Making Friends, Part 17

Bergsten knocked on his mother’s door.

“Mother?”

The woman stood at the other side, cautious. Her son had not been there in weeks, more used to what her ex-husband called “strong manners.” Bergsten had in fact left when she pleaded he stick around, and help his poor mother around the house.

“Mother?” Bergsten tried again. “I’m home.”

His mother opened the door, just enough to peek out. “This is home, now, is it?” She asked. “I thought you declared this the worst place on earth.”

Bergsten nodded, bowing his head in shame. “And I’m really sorry about that. And a lot of other things too.”

“Oh?” She opened the door further, and crossed her arms. “And what would those be?”

Bergsten stuck into the ground with his toe, trying to look away. “When I was five years old…I was starting to learn fire spells. And I lit the doily set on fire that stupid Aunt Begonia sent you that you never used, and lied and said that dad had done it. I’m sorry about that.”

His mother’s eyes bugged out, but he continued. “And, and two months after that? I said that my pet lizard had finished my vegetables, and that’s why I didn’t eat them, but I threw them in the garbage instead. I don’t think we even had a lizard. I’m sorry about that too.”

He kept continuing a list to his open-mouthed mother, in chronological order, of all the things he had to feel sorry for. Just down the street, Rowinda and Gallopy were with their own parents, telling of the pranks they had played on the town, on the family, on the familiars, even on each other. Erovin was bawling to his father, unable to hold it all in. Bob apologized once for hanging out with those friends, before setting back out to the Meadows to more thoroughly apologize to Thelonius Brickleboook.

All the onlookers were too stunned to notice the new rings on their left pinkies. Green stones, with a solid black band, wedged tightly on. The friends knew they were never going to come off, and that it would be a long while before they were done apologizing. They all agreed they had the better end of the deal, and fell into the enchantment with enthusiasm.

Arlyle and Bethany watched it all. They had already promised the evening to the Witch and badger, filled with cakes and dancing, and Arlyle even promised to play a game or two which caused no end of delight to the other three. But she watched Bethany, amazed at the smile on her friend’s face.

“Saying sorry isn’t enough,” she muttered.

“It’s a start.” Bethany hugged the goddess. “And I get to be with you.

Arlyle pushed her away, the first time she had ever done so. “I can’t just ignore this, Bethany. I deal in vengeance, this will happen again. Especially if we keep doing adventures.”

“And I’ll keep doing this again,” Bethany promised. “Happy vengeance. We’ll have adventures, and dole out justice with kindness, and be back in time for supper.”

Arlyle smiled this time. Wistfully, hopefully, or painfully, who could tell?

“What’s next?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

Making Friends, Part 16

“We are in so much trouble.”

The winds from the outside spun through the great caves. Howled up through the temple of the death goddess of vengeance, swirling around the Acolyte’s clothes. Rafe stood off to a side, looking at the altar. The half-dwarf hadn’t cowered in ages, decades even. But he thought about it now, and his trembling knees were in agreement.

“Maybe not.”

Greta held up the clay prison of the Scourge of Darrenfell. The clay jar rang hollow, and looked the part. The gnome had a curious expression on her face, contemplating two ideas. One, that the embodiment of chaos and destruction, the foundational calamity of the Order, could be held in such a container. And two, what it must have been like.

“Maybe not? The Order has kept the Scourge locked away for thousands of years. Protected the world from her wrath, locked her away in secret. And now we, because we are the ones who found it, are the ones who are going to be blamed for her release.”

“If we hadn’t investigated,” Greta said. “And instead trusted a simple silver amulet, we would be on our way home, none the wiser. And it could be a hundred years before the Order thought something was wrong. That is, of course, assuming Arlyle had not destroyed the world in that time.

“All in all, I think we did a remarkably fine job.”

Rafe nodded. “Great. Wonderful, even. Absolutely fantastic. I’ll make sure to be in a different country than you when you give that particular report to the Masters, but good on you, Greta!”

“Good on us, Rafe.” Greta said. “And we are not going to the Masters.”

Rafe stared. And then he started back down the great temple steps. “Nope!”

“Rafe. Raphael!”

“Nope nope! Not doing that, not at all!”

“We have the freshest trail there is going to be. If there is even the slightest chance that we could find her, then we have an obligation…”

“To be obliterated out of existence when she discovers who we are.” Rafe started to take two stairs at a time. “Not my idea of a fun Thorsday, but you do you.”

“What would they do for the people who found the Scourge…” Greta trailed off into thought. “Spy training would be the least of it. And you, well, you could have your very own command!”

“They’d all be trained in hand-to-hand combat, have perfect aim from five hundred yards, and be able to float on a bee because they’re imaginary since it would never happen!” Rafe said. “Good day!”

“I’ll fill out your paperwork for an entire year!”

“Three!”

“Two!”

“Let’s find us a death goddess!”

Greta followed him down. All the preparations were running through her head. The messages to be sent to the Order, supplies and horses would need to be requisitioned. And then start developing contacts, and informants. Back alley deals by the light of a sliver of moon, all while chasing down the most hated enemy the Order ever had! Greta von Hammersmit, secret agent, on the case!

Rafe made it to the bottom. “I still don’t like you!”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder