“A strange sickness has come over the stunties. Even my mentor, Crestus, has succumbed to it. It began shortly after the world shook.
“I had been learning my numbers with him that day, in Crestus’s library. Pure numbers were hard for me to grasp but the application of his lessons to my life so far had offered me a new perspective. The world had rules, and if you knew the rules you could better understand and control it. I had adopted the idea enthusiastically. I often used writing practice as an excuse to rant about the ridiculous superstitions of my people, and it comforted me to know that there must be a rational explanation for the Nymph’s behaviour. Even if I didn’t know what it was yet.
“Crestus and I were both hurled against the shelving as the world boomed. There’s no other word for it. It felt like my shield had been struck, but it wasn’t just my arm that felt it. My whole body was shaken and battered. My head was ringing like a glass chime, yet most of the actual glass and potware was shattered. Crestus was as hard-headed as I, but it didn’t take long for us to discover that many of the other stunties had been knocked unconscious, or even killed.
“I couldn’t help but feel afraid for us in the weeks that followed. The world wasn’t as reliable and controllable as we thought. Maybe the stunties were wrong and the rats, my own rat-kin, were right all along. In which case, someone has angered the eater-of-dead. It could have been me. I had denied her and wrote letters that weren’t sacred. Would the goddess make the stunties suffer just to punish me? They are sinners too. They have been writing for far longer than I have. The stunties had avoided judgement but not for much longer. When the Buzzers came, as they always did, there weren’t enough rats to stop them.
“They were more vicious than usual. Not just trying to get passed the stunties as they usually do, but actively attacking and killing them. Knocking them down and tearing them apart with pinching jaws, serrated limbs and barbed stings. I caught one that had a lame stunty in its grip. It wasn’t eating him or eviscerating him, the buzzer just held the back of his neck in its ugly jaws.
“Once it was dead I could that there was something wrong with the buzzer. Its limbs were misshapen and shell plates appeared blistered. This wasn’t a normal buzzer. I and the remaining stunties took out the deadly buzzers while they were distracted with another victim. I struck one of their heads clean off, and something white wriggled and then dripped from the stump.
“Crestus tried to find samples of this living white liquid in the other corpses. He would permit no-one else to touch them as he laboured to discover the correlation between these catastrophic events and determine what must be done to stop any further calamities befalling us. He even had me assist, reading every available history, map and philosophy in his library for any mention of a similar calamity. Each evening I would check on him and report what I’d learned regardless of its relevance.
“It was during one of these late night discussions that I first noticed that my mentor’s attention was wandering. He has become increasingly distant and confused. I’ve found him wandering the burrows quite unable to explain what he was doing and how he’d gotten there. He showed me a glass ball, with smaller spheres of polished stone inside it, he shook and rattled it in my face as if trying to explain something. He just kept saying “It’s like this!” and almost weeping with frustration. Crestus’s left eye had begun to swell and I saw growths along his lower eyelid.
“The rats who had been bitten by Buzzers, and still lived, have begun to stir. By all accounts they seem as bewildered as Crestus, but they no longer feel the pain of their prior injuries. I know there’s a reasonable explanation for all this, but I find it hard to shake the old superstitions.”
The crisis continues. When I have more time I shall upload more of the Shieldbearers’ journal and perhaps give some explanation of the events the ratkin hero describes. It’s important that these events do not get over-written. I still have more work ahead of me, but it may all be for naught if I don’t make time to upload my progress. This account is the only record I can trust.