Hello, everyone! I am so excited to announce that our little corner of the internet has grown to include 100 followers. That may not seem like much to some, but it was only recently that I started to get more active on my blog, and I’m happy to see that it’s paid off, that the content I’m putting out has made so many of you excited enough for new content that you wanted to join our small community.
To celebrate this milestone, I wanted to share a short story with you. It’s been one that I’ve wanted to write for some time now. It takes place in the same world that my current work in progress takes place in, and I wanted to use it to explore the magic system through a different set of eyes. The following short story is the result.
If you like the story and you’re interested in the world, my high-tier patrons, among other things, do get behind-the-scenes bookish content like this. Already, there’s another short story published there about the other part of the magic system that one can find in my WiP. I’m quite proud of it 🙂 Here’s the link for our patreon. But, without any further ado, the story of…
The mole’s real name was not, of course, Talpa, as moles do not have a sense of identity the same way a human might. They have their senses of smell, of course, but that will not help the reader, so Talpa it is.
Talpa and his five siblings were all rather large, as far as moles go, and it had taken everything out of their mother, the poor thing, to keep them fed. And so it came to pass that, while ruffling about towards the surface to look for food, a coyote unearthed their mother and swallowed her whole. It is unfortunate, but do not fear; this is not her story. It is Talpa’s.
The young siblings did the animal equivalent of arguing with each other about the next appropriate course of action. They spent a considerable amount of time squeaking and shuffling, expecting their mother to hear their distress and hurry on over to help them. Talpa, as the first to begin to suspect that they were now on their own, was the first to fall silent, waiting for his siblings to come to the same conclusion. He was hungry, but not starving, and it had not yet crossed his mind that the only way they would get food now was if they went and searched for it themselves.
Of course, that brought another round of arguments. They were safe in their little den beneath the ground, and with Talpa leading the charge, they had even made a few renovations to fit their growing bodies. It was an architectural marvel, as far as mole dens go. The roof only collapsed in two places, and they were able to fix it within the hour. A few worms fell through, and that, they quickly learned, meant dinner.
But there is only so long one can live in a mole network with one’s mole siblings before one feels the need to find a new place to live. In this, Talpa was not the first, but only on a technicality. He had found himself adding to a small store of food, his worms properly paralyzed and waiting to be consumed, and he did not want to leave them for the others.
With them eaten, Talpa finally said his farewells to his remaining siblings and braved the surface. It was a long climb, at least for him. They had expanded their tunnels, but stuck to their own little corners, and Talpa was very much out of shape. In truth, he did not even know such a place existed where there was no dirt and worms. It sounded terrifying.
Yet instinct drove him up, and for the first time, Talpa felt the warmth of the sun on his velvety fur. He thought perhaps he was dying. But, no, this did not seem like death. It hurt his tiny eyes, but his nose was crazed by the new smells.
He shuffled through the tall grasses for quite some time, preoccupied with the important question of what was Food and what wasn’t, before he realized that there was something different… something new. While everything else seemed so vibrant and strange, something now felt muffled and subdued. The soil did not tremble in its loud and familiar way. It did not move for him the way he was used to.
Talpa continued to wander, something tugging at his tiny little heart, a soft pulsing. When something slithered in the grass nearby, he squeaked in terror, but the earth pitched beneath his six-fingered paws and the grass rippled violently away from him. The slithering quickly faded away as the snake accepted Talpa was not worth the effort to kill.
He dug a smallish hole for the night, intending to build upon it as his new home. He expected to be happy at the silence that it brought him. But, when Talpa woke, he found himself clawing back to the surface.
This was how Talpa travelled for several days, hoping against hope that one of these dens would finally give him the happiness he desired. Yet every morning, without fail, no matter how tasty the worms or how pleasantly the earth hummed under his paws, he inevitably would find himself heading to the surface come morning.
As the sun began to set on the eighth day of travel for Talpa, he sensed that he was nearing the end of his journey. It didn’t feel any different, except that he found he could not bring himself to stop for the night. And so it was that, waddling through the towering grasses, he heard a sharp owl’s cry.
Panicked, he let the earth rumble around him. He saw the shadows of dirt fly upward, seeking out a kill like the owl’s very own talons, an irony not lost on the predator. Talpa scrambled as fast as he could, and the earth aided him, but even so his place was underground and he was more than out of his element.
