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    Yeoldebard
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Season of Bloom - 25. Ghoulish Goodbye

The fog faded in the morning sunlight. The air remained chill, winter well on its way, and Faes held back a shiver as they approached the grove. Falchos gave the group an appraising look, as though checking them for injuries.

“So?” he asked.

“The Scythe Tree is no more.” Faes replied.

“May you finally know peace, my queen,” Tiressia said quietly.

“You have earned your reward,” Falchos smiled, handing him a small chest. “Take it with our blessing and thanks.”

Faes lifted the chest, frowning slightly at the size. That tree had nearly skewered Khemet. This reward certainly didn’t feel like it was worth so much trouble.

“It was our pleasure,” Lapis said. “I hope you two may know peace now.”

Faes scoffed quietly, but followed Lapis away from the grove. He pried at the chest, grunting as he realized it was locked.

“Some reward. I can’t even open the damned thing,” he scowled.

“Allow me,” Linzi said, taking the chest.

The bard settled against a tree, pulling out a set of lockpicks from her bag. It didn’t take long before a tiny click was heard, and the lid to the chest popped open to reveal rocks.

“Pretty!” Kiba squealed, the kobold leaning over the chest.

Faes scowled at the rocks, realizing they were uncut gems. The container might get them maybe two hundred gold, if they were lucky. He supposed that was worth risking a tiger’s life. Not that he was happy about it at all.

Slapping Kiba’s hand away before the kobold could touch the rocks, the hollowborn shut the chest heavily. Fitting it into his bag, he shrugged the bag back over his shoulders.

“Fine, are we done here?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Lapis frowned. “We need to figure out what to do about Dorsy.”

“Let him rot. He cursed the entire village to die.”

“I don’t think so,” Lapis denied. “Could one man, who had never practiced magic before, curse a fey queen on his own? There’s something more at play here.”

“Ellesmera does seem to like curses,” Linzi pointed out. “There’s a hill near Ismenia, and it occasionally spits spiders out. And the fog from Nugrah, ugh, that got everywhere.”

“It’s a good thing Jhod is so good at researching these curses,” Tristian added.

“Jhod… who’s Jhod?” Lapis frowned. “I don’t think I’ve met him.”

“He’s a cleric of Erastil,” Faes shrugged. “I think he’s trying to keep the religious stuff together in the barony. And apparently researching curses is part of that.”

“It’s better than letting curses overrun the barony,” Valerie scoffed. “I feel that would suit you just fine.”

“I want this barony to succeed just as much as the rest of you,” Faes sighed. “So if we’re done calling my motivations into question, perhaps we can do whatever Lapis wants us to do so we can get the hells out of here.”

“I want to talk to Dorsy before we leave. He needs to know what happened, and why.”

“Or, and just hear me out here, we could get out of here, and let him rot for cursing an entire village with wisps,” Faes suggested.

“Not all of us are evil Faes,” Lapis said coldly.

“Feeling a little chilly over there Lapis? Maybe I could warm you up a bit,” the hollowborn said.

The amurrun snorted, walking away from the group. A moment later, he looked back at them inquisitively.

“Are we going?”

 

The two stared at each other. Lapis held back a shudder as cold dead eyes pled for deliverance. He had none to give.

“The coins are gone. You cursed Wilbur, and we freed him from the curse,” the amurrun said.

“So… so I’ll never be free?”

Dorsy’s voice broke even more, a wail escaping him as he lunged at Lapis.

“You’ve doomed me!”

Khemet flew past Lapis, the tiger ripping through the ghoul’s arm before it could touch Lapis. Whirling around, Khemet latched his jaws to Dorsy’s neck, and the ghoul’s head ripped off with a meaty tear. The headless corpse fell, and silence filled the air.

“Fuck, why didn’t we try that the first time?” Faes snorted a moment later. “Good job cat.”

Tristan pushed past Lapis, kneeling beside the body. He whispered a prayer to Sarenrae, a light seeming to shine down on the corpse.

“He is at peace. As much as a tortured soul can be at peace,” the cleric said quietly.

