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This is the eleventh chapter in Sky of Stone and the fifth in part two: Ore.

A Boy and His Goat

It's like in my dream.

A tunnel that collapsed.

He, who tried to save Iris before he was pushed away by Sedna.

And finally, he was separated from the others.

Right?

Dazed, Geb opened his eyes. His backside ached as if a stone had hit him-had he just been unconscious? And if so, for how long?

The first thing he saw was a glaring bright light just before him. Had the hero of the prophecy come personally to save him?

But as soon as his eyes had grown accustomed to the surroundings, he realized that he was still in the tunnel. The light came from the luminous crystal he had just noticed and was the only thing that lit the place.

When he looked around, Geb also recognized that his friends were not with him. So just like in my dream. But he was not completely alone - by the tunnel wall sat the little boy they had tried to save. He had a goat with him, which he still held securely, and stared at Geb with wide-open, timid eyes. Was the boy really afraid ... of him?

"Hello, buddy," greeted Geb, as kindly as he could. "You don't have to be afraid of me, I won't hur you."

But the boy did not move a centimeter. Geb tried it differently.

"Both of you are quite small for your tribe." This was probably the reason why Tanzanite had called him 'Dwarf': the boy was hardly bigger than Iris. He was younger, though, which Geb recognized by the fact that his markings did not go beyond his short sleeves. But the goat was much more amazing. He was as big as the rest of his species, so that the boy should be able to ride on him. This was, after all, one of the best things about companions!

"You know, my friend said, you're all not as big in your tribe," he continued. "The fact that I am by no means the greatest here came quite unexpectedly."

"Size brings strength," the boy said so softly that Geb asked himself if he had just imagined the voice. But it was actually the boy who was talking. "And strength creates tunnels."

Geb had nothing to oppose. "By the way, what is your name?"

"Karzelek." He realized that the boy really had such a low voice and did not do it on purpose, just like himself, only that Geb's voice was too loud and not too soft. The boy looked at his companion. "This is Four-leaf. He likes clover."

The goat hesitated when the plant was mentioned and was obviously sad about not getting one. Then Geb became aware of one of his hind legs, which bled slightly. That was the reason why the animal had screamed.

"May I?" asked Geb and took off his shirt, using it as a bandage for the wound. Normally this would never work, because companions were much bigger. "See? Much better."

"Thank you." He had finally elicited a smile from Karzelek, which, however, quickly disappeared. "I'm sorry this happened."

"This is not your fault," protested Geb. "It could have been much worse. We're fine and that's the most important thing." He looked to the side where the tunnel was lost in the dark. "We can not take the same path as we have come. The course will take us outside again."

"There are always emergency exits. But ... here they could be blocked from earlier. "

"Well, as I see, we do not really have a choice." Geb picked up the crystal from the ground. "But we have light, right?"

"Light is hope," Karzelek nodded, standing up, the goat on his shoulders. Despite his apparent overweight, he seemed to be strong.

It sure is. Geb was reminded of the prophecy. As long as there was light, everything had not yet been lost - both here and in the fate of the world.

A spark caught his attention. On Karzelek's right arm was a strange metal frame that looked more than just a bracelet. "What do you have there?"

"That ... I built that," Karzelek stammered, as if he was afraid that Geb would take off the rack. "So that I can carry Four-leaf and the glowing stone at the same time."

It was true that the stone would fit perfectly into the device. "Very convenient."

"I could use it as a weapon. As an extendable blade or to shoot the stone. Just in case."

Hopefully, it will not happen while we are down here. Geb began to lead his new friends through the tunnel. This had some curves, but no branching paths, so they could not make much mistakes. On the other hand, it also looked the same, which was particularly unspectacular compared with the impressive town of the Ore tribe in every respect.

Geb decided to break the silence. "I do not know why they told us not to go down here. Apart from tumbled tunnels, there is nothing at all."

"Our tunnels are very well stabilized," explained Karzelek. "Just not down here. Crashes are the most dangerous thing under the earth. "

"That's true. I would have thought there was something like a cave monster here or something." Not that he had hoped.

"Do you think so? I would have seen it..."

"Sounds like you're often down here."

"Sometimes," admitted Karzelek. "No one can find us here."

That came as a surprise. "Are you being persecuted?"

"Sometimes I run away." But he did not sound as proud or brave as Iris. "The tribe hates me."

"I bet that's not true." There was always someone who did not like you, Geb knew from experience. But these were just individuals, not the entire tribe. "Why do you think that?"

"Look at me." Karzelek sounded particularly pitiful because of his low voice. "I am too small and too fat to be a good warrior. And I do not want to hurt anyone. But they'll want me to, someday."

Geb was confused. "Who are you fighting against? You have no contact with other tribes at all."

Karzelek shook his head. "Someone will attack us, because of our valuable ores. That's why training the Reds is particularly strict ... for the emergency. "

However, Geb still did not understand what the problem was. "Terrai would never make someone a warrior whose vocation is different."

