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Greetings Abnormals!

And so we come to the end of our two weeks of stories – I hope you enjoyed them. We’ll probably do this again once or twice a year, since it’s fun for us and a nice way to explore our “extended universe”. Naturally, please feel free to let us know what you thought of them and even what you’d like to see more of in the future. It may sound like an empty invitation, but in truth, we learn a lot from looking at how you all react to our characters.

Next week we’ll be back with our regular story, although there’s a very good possibility we won’t start on Monday but rather on Wednesday. The reason for this is that the year’s end and holiday season really disorganized our workflow quite considerably, and with Dern out at a convention this weekend I’d rather just post some extra artwork on Monday that rush a half-assed page. After all we’re building a book here and I’d definitely like all the pages in it to be as good as I can make them.

So anyway, I’ll leave you know to read our last story.

EDIT: Next Monday we’ll be posting the second part of “Fiddlebutt’s Journal”, concluding our series of stories. So if you want to know what happens to the gnomes, all you gotta do is wait until Monday. Regular comic will continue on Wednesday.

Good hunting;
O

. . .

Fiddlebutt’s Journal
Written by Darren J. Gendron

The following are selected entries from The Journal of the Great, Mighty and Totally Super Fiddlebutt.

Day 0.
Yes, I know it’s pretentious to start with a Day 0. But tomorrow is a big day for us. We earned final approval for the Project, so hammers officially start swinging tomorrow. Today, I needed to celebrate. I made sure to buy this nice new journal, along with a decent pair of trousers. I forgot to buy groceries, and feel extremely hungry.

Day 1.
HAMMERS!

Day 17.
The Project has been granted top clearances now. I think when the councilmen got a look at the gorgeous leg frame, they couldn’t resist. She is one truly beautiful beast of science.

Day 23.
The Project is now drastically ahead of schedule, with all the legs casted. We’re talking about it being operational in just another month.

Day 24.
First test of the Navigational Guide was problematic. Taking it back to the workshop to debug.

Day 27/28.
Apparently, I lost a day there somewhere. Not sure where I put it, but it was probably an important day. Something about a meeting with the council. The Navigational Guide is still giving off an odd reading. All attempts to debug are failing.

Day 29.
I met with council officers today. Interestingly, they opted to assign even more people to the Project. I now have a personal assistant named Butterbly. It opens up a bit more free time for me, which means I’ll have more time to work on the journal as well.
Butterbly is an interesting kid, really bright. She’s already picking up the basics of debug tests.
Also, the council assigned Alchemist Sparkstone to my Project. I know that Sparkstone is one of the best alchemists out there, and I know that I was eventually going to have to hire an alchemist. I just wish it wasn’t so soon, and it wasn’t so … her.

Day 30.
Sparkstone requested I re-schematic the entire Navigational Guide. I kindly reminded her that her job description involves working the furnace and smelling stones. She did not realize how kind I was being, and stormed out of the room.

Day 31.
Council Science Officers were in the office today, giving the blueprints a second review. After some debate, it was deemed that the Navigational Guide was in fact correctly built.
After some consideration, we opted to schedule a special test. The science officers will need to talk it over with security officers and the councilmen, but we should be able to run this test in a couple days.

Day 32.
It occurs to me that I still haven’t explained the Project. I probably should do that, so there’s no confusion as to what we’re doing here.
Our research on the Luminescence indicates that they have a fairly unique energy signature. That said, we have not been able to track the actual signatures of them during their brief visits, only traces of them – echos, really. All this time, we’ve been treating the echos as if they’re ripples on a pond, a blurry repeat of what they really are.
The Fiddlebutt Thesis is that they’re not ripples, or at least not the first ripples. Instead, what we’ve been studying this whole time has been an echo that has already bounced off a canyon wall, so everything about the echo is a lie. I built the Navigational Guides off older compass designs, but calibrated them to the exact opposite of what we’ve normally been looking for.
And the Project has been not just building the biggest Navigational Guide ever, but building an articulated walker to carry it.
I’m writing this four hours past midnight. I feel like I’ve lost the ability to sleep, as I’m torn with nervous energy. Tomorrow, we get to go to the Light Chamber.

