I found a secret shop
I found a secret shop
Another story inspired by Mooshu, A.K.A. best world. This one is long, so much obliged if anyone decides to actually read it. I had fun with this one.
"Welcome to the Rock Garden, esteemed wizard. I see you are anxious to pursue your quest. However, there are many evils loose in the Spiral, and the one you seek to battle is but one of them."
Kestrel's heel tapped rapidly against the grass. She crossed her arms, burying her hands in her armpits and squeezing herself impatiently. Her eyes darted this way and that, grazing Lo Pang's long beard, the elegant curve of his horns, before flitting away to the bright scenery around her. She took in the sight of the cherry blossom trees and the grass that was almost too green without truly seeing any of it.
Malistaire had been right there. He'd been so close she could've spit on him. But then he'd sicced Meowiarty on her, and he'd summoned the Agony Wraith to boot. If she dwelt on it too long, she could still hear the wraith's breathless, hissing, painful moans of "Sylvia... Sylviaaaaaa..." More clearly, though, she remembered the frantic battle against Meowiarty, the speed with which she had dispatched him and the Agony Wraith both, only to whirl around and find Malistaire had disappeared, the Krokonomicon gone with him.
She had been so close to getting her hands on him. And he'd escaped at the last second, just as he had in Nightside. She could froth at the mouth with rage.
And now here she was, being forced to undergo some stupid test before she'd be allowed to even see the Emperor and ensure the Dragonspyre Spiral Key was safe. She knew with dread certainty that Malistaire wouldn't bother going through all the proper procedures to see the Emperor—he'd simply brute-force his way into getting what he wanted, and then he'd be gone again, quick as lightning. She didn't have time for this.
"Still," Lo Pang was saying, unbeknownst to her, "to be as the Moodha is to be at peace and pure of mind." He gestured toward the nearby pit of sand decorated artfully with sloping boulders, which caught her attention at last. "I hope that the Rock Garden will lead you to peace as it has for me. Go now... Enter and clear your mind. Afterwards, go inside the dojo and see what wisdom you can learn there." His wise black eyes attempted to hold hers, but she didn't like making eye contact, so she stared at his nose instead. "Come to me when you are finished with your journey," he said finally. "I will be able to tell if you are truly pure of mind."
Huffing, she stomped off toward the rock garden. She stepped over the low bamboo fence and made her way to the center of the large stretch of sand. Scowling, she cast a cursory glance around at all the big gray rocks, vaguely noting the swirling patterns in the sand beneath her feet, before stomping off again, this time toward the dojo with its red walls and slanted green roof. The rice-paper doors clattered as she threw them open. Even that sound was positively musical, but she didn't stop to appreciate it—she barely even noticed it, speeding toward the glass case at the back of the room.
Inside the case was a scroll, laid out flat. Her eyes skimmed over the characters she didn't recognize and finally settled on the English translation at the bottom.
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle," the Book of Celestial Wisdom said, "and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
"Well, ain't that just fuckin' grand," she muttered hotly, savoring the taste of the choice word she'd picked up from Baxter on her tongue. She whipped around and exited the dojo, making her way back to where Lo Pang now sat, cross-legged, in the grass.
He was probably meditating and needed to concentrate, but Kestrel's impatience meant she didn't care. She ground to a halt in front of him and crossed her arms again, saying, "I looked at the rocks and read your book. Did I pass the test?"
Lo Pang didn't even open his eyes. His face was unchanged as he said, "You did not."
Anger flared behind Kestrel's breastbone. She stamped her foot, dimly aware that she was being childish, and demanded, "Why the hell not?"
Lo Pang remained calm in the face of her impotent fury. He said, "You have not achieved true peace of mind. To be as the Moodha is to strive toward mental clarity. Your mind is clouded by undesirable emotion—anger, anxiety. Your thoughts run amok, roughshod over your spirit. You are brimming with tension that saps your ability to live life with clearness and purity of purpose. You have failed the test."
