Chapter 5: Meu
Scurra stared into the distance as she stood over the hot stove. Soirja frowned as she noted the hypnotized look on her grown daughter's face. "Scurra?" she said as she stepped next to her. When her daughter didn't answer, Soirja gently moved her away from the heat and sat her in a chair. It was better to have Scurra there then in front of the stove where she might come out of her spell and do something terrible, like dump a hot pan of sausage in her lap.
Most the time these spells were peaceful enough on the surface, but not always. One time, she was atop the barn when a spell struck. Soirja just happened to turn and see her daughter standing dangerously tall on the barn's roof – and then she plummeted off the roof of the barn like a leaf in the wind! Soirja thought her baby had died right there in front of her. But the fall resulted in nothing more than a busted leg and a bucket of tears. That was the exception. Most the time, these spells were peaceful, and Soirja knew nothing about them until her daughter decided to tell her.
This was not like the brother at all. When he had one of his spells, he flopped about like a fish out of water, and frothed like a madman. For a few years, Soirja thought they might be the end of him. But Krumpus never seemed to bothered – except that he refused to speak because his tongue was so scarred and clubbish.
Soirja shook her head to think about it. She continued to prepare breakfast as she waited for Scurra to snap out of her spell. After a minute, Scurra looked about the kitchen. She turned to her mother and hung her head, as if she should be ashamed.
"Sorry. I wasn't myself," she said as she often did when these things were witnessed. Scurra stood and joined her mother in preparation of the meal.
"What did you see?" Soirja asked.
Scurra shook her head. "Nothing," she claimed as she stared out the window. This was common. Scurra usually didn't want to talk about her visions, and rarely right away.
Later that day, a letter came by post. It was from Krumpus. Scurra opened it, took out the letter, and read it with a muttered curse.
"What is it?" Soirja asked.
Scurra passed the letter to her mother. "Your son is on one of his adventures again," Scurra stated. "I have to go west."
"For Krumpus?" Soirja's heart gave a jump. She had not seen her son since he left to help with the plague in Melmorahn. Soirja eyed her daughter. "This has to do with that spell you suffered?" She asked. Scurra didn't answer, and after a long second, Soirja's glance became accusatory, "You did see something!"
Scurra glared at her mother. The anger passed, and Scurra pointed to the letter. "He has a request of me. Will you see to it?"
Soirja gave a nod. "You be careful."
"I leave in the morning," Scurra stated and hugged her mother. "I must pack and see to things." True to her word, Scurra rode out the next day just after sunrise with little more than her pack, a bow, and a couple blades that bore the family crest: an oak tree with a massive beast asleep at its trunk.
Krumpus continued to dance, and the wyrm danced with him. He hummed and hawed and kept a respectful distance from the large creature – but the wyrm wasn't so interested in boundaries. The wyrm twisted, curled, and extended itself slowly toward the healer, its movements in time to the song. The creature crept closer and eventually touched the healer. He was excited and concerned by the touch, but allowed it to occur. The wyrm tangled about his arms and wrapped his hips as Krumpus continued to dance. The creature's scales were cool, smooth, and supple.
Several times, Krumpus waned in his performance and thought to end it. His step slowed, his song subsided. But there was a pleading in the wyrm's behavior. As he slowed, the creature became restless. It begged him to proceed. Driven on, Krumpus increased his step and song yet again.
As he wondered when and how this dance may end, the wyrm suddenly bit him with no provocation! Krumpus struggled against the beasts coils, but he was tangled like a sheep for shearing, and her grip was impossibly strong! The wyrm turned dark and Krumpus felt he couldn't budge her at all!
Krumpus turned to face the beast, and stared at the vortex of her eyes. Green and tan swirled in the iris with a hint of red around the outside. An intelligent and complex creature stared back and Krumpus realized he knew things about the beast he could not know. For one, he knew she was a female, and that she was perhaps a hundred years old. She was also quite pleased to have a human dance partner. These impressions increased rapidly. Memories of the creature flooded his mind. He saw where she was from, jagged peaks to the west and north, the Spires of Gendalou as she called them.
Krumpus wondered how she was able to share her memories. Were the things he saw real and true? As soon as he asked the question, he received an answer. It was the venom that allowed her to peer into his mind and share her thoughts, and it was for this reason that she bit him. Sorry 'bout that, she apologized, but this is very convenient, no?
He had to agree.
I will let you go now. I will not hurt you further so long as you do not hurt me, she said.
And why would I hurt you? Krumpus replied.
Some men are quick to seek revenge.
You grant me telepathy. A bite is a small price to experience such wonder. He thought. I might suffer a thousand bites to speak in the minds of others.
Alas, it is only my mind you will hear, she smiled and the tips of her fangs showed between her thin lips. My name is Meu, she said as she relaxed out of her stone form. Her color returned and her body became pliant once more. Krumpus extricated himself from her coils.
