Chapter 42 - Challun

“What took you so long?” Neyr asked as he sorted the materials before him with his short front legs. “We’re going to be stuck here all day at this rate.”


“Well, we found—” Tynun tried to speak.


Reok slapped the side of Tynun’s body. “We found a real nice private place to wind down and take our breaks. We were just ‘breaking’ it in. It’s nice!”


Shan glared and shook his head. “Next time let us come too, I’m not used to the humidity of this part of the cave. I already feel exhausted. Tch, I’m beginning to believe the rumors of Mount Dai being a volcano after all.”


“Eh, it’s not like that place was much cooler,” Reok said. “Still a cozy place nonetheless.”


Neyr rubbed his forehead gently against the pile of shining minerals, painting them with sweat. For a Bakkon, relieving an itch in that area was almost impossible. “Yeah, there has to be something causing this heat.”


Reok eyed Tynun and whispered, “We can’t tell them yet. Not until we get on those Zinnals’ good side. The more who know of that place, the worse it will be for us.”


Shan narrowed his eyes. “I’m very good with faces, you know.” He struck at the wall with his pickaxe. “Ah, oh well, hurry up you two, we have a lot of work to catch up on.”


Tynun and Reok joined and labored away. Those lava Zinnals were definitely helping cause the heat. Even though they were separated by a long walk and a wall of stone, Tynun felt as if one of those Zinnals were right beside him. But was there an actual volcano hidden in the depths of this mountain? Or was it just the Zinnals?


Glistening and dull minerals dropped from the wall as Tynun scurried here and there, sorting them. The gray minerals felt extra uncomfortable, bringing even more heat to the sweltering atmosphere. Talking exerted a lot more energy this far in Mount Dai, too. The more the group attempted to joke around with one another, the more they felt their bodies grow weaker and weaker.


“Time for a water break!” Shan shouted. “Gah! I can’t take this anymore. At least a water station isn’t too far from here… according to the map.”


“It sure would be nice to be back in Jalla with our backs full of fish and water, wouldn’t it, Tynun?” Neyr glanced behind him.


“Yeah, that would be fantastic. Someday I know we can do that again, but to be honest, I never thought I’d miss delivering to everyone.” Tynun dumped some materials from his back and motioned to Reok.



Neyr wobbled behind Shan toward the outskirts of the mountain, Tynun and Reok following behind. With each turn they made, the air grew cooler, and Neyr became visibly frightened. Tynun couldn’t lie to himself, even he felt a bit of fear at each turn, not knowing if the murderer Zinnal would show his face, or if they would find another victim. With each pathway, more and more Bakkons and Frakkals mingled with one another, giving small greetings such as the always overused, “You find the freedom tunnel yet?” “Nope, still mining into oblivion.” “Challun,” type of comments. It was clear to see no one felt they were ever getting out of here, but despite that, there were many of the older folks who could always raise the mood of the whole tunnel.


But today was different. The same phrases were used, but everyone wore an anxiety ridden face mixed with a quiver in their voices. When Tynun and the others reached the water room, in the corner, a group of Frakkals were gathered around digging a large hole. A few seconds later, a stampede of Bakkons marched in carrying the deceased Zinnal on their backs. Everyone bowed before the procession as they laid the fallen comrade into his eternal earthly bed. Each of the Bakkons surrounding the grave poured a drop of water onto the dead Bakkon saying words that Tynun had been accustomed to hearing, but not in this context.


“From birth we’ve carried, bolstering communities. In paradise we’ll ride the waves we’ve spread. Challun.”


“Challun.” Everyone spoke in somber tones. Tynun even surprised himself. For he had never heard the word before coming here, but it was such a common greeting, and used in almost every context. He still had no idea what it really meant, but he felt he knew when to use it.


The Frakkals buried the poor Bakkon and everyone returned to the large jugs of water. Tynun stepped on the button and water poured down into his mouth. He wasn’t sure how, but the humans seemed to have rigged this entire system so it never ran out of water by having a tube extending to the ceiling of the cave.


“I don’t want to go back to our new area,” Neyr whined while occasionally looking over at the mound in the corner of the room. A Zinnal had already gathered some flowers from outside and planted them on top of the grave.


Shan tapped Neyr. “At least you can keep yourself full of water as we walk down there to keep cool.”


“Why would I do that?” Neyr barked. “I would only be more tired from all the weight when we get there.”


Picking at his shell, Shan laughed. “Yeah, I guess that wouldn’t work.”


“It wouldn’t be a bad idea, you know?” Reok nudged Tynun, speaking in a low voice. “Bringing water to the lava fellows. Threaten them into helping us? Splash some water all over them?”


Tynun looked to the ceiling. They did need to come up with a real plan. And even if this did sound inhumane, could something come from extinguishing one of them with water and taking them?


What’s wrong with me? Tynun thought. I’d be no different from the humans then, right? Kidnapping someone? But it would be for the greater good of Zinnal kind. “Yeah, maybe that’s a decent start of an idea,” Tynun whispered.


Reok smiled. “Good, let’s try that tomorrow.”