But hey, you don't have to have read it yet to read my Digger fic, I swear.
A Long Evening of Delicate Work Right There (1387 words) by Grey_Bard
Fandom: Digger (Comic)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Additional Tags: Ghosts, Storytelling, Mid-Canon, Ghost Stories, Misses Clause Challenge
A wombat, a hyena and a priest tell ghost stories and wish for alcohol.
In a small clearing in the woods between Rath and the mountains a very annoyed hyena lay on her back on the ground, exposing a chest and belly full of porcupine quills. A wombat and a human girl in clerical clothes sat beside her, carefully pulling out quills by the light of the fire and the fading twilight.
"Go faster," growled Grim Eyes through gritted teeth. She was, after all, a hunter and a hyena of action.
Digger gave her an old-fashioned look, unfazed by a couple of hundred pounds of angry predator. The wombat cast her eyes upwards as if looking for strength. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right," she said firmly.
"When will that male return with the arak?" Grim Eyes wondered a few minutes later. Her claws flexed into the ground at her side in pain and irritation.
"It would clean the wounds well," the girl - Murai - agreed, as she turned her attention to the next quill.
Grim Eyes glared at her. "Not for the wounds," she said, as if to a small, stupid child. "Rrgh. Shouldn't have let him go off alone, flighty."
"Herne is our guide," Digger pointed out and yanked out another quill.
"And he tries," the hyena said fondly, "But bless him, he's a male down to the liver. "
Digger pulled on another quill, failed, and wiped her paws on her vest.
"Ow!" said Grim Eyes. "Could use that arak right now."
"So could I, listening to you," muttered Digger. "Pull it taut, Murai." The girl pushed skin and spotted fur aside as the wombat made ready for another attempt.
"Ow!" yelped Grim Eyes. "She-is-Fiercer give me strength! How much is left?"
Digger rubbed her muzzle thoughtfully. "About two thirds," she estimated.
"Bone and claw," Grim Eyes swore.
"In the mines, something like this, we'd pass the time with a story," Digger said.
Murai nodded. "In the temple garden, sowing and weeding, we did much the same," she said.
"Fine. Ow! Tell me a ghost story, then," grumbled Grim Eyes. "We've met enough."
The little acolyte shrugged and said, "I'll go."
Grim Eyes sat up and settled in to listen to Murai's story. Digger reached for another quill.
"Long ago, in the days when the Good Man walked his city and was a God on Earth, there was a robber, vicious and cruel," Murai began. "He would steal people from the street for ransom, and if he did not get it, slay them. Some were freed, but many were slain. Old, young, it made no difference.
"Their spirits became restless and together wandered the streets on dark nights in a chorus of lamentation, begging to be avenged.
"Then, one moonless night the Good Man came upon them, having been tending the ill late into the night.
"'We are the innocents slain by a man of great wickedness, and all for a lack of coin. Our numbers grow with nearly every moon, and there is no sign of cease.'
"And so the Good Man sought the robber out and found him and said, 'Turn aside from your theft and murder and mend your ways.'
"'And who are you to say this to me?' the robber asked.
"'I am called the Good Man, for I seek that all men might become good,' he said.
"And the robber laughed.
"Then the Good Man said 'If you will not hear me, then hark to the souls of your victims.'
"And the Good Man caused the spirits of the dead to appear before them, and for the robber to behold the anguish of the dead in his heart. And he did behold it, and he felt ashamed.
"When he came to himself, the robber knelt and said, 'I will turn aside. I will forsake it all.' And he left and he did, and became a hermit in seclusion.
"Then the Good Man turned to the spirits and said, 'Go now and be content, for the man you seek is no more, and the danger is past.'
"And the spirits took the Good Man's words into their hearts and were content, and vanished to the place the dead go.
"Yet a few of the spirits could not, and clung to their grievance. 'Give us our vengeance,' they pleaded. The Good Man sent them on their way, however, enjoining them to find forgiveness in their hearts before it was too late. They did not.
"On cold fog-bound nights, their faded semblances still haunt the streets, crying for their lost vengeance."
"Gods," muttered Digger. "Isn't that just the way?"
Grim Eyes nodded. "Typical human god. She-is-Fiercer would have eaten his soul."
Murai pointedly said nothing.
"Your turn, Earth Rat," Grim Eyes told Digger.
Digger raised her paws in surrender. "I already told you about my great great grandmother and the dishes," she said.
"That's not a real ghost story," disagreed Grim Eyes, crossing her arms and raising one spotted eyebrow.
"It's true, it's about a ghost..." Digger said with a shrug.
"It's not a real ghost story," Grim Eyes challenged. "I'll bet you don't even know one."
"I do know a ghost story," the wombat said, and paused for thought before she began. "Two towns over from where I grew up, there was a mine manager, once. She used to run a bauxite dig. Her deputy killed her, took over, and blamed the engineers. He claimed it was a faulty pylon.
"Well, the manager wouldn't stand for anyone saying that about her engineers. I mean, it wasn't true! A wombat who lied about that might lie about anything. So her ghost came back to warn her children and demand justice."
"Did they call upon the law?" asked Murai
"Did they kill them?" asked Grim Eyes.
"What? No!" said Digger, appalled. "They reported him to the local guild, called in an outside investigation, and proved it wasn't true. Then they staged a walkout and demanded a formal retraction. They got it. The old mine manager gave her statement and vanished."
"And what about the murder?" Grim Eyes insisted.
"I don't know, does it matter?" Digger asked. "The mine was safe, and they cleared their names."
"That's not a very good ghost story," complained Grim Eyes.
"It's true!" Digger protested.
"So?" the hyena asked, and shook her head. "I will tell a ghost story," she said. "Owl-Caller tells it. It could be true, it could be not true, who knows?
"Once there was a group of hunters. Not the best, yes, but good. Three cousins and an aunt. Their family was not high in the tribe, not powerful, so they had to seek far, far for their hunting grounds. To the edge of the territory, maybe further, hard to say.
"One day they were tracking a deer. Long, long, until when it got away, the forest was strange. The night was falling...
"Hrn. Ow!" Grim Eyes growled, interrupting her story. She glared at Digger.
"Stop moving," warned the wombat, "You're making it worse."
"Maybe," Grim Eyes admitted, and went on. "They built camp for the night. Clearing brush, the youngest was pushed in the back. She turned on her sister, snarled, 'Stop that!'
"But her sister was too many steps away.
"Her sister, the second youngest, scratched a shallow fire pit. She was pushed. 'Stop that!' But there was no one.
"Their cousin, gathering wood, tripped. There was nothing.
"Building the fire, their aunt was pushed. Pushed again. She turned and snarled, 'Who are you?'
"Then she saw. The fire's light showed a hyena's bones. Bones half under the dirt. From the things beside it, around it, the earrings, the tools, they knew who it was. A member of their tribe, lost five years or more.
"Her bones they bore home the next day. They even caught a deer." This, it was clear from her tone of voice, Grim Eyes considered a truly happy ending.
A deer-headed man trotted into the clearing, a skin of arak in his hand. "What did I miss?" Herne asked.
"Not much," said Digger, who got up to take the bottle from him and hand it to the still quill-punctured Grim Eyes. "Thanks."
"Drink this," she said to Grim Eyes, who gladly took a good, stiff swig. Digger swiped the rest back. "Good," Digger said, "The rest is going on your wounds."
Or read it on AO3 here
You can also read this entry on Dreamwidth ( comments)