Kestrel rolled her eyes toward the heavens, aghast at how much of her time was currently being wasted. "I really don't have time for this," she said. "Malistaire isn't going to take the time to go through your stupid test. If he wants the key to Dragonspyre, he's going to take it by force. I need to see the Emperor." She glared fiercely at him. "Now," she ordered when he didn't move.
Lo Pang exhaled softly. He exuded the aura of someone who was remaining patient through exasperation. She felt condescended to, and she hated him for it. She continued to glower at him as he slowly made his way to his feet, finally opening his eyes to look down at her. "Revered wizard, Kestrel Hex," he intoned. "Have you ever considered your humanity?"
Clueless as to where he was going with this, she merely stared, waiting for him to elaborate.
"Though you are in possession of great power, you are also in possession of vulnerabilities. Your mind, body, and spirit have needs that are not currently being fulfilled. You are human. You must eat, and sleep, and take the time necessary to rid yourself of fear and revitalize yourself."
"I'm not afraid. I'm angry."
"Anger is merely another form of fear," Lo Pang said. Something inside Kestrel froze solid at the words. "We feel angry when we feel threatened. When what we deem important is devalued, when our dignity is compromised, when our emotions are disregarded, we feel anger. Anger is the offspring of fear, the fear that tells us we are in danger of being mistreated. You are afraid you will not be able to stop Malistaire in time, and so you are angry. But anger clouds the mind and scatters the thoughts. To be as the Moodha, you must learn to let go of anger, and you must learn to live alongside fear, using it to guide your actions rather than letting it be your sole motivator."
She didn't know what to say. Her brain whirled with his words, and, unconsciously, she flipped her hair over her left shoulder and began twisting it around in her hands. Malistaire was momentarily forgotten. Her entire attention was now focused on Lo Pang.
"When is the last time you slept soundly?" he asked.
"When is the last time you truly enjoyed a meal?"
She shrugged again.
Lo Pang frowned paternally. "Just as you must stop to sleep and eat, to take care of your body's needs, so, too, must Malistaire, for he is also human. He cannot race toward his ultimate goal without rest. By taking the time to attend to your needs, you are moving at the same pace as he, and you will ultimately remain as close behind him as you have always been. You will catch up to him, esteemed wizard, for your power is great and your dedication strong. But you must rest."
Kestrel thought back over the past months of her life. She'd left Earth for the Spiral on her twelfth birthday, back in September, and ever since then... she hadn't slowed down. The past months had been a mad, never-ending scramble after Malistaire, who always seemed one step ahead. Wizard City's undead uprising, and the Manders' struggle for liberty, and Marleybone's gang wars... and now the trials that awaited her here in Mooshu. Long days stretched into longer nights; she couldn't remember the last time she had eaten slowly enough to actually taste her food. There was never enough time, and Malistaire was out there somewhere, and she had to catch him, had to.
But... he was human.
If she had to stop to rest sometimes, so did he. And they would remain neck and neck.
With the realization, exhaustion crashed over her like a furious wave. Her knees buckled; she stumbled back a step, and the last thing she was aware of was the feeling of Lo Pang's hands closing over her arms to steady her as she fell into blackness. _____________________________________________________________
You will not die, the motherly voice that had accompanied her on all her adventures said in her dreams. And they were dreams, not nightmares—the first she'd had in a long, long time. Rest assured, young wizard: You will not die.
She didn't need the voice to tell her that. She knew she wouldn't be crossing over the threshold between life and death just yet. But vaguely, she became aware that she was awfully ill. She woke, sometimes, in between hazy dreams of the past, and stared bleary-eyed at a wooden ceiling she didn't recognize. Searing heat and fever chills warred for dominance in her limbs and stomach, and though she wasn't aware of it, as she never fully returned to consciousness, she alternated between cloistering herself in blankets and kicking them off of her to let the pleasantly cool air waft against her skin. Once, her brief moment of semi-wakefulness was accompanied by the sensation of someone with a kind, feminine voice wiping her forehead with a damp cloth, but she didn't get to dwell on it for long before she tumbled back down into darkness.
