A Miner's Folly (5,414 words)
Junah groaned as he pushed the wheelbarrow through the caverns. The rhythmic sounds of pickaxes biting into the rocks accompanied him through the narrow tunnels. Periodically he paused, adding another bundle of Soulstones to his cart, the entire reason he and the rest of the miners had come here. The precious stones bounced as his cart rattled against the rocky ground, and, despite months working in the mine, Junah still wasn’t comfortable being this close to them. He went slowly, doing his best to keep them from becoming damaged and potentially unleashing the power they held within.
Any deliveries had to be secured by the foreman. While not a long process, it did require a lengthy walk back to the entrance of the mine, and at the end of the first day Junah knew the trip by heart. As he neared the foreman’s office, a squat building that backed up to the main shaft, the familiar sounds of the mine grew more distant, replaced by a quietness that came from being on the side of a mountain.
At least, that’s what usually happened. This time he could hear shouting from inside the foreman’s office.
“Now listen here. This is a legitimate venture, you can’t just-”
A calm, sonorous voice, interrupted the foreman. “You may want to think about telling me what I can and can’t do.” Papers rustling, followed by a grunt. “This paper says that I can do just about anything with this property.”
Junah had always been a little slow. Perhaps that’s why he was still a miner despite years of working underground. Any other man might have simply come back at another time, keeping to his own business, but not Junah. Instead, he quietly left the cart of soulstones and came near to the door, just barely open.
Inside, a pair of strong arms held the foreman behind his desk, really more a set of crates than an actual piece of furniture. The typical red duster of the Guild identified the guard holding him.
“Er. What I meant is more that you shouldn’t,” the foreman said, sweat forming on his forehead. “See, the mine shafts aren’t entirely safe. I’m concerned about your health, officer.”
The same voice Junah had heard earlier chuckled, then said, “Not safe? Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with what an inspection is.” A brief pause, followed by heavy footsteps as the man came into view, standing before the foreman. This man wore the same red coat as the guard, but with a golden ram pinned just below the neck. “It’d be a terrible thing if a mine weren’t up to code. But I think safety regulations are the least of your concerns, Mr. Harrison.” He leaned into the foreman’s face. “I’ve heard rumors of Arcanists being harbored here, and I’ll not leave until I’ve searched every inch of this godforsaken hellhole. I assure you, if there is so much as a hint of those terrorists here I’ll have you and every miner here strung up in the city streets.”
He whirled around, ignoring the foreman’s futile struggles. Addressing the guard he said, “Henry, stay with the foreman while Thomas and I check out the mines. This won’t take long.” Nearing the door he added, “I’m certain of it.”
Junah had heard the rumors of Arcanists using the mines, but he’d never paid them any mind. All sorts of rumors flooded Malifaux, and a man would go insane, or paralyzed with fear, if he listened to them all. Besides, all the men he knew worked just as hard as he did. The mines were their livelihood, and none of them were going to endanger it by directly opposing the Guild.
All that was before he’d heard a direct threat on his life, and Junah wasn’t going to stand idly by while the Guild exterminated the other miners, either. His hands closed around one of the shovels leaning nearby, and he stood, tool raised, as the door opened further. As soon as he saw someone walk out he slammed the shovel down, and a sickening crunch preceded the body dropping to the ground.
Looking up his eyes locked with the Guild officer that had been speaking to the foreman. Both looked downwards at the same time to see the dead guard at their feet.
“Henry!” the officer shouted as Junah raised the shovel to strike again. “There’s one of them out here, and Thomas is down!” The officer jumped backwards, pulling the pistol clear of his holster and firing while still airborne. The bullet pierced Junah’s upraised arm, causing his swing to miss the officer entirely and sending a wave of pain shooting throughout his body.
Again the revolver fired, and Junah reeled backwards from the impact, collapsing against the building’s wall. A trail of blood marked his descent, and pain radiated throughout his arm, while a coldness spread through his gut. He tried to move, to fight, but each effort ended with him convulsing, unable to stand. Despite his efforts, Junah could do nothing but curl up on the ground and scream uncontrollably.
Stars formed at the edge of his vision, as a jet of flame shot out from the foreman’s office. A soft blue glow surrounded the foreman as he stepped out of the office, a Soulstone clutched in one hand, and another gout of fire chased the Guild officer away from the mine. As his vision faded to black the foreman rushed over to him, shouting words that Junah couldn’t hear.
