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Mystic Heart Odyssey - Chapter 39 by Lloxie

Mystic Heart Odyssey - Chapter 39

MHO chapter 39! Yeah, this whole arc just keeps going on longer and longer, and so did this chapter! So much for a 2-3 chapter ‘episode’. Still, hope you’re all enjoying it as much as I’m enjoying writing it. This has definitely been one of my favorites to write, so far. These characters have been fun to play with, even if the accent took some getting used to writing at first.

PS today’s word of the day is “playful”!



Lykou and Kuna slept in late the next day. Some of the caravan crew were concerned, but Gavin, having been up especially late himself, let them know that the boys didn’t get back until after even he had gone to bed. When they did eventually show up to the common area of the lodge, half the crew of both caravans had already left to go do other things around town.

“Whit kept ye up sae late last night, lads?” Finlay asked, idly tuning his pridlin. “Jest esplorin’, er did the council keep ye late?”

Lykou and Kuna exchanged a look, then Kuna hesitantly replied, “Yeahh, council stuff mainly. We um. We did walk around a while afterward, since most people were in bed by the time we finished, though.”

“Gonnae gonna stay an extra day in Whitlan, then, ah assume?” Effie asked.

“Yeah, they want to see us again later, plus it’ll give us a chance to go use those, er… ‘coin’ things,” Lykou answered. “Speaking of which, uh… how does that work, exactly? Do we just take it to, I don’t know, a weaver and give it to them, and ask them to make us something?”

Finlay chuckled. “Weel, ye could, bit it’s easier ta jest go doon ta th’ market. Tis where folks tak’ things ta sell.”

“Sounds… convenient,” Kuna hazarded.

“They ‘av a bit o’ everythin’ there,” Effie added. “Things made ‘ere are cheaper than things fra caravans, o’course.”

“I don’t suppose you can tell us where that is, or if there’s a um…. Less busy path to get there?” the sereva asked.

“Weel, ah wis gonna heid there mahself fer ta replace one o’ mah strings here, so ah can show ye ta way,” Finlay said with a shrug. “Bit th’ market’s alwis busy, ah’m afraid.”

Kuna frowned and shot Lykou an anxious look. Lykou smiled at him sympathetically and gave him a gentle squeeze with one arm. “Hey, it’ll be alright. We’ll try to make it quick, okay?”

“Ah’ll come too. Got nothin’ else ta dae, ‘n’ ah’m used ta dealin’ wi’ folks gittin’ too pushy,” Effie volunteered, then crossed her arms with a confident smirk. “Dinnae worry, Kuna, ah’ll skelp anyone that dinnae respect yer space.”

Kuna couldn’t help but grin a little at that. “Well… I guess I can’t argue with that.”

One of the lodge-keepers walked in to check on things and noticed the boys were up. After some initial introductions and some predictable questions about the two non-lepne, he offered to bring them some food. Kuna gratefully accepted. Lykou was hesitant, but eventually relented and decided he could stomach some of whatever they had and just make up for it with some of his salted meat later. Finally, after they’d eaten, they got up and each grabbed one of their bags to take to the market with them, then joined Finlay and Effie to the market, with the lepne explaining how things worked as they walked.


The boys found the market to be impressive once they’d arrived. Kuna was more than a little intimidated by all the lepne milling around, but he was equally fascinated at all the stalls displaying a variety of goods for sale. Since Finlay had something specific in mind, they ended up at a stall near one end, near a weaver’s workshop. The stall was mainly displaying various garments and sections of cloth made from a smooth, slick, light-weight material neither of the boys had seen before. Finlay talked to the stall owner as the others looked over the things on display.

“What is this stuff made from? I haven’t seen something so smooth and light like this,” Lykou commented.

“Aye, tis silk. Really fancy ‘n’ comfortable, bit expensive,” Effie said. “’n’ nae guid fer travel, either.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Wouldn’t exactly protect you much in a fight, that’s for sure.”

Kuna frowned, having been admiring a particularly fancy-looking outfit. “Yeah, I… guess it wouldn’t be very warm, either,” he said, though he nonetheless continued admiring it.

Effie shot him a sympathetic look. “Sorry lad, didnae mean ta disappoint ye.”

“Eh, whatever, it’s just fancy clothes,” Kuna said with a shrug, finally prying himself away from it.

Lykou smirked and rubbed the sereva’s shoulder softly. “Hey, if you really want, I’m sure we can find you something new here that’s better for traveling. Though honestly you did do a good job making that poncho, especially given what you had to work with.”

“Aye, right, ah didnae even think aboot it, bit ye made a’ tha’ oot in th’ wilderness efter gettin’ tossed by tha’ magic storm, aye?” Effie asked, looking him over. “Wi’ jest th’ needle Lykou made ye? Damn impressive under th’ circumstances, lad.”

Kuna blushed and smiled. “Oh c’mon, it’s practically just a blanket with a hole in it,” he said, rubbing his arm a bit. “Anyway, it’s getting pretty worn out at this point. I don’t know how many more times I can stitch it up.”

“Heh, my stuff’s in worse condition,” Lykou pointed out, looking down at his thoroughly worn shirt that’d been stitched up multiple times. “Maybe getting some replacements aren’t such a bad idea. Just, er, something more durable than this ‘silk’ stuff.”

“I don’t think you’re going to find, er… what did you call it, ‘leather’?” Kuna said. “I doubt they’ll have that here.”

“Ye might be surprised, lad. Tisnae common, true, bit when a guard saves farmers fra a nasty beasty attack, they’ll bring its arse ta toun ta mak’ a trophy from its bones, ‘n’ leave whit’s left fer someone else ta deal wi’. ‘n’ some folk git creative,” Effie pointed out. “Kin be expensive, tho. Tak’s a certain kind o’ mind ta willingly deal wi’ messy shite lik’ tha’.” She paused, then shot a smirk over at the konuul. “Na offense.”

The canid chuckled. “None taken. I’ve gotten used to it, but only out of necessity. I definitely don’t like doing it, if I can help it.”

After Finlay finished getting his replacement string and chatting with the stall owner, the group moved on. Kuna managed to keep from being overwhelmed by the crowds of lepne by focusing on all the craftwork on display at the different stalls. Lykou, on the other hand, was happy to smile, wave, and chat to the many lepne that took interest in the fascinating outsiders until they finally started to get used to the boys’ presence.

The next few stalls were from more weavers’ workshops, featuring clothing, bags, and fabric made of different materials. They recognized the wool that their sashes were made from, and Kuna was somewhat tempted by a few warm-looking garments with colorful decorations on them, but the others managed to convince him to keep moving on. As they walked around the market, the sereva was repeatedly sucked in by a number of pretty and fancy looking things- not just clothing, but also jewelry, luck charms, and other trinkets featuring various gemstones. Even Lykou was tempted by several things, though he was trying to think more practically- eyeing some of the equipment at a smithy’s stall, for example. And then there was the food- delicious smells filled the air around certain parts of the market, enticing them both, even though they didn’t know what they were smelling half the time. All they knew is that it smelled good. Effie pointed out they could have decent food back at the lodge any time, though.