Three days passed with Kestrel abed, never truly waking, and Lo Pang and Su Lee watched over her the entire time. _____________________________________________________________
Kestrel's first thought as she awoke for the first time in days was Ow. Her muscles ached something fierce, a dull throbbing sensation tightening her arms and legs.
She stared up at the ceiling for some time before turning her head to the left. She was alone in the room in which she lay, but next to her futon was a blue cushion, suggesting someone had been sitting at her side at some point. She didn't remember the kind voice and the sensation of the wet cloth on her fevered forehead.
Gingerly, she pushed herself to a sitting position. Her limbs felt like Jell-O, and her whole body trembled with weakness as she moved. She could tell her fever had only just broken. Outside the windows of the one-room building that housed her sickbed, birds twittered fresh-sounding notes, and crickets sang their rolling song. The angle and color of the sunlight made her think it was mid morning.
"Oh!" someone to her right exclaimed. Startled, Kestrel whipped her head over to see who it was, forcing herself to relax when she realized it was only Su Lee. "Young wizard, you have awakened."
She cleared her throat and nodded. She didn't feel quite ready to speak just yet. Her eyes zoned in on the tray in Su Lee's hands. On it were two cups on saucers and a steaming teapot.
"Ginger tea," Su Lee explained as she walked around Kestrel's futon and neatly arranged herself on the blue cushion. "We had a difficult time convincing you to take it at first, but slowly you came around."
Kestrel's eyebrows popped up momentarily. She must have been really out of it to agree to drink tea. Now that she was awake, she didn't find the prospect overly appetizing.
"Got any coffee instead?" she rasped. Her voice came out quieter than she'd meant it to.
"I'm afraid not, esteemed wizard. For what it's worth, you seemed to enjoy the tea when you were ill."
Kestrel eyed the teapot suspiciously as Su Lee went about pouring each of them a cup. But, not wanting to be rude to the woman who was taking care of her despite not knowing her at all, she accepted the cup Su Lee proffered and sniffed the steam that curled from the liquid's surface. She was surprised by the sharp, bitter scent, and, encouraged, she tentatively took a sip. It tasted like it smelled—not overly sweet. Pleasantly surprised, she continued to take small sips, careful not to burn her tongue.
Off to the side, Su Lee smiled in satisfaction and serenely sipped at her own cup.
They drank in silence for a few minutes, finishing around the same time. Kestrel smacked her lips and placed her cup back on the tray, then looked at Su Lee. "I don't remember a whole lot," she said.
Su Lee nodded. "That is to be expected. You were very ill. You spoke at times, but we could not understand much of what you were saying. At the very least, your dreams seemed pleasant. Your fever broke in the early hours of this morning, but we were not expecting you to wake so soon. Your strength is impressive."
Kestrel's ears tingled at the unexpected praise. Not knowing how to respond to it properly, she decided not to respond to it at all. She asked, "We?"
"Monk Lo Pang has been watching over you for the past three days. He was concerned, but he had the utmost faith in your ability to recover."
Some small remnant of Kestrel's anxious heart tightened at the utterance of three days. Those were three days lost in the race to find Malistaire. But Lo Pang's words from before, about Malistaire's humanity, and her own, rang in her ears—and, unbidden, she thought of an oft-repeated adage of her childhood: Slow and steady wins the race. Malistaire was out there somewhere, driving himself to the brink of death with his mad haste, and inevitably he would slip up at some point as his body's needs forcefully reasserted themselves. And here Kestrel was, shaky as a newborn fawn but feeling steadier than she had in a very long time.
Three days was nothing.
So, instead of pressing the issue of time, Kestrel merely asked, "Where is Lo Pang?"
