As the trio trudged north through the Forest of Windale, they were unaware they were being watched. Even Gavin, who knew the forest inside and out, knew of the recent changes occurring near the northern edges.
Angon, was truly oblivious, even to the point where one of the faeries flew next to his ear and whispered words of encouragement; for the forge walked with slumped shoulders still, and looked truly devastated.
“Cheer up, big guy!” A pink pixie whispered, and backed away quickly, afraid of being seen.
“You’ll find someone else!” A green pixie chirped from beside his left ear.
“Plenty of fish in the sea!” A third pixie, blue of color, sat atop his head, and only then did Angon move to swat away what he thought to be a fly or some sort of gigantic insect.
“I bet Lavina was terrified of bugs.” He muttered as he stepped on a rotten log, and crushed it beneath his foot.
“I’m not a bug!” The blue snapped and conked him the forge on the head.
“Huh?” Angon cocked his head, and grabbed at the sound.
The forge came within inches of grabbing up the faerie creature, and she let out a squeal. This time Angon knewhe heard something.
“Who goes there?” Angon asked, hopping forward and spinning to look.
But when he turned, he saw nothing but trees, rocks, and grass.
“Huh?” He murmured.
“Ye say somethin’, forge?” Buster asked, stopping and turning around.
“Well, yes.” Angon looked at Buster helplessly. “But someone else did first!”
“I didn’t.” Buster shrugged.
Gavin stopped, and shook his head. “Neither did I. Maybe the spell power used to create you has stopped working on your mind!”
That gave Angon an increased reason to be concerned, for he’d never thought of that. Could he be slowly running out of power? Would this make him hear things that were not there? How could he be sure?
“The forge isn’t running out of power!” Came the pink pixie’s voice from above.
And then from a log to the side, the green cried. “You should be nice to ole Angon.”
And the blue landed on Gavin’s head singing, “He looked like he could crush you, he could!”
Gavin dove backwards into a somersault, and leaped to his feet again. All in that instance he had drawn his bow, and had an arrow nocked, ready to let loose and slay any vile creature. But then he saw the blue pixie flying around in circles, shaking her fist at him.
“Pixies?” Gavin breathed.
“I never been seeing one with my own two eyes!” Buster exclaimed, his hands on his hips.
“And I’ve never been seeing a blue-bearded dwarf!” The green pixie cried, flying and landing on the tip of Buster’s nose. She bent over in his face, looking down at his hairy stache.
“Get ye arse outta me eyes!” Buster grumbled.
“Best one you’ll see for miles, I’d wage!” Blue said, hopping into the air and crossing her arms before her chest.
Angon interrupted the banter. “What are pixies?”
“What you see before you!” The pink cartwheeled through the air in front of him.
“They’re faeries of the forest.” Gavin explained, setting his bow onto his back. “But never have I seen one in Windale. Pray tell, what are you doing way down here?”
“The Sencian forests are too cold!” Blue said, as she fluttered about.
“The snow from Angel’s Outpost has reached there!” Pink said.
“All creatures are abandoning the region!” Green nodded.
“That can’t be good.” Buster said. “It sounds like the curse be spreadin!”
“What curse?” Angon asked.
“The same as Triden’s Gate, where we found you.” Gavin said. “Angel’s Outpost was the first such city to fall under its wrath.”
“It be related to the gods disappearin’.” Buster scratched his hairy chin.
“Can you help us?” Pink asked. “You seem to know a lot about the curse!”
“Be doubtin’ it, I am.” Buster shrugged. “Not right away in any case.”
“Of course we’ll help!” Angon cut him off, grinning.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Gavin sighed.
But then, before the trio of humanoids, the forest came alive. More pixies came from the tree tops, while dryads and brownies came from below. Even the goat-like satyrs appeared peeking from around bushes. Every form of faerie and spirit came out, and soon a horde surrounded them. Gavin carefully reached for his bow, but knew that if they were hostile the three would have no chance.
A satyr stepped forward, with a long white beard. “You say you can help get rid of the curse?”
“Yes!” Angon said. “We’re going to Angel’s Outpost, I believe. If that’s where the curse started, then that is where we can find the truth about it.”
Buster and Gavin exchanged glances, for they knew it would not be that simple.
Cheers erupted from the fey all around. The old satyr pulled out a pan flute and began playing a celebratory tune. Pixies cartwheeled around, and Dryads shook their leafy behinds. Even Angon began to clap his hands along with the music.
“What did I get myself into?” Gavin sighed. “I never signed up to save the world.”
Buster looked up at the stressed elf and said, “Aye, but if the world aint being saved, then there be no other place to live in.”
With a great sigh, Gavin nodded—For that was the truth.
Ramona peeked into the dark tavern and saw that it was just about abandoned, save the bartender, and a wench wiping down tables. She looked back to Gonzeela and nodded. “In here!”
The orcess was wary about following this Halfling, but she needed the information she held, and could not risking passing it up. So thus, she followed, with the pretty little hag child right on her heels.
Ramona walked to the furthest corner, throwing a wink at the bar wench, who giggled and winked back. It seemd to Gonzeelda that perhaps they knew each other quite well. But the wench was merely a nox elf, and didn’t look dangerous at all, since bosoms were of no threat to a woman of Gonzeelda’s willpower.
The Halfling girl climbed into the booth section of a table. Tricia started to climb up next to Ramona, but Gonzeelda grabbed her wrist. The hag looked to Gonzeelda and the orcess shook her head.