You have a good voice, and yet you only hum. Why do you not sing words? Meu asked.
He thought of his seizures and how they caused him to chomp as he thrashed about. He thought of the thick scar tissue that swelled his tongue and made it difficult to make proper sounds.
Ah, I am sorry for your troubles, she said. What brings you to this land?
A flower, he thought. I found it in droves the last time I was here, but now I see none of it, Krumpus shared his memory of foxbane.
I know this flower, Meu confirmed. There is much of it around my home where others cannot reach. In the valleys and among the gentle slopes, there are others that hate it and rip it from the earth where ever they find it. They are foul and twisted beasts and prefer their own noxious vegetables. She showed Krumpus her encounters with this type of beast.
Bugbear, Krumpus spat on the ground. I have encountered their traps lately.
If this flower is missing, I should think they are quite numerous, Meu asserted. Why do you need this flower?
There is a plague in Melmorahn and the flower cures it. It does not grow so far north. Now, I think it is because there are bugbear around Melmorahn, Krumpus shrugged.
I know Melmorahn, Meu said. I am sad to hear her people suffer. Still, I cannot imagine these bugbear have ripped all the foxbane from these mountains. You should find some soon enough.
And where do you go? Krumpus asked.
I am heading south for the summer, to visit my daughter. She has birthed a clutch and I wish to see them before they abandon their mother and venture out on their own. Perhaps some will come north and live among the Spires, Meu stated.
How many colonies are there?
Of Wyrm? Around the world? She seemed to shrug. How should I know? I can say there are over a dozen on this continent...
Are they always in the mountains? Krumpus asked.
Meu gave him a annoyed look and answered his question with a question of her own. Do humans live in the mountains?
Do they always live in the mountains?
I guess not, he shrugged. Do you worry that I might tell other men you exist?
Meu laughed. Our races have more to do with each other than most humans know. Indeed, I think we have more to do with each other than most wyrms know. There were many in Salyst that knew of us. They came to trade and council with us. Now they are all slaves or gone beyond the Red Desert, she sighed. Speaking of missing people, all these towns and villages are deserted. Where are the Bouge that used to live here?
I have wondered the same, Krumpus frowned. It has happened recently. I was here some years ago and the land was dotted with settlements.
Meu sighed, I fear the same thing that happened in Salyst is happening here.
Slavers? Krumpus asked. But I hear conflicting things. The Gopi say there is trouble from Saots, but Saots don't take slaves.
Perhaps they turn over a new leaf, Meu shrugged. Enough of such dark topics. The light of day warms us. Let us dance once more, I beg it! We shall have plenty of time to discuss the sadness of the world.
You wish only to dance? Krumpus replied.
It is not all I wish, but you started it, and now that you have bothered a girl, she will have one more dance. Meu smiled. I love music, and all that are capable of making it. I am not so inclined and it has been a long time since I had occasion to dance to the music of man. Now I realize how much I have missed it!
I don't know that I have it in me, Krumpus hedged. I certainly cannot dance for another hour, especially if you should try to wrestle me again!
Just a few songs! But one or two... Meu begged. If you do not do it, I shall have to bite you again, and then I will make you! She flashed her fangs and fanned her impressive wings.
Krumpus took a step back. You cannot make me.
You'd be surprised, Meu smiled and her thoughts went black> For a moment he wondered if such coercion might be possible. Her thoughts returned promptly. I will not. Instead, I shall beg of you. Please, please, please... she pleaded as she wrapped about the healer once more.
Krumpus frowned as he wondered if she might indeed force his hand. He hopped a step and considered where to start another song. In a few minutes he was right back into the swing of it. He hummed and hawed and stamped at the ground. They danced once more. One song bled into the next. Two songs became three. Krumpus was in the middle of a long traditional song, that told the history of the Broken Legions and their flight into the Bunderhilt Mountains. He stomped about as if he was at war and used his staff as a prop. It was an energetic and forceful dance and Krumpus meant for it to be the finale.
As the two danced, the wyrm suddenly climbed up the staff. Her wings beat the air. Krumpus wondered if she meant to take flight and abandon him. But Meu did not leave. Instead, she froze upon the staff as she wrapped tight about it. Her maw hung open in a vicious snarl and her wings fanned in a dramatic display. Like before, her body went dark and became hard as stone! Krumpus held the staff vertical as he stared at Meu. Her eyes were like emeralds and she appeared to be nothing but ornament. He clicked his nails against her scales to see if there was any give.
I also find you intriguing, she laughed in his mind. But we are interrupted, my darling.
Krumpus turned. Several Saot soldiers stared at the Trohl. They were mere feet from Krumpus, as they approached around the same blind turn in the road. The soldiers bristled with weapons as they stared at the Trohl with confused disdain.