Why Kill? When Witches Can Be Tentacled!
Boredom was no friend to Snazzy. When he was traveling with Maribell before, the slightest bit of a yawn sent him floating towards something to pique his interest. On the long treks between towns, Maribell often noticed that he had left her side, only to hear him not far away – surfing the babbling brooks while snatching up fish, setting fire to giant hornet nests, or riding a stray wildebeest that he somehow snuck up on.
In town, that was no different. Children gathered around him as he performed his usual juggling acts. And recently, he practiced aerial tricks with water magic acquired from Cassandra. Near the shops, he would chat up with the housewives and trade funny gossip, telling them all about the secret techniques he learned in his previous world. And at night, the boisterous setting of alcohol and gambling always caught his eye.
If Maribell didn’t keep him on a short leash by using him as a sleep companion, there was no telling if he would bolt away and mingle with his favorite beastkin ladies. Strange enough, Snazzy never needed to bum funds from her, as he kept a small sack of coins shoved under his head. Curious one evening, Maribell reached in and checked its contents, seeing an instant golden glow. The little ball of tendrils had more money than she had!
But that is why this week has gone by so slowly, Maribell sighed.
In this enclosed caravan that swiftly sped down the path, Snazzy couldn’t go off somewhere without being left behind. And it had barely taken much time for him to run out of things to do.
He had frolicked upon the wilderness sprouting from the caravan inside and out, explored every nook and cranny of the storage areas, and even, ridden upon the head of the land dragon, yelling “Hi-ho, Jangles!” Maribel didn’t know how he got the nerve to approach the thing after the first traumatic encounter.
Interestingly, Wendy and Bobo didn’t seem to care. They remained focused on their tasks, the former creating more potions and the latter keeping his eyes out for trouble. And of course, a conspicuous caravan such as this invited some. But it only took one look at the man with the giant ax to send them fleeing for their lives. No matter how many numbers they had, thieves valued their own lives so that they could live to steal again. That was a wise decision, as none of them realized that a fire magician and a blessed beast were waiting inside as well.
“I’m bored, Onee-san.” Snazzy said, half-heartedly rubbing Maribell’s back, which was stiff due to the lack of activity from the long ride.
“I’ve already given you plenty of ideas. Why don’t you ask Wendy if there’s something you can do?” Maribell groaned facedown into her pillow. It was day six of their travels. It wouldn’t take much longer to reach the provinces surrounding Evergem. Moments later, the feeling of tendrils left her back, leaving her in silence. The darkness and lack of anything to do soon put her to sleep.
When she finally stirred from her afternoon nap, the first thing that she noticed was that Snazzy was humming a tune once again, which he often did while doing something tedious. She wondered what Wendy could have given him to hold his interest for the entire time she was out yet could be dull enough to offer.
Getting up from the bed and turning towards them, she blinked twice at what she saw. Snazzy was spinning quickly in the air, holding vials filled with liquid in them. Meanwhile, Wendy was still at work on her potions, when suddenly, there was a short beep on her timepiece.
“Okay, that should be enough separation,” she said, taking one of the vials back and using a dropper to suction out the tops of the liquid. “You really make a good centrifuge, you know. The magical ones in Adelton are just too expensive, but the wooden spinner leaves the bitter bits. I’ve got to find a pet such as you.”
“Uh-uh, we made a deal, right? You broke character,” Snazzy said, holding the rest of the vials hostage.
“Oh, right… Wendy is pleased that Master is able to be such help to her! Would you please hand me the next vial, nyaa?”
“Of course, Wendy-chan!”
At least, Snazzy stayed out of Maribell’s hair for the rest of the day. Wendy didn’t seem to mind either, seeing that a little bit of role play was well worth the labor that she was getting in exchange. Snazzy was also handy at retrieving items without Wendy needing to get up. Apparently, exploring all the cabinets and shelves had ended up being useful, and he could easily float outside to snip an herb or a bud.
Suddenly, the window leading to the front of the caravan swung open. Bobo’s head popped into view.
“Oi, Wendy. Seems like trouble ahead. You might want to pack away your stuff, in case we have to make a detour onto rough roads.”
Bobo made a hard pull on the reins, directing Jangles to halt. That was because the sky was filled with wyverns, hovering around like they were guarding the area ahead. Seeing the caravan below them, several swooped down toward it.
A man with an eyepatch licked his lips as he recognized the apothecary caravan below. Upon the back of a wyvern high above, this was what he was waiting for. He waved to his men, a band of rogues that were also riding tamed wyvern. Behind them, a town laid ahead.
His name was Gorshect, and his band of mercenary thieves were out to make a quick buck. He was able to use his skills as a beast trainer to snag a highly-prized nest of wyverns. This breed of flying dragons possessed a special skill that was quite handy in their plans. Rather than breathing fire like some ground-based dragons did, they emitted a poisonous breath that resulted in the disease, Wyvern Pox.
It was characterized by a fouling of the skin, turning dry and scaly in patches as it spread across the body. Eventually, the victims’ skin would completely turn into a gray husk, causing tremendous pain like one had been licked by flames and charred. People could barely remain sane as their entire bodies racked with non-stop pain, begging for some relief.
