Young Love?

by Hawl Enroygall

  Malakai woke up having pretended to have been sick since the curse claimed him. All day he had buried himself in his room, not letting Grandmother Amare or Sargosa find out that he was lying about being a woman under a curse giving him the guise of a man. Malakai realized this was going to happen and he’d blow his cover, but something had gone horribly wrong with his spell. It was Malakai’s intention to have two curses at once, reflecting his subconscious and his true dedication to the Flesinoir. Two of them, the animal curse of the Third Gate and the gender bending curse of the Second Gate, leading him to become a female squid with which he could mutate into an impressive form and with the capability to lay eggs and become a mother. She would be not a prince an impressively macabre Flesinoir queen. One that would kill Grandmother Amare and Sargosa before leaving Metamor Keep. Things however didn’t quite turn out that way as no matter how much he thought of the idea and convinced himself that he had to, killing Sargosa and Grandmother Amare just felt wrong. Like if he did so he’d feel bad, like he’d miss them. Malakai found this most queer as he was quite unrepentant of all the killing he had done for the flesinoir since he was a mere babe. Yet now this raccoon and rabbit had somehow poisoned his heart with these feelings of affection and love.

  Malakai couldn’t rationalize it. It wasn’t the first time he played the game of befriend a kindly stranger and kill them in a freak accident to erase any trace you were there, and he had never felt any guilt the previous times he did this. Zyhx had offered to do the killing instead, but the most difficult to believe for Malakai of all was that he had actually ordered Zyhx not harm Sargosa or Grandmother Amare. Malakai could tell Zyhx didn’t like this, but he did outrank him so that was that.

  Malakai hadn’t seen Zyhx lately, who had transformed into a rather magnificent and horrifying emperor scorpion. Malakai being a flesinoir, a cult obsessed with mutating flesh into macabre shapes,  was practically in love with how frightful and menacing Zyhx now looked. It was so elegant a painting of creative destruction that Malakai practically wanted to marry Zyhx. Perhaps Zyhx could have made a fitting father had Malakai’s original plan of becoming a female squid-beast had been pulled off. Instead what his visage now resembled was something truly worthy of his fear. Something so hideous that the most revolting of all the monstrosities the Flesinoir had turned them into would have puked at upon knowing one of their own had taken this form. Malakai got up at of bed and looked towards a dusty old mirror that looked like it had not been cleaned since Duke Thomas had feet instead of hooves and gazed upon a terrifying aftermath of two curses working in unison, a five year old child who resembled a fluffy white rabbit so cute he could easily be mistaken for a very well crafted doll. “Gahhh! I’m… No… This visage is so vibrant and full of life, so beautiful and reflective of nature’s natural raw brilliance… The exact OPPOSITE of the Flesinoir vision.”

  The white rabbit prince had studied his notes several times to try and come to an understanding of how and why this had occurred yet all he been able to figure out what was that something in his subconscious really wanted him to have a form resembling a small rabbit-like child. As though this combination of blood and flesh was somehow inscribed into his very soul, fitting like the perfect armor. Very efficient, not too light, not too heavy, it took him a while to realize it but he didn’t even feel the slightest bit of the sensation known as Body Dysphoria that normally occurred from botched transformations. Malakai had no idea how this made sense, or how many people would burn down both this reality and the world that follows for a gift as glorious as this one.

  Malakai rose from his bed and realized he had to act. Eventually Amare or Sargosa would check on him by entering the room and it was better that they find nothing as opposed to finding a confused lapine child and it was the Fleisnoir way to learn new things when possible. Thus the Flesinoir Prince was left but with one option. Sneak out of the house and see where it was that Sargosa had done schooling. There was a rumor Malakai had heard that the Keepers had a public school funded by the noble’s taxes. Something that if true Malakai would find truthfully amazing as those with coin aren’t necessarily those worthy to wield power, something he hoped that his God would fix once summoned into this world. The land of the Flesinoir in Malakai’s mind was one where all where all who wished to seek power were free to have it and all those idiots who felt it necessary to be humble towards those who have power well they would kindly get their wish as test subjects. A beautiful world in Malakai’s mind where as long as one didn’t mind having their consciousness expanded and a few extra tentacles added to their person they could be an amazing scholar of the dark magical arts while anyone lacking imagination or clinging on to these insane notions of the laws of nature or the will of Eli or that of any of those Lothanasi types.

  Hiding his Flesinoir texts under his bed and trusting that Amare wouldn’t bother them and knowing full well that the beautiful Sargosa would be attending classes alongside him. All he had to do was pretend not to be the same person he was a couple of days ago.

  Sargosa awaited at a bench placed on the path to Keeptown, her friend Raleigh now a moth with a Mage’s Guild job who didn’t have to go to school anymore. Sargosa was happy for her friend though found herself hungry for company in her absence as looked up into the sky trying to find shapes in the clouds. It had been a little game she used to play with Raleigh, trying to read one another’s fortunes by constructing tall tales out of what clouds looked like. It was very rare anything ever came out of it outside of a coincidence here or there, unlike stars or enchanted cards, clouds had no astral properties and thus couldn’t predict the future accurately. Still cloud readings were fun and the stories the two had come up with were amusing.