"Here, esteemed wizard," Lo Pang's voice said, and Kestrel once more turned to the right to see the goat monk entering the room through a pair of sliding rice-paper doors. She noticed, this time, the musical clatter of the wooden frame, the melodic whisper of the sheer paper. Lo Pang's wooden staff banged gently against the floor with each step as he approached her bedside. In one liquid motion, he sat down and crossed his legs, laying his staff in his lap. He smiled at her, faintly. "How do you feel?"
Before this whole episode, Kestrel probably would have brushed the question off with a brusque Fine. Now, she took the time to really think about it. She contemplated the gelatinous feeling of her limbs and the groaning emptiness of her belly. Guess they weren't able to convince me to take any food, she thought mildly. She made eye contact with Lo Pang's chin and said, "Like I slept for a year."
Lo Pang's smile grew. "Luckily for all of us, revered wizard, it was only three days." He paused, as if to gauge her reaction to that, and when all she did was sit and look at him, something pleased sparked in his eyes. "I'm sure you must be hungry. Might I request that you eat a hearty breakfast?"
Kestrel nodded eagerly. Lo Pang nodded at Su Lee, who dutifully stood and left to go get some food.
When they were alone, Lo Pang returned his gaze to Kestrel. He considered her quietly for a few moments, and once again that pleased little smile quirked his mouth. "You seem more at peace."
Abashedly, Kestrel rubbed the back of her neck, working out some kinks as she did so. "I slept for seventy-two hours straight," she said. "That's probably more sleep altogether than I've gotten in months."
Lo Pang chuckled at her hyperbole. "When you eat breakfast, I want you to take your time. Taste the food. Meditate on Moodha's blessing, that we may enjoy such bountiful pleasures. And once you are done..." His face became solemn. "You will take the Test of Mind again."
Kestrel nodded. _____________________________________________________________
After a breakfast of steaming-hot rice balls topped with black squares of seaweed, grilled fish and miso soup and pickled vegetables, Kestrel slipped out of the light robe she'd spent the past three days in and dressed herself in her witch's rags: her tall pointy hat and skull-emblazoned robe and knee-high socks and short boots. She felt more like herself, more like Kestrel Hex, in her own clothes. The weakness had almost left her limbs entirely, and she felt so fresh and perky it was disgusting. When she stepped outside for the first time in days, she inhaled a great breath of rain-fresh air and quirked a half smile at the birds building their nests in the branches of cherry blossoms.
She approached Lo Pang's usual spot, and indeed he was there waiting for her. He lifted his chin to regard her proudly and let the silence stretch for a moment before saying, "Are you ready to begin?"
"Very well. You must first visit the rock garden. Let it cleanse your spirit of any remaining ills. Then go inside the dojo and read the Book of Celestial Wisdom. Glean from it its true meaning. Then return here. I will know whether or not you have achieved true peace of mind." And with that, he sat in the grass, cross-legged, and closed his eyes to wait for her.
Kestrel walked over to the rock garden. Before stepping over the low bamboo fence, she slipped off her boots and socks. Stepping into the sand, she admired the simultaneous silk and grain of it, wiggling her white toes and burying herself up to the ankles. She knelt down and traced the swirling patterns with a finger, digging them deeper. There were spirals in the sand, she noticed, each one perfectly formed.
She stood and advanced toward the center of the rock garden. Glittering granules of stand stuck to her legs all the way up to her knees. She looked around at the elegantly sloping boulders and tried to find patterns in their arrangement. She realized as she looked that any patterns she could find were ones she invented—such was the power of the mind over reality. She thought about the manifestation of inner peace and strength, and she imagined it would look a lot like this.
Leaving her socks and boots behind for the moment, she padded into the dojo, this time taking conscious note of the mellow purple lighting, the greenery draping over the edges of hanging pots. Even inside, she could still hear the crickets and their spiral-shaped song. She stepped up to the Book of Celestial Wisdom and read.