“A guid rule tae go by, lads- unless ye ‘av somethin’ specific in mind tae begin wi’, see everythin’ afore ye buy anythin’,” Finlay advised them. “Ye only ‘av so much coin, sae ye cannae git everythin’ ye might want.”

“Yeah, fair point,” Kuna said with a sigh, sticking close to Lykou as they walked by a large crowd of lepne. “There’s so much nice stuff, though…”

“Well, let’s think about it, now that we’ve got an idea for what there is to choose from,” the canid suggested. “I could definitely use some new clothes- or at least a new shirt. An axe might also be nice, in case we need to make a fire and can’t find enough fallen branches or something, plus it could double as another weapon if needed.”

“For that matter, some extra protection would be nice. The bracers help, but they can’t protect your clothes, and having a little extra doesn’t hurt.”

“Ye did dae weel wi’ tha shield agin’ them bandits,” Finlay pointed out.

“Yeah, till it broke. Though I suppose a small buckler made of that ‘bronze’ stuff could be nice…”

“You could also get a spear made from it, for that matter, so you’re not always having to make new ones,” Kuna suggested.

“Solid bronze wull be expensive, ‘n’ heavy, bit they mak’ ones wi’ bronze bits attached tae wood that’d definitely be reasonable. Stronger tha’ wood alone, ‘n’ sharper tha’ stone,” Effie chimed in. “Ah think th’ axe might be mair broadly useful tho. Kin ye hunt wi’ tha’ too?”

“Er, I mean… I guess? But it’d be awkward,” Lykou replied, rubbing his head thoughtfully. “I prefer spears for that because I don’t have to get quite as close before striking. They give me more reach overall, too.”

“Yeah and the further away you can keep dangerous things, the better,” Kuna agreed.

“Ye said yer na guid wi’ bows tho, aye?” Finlay asked.

Lykou shook his head. “Unfortunately, no. Just as well though, I don’t think I could make decent arrows to replace any that break, either.”

“Ach, guid point. No countin’ on findin’ a fletcher durin’ yer travels, unless yer near a village.”

“So our options so far are a spear, an axe, a buckler, and some new clothes. Any other ideas before we decide?”

“Much as I like some of that jewelry, I know it’s not exactly practical, so no, not that I can think of,” Kuna replied, then thought for a moment. “Oh, actually, you were going to see about making an instrument yourself, right? Maybe you could get some strings for that. We should probably cut that last gourd open soon anyway.”

“Aye, tha’ so lad?” Finlay asked, intrigued. “Whit gourd ye talkin’ aboot?”

“It’s back at the lodge, I’ll show you when I get there,” Lykou replied with a smile, then shrugged. “It’s not exactly a necessity though. I can always wait on that.”

“A couplea’ strings willnae set ye back, tho,” the musical lepne said with a grin. “Ah’d be happy tae help ye git started oan it afore ye leave Whitlan.”

“I’ll definitely keep that in mind, then,” the konuul replied happily, his tail flicking a bit. “Thanks, Finlay.”

“’coorse, lad.”

“Oh, hey, maybe I should see about upgrading to a bigger bag for myself,” Kuna suggested. “This one’s worked so far, but the straps aren’t the greatest and it’d be good if I could carry more, especially at the rate we seem to be, er, collecting things.”

“You sure you’re up to carrying more?” Lykou asked with an arched brow. “No offense, but, well-”

“I know, I’m a wimp,” Kuna said with a shrug and a smirk. “Don’t beat around the bush. Still, I can at least carry more of the ligher stuff, if nothing else.”

“I guess… just don’t try to over-exert yourself.”

“Tell ye whit, thir’s a stall fer th’ folk tha’ suppply Whitlan’s guards. They’ll hae padded shirts wi’ armor bits tha’ might work fer ye. Wull need some tweakin’ ta fit ye, bit it’ll work fer both clothin’ ‘n’ protection a’ th’ same time.”

“Hey, yeah, that’s a good idea,” Kuna agreed. “Much as I hope it won’t be needed, we never know when we’ll end up having to fight off another monster or… something. Clothing meant for battle would be ideal.”

“Yeah, that sounds like a plan,” Lykou agreed. “Though maybe you should focus on something warm, knowing how sensitive to the cold you are. Maybe a second poncho for when that one gets wet, so you won’t have to be cold while you wait for it to dry,” he added, then smirked. “Unless of course you just want the excuse to come to me for warmth, that is.”

“What, don’t want me to cling to you naked anymore?” the sereva teased. “And here I thought you liked me being nude.”

“Hey, you’re the one that gripes about the cold,” the canid retorted. “By all means show off your butt all you want, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? Maybe we should just let your stuff fall apart before we replace it, for the sake of fairness.”

“Just ‘fairness’, or is that a request?”

Finlay and Effie exchanged a bemused look as the two traded playful barbs. “Oy, lads, ye wantae stop flirtin’ sae ye kin mak’ up yer mind a’ready?” Effie eventually chimed in with a smirk, crossing her arms.

“Flir- hey, we’re just goofing with each other!” Lykou retorted defensively with a faint blush. Truth be told, he and Kuna had both briefly forgotten about the world around them for a minute.

“Y-yeah, we do that sometimes,” Kuna agreed, looking away with a sheepish smirk. “Just, uh, p-playing around, th-that’s all.”

“O’coorse ye dae.” Effie replied with a small eye roll. “Typical best buddy stuff, ah’m sure.”

“Exactly!” Lykou quickly replied. “Right, back to the point then, uh…”

“Padded clothing,” Kuna reminded him, still a little flushed as he avoided meeting anyone’s gaze. “From the guard supply stall.”

“R-right, heh,” the canid said. “Lead the way, Finlay.”


When the group finally left the market, Lykou was wearing a brand new padded shirt with some simple, light bronze plating over the shoulders, chest, and back. It needed adjustments initially, in order to fit the konuul, but as luck would have it, the stall owner recognized their sashes and gave them a discount for being ‘heroes of Clovaria’. The shirt also came with a very simple kilt that matched the material of the top. He’d never worn anything but pants before, but figured it’d be comfortable in hotter environments, at the very least. The old shirt was stuffed into his bag- he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it, but he was sure it might come in handy for something. And due to the discount, he was even able to get the strings for his future instrument, which he was excited to work on.

Kuna was wearing a new hooded robe that was a bit warmer than his poncho, and came down further- after being adjusted, anyway. Compared to Lykou’s new armored shirt, it had needed less tweaking to fit its new owner- it only needed to be lengthened a bit, so that it looked a bit less like a dress. His poncho was tucked away in his bag- it was a tight fit, but he managed to move a couple small things from his bag into the pockets on his new garment to make it work. In addition to the robe, he ended up buying a small hatchet that they could use for firewood. It wasn’t as big and effective as an axe, but it was affordable, and light enough that he could use it himself, even if he suspected Lykou would end up using it more often due to his superior strength. Still, it was also a decent back-up weapon if it came right down to it.