  After looking at the sky for a solid 3 minutes the raccoon girl began to connect some pieces. “The Prince Of Bunnies shall come and take the lonely girl on a Grand Adventure!” Sargosa declared with glee. “To find a cauldron of wishes and…. and...”

  “And what will you wish for?” The white rabbit child that was Malakai walked forward dressed in a brightly coloured blue tunic with green leggings draped over thick wide legs of an unmistakably lapine nature.

  “I’d wish for my Auntie back…” Sargosa said, looking over the kid. “Hmph, I’m unsurprised to see you like this Malakai.”

  Malakai felt a chill, as though a snake made of ice decided to wrap around his spinal cord and bite his neck. “How… How could you possibly know that?”

  Sargosa smiled baring her fangs to the bunny. “You have secrets of your own Malakai, and I have mine. For starters..” The girl held out her paw in an open palm and conjured an hourglass made entirely of a black flame.

  Malakai looked this over the hourglass seemed to solidify its black colouring turning a paler colour and gaining a very sickly image to it, as if the hourglass would turn to dust if one breathed on it too hard. It was the curse within Malakai, or rather one of the two, in physical form. Looking closely one could see that there was blackened charred sand, no not sand, ash at the top of it that just wouldn’t go into the bottom. “You’re a rather talented mage. Would the curse in me end if you destroyed this?”

  Sargosa shook her head. “No one alive or undead has THAT power. This is just the manifestation of the abomination of nature coursing through the human portion of your blood.” she giggled placing the hourglass on the ground.

  Malakai took a few steps back from Sargosa a little afraid at this point. The hourglass she had summoned reacted violently flashing between red and purple before turning into dust and surrounding Malakai before disappearing into his aura. “I… I…”

  “You thought I was just some dumb little kid?” Sargosa gave her most sinister and evil smile. “I don’t know why you pretended to have the curse already, and I don’t think it was by accident that you carry it now.”

  “Sargosa… you’re scaring me.” Malakai hyperventilated.

  “My Aunt is DEAD, murdered, and you’re the most suspicious person I can think of. Do you think you’re not scaring me?” The raccoon walked up to the rabbit and much like a dog began to sniff over him. “Give me a damn good reason, why I shouldn’t pretend to have found your guts cut out by a lutin who conveniently ran away!”

  Malakai thought this over for a few seconds breathing heavily, he was visibly scared much like a hare in the wild staring down a hungry fox. “Because… I’m your best chance at finding the scorpion who killed her.”

  Sargosa cackled like an insane murderous little hen that happened to be furry and striped. “A Scorpion you say? That’s already an amazing lead. So I find the would-be assassin of Ms. Porcupine and I find the one I need to rip the entrails out of.”

  “You?” Malakai raised an eyebrow. “You are only a child.”

  “And still the toughest little tramp you’ve ever seen.” Sargosa’s smile grew more sinister, Malakai swore he could see a glint of pure evil in her eyes. “I have more questions for you hare. PROVIDED! That you can survive a deadly trial!”

  “And what would that be, child?” Malakai was most curious to hear this challenge.

  Sargosa held an ear out and grinned. “An idiot trying to educate young children. Mwhahahahaha~” she cackled as a cart full of children some with fur, some with scales, some with feathers, and most with regular human flesh had arrived being driven by a snuggly Panda with two horses pulling it.

  The day flew by as Malakai paid close attention to the classes, people kept asking him questions about where he came from and who his parents were, but he dodged them with refusals to answer and changing the subject. Sargosa and the teachers were all very shocked at how well he was able to focus on a variety of subjects taught. Almost like he was a genius mage of high level magicks who only looked like a child, but of course no one would suspect that unless he was TOO obvious. Though to be too obvious for Metamor Keep one would have to run through the countryside lighting the buildings on fire and turning the kids into talking hats or something of that nature.

  After school Sargosa and Malakai walked through Keeptown wandering aimlessly with no real goal in mind. Malakai became on edge as Sargosa started to look disappointed. The rabbit was about to ask what the raccoon had on her mind when suddenly she confessed. “Ya know, when I had found you in that body, I thought I had something in mind. I don’t really. I do find you suspicious, but I also don’t have anyone to play with as my best friend turned into a moth around the time she started entering womanhood and my Auntie is dead because of Zyhx.”

  “Aging or gender change?” Malakai honestly couldn’t tell which Sargosa meant as he watched a blonde female blacksmith inspecting a sword she had just finished taking out a bin. A woman who looked far too pretty for her trade, then again so did the knights. Perhaps it was a quality of the curse to help women who used to be men and still act very much like men continue to look just as stunning as a woman who put above average effort into their appearance.

  “Aging, you were at my friend Raleigh’s birthday party alongside me.” Sargosa threw herself onto Malakai’s shoulder. “To be honest, I’m lonely and needed someone to run amuck with, but my heart’s not in it.”

  “You don’t want to kill me?” Malakai was confused. “You suspect me of being responsible for your aunt’s death and you just wanted someone to be your friend.”

  “Oh I still want to kill you, I just wanna know how much fun I can have with you first.” Sargosa looked up at the clouds. “I’m out of ideas really, if I were a writer then telling a tale of a Bearded High Mage Scholar from Pallowtry wearing an unremovable disguise of a little raccoon girl after discovering the Philospher’s Stone and her mysterious rabbit boyfriend would be a great way to stall for time while my brain thinks.”