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
She read it again and again, sometimes in her head, sometimes aloud, and scored the words into her scarred heart. When she turned and left the dojo, shoulders enveloped by a shroud of reverent silence, all her insides felt terribly still.
She went back to where Lo Pang sat. She curled her bare toes into the sandy grass and breathed. She waited for him to finish his meditation and open his eyes. When he did, he looked up at her in expectation. He examined her for a moment, taking in the quiet expression on her face and her bare feet in the grass, and smiled.
"Yes, yes," he said. "You have learned much. You are on the path to the Moodha. Remember to keep this inner peace within you, always. Return to the Emperor Guard, Noboru Akitame, with my best wishes."
Before Kestrel left him for the last time, she thanked him genuinely.
Do you ever go real hard to a song and people are like. Judging you for it??? Like, yes, I know, this song isn’t heavy metal, but let me swing my head like it is okay I’m vibing you’re just angry because I won’t share an earbud
Stuff I don’t like on my Youtube just now https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuvLXUaqIfc0uqMODDk9AXQ/featured
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeveJRWmHR8 Trailer link!
Okay so Lemuria looks HMMM idk how to say it, it’s kinda like Empyrea like it’s all a lot of different environments but it looks like it’s just a lot of reused designs and assets so uh oh lol but THE NEW SPELLS LOOK SO COOL?!! So I’m still optimistic about this world but the trailer has kinda concerned me. The new characters look really cool and I like the “A new world of terror” like that's interesting as balls I always get excited when wiz gets kinda spooky. Overall I’m still shitting with excitement but I wish if they are to use old textures from previous worlds that they could update them to fit with the new style
Screenshots from the trailer below lol
this area is my main concern because it uses so many overused assets from Celestia and skull island and it doesn’t really look that fantastic but I do completely understand why they reuse assets especially for this world because that's like the point (I miss Ivan)
this that one bitch from the short before inside out WHY ARE THEY SHOOTING AT IT OH MY GOD
the sky is pretty :)
the lighting is good here but man some of these textures just are not mixing well, like the stone walls from mirage? i think and the new guard tower things just look kinda icky together
it reminds me of Azteca not good
oh look it’s Avalon and a duck?
new spell, I’m guessing it’s for storm which is sexy and cool
Sky city is extremely hero101, for some reason I was expecting it to be like a skyscraper city but I do realize that might be hard to do idk lol
I see a rocket and i cry
I’m assuming because it’s sand and the sword’s orb thing is red this is the balance spell
All the spells look so cool I especially like this for some reason I'm thinking it’s for myth? but that's literally only because he’s in yellow
This one is defo death which is exciting as a necromancer we haven’t gotten a cool spell since Mirage (he’s so old oh no)
Don’t know who this is but I love them, they seem fun
Oh okay so he’s jacked, awesome can’t wait for the simps. Guessing this is the new life spell cuz trees LMAO
Is this a new spell? cuz i thinking this is just a neat moment that happens during the world like maybe he’s reusing the thing he used to freeze stallion ( he’s gaining consciousness dear god)
Favourite badge of @daliafalmea
on one hand I am a simp for the bear models....on the other hand I feel concern that they are depending 90% on reused zones with small edits from arch 2 and pirate (So far Tyrian Gorge, Floating Lands, Kondha Desert, and Dun Dara)
So you’re dragged up from Earth. Your family, your home, your favorite things, all given up to go to a magic school!! You’re excited!! I’m excited!! As we should be, right? We’ve always loved fantasy, the idea of magic, and we dreamed of escaping those things that scared us on Earth.
But here you are! You’re on your way to another world! Look at you go!! I’m so proud of you!
Oh, hey, quick question, your accent sounds kinda familiar, where were you from on Earth?
You don’t remember anything about Earth?...How could you forget?
I mean, I just got here, but... You really can’t remember?
Is that scary? Not remembering who you were, where you came from, who you loved, who you hated?
Maybe the light we had prayed for was meant to blind us all along.
something seems different..?
