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/qst/ - Quests

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Time heals all wounds, or so it’s said. If nothing else, it breeds forgetfulness of the old and fosters new growth in the body and soul. Such was what our young protagonist was told by her Uncle Yesh, at any rate, along with a great many other things as they sat on that quiet hill beside the freshly filled graves. Naturally, an afternoon wasn’t quite the span of time for solving anything on its own, but it was enough that Cici elected to take the rest of the day investing in her lessons rather than moping, busying her mind with other things while the adults were away by turning through books and scribbling spidery letter after letter on blank sheets. She even dared a little bit of math by the end, albeit slightly cheating by using the snakes on her head and the toes on her feet to keep tally.

Still, it wasn’t like anyone was around to judge her, sans the voices in her head, as she whittled away the hours. Despite her most hopeful desires, however, the girls from yesterday were not so quick to reappear outside her doorstep, nor were her mother, grandfather, or uncle for that matter. It was, in fact, rather late into the evening that the latter finally reappeared, a thunder of wings pounding up above as both the manticore her Uncle had rode in on and an equally massive bird-like creature descend from the clouds.

Cici pauses by the doorway as the grass ripples in waves beneath her, her nerves a little tense as she considers the giant, intimidating beasts.

> Write-in
If nothing it's a cool way to make an entrance.
Oh, you should ask Uncle Lee and Grandpa Brad to introduce you to them, Cici.
Nothing to be afraid of. Introductions are in order!
It would be polite to say hello.
I believe that we should introduce ourselves.

Also, should we (the voices) refer to each other by color ID or string ID?
Do you got some seeds for the bird, like a whole bag?
Don't be silly we are the voices, if we had names we wouldn't be here.
Fair, just want to make it easier on Cici (if it would at all).

Cici can quote posts somehow or that's how it looks for us at least.
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[“I guess that means we’ll have to go out there, now, if we wanna say hello…”]

Cici waits until the duo have landed and dismounted before venturing outside, making her way then with slow, purposeful steps toward her uncle and grandfather.

“Ah, Cici,” Brad greets, the old wizard groaning with the effort as he removes his saddlebags and one at-a-time sets them on the ground. “Apologies for not waking you this morning.”

Casually, he then turns to avian transport and with a snap of his fingers, both griffin and saddle disappear. Instead, in their wake sits Archer, the tiny amalgam of bird and cat now licking her paws daintily as the tassels on her toy-sized saddle jingle.

“Wha- How’d you do that?” Cici calls out in surprise, flabbergasted and amused as the tiny griffin eagerly turns belly-side up to allow the wizard to get at its buckles.

“Why, magic, my dear. How else?” the old man chuckles. “I find it’s much easier to keep a cat-sized griffin around the house than one the size of an ox. She eats less by far that way and would be liable to give the maids fits, otherwise, I fear.”

“Wait, does that mean she’s actually big or little?” Cici inquires.

“Astute observation, my dear girl! But the truth, as with most things, lies somewhere in the middle. It will take many years… perhaps more than I may even be alive for Archer to reach her full size, but in the meantime, a bit of magic helps us both along. This particular kind of spell may also provide a meaningful lesson for you. You see, among the many types of magic, there are those that are transcen- Ahem, that is to say that there are those that last for only a brief time, as long as a mage concentrates, and others that can last a very, very long time, even permanently should nothing interfere. Why in my youth I-”

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” Lee interjects, “but I have a feeling we best save this for a bit later. After all-“

With a grunt, he lifts something out of his own saddlebags, or rather someone as the image comes clear. With an impatiently squirming tail and a head adorned with all manner of small-

“Mama?” Cici asks, perplexed, looking into the face of her miniaturized mother.
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“Hello sweetling,” Mama greets in a voice two octaves too high. “Now Brad, if you would.”

“Stand back,” the wizard warns, as with a waggle of his fingers and a few words from his lips he begins working his magic.

A split second later, with a brief pulse of power and a burst of wind, Mama is back to her full, imposing height and stretching out her apparent discomfort.

“We need to find a better way to travel next time,” she sighs, shaking out her hair and neck.

“Well, it was this or the wagon,” Uncle Lee points out, “but someone just didn’t seem to care for that one…. Maybe next time we could rig up a child’s saddle… or a bucket?”

Mama makes a face at Uncle Lee, sticking out her forked tongue before scooping Cici up in her arms for a hug.

“And how have you been today, sweetling?”

“Better… Also, I wanted to say high to Uncle Lee’s manticore!”

“Ah, you mean Falkore?” Uncle Lee inquires, patting a hand roughly through the large cat’s mane. “Well, you’ve made some sort of introduction as things stand. He’s intelligent, you know?”


“Why, yes, of course. While not the most talkative chap, there’s certainly more rattling around up there than cobwebs.” *Rattle Rattle* “Speaking of which-“ Uncle Lee turns up his visor, exposing the hollow sockets within, and from those dark recesses emerges a spider, a furry sort with large beady eyes. “This is Jerry, and I’ve got another furball sleeping in one of the saddlebags if you’d like to meet her as well…”

[“He’s so fluffy…. But are you allowed to do that? Should you pet a person? What about spiders?”]

> Write-in
>"Well, you should probably ask them first."
He gave you permission, but you can ask Falkore if you wish.
I dont think spider's like being petted, but Im not exactly a spider expert.
Whos the other furball, btw?
And ask your mom how it feels to be small
Ask for permission first. If you ask and they say yes, then it's alright to pet them.
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“Is Jerry smart too?” Cici asks. “C-Can I pet him?”

“Well, not as I’m aware,” Lee explains. “Though I’ve been wrong before. Either way, I imagine trying to handle him might get a bit… hairy.” *Rattle-Rattle* “Best save that for another time.”

With care, Uncle Lee cups his hand back to his head, and Jerry happily scrabbles back inside before the visor closes after him.

“Falkore, however, might be slightly more willing. Despite all appearances, he has his soft spots.” The great cat huffs as though annoyed as Lee returns to the saddle. “You can ask him yourself, in fact. You’ll just need to place a hand on him somewhere.”

“Lee, if he does anything…” Mama warns, but she’s already setting Cici back on the ground.

“I imagine three deer and a medium sized boar will be quite enough for him for one day, Cass. At any rate, last I heard, manticores weren’t part pig.”