  “You weren’t a girl before you came here?” Malakai raised an eyebrow.

  “No I definitely was, the Mightiest Female Pirate of Arabarb and a real cutthroat! Came to Metamor because my boys were going to mutiny and I just didn’t feel like killing them all. Not worth the effort of my Super Form!” Sargosa laughed playfully as she made a bunch of magic sounding woosh noises, the kind kids made when they pretended to be wizards and cast spells on each other.

  “...That’s a completely different story from the first one.” Malakai groaned.

  “Yeah, I learned the art of telling tall tales from my dad growing up in Sondeshara where he taught me how to shave. Course I had to kill him though, because he was a Were-Boar who gored my mother on his tusk!” Sargosa sighed. “That’s why I live with Grandmother Amare, always wanted a mommy…”

  “Now you’re just messing with me.” Malakai grew bored of this Multiple Choice Backstory game.

  “Then where did I get this?” Sargosa found a nearby bench and opened her school satchel. Malakai seemed unnerved when she pulled out an old tome of spells written in a tongue too complicated for any non-mage to decipher no matter how much of a linguist they happened to be.

  Malakai picked up the book and examined it closely “Isn’t that the Grimoire Of The Grand Stage? Do you have any idea what you need to go through to get a copy of this? They don’t just sell it at any book store, you have to pull it straight from the void! My father owns a copy and he’s never let anyone seen it, how do YOU of all people…?”

  “Like I said, Philospher’s Stone. I made one, but then I painted it to look like an ordinary rock and left it inside of a mine so the people who were onto me would never get their hands on it.” Sargosa giggled, this story was a complete lie and on some level Malakai knew that.

  “So you were the Mage, that’s the true story.” Malakai snapped. “You play a very convincing minx of a girl, full of feminine mischievous wiles, perhaps this gender is your true calling?”

  “But if that’s the case, where did I get THIS?” Sargosa reached into her satchel and pulled out a very familiar looking pirate flag, one with a purple background with two Green Hourglasses intersecting in the middle.

  “Captain Britney Becker of the Times-Up Pirates? You aren’t as innocent as you seem, you’ve murdered, pillaged, and raped so many. What is it like to be a man raped by a woman I wonder? You never hear of it happening, some argue it can’t happen because a man would enjoy it. Especially if Britney is as beautiful as they say, still those who claim it happened to them do not paint a pretty picture.” Malakai looked towards the book Sargosa pulled out of the satchel, a black tome with pink page and on the front the symbols of the masks of Comedy and Tragedy. “Of course, Becker disappeared at sea day. You must have stolen the Grimoire from a very influential party, of course you had to come here! Amare doesn’t question how long you’ve been here because you’ve used the magick in this tome to make her uncurious about your aging or lack thereof!”

  Sargosa’s smile began to twist. “Am I truly the worst criminal you’ve ever seen?”

  “Not at all Becker, my manservant Zyhx has killed many people on my command and my magick has twisted them to inhuman shapes. Even in Death. Now that he’s transformed into the arachnid shape he has now he should be far more deadly than you ever were.” Malakai reached for the Grimoire of the Grand Stage hoping to have a look at this copy while Sargosa was pulling out one more thing from her satchel.

  “Yeah I was hoping you’d say something like that, it makes the last thing I have to show you so much worse news for you.” Sargosa said in a near monotone voice as the last thing she pulled out was the long rotted face of a humanoid pig, one with a splotch of blood on his tusk. There was some leather attached to the face to make it into a crude mask, one she put on after Malakai had a good look at it.

  “Wait, which of these stories of yours are true?” Malakai breathed in deeply, half-sure this pig face should be taken as a threat. The poor rabbit prince almost wanted to puke, almost, which was saying something given the things he’d seen.

  “All at once, and none of them.” Sargosa pulled a toy sword from her satchel next, one made out of wood and looking very crude. “What’s the most important thing to know about someone who can get these three things?”

  “Not to get on your bad side I’d assume.” Malakai put his paw away from the Grimoire out of fear at this point.

  “Pretty much.” Sargosa said, holding the toy sword up to Malakai’s neck. The blade could only give a nasty round of splinters but the gesture’s intent was still clear. “And that’s why when I ask if you want to meet me at my Aunt Vercetti’s house tonight I can trust you’ll say….?”

  Malakai was silent as he was still trying to digest what all was going around him.

  “I’ll tell you the true story of who I am if you do.” Sargosa batted her eyelashes and blew Malakai a kiss.

  “Oh sorry, yes, tonight around midnight?” Malakai asked.

  “Exactly! That way it’s all ooky spooky and maybe we can see her ghost.” Sargosa clapped in enjoyment. “If you don’t want Grandma to know the truth about you, you should stay somewhere else for now, but I’ll see ya. Tonight at midnight, and if I don’t. Well I’ll find ya. Bye” With that the raccoon girl left.

  Malakai sat there collecting his thoughts for a few minutes more. The rabbit had no idea what to make of Sargosa or if she was either a help or hinderance to him. He’d definitely need to investigate her further before making any conclusions. Perhaps she’d make a great Flesinoir with the proper training. It was during the fifteenth minute thinking that Malakai asked himself. “Wait did she call me her boyfriend?”