This one takes place an ambiguous amount of time after Arc 3. I swore to myself I’d be focusing on Arc 1 this Wiztober, since that’s the arc I have yet to… actually finish (lmao), but here we are. I am not to be trusted, clearly.
The Savior of the Spiral is a witch, they say.
Oh, sure, everyone knows she's a Necromancer, which some smaller minds would assert qualifies her for the status of witch anyway, but people with a clearer understanding of the Spiral's most powerful Death wizard know there are other things—more powerful things—that place her in the realm of witchery.
Some claim to have seen her riding a besom that leaves a trail of sparkling dust. Others tell stories of a giant spider mounted with a tombstone throne, while others still swear they've spotted her astride an undead dragon, a skeletal beast with blazing blue lights in its empty eye sockets and a ball of blue fire where its heart may once have been. Some go even further than this, and say they’ve seen her perched comfortably on the spired roof of a little one-eyed chicken-footed hut, to which she feeds snacks like a favored pet through the front door which serves as a mouth.
It's known well enough that the Savior doesn't often deign to make eye contact with the people she meets; the claim circulates that it's because to look into her eyes would be to glimpse the shadows between the stars and be driven to incomprehension and gibberish.
The sight of her pointed and skull-emblazoned hat rising on the horizon is enough to induce terror in even the most battle-hardened wizards, they say. Any who count the Savior among their allies who are greeted by the same sight knows with certainty that her arrival to the battlefield heralds the swift and brutal end of conflict in their favor.
The Savior can teleport across entire worlds in a matter of seconds. Some say her ghostly disappearances and reappearances are marked by a whisper of black and silver sparks; others argue that she teleports in a whirlwind of autumn leaves, red as blood. At least one person claims to have seen her vanish from sight in a burst of screeching black bats and crimson smoke.
The Savior killed a man who had been driven to madness by the grief of losing his wife. The Savior grabbed the Umbra Queen of Khrysalis by the shoulders and tossed her headlong into the Void. The Savior ascended one step above deities and defeated the Primordial God of Shadows, sealing him forever, they say, in a forest as punishment for his trespasses.
Everyone knows these stories are true, and no one knows if they are true.
The Savior's house is decorated with skulls, they say. Did those bones once belong to her allies or her enemies? Does she tend to them reverently, honoring the souls they once housed, or does she keep them around as a reminder of what she is capable of? And, if the latter, who exactly is she trying to remind?
The Savior communes with ghosts, they say, and she doesn't even need to cast a spell to do it. She merely speaks to the dead as easily as she would speak to the living. More easily, some claim.
The Savior is never without her familiar, but the shape that familiar takes changes depending on the person who tells the tale: a cat with midnight in its fur, a spider with an abdomen bigger than most people's heads, a wraith cloaked in twilight or a pumpkin-headed ghoul. Some say the shape of the familiar is determined by the onlooker's most eldritch fear, and in that case, no one knows what it truly looks like. Some say that to know its true form would rend minds asunder.
The Savior is the wielder of a great and terrible scythe, taller than she is, which glows a spectral blue. The story goes that the Savior lives in isolation on a Wizard City island that never stays in the same place two nights in a row, tending a pumpkin patch and her garden of witch’s weeds—deadly nightshade and ghost pipe, henbane and moonflower, hemlock and wolf’s-bane, all of which she uses in her potions—but that danger never sleeps, and when inevitably she is called upon by Headmaster Ambrose to save the Spiral once again, she buries that great and terrible scythe in the hearts of her enemies and rips out their souls. And the story goes that those, too, end up in her potions, the purpose of which no one is quite sure and no one is brave enough to ask.
Where the Savior walks, flowers wilt and mushrooms push up from underground—a breathing, pulsating decay. She can cast spells without a wand, they say. She can cast spells without a deck, others reply in an awed and fearful whisper. She has magic in her veins, in her bones. She is magic, and stardust and grave dirt and poison. She is living poison, and some who fear Necromancers, who fear witches, but most of all those who fear difference wonder tremulously whether—or when—she will turn that poison on the people and city she once used it to protect.
