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Of Beggars, Choosers, And A Complete Turnaround

Of Beggars, Choosers And A Complete Turnaround


The Ivory Miracle pt 3

Chasing evil through rank city sewer tunnels was not usually the way of a respected academic sorceress, but still she continued after the red rascal and stumbled far below the surface to the deepening evil lair.

Then the ground opened to reveal what everyone would dread in the closed part of their hearts.

Father chased Mother, and Miracle chased Father through the rank sewer tunnels and stumbled upon what looked to be that thing that everyone fears in the dark parts of their infantile minds, and his heart sank. Hurtful eyes looked up at him from under a hat as red as blood or a rose, and darted away into the lair, leaving Miracle to their own devices to never consciously see again the tragedy that had unfolded right before his hurt eyes. Never would he chase evil as Mother did, for now she lay, her form bloodied and her soul empty - though black, charcoal stains stayed where it left.

No, he would find a different way.

Mulberry still stood and conversed inside the phonebox, and Toven sat outside and played on his handheld games console quite content, though he was getting chilly. On front of him a cobbled road wound past, and he hadn’t the foggiest idea why his great aunt was on the phone, nor who she was talking to. Well actually he did - it was probably Eigengrau.

They loitered on the edge of Kjarr, the marshy biome of unreliable and sodden ground. They had past the Rockies and the Gorms and the Grassy-hilled Windmill biome, and everything was now a much brighter shade of purple. The biome of Kjarr is something to behold, lest your head is easily spun, for Kjarr is a stuffy and confusing place where space doesn’t seem to act quite as it should. Through the tangle of bush, tree and ivy that was Kjarr’s roof, Toven watched a baby dragon jump from a hill that was far too tall and slender to possibly bare lush grass and flowers all the way up (though it did). The baby dragon flapped a little, then fell to the ground, though Toven believed that one day it would grow big and strong, and do whatever the mightiest dragons tend to do these days - I dunno, become welders? Chefs?

Beyond this hill, a star that was now uncomfortably bright to look directly at loomed high above, atop the tallest point in Atlantis and perhaps all of Post-Wrathing Ahbon, Toven’s old school. That was where Eigengrau now waited, and had waited for many millenia, for the Hero’s arrival. It was he who knew how to return the Sun to the sky.

Toven was so busy looking at the hilltop that he didn’t realise the stranger that was trying to get his attention. “Hey! Hey you! Yeah! You!”

Toven looked around, jumping almost out of his skin. He stood up straight, up off the glass of the phonebox. “H-hey, uh wh-what-”

“Hey! Down here! Hoy!”

Toven looked down, stepping away from the phonebox when he noticed the figure by his feet that was only about an inch shorter than him.

“O-oh! Hi. C-can I hel-”

“What are you, an idiot? Of course you can! Got any spare change?” The stranger was a little pumpkin-headed man, who’s carved face bore a mean and beaten jagged expression, though his teeth were starting to curl and no light shone from inside the hollow head. His body was no more than a sturdy green stalk that stuck out of the ground, with bits that sprouted off to form his green arms.

“O-oh! Yeah I do actually l-let me j-just uhm…” Toven reached inside his shirt pocket and retrieved a moderately large sum of starfragments. “H-here, will this be enough? I h-have a bit more if you want?” He smiled, and held it to the man’s hand - though where should have been a hand there was only anotger baby, uncarved pumpkin.

The little man growled and scowled deeply and pushed his hand away, “What the goblins am I supposed to do with your sinkin’ Star money, ah? We trade in seeds here you spineless bipod!”

Toven recoiled, though couldn’t help but find the irony in being called spineless by a plant.

Vegetable…?

Fruit…?

Pumpkin.

He fidgeted anxiously with the buckle on one of his suspenders. “S-sorry, I don’t have a-any see-”

“Yeah you don’t have any seeds yada yada, hearditallbefore!" The plant held up his pumpkin hand and made a mocking talking motion. “whatever. I get it, you kids are so selfish you know, you all think it’s fun to cut holes in my face and carve out my brains and now you can’t even spare some seeds! Guess I’ll just go throw myself in the composter.”