A damp cloth pressed against Junah’s forehead, stirring him to consciousness.
“Mom?” The room swam as it came into focus, a harsh white light inches from his forehead blocked out most of the area, but he could make out a figure leaning over him.
The response was gruff. “I’m not your mother.”
That woke him up. Instantly he jerked back and pulled his arm up to block the light, attempting to get a better view of his surroundings.
Or at least, he tried to. Nothing happened. Looking down, Junah noticed his entire arm missing from the shoulder, and fresh bandages covered the area where it had been removed. He lay on an operating table, inside a small room that smelled too heavily of chemicals. Across the room, underneath a series of glass cabinets, rested a deep, metal tray, covered in blood stains, and a lump of flesh and bone sat within.
The sight of his, detached, arm repulsed Junah, and he struggled to lean over before emptying the contents of his stomach onto the floor.
“Damn fine mess you just made, even if it is a common side effect.” Junah heard the voice as he clumsily wiped his mouth with his left hand. He attempted to stand, ignoring the throbbing pain. A man in a long white coat stood at the foot of his bed, staring intently at Junah. “At least you’re awake. We need to talk before I can do anything else.”
Junah attempted to pull himself up, working through the pain. “Where am I? What do you want with me?”
The man before him glanced down at the puddle, taking a step to the far side to ensure that his black polished shoes remained well away from the mess. He said, “I find the former irrelevant. The latter question is far more interesting, so we’ll begin there.” The doctor rolled his eyes as Junah struggled to make sense of the sentence. Taking the time to enunciate each word, he said, “We, yes, there’s a we, want your help, Junah. The guild officer you attacked wasn’t wrong. There are, correction – were, Arcanists in the mines where you worked. These same men are willing to fix you up.” He paused, watching Junah’s reaction. “Provided that you’re interested in more work.” As he spoke he gestured to a metal arm that sat on the counter, shining from the light. “I took measurements while you slept. It should be just about your size. A word of warning, though.” The smile changed to a wicked grin. “It’ll hurt like hell.”
Junah glanced at the void where his arm had once been. Despite being on the far counter it still managed to itch. “What’s the catch?” he asked.
Yellow, crooked teeth emerged behind an empty smile. “You’ll still be employed by the M&SU. You may even work in the mines from time to time, but they’ll be expecting you to be more of a figurehead now.”
“Someone who talks to the other miners, speaks about the tragedy that beset you. That sort of thing.”
“And what happens if I say no?”
“Well,” the doctor said. “You’d be useless as a miner with only one arm. I’m certain work could be found for you, but you’d be ineligible for your previous position.” There was another smile. “You could always stay in Malifaux. After all, we’re not in the habit of sending people back through the Breach.”
Junah had seen firsthand what happened to the poor in Malifaux. After all, many miners were only one step removed from them. He wouldn’t last a week, let alone a month. His eyes settled back on the prosthetic. He’d seen miners with them installed before, and they hadn’t seemed so different than any other man.
“Seems like I don’t have much of a choice,” Junah said.
The doctor walked over and ripped open Junah’s bandages, eliciting a wince from the injured miner. “You always have a choice, Junah.”
Junah peered out from behind the brilliant blue curtain. The rally tonight had drawn in the largest crowd he’d seen, and the theater struggled to contain them all. As he released his grip on the fabric a sigh escaped his lips. Despite it being wool, and rough to the touch, he couldn’t feel it. Not anymore.
It had been three weeks since the doctor replaced his arm, attaching a metal prosthetic where his natural one had been removed. The doc’s warning wasn’t wrong, and the attachment process was easily the worst pain Junah had ever experienced. His arm still worked, responding to the same motions he’d used all his life, but he couldn’t feel anything he touched. Just an aching coldness that never disappeared.
He shook his head, attempting to dislodge the same thoughts he’d carried with him out of the operating room. He had been recruited to convince more of the miners to join the Arcanists, and he focused all of his attention forward to the man at the podium that had almost finished introducing him.
