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Blog 227: Campaign Novelization

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This one is named after that one setting in Pinocchio where everybody goes to eat candy and burn things but it turns out that just turns them into donkeys. It's like a combo of the island of the Lotus Eaters and Circe's place. Nobody gets polymorphed into a donkey here, only in spirit, ahaha. There's a whale moment, too, but it's definitely blink-and-you'll-miss-it.

In short, this is a giant break from all the action, ahaha.

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Chapter 38: Pleasure Island

As soon as Mathal set foot in the guildhall, Crosael and Rizzardo came running down the same flight of curling stairs.

“Mathal!”

“Ma--Moris!”

Both sported dishevelled hair. They straightened each other’s clothes on the way down without slowing.

“It’s night--how are you alive?”

“I thought you said Moris was dead--please don’t tell me he’s a vampire.”

Before she could answer any of their pressing questions, her stomach let out a monstrous growl. It echoed down the main hall.

“Ah, forgive us, you must be hungry,” said Crosael, lifting Moris off her shoulders and draping him over his arms like a coat.

“Yes, you should definitely eat before you start talking. Would you like some,” Rizzardo made a drinking bottle hand, “with that?”

“With what? The rest of my liquid dinner?”

“Not at all. You were gone for so long that we, ah, went out to acquire some solids for dinner.”

“As long as they were ‘acquired’ from rich people--”

“Trust me, a career thief, there’s no one else worth stealing from--the middle class is just poor with a house.”

Mathal slumped back into the first two chairs of chair city. She stretched her arms and legs out in front of her, luxuriously if as stiffly as the legs of the chairs under her. She had bruises on top of her bruises.

“Ok, yeah, I’ll take a,” she made a hand.

Crosael and Rizzardo joined her for dinner though she didn’t say a word. Exhaustion set in mid-chew, and she fell asleep with a half-eaten plate of unnameable hors d’oeuvres on her lap.

--/--

Mathal awoke under the warm, growing light of mid-morning. Crosael, Rizzardo, or both had carried her into a room upstairs and laid her out on top of the bedcover. Though bare, the room was spotless. Her stomach growled as soon as she sat up. She pulled off her shoes and padded barefoot out into the hall.

Only one door besides her own was open. She padded down to the edge of the doorway. Moris laid under the bedcover, his silks replaced with a shift cut and sewn from a bedsheet. Crosael stood at his bedside adjusting a bottle he’d hung upside from the ceiling. The fluid piped down a thin tube of reeds into Moris’s arm.

“Don’t worry,” said Crosael without turning. “It’s not alcohol.”

“That’d be a lotta effort to kill someone,” Mathal snorted, her voice unexpectedly tight.

Crosael glanced back, eyebrow raised. Her black nails dug into the wood of the doorframe. It was a lot of effort to bring back her friend.

“Thanks.”

“No need to thank me. I’ll have you know I’m actually an excellent majordomo--all part of the job.”

“No kidding.”
“None, indeed.”

He said nothing more, turning back to his work with the slightest upward curve at the corners of his mouth.

--/--

Moris slept for three days straight. Those three days were the most boring but peaceful days of Mathal’s entire life. She would wake up at noon and bounce back and forth between Delvehaven’s moth-eaten library and a makeshift training room. Crosael handled the cleaning and saw to Moris while Rizzardo took charge of food acquisitions. They drew out mealtimes for two to three hours, alcohol flowing freely. Mathal and Rizzardo napped after brunch. Their naps grew longer and their bedtimes later with each passing day.

On the fourth day, six days before Fiosa’s deadline, Mathal woke to Crosael shaking her shoulder. She squinted, head pounding, into the gray dawn light that filled her room.

“He’s asking for you.”

The news hit her like a bucket of ice water. She sat straight up, Crosael barely jerking back in time to avoid a chin-to-head collision. Her eyes opened wide, and the light staked her from the sockets straight to the back of her skull. Mathal cursed and stumbled out of the bed. She ran past Crosael into the hall and down to Moris’s room

Moris sat in his bedsheet shift propped up by a stack of pillows. His paper-thin skin clung tight to the angles and hollows of his skeleton, but his eyes were bright and alert. He smiled and his entire face crinkled.

“You saved me.”

“Shut up.”

