Chapter 21: A sentiment of a simpler time.
Lofan ran. He had been running for some time. All the way from Cozzlanga in fact he was back in the tunnel that passed through his village. Lofan feared that he would not be able to move his feet again if he stopped. So Lofan ran, clutching the Kindling to his body with his mind.
He had never expected his journey to turn out how it had, to end up with the power to turn his mind’s power into a blade, to have such trouble getting the Kindling, to have had such fine companions in Dookie and Hammer. Still, he could not believe that he finally had it. He was inclined to never accept a request from Petil ever again.
He missed his home. He was so close now, but to Lofan it felt as if time had stopped, that he was shorn off from the rest of reality into some dreadful pocket reality, doomed to forever run holding the Kindling tight down an endless road. He was also getting a horrible sense of deja vu.
Lofan was broken from his mindless soul rending flight by a crackling noise.
Then a red tear in reality exploded before him, crimson flames licking at the surroundings, transporting them away. Well, some of them simply went on fire. One mushroom grew wings and flapped away. A number of bulbcaps shattered. A number of patches of dimgrasses weaved themselves into mats or more interesting shapes. Well, interesting in that they didn’t seem terribly possible, even by Elcon’s standards, loose as those are.
Lofan, would have ran and hid, not due to any kind of cowardice but more due to the common sense that sticking around mysterious environment altering tears in reality isn’t the best of ideas. Unfortunately for Lofan he had stopped, and as he had been running for quite some time his feet had seized up inside his oinkskin boots. He was stuck in place.
He hoped that he would not be struck by the flames from the portal and turned into a cylinder man or something worse.
Lofan closed his eyes and hid the Kindling behind his back as one final plume of flame washed out from the tear. When he opened them, it was gone completely, and lying in the middle of the path was a fuzzy sack of fur with two paws, and two handpaws. It was adorned with an obscene amount of jewellery. It was Gildenstan Goldie of course, head first in the ground and looking a bit worse for wear. He seemed to have lost a lot of fur. Red electricity ran across his jewellery and his corpulent mass of a body twitched and jiggled. Goldie was about the size of six conepeople in one being, so to Lofan this was a quite a large horrific sight.
Lofan grimaced and waited for his feet to regain feeling. He was able to move again before Goldie was, though Lofan was sure to keep the Kindling out of what he thought was Goldie’s line of sight as he sneaked carefully around the shewpog’s twitching form.
“Hey, hey you, coneperson don’t be afraid, I’ll give you a ring if you tell me where I am” Goldie said.
Lofan was momentarily confused. Then he realised that Goldie didn’t know who he was, he couldn’t have known. To Gildenstan Goldie, Lofan was just some unusually untimid coneperson.
“u-uh one of the tunnels leading through cozzlanga sir” Lofan said, trying his best to sound unnerved. “you can keep your ring, i-i don’t need it”
Goldie snorted. “Nonsense”.
All at once Goldie tumbled free of the ground and then stood upright, dusting himself off.
He pulled a ring from one of his digits and held it out to Lofan.
“Don’t be shy, all actions have worth, and there is nothing wrong with accepting pay for services rendered!” Goldie proclaimed magnanimously
Lofan was slowly backing away, but Goldie was following after him.
“N-no really it is fine, I don’t need a reward for helping another fellow denizen out” Lofan said.
Goldie however would not be denied. He was that sort of unreasonable person.
“I insist. Take the ring” Goldie offered it again.
Then Goldie stopped “Ah, you can’t pick it up, you are holding something aren’t you”
Goldie tried to see but Lofan kept the Kindling out of sight. They circled around each other.
“You don’t need to be so cautious, I won’t steal it”
-You would, if you knew what I have- Lofan thought.
“I have plenty of things of my own, does this look like the face of a dishonest man?” Goldie attempted to smile disarmingly. Lofan grimaced the weird magical flames had not been kind to Goldie’s face, not that the original was at all pretty.
They danced around a bit more.
“Come come, you need only set down your burden and take up this ring, I’m sure it is worth more than whatever you are carrying anyway”
Lofan was sure it wasn’t, but that was besides the point.
Finally Goldie got fed up. “Just take the ring already!” He flung it at Lofan, who failed to dodge. Not only did it hit him square between the eyes it also caused Lofan to trip. This in turn revealed to Goldie what Lofan was carrying.
“Ah” Goldie said.
“ehehe” Lofan laughed nervously. “well i’ll just be going now, goodbye!”
With that, Lofan stood up from the ground and began walking away.
“Heyyy, wait a minute, wait a minute here!” Goldie charged in front of Lofan.
“That artefact is mine!” Goldie claimed.
“you must be mistaken sir, this is just some straw, tied with an orange ribbon, that i am going to use to help revive a fire” Lofan said.
“Oh, all right.”
With that, Lofan walked off again, quite glad that it seemed that whatever had transported Goldie had scrambled his brain a bit.
“Heyyy, wait a minute, wait a minute here!” Goldie charged in front of Lofan again.
“That is actually the Kindling, it even glows with the glow of flames!”
Indeed the Kindling was glowing from being so close to Lofan.
“you sure this isn’t some other kindling?” Lofan suggested.
“I’m sure” Goldie snapped. “Now give it here thief!”
