Do you Remember The Fossicker’s Creed from The Broken Circle?

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The Fossicker’s Creed are house rules that Fossick Boys live by and each group of boys has it’s own creed.  Some rules are written down and some are not .  Trader’s band of boys call themselves the Dell Fossick Boys and their enemies are the World’s Fair Fossickers.  In book two:  Secrets of the Lost Caves, the Fossicker’s Creed plays a huge decision in what Trader, Ross and Clayton decide to do with their lives.

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Here’s a picture of the Creed and the basic rules that Trader’s group lived by.

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The Fossicker’s Creed

Rules Of the Dell Fossick Boys

Those few fossickers Trader made privy to a secret sanctuary accessible only through an unused chimney flue above the Banebridge Trading Post, she held to a strict code of conduct that she called The Fossicker’s Creed. It was a verbal contract between herself and a sprinkling of youths who had earned special protection offered to members of her assembly, known by rival gangs of roving boys as Fossickers in the Dell.

In more than four years since its inception, Trader’s creed had never failed her.  Youths she entrusted with knowledge of the safe house, reachable only by a hidden ladder bolted to a brick wall within the fireplace, were not allowed to mention the secret refuge by name, even to each other.   Anyone of her chosen who had to utilize the concealed loft room paid the Trading Post store keep Ozzie and his wife Nellie back in truck or trade within a month.  Any boy who sought entry to the sanctuary foreswore an oath and anyone breaking the vow suffered instant exile from the Dell Fossick Gang.

Trader imposed the pledge on herself as well and it was this: Should disaster strike, her chosen disciples who fled to Ozzie’s refuge must inhabit the refuge for three days in hopes of finding other survivors, no matter what the peril. A boy who fled without waiting to regroup faced swift and merciless justice.

The Fossicker’s Creed within Trader’s small hierarchy was also called The Three-and-Three, for her doctrine required not only three days but the use of three specific words.  It took three days of waiting to prepare for the survival of the group and to choose one of three code words to leave with Ozzie at the Trading Post should any latecomers reach the refuge after the first fossickers had gone.

Although few, each utterance was fraught with import and a different meaning depending if you were leaving the word or a previous band of boys had left a word for you. The codes were simple to speak: One, Run, or Done, but the weight of the words increased dramatically as the list progressed, with different implications depending upon the situation and who initially arrived. The burden of determining the correct code fell upon the first fossickers to reach the safe house, which was why almost always nobody went there alone, or unless he was sure Trader had been there previously.

The codes worked like this:

If you left the word ONE with Ozzie that meant you had reached the sanctuary singly and had gone without company for three days.  Alone, scared and maybe injured, you possibly witnessed something horrible happen to fossickers in your group and feared you alone remained.  Trader had left word ONE with Ozzie many times over the years, when boys he had been traveling with were conscripted by the Guard, drowned in the Runne during the spring thaw, or run home to mother.

Conversely, if you arrived at the safe house alone and word ONE had been left for you, it was typically good news.  It meant that the other leaders in your group were searching for you.  Ozzie had many means of relaying information, and soon you would be reunited with your group.  Time and again, it had been such a relief to Trader, after she left word ONE, to circle the Dell, High Rocks and the sandy apron beneath the trestle bridge that spanned the Runne outside Banebridge, collecting her fossick boys as she went.

The code word RUN meant literally just that.  If after three days in the sanctuary, you had to leave instructions to RUN, present danger remained and something—perhaps even the safe house itself—had been compromised. Not only were you on the RUN, but any fossicker who came to the Trading Post and heard the word RUN would be forced to flee without a backward glance. Being instructed to RUN did not signify you would not encounter the Dell fossickers again, but you probably would not see some of them ever and not many of them soon.   Trader knew first hand that leaving a command to RUN was worse than getting an order to RUN.  The runner always attracted attention and it was easy to get caught.

On the other hand, if you showed up at The Trading Post and Ozzie told you to RUN, it wasn’t wonderful news but it didn’t have to be bad.  Oftentimes what RUN meant was that the other fossickers had already regrouped and would circle all of their usual haunts until they found you again.

DONE was the worst code of all and Trader had not yet been forced to leave or listen to that word, and she hoped it never happened during her tenure as leader. Breaking The Fossicker’s Creed could cause anyone in the Dell to be DONE, due to common misfortunes such as betrayal, defection, desertion and of course death.  If Trader instructed you to be DONE, your association with the Fossickers in the Dell was over permanently, the minute you got word, no explanation necessary.  It meant you were on your own and had best join another group such as The World’s Fair Fossickers or Coventry Fossick Clan soon.

Giving word of that the Dell Fossickers were DONE would be disastrous for Trader’s group, but she feared getting DONE worse, for that could only mean that somehow her group had disbanded without her knowledge.  She would always wonder if her fossickers had met some kind of unknown end, possibly killed or betrayed by their own and she might never know what had befallen them.

DONE was final.  DONE meant Ozzie had dismantled the refuge.  DONE meant you would never see your own fossickers again.  If you did chance to see one in later times as part of another fossick group, or in a Northland Guard uniform or in a rolling cage, DONE meant your former comrade was dead to you, as if you had never known him.

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