Uncle Lee laughs, but Cici can feel Mama tense as she gets closer, slowly extending a hand upward toward the extremely tall beast. Fortunately, Falkore seems to take pity on her, opting to just lay down as she approaches while offering a disarming yawn. Even so, he remains taller than Cici, if only by an ear.

“So, umm… I… Can I pet you?” She asks taking a long blank stare for an affirmation in absence of a response before placing a hand in his fur.

And no sooner does she make contact than a low rumbling echoes inside of her mind.

“At least children can be direct in their wants and needs,” he grumbles without a sound. “Though I can feel the trembling through your hand, child. along with… chattering voices?”

> Write-in
>"Hello! We are currently a bracelet!"
Can you hear us clearly? If so, any chance our little girl here could learn how to magic her bunny familiar into a form better able to help defend her?
"Well, helloooo~! Direct mind-to-mind communication is so freeing, isn't it! At any rate, yet, if you wouldn't mind, would you let the girl feel the softness of your mane and fur?"
"Have you not heard of the Rabbit of Caerbannog? Cici'll be fine."
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[“Phantom voices seeking to turn prey into predator, what madness is this? But no, I won’t begrudge the child her curiosity.”]

“Thank you,” Cici says aloud, and with little more prompting begins running her fingers through the furry mass of Falkore’s head.

Thick, like unsheared wool, it has brambles and burs scattered throughout its warm surface, things Cici decides not to pick at after failed attempts at grooming them out of Din-Din’s fur previous.

“I’ll need to burn those out later,” Falkore murmurs to himself as Cici continues, something which finally helps her place the odd, but not terrible smell that clung about his fur.

Like incense or a fresh campfire, the smell of fire clings to the beast, hints of pine, oak, and cherry wafting out as Cici further unsettles his mane. Fortunately, the big cat doesn’t seem to care for the aesthetically compromising ministrations, content to let the child do as she wants, eyes closed in thought before Lee comes back with a bundle tucked in his arms.

“Now, this-“ he says, with a gentle motion, hands shifting to the sides of the creature he’s hoilding as it lazily uncurls its tail and wings with a yawn. “Is the fuzzball in question. Cici, say hello to Jasmine.”

“H-hi,” Cici offers, uncertain whether to greet this like a person or an animal as Uncle Lee brings the pint-sized manticore down to her eye level, a pair of bleary hazel orbs now gazing into her own as a scorpion like tail swishes curiously.

Either way, she assumes that head rubs are fine, and so runs her fingers carefully through the little one’s scalp, fur more like silk than cotton running through her finger tips as the cat-sized manticore’s ears twitch. However, whether it has an opinion on the matter, it remains respectfully silent.

“Why does she sleep in a bag?” Cici questions.

“It’s because she is still very small,” Uncle Lee explains. “She can’t quite keep up with her father, at any rate, and she seems content to sleep in there between meal times.”

“What does she eat?”

“A bit of milk every now and again helps her along. Other than that, she hunts small game for herself. You know, sparrows, snakes, ra- ats.” Cici doesn’t read much further into that hiccup. “Hmm. Now that I mention it, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to leave her here…”

> Write-in
I dunno, could always use afew less rats Lee~
He's probably afraid that Jasmine will end up bullying Din-Din.
Okuu doesn't, so it should be okay.
"Could we make some kind of rabbit-sized hamster ball?"
You could try raising her Cici. Maybe even as a friend to Din-Din.
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“What’s a hamster ball?” Cici asks aloud.

“A hamster what?”

“The voices say we might need one for Din-Din, so he doesn’t get bullied by Jasmine.”

“Lee…” Mama cuts in. “You realize that if anything goes wrong, if she so much as puts a scratch on anyone…”

“I realize,” he affirms, “and to be fair, Falkore isn’t a huge fan of this plan either.” The big cat snorts derisively. “But in all, I think it would be safer for everyone if she was here rather than in the places we’ll likely be going.

“She’s unlikely to range far from home when she’s this young, certainly not as far as the nearest farm. And, listen, I know this isn’t perfect by any means, but I think it will be the safest place we can leave her for the next month or so.”

“Is she really going to be alright without her father?” Mama asks.

“A bit of separation anxiety is a given I don’t doubt, but chronic air sickness is hardly any better.”

“Ugh… Next time you’re here, you’ll be bringing a half-grown dragon and a misanthropic troll, I don’t doubt.”

“Come now,” Uncle Lee objects. “We’re going down to the coast. So in all likelihood, it would be a lost leviathan and a misplaced mermaid.” *Rattle-Rattle*

“Your sense of humor is ghastly as always.”

“My lady! Your quips cut me straight to the bone.” *Rattle-Rattle* “Are you trying to tell me that I’m no longer sufficiently humerus?”

“Why do I know that you are making a pun with that last part?”

“Am I really that transparent? Has my font of comedy finally run, dare I say it, bone dry?”

“Rattle yourself senseless like a numbskull,” she sighs, “but I’m leaving the choice with Cici. Are you certain that you can handle another animal, a dangerous one at that, stalking around the house?”

> ["Maybe we can manage, even without a hamster ball. What do you guys think?"]

> Write-in
I think we can do it Cici. It won't be easy, though.
I have a feeling that Jasmine isn't going to listen to commands much.
eh, He might like the ball anyway. I would.
A Hamster ball is basically just a transparent ball you put small animals in so they can run around unattended without burrowing away somewhere or getting squashed or hurt.

As for our manticore friend, would she listen to us? We wouldnt want her spiking some curious neighbor while we werent paying attention, so my answer is dependent on safety.
Maybe a fence would work?
Maybe get her dad to tell her to behave and obey the babysitter while he's away on a business trip?
I agree with this, unless she is too young to understand?

“Could Falkore tell her to behave while he’s away?” she suggests. “Maybe that would help.”

Lee looks to his feline partner and shares a silent exchange.

“Hmm. His daughter thus far seems to lack the same knack for languages as her father. So there’s no telling how much effect parental advice will have.”

“But would it still be safe?” Cici asks.

“My dear girl,” Brad huffs on his way back outside the tower. “I would give to you the same advice that I give to my apprentices and to every blue-blooded nitwit who gets it in his head he’ll own a tiger: namely that there is no such thing as absolute safety. There is only as much safety as you can create through your own awareness of existing dangers. For magical creatures especially, who are more clever than any beast, you should never take safety for granted.