The Savior was a tender twelve years old when she entered this never-ending war for the Spiral's safety. She was a strange little girl, solemn as the grave, mercurial as autumn weather, with unknowable power and a heart too big for her to hold in both of her hands. She came from a world without magic, a world in which she had never fit in and never belonged, and she dedicated herself to the saving of a universe she hadn't even known existed because she craved adventure, because people were in danger, because she cared. The Savior is as human as the rest of them, with all the idiosyncrasies that implies: She dances like a reanimated corpse. She drinks so much black coffee every day it’s probably replaced the blood in her veins. She named herself after the Hex Girls from Scooby-Doo and had a crush on Morticia Addams as a child. She spices those fearful potions of hers with cinnamon and pumpkin flavoring, simply because she enjoys the taste. She doesn’t make eye contact not because she thinks herself above it but because she’s wired differently and the effort of making direct, sustained eye contact distracts her. She has more than one “familiar,” which are really just displaced Death creatures—not unlike herself—that she adopted because she knows what it’s like to be without a home. She still has nightmares about Azteca, the one world she ever failed to save, and about Talon, the surrogate baby brother she lost in a tragic car accident. She’s inordinately fond of silly puns, even if the ones she makes tend toward the macabre. She’s formed emotional attachments to all the wands she’s ever used and mounts the retired ones in a special spot on her bedroom wall, never getting rid of them. She’s a person.
But no one ever talks about that.
The Savior of the Spiral is a witch, they say.
I figure, shit, it's Wiztober, right? Which means I should be writing stories, even if they're not based on any of the prompts. I've slacked for too long. This one is inspired by the fact that I recently started Mooshu for the first time in years, and a couple of the characters and their storyline really struck me. It got me thinking about Kestrel, her backstory, and the way she'd react to the events of the game, so I wrote this little snippet, expanding on some of the canon dialogue. Story under the cut as always.
"Your help gave me the courage to retake this outpost. You will be able to face Warlord Katsumori soon. My brother Gama must accept this victory."
Kestrel's immediate, unconscious assumption was that he meant brother-in-arms, and she almost didn't think any more of it. But then she remembered the way Gama had expressed his disbelief in Sanisai's leadership skill: with weary familiarity. And, in an instant, she recalled each of her interactions with Sanisai leading up to now: the wide-eyed look about him, as if he had someone to impress. Realization struck her.
"Gama is your brother?" she said.
Sanisai's mouth quirked wryly. "You did not know? It does not surprise me Gama never claimed me as his brother." He didn't seem upset about it. On the contrary, his smile grew as he continued, "Perhaps he will now."
Kestrel didn't know what to say in the face of such brazen hope, so she said nothing, merely pursed her lips in a frown.
"We will take care of the rest of the forces here," Sanisai said. "Return to Hametsu Village and tell Shojiro Gama the news." __________________________________________________________
The closer Kestrel got to the spot where Gama lay recovering, the heavier her footsteps became, until she was stomping with fists clenched, scowling fiercely. She ground to a halt before him and placed her fists on her hips and glared reprovingly.
"Tatakai Outpost is ours again," she said. Her tone, as flat and blunt as always, didn't betray her rising anger.
But Gama was no fool, and he wasn't blind either. He could glean easily enough from her body language that something was amiss. "Sanisai guided you to victory?" he asked incredulously.
The anger sparked, a flint against steel. "Yeah, he did. He did everything right. He was trying to please you. To show you he isn't worthless."
Gama went to sit up but winced, grunted, lay back down begrudgingly. He rubbed his wounded side gingerly as he said, with a note of defensiveness, "I do not think him worthless. I merely questioned his ability to lead."