Beside him Remy stood, pulling out the cards that had been prepared for Junah beneath his green cloak. The Arcanists had sent Remy to accompany Junah, both his bodyguard and escort during the rallies. From what he’d heard, the man was proficient in the Oxford school of magic. Nodding, Junah took the cards. He shouldn’t be nervous, but, as always, a brief moment of absolute terror seized his body as the mage handed him a small, carved stone. Despite being the fifth such rally in a month, Junah couldn’t help it when he touched the magical rune.
“You know the drill,” Remy said. “I’ll be back here. Let’s just do this and go home.” Without waiting for a reply Remy turned and walked back to stand near the theater props, keeping an eye on the back door.
“And without further adieu, I welcome to you Mr. Junah Hawkins!” The announcer motioned him forward, and Junah took a deep breath before striding across the theater stage.
“Thank you all for coming here tonight. Ya’ll may have heard of me. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I was a miner just like you, wanting to earn an honest living. Do a good, honest, day’s labor. Just like you, I had dreams when I came to Malifaux. I’d work hard, earn my daily scrip, and then head back Earthside to retire and live a decent living with me and the missus.” Smile. “Once I find her.” A few laughs throughout the crowd, and several more nodding along.
“Well, who determines what’s fair?” Junah continued. “How many of you have been able to afford a little more than a warm bed and a cold drink? And for what? Countless hours of back-breaking labor in the dead of night, all for the hopes of more Soulstones.”
With each word his voice rose, until it reached a crescendo. “And who profits from it all?” Jonah raised his right arm, letting it reflect the spotlight back onto the crowd. “The same people who took this from me! The ones who threatened to slaughter an entire mine, like animals, just to make a point. You know who they are. They walk among us, reminding us of their necessity. Their ‘protection’. But I say it’s all a lie, and that they are the ones who should need protection!”
He could hear the whispers of some agreeing with him, but tonight the crowd was quieter than usual. There were still those who remained unconvinced. Lifting his hands he said, “Now I know you have questions, so-”
“Yeah, I got a question,” came a voice from the back, interrupting him. “Are you going to go out and man the border of the Quarantine Zone?”
Junah stopped, the question throwing off his practiced routine. “What do you mean?” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Remy weaving his hands through the air behind the curtain, and the stone grew warm in his pocket.
The crowd parted as the stranger stepped forward, and Junah caught the glint of a golden ram-head pinned to the upper part of the man’s duster. A pair of pistols appeared as the man swept his coat back and rested his hands on the exposed handles. “I mean, you said the Guild’s going to need protection, right? What happens next? You going to man the border? Protect us from the necromancers beyond? And what of the Neverborn that still lurk inside the city’s walls?” He turned around to the already thinning crowd. “You need us.” His eyes settled on Junah. “Don’t let one dissatisfied miner lead the rest of you into a revolt against those who keep watch.”
As the crowd thinned two more Guild guards could be seen closing in on the stage. Junah froze, his hands glued to the podium before him as the revolver cocked. Fortunately, the mage was ready, and a barrier shimmered into existence as the gun roared. The bullet slammed into the shield, causing it to visibly waver before him, but Junah remained unharmed. He dove behind the podium, shrinking behind it.
“Where’s your talk about standing up now?” the guard said as bullets poured into the podium, sending wood chips flying through the air. Laughing, he said, “Why think for yourselves, when you can have your opinion told to you by this coward?”
“Junah,” Remy hissed. “Run! I can’t keep this up forever.”
For a moment the firing paused, and the sounds of spent casings hit the floor. Junah knew this was the only break he’d get, and he dove across the floor, rolling behind the curtains and towards the mage. As he stood up, Remy jerked his thumb to the back door, opening his mouth to speak.
Blood bubbled from his mouth instead of words, and behind him a guard appeared, knife running across the mage’s neck. Immediately the barrier surrounding Junah disappeared, and the heat from the rune vanished. The three guards from earlier had all finished reloading, and struggled to climb onto the stage.
Without thinking, Junah charged the man in front of him, barreling over Remy’s still bleeding corpse and knocking the Guild guard to the ground as gunfire resumed behind him. The knife went flying, landing at the feet of a mannequin near the exit.
Unlike Junah, the guard had been trained as a fighter. He lashed out, kicking one booted foot into Junah’s gut that sent him reeling, landing next to the guard on the floor.