Day 33.
I still can’t stop shaking. Butterbly has been given the task of transcribing my words. She’s a quick writer, and has a knack for jotting down exactly what I say. Thank you, Butterbly.
OK. OK. The test.
We calibrated the Navigational Guide, and again, it pointed south. South. Yes, haven’t you noticed that it’s always pointing south when we debug it? Of course it’s a bugged reading, all the Lumi are up north past the Dragonlands. All that’s south are a bunch of brachdras.
Stop interrupting.
The test started with another bugged report, pointing south. The Light Chamber is one of the most secret gnomish labs, and I really shouldn’t be talking about this here. Butterbly, don’t listen to what you’re writing.
The Light Chamber houses a piece of a Luminescence. They don’t know we have it. Well, they probably know. That’s the thing – that energy signature, they know it’s there. That’s why every Obscured time that one of them dies, there’s always a clean-up crew taking away the body. It’s really quite frustrating for our studies.
I think it was 33 years ago, a Lumi lost an eye, then fell in battle. The clean-up crew missed the eye, so we decided to hold onto it for them. In a shielded lab.
Problem is, everytime we open up the gates to the Light Chamber, a Lumi just casually shows up at our gates, asking questions. We’ll give them back the eye in a bit, honest.
Ugh, the test. So with the third gate of the Light Chamber open, the Navigational Guide was pointing neither north nor south. It was pointing straight at the eye.
Do you get what this means?
What do you mean, do I get what this means?
It means my Navigational Guide works. Well, some of the time.
What do you mean, what if there’s a Lumi in the southlands?
Wait, what if there’s a Lumi in the southlands – stop writing, Butterbly.

Day 34.
I barely slept at all. I’m feeling lots of energy for the Project. Eventually, I need to tell Sparkstone about my theory. What do you mean, Butterbly’s theory? Stop writing.

Day 35.
We have a new rule. Butterbly is not allowed to talk while I dictate.

Day 36.
Hired our pilot today. Blueton is her name. She’s an old, crusty gnome, got most of her experience in a mining rig digging up gems. Now she’s ready to burn up these gems.
As a bonus, I can now skip most of the rest of the hiring process. Blueton also comes with “Blue’s Boys,” her hand-picked crew.
I met with a couple of them, got a feel for their abilities. They are fiercely loyal to Blueton, but Blueton also has good marks for following orders and being reasonable. There is a small problem with her two leg-men, Stars and Ports. Apparently, that’s not their names, and no one actually remembers their real names. So finding their personnel file is going to be a daunting task. Because of the tedious nature of it, I will be sending Butterbly to do it. Butterbly is a truly great and loyal servant, and is probably the best member of the team. Butterbly, are you listening to what I’m saying? Were you adding something there? Focus, Butterbly. Also, I have a task for you.

Day 42.
Butterbly is busy, I don’t have time to write.

Day 53.
Rain. We delayed the first walk test. It is currently a secret that we would have failed the test, anyway. The mandible legs still need rigging.

Day 56.
First field walk was a success.

Day 57.
As of today, Fiddlebutt’s Walking Articulated Navigational Guide is fully operational! We completed our down-drill and up-drill tests flawlessly. For all of her fussiness, Sparkstone is the most competent alchemist I’ve ever worked with. Butterbly has been officially promoted to Navigator, and has agreed to sign on for the expedition. She has been relieved of journal duties.

Day 58.
Our voyage is slated for a fortnight from now, but the council is talking about moving it up. Today, everything nearly fell apart. During a morning field test, the Navigational Guide went true north, then north-northeast. A scout in that direction made contact with a Lumi. We spent the day moving the Walking Articulated Navigational Guide to the western mines, and waited for an all-clear. We considered a few names for her, and ultimately we settled on the Dig Spider. We were able to return back to the hanger at midnight.

Day 59.
First test of the Navigational Guide is reading north. We spent the morning monitoring the situation, but it appears that the Lumi has returned home. Provisions were delivered.