  Nightfall came quickly for Malakai as he pre-occupied himself with staying in Metamor’s library and reading up all he could. Fox Cutter, the librarian filling in for the usual owl Mael Murie, shooing him out at around 10pm so he could sleep was the only way he knew to even leave. Not having anywhere else to go the rabbit prince headed toward Vercetti’s shop early. The store hadn’t been bothered much or even locked since the death of the owner, between investigations from the guard, respect for the dead, and superstitions about the recently deceased few had reason to bother it.

  The store was quite comforting the first time with its high quality woodwork and a smiling gila monster ready to take your coin for anything your heart may desire, even if it did seem a little disingenuous. Especially with the dubious lines like that Inkay Squid locked in the basement that Malakai had doubted the existence of from the first second the line was uttered.

  Approaching a bookcase by some barrels Malakai looked over the tomes for sale and found a book on charisma charms. Being some what interested in not only the tactics used by Vercetti but in coming across as more trustworthy to potential converts to the grand truth he knew as the ways of the Flesinoir, the bunny opened it up and sat on a barrel. It was just when Malakai had finally gotten cozy that he heard a loud sound throw him face first from his comfy barrel.

  “BOO!” Screamed Sargosa as she jumped out of a barrel full of carrots “Ehh, what’s up doc?” she teased as she bite into a carrot slowly.

  Malakai hyperventilated as he picked himself up. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

  Sargosa hopped from the barrel and offered one of the carrots from the barrel to Malakai who ate of it greedily enjoying it far much more than he had any carrot previously. Previous carrots had tasted only of a bland vegetable, an edible root and absolutely nothing more, this carrot however gave the young lad the kind of sensation the local apothecaries of Mugal would deal only under the table. Did the curse do this? Was this just how rabbits tasted carrots? Perhaps that wasn’t the case, perhaps Malakai wasn’t as he feared in the back of his mind as he greedily adopting all mannerisms and intricacies of the lapine. Maybe there is some form of enchantment or potion of eye of newt upon these vegetables that is giving them some kind of a kick. These were all lies of course just a foolish lapine in denial of how much the curse was affecting the process of his thoughts.

  “Alright Sargosa, what have you brought me here for?” Malakai asked his curiosity peaked as somehow he doubted that he was present. “Somehow I doubt it was to feast on the carrots of a beloved dearly departed.”

  “Actually, you’d be right. I have something far more sinister in mind.” Sargosa raised her left hand high which due to her magick immediately set ablaze and turned an ashen black. “Get it, because that also means left-handed.”

  “You better be careful who you show that trick to….” Malakai pointed towards Sargosa’s burning hand, he could think of at least three kingdoms he had known of where just writing with one’s left hand was enough to get you executed. This trick would have people screaming that the daedra were upon them like the hammer of the gods. Malakai found it quite amusing that people scared so easily at anything no matter how minor that they perceived to be a sin when the unholy abominations of the Flesinoir not only existed but if unleashed upon the world what a scream that would be. The very Earth would become tainted flesh and the trees upon it would be like tumors coated with blood and pus, all minerals would become bones and meat. There was always a more horrifying demon and a brighter light than whatever one believed was the threshold and would be the case for as long as there were those who practiced magick, or at least those who held a pen.

  “I know what I’m doing little bunny bunny.” Sargosa said reaching into her barrel and throwing an old silken bag that caught Malakai’s eye, mainly because it was of a material he hadn’t seen before. It seemed as though it were silk, but something about the texture that he just couldn’t place seemed off. “Little thing from Yamoto that my auntie picked up at a fair showing old treasures found at the keep. This thing’s been at Metamor since the year 666, wooooo, am I kidding? No, I actually am not.”

  “I’ve heard their people have yellow skin and slanted eyes that look closed, what freaks they must be.” Malakai gagged with disgust, he had heard the people were drunken rice farmers and he wanted little to do with them. Though this was about all he knew of Yamoto to his confession.

  “Said the permanently six years old talking rabbit boy.” Sargosa teased wriggling her little fingers at the rabbit before beginning to tickle Malakai who threw himself to the floor with laughter.

  “Wha...wha… what’s in the bag Sargosa…hahahaha…HAHAHAHA! Stop, stop, unhand me you vile manling.. Woman-ling… hahahahahaa....” Malakai was laughing so hard that he would soon be out of breathe and his own lungs gasping out for air with various pain signals from the center of his nervous system.

  Sargosa chuckled clearly having her fun as she let up to pull an object from the bag, one that looked like a flat plank of wood. “Okay, but seriously. This thing, requires more than one person to use it. The magick on it is easy to use but it’s kind of hard to keep up the innocent little girl routine when you use something like this.”