Blinking through the blinding pain, he saw the man go for the knife. Forcing himself to move he pushed hard with his mechanical arm. What might have propped him up before now sent him flying through the air, and he landed on the man’s back before rolling off and crashing into the stage props. The knife was lost as numerous clothes and mannequins all fell to the ground, scattering over the wooden floors.
Junah scrambled across the ground to the guard, slamming his arm into the guard before the man could recover. Blood stained his metal fist, but Junah didn’t notice, instead hitting him again and again. He didn’t know when to stop. He couldn’t feel the bones shatter under his assault, or when the man’s windpipe gave way after wrapping his right hand around the guard’s throat. Not long after the guard’s struggling ceased entirely, and Junah clutched a dead man in his fingers.
A bullet embedded itself in his arm as a pistol roared behind him, and steam hissed out of his mechanical arm, obscuring the guards from him. Junah rolled off the corpse, stumbling out the back exit and into the streets of Malifaux. Remy had intentionally set this rally near the Quarantine Zone, hoping it would be remote enough that the Guild wouldn’t find them. All of that seemed foolish now, though.
Rain poured down, obscuring both ends of the alley where Junah found himself. He’d been guided here by Remy, and didn’t know which way led back home.
Before he could make a decision cold metal slipped around his wrists, jerking his arms together and behind his back. He screamed and twisted as he struggled to break the handcuffs, but the previous shot had taken most of the strength out of his arm. His struggling instantly stopped as the cold barrel of a revolver pressed against his head.
“Now just calm down. There’s only two ways this ends, and one is lot messier than the other.” Junah stood, doing his best to not shake uncontrollably from the fear that gripped him. “Good,” the guard said, jerking him out into the streets. “Now let’s get out of this rain before something worse finds us.”
He’d been thrown into a small, but dry, cell, deep within the government district while the city still slept. His legs burned, and blisters had already formed across his feet from the wet march throughout the city. They’d left him in his clothes, but had taken the Soulstone that powered his arm out immediately upon arriving in the prison. Now his right arm hung limply by his side.
The guard that had escorted him simply tossed him in the empty cell and left, presumably to a good night’s rest. Junah eyed the flimsy straw cot before sighing and curling up on the less soiled half. He never imagined he’d end up inside of a Guild cell. Of course, a month ago he’d never have thought he’d be working with the Arcanists, either. All he’d wanted was to live simply, work hard, and be respected for it. Now he had been made into a criminal, rotting in a cell.
He didn’t remember falling asleep, but now sunlight shone into his cell from a tiny window set inside the stone wall. A rattling of keys could be heard as someone marched down the steps leading to his prison cell.
“Junah Hawkins.” Wrinkles covered his face, but he carried no cane and walked without issue down the steps leading to Junah’s cell. Guards stood on either side of him, and he looked up from the sheaf of papers he carried to glance at the miner behind bars. Unimpressed, he returned to staring at the documents. “Charged with inciting a riot, resisting arrest, and,” he said, lowering the papers once more. “Killing an officer of the Guild.” He paused, letting the weight of the situation sink in. “You might have made it out alive, except for that last charge. After all, blood demands blood. Or so they say.” He drew closer to the bars, the guards behind him taking a step forward in unison. “And we have eye witness accounts. Quite the predicament you find yourself in.” A gentle smile revealed white, pristine teeth.
“Yeah?” Junah replied. “And what do you care? You’re the reason I’m in here.”
“Am I?” The man said, tucking the papers back into a leather briefcase as he waved away the accusation. “Did I force you to kill a man who has saved countless others? I believe that was all you, Junah.”
“The Guild were the ones who crawled into the mine and threatened to kill us all!” Junah exclaimed, grabbing a bar with his one good arm, coming inches from the man’s face. “I didn’t even know about the Arcanists until then.”
The man’s eyes lit up, seemingly interested for the first time. “So you do know them, then? Personally, I hope. That would be best for your sake.” He waved the guards back, and leaned forward, whispering. “You see, Junah, you’re nothing more than a victim here. You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ever since have been suckered into their schemes against us. We’re the ones trying to protect you. If you’d be willing to tell us what you know, then we can surely find some way to drop these charges.” Almost as an afterthought he added, “Assuming you haven’t been fully corrupted by these terrorists.”
