The old man stared forlornly at the dust he'd made, shaking his head. “Such a waste. Status.
He glanced up, nodded. “Close screen.” With those words he moved over to a pile of glassware on a nearby shelf. Collecting a pair of empty vials, he headed back and plucked the crystals out of the dust and put them into his apron pockets. The dust went into the vials. Though the vials were pretty big, he only put one pile of dust into each vial. “Stupid godsdamned nonsensical storage requirements,” he muttered, the lines on his brow creasing.
The teddy bear understood none of this. Neither the words, or the actions were comprehensible to its young eyes, especially with the class prompt in its way. Intelligence 3 really didn't give it a lot to work with, there, and those words filled most of its vision in a really distracting manner. But Wisdom 11 was a bit better than the average golem, and the common sense the attribute bestowed was telling it that the break in the man's routine meant the teddy bear wasn't at risk of being dusted just yet. So it waited and watched.
The man tucked the vials away, and looked back to the skunk and the bear. “Sit tight. I'll get to you shortly.” He reached out and patted them each on the head. “If it's any consolation your essence will save me time and trouble with batch eight.” Then he moved over to the door, opened it, and walked out into the yard. Now that was interesting! The skunk and the bear leaned forward as far as they could, to try and see the new place that the open door had revealed. But it shut before they could observe too much. Lots of green things, more brown things underneath them, and spiky green things poking out of the ground. Gray round thingies made a path leading to the door, and the man was walking up them to a really big brown bulky thing in the distance.
“Mrp!” The cat announced with frustration as the door shut in its face, seconds before it could get out. Its pudgy legs had cost it a bid for freedom, and it consoled its bruised pride by settling back down on its haunches and grooming itself. The skunk and the teddy bear looked down at it from their post on the shelf. Then looked at each other.That grooming thing looked kind of fun. The skunk twisted, trying to copy the cat, but the strings holding it down didn't really give it the slack it needed to raise its paws to its mouth, and the one around its tail prevented it from pushing its neck down to them. The bear, on the other hand, had been more hastily tied. And with its arms full of squishy stuffing, and no troublesome hands to get in the way, it managed to pop its paw-pads out of the string loops and touch them to its mouth.
Which accomplished precisely nothing, because its mouth was a few sewn lines of thread. Rubbing its ears with its paws didn't do anything either.
Well, they did do one thing. The bear didn't exactly have much fine motor control yet, so it was pushing pretty hard. This jiggled it in place... and made the loose strings on the knots holding its legs wiggle under the shelf.
The cat immediately stopped washing, and peered at the motion. Slowly, it crept forward, acting as nonchalantly as it dared. Then, when the string least suspected, it struck! A mighty leap, right onto the lower shelf-
-which, as it turned out, was just a plank of wood suspended atop three metal prongs nailed into the wall.
The cat's twenty-five pound body hit the shelf at an angle, slid as the cat flailed widely, and whipped right off the prongs, taking about fifty pounds of books, various tailoring tools, piles of fabric, yarn, and spools of thread with it.
In a supreme act of agility, the sort that it hadn't managed in four years, the cat twisted in midair, claws fully out, legs flailing, and one paw caught the dangling strings securing the teddy bear.
The lower shelf crashed to the ground, sending damn near everything flying in heaps across the workshop. And for a bizarre, timeless moment, Pulsivar the cat hung suspended, eyes wide open, as a sort of existential dread crept over the feline.
Because at intelligence 8, he knew pretty damn well what was gonna happen here.
And it did.
His weight pulled the strings down, causing the vastly underweighted top shelf to flip up on its prongs, then come crashing down to the tiled floor below.
Pulsivar gained a level in feline agility that day, and managed to avoid being crushed under the plank.
With a crash and a crunch, the shelf hit the ground, slamming into the two toy golems, before bouncing, rebounding, and ending up on its side. With a burst of something that wasn't pain, but was definitely odd and unpleasant, the teddy bear watched a red number '4' float past its vision.
The workshop fell silent again, save for the sound of feline slurping and frantic grooming. Pulsivar's excuse was that nobody had seen it, nobody could prove nothing, and it didn't matter anyway because the room was more interesting this way.
The teddy bear, now at a very awkward angle, pushed and shoved at the floor. And for some reason, there was a lot less resistance than last time. With one final heave it managed to clear out from under the shelf, turning back as it got loose to see the knots holding its legs in place entirely undone by Pulsivar's little display of chaos.
Not that it understood string, but it realized it could move now. And looking around at the mess, something told it that it might want to not be here when the old man found the state of affairs in the workshop.
But if it couldn't be here, what did that leave?
There was a much bigger place through that moving part in the wall, it recalled that. Yes, it should probably go that way. That sounded good.
INT +1
So the little bear wobbled to its feet—
—and promptly fell over.
That didn't work.
So it tried again, and fell over again. Finally, after about the eighth or ninth try, it managed to stay upright.
AGL + 1
Well, for all of two seconds, anyway.
Fifty-two tries later it had gained two more points of agility and the ability to stand upright and move around without going head over keister. Then the teddy bear turned to the door, and tried to amble that way.
But before it could get there, a racket nearby caught the teddy bear's attention.
The skunk had evidently had a worse time of it. The poor thing was still caught by some of its toys, but its paws and part of its body were twisted out of joint. Though the teddy bear didn't know it, the skunk had a sort of internal skeleton to it, a few sticks of wood and some wires binding them together. The force of the plank falling hadn't been enough to break the sticks, but it had torn free a few wires. The effect was similar to what broken bones would be on a living creature.
And though the impact had at least gotten its upper body paws free, the string looped around its tail and waist was still intact, and that kept it from escaping the plank.
