Chapter 22: Snow Much For The Blizzard

Ru'vay found himself partnered with two filthy hippies and their stench. Mung rats who had spent three solid weeks scavenging in a landfill smelled good in comparison. But he was too scared to object, not with two yetis standing nearby.

The yetis led them to a large workroom. Lab equipment and bottles with warnings on them lined the shelves. The table was covered in stains and burns. There was a vent in the ceiling to let fumes out.

The filthy hippies put on aprons, goggles, and gloves. The yetis stood in the corner and watched them, occasionally covering their noses to get a break from the smell.

One of the filthy hippies turned to Ru'vay. "Like, my name is Sunbranch. This is, like, my groovy partner, Megatofu. Who are you, man?"

"R... Ru'vay."

"Groovy," Megatofu said, "Here. Put these on." He handed Ru'vay a small pair of gloves, goggles, and apron.

"So, this is where we, like, make all the nasty chemicals that are, like, used in mining. If you, like, listen carefully, you can, like, hear Mother Nature crying out in, like, pain from it all." Sunbranch started to climb onto the table. "The pain, man, the subjugation of--"

One of the yetis growled.

Sunbranch hopped off the table quickly.

"Always remember, man, that we're working with chemicals that are, like, very dangerous. Wear your safety equipment at all times, man. Don't mess with anything unless you, like, know what you are doing. And these jars here that are, like, labeled acid, they're, like, not what you think they would be, man. We had someone once who decided to... to..." Sunbranch shuddered. "Like, it was horrible, man."

"I... I want to go home," Ru'vay squeaked.

"So do we all, man."

---

Coleridge led Dikiyoba up a narrow, steep tunnel. At the end of it was a very sturdy door. Coleridge knocked on it.

"One minute," Duwithia said. Dikiyoba could hear her move some things around. Then three locks were undone and the door opened a crack. Duwithia peered out. "Come in." She opened the door the rest of the way. Coleridge pushed Dikiyoba inside.

Dikiyoba looked around. There was another locked door on the far side of the room. Hanging on the wall next to it was a Periodic Table. Yeti names were written below many elements. Other than that, the room contained only a desk, a few chairs, and a file cabinet. The desk and filing cabinet drawers were all locked and the desk was completely cleared off.

Coleridge waved an arm around.

"What?" Duwithia stared at Dikiyoba for a minute. "I do now. Please, sit down, Dikiyoba."

Dikiyoba sat down. "How... how do you know about the Periodic Table?"

"Never mind that. Now, I know you are an alchemist. But how good are you? Could you make this potion?" Duwithia unlocked a drawer and pulled out a recipe. "I will need to create more tunnels soon and it's much easier with the proper explosives. Otherwise, I have to get the slaves to dig new tunnels and there are usually cave-ins and rockfalls. It slows production down tremendously."

Dikiyoba looked at the recipe. "Not while this rune is active."

Duwithia touched the scar on Dikiyoba's forehead. It glowed white for a moment. Dikiyoba winced. "How about now?"

"Probably, but why should Dikiyoba help you?"

"Because I can have you starved until you agree. Because I can kill other slaves until you agree. But most importantly--HASTE!!!--" Duwithia snatched the hat off Dikiyoba's head. "--I can pin your hat to the wall and let Coleridge use it as target practice."

Dikiyoba tried to grab the hat, but Duwithia moved out of reach. "No! Anything but Dikiyoba's hat!"

"Then you'll make the potions I need?"

Dikiyoba sighed. "Only if Dikiyoba gets Dikiyoba's hat back now."

Duwithia handed the hat over. "Excellent. Follow me to the workshop, please."

---

Megatofu and Sunbranch were instructing Ru'vay on the basics when Duwithia and Dikiyoba entered.

"New orders. Megatofu, you and Ru'vay will have the rest of the day off. Sunbranch, you will help Dikiyoba." She touched the rune on his forehead. "Rrruu, Grrrch, you have permission to kill them if you suspect they're trying something."

Megatofu and Ru'vay hurried out. Duwithia followed them.

Sunbranch took one look at the recipe and handed Dikiyoba another set of safety equipment. "Well, there's, like, really no point in these. If something goes wrong, we're toast, man."

---

Andraste, Riibu, Niemand, Marlenny, Salmon, Iffy, and Goldenking arrived at Crystal Mountain. The entire thing was covered in mine entrances, tailing piles, and barbed-wire fence.

"Wow. It's a good thing Ephesos isn't here, because he'd have a fit," Niemand said, "This... this is unbelievable."

Andraste shrugged and handed out wire cutters. "No time for that. Clouds are beginning to move in. We'll have to work fast to beat the storm. Stay close together. It certainly looks abandoned, but we can't be sure about that."

They set to work and soon had a fairly large pile of fencing.

"This is a much better way to collect this stuff. We should organize a clan run for this later," Salmon said.

"What is the other way?" Iffy asked.

"Taking a wrong turn on the ski slope."

Iffy winced.

"Yeah. Not fun."

"Just wait until we have to carry all this back. You won't be so enthusiastic then," Andraste said.

"Ha! I won't be carrying any of it. Drew and Jewels volunteered for that last night."

It began to snow lightly. Andraste checked the sky and then glanced at the pile of fencing. "Hurry! We still need more!"

Iffy climbed higher to a new section of fencing. When he got there, he saw a dead lotcat was tangled in it. He untangled the body carefully and picked it up. "Poor thing. What were you doing up here?" Iffy looked around. It didn't seem right to leave it unburied, especially since it would upset Andraste if she saw it. There was a mine entrance not much higher up. Maybe there was a good spot to bury the lolcat in there.

He climbed to it and ducked inside. There was a rusty shovel lying near the entrance. He picked it up. The ground was solid rock, so he went deeper into the mine.

Outside, the snow fell more heavily.

"Time for us to go! Finish the piece you're working on!" Andraste said.

Goldenking looked around. "Iffy? Hey, Iffy, can you hear me? Iffy! Has anyone seen him recently?"

Niemand shook his head. "Nope."

Andraste cupped her hands around her mouth. "Iffy!"

They waited for several minutes. The snow fell harder.

Andraste shook her head. "We can't stay here any longer, or we'll freeze before we get back to camp. Leave the barbed wire by that fir for now."

"Iffy!" Goldenking yelled.

They waited another minute. When Iffy didn't show up, they marched away from Crystal Mountain.

Deep in the mine, Iffy found a suitable pile of rubble. He dug a grave and buried the lolcat. Then he headed back.

He stopped short at the entrance as a gust of wind blew snow into his face. "Huh?" He walked out into the blizzard. "Hey guys, where are you? Goldenking! Andraste! Anyone?! Hello?!" He floundered through the snow for several minutes before realizing he was alone. Shivering, he stumbled back to the mine and found a good corner in which to wait out the storm.

---

Drew and Jewels were up when the others got back to camp.

"Where's Iffy?" Drew asked.

"He disappeared. We couldn't find him, not with the blizzard coming in." Andraste shook snow out of her hair.

"Oh no!" Jewels said.

"Yeah. We'll go back whenever the snow stops and look for him, but unless he found good shelter..." Andraste shrugged.

"There are plenty of mines. He'll be fine," Niemand said, "Drew, did you get any answers during the party?"

"Oh, that. Um, it seems that Crystal Mountain isn't totally deserted. The yetis work there for, um, a priest or something. And they come here for parties with the frat boys sometimes."

"Yes, but how do the frat boys get out here?"

Drew shrugged. "I don't know. My memory's a bit hazy."

Andraste folded her arms. "I wonder why."