“C’mon Keira, you can’t be serious!” protested Rowana. “That thing’s a monster, isn’t it?”
Of course she was upset. Her girlfriend had just picked up a rather outrageous thing from a random pawn shop and seemed like she had the intention of looking after it. She wasn’t an adventurer herself, so she wasn’t 100% sure what the small, animate box really was, but it certainly didn’t look like a puppy.
“But! It’s so pretty! And it’s kinda cute, isn’t it?!” argued the catgirl in question.
Boxxy’s actual reason for wanting to look after this thing was a deep, nagging curiosity. Whatever this thing was, its internal structure was much different from its own. It was undoubtedly a type of mimic, but what kind was a mystery. It certainly wasn’t a Lesser or Greater variant of its old species, which meant it was likely a completely different being. Not to mention that looking after this thing was the perfect excuse to look up research materials regarding shapeshifters.
It certainly wasn’t because the thing was exceptionally shiny or anything.
“Rowana! Keira! Wait up!” shouted Lia from further back.
She had stayed behind for a few seconds to make sure the distressed pawnbroker was alright before following the other two. Luckily they’d only taken a few steps by the time she got out of the shop herself.
“Lia! Help me out here!” said both of the lovebirds at once.
“Okay! Let’s take a deep breath, calm down, and think this through. First of all, Keira, how in the blazes did you actually spot that creature?”
“... I thought I saw it twitch outside the corner of my eye. When I went into the shop, it realized it had this weird smell about it. That’s how I knew it wasn’t a simple box.”
What actually had happened was that it spotted the odd creature with its Mana Locator Gland. Since that’s not something it could state outright, it made up a believable excuse. The notion that beastkin had sharper senses than elves was not something Boxxy made up, but a sort of general knowledge that it found out from Xera when planning its disguise. Without this bit of convenient trivia, it would have made up some dubious reason like ‘I just knew’ or ‘it winked at me.’
“Wait, does it?”
Rowana leaned in and took a sniff of the mini-mimic that Keira had pressed against her chest. However, although that thing did have a scent of its own, it was being overpowered by the catgirl’s ‘perfume.’ Realizing that Lia was looking at her weirdly, the young Alchemist gave an embarrassed cough and straightened herself out.
“I, uh, guess it does,” she half-lied out of shame. She did think she detected an earthy odor rather than a woody one, so it was good enough.
“Anyway… Keira, do you know what that actually is?” asked Lia.
“It’s a type of mimic, obviously. But it’s different from what I heard they were like.”
“Yeah, you do have a point.”
“What’s a mimic?” asked Rowana, who was clearly out of the loop.
“They’re dungeon-born monsters that usually look like treasure chests,” explained Lia. “Pretty much all the dungeons in the Republic have them, so they warn us in advance.”
“So it’s a monster after all, isn’t it?!”
“Maybe? I mean the ones I know of are supposed to be big enough to swallow a person whole and have rows of sharp teeth. This one seems… a lot less so.”
“How about dropping by the CC to check it out?” offered Keira. “Surely mister Faehorn or one of the others would know about it.”
“You sure it won’t just attack you?” asked Rowana nervously.
“It’ll be fine,” claimed the green-haired elf. “Keira clearly has a handle on things.”
It wasn’t because Boxxy was putting in any effort into it, either. The creature struggling inside its arms was so pathetically weak that even Rowana would be able to hold it down if she tried. Even if it were to bite something, those flat teeth didn’t look like they’d do a lot of damage.
“Well… okay… I can come with, right?”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Rowie!”
The trio proceeded towards the Central Consortium building. Despite everything, Lia did end up feeling like a third wheel as the other two flirted the entire way there. It made her more than a little bit uncomfortable, but she too was curious about that weird thing Keira had found. They arrived at the massive mansion-like building 15 minutes later. Inside it was a grand hallway, with a staircase at either end of it. Each floor was divided into two wings - a north and a south one - and each of the 8 guilds were assigned to a single wing. There were also a few common areas like the library, cafeteria or a number of meeting rooms, but the vast majority of each floor belonged to one guild or another.