While direct exposure to the breath was the fastest way to accelerate towards the final condition, contamination of the area was another way. The poison clung to surfaces that people touched, accumulating on their bodies. And that was what happened to the Border Town of Turin, in the Evergem region. The entire town was now plagued with the disease and slowly degrading into a horrid state.
Gorshect knew that the cure for Wyvern Pox lied with remedies that weren’t native to this region. Help from the kingdom would have to be sent. And with that came an opportunity to steal the cure and extort the people for some easy money.
As the first few wyverns dove towards the caravan to stop it from fleeing, several fireballs shot out of it, smacking into them. Gorshect clicked his teeth as he anticipated some magicians as backup, but with the numbers they gathered, one or two magic-slingers stood no chance.
Snapping the reins of his wyvern, he and his men all charged down towards the lone cart. Given the precious cargo hidden inside that needed to be protected, Gorshect and his men had the upper hand in terms of the fight. This would be a good payday.
“Keep firing, Onee-san!” Snazzy cried out as he maneuvered in the air to shoot his own fireballs at the swiftly moving targets. His magic was nowhere near as strong at long-range, and his speedy surfing could not keep up with an aerial specialist.
“What do you think I’m doing?!” Maribell was dashing across the ground, flinging as much fire as she could cast. But with so many wyverns, counting at least thirty or so, this was not looking good.
Bobo had unhitched Jangles from his mount, and they were chasing after the low-hanging opponents. It was a marvel watching Bobo swing his axe from on top of Jangle’s head, who itself could spew flames. The pair nimbly weaved and struck any wyvern that dared to charge at them.
Wendy was not defenseless either. Her slim form sped around the caravan, a slingshot in her hand. The ammunition she used popped into the air and broke upon landing on a wyvern. Immediately, the flying creature hissed as the contents of a shattered glass jar burned through its skin and caused it to convulse. What Wendy had placed in miniature jars was a combination of acid and strong poison, harvested from plants. A single shot was enough to immobilize a dragon as big as Jangles, which meant that the smaller wyverns were even unluckier as they plummeted to their deaths.
But still, that was only delaying the inevitable as the wyvern riders approached and sprayed out a purple breath that blanketed the area around the caravan. The purple cloud quickly enveloped the ones guarding the caravan.
Maribell could feel a burning sensation spread. Her body could hardly focus as every part of her exposed skin got a large dose of wyvern poison. She covered her mouth as to not breath it in, as getting the stuff in your lungs was fatal. Fortunately, the others knew this as well, so they made sure to protect themselves.
With a swoosh of wind created by the flapping of wyvern wings, the purple cloud cleared. A man with an eyepatch greeted them with a victorious smile.
“Why, welcome! My name is Gorshect, and I’m here to make a deal with you. If you want to live, then you’ll give us that cure of yours for Wyvern Pox. I’ll even leave some for all of you, free of charge. We’ll handle the distribution of the stuff, with a little charge of course. And you all will have completed your mission. Isn’t that just perfect?”
While the first impulse was not to give into thieves, what could they do about their current situation? Each of them where suffering from a strong burning sensation that would keep them from fighting at their best. And they were vastly outnumbered. The man named Gorshect was clearly controlling the flying beasts, and if he wasn’t taken out immediately, then they would all descend upon them.
Given these circumstances, many people would say that they had no choice but to surrender their goods. They could always send word to make more. Another caravan could come with stronger fighters. There was no reason for them to sacrifice their lives.
Wendy and Bobo were ready to agree. They could create more medicine if they survived. The people in the Evergem regions would have to hold out for another two weeks, if they couldn’t afford these men’s terms. But then, another voice spoke out for them.
“No, I refuse! You don’t plan to save anyone but the rich. You’ll leave most of them to die and then move on to another region, another place to spread your plague.”
Maribell spoke loud and clear. Unlike the others, she not only heard Gorshect’s petty scheme, but also the entire plan that was laid out in his mind. She knew that he wouldn’t stop at this. He would use the money to gather more people, get stronger equipment, and create a continual cycle of death and exploitation.
Maribell couldn’t stomach the man’s vile thoughts of ambition and the utter disregard for the lives he would trample upon. In her mind, his existence was inexcusable. He was a person that had to be stopped at all costs.
And she had only one way of doing that.
A bright light shone from her, causing everyone present to shield their eyes. And when that glare faded, a large book hovered in her hands. A book that leaked out a malicious aura – a Grimoire.
Those present stared in shock as they realized who Maribell was – a Witch. A being of frightening power. That which caused calamity and destruction if she were to crack open the very pages that were now flapping in the wind.
But Maribell didn’t care.
Perhaps, Snazzy would help her with the fallout afterwards. Perhaps, even this was a futile effort. That wasn’t important now. Her heart refused to bend to what others thought of her. Snazzy had been the one to teach her that.
Her sole focus turned to punishing the man who was the root cause of this tragedy. And for that, she had no choice but to rely on the Grimoire of Lies.