It wasn’t his fault that this man felt so grumpy, yet somehow Toven felt bad. He stuttered speechlessly, suddenly helpless and hopeless to help this poor being.

“Do you at least have something else I can have?”

“Uhh, I thi-”

“It’s a simple question!” The pumpkin put his hands on his... Uh... Hips? Anything below his shoulders was just a stalk.

“I have ba-bagles if you want an-”

“Nope. That won’t do.”

Toven untied the cloth that still hung from the end of the broom, and searched through item after item, showing them to the pumpkin man to no avail. He didn’t like the look of any of Toven’s possessions.

“Look can you at least gimme a light?” Asked the strange talking plant, and motioned to his face.

Toven hesitated, taking a while to process the question, “Oh, uhm… Well yeah. B-But Mulberry says sm-smoking is a bad habit!”

“Argh! No, a light! For in here…” He lifted the carved cap off his head between his two pumpkinly limb appendages.

“I think Mulberry has a-”

The plant groaned rudely, “Forget it! You can’t help me! Later loser!” The pumpkin placed the top of his head back on and started descending back into the ground with a raspy digging sound.

“W-Wait! Don’t go!” Toven called, taking something out of his pocket. “I... Have this!”

In his hand he held his handheld games console at arms length, and the pumpkin’s descent stopped. “I know you mi-might not be able t-to play it with your... P-p-pu-pumpkin hands but I’m sure you could trade it for some s-seeds?” Toven smiled nervously, he didn’t mind giving away his console, as neither Coda nor Ink were around to play it with him anyways.

“Hmmm” said the pumpkin with consideration, ”Hmmmm” he said, and finally, “Hrm. Mmmh, hah… Alright I’ll take it! Put it in!”

Toven breathed a sigh of relief and placed the console into the pumpkin’s head, a string of soggy pumpkinly entrails sticking to his hand when he pulled it out as pumpkinly innards tend to do.

“Pleasure doing buisness with you. Actually, no it wasn’t, it was horrible!” Yet the pumpkin placed his top back on and held out his hand for Toven to shake.

Toven shook it as best as he could - it wasn’t the most comfortable experience. It disturbed him that he could see his console through the plant’s mouth hole. Wiping pumpkin juice on his trousers, he watched the strange creature slink back into the ground, leaving a dirt pile where it had went down like a vegetabley mole.

Finally, Mulberry placed the phone down with a resounding chime, and exited the phonebox after her lengthy conversation with Eigengrau. “Hello lad, everything quite alright here?”

“Uhm, Y-Yeah.” Toven replied. “I met a nnnn-nice pumpkin p-p-person.”

He passed Mulberry her brrom, which was heavy from the three seats that had been attatched to it - something about that didn’t quite add up for Toven.

The Witch took it gratefully, nodding her thanks. “well, ye can tell me more about it on our way to Yama-an-dè”

“Wait why ar-are we going there?” Toven asked.

“I know a couple of people up there who should be able t’help us out. I was just wanting to call your teacher t’let ‘im know what had happened, and he agrees wit’ me that Yama-an-dè is d’place t’ be!”

Yama-an-dè was the snowy mountain settlement between the mountains of Latha and Oidhche. The “sunset village” as it was known. How ironic.

The settlement was the farthest village from the ocean in Post-Wrathing Ahbon, being right on the edge of the Radius. Since it rested on the trough between two mountains, it was right on the border between where the purple light of Atlantis ended, the mountains casting a cold shadow on the unknown world beyond them.

So now as they rose up into the air on Mulberry’s broom, a light rain began to fall. It tapped on the brim of the Witch’s hat that still bore many a tartan ribbon, and now also bore a golden buckle. See, she had changed into clothes (which she had dug up from the rubble of her home) more suited for the occasion - a chainmail shoulder piece over a leather undershirt, on top of which she wore a black dress tied with a buckled belt. In her belt she held a couple of small glass vials, a box if mixed herbs, a couple of useless crystals, an empty teacup with some dried tea leaf bits at the bottom, a bag of marbles, and a gun.