In the end, the boys were left with a coin to take back home with them, just as they’d hoped. Lykou stuck it in his bag next to a certain sentimental stone, alongside a small collection of nearly forgotten spirit-chaser charms. All in all, given their late start, most of the day had passed by the time the group began making their way back towards the lodge. Part of the way back, Effie bumped into an old friend, and after introductions and a brief conversation, she excused herself to go catch up with her at the brewhall. A short walk later, Finlay asked the boys if they were comfortable going the rest of the way back on their own, as he wanted to meet up with some fellow musicians. Lykou assured him they’d be fine, so they bid each other farewell until later, and parted ways.

Now that he and Lykou were no longer accompanied by someone familiar, Kuna’s anxiety about the busy streets reasserted itself a bit. “Er… do you remember the way we came?”

“Hmm… I think so,” the canid said. “I think we just use those smaller paths behind the bigger buildings and keep heading towards the middle of the town.”

“S-sounds right,” the sereva agreed, getting a bit uncomfortable from the stares they kept getting from passers-by. “I guess if n-nothing else we could always a-ask a guard.”

“True. But I think we’ve got this,” Lykou assured him as they walked down one of the back alleys.

They wandered in a crooked, twisted path for a short bit, getting lost a few times, but eventually they made it back to the lodge just in time for dinner. Lykou pulled out some of his salted meat to munch on as Kuna was served a large bowl of some kind of thick soup. He wasn’t familiar with the concept of soup, beyond what Lykou had described, but he had to admit it smelled delicious- especially after all those nice smells he’d encountered in the market. And once he started eating, it was obvious from the way he began hungrily devouring it that he thoroughly enjoyed it.

When they finished eating, they stashed away anything they didn’t want to bring to the garden with them, then took some time to relax at the lodge for a while, chatting with each other and occasionally members of either caravan team that came and went. They received multiple compliments on their new clothing. Most of the Dunnyhill group had returned by the time they excused themselves to head to the garden.

“Ach, where ye goin’ tae et this time o’ evenin’?” Gavin asked curiously. “Brewhall? Hawp ye saved some coins.”

“Er, no, we’re um…”

“Going for a walk,” Lykou interjected. “The crowds had Kuna too anxious to really finish exploring the town today, so now that they’re thinning out, we’re going to go do that.”

“Er, r-right!” Kuna agreed. “And taking a walk after sundown is a good way to relax before bed.”

“Oh, tha’ makes sense. Weel, ‘av a nice walk, lads. Wi’ll see ye tonight or tomorrae mornin’,” Ealar said.

“See you then, and good night in case we’re not back before you go to bed,” Lykou said with a smile and a wave as they left.


Luckily, with fewer people in the streets, Kuna was less wary about the path they took, so they just took what seemed to be the most direct route to the garden. The closer they got, the fewer people they saw still walking around- even patrolling guards seemed unusually scarce. By the time they got to the garden, they realized there was nobody standing at the gate. The gate itself was standing open, as if inviting them in, although the torches near the entrance remained unlit.

They both felt somewhat uneasy all of the sudden, but they didn’t want to back out of their promise, so they nervously walked in. Fortunately, the glowing flora within the garden, accompanied by the light of the stars and the full moon creeping up into the sky ensured that they could see more than well enough to avoid tripping on anything as they slowly walked around. Still, there wasn’t a soul to be seen anywhere in the garden.

“Er, should we be heading for the sanctum, or stay here?” Kuna wondered aloud. “She never really specified what part of the garden to meet her.”

“Good question. Maybe we should head over towards the bath? That’s around where we talked last time.”

“I dunno, something feels off,” the sereva noted, looking around anxiously. “Maybe we should stay within sight of the front gate, just in case.”

“Hmm, m-” Lykou started to reply, but then they both jumped at the sound of the gate shutting on its own. The two shared a look, then bolted over to try and open it again. Somehow, the gate refused to move, despite nothing obvious blocking it.

“Well that’s n-not ominous at a-all,” Kuna commented, looking the gate over. “And of c-course, I don’t s-sense any magic. N-not sure what kind th-that’d even be anyway.”

“Stone, maybe? They make that bronze stuff from stone-like things anyway,” Lykou suggested, glancing around for another way out.

“Maybe. Not important r-right now anyway,” Kuna said, then sighed and idly kicked the gate. He then stepped back and looked at the walls. “Y-you think we can c-climb those vines?”

“Well… I don’t know if we should try even if we could.”

“W-why not?”

“Well… look at it this way. Either we’re panicking over nothing, and we don’t want to be rude to the secret powerful druna that’s also the ruler of this entire region by skipping out on our promised meeting over some paranoia,” the canid explained, then took a breath and turned to look around the garden. “Or our fears are well-founded, and the last thing we want to be hanging onto are a bunch of vines she can easily manipulate. Right?”

The sereva glanced up at the vines again and frowned. “...shit. Didn’t e-even think of that.”

Lykou sighed and pulled him close with one arm as they walked back into the garden again. “Hey, let’s not jump to conclusions, she probably just didn’t want any nosy busybodies listening in on our conversation.”

“Y-yeah, well, w-why isn’t she showing herself y-yet if she was close enough t-to close the gate?”

The konuul thought for a minute, then shrugged. “Well, for all we know, she can do that from a long way off and she’s making her way here now. Or maybe she has a way of making the gate magically do that to itself after we walk through. Her magic was kind of weird, right?”

“I guess,” the sereva replied. “Still seems suspicious as fuck th-”

Just then, his words died in his throat as a large shadow flicked by overhead, and a moment later they heard a large, heavy thud on the ground behind them. They quickly spun around and were met with a shocking sight. A large figure was sitting on the ground in front of the gate. They looked like a lepne, but bigger than the two of them combined, and bestial looking. Despite its more feral appearance, it was sitting back on its hind legs with its forelegs crossed. But the most jarring thing of all were the added features- on their back was a large pair of multi-colored wings. And on their head was a pair of antlers similar to those that Kuna’s people normally had, except bigger, to match the large head. And when the figure looked up, their eyes were glowing with a familiar glimmering light.

They both gawked at the strange creature, as lively music began to slowly fill the air from unseen instruments. This time there was no vocal accompaniment, of course. “A… Aelana??” Lykou hazarded.

Suddenly, she grinned and crouched down, narrowing her eyes with an almost predatory look, looking like she was about to pounce.

“Timetorun,” Kuna insisted, tugging at Lykou’s arm slightly. The konuul needed no convincing, and they immediately bolted in the opposite direction.