The trio climbed up to the 2nd floor and went into the Hidden Arrow guild in the north wing. Unfortunately, it would appear all the high-ranking members, including instructors, were currently away. Apparently there was some big meeting or conference and they were called away, which was why there were no Ranger classes today.
Not to be discouraged, they visited the other guild on the same floor - the Children of the Wild. Rangers and Rogues meshed well with nature-oriented Jobs, so the two organizations usually got along famously. The Blessed of Nyrie and the Maleficum on the 3rd floor, however, had a bit of a strained relationship to say the least. Lia wasn’t sure who put the devout believes literally next to the people most likely to violate the taboo of the gods, but she hoped he or she got fired.
Regardless of such inter-guild politics, the group actually lucked out with their visit to the Children of the Wild, as a Level 63 Monster Tamer was available for a consultation right away. They were escorted into one of the shared meeting rooms after all of them pitched in for the 50 GP consultation fee, and were told to wait. The room itself was a bit bare, but pretty nice. The walls were a soothing cream color and lacked in any decoration. Three tall windows allowed plenty of natural light, while a large rectangular table sat in the middle, with nearly 20 seats available.
The three girls waited rather nervously, with Keira still hanging onto the mini-mimic. The creature seemed to realize it wasn’t about to get squished and it was already abundantly clear it wouldn’t be able to get away, so it had stopped squirming. Besides, it felt a strange sense of both awe and fear from the cat-eared man-thing holding onto it. The same sort of feeling a house cat would get when it was introduced to a janther.
Almost exactly like that, actually.
The door swung open, and a bald gnome wearing a bushy black beard and a dark brown tunic walked in. He introduced himself as Jeremy Rizzlecrank, the Monster Tamer they had asked for, and the girls gave him their names in kind.
“Now then,” he said once introductions were out of the way. “Let’s see this peculiar beastie you found.”
Keira got off her seat and placed the ‘beastie’ on the ground. Having finally been freed from her grasp, the jewelry box didn’t actually run as she expected. In fact, it just sort of stood there, completely still. Rather than ask questions, Jeremy grabbed onto it and forced its lid open. It finally squirmed to show signs of life, but more or less just let the gnome inspect its mouth cavity. Not that it had a lot of choice in the matter.
“Hmm, teeth like that of a herbivore, tongue similar to a frog’s…”
He let go of the box, which closed its jaws and growled a bit. The gnome took off his leather glove and poked at its mouth and teeth with an unprotected finger, seemingly trying to provoke it. However, it didn’t bite or attack the gnome, just gave his finger a few licks before backing off.
“Doesn’t seem particularly aggressive either.”
Jeremy then reached into a pouch on his waist and pulled out a jar that looked far too big to fit into it. That pouch was a Bag of Holding, a popular Superior-quality magic item that was 10 times bigger on the inside than the outside, and items stored in it would only weigh a quarter of what they normally would. He twisted open the lid of the jar and took out what appeared to be a dried piece of peach, then presented it to the strangely docile mimic. The creature immediately stretched its tongue out and snateched the tasty treat out of his hand, then happily munched on it. The gnome fed it two more pieces of dried Hylt fruit before he was convinced.
“What you folks have here is a House Mimic,” he declared with a smile on his face. “Quite the rare thing you’ve found there.”
“So… it’s not dangerous?” asked Rowana with a bit of apprehension.
“Nah, no more dangerous than a puppy or kitty. It’s not even a monster, not in the truest sense of the word.”
He slightly patted the jewelry box’s lid as it happily munched on its snacks to prove a point. The House Mimic didn’t seem to shrink back or flinch this time.
“It’s actually kinda cute, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, guess it is,” admitted Rowana. It was a strangely endearing sight.
“So can we keep it?!” asked Keira with a face full of expectation.
“I don’t know… How would we even care for that thing?”
“Ah, that’s easy really,” said Jeremy. “These buggers mostly care for themselves. They don’t poop or shed, and will eat pretty much anything so long as it’s small enough. They even go after bugs or other small vermin all on their own if you forget to feed ‘em, though they like Hylt fruits the most. Fresh ones are best, but dried works too.”