“However, having said all of that, I am also inclined to say that there could be worse choices than a manticore. Despite popular opinion, they are not especially spiteful or hateful creatures, and when given the option, they prefer to lead their lives far from humans and their livestock. They use their tail spikes only when actively threatened by an enemy or when hunting, and they never kill a beast so large that they cannot consume it within one sitting. There are unusual cases of course, peculiarities born of illness or loss, but there is a reason why the manticore is so rarely mentioned as an active threat despite being such a pervasive species.”

“But what if she tail spikes someone? Would they die?”

“Well, it would be painful,” he acknowledges, “but this particular species isn’t known for their poisons being especially toxic. Most likely, they would go into paralytic shock, a condition which bears many remedies should you have a qualified physician handy.”

“I guess we can take care of her then…”

“Lovely!” Lee sighs. “And no time like the present for a little test.” With careful hands he lower Jasmine down to Cici’s level, and places the fairly massive cat in her arms.”

“Now, you’ll want to hold her carefully,” Lee insists. “Hand beneath the chest, your other arm balanced beneath the legs. You want to support her weight so that she doesn’t get flustered. And…. There we go.”

“I… um…”

Cici is somewhat at a loss as she begins slowly stroking the cats fur with her hand. Was she supposed to do something, or talk to her? Before her thought train can run too far away though, a low rumble begins vibrating against her arms, a contented purr from the pampered cat as it sinks a bit more deeply into her arms.

“I’d say that’s as good a start as any,” Lee lauds.

“Right, well, guess we’ll need a loft then,” Mama sighs, conscripting Grampa Brad into her efforts as she begins searching for a likely spot.

That just leaves Cici, now with a handful of cat and no idea what to do next.

> Write-in
Eh, relax, continue petting Jasmine. Maybe take a seat.
Get her used to you.
Try to keep her calm Cici, and establish the fact that you are dominant in this relationship when she wakes up. This isn't a try situation, but a must.
>Would they die?”
>“Well, it would be painful
Even in my comfy snek girl, baneposting.
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[“B-but I don’t know how to be dominant! Also, I don’t think she’s sleeping. She’s just relaxing.”]

At least that’s her best guess by the continued purring of the fluff ball in her lap. In any case, she decides to make finding a seat her priority, electing to set herself down on the stone bench by the fire pit before slowly setting Jasmine down in her lap. For her part, the cub takes immediate advantage of the new space, lazily stretching out in all directions, tiny claws peeking out as she yawns again.

“You still seem so sleepy,” Cici notes, now yawning herself, “but I bet sleeping in a bag isn’t comfortable either. It’s okay though, Mama and Grampa are making you a bed inside, and it’ll probably be super comfortable.”

Cici spends a good minute there in her one-sided conversation with Jasmine, a soft purr the only background noise in her ears save the chirp of far off cicadas in the gathering dark. Maybe she ate bugs too, Cici reflects. Uncle Yesh said they weren’t bad, after all. He even encouraged her to try some one time, and they were just… crunchy. It was hard to describe the exact flavor of fried crickets come the end of the day, let alone meal worms and rice.

Before she can get much further inside of her own head, though, the tell-tale wing beats of a certain harpy can be heard overhead, Vivi appearing from the night sky like a shadow cut from the tree lines.

“Hey, little sis,” she greets as she lands. “What’re you doing out- hey!”

She stumbles back when she notices the large scorpion tail perking up beside the leonine head. However, Jasmine seems more curious than anything, tail simply waggling back and forth as she continues to stare rather than launching a volley of spikes.

“This is Jasmine,” Cici says calmly. “Uncle Lee says we’re going to be taking care of her.”

“R-right, well… She’ll be in a cage or s-somethin’ right…”

Cici’s spine suddenly straightens as a hiss erupts from her lap, Jasmine’s ears suddenly flattened, her tail flexing as she glares at Vivi.

[“Gah! What should we do!”]

> Write-in
Tell Jasmine no cages!
Obviously it's a sore spot for her.
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Bullet time and sleep time engaged, I guess. I'll leave this one open until I pick back up tomorrow. Hopefully that will be much earlier than this afternoon.
hugs jasmine, tell her vivi was joking!
Oh, I have an idea.
You should have mom take you and her hunting.Cats tend to respect you more if they see you kill your own prey
Oh, and no cages.
definitely no cages
Probably better distract the cub, and explain to the crow.
"Jasmine, we are not going to lock you in a cage, please calm down."
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“Shh… Shh…” Cici tries to sound calm herself as she gently pets the upset cub. “It’s okay Jasmine. No cages, I promise. An’ Vivi was just kidding, right?”

Jasmine’s muscles are still tense as she eyes the crow harpy.

“Y-yeah… J-just a joke is all…”

With slow, deliberate steps, Vivi backs away then ambles to the side, removing herself from the manticore’s line of fire. Only then does Jasmine seem to relax and lower her tail, prompting Cici to hug her a bit closer.

“You can’t be mean to family,” Cici chides the cat. “That means Okku, Mama, Din-Din, me, and Vivi too. ‘Kay?”

The cat naturally doesn’t answer, but merely scrabbles up to stand on Cici’s lap, leaning its head over her shoulder, most likely to look at Vivi as it wags its scorpion tail back and forth.

“I… um… yeah, sorry…” Vivi stammers nervously, apparently all she’s capable of offering before she runs into the house.

“What are we gonna do?” Cici sighs to herself, hardly noticing the fluffy duo emerging from the nearby woods.

Covered in mud and brambles as they are, Din-Din and Okku look happy as they scrabble in for the night, also curious at the new creature now occupying the much coveted spot on Cici’s lap.

“This is Jasmine,” Cici explains to the two of them, stroking the cat’s back as it returns to lounging across her lap. “She’s going to be staying with us for a little while.”

[“I don't really wanna go hunting with Mama, but should I try to make them play together?”]

> Write-in
Maybe Okku and Jasmine. She might be a little too rough for Din-Din, even if he is an evolved rabbit.

And I know you don't want to go hunting, but it could be useful.
Cici, Jasmine is just a cub, it might try to eat Din-Din. Better to take Jasmine to hunt a few critters in the dungeon, just don't go too deep."

"Cats like hunting and she is part cat, don't leave her and Din-Din alone. She is still young and her instincts tell her that your pet bunny is food."
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[“I think Grampa shut the dungeon cuz of the robots.”]

