With the release of Book One just a few weeks out, I thought it was about time to provide another excerpt from the story. This one showcases a unique race that I created (no Dwarves, Elves or Hobbits in this) called the Bachus, who feature prominently in the second half of Echoes of Light.
Before that, here’s a descriptive snippet about their appearance, in particular, that of two Bachus who become major characters at a certain point in the book – “[…] they looked like giant badgers that were slightly smaller than humans, with long, bushy tails that ended in a collection of thick quills. They stood with somewhat of a hunch, making themselves appear shorter than they already were. Their bodies were stout, particularly plump beneath the waist . One of the creatures was covered in red fur like the color of cherries. A pair of white streaks raced from its face, across its back and onto its tail. The other creature wore chocolate-colored fur, and its white stripes were wider, nearly taking up half of its back.”
This ‘excerpt’ is actually an entire chapter, and you get a good glimpse into the life and culture of the Bachus through it –
When Alamor and his company burst into the Bachu Caverns, they were struck by a cloud of heat that seemed to slam into them instantaneously. Roaring fires burned within a series of forges throughout the vast chamber, their orange flames illuminating every inch of the sweltering space. Among them were a number of enormous machines constructed out of staunch and impervious metals. Each one produced a cacophony of sounds as their gears, levers and turbines all worked ceaselessly either to augment the forges’ fires or to precisely craft the minerals and gems which had been fed to their mechanical forms.
Some two-dozen Bachus labored alongside the fires and machines, most so enveloped in their work that they did not even notice Hinton, Pauma and their guests abruptly storm into the caverns. The only ones which paid any attention to them were a pair of male Bachus who had been assigned to stand guard at that particular entrance to their caverns, and had allowed the party to enter from the tunnels beyond.
After Hinton had caught his breath, he stood as erect as his hunched body would let him. The light of the fires around them showed every space of his proud expression. “This may not be the entrance I had planned on bringin’ you lot through, but welcome to the grand Bachu Caverns, nonetheless!” he announced to this companions.
Pauma did not display the same enthusiasm as her husband did. “I apologize for the heat we dropped all o’ you into,” the Bachu maiden quickly added, her tongue dangling past her lips. “I was expecting for my husband here to take us to the proper entrance, not straight into the blasted forges.”
Normally Hinton would have crafted some kind of rebuttal to his wife’s complaints, but this time he had to agree with her. “Yes, I suppose this whole trek could have gone better…but at least we got here all in one piece, just like I said we would!” He glanced at the Bachus who were on guard at the stone doors they entered through. “Do me a favor, will ya, pals? Send a word out to Boss Blairo that I have some guests for him to meet. In the meantime, I’m goin’ to show them about the caverns!”
With an encouraging wave of his paw, Hinton started ahead, and the group followed. As they navigated about the burning forges and grinding machines, Hinton indicated several holes in the ceiling, which he referred to as sky vents. He explained that the openings ran all the way up to the surface of Sleekleaf Forest, providing the Bachus both with passages to direct the smoke and fumes out of the caverns, as well as a view of the sky to tell them what time of day it was, or what the weather was like.
They soon left the forges and began down a series of wide corridors and spacious halls, each one brightly lit by glass lanterns that dropped from the ceiling upon a long chain. Unlike the rough, dusty tunnels the group traveled through before, most of the Bachu Caverns were made up of smooth, polished rock that had been carved out of the earth by the most skilled Bachu architects.
The only areas that they never renovated were what Hinton referred to as the excavation sites, where the Bachus mined for precious materials. They passed through one along the way, and Alamor and the others were amazed at its size. It was a massive cavern with a single walkway that ran from one end of the giant chamber to the other. On both sides of the walkway, the ground fell away into zones that had been hacked at by the Bachu miners for untold years. The companions from Geldiar could not even count the number of Bachus they saw working diligently below, carving away at the dirt and rock with shovels, pickaxes, or even their bare paws.
They strode through several other cleaner—but equally bustling—chambers. In some, Bachus stood before tables entirely covered with sediment and ores harvested from the earth. Hinton called these the inspection halls, where the Bachus cleaned, documented and even tested the various materials that were mined from the excavation sites.
As Alamor and his company followed behind Hinton and his wife, the young man noticed a trend in the Bachus. No matter how many he saw, their fur only came in shades of red and brown, although they all had the same white patches and stripes that Hinton and Pauma wore. The tones of their fur were all across the spectrum as far as intensity went; the red Bachus came in cherry, maroon, burgundy, crimson, while the brown Bachus featured ecru, chestnut, sepia, and coffee, among many others.
“Hinton, why is every Bachu either red or brown?” Alamor eventually asked, his curiosity too great to ignore as they continued along.
Hinton chuckled in response. “Just the way nature made us, lad!” he answered, jolly as ever. “Every male Bachu’s fur turns into some shade of red, while the gals get brown pelts.”