“You sure seem to know a lot about them,” noted Lia.
“Well yeah, I got one back home, although that one’s in the shape of a cookie jar. Found it 3 years ago while raiding the cafeteria’s pantry at ni- I mean, I found it in the cafeteria. Been looking after it ever since.”
He fed it a few more pieces of fruit before putting away the jar.
“They’re pretty stupid, but make surprisingly good pets. Just don’t expect them to scare off any burglars or whatnot. Poor guys’ jaws are so weak they won’t even draw blood if they bite a person. Er, not that they have a habit of biting things bigger than themselves you see.”
He then gently picked the animate box and tickled its underside, which it seemed to enjoy.
“Their bottoms seem to be sensitive, so while they like having them stroked, they’ll get mad if you overdo it.”
“Oh look sweetie, something you two have in common,” said Rowana with a coy smile.
“Sweet Nyrie, they’re both like that,” mumbled Lia while hiding her reddening face in her palms.
“So yeah, if you guys don’t wanna keep it, I’ll gladly take it off your hands,” offered Jeremy, who seemed to not notice their exchange.
“We’ll keep it! Definitely keeping it! Right, Rowie?!”
“Jeremy, can you promise me it’s safe?”
“I swear it on my life, miss Slyth.”
“... Okay then. I’ll trust Keira’s judgment on this.”
“Alright! Thanks, Rowie! You’re the best!”
Following with Keira’s excitable character, Boxxy threw its arms around the elf and gave her a wet smack on the lips, much to Lia’s discomfort and Jeremy’s shock.
“Ah… sorry… I got carried away…”
“So um, Jeremy, please don’t… I mean-”
“Fret not, miss Slyth. I’m a professional, and what happens in this room is strictly confidential. Besides, I’m not in the business of spreading salacious rumors.”
“Anyway, I suggest you folks get the little guy tagged and have him registered. You can do both of those at our guild’s office.”
“Uhm, mister Rizzlecrank? Can you recommend some books on mimics or just shapeshifters in general?”
“Oh ho, good attitude, miss Morgana! Educating oneself about their pet is crucial if they plan to raise them properly.”
Well, that wasn’t really the reason Boxxy asked for those. If anything, it was already an expert on the matter of mimics. It’s just that it wanted to know what the world at large knew about its kind, lest it reveal too much information in the future.
“Riften’s Monster Encyclopedia vol. 3 should have what you need, miss,” he added. “Just, uh, take heed of the dark history attached to it.”
“Sure thing. Do drop by if you have any more questions. I’ll answer them free of charge, of course.”
“We’ll take you up on that offer when the time comes,” said Rowana with a business-like smile.
The disguised Mimic picked up its smaller cousin and the three girls parted ways with the gnome.
“So, what are you guys gonna call it?” asked Lia while they made their way over to the Children of the Wild guild.
“... How about… Goldie?” suggested Rowana.
“I don’t know that’s a little… common?”
“That’s just puerile, Rowana.”
“Maybe… Oh, I know! Red Eye!”
“What, after the gem in its lid? Is that real, by the way?”
“I don’t know, but it’s very pretty.”
“Anyway, ‘Red Eye’ isn’t bad, but makes it sound a lot more vicious than it appears.”
“Minic,” stated Keira suddenly.
“... I’m sorry?”
“It’s a mini-mimic, so I’m gonna call it Minic!”
“That… I’m not sure if that’s genius or idiotic,” said Lia with a sigh.
“I think Minic sounds cute! Let’s go with that!”
The catgirl held the living jewelry box up above her head and gave it a wide smile.
“Pleasure to meet you, Minic!”
The House Mimic seemed to have calmed down considerably after being fed and let out a few high-pitched, bark-like sounds. The trio went into the Children of the Wild’s office once more and, with Jeremy’s assistance, made its name official. A bright blue string was tied around one of its legs and a light wooden chip serving as a tag was attached to it. It clearly marked the creature as being named Minic and belonging to Keira Morgana. The girls also dropped by the library and checked out Riften’s Monster Encyclopedia vol. 3 as per Jeremy’s suggestion. Eager to learn more, they all gathered around the same table inside and looked up the entry on House Mimics.