“Are you hungry though Jasmine? You can’t eat Din-Din, but there’s plenty of food upstairs if you… want…”

Before Cici can even finish her sentence, Jasmine has hopped out of her lap and onto the ground, tail swishing side-to-side as she looks between Din-Din and Okku.

“Jasmine, no,” Cici commands, but that seems to do little to stop the curious feline as she saunters up to Din-Din and begins sniffing at the hare almost as large as she is.

Din-Din, for his part, doesn’t seem to mind. He just patiently waits through her inspection as Okku playfully bounces behind, awaiting his turn.

[“Well, at least, she isn’t trying to eat him.”]

Unfortunately, that hope is somewhat short-lived as Jasmine suddenly backs up and bats a paw at Din-Din’s face, two times in rapid succession, in fact, before the hare even reacts. However, before Cici can even move to intervene, Din-Din answers in kind with a front paw swipe that knocks the cat sideways. With a hiss and a low growl on their respective sides, it seems that the challenge for dominance was underway.

Bouncing on her hind paws, Jasmine lunges forward at Din-Din, mouth opening to show sharp teeth as she sends them both tumbling end over end away from the fire pits. In the process, she earns herself a few bats to the snout, returning in kind before the fluffy bun gets his hind legs positioned between them and launches her into the air.

As might be expected of a cat, Jasmine lands softly, barely a second passing before she is once more pouncing into the fray, her wings flapping beneath her as her body takes flight, allowing her to lunge from above. However, Din-Din is long gone by the time she lands, scurrying toward the tree line in full retreat with the manticore hot on his tail.

By this point, Cici is far past reasonably concerned, and is actively trying to put herself between the two. Unfortunately, she can’t quite manage as Jasmine goes flapping after the fleeing rabbit, hissing after him as she prepares to swoop once more. Din-Din, however, has other plans. Rather than dodging past the trunk of the first tree he finds, instead he begins fitfully scuffling up the side, disappearing into the branches amongst a rattle of leaves. Jasmine, being reasonably enthused by the chase at this point, immediately moves to follow, but only then realizes her mistake as the bun immediately comes flying back down from whence he came and sends both of them crashing into the leaves with a heavy thud.

“No fighting!” Cici shouts, as she speeds after them. “No-“

But it seems as she arrives, the fight is pretty much already at its conclusion, Jasmine tucking both paws to her chest in a placating pose as Din-Din stands over her with one paw on her chest.

[“I’m confused…”]

> Write-in
Din Din is an adorable little badass.
Huh, guess the fuzzy little bugger did evolve.
Just make sure both of them are alright, Cici.
Din-Din is smarter than Jasmine. And he seems to have evolved.
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“No saying bad words,” Cici pleads, “and no fighting.”

She picks up Din-Din off of Jasmine, gently cradling him as she looks for bruises. Fortunately, it seems that both of them made it out of their shenanigans without much harm, the cat flexing its wings and already bouncing over to Okku while Cici thoroughly checks her rabbit for cuts or scrapes. All she really finds is clotted dirt and lots of grass and leaf bits, thankfully, and it seems Jasmine has no intention of challenging Okku for an independent round.

“You’re going to need a bath,” she confirms to the hare, instantly feeling him tense, “but I’m glad that you’re okay.”

With nothing else better to do, Cici heads inside, Okku diving right back into the trees at the mention of a bath but the tell-tale flutter of wings followed by clacking claws letting her know Jasmine isn’t far behind. What’s more, it seems Cici won’t be bathing alone as she enters the bathroom to find the harpy already soaking in the tub, one who’s apparently less than happy at the prowling form she sees following in Cici’s wake.

[“Should we shut the door?”]

> Write-in
Even cats and manticores need baths.
Just let Vivi know that Jasmine is smarter than most animals, and her dad is a person, by Uncle Lee's reckoning.
Just bad luck that you couldn't tell Vivi that before she saw Jasmine.
Make it a bath for all. I'm sure Jasmine and Okku would enjoy the warm water, even if Din Din is resistant.
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[“Maybe they will get along better if they spend more time together.”]

Thus, Cici leaves the door as is, and disrobes before hopping in, Din-Din squirming all the while as she slowly lowers his feet down in the water of the small side tub that Grampa had made for him. A cloud of dirt quickly goes spiraling out in his wake, making the need apparent, but that apparently makes it no more tolerable as Cici begins slowly scrubbing away at the rest of his body.

“How do you get so dirty?” Cici wonders as she pulls nearly a whole stick out of his fur.

“Give him a couple of weeks, and he’ll be a regular dust bunny,” Vivi jokes, though her tone becomes much more nervous as she spies Jasmine out of her peripherals, the cat walking up to the water and casually batting at the surface with its paw.

“It’ll be okay,” Cici promises as the harpy nervously winces. “You probably just hurt her feelings is all. Grampa and Uncle Lee said she’s probably smart like her papa. He can even talk, did you know?”

“G-great…” Vivi titters nervously. “Th-that’s j-just great.”

A nervous yelp follows as Jasmine brings her face closer to the harpy’s, gently massaging one cheek against the girl’s trembling face as she freezes there in blind terror. A split second later and the pint-sized manticore slides down into the bath with a splash, purring as she paddles around, lapping at the fragrant pool. It’s apparently as pleasant for her as it is terrifying for Vivi, however, especially as her laps circle closer and closer to the harpy’s stomach.

“Aww, I think she likes you,” Cici says as the cat settles in Vivi’s lap, looking up at her before absently mewling. “And where do you think you’re going, Mr.?”

Din-Din’s attempt at freedom is cut short as the young gorgon wrangles him back in the bath.

[“Maybe we should talk to her about her day… or tell Jasmine to leave her alone…”]

> Write-in
Cici, you should let Din-Din out and dry him. Rabbits can get very hurt and sick if they get wet for extended periods of time.
Make sure Din-Din is clean and then let him go.
Cici, clean the bunny and let him go, he is smarter than you think and probably has things to do. Just dry him before he leaves.
Yeah, ask Vivi about her day.
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[“I thought it was only cold water!”]

Cici panics a little as she splashes her way out of the bath, brushing a bit of caked mud off the bunny’s head before swaddling him in the first towel she can grab. Din-Din himself doesn’t seem to know what to make of this, but at least stops struggling once he’s managed to pop his ears out from beneath the bunched fabric.