“Is it ever different?” Raissa chimed in, clearly intrigued by the subject, as well.
“Depends on watcha mean,” Hinton began. “If you’re askin’ if Bachus ever get some funny lookin’ fur like blue, green or purple, then the answer’s no; at least, not without someone doin’ one bang-up job paintin’ a poor fellow. But there are some lucky fellas who are born with bright, bright red fur; these Bachus always turn out to be the biggest, strongest and bravest of them all. That’s why we Bachus appoint them as our leaders, just like we did with Boss Blairo.”
Joth now decided to insert himself into the conversation. “Is ‘Boss Blairo’ the one you told those other Bachus that you were going to introduce us to?”
There was a faint hint of resentment in Pauma’s eyes, but Hinton remained cheerful in response. “Yep, he’s the one! Biggest Bachu you ever seen, and the toughest fella I’ve ever known. It’s the reason why he’s in charge o’ all o’ us down here! He’ll know exactly how to help all o’ you out in gettin’ to that villa, he’ll certainly do the be—”
“HINTOOOONNN!!” a booming holler flew throughout the caverns, interrupting Hinton as the hair across his back went stiff.
“Except I don’t think he’s happy to see me right now…” Hinton whimpered, shrinking to the floor.
Pauma rolled her eyes. “When has he ever been happy to see you, Paka?” she murmured, more so to herself than to Hinton.
All of the Bachus at the end of the hallway dispersed, scampering out of the way as the feared and respected Boss Blairo stomped to meet Hinton and his guests. Just as Hinton had described, Boss Blairo was a particularly large and bulky Bachu. His quills, paws and head were twice the size of that on any normal Bachu, and he was as tall as a human when he stood straight. His fur was a bright red shade, almost vermilion. He was an intimidating sight no matter what mood was he was in, but he commanded an especially heavy presence with the irate expression flaring upon his face, and the maddened march he made through the corridor to confront Hinton.
“What in stone and soil’s name did you do now, Hinton!?” the Bachu leader bellowed, aiming a foul glare Hinton’s way. “For a few days there, I thought we might o’ been finally rid o’ your troubles and nonsense, but now I just find out that you storm into the forges with a pack of Narogas nippin’ at your quills!?”
Hinton cringed the whole time while Boss Blairo berated him, while Pauma cowered behind him. “F-forgive the mishap, B-Boss Blairo, but I accidentally might o’ taken a wrong tunnel or two along the way while I showed these poor folk here to the caverns.”
“There’s no ‘might have’ in that blunder o’ yours!” Boss Blairo exclaimed. The big Bachu then glanced at Alamor and the others. He scanned their group with a suspicious look in his eyes. “And that’s another thing; who exactly are these fellas you decided to drag in here uninvited?” he demanded.
Hinton looked over at the party from Geldiar, specifically Raissa. No longer staring into Boss Blairo’s furious gaze, some of Hinton’s eagerness returned to his voice. “The young lass there is Princess Raissa Hokara, and the rest o’ the lot are her companions.”
Boss Blairo did not show much of a reaction, but his sudden silence suggested that he did not expect the answer he received. He looked over to Raissa with a far more calm expression than he wore before. “Certainly not who I thought I’d see down here in my time,” he conceded. “Welcome to the Bachu Caverns, your Highness. I apologize that you could not arrive here in a more appropriate manner.”
There was an uneasy tension in the air when Boss Blairo spoke. Although his words were respectful enough, they carried no enthusiasm. His greeting seemed perfunctory rather than out of admiration and courtesy. He did not so much as bow or genuflect to Raissa, only acknowledging her with a nod. The princess of Tordale noticed his indifferent mood much as anyone, and merely replied with a taciturn nod of her own.
“What exactly brings you and your friends all the way out here in the kingdom?” Boss Blairo next asked, still showing little enthusiasm at their presence.
Raissa and Tiroku shared a fleeting glance before the wise Spiritcaster answered for her. He recounted all of the events which had befallen their group; when Raissa’s troupe was attacked on their way to Tirth, the attack on Tordalia, their flight to Geldiar, their trek through Sleekleaf Forest, and their encounter with the Strife Wings and their subsequent meeting with Hinton and Pauma. He also explained the purpose behind their journey—how they needed to find the Radiant Gems, and how Baldaron would conquer all of Tordale if he was not stopped.
By the end of it, Boss Blairo nodded gravely, not appearing to be very surprised by what Tiroku told him. “Indeed, there’s been a lot o’ trouble across the land these days,” the Bachu leader confirmed. “We heard some o’ the horrors that sprang up recently, and we’ve seen more than enough suspicious fellas and ugly monsters about in Sleekleaf; makes me plenty content to keep ourselves down here in the caverns where we’re safe.”
