There was very little sunlight in the underground cavern where the two norns lived. Most of the light came from the torches set in the cave wall at intervals of 7 to 8 feet. The torches cast a red, almost menacing light over the cave, and long shadows stretched out from behind rocks and machines like long black fingers. It was in one of these shadows that a small rodent crawled out from its hole.
It was a doozer, a small, brown, bipedal rat with brown fur and a parrot like voice. It looked around with its nearly blind eyes for any sign of obvious danger. It saw none so it sniffed inquisitorially. It could smell moldy cheese, its favorite food. It skittered quickly from behind its rock to another, slightly smaller stone. Now it could see it's prize. A large wedge of yellow cheese. It gave off a heavenly aroma of mold and the doozer could resist it no longer.
With plans in its head of biting off a piece and bringing it back to it's nest it ran forward, but no sooner had it reached the cheese when from the torchlight, where its eyesight was particularly weak, came a large form. It saw the descending shadow and squeaked a single raspy word: "BADPLANT!"
As it turned to run back to its hole, the norn swiped at it with a clawed hand. The doozer tumbled over itself, squealing random words and attempting to right itself. The hand of the green norn, one of the few parts of its body not covered in fur, descended on the rodent and picked it up. Its teeth descended to dispatch the critter when the Doozer turned its head and sunk its minute teeth into the hand of the norn.
"OWCH!" Shouted the norn and threw the doozer away from him. Faintly dazed the doozer got off and zipped into a hole before you could say "Flib dat."
"Stupid critter," Cursed the norn. He sucked on the small red teeth marks on his thumb and whimpered pitifully, his ears drooping. He cursed himself for his stupidity. Of course you weren't supposed to bite a doozer. Only stupid Zander fish could be killed that way. You had to throw rocks to knock it out or kill it on impact. Every norn child knew that.
"Forgetful B. That's me," Muttered the norn. He decided to return to the inhabited part of the cavern and see if the hand could do anything to help him.
Picking up the bag of bait cheese he had been using, B set off for the eastern end of the cave.
The large cavern B and his mate lived in had never had a name. It was always called: Large cavern, Lower cavern, Torch cavern, anything that came to their minds. Norns were the only creatures worthy of names, that and the few pets that the norns kept.
Bats fluttered over B's head as he made his way to his nest. Small centipedes and large cave dwelling slugs watched him from the shadows where the torchlight never reached. Slowly as he got farther and farther from the Doozer nests, the wild creatures and plants became less and less and the machines, norn nests, and toys became more numerous. Finally, walking around a large boulder B saw it.
It was a modest home for a norn. A large mud ball, hollowed out and filled with grass. His mate wasn't inside so he supposed she must be on the Outside collecting vegetables. A good thing too. She wouldn't be happy if she found him coming home Doozerless again.
Sighing B crouched down to crawl into his mud ball of a home, and curled up for a little quiet time.
Are you okay B? Said a deep, almost musical voice. It wasn't a voice like any creature in Albia had. It wasn't a thing you heard or a thing you even knew in you mind. It simply was. It was as ethereal as emotion, yes as solid as the rock wall of the cave.
"Are you there hand?" Asked B poking his head out of the mud hut.
Who else would it be? Said the had descending before him. Like its voice, the hand was different from anything else in Albia. B had been taught from the time he was a child that there a certain rules that apply to all things in Albia. All things must fall down toward the ground, and must stay on the ground unless they are tossed up or jump up. All living creatures must live and sleep to survive, and all living creatures must die.
These rules didn't seem to apply to the hand. It could move around the air effortlessly, even move through walls! The hand never ate, slept, or even drank water (The greatest known need of all living things). And as far as B knew it didn't die. It was as solid and everlasting as the volcano, as the ocean, as the very cavern in which B lived. These strange abilities seemed to have different affects on norns. Some norns respected and adored the hand as a god. Some saw it as a part of life, and treated it as a good friend. Some, like that crazy female who lived in the incubator room, feared the hand or were angry at it.
But B felt that the hand was his adopted father. It had raised him from an egg, even raising a female companion for him. The hand knew everything.
Are you okay? Said the hand moving closer to him as if looking into his face. You haven't said anything for a long time. Your not becoming a child of the mind are you?
"Of course not!" Said B indignantly. The last thing any norn wanted to be, or be associated with, was one of those retards.
I was only joking Said the hand. B sighed and smiled. The hand's voice showed no inflection, and it was hard to tell when it was joking or not.
From the ceiling above came a grinding, clicking sound that grew louder as they listened. From a small hole in the ceiling, a small basket descended from the ceiling on some wires. At the bottom of the wires was a system of gears and pulleys, all working together to get the lift down to the floor.
"Hand!" Shouted the female norn that rode down in the elevator. She was a beautiful grey color, with black spots dappling her ears and back. Her eyes were a vivid emerald green and they were always half closed, as if bored with life.
"What is it Ginger?" Said the hand. It floated up and hovered beside Ginger as the lift descended.
"Did you see what was at the top of the lift?" Asked Ginger, pointing up above her head. One of her ears popped up questioningly.
"No, I haven't been up there for a while, what was it?" Asked the hand.
"Well, I've got good news and bad news," She said as the lift touched the ground and she stepped out of it, like a princess from a carriage. "Which do you want to hear first?"
"I'll take the bad news," Said B walking up to his mate.
"There's a dead ettin on our doorstep," Said Ginger, her eyes never even fluttering, to acknowledge that she had said something unusual.
"What's the good news?" Said the hand.
"It'll be easy to clean up," Said Ginger.