“Hello,” She said, offering a hand.
Garth clasped the crimson woman’s hand and found it warmer than he’d expected, like she was running a fever. Maybe her race had a higher body temp?
“My name is Ellanore Kinmet, A Seer of Beladia.”
“Garth Daniels, Apostle of Beladia.”
Her eyebrow raised, holding his gaze for a moment before she knelt down in front of Wilson, her breasts nearly spilling out of the deep cut of her shirt as she leaned over him.
“And who are you, little one?” she said, petting Wilson’s head.
“I’m Wilson!” Wilson said, his tail wagging like a dog. “You can pick me up if you wish. I won’t hold it against you.”
“Sorry, you’re a little too big for me,” she said, amused.
“That’s what I like to hear.” Wilson said with a disgusting smile.
“If. You’re. Done.” Garth said, directing a fair amount of ire at the lizard before he turned back to Ellanore. “I’m sorry, I gave my familiar a body, and I’m starting to think that was a bad idea.”
“Not my fault that’s what you secretly think.” Wilson said, his head bobbing under Ellanore’s pets.
“I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” Garth shouted, a phrase usually reserved for disobedient sons.
Ellanore gave an undignified chortle before rising to her feet. Wilson immediately began to rub up against her ankles like a cat.
That’s weird, he hasn’t been this much of a horn dog even with Sandi, and she’s the literal personification of everything I find arousing. At least visually, she was. The woman’s demeanor seemed to promise unspeakable acts of pleasure in a way that Sandi was still working on. She was making progress, though, and Garth certainly enjoyed teaching her.
“I can feel Beladia’s presence on you, indeed. What did you need from my temple today?”
Wait, could it be the Beladia thing? That might explain Wilson’s instant fascination with the woman. Was she messing with his head? Garth reflexively poked around his mind, but didn’t find anything obvious, so he turned his attention back to the conversation.
“I need to re-establish my connection with Beladia, it was cut during Communion.”
Dude, Garth heard Wilson in his head. She’s not wearing any underwear. Garth got a quick flash from Wilson’s point of view, almost subliminal.
Garth was tempted to kick Wilson across the room, but the best way to prevent a scene was to play it off. Revealing that Wilson was perving on her wasn’t going to make friends. Doing what he was doing was unacceptable…if he got caught. See if you can get a better look at her ass, Garth added mentally.
Aye aye, captain!
“That’s a serious problem,” Ellanore said, unaware of the quick dialogue between the two of them. “Let’s discuss this more in the offices.” She pointed off to the hall on the left before walking ahead, her hips swaying with each step.
Wilson trotted close after her, doing his best to look with his eyes and not his neck.
“Oops,” Garth said, pulling out a handful of ten thousand credit coins and dropping them in the donation dish with a ringing clatter before hustling to keep up with the Seer, leaving Ellanore’s daughter staring at the pile of wealth with her jaw hanging loose.
“Something I’m a bit concerned about,” Garth said as he entered a quiet little office with comfortable padded chairs facing each other, “do Seers have some kind of influence over the Apostles of the same deity?”
“Yes, I’m surprised you noticed.” Ellanore said, motioning for him to take a seat in front of her. “What you are most likely feeling is the resonance between our blessings. You should get over it in a matter of hours.”
It didn’t feel like resonance to Garth. It felt like his pants were three sizes too tight.
“Good to know.” Garth said, shoving the attraction out of his mind as best he could. He had more important things to do today.
“So tell me how a man became an apostle of Beladia, and how you lost your connection to Beladia,” she said, picking up a pot of tea and pouring it for the both of them.
“Is being a man uncommon?” Garth grimaced as he picked up the teacup. There was nothing wrong with tea, in particular, it was just water with weak flowers and shit in it, and lacked the punch his desensitized American tastebuds craved. He took a sip. As expected, it was like drinking bitter rose-water.
Blech, not nearly unhealthy enough.
“May I add to this?” he asked, pointing at the cup.
“By all means.” She said, nodding. “Beladia seldom favors men, and vice versa. Those she does tend to have a strong desire for companionship, stability, and children.”
“Can’t say you’re wrong about that.” Garth said, pulling out a soda-cane seed and sprouting it in his hand. It would be fun to have children to mould in his image. Of course, they were going to be daughters by default, and not human either, so that was a problem, but he’d get around to it worrying about it later.
Garth snapped off the modified sugarcane sprout and forced the sap to congeal at the tip, picking up the sugar and caffeine rich sap with a finger before dropping it into his cup, where it started to fizz.
Garth licked the rest of it off his finger and winced as it went off like pop-rocks on his tongue. Might just have to sell it in syrup form, he thought. It was a kick in the face.
“Want some?” he asked, offering the green stalk oozing with sap.
She eyed where it was fizzing in his cup and shrugged, taking a bit of the sap and dropping it in her drink before following his example and licking the rest off her finger.
It might have been sultry and seductive, had she not immediately spat it out.
“Whoo!” Ellanore whooped, fanning her face and bouncing up and down as she worked her tongue around her teeth, trying to scrape the stinging bubbles off.