The bird, enraged, swung back around with a piercing shriek, and called to the wind around him. For he, unlike Talpa’s mother or the snake, had been born with the thrum of nature’s power under his wings. And he, like Talpa’s siblings, had not been given the call the way Talpa had.
And so it was that the bird, dodging Talpa’s attack, whirled around and sought the mole out with keen, vengeful eyes. The grass rustled, making way for a great, silver tree. The bird flapped his mighty wings, aided by the wind that had answered him, and dove for his prey.
Talpa felt the wind kiss his velvety skin. As the owl’s talons reached for him, he tumbled and fell. The earth shifted beneath his tiny paws, sending him down, down, down even as the root-clumped soil flew. It blocked off the sun, and once more, Talpa was where he belonged: underground. Yet he did not stop. He thought perhaps the bird could claw its way through. He did not know that the owl had not been able to dodge his blast, and that he now lay, unmoving, on the shredded earth.
He moved so fast underground he was practically swimming, for the dirt sensed his fear and obliged his hungry paws. The tunnel was straight and true. Talpa’s claws scraped against something hard and unforgiving. His heart pounded and his body thrummed, but he realized it was not all from fear. He had found what his heart had bid him seek.
Talpa scratched at the silvery root, but his paw went through it instead. He felt a cold wind on his disappeared paw. But nothing could stop him now. He shuffled his other paw through, sniffing as the root swallowed the rest of his body, welcoming him to the home he did not realize he’d never had.
Talpa’s little mole eyes were not equipped to marvel at the beauty of this strange place. It was not underground, or aboveground. It was in a space that could only be described as Other. He knew that it was so devoid of scent that all he smelled was the dirt clinging to his own fur. He knew that it had no sound, not even the singing of the wind he thought he had felt earlier. There was no dirt under his paws, but although he could see that he stood on a path made of silver, he did not know that his path was made of great roots that crossed over one another, leading this way and that, endlessly.
This place felt right, like the feeling of a full stomach, or of rich earth giving way beneath his paws. But still, the call. It was not here he was meant to stay, for there were no worms, no dirt, just whatever it was that made his blood sing.
He did not know what directed his path, only that he continued to waddle down one stretch of silvery root before turning onto another. There was something at the other end of this. He would know it when he saw it. A great silvery wall loomed above him,but Talpa did not hesitate. He knew it was not real, not in the sense that dirt was real or wind was real. He stepped through the wall, overwhelmed by the sudden resurgence of scent and sound.
It was loud, here. The ground thundered, and it was not because of Talpa. Shadows passed over him. Giants loomed. The dirt was so tamped down that it could have served as a roof though it was under his paws. It did not respond so quickly to him, though he shifted the dirt more in those few minutes scampering through that smelly warren than he had in those days travelling away from his home.
But that wasn’t his home. Whatever he found at the end of this journey, he knew instinctively, would be where he spent the rest of his life.
He did not know that what he sought was not a where or a what, but a who. At least, not until he stopped in the middle of a patch of grass as another shadow thundered close, and the shape (and scent) of a young boy appeared before him. His name was Boreil Edvjorni. Talpa stood at the edge of the boy’s vegetable patch.
Moles, of course, are terrible for gardens, tearing up the roots and making the ground unstable. The boy knew this, but when he looked at Talpa, it was not just the mole’s yearning that finally settled. The boy scooped up Talpa gently. A sense similar to being doused with icy water fell across Talpa’s velvety fur. The earth pulsed, though his feet did not touch it. The wind pulsed. The heat of the sun. The dampness of the air. He could feel it all.
The boy could, too. Talpa had no such words for the feeling, but young Boreil had heard stories of such things. They were bonded, Talpa and he. Talpa was a soulbeast. For some years in the future, as he grew into a man, Boreal would wish he’d been given something fierce, like a wolf or a bear or a hawk, but later he would find himself feeling as he did now: loving and cherishing this small creature that had stumbled onto his vegetable patch. And Talpa looked at his new human and found he was not so afraid of the loud, bumbling creatures, for Boreil Edvjorni was his sjarvisk, and such magic could they do together.