Mrmander20 t1_je2xwgp wrote

As expected, nobody says anything at first. Varsiel looks like he's wondering whether he wants to ask a question or fire an arrow first.

"Menee, dear, introduce us!"

Orgah, the Crone, lurches over, blackened teeth bared in what she thinks is a friendly smile. Varsiel is tall even by the standards of the elves, but Orgah still towers over him.

"I think they need a minute, mom," I mumble. "Could somebody make some tea?"

"Oh, I'll get it," Auli says. She hustles off towards the kitchen. My friends follow her with their eyes for a moment. None of them catch a glimpse of what's under her long gown, but they all see the trail of slime she leaves behind as she moves. "Rin, get them comfortable, would you?"

"Oh, no-"

It's too late. Rin's the hardest to explain. As the Maiden, she often plays the role of seductress -in whatever shape that takes. To me, she chooses to look like my birth mother, but she looks like something else to everyone. An object of love or desire, usually. From the look on Vald's face, I can tell he's seeing the wife he lost. I don't want to imagine what everyone else might be seeing. Varsiel is intrigued, but Grimm looks more confused than anything.

"Come in, have a seat," Rin says, in a voice that is different but equally inviting to everyone who hears it. "Any friend of Menee's is a friend of ours."

"Unless o'course you're here to be killing us, in which case we can skip the sit," Orgah says.

"Not today, mom," I say. "Not any day."

"Nonsense. 'Tis prophesied," Orgah says.

Vald is the first to crack. Even the legendary stoicism of the dwarves can only endure so much.

"What in all hell is going on?"

Orgah extends a massive arm and gently shoves him on to a nearby stool before addressing Vald's question.

"Menee, would you rather tell it, or let Auli? She does so love to tell that story."

"I'll let her," I say. I have no idea where to begin anyway. My party members have sat down, but they're still eyeing the witches, and keeping a hand near their weapons. Thankfully, Auli is quick with the tea, and the story.

"Oh, it's a terrible, tear-filled story," Auli says, before breaking into the tale with a smile on her face. "Menee's dear departed mother lost her husband to the plague, then caught it herself just as she was due to deliver poor Menee into the world."

I can't help but glance at Rin as she speaks. I know it's just a fake face, but it's still the face of the woman who birthed me.

"Knowing they'd both die otherwise, the dear girl comes to us and says we can have her daughter so long as we promise her a long and healthy life," Auli says. "And we accept."

"Plenty of uses for a girl 'round the house," Orgah says. "Even if'n ye can't eat 'em."


Grimm had reached for his sword, only stopping when Orgah laughed at her own joke.

"Ho ho! Ah, Anyway," Orgah says. 'Course, knowing we'd promised to do no harm to her, the Dread King, whom we'd cursed to fear cold iron, cursed us in turn, and said that our child would one day be our death."

"A rather vexing development," Rin mumbled.

"Not much to be done 'bout a proper curse, of course," Orgah said. "Trying to kill the destined child never ends well. If I ever tried to eat her I'm sure Auli would just exchange her with a rock, and then where would I be?"

"With our deaths thus unavoidable, we settled on a course," Rin sighed. "To be kind to the child, so our inevitable deaths are at least merciful."

"Momma, I'm not going to kill you," I say. "I'm not going to kill any of you."

"So you say."

"You're still alive."

"I'd rather ye just get on with it, really," Orgah mutters. "Prophecy is prophecy, and I'd rather ye do it right than drop a kettle on me head on accident."

"There's arsenic in the kitchen if you'd like to put it in the tea, Menee dear."

"Mom! Stop. I'm not here to kill you," I snap. "Aren't you all supposed to be in the Howlingwood this time of year anyway?"

"Dreadful infestation of direflies, dear, you'd know if you came to visit more often," Rin says.

"I'm an adventurer now, mom, I get busy and I travel a lot."

"Oh, an adventurer, are you in Caldwell's Company?"

"Hah! Fine lady, we are the Nereid Avengers," Varsiel said, his elven pride winning out over any fear he felt of my moms.

"Oh. How nice," Auli says. "Are you good adventurers?"

"Surely you've heard of us, we helped liberate the undersea kingdom of Nereius?"

Auli maintained a polite smile with surprising grace.

"Yes, yes, we've done a lot of quests, like the one we're currently on," Vald thunders. "We need a potion of true seeing, have you got one or what?"

"Raspberry or blackcurrant flavored?"

Vald stares blankly at Auli for a solid tens seconds before speaking.

"Raspberry," he sighs. Auli shuffles off to the potion cabinet. Varsiel sips at his tea as she digs through the bottles.

"And what perilous trials must we endure for this favor," he blusters. "Must we gather ingredients from the perilous swamp? Answer your most vexing riddles?"

"Ye can knock a few notches of your ego off, for starters," Orgah says. "And secondly, in exchange for this boon, we must ask you for a sworn oath. A promise to be kept, lest ye face the terrible wrath of the coven!"

Varsiel looks more excited than scared.

"Bring m'daughter back here round harvest time, would ye? There's nettles in the garden something fierce, and me joints ache terribly so. We could use the extra hand."

It takes everything I have not to laugh as Varsiel's face drops. I can tell Vald and Grimm are thinking the same. Grimm actually has to put a hand over his mouth to hold the giggles back.

"I- I swear it so," Varsiel mumbles. "Upon my honor, you shall...have your daughter's help...doing your...gardening."

Even his practiced poise breaks under the circumstances, and his disappointment is clear. Orgah laughs, snatches the potion from Auli as she approaches, and shoves it into his hands.

"I'll hold you to that oath, elf," she barks. "Now, will you lot be stayin' for dinner?"

"Actually, moms, there is currently a demon possessing the mayor of Aullifield, so we really need to take this potion and be on our way," I say. As I stand, my party members are all too eager to leave. Vald and Grimm have noticed the pile of skulls in the corner, and my mothers aren't quite charming enough to overcome the creepiness of their bone collection. After the drawn out goodbye's, I manage to shuffle my party out the door and away from the hut, with Grimm sparing one more confused glance at Rin before the door slams shut.

"Now I see why you don't talk about your childhood much," Vald says.

"Actually, I don't talk about it because it's boring," I say. "They had to raise me happy and healthy. I had tomato sandwiches for lunch and the first book I learned to read was The Very Hungry Linnorm, just like most other kids."

"Ah, but surely your skills as a thief were developed over daring escape attempts from the witches abode?"

"No, actually, they were developed by breaking out of the estates of valiant knights who tried to 'rescue' me."

"Well. Hmm. We're on our way to completing our quest, and that's what matters," Varsiel says. "Vald, lead the way!"

Vald takes the lead, but the journey is much less arduous going than it was coming. Now that the local witches know it's their daughter treading in the Murk, the trip is easier. Eventually the sun even starts to come out, and Grimm relaxes enough to lower his sword and walk alongside me.

"Uh, Menee, if you don't mind," he mumbles. "I did have a question about one of your mothers."

"I don't know what's under Auli's skirt either."

"not her. The younger one, I think? Rin?"

I already know what he's going to ask. Rin showed him what he wanted most. I should tell him to stop, but on the other hand, I could find out which barmaid he's pining for and tease him about it for a few weeks.

"What about her?"

"Why does she look like you?"