The tale revealed inside was more than a little upsetting to the elves though.
It would seem House Mimics were actually the original mimics. Their creator, as it turned out, was an elven scholar and magic user of great power called Tol-Saroth, who lived some 430 years ago. Although the exact method had been lost to time, he claimed to have used an original combination of both Druid and Warlock magic to bring his own furniture to life. Apparently he had lived in seclusion most of his life, and had created them to be his companions, guardians and servants, dubbing them House Mimics after what they looked after. However, these creatures were created with purely good intention and were innocent in their purpose. He even made sure to raise them to be as unaggressive as possible to humanoids - a far cry from the murderous chest that Boxxy had been born as, and in essence still was.
Unfortunately, it would appear growing hostilities with the Empire had driven the royal elven bloodline of the time - the Ishigar - to seek alternative means with which to repel these human aggressors. The two nations were at each other’s throats even back then, and the Elven Dominion, as it was called at the time, was on more or less equal terms with the fledgling Empire when it came to military strength.
And yet, wanting to secure victory against ‘those violent upstarts’ with minimal losses, the Forest King at the time had sent for Tol-Saroth’s help. Although the scholar originally wanted to reject using his knowledge to breed death and destruction, he could not go against the authority of the king. Literally. The Authority of the King was a Phantasmal-grade relic of great power that made it impossible for any of their people to reject the wishes of their King.
Tol-Saroth was therefore forced to subject his beloved creations to various experiments, twisting their purpose from that of companionship to guerilla warfare. He produced monsters of great cunning and formidable strength, programmed to hide within Empire settlements and hunt humans down indiscriminately. Elven agents would then spread these murderous chairs, beds and cupboards across the Empire while passing them off as simple furniture salesmen. The Mimics in question were essentially sleeper agents, waiting for the right moment to be activated.
That moment came when increased hostilities between humans and elves eventually led to all out war. However, human spies had caught onto the elves’ scheme and moved to secure the lynchpin of their operation. They had found and captured Tol-Saroth after a protracted battle that lasted for several days and cost them dearly. They brought the elven Warlock and Druid out of the Dominion and into the Empire, with the goals of having him disarm those ticking timebombs he and his cohorts had sewn across their nation. They even managed to break him free from the Authority of the King’s control, and he willingly began working to undo his mistake.
However, he found out the humans were no different than the scum that forced him to twist and pervert his own creations. They intended him to produce weapons of mass destruction or even utilize said Mimics against his own people. Once he found out their hidden agenda, Tol-Saroth had begun to sabotage his own work. It is unknown how or why, but he set off a Calamity that left a permanent scar on the landscape, wiping out the remote fort that served as both his prison and research laboratory.
Scholars have since then determined that this Calamity had sent out some sort of magical pulse that spread far and wide, waking up the creatures known as Mimics, causing them to wreak havoc across the empire. It was also by his vengeful hand that the royal elven bloodline was extinguished, as their own beds and thrones had turned out to be sleeper Mimics. And while a part of the remaining murderous furniture was killed off, many ran off into the wilderness. Although historians were not certain what became of these creatures, they noted that it was only a few years later that Mimics started cropping up in dungeons across the world.
Lia closed the book in front of her with a glum expression. She and her companions had to look through several dusty tomes which they had gathered as a result of their own, morbid curiosity. The story they pieced together was fragmented, full of holes and conjectures, but they reached a single, morbid conclusion.
“Our ancestors had done some terrible things,” stated the elf Ranger.
“This is… unbelievable. Are we sure these books are accurate?” asked Rowana, clearly wanting to deny the history they had just learned about.
“... This library is normally exclusive to members of the Consortium. Adventurers live and die based on how accurate their information and preparations are, so I have no doubt these accounts are accurate. I also heard that some of the books here are not publicly available, likely due to the sensitive information they hold.”
“The humans… are not entirely blameless, either,” pointed out Keira, to which the other two fell into silence once more.