  Malakai looked towards the board which seemed to be rather ancient, it had to have been at least sixty years old at the youngest though what kind of wood it was made of was entirely beyond his ability to recognize. Upon the board was engraved various letters and numbers. All the letters A through Z, numbers listed 0 to 9, with “Yes” and “No” written on the bottom in the common tongue of the humans from this region. The rabbit placed his paw over the board attempt to feel the carvings but he found himself unable to do so a wall of green light acted as a barrier between him and the board. “Most peculiar item”

  “Aunt Vercetti told me about it, it’s called a Spirit Board. If you bring a group of mundane people then together as a group you can create enough magick to contact the dead without any adverse effects. It’s supposed to be twice as effective if you actually bring it where someone died. Ordinarily we’d need a group of five, however given that we’re both magically strong we can do it with two.” Sargosa explained showing that she could not touch the surface of the board either, though she could carry it from the side or underside.

  “Why two and not one? We are no neophytes in the arts.” Malakai wanted to know.

  “If the spirits have to go through both of us at once we’re harder to possess, a protective barrier on the Spirit Board won’t even let you try by yourself.” Sargosa pushed harder on the surface on the board only for the barrier to appear even stronger. “You could contact the dead, or you may find a demon pretending to be someone you cared about on the other side.”

  “And you want to speak to your aunt.” Malakai put two and two together and this was the best conclusion he could muster up.

  “I’d kill you where you stand just to have another day with her.” Sargosa looked up with puppy dog eyes as she rubbed under the bunny’s chin. “Which would be a shame because you’re rather cute.”

  “Do you really think that or are you just trying to charm me?” Malakai blushed a little, he truly was enjoying the fact that the raccoon had a paw on her. He would have enjoyed more of her touch. Nothing sexual, the curse had rendered him too young to feel anything stirring in his loins. What he was not too young to feel was the embrace of someone he had grown to care so fondly for over his time in Metamor Keep, someone of such pure innocence and playful ways when he had seen nothing but the darkest sins imaginable. The fact that this Sargosa woman fancied him too to a degree and had in turn captivated his heart meant more to him than anything else.

  “A little bit of both Mr. Fluffy Bunny” Sargosa laughed placing her paw on the Spirit Board. “Well, place your paw on mine and we can begin.”

  Malakai and Sargosa joined their paws together onto the board and upon doing so a small glass bubble big enough to highlight only one of the letters of the board at a time formed on the board. The two could feel an otherworldly power coursing through their very veins, though the two children were full of life they could feel the very essence of the hereafter circulating through their blood and giving the children the strangest feeling. It was as though the raccoon and rabbit were warm and intact on the outside but in their inside they felt so cold and as though their skeleton and organs had been replaced with some strange ichor. The two’s eyes became a glow with a strange indescribable colour that neither of them would be able to tell anyone else about as neither looked to the other, both were entirely transfixed upon the spirit board.

  “Auntie Vercetti! I call out to you in the name of Sargosa!” Spoke the raccoon, daring not to even blink as she looked at the board.

  Nothing happened, for about forty five seconds when Malakai decided to take a look at the board’s placement of letters and words suddenly getting an idea about how it was meant to be used. “Is the spirit of Vercetti among us?” he asked.

  The two felt their paws instantly against their will heading towards where the board was marked Yes.

  “Okay, Sargosa, anything we say has to be in the form of a question.” Malakai announced.

  “Kind of got that figured out Chief.” Sargosa elbowed the bunny a little. “Auntie Vercetti, I have to know. Who was the one who killed you?”

  As much as he tried to fight it fearing the answer would shock Sargosa and make her despite him, he couldn’t help the movements of his arm. “Z-Y-H-X” the two read aloud.

  “Huh, that’s completely gibberish….. Can you do any better than that Auntie?” Sargosa was confused and not really sure what these letters meant when spelt. No matter how hard the child forced her tongue she couldn’t sound out anything that Z-y-h-x could possibly spell. Malakai was grateful for this as he knew damn well it was the spelling of his man servant's name Zyhx, pronounced Zicks.

  The two’s arms continued to get jerked around as the deceased Vercetti begin to really get talkative. Sargosa began to shout every single letter.

  “H-O-L-D-O-N-L-E-T-M-E-T-H-I-N-K-O-N-H-O-W-I-N-E-E-D-Y-O-U-T-O-H-E-L-P-M-E-S-A-V-E-T-H-E-M-T-H-E-F-L-E-S-I-N-O-I-R-K-I-L-L-E-D-M-E-T-H-E-R-E-I-S-A-S-A-V-A-G-E-K-I-L-L-E-R-A-F-T-E-R-X-H-Y-Z.” Sargosa called out the letter though she wasn’t able to actually put any words together because of how fast they were spelled out. Malakai however had his mind modified by the Flesinoir and thus had a huge difficulty forgetting things.

  The rabbit fearful that spirit of Vercetti would give away too much immediately took his hand off the board. “Sorry she was going too fast for me, did you catch any of that?”

  “Not really, but I know when you are lying. You killed Vercetti didn’t you, you bastard!” Sargosa growled at the rabbit before shoving him down and running back to the barrel of carrots and reaching inside for something special.

  “I swear…. I didn’t.” Malakai could have made some quip about how force feeding him carrots would only result in a swollen belly and not much else, however Malakai realized Sargosa would take anything outside of complete fear would be perceived as a threat. The raccoon was the kind of person who needed to feel like she was the one in control or she would use worse wild cards than usual. An individual like this was rare, but dangerous. “Sargosa, I had nothing to do with it…. Zyhx was the one who….”