“ S’good, isn’t it?” Garth asked, taking a sip of his sparkling, sweetened, caffeinated tea. Much better.
“If you say so,” Ellanore said, smacking her lips and tongue with a frown. She eyed the fizzing tea cautiously, but decided to risk a sip.
“Interesting.” She nodded, taking another sip.
“Anyway,” Garth leaned back in his chair and got comfortable. He handed the Soda-cane stalk to Wilson, who began chewing on it like a bone. “It went down like this…”
About two hours later, after a long story, many clarifying questions, and a bathroom break, Garth had spun the entire tale of his becoming an Apostle and how he’d lost his connection to Beladia.
“I have good news and bad news.” Ellanore said.
“The good news is that you did not anger Beladia and cause her to sever the connection herself. It means it can be rebuilt.”
“The bad news is that a truly powerful being destroyed your link with Beladia entirely. That’s what the burning forest signified in your dream. Destruction. In order to speak to the goddess again, you’ll have to forge a new connection, and that isn’t easy.
“How not easy are we talking here?” Garth asked, ready to run a cost-benefit analysis. He’d gotten along fine without her, and if they wanted him to slay the demigorgon, he’d probably have to turn them down.
“We’ll need an object of great power, linked to the power of nature.”
Here it comes…
“Using the heartstone of the legendary Tanglewood, we could reforge your connection to Beladia, stronger than ever. Stronger than mine, even.”
Nope, nope. Nope!
“Well, I’m probably going to have to-“ Garth was starting to stand when Ellanore interrupted him.
“Of course, consuming a heartstone like that would greatly enhance your magical power, and most likely offer you a class breakthrough as well as an evolution.”
Garth sat back down.
“You’ve reached the limit of what growth your class can afford you.” She said, taking a sip of plain tea, her hands shaking a bit from all the caffeine she’d had earlier.
“How’d you know?”
“I’m a Seer. Knowing things is my specialty.”
“In order to break through, you must either devote many years to the study of your magic, in quiet contemplation, or…
“Or you could defeat a powerful creature under the eyes of the gods and use its heartstone to advance your class. We could piggyback on that burst of power to reforge the link to Beladia as well. The foundation of the link is there, it just needs…”
“A kickstart. Prime the pump, so to speak.”
Garth tapped his fingers on the chair. It sounded like killing this Tanglewood guy would make him quite a bit more powerful, in the long run, ergo less likely to get murdered.
Except for the fact that Tanglewood would probably be trying to kill him. And Garth didn’t like the sound of Legendary bad guys.
Garth certainly wasn’t in the Legendary league yet. But if she thought it was a death-sentence, would she even bring it up? That made Garth wonder a few things. Did he actually have to fight it or did he just need the stone, and what was Tanglewood exactly that made her think he could beat it? The name implied it was plant-based.
“Could I just hire someone else to kill Tanglewood?”
“I suppose, and we could definitely reforge the link with it, but you would miss out on the class advancement and the potential for another god to become your patron.”
“Why’s that?” Garth asked.
“Because we’re being watched.” She said with a smile. “Every minute of every day, the gods can see what we do.”
“Well, I hope they enjoy the show.”
“If you were to simply hire a group of adventurers to destroy the Tanglewood, the gods would most likely find no reason to offer you patronage. Except maybe Entremond. You would also not push your class to its limit and achieve a higher rank.”
She stood and turned, giving Garth an excellent view as she turned to retrieve something from a desk drawer behind her. Turning back, she held a simple silver amulet with an eye engraved into its surface.
“What’s this?” Garth asked.
“It’s an Amulet of Endeavor.”
“And it does…what?”
“When you wear this amulet, you attract the god’s attention, for good or ill. It is often used by young men and women to seek Patronage. Put it on before attempting a heroic task, and the gods will judge your worth.”
“So don’t bitch out once you put it on.” Garth said, extrapolating worst case scenarios. Saying ‘hey watch this!’ and then letting the gods down could end poorly.
“That would be best.”
Garth weighed the amulet in his hand a moment before setting it down beside him.
“So tell me about this Tanglewood fellow, and I’ll tell you if I’ll consider it.”
“Tanglewood is the name of a treant so old it became an entire forest. It moves around nearby and hunters frequently go missing when they stumble across it.”
“You want me to fight a moving forest?”
“it’s an evil forest,” she said, avoiding his gaze.
“You want me to fight an evil, legendary, moving forest?”
Garth drummed his fingers on the wood armrests some more.
“And you aren’t just asking me to do this because it’s a convenient way of getting rid of the evil forest plaguing your village, are you? You’re not going to tell me later that reestablishing the connection to Beladia is easy right?”
“Well… it would make it easier for me…” Ellanore said, glancing to the side.
“Is it possible to do without the Heartstone?”
“Yes.” She sighed.
“Hmm…” Garth rubbed his chin. He still wanted that fancy Heartstone if it could do even half the things she said it would. “Okay. I will try to destroy your evil, legendary, moving forest. Don’t expect me to throw my life away, though. Afterward, you hook me back up with Beladia, forest gone or not.”
She pursed her lips, watching him with narrowed eyes, considering his offer.
“And I’ll pay you half a million credits.”