“I think Daddy was sad back there. In the workshop, I mean.”
Threadbare studied Celia’s face, bringing the teacup up to his muzzle every now and then. He didn’t know exactly why he was doing it, but the toys Celia had woken up were doing it, and she seemed happier with that.
Of course the rest of them were doing it in unison, but she didn’t mind if he was a little out of synch.
Celia lay back, her princess crown slipped half off her head, cushioning her back against a spray of pillows borrowed from the bed. “I mean, not about the workshop, not really. There’s nothing in there a few mend spells won’t fix, right? Okay, a lot of mend spells, but you know what I mean, right?”
Threadbear considered his options. She was looking at him again, turning her eyes toward him with that little wrinkle around her forehead. That probably meant he should nod. So he nodded.
“Yeah! So I don’t know why he’s sad. He doesn’t- he doesn’t tell me. A lot of things. And normally when I get a present from him it always makes him happy to see me enjoy it. It’s why I act really excited even when it’s a lousy present. But he wasn’t happy this time. Uh, not that I mean you’re a lousy present. Honestly you’re pretty great.”
Threadbare nodded. Celia snorted to see it. “Geeze, I give you one top hat and you think you’re all that, huh?”
Threadbare kept on nodding. It seemed to be working.
“We’ll see. I’ll put you through some tests later, buster!” Her grin turned manic.
He didn’t know what tone and her visual cues were something he hadn’t run across before so he stopped nodding. Across the table the toys raised their teacups and took a solemn sip. He followed suit.
Celia sat up, and crossed her legs, resting her head on her hands and resting her elbows on her knees“I really am glad you’re here. I mean, I can make toy friends, but they only last for a little while. Not even a full hour yet, not until I’m level six, that’s what daddy says. And then they de-animate. And I have to put them in my party to get them to do stuff without telling them to do each and every little thing. You? You’re smart. You’re the smartest teddy bear ever!” She swept him up and hugged him, before he could react.
Threadbare froze. Was hugging a thing in this situation? He wasn’t sure how the top hat and tea cup factored into things.
He reached up and bumped the teacup against her lips.
“Hahaha! That’s so cute!”
Your Adorable Skill is now Level 4!
The little girl put him back down in his chair. “Why no, mister bear, I shan’t have any more tea. But thankyew, thankyew, my dear chap.”
Threadbare reached over for the empty honey jar again, and upended it over his teacup. It had made her laugh the last time he did it, and felt right somehow, so maybe doing it again would help him understand her reactions a little better.
But instead of laughing more, she sighed, and her eyes got wetter. “It’s lonely out here. I’m really lonely. I’m glad you’re here, okay?”
There was that look again. Threadbare nodded.
Celia hugged her knees. “I mean, it’s just Daddy and me out here, and Emmet I guess but he has to stand still most of the time so he doesn’t break stuff, and there’s Mister Mordecai but he only stops by to visit once a week, and Daddy ‘s been sad and angry lately and I don’t know why and he doesn’t want to tell me and he doesn’t tell me a lot of things and I don’t have anyone to.. talk… to…” Tears poured down as the little girl spoke, and she drew a heaving sob, before she shoved her face down into the nest of her arms, and wailed.
Oh, oh this was bad. The little golem had never seen tears before, never heard noises like this before. It ran through its options, checked its newfound hat-enhanced social instincts, and decided to go with what it knew best.
In a flash Threadbare was out of the chair, waddling over to her, and locking his arms around her in the tightest hug it could manage. And Celia seized him up, held him to her face, and cried freely into his fluffy belly.
The tears smelled… strange.
Your Scents and Sensibility Skill is now Level 2!
It was like her and yet not like her regular smell at the same time. Perhaps different people had different smells when they felt bad? He didn’t know the answer to that question, and it made him curious to find out.
Finally the little girl cried herself out. “Thank you,” she said, holding him at arm’s length. “I have a friend now.” She sighed, as she saw the state of his fur. Mending had put him together, but he’d gotten pretty dirty during his scuffle in the workshop, and her tears and snot hadn’t helped matters. “Okay. Tea party’s over. Time to clean up.”