“Uh… the voices said water isn’t good for him…” Cici explains to Vivi, who is now looking at her like she’s gone crazy. “Cuz he might get sick.”

“Well, I don’t see many rabbits splashing around outside…” Vivi muses. “Then again, I think that’s just how most animals are, aside from this one apparently.”

Jasmine mewls up at her again, Vivi visibly shivering as her scorpion tail begins splashing at the water’s surface.

“I’m sorry that she’s scaring you,” Cici says. “Is it cause of her tail?”

“Cici…” Vivi starts hesitantly. “H-have you ever seen a scorpion? H-have you ever been stung by one?”

“Uh-uh. Why?”

“Cuz it’s really p-painful and t-those ones aren’t the size of freakin’ cats!”

“I can call her away if you want?”

“P-please, d-do that!”

“’Kay. Come here, Jasmine. Come here!”

But the manticore simply looks at her bemused as she begins licking at one of her paws, apparently very comfortable where she is.

“Umm…. I could try picking her up…”

“N-no, no! Just leave her where she is for now!”

“’Kay…” Cici affirms, not really sure how to continue. “So how was your day today?”

“Good, great, lots of letters to deliver! Apparently the baron is in prison for crimes against the territory, and so… so a lot of p-people are nervous about what’s gonna happen n-next.”

[“Was there anything you guys wanted me to ask. Vivi knows lots of stuff.”]

> Write-in
You might want to sit close to her and pet Jasmine. She'll be less afraid the longer she sees that Jasmine isn't trying to hurt anyone.
Maybe you could ask if she's met any other gorgons, aside from you and your mother.
Let her know it's probably your mom that's going to be the next baron.
Ask her about any news about the rest of the nation, and any international news she's heard.

Din-Din is quick enough to run for the hills as soon as Cici finishes scrubbing him down, quickly bounding out of sight before she can change her mind. That leaves Cici with a long, awkward moment to sit there as the bracer remains mostly silent.

“So, Vivi,” Cici slips back into the bath, realizing she hasn’t finished cleaning yet. “Have you run into anymore gorgons while flying around, you know, like me and Mama?”

“Hmm? Well, not really. There was that centaur lady who needed a bunch of seeds, the kobold clan further south who needed a shipment of leather, and a couple of Lamia villages needing this or that. No gorgons though.”


“But I heard one of the girls from the Southeastern routes saying that there’s a place down by the coast called the Stone Isles. Apparently there are tons of gorgons that live there, and they’re supposed to even be able to tell the future! Who knows, maybe you have family over there?”

“Maybe,” Cici agrees, splashing over to Vivi’s side and placing her hands on Jasmine’s head. “Mama never really mentioned Grampa or Granma, though.”

“I’m sure she has her reasons, squirt… And at least she hasn’t stung me yet.”

“Jasmine’s a good girl,” Cici insists, continuing to pet the soaked fur ball. “She’s just nervous cuz she doesn’t know us yet.”

“Maybe… Anyway, could you take her off of me so that I can get out? I’m gonna prune at this rate.”

Jasmine’s a little more cooperative with a fresh lap waiting for her elsewhere, and Vivi seems all too eager to towel off and make her exit as soon as she’s free. Obviously, this was going to take a little while for her to get used to, but a start is a start, right?

In the end, Jasmine seems to get bored of the bath before Cici is quite done, but she sticks around all the same, waiting for her to get out. The warm towel treatment might play a part in this as she eagerly hops into the one Cici prepares for her, luxuriating in every minute of that attention before, seeming to decide herself sufficiently dry, she goes bounding off down the hallways and out of sight. That just leaves Cici to follow suit, gathering a quick change of clothes before going on her own hunt for an evening meal.
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Fortunately, the adults seem to have already taken care of that, marking tonight’s meal with long necked bottles and food from town that make Cici’s mouth water just by their smell and appearance.

“Does this mean you’re leaving tomorrow?” Cici asks, not honestly sure how she knows as she puts the scene into perspective.

“Unfortunately, dear,” her grandfather sighs. “We’ve a long road to travel, your uncle and I, and a great many things that we must tend to when we reach the other side. Not to worry, though, we’ll be back.”

“Shouldn’t take more than a month or so, in my case,” Uncle Lee adds.

“And for myself, perhaps a bit sooner, though I suspect you’ll have many visitors in the coming months to attend to now that I’ve opened the flood gates.”

“They really don’t have to!” Mama objects.

“But my dear, they will regardless. Many feared you dead, you know. Others simply didn’t want to be the first, but I imagine now they’ll wring it out of me sooner or later as to where I’ve been these past two weeks.”

Mama just sighs, taking a long sip of something that looks like juice before sitting down next to Cici.

“No sense fretting,” Uncle Lee sighs, looking toward the starry canopy above. “The future will come in its own time, but tonight we have the stars, good food, and each other’s company to celebrate.”

“Here, here!” Brad agrees, taking a drink himself before setting his cup down with a sigh.

[“I wonder what they’re drinking. It looks good…”]

> Write-in
That's probably wine Cici. It is really tasty, once you have gotten accustomed to it. It is really unhealthy for growing girls, so you should probably wait a time before trying it. Are you thirsty? They might have something that would be OK for you.
It's most likely wine, and it's very much an acquired adult taste.
You can ask if they have some fruit juice.
Oh, and ask who'll be visiting.
"Probably some kind of alcohol. It messes with the mind in a way considered entertaining."
That is most likely wine or some kind of liquor. It is a depressant, a type of substance that causes a human body to slow in reaction. It has the additional effect of causing inebriation, a state of reduced inhibitions where a person does not act with the level of restraint that they normally do.

["Neat! Also kinda scary..."]

“Mama,” Cici asks. “Do we have any juice?”

“Juice? Oh, wait. Sweetling, this isn’t juice…“

“The voices said it’s wine,” Cici confirms, “but they also said I shouldn’t drink any cuz it’s bad.”

“Well, I wouldn’t question their wisdom as to that,” the elderly wizard agrees. “Taken to excess, alcohol can be a truly terrifying thing. Hmm. And you didn’t care for tea either, as I recall.”

“Maybe a bit wouldn’t be terrible for her,” Uncle Lee muses. “Just enough to get a taste, perhaps.”

“Alternately, we can simply make juice,” Uncle Yesh points out, already arriving with mortar and pestle in hand. “A few berries, a bit of sugar, and water.”

“Not really proper juice without a reduction or two though,” Brad mentions.