Day 60.
First test of the Navigational Guide read south. We were given our orders, and pushed off. Our course should take us under the Big View Mountains, surfacing somewhere around The Bloodwoods.

Day 61.
Another day of digging.

Day 62.
I may need to take a break from this journal. Digging.

Day 79.
The drill-side port leg popped off at the knee joint today. We nearly lost Ports. He and Stars are so tightly strapped in, down the in the lower cabin, that every step we take they’re violently swung around. If the entire leg had broken, the cables would have sliced him in half. As it is, he’ll have a sprained ankle.
What’s worse, we’re losing at least two days of digging, as we need to back up and rig up a new knee.

Day 81.
Moving again. So tired, barely slept during the repairs. But we need to dig.

Day 85.
Mandible legs are jammed. Looks like two more days of repairs.

Bay 86.
Wait, I mean Day.

Day 86.
Repairs done early. Back to digging.

Day 87.
And now the drill legs have cracked. I volunteered to spend at least 10 minutes kicking them. It was therapeutic.

Day 90.
The Engine Room overheated. Superheated gemdust is not a fun thing to breath in. Smuld, the fireman, took the worst of it. He’s had a raspy cough all night. Sparkstone is doing her best to treat him.

Day 91.
We’re taking an hour each day to let the engines cool and check on the legs. I’m not happy with the delay, but Blueton and Sparkstone are refusing to budge on this.

Day 95.
Our first messenger beetle arrived today. Messenger beetles are little automatons with a wax cylinder inside of them. We can record short messages on them, and play them back. The Dig Spider is equipped with three messenger beetles, in case of emergency. Standard protocol is to not use our stash, but to instead record over those sent from the council to reply.
I was sorely tempted to just throw today’s cylinder into the furnace.
My opponents on the council informed Sparkstone that I was now to be told about the deadline – if the Project isn’t successful in the next five days, we’re under orders to turn back. We won’t clear the Big View Mountains for at least three more days. Any more repairs, and the entire mission is in jeopardy.

Day 97.
The gemstone tip of the drill needs to be replaced. I am forced to trust Blueton on these matters, for I know that Sparkstone will automatically vote for any and all delays. Sparkstone has been overheard saying that she does not plan to die in some fool accident chasing a myth of a Luminescence.
All hands will be on deck tomorrow for repairs. I worry that my next entry will be about us heading back.

Day 99.
After three hours of digging, the Navigational Guide’s readouts started to drastically vary. Initially, I called for a debug, but Butterbly advised me to instead take a different approach – surface.
Butterbly correctly pointed out that the variations were slow, steady changes of direction. As if the Lumi we’re tracking is moving, and is very, very close. Tomorrow, I’ll have the crew breach the surface.

Day 100.
Sparkstone was not on board with the surfacing plans. She interpreted today as the day to return, and was obsessed with wanting to scratch the mission as a failure.
Blueton was more open. She wasn’t convinced that today was the day to head back, that it could potentially have meant tomorrow. It was enough wiggle room to at least try and surface today. Also, Blueton mentioned something about fresh air doing Smuld some good. He coughs more than anyone I’ve ever met.
We broke surface at least an hour past sundown, maybe more. We’re charting the stars to better track our location, but Butterbly is a little rusty on astro navigation. At sunrise, we should have a better bearing on our location.
Blueton is against sending a tracking party in the direction of the Navigational Guide’s heading, at least before sunrise.

Day 101.
We’re extremely south of the Big View Mountains, and have even cleared the Bloodwoods. It’s creepy how pleasant the area we’ve found is – babbling brook, green rolling fields, and some caves for shelter nearby.
The Navigational Guide is pointing straight at the caves, actually.
I think that Sparkstone is afraid of meeting a Lumi, this far away from the city walls. Apparently, she was one of the designers of the Light Chamber, and is worried that they can see that in her. She pushed for us to head back immediately – no matter how we interpreted the messenger beetle, today was either the deadline or past the deadline.
But curiosity has gotten ahold of Blueton. She wants to explore …