The animated toys quickly picked up the table and teacups, and put them back in the closet. Their hats were handed in with solemnity, and Celia plucked the top hat from Threadbare’s head. “It was fun though, you did great Threadbare! Disband Party!”
Your party has been disbanded!
Threadbare reeled, as his charisma suddenly lost its boost. He patted his head, where the hat had been, but nothing happened.
“No, tea party hats are for tea parties,” Celia explained. “Everybody knows that. Now it’s laundry time, and you, Mister Bare, are getting a bath!” She scooped him up, paused, and scooped up the pile of scrolls on the bed as well. “Better put these back before Daddy notices. Uh, not that he’d mind. Probably. Maybe.”
They trekked downstairs, and this time, Threadbare shifted watched her feet carefully as she traipsed downward. He was amazed to find out that holy shit, you could bend your legs when you walked! That was a pretty novel idea!
That would make things so much easier. He looked forward to trying it out.
Celia strolled through the leftmost door at the bottom of the stairs, into a crowded room full of shelves, books, and papers. It was about as messy as her room upstairs, but there seemed to be some order to it. She opened up a dark wooden rolltop desk, hauled out a book, and opened it to show the pages inside had a big hole cut into them.
Threadbare found himself deposited on the floor while she folded up the scrolls, and tucked them back into place in the fake book.
Threadbare watched for a bit, then tried practicing that bendy-leg walking thing.
Five tumbles and two knocked over piles of books later, he thought he might have figured it out.
“C’mon silly old bear,” Celia grabbed his arm, and ran out into the front room, skidding on the floor, then taking a sharp u-turn through the next doorway. “Let’s get you clean!”
The next room turned out to be the kitchen, not that the bear understood the notion, or knew what any of the objects scattered around might be. Bowls, pans, and strands of garlic wound around hooks set in the walls just under high cupboards, and a hand pump sat in a corner, with a large basin underneath. A pair of windows let in cheery light, and two closed doors indicated more rooms further in.
The garlic really caught Threadbare’s attention. The smell was overwhelming, and he covered his nose. A pressure started to build, behind his muzzle.
“Kff!” Air whooshed through his nose, and Celia dropped him, surprised.
That went on for a bit, with Celia getting more and more worried. “You’re sneezing, why are you sneezing? Are you sick? Oh no!”
This wasn’t doing him any good, and the little bear was thoroughly annoyed at it. He wanted it to STOP.
Animalistic Interface Activated!
Instinctual activation and deactivation of BEAR job skills is now enabled.
He didn’t know what the words meant, but the smell was gone, and all the other smells were gone, too. But most importantly, the sneezing was over with, and both he and Celia were very relieved at that.
Celia sighed. “You had me worried there for a moment, Threadbare. Here, sit here.” She dropped him in the brass basin under the pump, and started hauling on the handle. There was a strange gurgling noise, and Threadbare stared up into the faucet, trying to get a look at whatever was making that noise.
Then, all of a sudden, water came flying out, hitting him smack dab in the face, and knocking him over. He flailed, found the water rising around him, and panicked. Scrambling for the edges of the tub, he tried to haul himself out.
You have unlocked the generic skill: Climb!
Your Climb skill is now level 1!
He almost made it too, before Celia grabbed his soggy fur, and tossed him back in. “No no Mister Bear! You need a bath!”
After a few more failed attempts, and Celia’s repeated insistence, the tiny golem settled down and accepted his fate. He felt bloated, as it seeped through his seems, and made his stuffing swell up inside him. His fur was soggy, and he was thoroughly miserable.
“Hm… water alone won’t do it. Wait here.” Celia went to one of the doors and opened it, revealing a dark stairway down. She reached up and tapped a crystal hanging from a small chain, and it lit up. “Back in a bit. Don’t go anywhere.”
She was back in a few minutes with a jar of powder. “Wow the rats are getting bad. Droppings all over the place down there.”
Threadbare simply stared at her with accusing button eyes. He was soaked, bloated, and thoroughly unhappy with the situation.