As they ran, they occasionally had to stop dead in their tracks and run a different way as their pursuer landed in front of them, leaping back and forth around the garden in enormous bounds. Everywhere she landed, bright color briefly flashed across the nearby landscape. The plants throughout the garden began moving around on their own, despite the fact Kuna still couldn’t feel the presence of any active life magic being used. They had to dodge roots and vines as they whipped around and lightly smacked at them. Oddly, none of the attacking plants actually seemed to be trying to ensnare or trip them, so much as mildly inconvenience or annoy them.

The boys bolted behind some tall hedges and looked back to see where the creature was. They couldn’t see the beast anywhere, even after Lykou nervously looked up to see any sign of her leaping overhead. For a moment, they thought they were in the clear, until Kuna suddenly felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned and let out a yelp as the hedges they were hiding behind turned out to be the very creature they were fleeing from, grinning toothily down at them. Again, they bolted across the grounds, back towards the front gate.

When they came within sight of the exit, they were surprised and relieved to see it standing open again. They quickly fled towards it, hoping she was somehow confined to the garden. The moment they passed through, Lykou paused to grab the gate and slam it shut behind them, on the off-chance that it’d slow her down a little. But the moment he turned back around, he froze, his eye twitching when he realized they were still in the garden. Kuna’s expression mirrored the canid’s, and they both glanced back to see the town on the other side of the closed gate. The sereva gave it an experimental tug, but sure enough, it was sealed in place again.

Another familiar thud a few yards away again drew their attention and they turned to see the semi-lepne creature grinning at them again. She even gave them a little taunting wave before crouching down again, ready to pounce. Without wasting any time, the two bolted off to the side as fast as they could, following the wall around the garden. “There’s got to b-be another w-way out of here somewhere,” Kuna said, frantically searching the stone for any kind of gap.

Again, they stopped in their tracks as the Aelana-beast landed in front of them, nearly tripping over in the process. Again, they bolted off in another direction. “Let’s try the sanctum,” Lykou suggested as they ran.

“That f-feels like a colossally b-bad idea,” Kuna replied, panting a bit. “She c-can manipulate all those trees around us.”

“Well… wait, why don’t you try and use your own magic to buy us some time or something??”

Kuna looked around, then slowed to a stop, and Lykou followed suit. “A-alright, I’ll try,” the sereva said, manifesting his magic as he anxiously saw their pursuer charging across the garden towards them. After a moment, his ears drooped and he looked around in a panic. While he managed to grasp the energy flowing through himself, that was as far as he could go. It wasn’t like the fight with Kerr, where he felt an external resistance pushing back at the same things he tried to manipulate- he just couldn’t seem to get a grasp on anything else in the first place.

“Uhh, Ku?? N-not to pressure you, but she’s getting close!”

“I… can’t…”


“I can’t grasp anything!” Kuna blurted out in exasperation, the green glow around his hands flickering. “It’s all… I don’t know, slippery or something! I can’t describe it!”

“...wellp, back to running then!” Lykou suggested, and they both turned to flee again just as Aelana was closing in on them. After a few minutes of running, a wall of large, thick roots shot up around them, blocking their way. When they turned around, they saw Aelana again land in front of them, blocking their way out. Out of options, Lykou pulled his knife out to try and defend himself. “Quick, bracers,” he urged the sereva as he tried to activate his own.

“...nope,” Kuna anxiously replied, as he frantically rubbed his thumb back and forth over the green lines on the bracers over and over again, to no avail. They simply would not activate themselves.

Lykou looked down and tried his a few more times as well. “What the shit??” he demanded, then quickly looked back up and held his knife up at the ready as the beast started slowly striding up to them. “S-stay back!”

Suddenly, the creature arched her brow and smirked at him. “Er whit, ye gonna poke me wi’ a stick? Whit are ye, ten?” she said in a familiar voice.

The canid looked confused for a moment, then jumped slightly and looked at the stick in his hand with confusion. He quickly dropped it and searched himself and the ground around him. Kuna grabbed his head and tried to calm himself down as he helped scan the ground for any sign of the knife- he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was in a bizarre dream, though.

“Lookin’ fer this?” Aelana replied. They looked up and saw her balancing the knife upside-down on the tip of the finger on her very paw-like hand. Still, her enormous feral form clearly somehow didn’t inhibit her dexterity, and she began juggling the knife back and forth in a showy manner, before finally gripping the blade between two fingers and handing it back to the canid, poking her tongue out at him.

The threatening impression they got from her suddenly seemed somewhat… lacking. In fact, she seemed to radiate an aura of warmth and playfulness that felt infectious, and the fear rapidly drained from them. The minute Lykou hesitantly took his knife back, she reached over and booped Kuna’s nose. “Tag. Yer et,” she said with a broad grin, scooting back slightly aftewards to see what he’d do.

The sereva’s nose suddenly glowed with a bright green light, which matched a bunch of spots that appeared all over his body after his robe suddenly went invisible. The rest of his fur turned bright yellow, and his hair developed a large, absurd cowlick. “...what.”

Lykou gawked at him for a minute. “...uh… Ku? Are you… okay?” he asked, somewhat struggling to keep a straight face.

“...other than feeling like I’ve finally lost my damn mind, wonderful. Why do you ask?” the sereva snarked, looking himself over. “This has to be a dream.”

The canid stifled a snicker. “You, uh… you do look a bit ridiculous.”

“Yer a fine one tae talk,” Aelana said, leaning forward and tapping the konuul on the shoulder.

Lykou gave her a confused look, but then turned back to the sereva when he heard him snort. Kuna was staring at him with an amused expression. When he looked down, her realized why- his fur was all shades of bright pink and covered in sparkles, and his outfit had turned into a particularly frilly dress made from some lacy, sheer material neither of them recognized. “...why?” was all he could say in response, as he turned back to the strange being with a perplexed, but somewhat amused expression.

Aelana giggled to herself, and gradually she ended up doubling over in laughter. Eventually, the boys couldn’t help but join in a bit, partly from catching sight of one another again, but mostly because of the surreal situation and the need to release some tension. Finally, she wiped a tear away from her eye, then waved her paw, sending a flurry of sparkles around them. The root-wall retracted back into the ground and both boys returned to normal as an oversized toadstool mushroom sprouted up underneath them and tripped them into sitting on it. “A’right, a’right, ye baith kin relax, ah dinnae bite,” she announced, still giggling a bit. “Hope ah didnae skeer ye two tae bad.”

“I think I’m beyond fear and thoroughly in ‘what the cock-dancing fuck’ territory now,” Kuna replied, his eye twitching.

“Yyyeahhh, I think that’s a pretty good way to describe it,” Lykou agreed, though he couldn’t help but grin and snicker again at the sereva’s phrasing.

“Whit, ye never played tag as a wee lad?” she replied with a smirk, crossing her forelegs.

“No, what the fuck does that even mean??” Kuna replied before Lykou could say anything.