“thief? if anyone should be called a thief it should be you, i and my companions got this from the mountain it was in fair and square”
“Oh please, I merely hired a thief, you however took the Kindling, I mean who put it in the mountain?”
“i don’t know, but i’m hardly going to hand it over to you just because my ownership might be in doubt! i have a firefolk to revive and i’m not going to be stopped now!”
“Oh, well I’ll see about that!” Goldie challenged.
Goldie tore some of his jewellery off his body and threw it into the air, it swirled around and formed the crude shape of a sword, though one without a sharp edge. He caught the sword with one hand then stepped forward into a thrust at Lofan.
“Wealth is power, the more of it I can have the better, if someone stands between me and increasing wealth I’ll use my wealth to get them out of my way!”
Lofan tumbled out of the way, then put a mushroom between him and Goldie as the shewpog let loose a series of rapid jabs, like a beak diving for a grub.
“won’t you just end up spending wealth rather than gaining wealth that way?” Lofan complained.
“Haha my boy! No, you have to spend to gain!” Goldie laughed.
Lofan thought quickly about what he could do, he couldn’t let go of the Kindling. He would have to do that to form his mind blade. There was also the issue that it seemed that Goldie was a fairly good swordsman. Lofan wasn’t sure that the nature of his mindblade would give him that big of an advantage. Then the thought stuck Lofan. Goldie would not attack or damage the Kindling.
Lofan swung out from his cover, Kindling in front of him. Goldie stopped just as his sword was about to pierce the Kindling. Lofan grinned.
“i won’t be stopped here, not so close to my village! you don’t need more wealth anyway! i’m trying to save a life!”
“How about I give you the price of a life?” Goldie offered
“even if a life had a price, i’d take a life over the price of it!”
Goldie frowned. Then Lofan gave Goldie an uppercut punch to the face with the Kindling. He made sure to press his advantage, slamming the Kindling into Goldie again and again, bringing it in to defend his body when Goldie would try to attack.
Lofan hit again and again, but Gildenstan Goldie would not go down. Lofan was winning, but he was about to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Lofan you see, was getting impatient. After a particularly hard blow that sent Gildenstan reeling, Lofan felt that the shewpog was sufficiently dazed that he could make his mindblade and take Gildenstan out in one go!
So Lofan dropped the Kindling and formed his mindblade, he thrust it toward’s Gildenstan’s head. This was a moment Gildenstan had been waiting for, he had been rolling with the blows, hoping for an opening and Lofan had given it to him on a silver platter. He burst into action, surprising for one of his girth, and Lofan could only watch shocked and horrified as Goldie parried the mindblade.
“Naïve boy! Far far too naïve!” the shewpog cried in triumph.
Goldie then stepped forwards and gave Lofan a mighty blow with the flat of his sword.
Lofan fell and darkness swallowed his vision. As a coneperson, he was not remotely built for taking hits.
“no… so close…” he weeped as he lost consciousness.
Gildenstan Goldie slumped, his sword collapsing into a pile of jewellery. It had been years and years since he had last fought so personally. He felt weak and strong all at one. He looked at Lofan, and looked at the Kindling. He found himself thinking of the past. The coneman had reminded him of when he was younger. Gildenstan Goldie had been an adventurer, until he settled into business.
He stared at the Kindling.
“I’ve got a lot of wealth”
The Kindling still glowed, as it was close to his body.
“It’d be bad for business if the Firelord or some other guy used it for some really destructive purpose”
He picked up both Lofan and the Kindling.
“I’m just protecting my investments, my wealth” he rationalized.
Then he marched off. Not in the direction of Cozzlanga, but away from it.
When Lofan awoke he found himself lying on a bed in Petil’s home. His friend. She was pouring over a book, her candle with the embers of the firefolk that saved her before her, and the the Kindling also on that table.
“how did i get here?” He asked, quite groggy, the last he remembered was making a ludicrously terrible tactical decision and getting beaten over it.
“oh, some massive half-burned shewpog dumped you in the village, he muttered something about investments and then ran off, he seemed kinda embarrassed to be honest”
“the kindling?” Lofan asked.
Petil held the Kindling up.
“you just happen to be in time to watch me use it too, i figured out how to use it”
With that, she took the ribbon off and tossed the Kindling into the embers, making a wish.
That was how the eternal of the firefolk came to be… also how Petil burned down her house and most of her books.
* * * * *
Gildenstan Goldie had quite a bit of work to do when he got back, as everyone related to him and/or working for him assumed he was dead and had wasted no time in trying to divide his great wealth between themselves.
He even managed to make a profit from getting everything back.
* * * * *
Dookie and Hammer returned to the Belly-up Hider, and received their reward. Hammer stayed, but Dookie left to further perfect her bubble. Dolgu and Halapis also received compensation for their grievances, and Halapis was in particular overjoyed when people actually remembered him. Madog quickly became the mascot of the Belly-up Hider, all the adventurers taking a fondness for her.
* * * * *
Gert and Huck, the jooblem ex-minions of the Firelord joined a number of bats in setting up and caring for a new farm beneath the Giant Snowman.
* * * * *
Batbat the Double bat was taken in by an order of monks hidden in the mountain. They taught him much, and he returned to Cozzlanga not as a thug, but a Hero of Justice. All manner of villainous types learned to fear him and curse his name.