"My tribe does not believe in the guardians."

Geb stopped, so surprised. What? That is ridiculous. Everyone knows they exist. And everyone has met one in person. "But where do you get your magic when you do not visit one of the guardians?"

"From our faction, as soon as we are twelve," Karzelek said, as if it were self-evident what it was for him. For Geb, however, it felt completely wrong.

"But how do you know what your vocation is, when no guardian tells you?"

"Don't you see it?" Karzelek pointed to his horns, which glimmered orange-red in the light of the luminous crystal. "Warrior, unambiguously. I was born with this vocation, so it is my duty to fight for the tribe, just like my parents."

Geb did not know at all what to answer. "But ... but your calling is not dependent on what your parents are doing. In my tribe, most do not even know who their parents are because our companions will eventually replace them. That your whole life should be predetermined by the color of your horns ... I'm sorry, but I do not find that right."

"It has worked for centuries," said Karzelek. "It gives our tribe security and stability. Everyone has their place and that's good."

"Are you sure? You told me how little you liked to be a warrior. You shouldn't spend your whole life with something that is not yours at all."

"But if it is my fate ..."

"Well, I think you should determine your destiny. I mean, if only I had obeyed my orders, my friends and I would not be here with your tribe."

"You are not here to attack us? Why then?"

"Because the companion of my friend is hurt." Karzelek could not see that they did not want to do him any harm? They had saved him from Tanzanite. "Does your tribe really hold all the others for enemies?"

"Naturally."

"But why?"

"It has always been like this."

Geb had to realize that he would not achieve much. Karzelek knew nothing else but the life of his tribe, of course, he thought it the only true one. "You know, maybe we should talk to Enki as soon as we get back in town. We can certainly convince him that you should not be a warrior. "

"He will refuse." Geb heard disappointment in his voice. Deep inside, Karzelek had doubts about the structure of his tribe. He only did not want to admit it, because he was so loyal to his tribe.

"Not if we're really convincing."

"Listen, I ... no, I can not betray the reds. I have to become a warrior, otherwise I will only be hated more. You can not ask me to stand up against everything that makes the tribe."

Karzelek had clearly enough of the discussion and stormed deeper into the tunnel.

"Karzelek, wait!" He followed him as quickly as possible. The boy had no light with him-what if he hurt himself or his companion? It was not long before he got to Karzelek, because he had stopped. "You can not just run away if you do not know what lies ahead. Especially without light. "

But Karzelek did not answer. Geb could not even tell whether he had heard him at all. The boy simply stared forward and his goat also gave no sound.

Geb wanted to ask him what was going on, but he too suddenly felt that they were not alone. From something, or someone, before them went an incredibly strong presence. A ghostly hum resounded from the walls and filled the entire tunnel. It came regularly and when Geb listened more closely, he found that it sounded rather relaxed than threatening. Moreover, the sound was known to him because of Boulder.

"Something ... snores," he said to Karzelek, hoping that would calm him down. "Come." He led him through the tunnel, which became wider and broader, so that the light of the glowing stone did not reach from one wall to the other. They had to be in a real cave.

Geb tried to look around, because the creature had to be very close. The cave, however, was apparently empty - until he pushed against something.

Surprised, he stepped back a few paces and held the glowing stone forward to find out what they had found. Whatever it was, it was so huge that the light could capture only a small part of it. It looked like a mixture of stone and a living being, as there was both rock and a kind of armor. And wasn't what he had encountered, a leg?

"What ... what is that?" Karzelek whispered, sounding even quieter than usual.

The snoring stopped, and the creature moved.

Geb had actually pushed against a stocky leg, which was so huge that Karzelek and he could not have hugged it together. The creature slowly turned around, so that it could be seen that it had a total of four legs. Then his head came in sight: he had similarities with the head of a rhinoceros like Boulder, only that the longer of the two horns was at least twice as large as Geb. It also had two more pairs of horns; sideways and forward, similar to the tusks of an elephant, and curved like that of an antelope. His eyes were bigger than Geb's whole head, and he stared at his visitors tiredly, but curiously.

He froze. Not only because he was facing such a mighty creature, but also because he knew who it was.

"... that's Terrai," he whispered to Karzelek, who looked as if he was about to faint. "The guardian of the earth."

Sky of Stone Chapters
 Prologue   Prologue
 One: Earth   1: Summer Solstice2: Riders of the Wind3: Light and Shadow4: Opposites5: A Strange Encounter6: Across the River
 Two: Ore   7: Dark Omens8: Underground9: His Radiance10: The Forbidden11: A Boy and His Goat12: The Story of a Tribe13: Keeper of Earth14: At the Bottom15: Changes
 Three: Sky   16: Back to the Start17: Against the Darkness18: Old Acquaintances19: Change of Plans20: Unexpected21: Sky Holes22: Wind and Water
 Epilogue   Epilogue

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