The canid frowned and shot him a sad look before responding for himself. “Er. Yeah, I did, but obviously not with magic, or a, um…. Whatever you are,” he said, then quirked a brow. “Which, speaking of… are you…”

She gave him a look for a minute, then rolled her eyes. “Nah, ah’m nae spirit if tha’s whit yer thinkin’,” she replied.

“Then what??” Kuna blurted out.

Aelana glanced back and forth between the two and the moon for a moment. “Ach, a’right, a’right, hang oan,” she finally said, rubbing her head and going slightly cross-eyed for a minute, seemingly having some internal debate with herself. She then raised her paw up, conjuring up a large cloud of sparkling lights and dust that surrounded her. When it faded away, she was back in at least a somewhat more normal form- comparatively normal, anyway. She appeared like she had the previous night, like a tall, graceful lepne with glowing eyes and markings. But the wings and antlers stayed, albeit shrunk down to match her new size. She stumbled around a little dizzily for a moment, then shook her head before smiling at them, seemingly stabilized. “Forgive mah playful nonsense. Ah havnae let h-, er, it oot in far tae lang, ‘n’ it’s harder ta resist on ta full moon.”

“So WHY did you insist we come back tonight?” Kuna demanded, rubbing his hand through his hair in exasperation.

“Weel, fer one, ye wondered how ah wasnae afraid o’ Inkari, so ah figured ah’d show off a wee bit,” she replied with a shrug. “Yer lucky, ye ken. Only Ivor’s seen mah ether side afore, ‘n’ ‘es sworn tae silence aboot it.”

“Yeah, I feel real lucky alright,” Kuna deadpanned.

Lykou glanced between the two awkwardly for a moment, then wrapped his arm around Kuna, hoping to help him calm down a bit. Truth be told, once the initial panic faded and he knew they weren’t in any actual danger, the whole thing did seem kind of amusing to him in retrospect. But he couldn’t exactly blame his more sensitive friend for feeling differently. “So uh… back to the question, what are you, exactly?”

Aelana smirked and conjured up another mushroom for herself, than sat down cross-legged on it as she answered. “Well, ah’m still lepne. Half-lepne, anyway.”

“And the other half?” Kuna asked, then suddenly narrowed his eyes into a glare. “Wait, I swear if you’re going to tell us you’re another half-spirit… thing…”

She snickered and shook her head. “Nah lad, lik’ ah said, nae spirits involved.”

“Okay, but like he said, what’s the other half?” Lykou pressed her.

She glanced between them with a thoughtful look for a moment. “Ah’ll tell ye, bit first ah need ye tae make a geas fer meh.”

“Really, more games?” Kuna asked flatly.

“A… guess?” Lykou asked, quirking a brow. “I mean, if you’re not even part spirit, then-”

“Nae, lads,” Aelana interrupted, waving her hand with an amused expression. “Nah a guess. A geas. A magically-backed promise, ye ken?”

“A magic… promise?” Kuna asked curiously. “What kind of promise, and how does it even work?”

“Ye ‘av ta promise nah ta tell ennyone in Clovaria mah secrets withoot mah permission. As fer th’ way it works, weel… cannae even explain it properly, especially afore ah tell ye th’ rest. Tis na dangerous, tho. Willnae hurt, either.”

“Well, I guess that’s reasonable. I don’t think we planned on going around blabbing about it, right?” Lykou said, glancing over at the sereva.

“...yeah, not like anyone would believe us anyway,” Kuna replied with a shrug.

“Ah’m glad tae hear it, bit jest sayin’ tha’ tisnae enoof. Here, gimme yer hands, lads,” she said, holding one of hers out. “Lik’ ah said, it’ll nae hurt ye. Ah ken yer familiar wi’ special promises anyway,” she added with a knowing look, glancing briefly to the pocket Lykou kept the stone in. “’n’ this one willnae even require blood.”

“How did-” Lykou started, then cut himself off and gave her a look. “Right, why am I expecting an answer.”

“Aye, na yet anyway,” she said, then wiggled her fingers. “Weel?”

With a sigh, the canid placed his hand on top of hers. A moment later, a very hesitant Kuna followed suit, after his curiosity won out over his paranoia. The half-lepne lifted up her other hand and traced a line of sparkling white light through the air around all three of their hands. When it finally made a full loop, she withdrew her finger and the loop of light tightened quickly around their hands. There was no pain, but the pressure felt like someone tying a string snugly around them.

“Ah’right, repeat efter me- ‘Ah solemnly swear, mah word tae bind mah heart ‘n’ mind, tae never reveal th’ true nature o’ Lady Aelana o’ Danag-Moor, Keeper o’ th’ Gloamin’ Hills o’ Clovaria, withoot her permission, as lang as ah roam there.’”

The boys shared a bewildered look before somewhat clumsily reiterating the phrase. Once they finished, the light vanished and shot a wave of energy through them that made their fur briefly stand on end and left a pair of strange knot-like mark on the backs of their hands, which faded away after a moment. Kuna shivered. “W-what was that?”

“Lik’ ah said, a geas. Noo ah ken ye willnae spill mah secret.”

“N-not that we were planning to, but what happens if we accidentally do?” Lykou asked nervously as he pulled his hand back.

“Oh, dinnae worry, ye lit’rally can’t.”


“Go aheid ‘n’ try next time ye see another lepne. Th’ words willnae leave ya. Could be a wee bit awkward fer ye, though.”

“I’ll, uh… take your word for it,” Kuna said, examining his hand.

“Dinnae fash yerself lad, ah meant whit ah said. Th’ geas willnae hurt ye,” she assured him, then grinned. “Ah’m nah as wicked as some ether Syltheans, ye ken.”

The boys looked up and gawked at her slightly. “WHAT.”

“Y-you’re… you’re a…” Kuna stammered.

She snickered. “Aye, mah father wis fra Sylthea. A wolpertinger, ta be exact,” she explained. “Ah woudlnae share such a secret, bit, weel, ah noticed them bracers yer wearin’ ‘n’ hae some questions o’ mah own. Sae ah figured it wis fair. ‘n’ ah’m mighty intrigued tha’ yer familiar with Syltheans enoof to react tha’ way.”

“Y-yeah, we um. We f-found them in some old ruins,” Kuna said, still staring at her in disbelief. “W-we never even heard of Sylthea before recently, though.”

“Aye, soonds aboot right,” she said with a small frown. “Na many folk aroond thaes days remember ‘em, sin’ they bin gone sae lang.” She quirked a brow. “Guessin’ Ink tellt ye aboot th’ ruins?”

“Well, not directly, no, but she’s more or less the reason we went there,” Lykou said, looking at the bracer on one arm briefly, before turning back to her. “She told us about the Syltheans afterwards, though… did your people make these?”

“Nah, looks ta be Elnyr-make. Thir alwis doin’ stoof wi’ wood, livin’ in trees, ‘n’ so oan. Wolpertingers dinnae often hae patience fer such craftwork, usually,” she said with a shrug. “Especially um…” she trailed off, looking up at the moon and twitching a bit. After staring off for a moment, she quickly shook her head and snapped out of it. “...when the moon tis bright,” she finished somewhat awkwardly.

