A house stood, surrounded by a dozen acres. Inside that house, a crack, small enough to go unnoticed, lived a dust bunny. He wasn’t cute, cuddly or a cartoonish bunny. He was a member of the Ess clan, and he was starting his warrior training at the academy soon. His name…was MacIntosh.
In this world, dust bunnies were the most intelligent of the creatures that lived in the house. Why? They made it a point to go unseen by the giants who lived in it. The Stone Giants were their given name passed on from generation to generation. These giants were the source of many problems, but other enemies lurked. Countless wars had been fought in order to keep their homes and children safe. MacIntosh was still young, and he didn’t have a family of his own. He lived with his parents and his brothers, the baby of the group. He was their pride and joy, however, he was slotted to go to the Academy, two full years before he was technically eligible. His intelligence was beyond measure, and his skill with the trident was in the highest ranks.
The Ess clan lived in the dining area of the house, and it made sense that their weapon of choice was the trident. It resembled some of the tools the Stone Giants used to eat, but they could do much more damage in the realm of the dust bunnies. A hierarchy was in place, and had been, long before Mac had been born. The Ess clan was the Fourth ruling clan of the house, which gave him some prestige. It was usually members of the first two clans that led raids against the Stone Giants, when it came down to it, but his eldest brother was being petitioned to lead the next excursion, and that gave Mac dreams of leading his own raiding party out into the house. He was everything an Ess bunny could be, and he had quite the following. None of it mattered to him, however, because all he wanted to do was prove himself.
When he was younger, he would sneak into his parents’ room, and put on his father’s old armor, strutting around in front of his mother’s mirror, as if he was already in charge of the biggest legion of dust bunnies the world had ever seen. Now he had his own armor. Looking down at his breastplate, he saw the trident standing tall in the very center, ringed by blades of different shapes and sizes. The Ess clan was the one everyone turned to when other creatures invaded their homes. The ant invasions, the army of spiders, the rare snake that made its way into the under structure of the house. They were all turned away by the warriors of the Ess clan, and Mac couldn’t wait to try his hand at it. He’d done everything he could to grow up big and strong, and now he could be proud of the dust bunny that he was. His armor fit him snugly, and his paws were calloused enough from hours of training with the trident that nothing could hurt them. His teeth were sharp, and his dagger was always sharp and ready to go.
Mac was tall for a dust bunny, standing six centimeters tall, and he always looked gruff. Whether it was because he always had dirt and dust on him, or whether it was the set look of his face, it worked for him. He rubbed some extra grime on his ear that he’d found earlier, thinking it gave him a more dashing look. The loud bong of the Stone Giants clock reached his ears, and he stopped to count. Eleven. He swore under his breath. He was late for the midday meal, and his mother was very unforgiving when it came to family meals. Especially since it would be his last one before he went to the Academy.
The Academy was in, what the Stone Giants called, the living room. Dust bunnies from all the clans, males only, would be there. Learning the necessary skills, discipline and techniques in order to be the warriors and rangers of their clans. There was another school, where a majority of females went, unselected due to their inherent motherly nature, that dealt with child rearing and other domestic skills. No one ever bothered to talk about it. Mac turned tail and started to scuttle back to his family’s burrow as quickly as he could. He gritted his teeth as he ran, trying to think of some excuse that might let him escape his mother’s ire. He came up with nothing. Mac skittered through the open door, and saw the table spread with his mother’s cooking. Three of his brothers and his father looked up at him, thankful that they weren’t the last one at the table. His mother turned from the stove, a wooden spoon in hand. Her eyes narrowed, and that look was the scariest thing in the world for anyone in this family.
“Where were you? Why are you coming in so late?” Mac could feel his cheeks growing hot with embarrassment. He opened his mouth to answer, and was saved the trouble by his last brother, stumbling in behind him. As soon as Verkinix saw the situation he’d walked into, he froze. His mother’s eyes went to the newest intrusion in her kitchen, and Mac could almost see the steam coming out of her ears. There were food stains on her fur, as well as the usual dust and grime that dust bunnies sported. It made her look like she’d just fought a battle with a dozen different monsters and splattered them all over the ground. “Mac, take your seat.” He didn’t have to be told twice. His mother took Vini by the ear and dragged him outside. The bunnies sat in silence, no one daring to touch the food until she came back. Moments later, ear splitting yelps reached their ears, and Mac could only imply that their mother was beating Vini with her wooden spoon to teach him a lesson. When they finally returned, she looked calmer, and Vini gave her a wide berth, going back to his empty seat.