Tricia climbed into a chair on the opposite side along with Gonzeelda.
“So what do you have to tell me, miss Monkeytoes?” Gonzeelda asked.
“And what are ye willing to pay me?” Ramona shot back.
With a sigh, Gonzeelda reached into a pouch on the opposite hip of Soul Rupture. She pulled out a gold coin and sat it down on the table between them.
Ramona giggled. “Oh you’re so funny!”
Rolling her eyes, Gonzeelda pulled out two more coins.
“Getting closer.” Ramona said.
Finally Gonzeelda ripped the gold pouch off of her belt and set it down on the table. It contained one hundred of such coins, and even Ramona could not scoff at such an amount of gold—But she didn’t really care about money, she had her eyes of on the treasure.
“Okay!” Ramona sang, grabbing the bag, but Gonzeelda’s hand smashed down onto the halfling’s and Ramona gasped, biting back pain. The orcess had a tight grip on her wrist, and she squeezed hard.
“If you give me any false information, I will hurt you.” Gonzeelda threatened.
Ramona nodded, with a frown. “R-right. I promise all I say this day will be true.”
“Good.” Gonzeelda smiled with as friendly of a grin as she could manage.
The Halfling took the bag and put it beneath the table. For now she had to work her magic. She slouched in her seat just a bit, so her feet with within reach of Gonzeelda’s other belt pouch.
“So tell me!” Gonzeelda leaned forward, and scooted her chair in, making it ever so much easier for the thief.
“Right!” Ramona said. “Well, I have a reliable info broker under my roof, yeah?”
“Is that so?” Gonzeelda asked.
“Is that so?” Tricia mimicked, leaning forward as well.
“Well last night, ye see… I was going to sleep in my loft, and someone came to the info broker with a request.”
“And what was that?” The orcess cocked an eyebrow.
“They wanted him to keep tabs on you when you got to town, and keep you here for a while.”
“Until when?” Gonzeelda furrowed her brows.
“Now you see, this is where it gets scary.” Ramona said, trying to stall until she could switch the coin pouches. “So little one, ye best be covering yer ears.”
Tricia’s eyes went wide, and she quickly threw her palms up to the sides of her head.
Gonzeelda rolled her eyes, but nodded. “Go on.”
“A mercenary has been sent after you.” Ramona nodded, and sat back up in her seat. “The one they call the Walking God.”
“W-what?” Gonzeelda’s eyes widened. The bar wench bumped into a chair and knocked it over with a loud clatter.
“S-sorry!” The wench said, and quickly picked it up.
“Ye heard me.” Ramona said. “The Walking God is after ye. So I would get yer pretty arse moving and fast.”
Immediately Gonzeelda stood up, and grabbed Tricia’s hand.
“Don’t you want to get a drink?” Ramona asked, adding a flirt to her voice.
“Another time, maybe.” Gonzeelda said, fear flooding her face. For she knew of the Walking God, Gus, and she had the displeasure of crossing paths with him once before. If she did so again, without Soul Rupture at her side, she knew she would be doomed.
The orcess rushed out of the tavern, and away with Tricia in tow, not even noticing the gold pouch on her hip was just a tiny but lighter than before.
Ramona chuckled to herself, and stood up stretching.
“Do you have some time?” The bar wench asked Ramona blushing. “I’m about on break.”
As much as she wanted to stay and have fun with Lillian the bar wench, she knew she needed to be getting gone; The orcess would eventually notice her wonderful bag of magic missing.
Ramona walked out the back door of the tavern and into the alley beyond. She leaned against the door, humming to herself, and dared a peek into the bag. Inside were shards of a blade of some sort, and even a staff had been stuff inside.
“A broken magic weapon?” Ramona whispered. “Now this won’t do.”
Within minutes the Halfling girl had returned to her magic loft above the info broker’s home. She sat on the floor, cross-legged, looking over the pieces of the broken weapon. When she finally pieced them back together, she found they formed the blade of a scythe.
“Curious.” Ramona whispered, as she pulled her magic goggled over her eyes.
Immediately she fell back, crying out. An explosion of red light had blasted her in the face, and nearly burned out her retinas.
The girl tore the goggles off and held her aching eyes. It took several minutes before she dared to try to see again. When she looked up, everything was blurry, but slowing retuning to normal.
“Wowzers oh wow wow!” Ramona gasped. “That is powerful.”
Below her, she heard the info broker’s voice.
“Yes, the Walking God was seen in the Madania Fields. He is entering the Moonbearer Mountains now.”
Another voice spoke, but Ramona ignored it because a sudden despairing thought ran through her mind. What if the reason the Walking God pursued Gonzeelda, was because of the magic weapon she had just stolen?
Ramona stared at the shards of the scythe and quickly scooped them back into the coin pouch. She could just hand it over and let things be. But the Halfling had a dangerous addiction to magical artifacts, one that went well beyond any level of fear she could ever experience.
“Maybe I should be going…” Ramona whispered, as she tied the pouch onto her belt.
Ramona had no intention of turning over the weapon of such great magical power; not to Gonzeelda, and not even to the Walking God. The thief grabbed the griffon effigy she had stolen the night before and walked to the edge of her left.
“Come to me, griffon.” She whispered.
A great white and brown feathered lion-eagle appeared flapping its wings in the air.
Ramona jumped on its back and said, “To the west!”
With that they left the town of Skeanda behind, and it was only moments later that Gonzeelda realized her beloved ‘Beauty’ was missing.