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Lost and Found

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    Renler’s Redoubt is the only café in the badlands of Pangeria. Few have dared to venture there, but its coffee is reputedly the best served in the Thirteen Realms. Its customers include the famed adventurer Karelia; but this tale is more concerned with Styx, the small stuffed cat with button eyes who accompanies her everywhere.

    Karelia often hung Styx from her belt to make him look like a harmless toy and hide the true extent of his powers. Unfortunately the strap she used gradually frayed over time and Styx fell off near Renler’s Redoubt. Karelia only noticed she had lost him many hours later when she camped down for the night.

    Styx decided to stay put and wait for Karelia to return. As cold winds swept across the badlands and tattered clouds obscured the moon, two Scarpies approached Renler’s Redoubt. They normally ate carrion but were also fond of the food scraps they sometimes found outside the café.

    Jaundice saw Styx first, but Scabette said he should be hers as her birth star was ascendant. This led to a vicious fight. After much spitting, scratching and biting, Jaundice gained the upper hand, but Scabette grabbed a heavy ashtray and smashed it over her sister’s head. Jaundice was killed instantly and Scabette was so horrified she forgot Styx altogether. She was still sobbing uncontrollably when her mother Ebuccia arrived.

    “What have you done?” cried Ebuccia. Scabette explained as best she could. “You disgrace me,” said Ebuccia. “Pick up that accursed cat and walk the Plains of Lamentation until you find the Landscar Abyss. Hurl the cat into its depths, beg your birth star for forgiveness, and if, by some chance, it is granted, you shall know my love again.”

    Scabette had no choice to obey, for family ties are strong among Scarpies, and when no carrion can be found pariahs are torn apart and devoured. She picked up Styx and started walking. As she crossed the Plains of Lamentation her body gradually weakened and her hair and teeth fell out. When she reached the Landscar Abyss she could barely even crawl and felt many times her age. She dropped Styx into oblivion, collapsed on a rocky ledge, looked up at her birth star and begged for forgiveness; but the night sky did not change and a greater darkness swallowed her.

    As Styx plunged ever further downward, fossils in the rocks flashed past and gave him the impression that he was falling back through time. They regressed into nothingness and the abyss grew so dark even he could barely see. Then he landed on a pile of bones. This would have killed most living things but he was hardly hurt at all.

    A cruel laugh echoed through the gloom. “Who dares to visit Mombo Gog, the Trinocular Homunculus? It has been many centuries since fate gave me a new plaything. Come before me, traveller, and know the power of my gaze.”

    Styx shuddered at these mocking words, for he remembered Mombo Gog from Pangeria’s most ghastly tales. The Trinocular Homunculus had laid entire nations waste before being defeated by the Gods of Kerembesi Dir. As even they could not destroy him, they bound his limbs with ravers’ hair – the only thing that could restrain him – and hurled him into the abyss which had confined him ever since.

    Styx had envisioned Mombo Gog as an otherworldy terror, and was somewhat disappointed to find he looked like a small clown doll. He was nonetheless much larger than Styx and his three eyes radiated malice. “Release me,” urged Mombo Gog. “Release me and be remembered as the one who unleashed my wrath on the world.”

    Styx desperately missed Karelia but could not climb the abyss walls. He knew Mombo Gog could help but this would mean unleashing him. Luckily Styx also knew homunculi are bound to their oaths, no matter how powerful the beings who possess them are. “I will release you,” promised Styx, “so long as you swear to do as I say, and do nothing without my command.”

    Mombo Gog’s eyes narrowed, but he grudgingly agreed. He offered Styx his bonds and Styx untied them easily.

    “Now get us out of here,” said Styx. Mombo Gog leapt to his feet and crawled up the abyss walls like a monstrous tarantula. Styx clung tightly to his collar until they were safely above ground.

    “You stupid cat!” sneered Mombo Gog. “Now that you have set me free I shall have my vengeance! Our pact has merely delayed it a while. I might have sworn to obey you but you won’t be around forever!”

    “I’ll be here long enough,” said Styx. “Now take me to the Pesh Bazaar, for only Devonius Lug can show us where to find Karelia.”

    Mombo Gog was forced to obey, and as they walked the sky rained worms. When they reached the Pesh Bazaar they were allowed to enter unchallenged; and none questioned Mombo Gog when he took Lug from the Oubliette. Devonius Lug resembled a fish head attached to a short ceremonial staff, and when raised he exerted a powerful pull. “Now follow Lug’s directions,” said Styx. Mombo Gog was forced to obey, and as they walked the stones wept blood.

    After travelling for many days – and changing their course many times – Styx and Mombo Gog entered the badlands of Pangeria. “Aha!” cried Mombo Gog. “You’re not as smart as you think, little cat. When Renler sees us coming he’ll summon the Undying Fire. You’ll be turned into a pile of ash and I’ll be free to do as I please!”

    “I fear you may be right,” said Styx. “I’m going to need help from Zog Tobbert, Lord of Bog Octopia. Bring him to me as fast as you can. Devonius Lug will show you the way.”

    Mombo Gog was forced to obey, though he had never heard of Zog Tobbert. He followed the pull of Devonius Lug, and as he walked small animals ran into the lakes to drown while fish died gasping on the shores. Phantasmal shapes of vanished cities flickered on the far horizon, forgotten words appeared on walls, and Scarpies cowered in their caves, fearing that the end had come. Mombo Gog still follows Lug, seeking Bog Octopia, which forever seems nearer, yet farther away – but if you go to the Pesh Bazaar, you should see a distinctive head, attached to a distinctive staff, ensconced in the Oubliette.

    As Styx approached Renler’s Redoubt he saw Karelia sitting at a table. She looked more downcast than usual, even though the coffee was the best in all the Thirteen Realms. Styx approached her unannounced and lay down beside her chair. Karelia sensed something, looked down and cried out with joy. She dusted Styx off, hugged him close, and asked him where he had been. Styx modestly chose not to describe the full extent of his adventures; but who else can boast of outwitting a monster no known power can destroy?

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purpleLavender99998's avatar

Aw so cute [<~>] I am hugging you