Kuna gave her a dubious look. “Yeah, what’s with that anyway? I’ve never heard of anyone being so… affected by it before,” he said, then smirked and nudged Lykou playfully. “Except maybe howling at it for fun on special occasions.”

Lykou smirked back at him and ruffled his hair playfully. “Yeah, like when you’re wasted.” The sereva poked his tongue out at him briefly.

Aelana giggled. “Aye, it affects all Syltheans in different ways, to various degrees. Bit in mah case, ah been, uh… keepin’ th’ ‘tinger side cooped up way tae lang. ‘n’ sh-, er, ah wis over-excited tae let it oot,” she explained with a sheepish grin.

“How long, exactly? You said Inkari was unusually long-lived for a Jarzin, but how long do, er… ‘tingers’ live?” Kuna asked curiously.

“Didnae yer parents teach ye tis rude ta ask a lady her age?” the half-lepne asked, as she crossed her arms with a playfully accusatory look.

“….er,” Kuna frowned, slightly confused. “No? Is… that rude?”

Lykou rubbed his back softly. “Er… Kuna, well-”

“Lost my parents at a young age and missed out on a lot of things because my tribe was shit,” Kuna finished for him with a small eye-roll. “Guess I just wasn’t in a position to learn that one.”

Aelana frowned and gave him a sympathetic look. “Aye, sorry lad, ah wis jest playin’. Didnae mean ta pull up ennything uncomft’able,” she said.

“Eh. I’m used to it, I guess,” the sereva replied with a shrug. “You uh, don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, obviously.”

Aelana smiled sympathetically at him. “Nah, es fine lad. Truth be tellt tho, ah stopped countin’ efter a thousand, sae ah canne be sure-”

“A THOUSAND?!” Lykou blurted out in shock, with Kuna staring with a similar state of surprise.

“Aye, look guid fer an auld hag, dinnae?” she replied, then snickered.

“You look good for someone our age, or any age, for that matter,” the canid replied with a bewildered smirk.

“Thank ye lad. Bein’ a half-Sylthean has it perks, ta be sure,” she said, then leaned back on her hands casually as she looked up at the stars. “Magic, looks, long life, ‘n’ so oan.”

“Damn. So… I guess even Inkari-”

“Ach, she’s nah far behind meh. Lik’ ah said, she foond a wey ta cheat th’ system ‘n’ has bin pokin’ aroond almost as long as ah ‘av,” she replied with a slightly sour look. “Honestly, much as it annoys me ta say, we’re prolly aboot as powerful as each ether, jest… diff’rent kinds o’ magic, ye ken?”

“R-right… all that stuff earlier was Sylthean magic, I take it?” Kuna asked. “No wonder it seemed so… different.”

“Aye. Works loads diff’rent ta th’ stuff yer used ta learnin’, tho ah kin do some o’ that, too,” she explained.

“Including the, uh… shapeshifting stuff?” the sereva asked, looking her over. His eyes briefly paused for a moment on her antlers, but he quickly shook certain thoughts away.

“Weel, sorta. Ah kin tak’ different forms, bit maistly mah lepne form ‘n’ mah ‘tinger form, or this sort’a mix o’ the two. Ether things tak’ either life magic, which kin be tiring, er glimmer, which mak’s it jest an illusion. Although sometimes ah kin do odd things ah norm’ly cannae dae, when th’ moment tis right, especially on full moons,” she replied, then smirked. “Speakin’ o’ which… ah see ye givin’ me them antler envy eyes, lad. Wantae try ‘em oan?”

“I wasn’t- wait, what do you m-”

“Here, ye wear ‘em fer a minute if ya like.” She suddenly plucked the antlers off her head with one hand- somehow the other one floated around in the air alongside the one she was holding as if they were joined by some unseen connection- then leaned forward and plopped them down on the bumps on the sereva’s head.

Kuna cringed. It felt incredibly… wrong. His body had a part of someone else’s body growing from it, and he could somehow feel it. The flows of life energy did not match up in the slightest. He twitched silently for a minute, unable to process the bizarre sensation. Lykou looked at him with concern, noting his uncomfortable expression.

Finally, right as the canid was about to speak up, Aelana took them back and snickered. “Sorry, cannae help mahself.”

“Yeah no, please don’t do that again,” Kuna said with a shudder. “I don’t need a new reason to have nightmares.”

“Na, in fact, ah’ll make ye a promise fer puttin’ up wi’ me,” she said, gently laying a hand on his shoulder, and her other on Lykou’s. “Yer devils will nae come fer ye whilst ye sleep in mah domain. Ah hereby grant ye nothin’ bit ta sweetest dreams while yer in Clovaria.” She winked at the sereva. “’n’ thas nae jest fancy talk.” Suddenly, she hopped off the mushroom and shivered a little. “Lads, lets walk ‘n’ talk. Movin’ kin help meh keep mahself, weel… under control,” she said with a sheepish grin.

“Sure, it’s a nice night again, after all,” Lykou said with a shrug, then hopped off the mushroom.

“...’under control’?” the sereva asked warily as he hopped down as well.

“Aye, mah ‘tinger side’s getting’ restless, sae movin’ aroond keeps meh calm ‘n’ focused,” she explained. “Unless ye want things gettin’ silly again,” she then added with a mischievous look.

Lykou smirked. “Hey, as long as we’re not actually in danger-”

“Pass. Walking it is.” Kuna quickly interjected, as they began strolling around the garden. “I… don’t suppose you can teach me how to do any of that stuff?” Kuna asked curiously.

“Sorreh lad, got tae ‘av Sylthean blood in yer veins ta use glimmer ‘n’ mak’ a proper geas, sae fer th’ most part, nae,” she replied regretfully. “Tha’ said, thir’s definitely magic things ye kin learn tha’ ‘av nothin’ ta dae wi’ th’ spirit world.”


“Aye. Lik’ howfer ah ken aboot yer wee magic stone,” she replied with a grin, pointing to Lykou’s pocket.


“I mean, it’s meaningful to us, sure, but magic?” Kuna asked dubiously.

“Aye, ‘n’ th’ fact tha’ tis meaningful ta ye is how tis magical,” she explained. “Tis a powerful sympathetic link.”

“Sympath-… what?” Kuna asked, furrowing his brow in confusion. “It’s just a stone. How can it feel sympathy?”

“And what does that have to do with magic?” Lykou added.

“Nah, lads, listen,” Aelana said, shaking her head in amusement. “Th’ magic yer learnin’ is all based on energy fra th’ spirit world. Bit Sylthean magic works diff’rent. Soul magic is th’ closest, ‘n’ thas how they overlap- we’re nearleh unparalleled wi’ dream magic ‘n’ so oan. Bit most o’ it is based oan, weel…” she trailed off for a moment, then waved her hand ambiguously. “Connections ‘n’ ideas, ah s’pose. Ah kin sense tha’ ye both put blood ‘n’ heart inta it, fer some kind o’ promise.”

