because there is a cave system under the town, a cave system that the scientist and his rat monsters escaped through.”
“I am sorry, but when were there rat monsters in this story?”
“Oh right, sorry. I missed that bit. The scientist created rat monsters, that is why they assaulted his tower. It was said they were violent beasts, but I see no evidence of that.”
“So the tremors are because of the scientist living under our town?”
“I mean, not unless he figured out how to stop aging; this all happened so long ago that there is no way he survived this long. I think it is the rat monsters that are building an under empire that will rise from under the ground and come and claim back this town as their home as payback for us killing their creator.”
The man at the bar finished his drink and started to walk from the bar.
“I regret asking if I am being honest. You are a madman.” He muttered as he stepped from the building. The door closed behind him, leaving the bartender alone.
“You all call me crazy, but I know what I know. Isn’t that right, friend?”
Yellow eyes peered from under a trap door behind the bar.
“You keep telling our story, and one day someone might believe you.”
“I doubt it. Don’t worry; no one is looking for you; we all think that you are dead.”
“I pray you are certain; let the light guide you.”
“And you, my friend.”
The trapdoor lowered slowly after the Mycre grabbed bags of supplies left out for him.