“It should be fine,” Yesh insists, pouring a jet black liquid into a cup of water, following it with a dash of white powder. “Too many sweets can also be a poison.”

Cici accepts the cup without complaint as it’s offered to her, smiling as the slightly warm, mild sweetness hits her tongue.

“Thank you, Uncle Yesh. Also, Grampa Brad, what other people were you talking about?”

“Just some of Mama’s old friends,” Mama explains. “People she hasn’t seen in a very long time.”

“Ah, and should they arrive, I’ve a spare bottle here for you to share with them… What the devil? I could have sworn I had purchased three.”

“Well, judging by the pawprints right next to the log, I think you’ll find your culprit hasn’t gone far…” Uncle Lee chuckles.

“Bah! Blast it all!”

In the end, Cici ends up following Uncle Yesh as he tracks the distinctive trail of tiny, bear-like pawprints around the tower, trying to make as little noise as possible as they stalk their culprit. And much to no one’s surprise, the tiny cub has not gone far, though apparently he unraveled the mystery of a closed bottle without shattering it outright. One might count that and the efficient way he is holding and guzzling an entire bottle of wine with his paws an impressive feat.


However, Uncle Yesh is not about to applaud such chicanery. Instead, hissing words in lizard speak, he makes his way toward the bear with slow, deliberate steps. And Okku, being smart enough to realize what that means is much quicker to depart, racing toward the tree line while forsaking the half-full bottle to the ground.

[“Should we help Uncle Yesh? I’m not sure…”]

At any rate, the precious wine is presently being spilled all over the ground.

> Write-in
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Well, better to save the rest of the wine. Once you've stopped it, then you can go and hunt down Okku with Uncle Yesh.

Sorry guys, I have been vinting since I was 6 and damn it if I let any wine, even that which I cannot interact with, go to waste!
Grab the wine, take it back to the grown ups. Im Sure Yesh can handle the cub himself. and you JUST took a bath.
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“What’s venting?”

Cici doesn’t let the question slow her down as she quickly picks up the wine bottle and stuffs its cork back inside. Setting it against the wall, she then goes running off into the woods after the fleeing duo, having no time to stop Jasmine from lapping up the remaining puddle.

If she did daily runs with Okku, Cici is fairly sure she’d be really fast by now. At least, that’s her guess by the huge distance she’s now trying to close between them. Fortunately, once they hit the trees it looks like it becomes much more of a zigzagging route than a straight up race, Okku and her uncle running round and around in circles before the cub inevitably makes a break for the next area.

”Okku, you should know better than this,” Uncle Yesh admonishes once Cici is in ear shot, the nimble lizard rolling in front of the bear’s trajectory with predatory grace. “And better than to run.”

In response, Okku is already turning, narrowly pulling out of the lizard’s path and now barreling toward Cici. And much as she tries to lunge at him, all she catches is air as the fur ball goes flying past in a blur.

“He’s fast…” she groans, picking herself up off the ground.

“Though less so once the alcohol hits him, I’d wager,” Uncle Yesh notes on his way speeding past.

[“Hmm. So catching him by chasing him might be hard… Is there something else we can try?”]

> Write-in
Try to figure out what direction he's going and try to get ahead of him by taking a shortcut. Trying to catch up to him by following the same path probably won't work.

And we need to get you into a better training regimen. Shaolin should be good.
ech, now youre all dirty again Cici. maybe try luring him with something he likes
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I'll leave this one open till tomorrow. Until then, folks.
Cici, where does Okku like to hide or play? He might go there.
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[“Hmmm… Well, he likes honey… but that’d make the bees angry…”]

Uncle Yesh curses in lizard speak as Okku runs under some low-lying branches.

[“And usually he likes to play in the basement when he isn’t in the woods, but Grampa Wizard closed that.”]

As Cici watches Uncle Yesh run around, Okku is already running back under the branches, giving a goofy grin before he goes bounding off into a pile of leaves.

[“Ooh! I have an idea!”]

Cici goes wandering back toward the tower, to the place that Uncle Yesh always left a few empty baskets, and picks out one big enough for Okku, but small enough for her to carry. She then begins slowly wandering back with the basket tucked behind her.

And sure enough, Okku hadn’t got tired of this one trick yet. Once, twice more, she watches the bear go flying through that one low lying pass. That’s when she stealthily moves up to the trunk of one tree with basket in hand. Naturally, his return isn’t exactly predictable, but as Cici hears the sound of rustling leaves grow closer and closer, she has a very good idea of where the cub will be heading next.

With a quick motion of her arms, she slams the basket down on the exit way, and just as quickly feels a squirming weight go tumbling in. Fortunately, the shift in weight sends the basket tumbling up but not over, and Cici is quick to come with a lid to seal in her fugitive. Predictably, Uncle Yesh isn’t far behind.

“You did a bad thing, Okku,” Uncle Yesh sighs, placing some straps over the lid to keep the bear inside. “Now let’s get you some medicine before you take ill.”

From one of his many pouches, Yesh pulls out a couple of ropes, sliding them through hooks on the outside of the basket to make straps for carrying the container. Then with a grunt, he hefts it like a backpack, looking back to Cici and ignoring the racket behind him.

“You’ve done well,” Uncle Yesh praises, placing a hand on Cici’s head. “Now let’s get out of these woods and back to the fire.”

[“We did it!”]

“Also, Uncle Yesh, what’s a Shaolin?”

“I’m not certain,” the lizard man admits. “Though maybe your voices know.”

[“I know I have to do training, but how do I do that?”]

> Write-in
There's carrying buckets of water and running with them.
Easy enough, you've got to water the garden somehow, right?

And just running around with friends is something you already do, so that's easy.

The punches, kicks, and forms, though, those we'd have to guide you through.

Just for simple physical stamina and mental focus, you don't need a teacher, just a willingness to move your body.

A Shaolin is a warrior monk.

Just run one or two hours every day, you are too young to fight. Remember to study, bake and learn magic when you can. Oh and to play with your friends, you are only a child once.
yeh, just aim to get fit, no need to go monk
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[“I guess running doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I could run to the bakery in the mornings…”]

Cici thinks over future plans as she and Uncle Yesh return to the fire, where the rest of the adults still sit, drinking and talking.

“Ah, and there would be our bandit, I imagine,” Uncle Lee laughs as Uncle Yesh sets the shaking backpack on the ground.