“All of this because Nyta chose the fey. It’s senseless,” Valerie spat.

“It was not Nyta’s fault,” Lapis sighed. “There’s something else going on here. Like we said earlier, there is no way one man’s curse could affect a powerful fey like that.”

“Then what was it?”

“I don’t know,” the amurrun sighed. “But I tire of this place. Let’s make our farewells to Elga, and be gone from here.”

“Elga? There’s no way that witch is Elga,” the fighter scoffed.

“This village has been destroyed for maybe fifty years,” Faes shrugged. “It’s feasible Elga returned. Does it matter either way? I bet she’ll be happy for the silence here. And the lack of wisps. She might even give us some gold for a new set of cloaks.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Lapis denied. “I would suggest trying to rebuild the village here, but I think we should let the dead rest peacefully. Besides, I wouldn’t want to get Tiressia and Falchos in trouble.”

The amurrun ran a hand over Khemet’s side, scratching the tiger gently.

“Thank you Khemet,” he murmured. “Let’s go. We’ll try to make it to the lodge by tonight.”

 

Saying goodbye to the witch didn’t take long. Kiba crawled onto Khemet’s back, the kobold feeling sluggish in the cold fall air. Thoughts of the Old Sycamore tunnels came to mind, so warm and cozy. By now, the tribe would be preparing for winter, trading for warm supplies with the mites. The mites would defend their nest while the kobolds brumated, and come spring, the kobolds would head out to forage, trading gems back with the mites in return.

And Kiba was missing it all.

They left the bog behind them by eight in the morning. By one in the afternoon, the group was approaching a sizable lodge nestled in the hills. Even now, Kiba’s body was still cold, the kobold struggling to stay warm. Once they were inside, where a nice large fire was crackling in a fireplace, he started feeling better, more lively.

“We’ll have to give him caudle,” Faes smirked, looking at the lethargic kobold.

“Don’t be mean. I’m sure Kiba would love some ale, wouldn’t you?” Linzi said.

The kobold shrugged, trying to move closer to the fire. His entire body felt like a giant icicle, a very unpleasant feeling. Even Apsu wasn’t moving much, the skink stuffed in a pocket for warmth. They should have been sleeping a month ago. No kobold in their right mind would spend Lamashan above ground. Not that Kiba had any choice in the matter. To make matters worse, he was fairly certain it was nearly Neth.

Sliding off Khemet’s back, Kiba wandered into a back room as the taller people spoke with the tavern owner. Poking around a burning cauldron over a fire, the kobold found a jug of milk, draining it eagerly before picking up a potato someone had left behind.

A sudden groan made him turn, the kobold’s eyes widening as a man stumbled through a back door.

“Fuck… I shouldn’t have eaten that berry…” the human groaned, holding his stomach..

Kiba let out a horrified yelp as the man’s body exploded, a cat sized dragon stumbling out of a strange portal. He felt a flash of agony rushing through his body, and the kobold dropped to his knees, the potato rolling out of his hands as he clutched his chest. Something bad had happened. For a split second, he missed the reassuring presence of Apsu… and then it returned.

“Great One…” he whimpered.

An amused feeling filled his head, and then a sudden voice.

‘Yes, I am rather great.’

His mind was laid bare to the dragon, Apsu searching his memories. The amusement only grew, and Kiba felt a nervous laugh bubbling up in his chest. His god found him acceptable. He was Apsu’s herald, chosen to protect the Great One’s new form. And Kiba would protect the dragon with every last bit of strength in him. Even if winter was coming, the kobold would make sure Apsu was properly cared for.

The dragon’s nose poked at his pocket. With a sudden nip, Kiba’s pocket ripped, a frozen lizard vanishing down the dragon’s gullet. Kiba felt a flash of panic, then realized… Apsu had shed his smaller form. He had only eaten his old body, making way for the new.

Kneeling before the dragon, the kobold bent his head. Claws suddenly dug into his arm, a heavy weight crawling around to rest on his neck.

‘Onward, my pet. We will find nourishment, and amusement.’

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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