The anger that had been keeping him standing went out. Junah hadn’t considered that he might actually be on the wrong side, but for the first time he thought about the events that had led him to this point. The man’s words made a lot of sense. He couldn’t even think about betraying the Union, but the Union wasn’t the same as the Arcanists. Was it?
As he stood there in thought, the man before him sighed and said, “Well, I’ll give you some time to think on it.” He turned and walked up the steps and out of sight. “But not too much time.” A brief laugh accompanied the door slamming shut, leaving Junah alone in the prison once again.
“Hello?” Junah said, weakly, in the hopes that someone would hear him. Despite the man’s promise it had been days since he’d spoken to another person. The guards had slipped him a tray of food, along with just enough water to slake his thirst.
“I’m ready to talk.” The words echoed throughout the empty cell, the only acknowledgment that he’d spoken. He turned to the window, looking at the dim sunlight through the hazy clouds and whispered, “Anyone?”
Sliding down against the back wall he found his hope dying with the evening light. As he hit the floor the door creaked open, and moments later the same man from earlier stood before him.
“Have you reached a decision?” the man asked. He stood carrying the same briefcase, flanked by the same guards, as if no time had passed. For Junah it had been an eternity.
“I, I have.” His voice sounded weak, even to himself. “I’ll talk.”
“Good! Guards, let’s get Mr. Hawkins out of these chains.” As the guards unlocked the cell the man stuck out his hand. “You can call me Todd.”
Junah hesitated only for a moment before shaking the offered hand. Todd slapped Junah on the back, leading him up the steps and out of the prison cells.
“Yes, we’ll get you fed, cleaned up, and then first thing tomorrow morning you and I can have a chat about the people that used you.” Todd broke out into a genuine smile. “I’m glad to see that you came to your senses, Mr. Hawkins. I’d hate to think that men couldn’t be reasoned with in this day and age.”
Junah could only nod once before Todd had left him in the upstairs room with the two guards. Immediately they provided a warm meal and a fresh set of clothes. When he asked about restoring power to his arm, they apologized, saying that the previous Soulstone had already been re-purposed, but they’d find him a replacement soon. Regardless, by the time he walked out of the jail he looked nothing like the man who had been suffering moments earlier.
The guards escorted Junah, at his own pace, past the construction nearby the prison to the center of Malifaux, stopping at an enormous estate. Pillars, and Guild guards, flanked the entrance, and Junah forced himself to keep his jaw from dropping in amazement. He had no idea that men could live in such luxury on this side of the Breach.
His room sat at the top of the steps on the second floor, down the hall on the right, and stepping inside Junah felt transported to another world. Instead of the abandoned warehouses, red and gold drapes adorned the walls, and silk sheets covered an actual bed. His rough, calloused hands stood out of place among the finery as he caressed the bed. Laying down he wondered why he’d spent so many nights in abandoned buildings hiding from the Guild, scurrying about like rats.
Sleep came easily to Junah, and the following morning found him with another warm meal. After a bath, complete with warm water, and a fresh shave the guards guided Junah to Todd’s office, located on the first floor of a nearby building. He’d come to expect the grand trappings based on last night, but Todd’s office contained a small, clean desk and a metal filing cabinet. Neatly stacked piles of papers covered the desk, and a coat rack, topped by a hat, sat just in the corner. As Junah entered, Todd greeted him and gestured to a pair of chairs before the desk.
“Now, let’s begin.” Todd said, laying out a fresh set of papers and dipping his pen in ink. “I want to know precisely what happened. Start from the beginning.”
Junah repeated the story, starting with the threats at the first mine, mentioning the doctor in the slums, and ending with the rally where he had been taken. As he spoke, Todd’s pen whisked across the pages, never stopping, scratching out each sentence. Periodically Todd would interrupt, asking for clarification on names or locations, and Junah answered as best he could.
An hour passed. Todd held up the pages as Junah fell silent, skimming over them and nodding approvingly. Finally he set them down, and reached out to shake Junah’s hand.
“Well, I must say this is quite a tale. This makes everything very clear. Your testimony really is quite damning.”
Junah’s outstretched hand froze. “What?”
“By your own admission you colluded with known terrorists, and not only did you murder the man at the theater, but also killed a Guild guard in the mines. Your testimony coupled with our witnesses should make this a fairly trivial case.” Todd laughed as he stood, putting the papers in a leather briefcase and closing the ram-headed clasp. “I imagine it won’t take more than a half-hour for your sentence to be announced at the trial today.”