The matriarch of the family went around the table, ladling out the food that she’d been slaving over for most of the morning. Mac’s eyes widened. She’d made all of his favorites. She’d baked fresh bread for him with chips of raisins in it, made mashed potatoes with carrots, and even had slices of hard boiled eggs. He didn’t want to know how much it had all cost at the market, but he got up from his seat and gave her a hug, catching her off guard as she brought the big pot back to the stove. She awkwardly patted his back and hugged him for a minute, then shooed him back to his seat. The family ate in silence, and it was an unusual occurrence for them. Growing up with four brothers, Mac had always been part of a busy family, with them having each other to vent to, and family dinners were full of conversation. Today, however, was a silent affair. Dust bunnies had a code of conduct, and they didn’t show their insecurities, or their sadness. Silence was how that handled anything like that, and this was the manifestation of it.
In the morning, Mac would be gone. He would be packing up the rest of his things tonight, then setting out for the living room when the booms counted four. He was one of the farthest from the Academy, so he had to make an early start. The silence around him told him that he would be missed, and it warmed his heart. Family was big for him. He had been best friends with each of his brothers, and even with his parents as he’d grown older. Now he was being uprooted and thrown into an environment that he didn’t know at all, without friends, and he would be too far from home to visit often. His eyes darted to the faces around the table, and he caught tears sliding down his mother’s cheeks. They left dark, dusty streaks on her fur, making it look like she was wearing war paint. His father was solemn, staring at his plate. His brothers, however, were being the childish ones by pretending that he didn’t exist. To them, his chair was empty right now. He sighed heavily. Everyone dealt with things in their own way, but even though his mother had made his favorite foods, he was feeling antsy, and he couldn’t wait to finish eating and escape to his room.
It seemed like hours later, but in reality, had been no more than a few minutes, when his brothers finished their food, dropped their plates in the sink, and darted out of the house. That left him alone with his parents. In most cases, that scenario was always a fun one, but in this case, it felt ominous. His father cleared his throat.
“Son, you’ve been our pride and joy from a young age, and now to have you accepted into the Academy a full two years before you should have been, well, we couldn’t be more proud. I could sit here and tell you how things were when I went, but everything is different now. You will make friends from other clans, and sometimes, you’ll even get to patrol with them. You won’t see them for months at a time, but your conversations will continue like you just saw each other yesterday. Sometimes, you’ll see them fall, and it will rip you apart, but you will always have me and your mother to fall back to. If you need help packing, I’ll be in the den.” Mac watched as his father pushed his chair back and got to his feet heavily. It was taking an emotional toll on him, and he knew that commenting now would only make his father feel like he was being weak. Once he was alone with his mother, she burst into tears. It startled Mac, and he scrambled to his feet to go and hold her.
“You’re my baby, and I thought I had more time with you. I know that I’m not supposed to show you my sadness, but I can’t hold it in anymore. I’m going to miss you, MacIntosh, but I can only hope that you find adventure and happiness out there in this new chapter of your life. I can’t bother you with my motherly fears. When you become a parent, you’ll understand a little better. I pray that you live that long. These patrols are dangerous, and though you father makes it all seem glorious, I spent many a night at home, helpless, not knowing if he was going to be coming home to me or not. I’m going to pray for you every night that you aren’t with me.” She disentangled herself from his paws, and left the kitchen. Mac was alone now, and he felt horrible. His family was dealing with his loss as best they could, and he had no words of comfort or strength to give them. What could he tell them? They already knew that he would do his best to be the top of the class, and his achievements would reflect on them. Bringing them honor from the clans. Feet dragging, he made his way to the little corner of the burrow that he called his own and pulled out his pack. It was a large pack, in comparison to his body, but he knew that he would only have this one thing to put all of his essentials in. So, he set to work putting in battered training armor, the padding that went with it, and the old, handed down trident that used to belong to his father, and the two brothers before him. When he went to the kitchen to pack up some food for the journey, the silence cut him to his soul.