“Well, at least he has good taste,” Grampa Brad sighs.

“And there’s still half a bottle left,” Cici mentions. “I’ll go get it.”

Just shy of a minute later, Cici is once again behind the house, this time finding yet another wine burglary in process. Well, an attempted one, at any rate as Jasmine chews on the neck of the bottle trying to find a way inside. Fortunately, as both bottle and feline roll in the dirt, it appears that Okku is the more savvy of the two.

“Jasmine, no,” Cici says, taking hold of the bottle and gently pulling it away. “You’ll get sick.”

The cub merely purrs up at her, tilting its head as it mewls curiously.

“It’s okay,” Cici promises as she turns to leave. “I won’t tell.”


And so the rest of the evening passes, with many stories and little fanfare. Okku learns a painful lesson about the dangers of alcohol as he slumps over Uncle Yesh’s shoulder in a stupor, and the rest of the adults keep drinking until they’ve had a responsible amount, enough to loosen their tongues and wet their throats as they speak of both the present and the past.

Now may be the last time Cici has in some time to ask them about their exploits, but as she sits there, she can’t think of much in particular.

> Write-in
What exactly is your mother? We know that she is taking over the place of the baron and that she has the blood of a Seer, but not much else.
Ask about mama's family. Best opportunity
What was that about Uncle Lee's sister?

[“I think Mama and me are both Gorgons, but I do wanna know more about when Mama was little…”]

“Mama,” Cici probes gently.

“Yes, sweetling?”

“Where did you grow up? An’ do I have another Granma and Grampa somewhere?”

Mama looks a bit surprised by the sudden line of questioning, the tip of her tail twirling nervously for a long minute before she answers.

“Well, you see, Cici… That is…” She sighs, gathering her thoughts before continuing. “When I was young, I grew up in a place known as the Stone Isles, down by the shores of a great, blue sea.”

“Ooh! Vivi said she heard of that place from the other girls!”

“I’m not surprised, really. It’s a long way away, of course: many, many miles south and east of here, but to many, it’s a very important place to visit.”

“Why’s that?”

“That’s because, much like you have strange dreams of faraway places, there are plenty of others of our kind there that are very much the same. Farmers, sailors, politicians, all sorts of people came there to find out what would happen in their future.”

“An’ Granma was one of those people, right?”

“Gloria, that is, my mother, was a Seer, yes, a powerful one at that, and there were always people seeking her council in the years I spent under her roof. Until I was fully grown, in fact, I stayed there working as a guard.”
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“Did she teach you any magic?” Cici asks, but her mother just laughs: a sad, almost painful laugh.

“Well, she certainly tried,” Mama explains. “For days and months, she tried just about everything to awaken whatever gifts I had. However, the longer we struggled, the more apparent it was that I’d never truly be a master at any sort of magic, and that ended up being the end of things.

“I joined the guard shortly after. She kept trying for another daughter. And I suppose, now that you mention it, I never really knew my father. If I understand it correctly, they had a practice of, well, selective pairing with little regards to love.”

“They’ve always been an insular bunch,” Grampa Wizard confirms, pulling his pipe from his robes. “For the sake of keeping the Sight “pure”, as they call it, they only rarely accepted mages of the highest pedigree, but as I’ve said before, magic is not quite so simple as that.”

“What do you mean?” Mama asks.

“Of course, I can’t claim to be an expert of the ins and outs of their society,” he warns, taking a few brief puffs, “but as I hear tell, beginning with your generation, the magical aptitude of their society has been dwindling rather harshly. Perhaps it’s because they are less worldly now than they once were, or that the blood of the First has grown thinner with time, but the faces have been growing older by the year as I hear tell. And for many, that may spell the end of an age.”

> Write-in
Oh, maybe you can ask to one day meet your grandmother?
Oh, and since Grandpa Brad is here, maybe we can visit Grandma Brad?
Huh, I wonder if being less selective is why Cici has the Sight? Maybe theyve had it backwards the whole time.
I'd bet theyd be super proud of you if they knew Cici!
I'll go with this. Might end up being fun.
>Oh, maybe you can ask to one day meet your grandmother?
>Oh, and since Grandpa Brad is here, maybe we can visit Grandma Brad?
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“Can we go visit sometime, Mama?” Cici begs. “I know Granma must miss you, and I could learn lots.”

“We’ll see, sweetling,” Mama says, though there’s a definite sadness in her expression as she does so.

“I’d also like to visit Granma Brad,” Cici adds. “I’m sure it’d be lots of fun!”

“I imagine Dianne would have a field day with you,” the old man laughs. “Our granddaughter has long since passed the age where she visits often, you see, and she was no less fond of your father than I. Still, I’d imagine we would need to make travel arrangements for you and your mother in that case. Perhaps we should leave those discussions until the next time I’m back, then.”

“Okay…” Cici concedes, “or when Uncle Lee gets back from visiting his sister.”

“Honestly, I can’t remember whether my sister was fond of children…” Lee muses. “You see, I come from a line of traders, the Townsends of Ashport. And while I can’t remember everything from those early days, I imagine she’s waist deep in trade litigations by this point.”

“Trade what’s?”

“Trade dealings,” Uncle Lee explains. “You see, business people make contracts by the dozens with other traders, promises about who will deliver what and when.”

“And your sister, by all reports, has been doing an excellent job managing your family’s welfare,” Brad notes. “I dare say they’ll have the harbor itself before long, though we’ve had a nasty problem with pirates of late.”

“Somehow I suspect I’ll have to put a hand into dealing with all that,” Uncle Lee sighs. “On the plus side, pirates are less likely to follow me inland once that business is done.” *Rattle-Rattle*

“It wouldn’t be unappreciated, I assure you, but bear in mind, they have been known to carry witch doctors aboard their vessels.”

“As well as rum, gunpowder, and tar last I checked,” Uncle Lee adds, lighting his hand on fire for emphasis. “And they’ve always been a superstitious lot to boot.”

Cici nods along as the adults continue talking, but by the minute her eyelids are getting heavier. Still, there might be time for just a few more questions.

> Write-in
Ask about the Gorgon's Stare Cici. We might figure out why your hair got tired when you tried to do it.
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“Mama…” Cici yawns as the word comes out, looking up toward her mother. “Why does magic make you tired? Will it always make my hair sleepy like this?”