The skunk shifted, trying to look at the teddy bear. It had squiggly letters filling its vision too, asking it if it wanted to accept the Skunk job at this time. But like the bear, it had no idea what they meant, and no way of answering the Y/N prompt one way or another. Finally the skunk managed to get the teddy bear focused in the gaps between its words. Its glass eyes sparkled with mute appeal.
And now came a moment that would have send the old man into a dance of whooping joy if he'd been there to see it. Lesser golems were unintelligent golems, incapable of sentience, empathy, or even the smallest awareness that anything existed that wasn't them. And even if they had those things, lesser golems didn't have the slightest speck of free will. They couldn't act of their own accord, only react to their master's commands.
But the bear, after a few seconds of hesitation, moved in to help the skunk. It didn't know what it was, had no clue what the skunk could be, but it was just smart enough to realize that the skunk was in a bad situation and wanted out
It too had been in a bad situation, and it had felt good to get out.
Maybe the skunk would feel good too? The teddy bear reached out, and closed its arms around the skunk's bent paws.
Well, it tried to, anyway. When it pulled back, its arms slipped off of the skunk's slick fur. The bear went back on his tail with a bump.
Undeterred, it got back up and tried again. And again. And again. But its stuffing was just too soft, and every time it tried to squeeze harder, the stuffing compressed. It couldn't get a real grip.
Not until the ninth try.
DEX +1
Abruptly, the teddy bear found itself changing. The stuffing in its arms and paws thickened where it was trying to grab the skunk's paw. Even though it didn't have fingers, the pads on the end of its hands hardened and got more flexible simultaneously.
And for the first time since it started this charitable endeavor, the teddy bear had a grip. So it did what it had been planning to do at the start of this mess, and pulled.
Strength 4 wasn't much in the grand scheme of things. But the skunk was light, and the teddy bear was a bit more solid than he looked, thanks to his Golem Body. So he was able to tug the skunk forward, up against the strings securing it to the fallen plank.
Which worked right until the tight loop of the string constricted around the skunk's body right at where the stick supporting its tail joined the stick supporting its back.
The teddy bear and the skunk froze in shock, as a bright red number '6' floated up into the air and dissolved.
The teddy bear was perplexed.
The skunk was panicking.
It had felt that, and knew on an instinctive level that particular sensation was bad. So when the teddy bear started pulling again, and the string ground against the broken join, the skunk lashed out blindly, assuming that something was attacking it. Blinded by its class screen and the persistent prompt, it flailed with its limp claws and open jaws against the teddy bear. But with what was essentially its spine coming apart, and its own abysmal strength score, it didn't manage to inflict any real damage. From nearby, the cat growled low in its throat as it watched the “fight”, tail lashing as red zeroes and ones floated into the air willy-nilly. Though the skunk's claws and teeth were sharp enough to tear at the teddy bear whenever it did manage a good hit, the teddy bear was endowed with an armor rating due to its golem nature that vastly reduced the damage.
The teddy bear, blinded by his own screen, and with his head at an angle that made it impossible to see that the skunk was trying to dig out his stuffing, had no idea the golem it was trying to free was resisting. All it knew was that something was attacking it. It came to the conclusion that whatever had trapped the skunk was trying to stop it getting free. The teddy bear found that idea unacceptable! The skunk was clearly trapped and it needed to be free! So to save it, the bear endured the unpleasant ripping, and pulled with all its might!
The skunk went limp, as its animus fled. Golems could not die, but they could certainly break, and this one's animus had departed its shell. And for his part, the teddy bear's joy at freeing the skunk was tempered by the realization that it had freed only half a skunk. It put down the skunk's upper half, and stared at it. Maybe it was just resting?
Then new words crawled across its view, briefly interrupting the optional job prompt;
Strength +1
You have won the fight!
You are now a Level 2 Toy Golem!
All attributes +2
Suddenly, its head swam. Everything made more sense. Its thoughts swirled around it now, almost too much to manage. Some threshold had been passed, some bar invisible neatly limboed under, and concepts that were completely out of its reach now were a lot simpler now.
It looked down at the tail and lower half of the skunk, with sawdust spilling everywhere and wires and sticks poking out, where the strings had constricted and held it in place. And then it looked down at the upper half in its arms, sawdust leaking down to spill over the teddy bear's legs.
And it knew sorrow. It had done a bad thing, even if it couldn't figure out what exactly it had done. Slowly, carefully, the teddy bear put the upper half of the skunk next to its lower half, and tried to nudge them back together.
You are not a tanner. Seek out a trainer to obtain this job.
The letters flashed by—
—and the teddy bear still couldn't read them. 6 intelligence was better than the 2 it had started with, but it was still nowhere near what it needed to understand human speech, let alone read written words.
But since it didn't feel any better, and the skunk didn't start moving again, the little bear knew it had failed. Its ears drooped.
Then they perked up again, as a rumbling growl echoed through the room, and ended in a hiss.
You are affected by GROWL! You take sanity damage!
The teddy bear watched as a blue '6' floated up into the air, then turned, looking around until the gaps around the letters on that job prompt obstructing its vision revealed the coal-black, fuzzy form of Pulsivar, puffed up to twice his normal size, slit-pupiled eyes fixed upon the teddy bear's sawdust-covered form.
Pulsivar wasn't entirely sure of the particulars of this situation or whose fault it was, (definitely not his though,) but he was pretty godsdamned sure of two things;
One was that he was stuck in this workshop until his hoomin came back, so he couldn't escape.
Two was that he'd just seen that teddy bear straight up murder a fucker.
And to the cat, being in close proximity to such a threat was a call to action. His butt wiggled, his mouth stretched to show all of his needle-like teeth, and he hissed like a demon straight out of hell as he prepared to leap upon the biggest threat in the room...
???? Character Sheet
Spoiler: Spoiler



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About the author

Andrew Seiple


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