Previously, on Sarcantasy
= = = = = = = = = = = =Team A:
You let Mermi do her thing, letting the bickering of your teammates just wash past you. It's mildly amusing, as background noises go, if you're perfectly honest. The happy baby-noises made by Mermi's little sister make a humorous counter-sound...
And then you wonder. Just how old is
Mermi's little sister?
"She is nearly one year old, yes," Mermi happily tells you. "Seabis, we grow up quick in body. The mind, it needs a little time to catch up? Is necessary. Our world under wave is good, but we need to be strong and fast quickly. The big fish, they live more near the bottom of the water than the surface, and so do Seabis. Other things, also. Crayfish.
We migrate from the Great Big Salt to freshwater generations ago. The Great Big Salt, it was our ancestral home, but it becomes too dangerous too fast; bigger fish, the squids, the octopi, other things, always pushing, always pushing, and we Seabis grow no bigger.
Moving to the freshwater, it is hard for our people, but in time we grow happy here. We live in the underground rivers, mostly. The big fish don't like it. We weave our homes out of seaweed and mud, very cozy, nests of Seabis all together in the dark, and we also weave big nets across the tunnels. Catch many little fish and crabs! Verrrry tasty, yes. Good eating!"
Mermi chuckles merrily while she rinses out your hair.
"Our world under wave, it is a good place to be hairdresser. Seabis like having long hair, but long hair gets caught on things. Seaweed, rocks, all sorts. Every day, a Seabi comes to a hairdresser and says "Give me a new cut", or "Fix this damage". Earn pearls hand over fin! But of course, that means a hairdresser must be good. Years of training, high standards, yes.
I am very grateful to you for letting me work on you! Good training, and I can say 'I have done the hair of surface-folk' on my sign, when I have my own shop. It will be great! Alright, all clean!"
You can practically hear your hair go 'floof'. Your hair is, indeed, very, extremely clean. Also, it has become very fluffy and frizzy.
"Now!" Mermi says as she brandishes a comb and scissors. "What would customer like for the weekend? Something short? Something stylish? Braids, curls? Just tell Mermi. Good practice! Lady with orange hair, gentleman with black hair, you like?"
"Hard pass!" Emma snaps.
It occurs to you as you watch your Malborn friend struggle with Mermi's little sister... that Emma is not actually struggling as hard as she might. You've seen her nearly kick the head off of George's animated corpse; her fighting against the one year old Seabi is rather lacklustre in comparison.
"Um, no, thank you," Delar mumbles, still without looking at all of you.
= = = = = = = = = = = =Team B:
"You got a job for us? Great. That's great," Droz says.
To Nova's clear horror, the Low Elf Mercenary walks right up to the deity and looks him in the eye.
of job?" he asks.
"Droz, you can't just --" Nova squeaks.
"Yes, he can," Hufflas interrupts her. "Of course he can. That's the way this goes; a patron comes with a job, the working man - or woman, as the case may be - finds out what the job is, and then says yay or nay. Isn't that right, Droz Igrimsson?"
Droz blinks once, then narrows his eyes.
"Cute," he says. "But our Mum's name is hardly a secret. Still 'n all, if you're threatening her..."
"Hufflas the Weak does not threaten
," the deity says, his voice soft, almost gentle. "I'll put my hand up to being just as fond of drama and grandstanding as any other deity, but I don't smite, I don't do threats to people's loved ones through veiled innuendo, and I don't try to influence the minds of mortals with tricks."
"That's alright, then," Droz says, visibly relaxing. "So. What's the job, Mr. Johnson?"
Hufflas -- grins
. It is a fleeting expression, but a genuine one.
"I like you, Low Elf," he says. "I hope you'll like the offer on the table: it's what I call a chance job
. As you move on your way, there's a chance you'll meet someone. Should you meet her, I want you to pass on a message for me."
"Right," Droz says. "Who's this lady, then? And why ain't you telling her yourself?"
"Not allowed to tell you who she is," Hufflas answers honestly. "Not allowed to contact her directly. There's a big game going down, and there's rules I can't break. But one of the players put your lot into play as random factors, so I can
give your tokens a little nudge from the shadows, as it were."
"If your play gets up the noses of the big boys at the game table, what happens to us?" Droz asks, cynically.
"No fear," Hufflas says. "The rules do provide you some protection. It's winner take all, but even the winner isn't allowed to flip the table or slap the tokens off."
Droz considers, tapping his sword. Finally, he says: "What's the payoff? Are you going to offer us a blissful afterlife?"
"That's not my department," Hufflas says. "I play psychopomp for mine, if they need me, but I only take souls up to the edge of the Beyond. What happens after Judgement is not my business; my work is here.
No, what I offer is the answer to a single question from each of you to the best of my ability, or I can guide you to forgotten caches of treasure here in the Lumberjackfree Forest that I'm confident you'll find to be very useful on your way."
"And what's the message for your mystery friend?" Droz asks. "And what if we never meet her, or meet her too late to win your game for you?"
"I'm not looking to win for me," Hufflas corrects the Low Elf. "I'm aiming not to lose it for her, for you, and for the rest of Ird. Bad times coming, if I lose your lot the game. So it'd be good if you find her. But if you don't… Like I said, it's a chance job. I can blow on the dice, I can't roll them by hand until I come up double sixes. If you don't manage it, no harm, no foul, I won't hold it against you. And you can keep your answers and/or your swag as you please."
"Alright. So, the message?" Droz asks again.
"Where you set out from is
important, and it shapes part of your journey," Hufflas says, "but it is not the whole of the journey, nor need it shape the destination. Free will matters."
"That's it? Sounds like one of the fortunes they read you after a meal at the posh restaurants in the Underground," Droz scoffs.
"That it does. But I think she'll need to hear it at some point," Hufflas says, unperturbed. "So. Out or in? Not to rush you, but I do have other work to do in the world."
Droz turns to the rest of the party and raises a questioning eyebrow.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
(New pencils, and new pens, by the way. ^_^ How d'you all like it?)
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