“Trial? But I thought-”
“Thought what? That you’d walk away free? Not a chance. The Guild doesn’t absolve those who murder its members. Guards!”
Immediately the door behind him opened, and strong hands clamped him down, holding him to the chair where he sat.
Todd walked around the desk, slipping on his coat and bowler hat before lifting the briefcase. “We’ve hunted the Arcanists all across Malifaux, and your testimony should provide several new leads. Hopefully this time we can take the fight to them.” Turning to the guards he said, “Show Junah back to his cell. Although he shouldn’t need it for long.”
Without another word he walked past the restrained Junah and out of his office, ignoring the pleas for help. Junah rocked side to side, attempting to force himself out of his chair and onto the bureaucrat, but the guards were stronger. Despite all of his attempts his hands remained shackled together behind his back.
Eventually his struggles ceased, and the guards marched the dejected Junah back to the same jail where he’d been held previously.
As they tossed him inside one snickered. “Aren’t you glad to be back home? Wouldn’t want you gone too long. I saw the room they gave you last night. Far too good for the likes of scum like you.”
Junah pleaded with them one last time. “But I helped you. I gave you what you wanted. Why are you doing this to me?”
The cell door slammed in his face, and the guard’s blade rattled across the bars. “We don’t deal with Arcanists.” Laughing, he added, “I can’t believe you ever thought we’d let you live.” He pointed to the window in the cell. “By noon tomorrow you’ll be hanged out the city square. They’re building the gallows there now.”
Trembling, Junah turned and looked out the window, seeing the workers hoisting the rope on the platform he’d passed by earlier.
The Guild guard’s voice was a haunting echo as he walked up the steps and out of the prison. “I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen. Today they find you guilty, and tomorrow, you hang.” Junah didn’t notice the door slam shut. He could only stare out the window, waiting as the end drew near.
“Awful day for a hanging,” a man said, stuffing his time piece back into the deep green coat as he motioned at the clouds gathering. “Should be happening soon, I wager. Just before the rain.”
Mouse simply nodded before moving on. Around him the crowd surged, a mixture of excitement and fear. He listened to each conversation as he passed by, having long ago trained himself to constantly be alert for any potential information. Despite the discrimination that came from his small stature, it was often useful to the dwarf. Within moments he’d woven his way through the mass of people, none the wiser to his presence, and stood near the front of the crowd.
The accused, a man Mouse had never personally met, was paraded onto the platform. His head hung, defeated, and his hands had been tied behind his back. A masked executioner stood behind him, prodding him onto the stage to a sole noose that swung in the wind. Shortly thereafter a Guild magistrate walked to the front of the platform, quieting the crowd.
“The man before you, Junah Hawkins, has, by his own admission, been found guilty of acts opposing the Guild. Chief among them being the murder of two men, both officers of the law.” He paused, giving the crowd ample time to die down after the outcry. “For this we sentence him to hang by the neck until he is dead. May God have mercy on his soul.”
On the stage Junah sobbed uncontrollably. “Please. Please let me go.”
The magistrate glared at the executioner. “Silence him.” The man took a black hood and placed it over Junah’s face, but Mouse still heard the muffled cries for assistance. Slowly, the rope lowered, and the executioner slipped the noose over Junah’s head, tightening it at the neck.
“Let this be a warning to you all,” the magistrate said. “Malifaux must stand united in this time of peril, lest we fall to the horrors lurking just beyond our walls. We cannot afford dissent. Any who threaten this city, even if they are thought to be one of our own, will be met with a swift and decisive end.”
With a slight nod to the executioner the lever was pulled. Many in the crowd averted their eyes as Junah’s body descended through the trap door, rope pulling taut, but not Mouse. He could only stare, transfixed, at the magistrate, thoughts already forming in his mind. Per custom, they would have to rotate all of the safehouses, but during that time he would spread rumors, painting Junah as a martyr. The working man who had been mercilessly executed for stepping one toe over the unjust line placed by his oppressors. The Arcanists could use the fear that would grip the city’s working class, and Mouse would see to it. He was already preparing his own speech as he listened to the magistrate’s final words.
Neither man seemed to care about the covered body, dangling just inches off the ground, as the rain began to pour.