  “I knew you’d sell me out you weakling.” Spoke a haunting voice that ordinarily brought comfort to Malakai instead sent a shiver down his spine. Ascending through the floorboard came the mighty visage of a powerful Emperor Scorpion, a green one covered in light magenta, almost pink-ish polkadots. The visage was ridiculous, but was welcomed by the arachnid as Green and Purple were the colors of the Flesinoir. The scorpion that Zyhx had become was garbed  in robes, not the mysterious black robes the Flesinoir had been wearing for some time to show that they were of a forbidden group but without revealing which one, but instead purple robes adorned with green symbols that were what many mages referred to as the Flower Of Life from the Sacred Geometry. “I’ve noticed you, you’re more kind to Amare and the brat than you are to your own father. My suspicions were confirmed where when my curse was set to change me into a form matching my own inner self, the brutal majesty of the Emperor Scorpion…..”

  Zyhx clacked his mighty scorpion pincers rhythmically for emphasis. “And you… a bunny… a child… something so cute. A perfect form for your pedophillac smittening by the rugrat.”

  The scorpion approached at first slowly but Zhyx became far more beastial as he increased speed, switching from a bipedal scorpion to what the Keepers referred to as a taur form. “Six legs… six wonderful… powerful legs… father would be so proud…”

  “So you’re the one who tried to attack Pascal too!” Sargosa glared reaching further down the carrot barrel. “Your body is discolored, she must have thrown her dyes at you. When she reforms into a solid shape again I’ll be happy to tell her how I took care of you!”

  “Child, you can feed me all the carrots you like. Your transformation into a lifeless corpse will not be delayed in the slightest.” Zyhx charged at Malakai and pinned him by his neck against the wall, the sharp pincer snipping at the rabbit boy’s neck. “You know Malakai, the Flesinoir do not enter the afterlife like others. They become one with Azatoth’s madness, their sanity being washed away as they become synonymous with the cosmos themselves. I am not sure if I should be jealous of what I’m about to do to you or if you should be horrified.”

  “Those called back from Azatoth do tend to share in a madness some find painful, and some find pleasant” Malakai spoke making peace with his fate. “What are you going to tell my father? The Dead Emperor, Leader of the Flesinoir. Surely he’ll be angered that you had slain me.”

  “I’ll tell him that he has lost a son, but gained an experiment.” Zhyx replied as he raised his tail and plunged his stinger towards Malakai’s forehead aiming right for his mind’s eye.

  Malakai closed his eyes and calmly accepted his fate, he would not raise arms against the Flesinoir even if his life depended on it. True Malakai was strong enough to slay his scorpion manservant if he desired to, but to die in the manner would not be so bad if it was truly for the Flesinoir. The rabbit waited for himself to be parted from his body, it is simply amazing how time stands still right in those dying moments. Is this what it means to have one’s life flash right before their eyes? Malakai didn’t see anything except for the inside of his own eyelids. “Zyhx, I understand that you can’t let Sargosa live, but you can at least give her the chance to run away…. Zyhx? Zyhx?”

  Malakai opened his eyes and saw that the venomous stinger had indeed connected, to a carrot that Sargosa had thrown. The rabbit was quite amused by the fact that the reason the Emperor Scorpion had not killed him was that Sargosa was pelting him with carrots.

  “Eat up!” Sargosa cackled a bunch of carrots in her left hand as she threw with her right.

  Zyhx let go of Malakai who fell to his soft tush, and ran towards the raccoon.

  “You don’t want any of this!” Sargosa taunted

  “A carrot does not inflict pain, I will show you how to do that when I eat you alive BEFORE I kill you.”

  “Well duh, you can’t eat me alive if I’m not alive.” Sargosa stuck her tongue out before throwing three carrots. Two of them did nothing to slow the vicious arachnid garbed in an outfit colored of grape juice, but the third seemed to explode on impact knocking Zyhx back. There was no major damage to his exoskeleton, but the pain had left him recoiling somewhat. “That’s right I can make Magick Missiles that look exactly like these carrots!”

  Zyhx realized that this meant that he would have to dodge every single carrot that Sargosa had to throw without any way to tell which were real and which weren’t. The scorpion pondered his next move and then put it into action charging up to Sargosa and smashing the carrot barrel. The edible root was now everywhere spread out as far as the eye can see. To make matters worse Sargosa’s carrots had also been dropped onto the floor.

  “Huh… I can’t throw a carrot without picking it up first, giving you an idea which are real….” Sargosa looked towards the broken barrel and saw the object she had been fishing for just laying on the ground ready for the taking. With hope in her eyes and a smile in her heart, Sargosa ran towards the precious object managing to avoid a quick pincer swipe as she turned the run into a slide across the floor.

  “Come to mama!” Sargosa cheered as her hands gripped an object that could turn this whole situation onto its ear, a wooden toy sword. “Now I have the mighty Fissuresk!”

  “A wooden sword is your ace in the hole?” Malakai stepped forward shaking his head. “I don’t really see what you can do with that, but, I will help you! I...”