Mathal tackled Moris without touching him. The bed rattled under her knees. Her palms smacked the wall on either side of him. He laughed, his forehead bumping hers. She laughed, eyes burning, but at least she had her side to light breaking through the open window.

“I woke up and I saw Crosael and I was so confused.”

“Ha, I bet. He’s the one who really saved you--I left my healing with Tarvi.”

“Where is Tarvi? And Gorvio? Kulata?”

“Long story. Let me get you something to eat first. Rizzardo!” she shouted out the doorway. “Rizzardo!”

One minute of silence later, Rizzardo staggered in on his boyfriend’s shoulder. His bleary eyes met Moris’s and he perked up immediately.

“Moris!” he said at the volume of a shout before catching himself with a shushing finger. “Shhh. Moris. You’ve been asleep for three days or comatose, maybe. Let me get you something to eat.”

“Thanks, Rizzardo. Nice to meet you.”

“Oh, right. Nice to meet you, too. Crosael and I are in an open relationship, by the way.”

Mathal threw one of Moris’s pillows at him. Rizzardo stuck his tongue out at her and spun away down the hall.

Mathal sat in a chair against the wall opposite Moris with the bright, light-leaking window between them and broke down the past week over breakfast. She skipped over her fight with Tarvi and almost everything that had transpired during her mistake of a holiday besides meeting her brother and Rizzardo and saying goodbye to ‘Kulata.’

Moris took it all in stride, nodding between bites of an omelette made from the plainest of last night’s leftovers.

“So when are we getting back to Tarvi and Gorvio?”

“I’ll show you how to get to the Way Station as soon as you’re feeling strong enough.”

“What about you?”

“I...don’t want to back.”

“Oh. You found another job?”

“No, but I don’t need one. The way Rizzardo, Crosael, and I are living now--I can live fine like this. Room and board is all I need.”

The booze didn’t hurt.

“Oh. Ok.”

Crosael eventually chased Mathal out the room to give Moris some physical therapy. Two days later, Moris was able to walk around on his own for short periods of time. Mathal guessed he’d be able to make the walk to the Way Station tomorrow, three days before the deadline. Three days early.

She wasn’t ready to face Fiosa, much less Tarvi. She’d been avoiding thinking about her decision for the past...ever since Fiosa had given her the ultimatum. She wasn’t about to start now.

Mathal kicked open the door to the old parlor they’d converted into her training room. Crosael and Rizzardo laid on the floor in a tangle of limbs, cleaning fluid, and rags animated by unseen magic.

“Get out. I need to punch something.”

Rizzardo pushed up onto his arms to look back at her, but he didn’t move off the floor or Crosael.

“We’re busy. Come back in…?”

“Twenty-seven minutes,” her brother huffed.

“No. This is my training room. You want to [redacted], go to your room.”

“Excuse me? Your training room? I’m the one keeping us all fed. Crosael keeps this place liveable. Mathal, what do you even do around here?”

“To the contributors goes the house.”

Mathal spat a curse onto the floorboards and slammed the door closed behind her. She ran up and down the stairs until she could barely see from all the sweat falling into her eyes. She smacked her sweaty palm against the wall of the upstairs hallway and trailed it all the way down to the massive chamber at the far end.

Crosael had cleaned the debris off the stone floor, but the hole that she and Gorvio had made in the ring of deactivated glyphs remained. Mathal pressed her palm flat against the break in the stone. She punched it.

“[Redacted]!”

Stupid. Childish.

She pulled her aching fist close to her chest. She climbed into the water elemental’s empty pool and sat with her back to the wall. She couldn’t look up from that position, but she didn’t want to see the fake stars anyway. She shut her eyes.

Crosael and Rizzardo were right. The thought left a bitter, burning bile in her mouth, but she couldn’t deny that they were the only ones doing anything in Delvehaven. She had nothing to do and nothing to contribute. The longer they stayed here, the less say she would have in any of these new rules. She could only become more childish. More self-destructive.

Mathal groaned. The sound echoed down from the fake stars above through the entire chamber. She climbed out of the empty pool and marched down to Moris’s room.

He sat in bed reading but lowered his book at her approach.

“Do you want to see our friends today?”

“Yes! But I’m not strong enough to walk very far.”

“I can carry you.”

“Then yes!”

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