Boxxy, the one who was the most concerned with this turn of events, didn’t know what to think. Learning about its origins was harder to swallow than it expected to. It suddenly made sense why it craved human flesh. Granted, it would not turn down the odd elf or dwarf, but humanity was the ultimate delicacy, the race it wanted to devour the most. This was also probably the reason Lia smelled so much tastier than other elves, as she had stated that her mother was apparently born of the love between a human male and an elf. And although the resulting children of such couplings were always the same race as the mother, they still carried the father's traits. Boxxy could quite literally smell the traces of humanity that were passed down from her grandfather.
Honestly, the idea that some ancient elf was the source of its instincts was more than a little infuriating. Having grown up in a dungeon, the Mimic had sworn to itself that it would not let anything or anyone control it like that ever again. And as it turns out, it was being influenced by some long-dead asshole from hundreds of years ago.
And Minic, who was idly sitting on the table the entire time, was apparently a remnant of Tol-Saroth’s original legacy. Boxxy had the sudden urge to crush this creature here and now, but that subsided almost as quickly as it came. It wasn’t to blame, if anything it was a victim. The wannabe-catgirl stretched its hands out and hugged the small creature. Not to restrain it, as it had done initially, but as it out of some bizarre feeling bordering on empathy. Rowana embraced her girlfriend from the side, seeming to comfort the solemn-looking Keira. Lia sat on the other side and put a tender hand on Minic, stroking it gently.
“Those poor creatures,” said Rowana. “Such a horrible fate, made to kill others and-”
“Rowana, don’t get the wrong idea,” interrupted Lia. “Mimics are monsters. Regardless of their origins, they are vile, vicious and delight in the suffering of elves and humans alike. They have no loyalty, no compassion and would not hesitate to eat you on sight with not a single shred of remorse. ”
“I see… yes, you’re right.”
“Therefore, if you’re going to feel bad about any of them, then be sure to spoil this little guy rotten.”
“Thanks, Lia,” said Keira. “I really needed to hear that.”
These were Boxxy’s honest feelings. Although her words were meant to be a cautionary speech for Rowana, they actually ended up being a surprisingly effective pep-talk for the monster in their midst. That’s right, it didn’t need to doubt itself and suddenly change its homicidal ways. Boxxy knew who it was, and it wasn’t going to let some old story change that. Besides, it was now intelligent enough to suppress any and all instincts that Tol-Saroth fellow had given it and its ancestors. Therefore, rather than feel conflicted about its past, it chose to focus on its future and would redouble its efforts in the acquisition of both tasty and shiny things.
“C’mon, let’s get out of here,” it offered, and the other two agreed. The three of them returned all the books they had borrowed and went their separate ways. Their day out on the town had taken an unexpected turn, but it was hardly a waste of time.
For there was one more point of interest in Tol-Saroth’s story. Something Boxxy was quite surprised to see, but something that also made sense in a way. That elf was not only a Druid, but also a Warlock. And although his Job Levels had been lost to history, his biography stated that he was known for having three different familiars under his command, a clear sign of the Demonology Skill.
This meant the ‘Warlock magic’ stated in the history books likely referred to the reality-warping energies of the Beyond. In other words, it was highly likely that Mimics, Boxxy included, were partly demonic in origin. Perhaps that was why it had gotten along with its summoned familiars so well, and also why the Goddess of Impossibilities was so interested in it.
And yet, that wasn’t the most surprising thing. Rather, it was the ancient elf’s familiars themselves. Although their names weren’t recorded, their appearances and actions were. One of them was a Beholder, and the other was a fiend. It hadn’t met either of these, as the Beholder was described as having gray skin while the fiend was a female that used a massive greataxe as her weapon. The third one was quite suspect however. It was described as an outrageously nubile female, with light blue skin, lips and hair the color of the night sky, a disdainful look in her glowing red eyes, two golden, ram-like horns on her head, a slender tail with a spaded tip, and a pair of large, red wings sprouting from her back.
And judging from the few accounts of her exploits, this Cerulean Succubus had quite the penchant for burning things down to the ground.