“I don’t honestly know, sweetling,” Mama replies. “I never had magic, well much of it anyway, and by the time I learned a little, I had already been training my body for years.”

“Perhaps I can be of better assistance,” Grampa Brad chimes in, turning away from Lee to face the duo. “While I may not be a gorgon myself, naturally, I’ve had more than a bit of occasion to study their biology during my studies.

“That said, I suppose we should start with a question. What do you believe the snakes dangling from your head do precisely? I’m not sure many born with that peculiarity regularly think of it.”

“Well, umm…. They bump into stuff an’ smell things an’ sometimes they try to eat food even though they’re not supposed to…”

“I can’t speak to much of that, of course. However, I’m certain they do one other thing you may very well have noticed, that being that they see things and report that information back to you.”


“But tell me, if you shut your eyes, what do you see then?”

“Nothin’ cuz it’s dark.”

“However, I’d wager you still know certain things about your surroundings: when things are moving, when obstacles are in your way, etcetera.”

“I never tried,” Cici admits with a blush.

“Something tells me it could prove an enlightening experience for you, but let’s not dwell on it now. You see, contrary to popular belief, gorgons don’t necessarily see through all of their eyes at once. Rather, each individual follicle of their hair functions independently, sending only necessary information back to the gorgon herself. In other words, each strand literally has a mind of its own.”

“Wow! Does that mean they can talk?”

“Oh no. No, my dear. They have very simple minds, simpler than Din-Din’s even, but they have enough awareness to understand your will and respond accordingly. So, why do you imagine they would have developed such a terrible affliction following that bit of magic. What do you suppose they were doing?”

“I don’t know… I’m sorry…”

“No, my dear, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the myth surrounding the gorgon stare is something some adult gorgons don’t even understand, but the truth is that the spell itself is a type of ritual, one made up of two parts. Now, do you remember what I said before, about multiple casters being a part of a spell?”

“Uh-huh,” Cici nods. “You said that it was like painting.”

“Very good! Now suppose you had over two dozen casters working together to cast a spell in sync. Even if each was terribly weak, the final spell could still be very strong, correct?”


“Well, that is what you are doing when you use your gaze. You are passing that will into the serpents that stem from your scalp and commanding them to cast the same magic at your enemy, first to tell them to stop and then trying to convert their bodies into minerals.

“The latter specifically is among the most difficult kinds of magic, to transform one substance into another by sheer force of will. However, even the former part is non-trivial. What you are essentially trying to do there is pitting your will against theirs and trying to force their bodies to hold still. Many adult gorgons miraculously adapt to use this ability passively without much thought as they get older. However, at you age, with your experience, what you were essentially trying to do was command three boys much larger than you to yield, pitting the will of each strand of your hair against their combined willpower, and just like trying to catch an animal with a very thin net, they broke free.

“In the end, the result was akin to pulling a muscle in each of the little snake’s minds, one which they are slowly mending as they return to normal. Does that make sense?”

[“I don’t know… Help!”]

> Write-in
It is just like in you sprain your ankle. They just got too stressed by the spell and need to rest to feel better. Don't worry, we can try to practice on bugs and other small things until you get used to using it, after you let yourself and hair rest a little.
>Think of it as each of of your snakes trying to physically hold down those boys by themselves. They werent strong enough, and they got worn out.
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“I think I understand now,” Cici says, remembering a scene from the forest one day. “It’s like a spider trying to catch a bird, right?”

“That’s exactly right, my dear. Exactly!”

[“Mama says I’m not supposed to use it, though, no matter what. I think that means practice, too.”]

“In any case, it seems that you would be served best by sleep now, rather than more knowledge,” the elderly wizard councils. “If you could assist an old man first, however, and come over here for a moment.”

Cici shyly steps up to the elderly wizard, and is gently enveloped in a hug.

“I’ll miss you terribly while I’m away, dear,” the old man admits, “but in the meantime I trust you’ll be a good girl and take care of your mother for me, won’t you?”

“Yes, Grampa,” Cici promises.

“Good, good. And also know that I expect nothing from you before I return, save that you be happy. Sleep well, eat well, and play to your hearts content before worrying yourself with magic.”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, if we’re getting our long goodbye’s out of the way tonight,” Uncle Lee sighs, “I might as well get my turn in as well.” As Grampa releases his hug, Lee kneels down to Cici’s level and offers another one, his armor strangely warm despite being filled with only wicker and bone. “Hmm, well I suppose he’s taken most of the good lines now, hasn’t he? Such a bother…”


“I suppose all I can really say is that I’m happy to see how much you’ve grown in just two months, Cici, to see the way you’re making new friends and how your mother smiles more often because of it. They’re contagious, you know, those pearly whites, and I have a feeling so long as you keep smiling, there will be plenty of people out there ready to smile back. Just make sure to floss carefully and often.”


“Come back safe, okay,” Cici demands, hugging her uncle tight.

“Through the slings and arrows of my enemies, I’ll return without fail,” Uncle Lee swears. “After all, what can they really do to a man who’s already dead?”

With goodbyes said and the fire burning low, Cici raises no objections as she’s lead to bed and tenderly tucked in by her mother, Vivi’s wings not long behind as they shroud her in an additional blanket of warmth that strengthens the sand-man’s pull. Maybe tomorrow Hannah and Katy would come back, she muses with her fading consciousness. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t, but either way, Cici is confident that the days ahead will be filled with adventure so long as she tries to find it. And as she stumbles into the land of dreams and down those winding roads, perhaps she catches glimpses of those possibilities: of pirate ships and mountains of gold on the high seas, of one eyed girls and caverns that sparkled with dazzling lights.
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And that's all I've got for this week, folks. Hope you all had fun, and feel free to share your aspirations going forward with Cici's adventures. Next week, I'll be taking off unfortunately, so that I can spend time with my family and friends, but I hope you all have a happy holiday with you and yours.

Also, since the QM is forgetful. For news about quest updates, my twitter can be found here:

And the archive can presently be found here:

Please vote it up, if you have a mind. Otherwise, take care, and I'll see you next time.
Thanks, bananon. A good time as always.
If I had hands and a head I would facepalm. Witch doctors can control and or influence the undead sometimes.

Or if they serve as balancers of the natural order, they could drag you right back into the afterlife kicking and screaming.

Thing is, if Lee knew he was going into a dangerous fight, would he tell Cici or play it off with lame jokes?
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He would not tell her.

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