“Well… yeah,” Lykou said, a little bewildered. “But how can you tell?”

“Yeah, I can’t sense any magic in it, certainly not soul energy,” Kuna agreed, scratching his head. “I don’t think stones would have that kind, anyway.”

“Weel, ye did put somethin’ inta it wi’ yer blood, bit thas nah th’ point. May ah see et?” she asked, holding her hand out.

The boys shared a look and hesitated for a moment, then Lykou fished it out and handed it to her. “Please don’t lose it or do anything to it…”

“Nae worries, ah won’t,” she said, taking the stone and looking it over. “Tho fer future reference, ye prolly shuid keep it claise ‘n’ hidden aroond other magic users, especially Syltheans. Someone tha’ ken whit thir doin’ could use this ta mess wi’ ye even fra the other side o’ the world if they get thir hands oan it.”

“Really??” Kuna asked nervously. “How?”

“Is there anything we can do about it?” Lykou asked, worried he’d inadvertently somehow put them in danger from the very start.

“Weel, nothin’ besides bury it ‘n’ try ta ferget it ever existed, bit that’d be an awful pity,” Aelana went on, continuing to examine the stone. “Dinnae need tae throw somethin’ away jest ‘cus it may ‘av some risk. It might mak’ ye vulnerable if ye lose it, bit es also important to ye, aye?”

The boys looked at the stone, then each other, and smiled faintly. “Well… yeah,” Lykou said.

“I guess it is sentimental,” Kuna agreed.

“Aye. Yer souls ‘av a small connection tae it noo. Holdin’ it, ah kin see exactly what it means ta each o’ ye, ‘n’ whit ye mean to each other,” she said with a smile, then handed the stone back to the canid. “A sign o’ commitment ta trust ‘n’ compassion fer one another. ‘n’ there’s a subtle, bit potent magic in tha’. One day, mibbie ye’ll see whit ah mean.”

Lykou looked over the stone again himself for a moment, then put it back in his pocket. “So all that… ‘keen observation’ stuff earlier…”

She snickered. “Weel, ah wasnae lyin’. Live as lang as me, ‘n’ ye pick up oan things a lot faster. A wee bit o’ magic doesnae hurt, tho.”

Kuna glanced between them for a moment. “Observation stuff…?”

“Just something she was doing yesterday, after you went in to see the council,” Lykou said with a shrug. “I guess it’s hard to keep secrets around here that aren’t yours…”

“Hah! Yer nae wrong, lad,” the half-Sylthean responded, crossing her arms with a big grin.

“Actually, why do you hide yourself, anyway?” Kuna asked curiously. “Seems like bandits and such wouldn’t be such a problem if everyone knew there was a powerful half-Sylthean around to keep an eye on things.”

“Ach, tha’s jest it, lad. It dinnae work as weel as ye’d think,” she replied with a sigh, her wings drooping slightly to match her change in expression. “Even wi’ all mah power, ah cannae be everywhere at once. ‘n’ if ah’m lookin’ one place, trouble wull start elsewhere, then folk blame me fer na fixin’ it. Everyin’ expects someone thaes powerful ta do evr’ythin’.” Her sad look shifted to one of annoyance. “Then o’coorse ye ‘av th’ ones tha’ dinnae lik’ whit they dinnae unnerstan’, or the ones tha’ side wi’ th’ more vindictive spirits ‘n’ jest think ah’m in conflict wi’ th’ ‘natural order o’ things’, ‘n’ shite like that.”

“Vindictive spirits? Natural order?” Lykou asked, raising a brow. “What do you mean?”

Aelana rolled her eyes slightly and sighed again, slightly more dramatically. “Aye. Spirits ‘n’ Syltheans ‘av a long rivalry as old as time. Neither kin agree who wis aroond first, ‘n’ some o’ ‘em resent us fer messin’ wi’ the mortal world, ‘cus they see it as their oon territ’ry,” she grumbled. “Na all o’ ‘em, o’coorse, n’ some o’ us git alang fine wi’ some o’ ‘em. Bit even then thir’s playful banter ‘n’ competition et times. Elnyr ‘n’ tree spirits, fer example.”

Finally, she smirked again. “’coorse, ah cannae blame ‘em fer bein’ wary. Lot o’ Syltheans do love tae cause trouble fer trouble’s sake.”

“Oh?” Kuna asked warily. “Why’s that?”

“Jest part o’ Sylthean nature. Tis usually na malevolent fer most o’ us, ye ken. Jest playful mischief,” she explained. “Some wid say spirits represent order ‘n’ Syltheans represent chaos. Ah’d say thir deid wrong, ‘cus tha’s oversimplifyin’ ‘n’ generalizin’, bit ah kin see why they’d say it.”

“Is… is that why Sylthea was cut off?” Lykou hesitantly asked.

She gave him a brief look, then wilted a little as she looked away. “Aye. Nah tha’ ah blame ‘em, things wis getting’ a wee bit too chaotic fer a while. Still, tis nae fun nah havin’ ‘em, or e’en any other halfies aroond ennymore,” she said with a sigh. “Used tae share responsibility fer Clovaria wi’ a few others, bit most o’ ‘em got trapped in Sylthea when it wis sealed off- tricked inta visitin’ at th’ wrong time. ‘n’ th’ rest, weel… some died doin’ stupit shite, ethers got bored wi’ Clovaria ‘n’ wandered off, and so oan, ‘till ah wis th’ only one left.”

Lykou frowned. “Must be lonely. Did you always hide who you were?”

“Nah alwis. Bit ah ‘ventually realized th’ problems wi’ bein’ th’ only half-’tinger aroond, sae efter ah got th’ whole ‘druna’ system in place, ah faked mah oon disappearance ‘n’ started posin’ as various normal lepne ta kip an eye oan things. Ah lik’ Clovaria too much tae jest abandon et, ye ken. Unlike some o’ th’ others, ah grew up here, among th’ lepne.”

“Aye, ‘n’ then ye started tryin’ to even ferget ah existed,” an identical voice suddenly spoke up resentfully. The group had been passing close by a small reflecting pool, with the half-lepne being closest to it. And the sound seemed to come from the water. Immediately, Aelana blushed and got flustered, but she couldn’t stop the boys from looking over curiously. They were surprised to see what looked like their companion’s large, feral form looking back at them alongside their reflections. She looked incredibly annoyed, glaring at the version standing next to them.

“Ach, sh-shut it you!” Aelana snapped and kicked the water.

Lykou and Kuna shared a bewildered look, then looked back up at Aelana. “What th-… did your reflection just talk?” the sereva asked.

“And why does it look like your, uh… full ‘tinger’ form?”

“Ah, uh… ah mean, she- it’s-” she sputtered, eyes darting around as she nervously fidgeted.