  The rabbit took a few steps back from Zyhx, he looked for a weapon of some kind before realizing that he now had claws. Extending a few claws and reciting the words to a basic fire spell Malakai realized he had a choice to make here. He could stand with Zyhx or with Sargosa, a tool to discard when need arose or a cunning metaphorical minx who could potentially be made into the Princess of the Flesinoir. “Zyhx, I’m afraid your services will no longer be necessary, I outrank you and it will be YOUR corpse I will explain to father!”

  “This!” Sargosa cried activating her own taur form forcing herself onto four legs, fearlessly with these four feet she walked right up to the scorpion and made herself look big and intimidating by standing on her hindpaws. On head level with Zyhx she began to repetitiously bludgeon Zyhx again and again until the arachnid’s exoskeleton began to crack.

  “Ow… ow… stop this at once… ow….” Zyhx covered his head with his pincers and scurried away, with his outer shell beginning to crack and the possibility of Malakai joining the fight the scorpion realized he could be vanquished here. “Watch the shadows, both of you will die.”

  With his former manservant gone Malakai looked to Sargosa with a smile, Sargosa smiled back. The two held one another closer and pressed their lips together. Though they were children in form their tongues only knew how to join together the way they did because they had already known adulthood even if their minds and bodies weren’t entirely geared for it anymore. Since both seemed to be around 6-8, Malakai having no idea if he could make himself any older or not, this was about as eroctic as the two of them could get. Yet with having survived a killer as vicious and effective as Zyhx, this guilty display of the innocent was well deserved. “Sargosa… You do know that anything killed by the Flesinoir becomes itself a Flesinoir right?”

  “How can I? Your cult’s not been on the map since the Sondeckis and Kankoran called themselves buddies, of course the Flesinoir almost taking over the world… Okay not the point. The point is how does that help me now.”

  “The Flesinoir are capable of resurrecting their own through their Flesh Pools, we could only be defeated back then because one brave Sondeckis plunged his Sondeshike into the Flesh Pool.” Malakai snickered, his hands clasping together so malevolently. “It took us FOREVER to build another or even know where to start, but there is one more in the town of Mugal and I do know Sondeshikes are harder to come by than back then.”

  “You can give me my Auntie back?” Sargosa’s eyes lit up.

  “If Zyhx really killed her, yes. I suspect the only reason you were able to summon her here is because you had someone who shared her newfound connection to Azatoth.” Malakai explained looking over towards where the spirit board was, or rather where it used to be. “Zyhx took it on his way out…..”

  “Do we need it?” Sargosa asked.

  “No, but I’d have loved to study it.” Malakai forced his shapechanging Flesinoir robes to a spectacular full body armor of blackened leather with a long flowing red cape. “Come my lady, an associate left me some rather swift Flesinoir beasts of burden we can ride back with, and then I will give you. Your Auntie back.”

  “Oh Malakai, if our bodies were more mature I’d…. Well, it’s not proper for a maiden to bring up before she is wed.” Sargosa teased. “Get the wagon ready, we leave tonight…. But first I have do something.”

  “Of course my love.” Malakai rubbed under Sargosa’s fuzzy little chin. “I’ll wait here for.”

  On all four legs Sargosa ran into the night to find one particular girl. No one knew Sargosa was capable of entering the taur form. The difficulty in doing so combined with the amount of training required for an adult to use the shape meant that Sargosa was rather secretive about the form taking it in private and only when in a hurry to get somewhere if ever. If there was anyone who would benefit from learning from the Flesinoir there was only one to whom Sargosa could come out to who both be able to learn from the experience and would be enough of a skeptic to even not ask too many questions even after this adventure. Raleigh Chamberlain the Moth.

  Getting Raleigh’s attention without waking her parents would be simple as long as Raleigh was burning the midnight oil by shoving her insect nose into a tome on advanced magical theory. Oh how confused the bug would be if Sargosa revealed that she not only pretended to be oblivious to the meaning behind the equations in her books, but also that she had a much higher understanding of the texts than she did. Since Raleigh now had the body of a moth, there was one surefire way to get her attention. “Om….”

  Sargosa closed her eyes and shifted her focus to her very core bringing her energy from the center of her soul and forcing it to the palm of her hand with concentration and will. “OM!” and from her fingertips came forth energy that quickly assembled into a bright green ball containing the very life essence of the raccoon. To a lesser being the idea of summoning the force that binds the soul to the corporeal body thus making physical existence possible would seem like a revolutionary mind-altering event that redefines one very philosophy as here in your hand was Eli’s greatest gift. To one such as Sargosa even the biggest scale magick didn’t surprise her anymore, she had already seen it all. When you’ve seen it all you react to anything that doesn’ fall into the definiion of all not with emotion or curiosity, but survival instinct, you have no time to have your mind blown you must immediately skip to adapting to the ramifications.

  The rustling of wings and the squeaking of springs were indicators on an audible level that Sargosa’s magick was having the intended effect of attracting to her presence a moth. A humanoid moth, most specifically an actias luna. Sargosa had remembered that Raleigh was most concerned with being hideous and easily distracted by light as a result of her change, the former seemed no longer a problem. Once the change completed Raleigh began to look as though she were constantly wearing a luxurious coat not out of place for a woman of high social class, it made her look adorable. As an adult she would have quite a regal and desirable appearance because of it, Sargosa found herself salivating at the thought of what her friend would like but dismissed the thought. Even if Raleigh would have interest, a girl with another girl would be a harder sale than the fact that the raccoon wouldn’t be aging anytime ever. Oh well at least the girl reassured herself in the fact that she had a delicious young rabbit to court or kill, whichever ended up feeling more like the right thing to do.