"Well, you were wrong." Kestrel chewed on her tongue for a moment, contemplating the wisdom of provoking yet another ally. But in her mind's eye she saw Talon—his old eyes and the look of reverent wonder in them when he looked up at her as he sat in her lap being read to—and she felt the blue flame of love rekindle in her heart, just as it always did when her thoughts turned to him. She felt, too, the breathtaking devastation of knowing he was gone for good, just as she always did. She continued, "He told me you're brothers."
Gama's eyes widened momentarily; then he seemed to forcibly rein in his emotions, and steel shutters closed over his expression. "He should not have."
"Why not? Because you're ashamed? You should be. He thought you hated him."
"I would never hate him!" Gama shouted. He went to sit up again but fell back with a pained cry.
Frowning with displeasure, Kestrel knelt by his side and dipped her fingers into the clay pot that held the salve Lu Song had made. She tutted at him as he attempted to swipe her hands away and smeared the salve over the wound. Already it looked less inflamed than it had a few hours ago. The salve was doing its job well. Gama would probably be fit enough to rejoin the fight by tomorrow.
The silence stretched between them for long moments as Kestrel set about wiping the last remnants of the salve off in the dirt. She clapped her hands together briskly to clean them of dust and sat back on her haunches, staring at Gama's profile. His expression was absolutely wooden.
"I could never hate him," he said, lowly but with just as much conviction as before.
"Then why act like it?"
Gama closed his eyes as though bracing against a physical blow. He shook his head slowly. "I do not—" he started, then seemed to think better of it. He gave a great exhale, and it seemed like he was trying to calm himself. "I do not mean to," he said. "I have never wanted him to think poorly of himself. I have high standards for him because I know he is capable of great things. When he fails to live up to those standards, as I know he can, I feel..."
"Disappointed," Kestrel finished for him when he didn't.
Again, Gama flinched. Grimacing, he nodded and said nothing.
Kestrel tilted her head and frowned thoughtfully. "Sure," she granted, "you can feel disappointed in him. But when he actually does something right, do you ever tell him you're proud?"
Gama didn't say anything for so long that Kestrel thought the conversation may be over. But then, in a low voice, as if confessing a terrible sin, he said, "I have not told him such things enough."
"Well..." Kestrel shrugged eloquently. "There ya go."
For the first time in a while, Gama looked over at her, met her eyes. She held his gaze steadily as he seemed to search for something. Whatever he found, or didn't find, it eased the tension in his shoulders, and he lay back more fully against his pillows. "How much of the plan to recapture Tatakai Outpost was his?"
Kestrel flipped her hair over her left shoulder and began twisting it in her hands. She shrugged again. "Well, we worked together on most of it. But I'd say he came up with a good 80%. He did good. He seemed nervous, but he didn't let it stop him."
Gama closed his eyes once more, this time as if being enveloped by a great sense of peace. "You have shown me that I should have greater faith in my little brother. Thank you for opening my eyes, wizard."
Struck by the sudden intimacy of the moment, Kestrel chewed on her upper lip uncomfortably. She thought of Talon again. If she had ever done anything to make him think she hated him, she would've never forgiven herself. But it felt easier to forgive someone else, someone like Gama. Still, she didn't want to lay it all out explicitly; the moment was already too close and familiar for her liking. She had never been good at all of this feelings stuff. Easier to cast a spell with both her hands tied behind her back.
"I just think brothers should try to get along," she said at last. It wasn't the whole truth, but it was enough of it to satisfy her.
Gama smiled, eyes still closed in serenity. "A wise mode of thought, indeed."
Collecting a fire gem from the dragon’s mouth
Yoooooooo fuckers guess who beat Nilbog with 40 health left
Big Ben wasn't as fun as I remember it being when I was a kid. It also wasn't as long.
Regardless, WORST WORLD IS OVER. ON TO MOOSHU!
last idea is by oranT2 on reddit
drawings I did for Moon school in @wizard101game
I was going to wash my hands but, Yuck!