To the skies they took - now at a ninety-degree angle to the coastline and heading inland, perpendicular to their original direction of travel towards Atlantis. Toven looked out over the jagged, chaotic and slightly illusionesque roof of Kjarr like a crashing sea of purple ravaged by a cyclone. Pillars of grass stuck up from the tangled biome here and there, and from behind one emerged the violet star like the undoing of an eclipse of a pillar-shaped moon - ever brighter than before, though the sky was still a lamp black ink. Below the star, Toven could just make out the outlines of the skyscrapers that stood tall on the Highest part of the Atlantis which blocked the rest of the city off from most of the light, and from the broom the streetlights below were only - just bareley - visible.

They flew towards the mountains beyond and away from the sea as if on a giant zipline, rising at a gradual pace, for the higher air was thin and didn’t quite breathe the same.

His great aunt sheilded him from the cold barrage of air, though Toven was tired and started to yawn.

“So tell me ’bout this stranger ye met.” Said the Witch.

“W-well, I was just looking up at so-something and I didn’t s-see him at first.” He began, and was thankful - for conversation would help fight off sleepiness ’til after the flight. “His head and hands we-were pumpkins, which I th-think is quite interesting... He was asking for seeds but I didn’t have any to give him.”

“Mmh,” replied the Witch, “the currency of Kjarr. Can’t do anyt’in’ wit’out seeds here.” Mulberry reached into her robes and pulled out a fistfull of white pumpkin seeds. She tossed then into the air, and they seemed to be blown backward by some wind that was relative to the broom.

“You have s-seeds?” Toven asked, slightly surprised.

“Why, ’course! How else d’jah think I would be able to call Eigengrau? Calls aren’t free, you know! Anyhow, what about the stranger? D’they give you any... Hassel?”

“N-no, not at all! They seemed l-like they were in trouble though. I d-didn’t have any seeds to g-g-give them but I di-did have my games console. I ga-gave it t-to them so they c-could sell it and get seeds!” Mulberry exhaled dramatically, and Toven thought he ought to reassure her that no hassle was given. “The only hassle they gave me was th-the fact they kept cutting me off in the mid-ddle of my-”

“Toven ye really are the only person I know who could get bullied out of a rad’er expensive video-game console by a bleet’n vegetable… Plant? Fruit? Ach, forget it.”

“... Bullied?” Toven wasn’t under the impression that he had been bullied.

Mulberry chuckled her pity, “The people of these poisonous and head-aching marshlands will do anything to rob you of whatever they desire!”

Toven processed this for a moment, “O-oh, so they didn’t ac-actually need it?”

“No Toven, almost definitely not. They are but fake beggars - choosin’ beggars by d’sounds of it - livin’ under a greedy philosophy.” Mulberry knew this because she had raised the clan of Jacklanters that resided here - she had planted and created them herself and knew their nature. Yet, despite their thievery, she still loved them dearly.

Toven fell quiet, and cursed himself - for what had he taught them? All he had really done was show them that their begging worked. What kind of message was that sending their poor, misguided souls?

“Don’t be upset Toven!” Mulberry reassured. “I’ll buy you another console as soon as we find yer buddies, okay?”

Toven shook his head, “N-No. I’ll... I’ll buy my own!”

“Hmm? Alright then, you do have quite a bit of pocket money you’ve never put to good use until now.”

Mulberry smiled to herself, proud. Though Toven was still young and naive, and would need to build a backbone.

“You remind me of your grandpa Thistle. He didn’t grow a backbone ’til his teeth curled with age!” She paused, “And you remind me a bit of your great great great grandpa Thornley.” A bit of silent soaring occurred before the Witch added, “You have his nose.”

“Uhm, Auntie Mu-Mulberry?”

“Whet?”

“How o-old are you?”

“... To be honest wit’ jeh little one, I haven’t got a bloody clue.”

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