A stern look in Tiroku’s eyes suggested that he did not agree with Boss Blairo. “You will not be safe in these caverns for very long if Baldaron and his forces are not dealt with. His reach will eventually stretch across all of Tordale; long enough that it will ensnare you even deep below the earth here. That is why we need to find the Radiant Gems as soon as possible. With the Bachus’ help, we could find one of the gems very quickly, and muster some hope to save Tordale.”
Boss Blairo matched Tiroku’s hard gaze. “And as long as I’m in charge down here, I won’t allow for any Bachu to risk our hides in joinin’ this scheme you’ve got goin’.”
Hinton was dismayed by the firm declaration. “Bu-but Boss Blairo, you can’t just send them back out into the tunnels on their own!” he appealed.
Boss Blairo let his withering scowl fall upon Hinton once more. “Silence, Paka!” he shouted, and turned back to the party from Geldiar. “I don’t know what this fool o’ a Bachu or his wife may have told you, but we’re perfectly satisfied with enjoyin’ ourselves in our own caverns and staying out o’ everyone else’s business in the rest of the kingdom from now on.”
Rawner stepped forward, his face almost red with frustration. “Didn’t you hear a word Tiroku said to you!?” the big man exclaimed. “You can hide here in the dirt for as long as you like, but sooner or later, you’re gonna be found by Baldaron’s army; and you can bet they won’t be anywhere near as nice as us!”
Hinton, Pauma and every other Bachu nearby were stunned by Rawner’s outburst. No one every spoke to Boss Blairo that way, much less challenged anything the Bachu leader ever decided on.
“Careful with what you spit out o’ that big head o’ yours, fella; you lot may have plenty o’ shiny weapons and what in your possession, but there’s a whole load more of us Bachus than there are of you,” Boss Blairo warned, hardly intimidated by Rawner. “And speaking o’ us Bachus, we seem to be doin’ quite a bit better than everyone else in Tordale. While the rest of your kind are in trouble with the monsters roamin’ the land, not one Bachu here has had to ever deal with ‘em, so I see no reason to worry that they’ll ever find us like you say.”
Tiroku’s fierce eyes darkened, seemingly from far more than just rising frustration with Boss Blairo’s stubbornness. “You have made the Bachus cower here in the caverns long before these recent events,” the old Spiritcaster said, his words especially sharp now. “Is this why you refused to answer our emissaries when we requested your kind to attend the summit at Tordale Castle weeks ago? You merely want to lock yourselves in your caverns and pretend that there is no other world beyond your stone doors?”
Most persons wouldn’t have been able to stare directly into Tiroku’s smoldering gaze or listen to his powerful words without flinching, but Boss Blairo remained as confident and as stubborn as ever. “It’s like I said before, we Bachus seem to be doin’ a lot better than the rest o’ you on the surface, so I’d think twice before questioning how good any o’ my decisions are, old man. Now I don’t mind if all you fellas want to hang around in our caverns for a while or turn around this instant and head back into the tunnels, but by my orders as boss down here, not one Bachu will be allowed to help you find that stone or whatever it is you’re after.”
Despite being berated by Boss Blairo every time he spoke before, Hinton found the courage to appeal his companion’s purpose. “B-Boss Blairo, even if we Bachus don’t join in any fights or leave Sleekleaf, couldn’t we at least guide these good folk to the Lindross villa?”
Boss Blairo didn’t require a moment’s thought. “Not a chance,” he snapped incisively, determined to end the matter by his own accord. He shot his surly gaze back at Tiroku and the others. “Besides, I doubt you lot really want to go to that old villa, regardless of whatever it is you seek. There’s more than just ghosts and magical spirits in there now; a dangerous creature called the Flouri recently made itself comfortable in the villa. It used to fly around in these parts of Sleekleaf for years, but it seems like it got tired of livin’ in the woods and decided to call the villa its home. Myself and some o’ our scouts spotted it a week or two back; a big, ugly monster if I’ve ever seen one myself, just as large and as nasty as those furry things that are always with the armored troops.”
“We will face it, regardless,” Tiroku declared confidently. “If we do not, all of Tordale— including you Bachus—will fall to a far more vile, more powerful monster.”
Boss Blairo was no more swayed by Tiroku’s warning than he ever was before. “Suit yourself, fella, go ahead and walk right up to the Flouri if it means getting that precious rock you want so much, but you won’t be getting any help from us; it’s bad enough that Hinton and his wife here showed you lot to our caverns in the first place, and I sure as anything’ won’t let a single Bachu risk being spotted by these enemies with you and giving away our location.” Boss Blairo looked up and let his gaze travel over all of the Bachus in the hallway who still watched and listened. His voice rumbled as he spoke. “And if any Bachu is foolish enough to disobey that order, I’ll make sure that they’re locked out o’ the caverns for good, never to be let back inside!”
He cast one final glare at Hinton and Pauma, a silent threat to not assist the companions from Geldiar any more than they already had. Boss Blairo stomped back in the direction where he came from, never even looking back at Tiroku and the others.
They watched him go, uncertainty etched across each of their faces.