His tormentor giggled, unrepentant. “No, it’s fine, watch this.” She uncapped the jar and dumped a little powder in. It tingled a bit, and fizzed when it hit the water. Curious, the little bear poked at the bubbles that came out, and watched them pop.
Celia took a brush to him, scrubbing all the dirt and stains away. Then she wrung him out, making him squirm as she twisted his body and squished his stuffing every which way. It wasn’t exactly bad, just uncomfy. But he did feel better at the end of it all.
Brushing out his fur was best of all. He settled back into her lap as she sat on the floor and combed him, enjoying the tugs against his hide with every sweep.
“There we go! Just gotta hang you up to dry.” Celia bounded up, tucked the comb into her frizzy hair, and pulled a line from one of the cupboards, stringing it between the nearest hooks so that it stretched across the room. “Oh, gotta let some breeze in so you don’t get musty!” The little girl popped open the nearest window, and drained the tub, letting the soapy water gurgle away into the pipes. “Just hang out for a little while, okay? Okay.” She fastened the teddy bear to the lines with clothespins on his arms, putting a bowl under him to catch any stray drips.
Thus half-crucified, the little golem watched her run out the door back to the front room, open up the front door, and slam it behind her. “Hey Daddy, do you need any help? Are you done? When’s dinner?”
Then she was out of earshot, and the golem turned as best he could, surveying his surroundings, trying to make some sense of this new environment now that he wasn’t being soaked in water for no good reason.
And then he froze.
Peering in through an open window, scorn written into every whisker, was a feline face. A familiar one.
Pulsivar the Cat strolled in over the windowsill, and sat his haunches down on the counter, staring up at the little golem.
Threadbare stared back.
Then the golem began jerking frantically, trying to get itself free of the washing line.
Pulsivar’s eyes got bigger and bigger, as the thrashing motion enticed him. He crouched low, wiggling his butt, as his tail lashed in anticipation.
“Daddy, do you think Threadbare can help with dinner tonight?” Celia’s voice came from just outside the door.
Threadbare’s head whipped to the left, and hope rose within his heart-
“What? Oh hold on, I didn’t know there was more. Coming!” Celia’s footsteps retreated down the path.
-and swiftly fell, as his salvation left him to the mercies of the cat, Futile, because the cat had no mercy, and he leaped upon the hanging golem like a fuzzy, fat arrow loosed from a bow with a catgut string.
But Pulsivar hadn’t accounted for one very important thing.
The hooks holding Threadbare’s washing line up weren’t meant to bear twenty-five pounds of pissed-off feline.
The rightmost one ripped out of the wall, the line swung, with Threadbare pinned to it and Pulsivar swinging below him like a fuzzy pendulum-
-and both of them went sailing through the still-open basement door. Celia had forgotten to close the damned thing.
At the end of the arc, Threadbare’s eyes went wide in horror as the pin holding him to the clothesline snapped off, and cat and golem went sailing down together, bouncing and rolling down the steep wooden stairs, to land in a heap on the dirt floor. A pair of red numbers, 6 for Pulsivar and 2 for Threadbare, drifted up into the air and vanished.
Your Toughness Skill is now level 2!
Max HP increased by 2!
Above them, stirred by the breeze of their passing and nudged by one of the cat’s flailing legs, the door swung closed with an ominous CLICK.
The light, at least, was still on. Threadbare and the cat scrambled apart, rising to their feet. In the light reflected from the glowing stone above, button-eyed determination met a malicious feline glare.
Threadbare found himself all out of fucks to give. He was stronger now, tougher, and this creature had fled from him before. Alien instincts flooded him, and he hauled himself up to his full height, putting his arms out wide. He tried to growl, but the lack of a mouth made it impossible.
Pulsivar hissed, with a sound of boiling water. This time would be different! This time the bear would not escape! His fur puffed up…
And in the shadows where the light didn’t reach, red eyes faded into view.
Pulsivar paused, as his nose twitched.
Rats. Lots of them.
A chittering filled the dank air, and Threadbare stopped, looked around as well.
And then there was no time for anything but violence, as the rats charged out to kill the invaders.
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