  “Sargosa…. This ball of… life force.. Is so pretty....” Raleigh fought as hard as she could to look away, yet for all her struggles she could not manage as much as even the meekest blink.

  “Yeah, it’s mine and looking at it, unless I’m careless around arrows I’ve got a lot of time on the mortal coil. Lucky me.” Sargosa snickered absorbing the energy back into her body. “Raleigh… Do you notice anything off about me?”

  Raleigh shook her head re-orientating herself to the world outside of the light she had been staring at. “Wait how did you summon your life energy like that, that can kill you if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing…. And… wait a second… one, two, three…. Taur form? Wait, are you that shapeshifter? Hawl, what… what do you want from me? Are you here to kill me?”

  A stirring of gears counterclockwise ticked through Sargosa as she looked up at the stars. The raccoon had heard rumors of the polymorphic entity known as Hawl, nothing that she could back up with observations as she had never seen him before. No one had even spoken to her directly as no one wanted to rile up a child with the boring mundane politics of day to day grown ups such as an entity of unknown origin with the power to change bodies as easily as most can change clothing that claims falsely to be an evil wizard foretold in prophecy and confined to the dungeon, as opposed to childish things like faerie stories with mysticism and monsters. The fact that there was one with a form so malleable did mean there were limited ways to prove identiy, but Sargosa took one look at the moon and in doing so remembered the cruelties of the world and with this remembrance of the minds of malice. “You may be right to fear Hawl, or you may not. All I know is this my friend, unless I were the real Sargosa I’d have no way of knowing what a complete dweeb you are with your face buried in those books.”

  “Okay, then I’m going to need you to explain the four legs….” Raleigh believed Sargosa about her identity, the fake Sargosa would likely have tried to sell a spiel about what good friends the two are or something of that nature. A direct insult, that was the true sign of not a friend, but a best friend.

  “Metamor Keep’s been a fun place, you know, all the times I called you book worm or egghead. It was really my way of cheering you on, I was a bit of an egghead back when I was a grown-up. It lead me to being able to recognize a truly boring unfun time when I saw one.” Sargosa gave a fake yawn. “I’ve got to get a move on. A new opportunity has shown up that I must try to take full advantage of, but given my fur coat it’s a strong probability that I’ll have to be back at Metamor Keep some day. Though what I have to check out could be linked to forbidden and ancient magicks the likes of which haven’t been seen in centuries, or what a lot of the Keep’s heroes refer to as, the usual.”

  “....Umm okay… I just got an in with the Mage’s Guild, it’s kind of what I’ve been working up to my entire life. If I disappeared now it could ruin my career as an aspiring mage.”

  “I figured you’d say that, but I’d just hate myself if I didn’t offer.” Sargosa turned around and walked a few steps only stopping when Raleigh spoke up once more.

  “I… I won’t tell anyone.” Raleigh called out.

  “I know Chamberlain…. Because you are too smart to go blabbing about things you barely understand. That’s why I kept my offer so vague.” Sargosa smiled.

  The moth nodded and that was the last words shared between Sargosa and Raleigh, at least, for now. Raleigh went back to bed, it was difficult to get to sleep now that she had something to think about, so she decided to burn the midnight oil with a dusty and weighty tome. The dust of these things didn’t bug her as much now that she had the body of an insect.

  Sargosa began to head back as fast as she could to her late Auntie’s general store but found her attention taken by a red spark flying into the air and exploding into a red S with an arrow pointing downward over the main entrance separating Keeptown and Euper. An S for Sargosa the raccoon assumed especially since she saw neither floppy ear nor cotton tail of Malakai in what little of the old general store she could see.

  It was a guess that paid off as once Sargosa made her way to the gate she saw two female knights on the ground looking lifeless with Malakai smiling triumphantly over them clapping his paws together. “Don’t worry Sargosa my dear, we leave as thieves in the night. They are only comatose and trapped in a dream world of their own invention for a few hours. When they awake tomorrow they’ll just remember having the most vivid and wonderful dream feeling most refreshed. Your dissapearance alone would raise flags, there is no reason for any more killing.”

  Sargosa nodded slowly. “How are we getting out of here?”

  “Regorez took what we refer to only by the simple title of Beasts Of Burden, a Flesinoir creature faster than any horse. When he left with Leo he had instructions to leave the beasts he took here where myself and Zyhx could find them. Zyhx is the Keepers’ problem now.” Malakai took one last look back at Metamor Keep. “I’m kind of glad Klaus told Regorez to come here with Hawl. I’m not sure why… but I’m glad he screwed up and that I came here, it’s a beautiful place, with beautiful women.”

  Sargosa looked coy and whether she pretended to accept the compliment or she was genuinely flattered she didn’t know. “This chest will never be full, thus I know you lie.”

  “Eh… I’ve always been into older women, but perhaps I’ll find more luck with someone... “ Malakai grabbed Sargosa’s paw and proceeded to kiss it. “My own age.”