“She’s bIn trYiN’ tAe pUsh mE aWay, eS whIt!” the reflection snapped back, its voice distorted from the ripples.

“Is… are you somehow two individuals in one?” Lykou asked with a mixture of fascination and mild amusement.

Kuna suddenly looked very nervous. “It’s… not like a demon-pact thing, is it?”

Finally, Aelana let out a loud, exasperated sigh and rolled her eyes up. “Nae, nothin’ like that, lad.” The reflection began to chime in again, but she quickly cut it off. “Shut it, ah’ll tell ‘em, ye damn tadger,” she said, then took a deep breath and looked uneasily over at the two, clearly embarrassed. “Tis less tha’ we’re two individuals sharin’ a body, ‘n’ moar, weel… one person split inta two parts.”

“Only cus ye made us this wey,” the reflection accused, its voice more or less returning to normal once the ripples had mostly subsided. “Ye radge bampot.”

“Ah said shut!” Aelana said, shooting the reflection a glare, before turning back to the boys with a sheepish look. “Ah… guess ah went, weel… a wee bit mad fra loneliness ‘n’ tryin’ ta hide half o’ me fra everyin’ somewhere alang th’ way,” she continued explaining, fidgeting uncomfortably. “Tried to repress mah ‘tinger side, even tryin’ ta use magic ah guess, subconsciously.” She grumbled and shot another sideways look at the reflection. “Result es me sorta… splittin’ in two, ‘n’ lit’rally talkin’ ta mahself, or part o’ me anyway.”

“Only because ye willnae let me oot mair,” the reflection groused. “We were meant ta be one, ye ken! Tis a full moon, ah’m gonnae come back oot there, eventually. Ye promised fun tonight, ‘n’ a’ yer doin’ noo is talkin’!”

Aelana smacked her palm to her face, then clenched her fists and glared at the reflection intensely. “Ye ‘ad yer fun, ‘n’ et almost skeert poor Kuna tae death. Ye see wit happens when ah bring ye back in?”

“Yer such a bore noo! Tisnae right keepin’ meh holed up!”

“’n’ yer nothin’ bit trouble!”

The boys glanced back and forth between the reflection and the half-lepne awkwardly as they bickered. After a few moments, they shared a look with each other before suddenly grabbing her into a group hug. The sudden embrace threw both her and the reflection off, temporarily distracting them from their fighting.

“Er, w-whit’s this fer?” she asked, smiling a bit bashfully. “Ye mak’ a habit o’ huggin’ crazy folk?”

“I know what being lonely can do to a person’s head for even just a few years,” Kuna replied as he pulled back. “I can’t even imagine what it’d be like doing that and hiding half of who you are for, what, centuries?”

“Yeah, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t lost it a bit,” Lykou added with a sympathetic smile. “Especially since you’ve got powerful magic involved.”

“Ach, lads…” she replied, then hugged them back, sniffing slightly. “Yer gonnae mak’ meh tear up wi’ this sweet shite.” She then looked away with a slightly sheepish expression. “Guess mah callin’ Ink a bit addled is a wee bit hypocritical, though.”

“Still accurate,” Kuna responded with a light shudder.

“And I’ll take a bit of loopy and silly over miss dark and creepy any day,” Lykou agreed.

“See, ah tellt ye we could trust thaes two,” the reflection chimed in, then began bouncing and fidgeting around in her little mirror-reality. “Noo let meh oot ta play, dammit a’!”

Aelana began to form a retort, but Lykou interrupted. “Hey, if it’ll make you feel better, by all means, um… let ‘her’ out for a bit. Now that we know you never meant any harm, I don’t think it’ll be too bad,” he said, then glanced over at Kuna for confirmation. “Right?”

Kuna looked hesitant for a moment, then slowly smiled and shrugged. “I guess we can put up with some weird shenanigans for a bit,” he said, then briefly looked serious again. “W-within reason, I mean. None of that… antler shit, or anything like that, please.”

The reflection looked positively giddy. “See, see?! They’re okay with it! C’mon!”

Aelana’s eye twitched and she grinned nervously, unable to fully hide her own eagerness. “Are ye sure, lads? We kin be a bit… much. Ah cannae promise ye’ll ‘av th’ energy ta start yer journey agin’ tomorrae.”

“We’ll be fine. We’ll just get a late start and camp part-way to the arch if we have to,” Lykou said with a shrug. “Not sure what we’ll tell the caravan folks about being out so late again though.”

“Ach, we kin halp ye oot there ‘n’ mak’ it up ta ye,” the reflection assured them.

“Weel… ah guess if yer fine wi’ it,” Aelana said, starting to twitch a bit. She then shot a look at the reflection and pointed a finger at her. “You tak’ it easy oan ‘em, tho, ye hear me?”

“Sure, sure, ah ken, ah ken,” the reflection responded, rolling her eyes. She then shot Kuna slightly apologetic smile. “Ah really didnae mean ta skeer ye so bad, lad.” She glanced between the two for a moment. “If ah cross a line, jest tell meh, a’right?”

Kuna nodded, feeling slightly awkward interacting with a reflection. “W-will do, heh.”

“Aye, she mibbie a bit daft-” Aelana- the one physically standing by them- said.


“-’n’ wild, bit she’s nae monster.”

“Ah’m still part o’ you, ye haverin’ numpty!” the reflection grumped, crossing her forelegs in annoyance.

“Whitever. C’mon then, ‘av yer fun,” the physical Aelana replied with a smirk and a small eye-roll.

The reflection grinned and crouched down with a mischievous expression. “Finally!” Suddenly she vanished and was replaced with the more lepne-looking form, who just sighed and crossed her arms. “’av fun, lads. ‘n’ thanks.”

“Uh, no… problem?” Lykou said as they turned to face where she’d been standing a moment ago. Only now there was nobody there.

Suddenly, they turned towards a big thud from somewhat behind them. They again saw the large wolpertinger sitting there, a few yards away. Only she had one notably new feature- Lykou’s tail. “Thanks fer breakin’ me oot, lads! Ah dae appreciate it,” she said, standing on her hind legs as she experimentally flicked the tail around. “Ah lik’ yer tail, Lykou! S’fun ‘n’ swishy!”

Lykou gawked for a moment, then glanced behind him. Sure enough, he was tail-less. Fortunately there was no pain- or wound, for that matter. There was no indication that he’d ever had a tail, in fact. “What th- hey! Give that back!” he sputtered.

Kuna covered his mouth and couldn’t help but snort and snicker some.

“Ye’ll ‘av ta ketch me fer it first!” the ‘tinger said with a sly grin.

The konuul darted after her and she lept away. Kuna soon followed along, as the inverse of the night’s original chase began.

Mystic Heart Odyssey - Chapter 39


Hoo boy, this chapter is a long one- the longest yet- but boy did I enjoy writing it! It's a contender for my personal favorite one yet. Also, I was listening to Let's Go Crazy by Prince multiple times at several points while writing it. I'll let you figure out which parts. ;P 

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