Hi guys. Long time no update but the writing bug seems to have disappeared, along with my free time.
So I was playing Crystal Chronicles with my brother and my friend the other day and we racked up some amazing bonus points, which resulted in us being offered some pretty weird items we'd never seen before. The one that got me most was the Marlboro Seed. Who in their right mind would take it? What would you possibly do with it, if it was real? Plant it in the garden of someone you didn't like?
And then I remembered going to see Little Shop of Horrors at the theatre last year and this was too hard to resist. Apologies for crummy humour. Please enjoy :)
Little Farm of Horrors
The mailmoogle had come in the evening just as the Belstone caravan were making camp.
There had been a sizeable letter apiece for each of them, and the moogle had seemed exhausted at lugging their thick weight around. As the three caravanners – Esther and Tag the Clavats and Kronan the Lilty - wrote their replies, the little creature had curled up on the sack of gourd potatoes and fallen asleep.
"Should we wake him up?" Kronan asked, batting the snoozing moogle's pom pom backwards and forwards.
"No, leave him," Esther replied absently, perusing her stock of accumulated gifts for a suitable one to send to her parents. "He can just go when he gets up. Leave him out an apple or something."
Tag signed his name with a flourish. "Done! I'll write a longer one when we get to Marr's Pass. We're running out of paper."
"You not sending anything home?" inquired Esther, and her friend shrugged. "No. I don't, really. I don't pick stuff up unless I can use it."
Kronan sniggered. "Esther does. She's a hoarder."
"I am not! I just like to save things for my mum and dad," protested the Clavat. Kronan seized her little tray of assorted items and shook it, sending the contents within rattling from side to side.
"You are a hoarder! Look at all this stuff! Bits of fluff and feathers and beads and rocks and things! And... glass?"
"It's a tiny crystal!" Esther snapped, snatching at her tray. Kronan handed it back wearily. "Whatever."
"Let her be," Tag said peaceably. "You know whenever you want any accessories making she's always got what we need. You're only a hoarder if it's useless." He glanced at Esther. "What are you sending back, then?"
Esther held up a small brown pip of an object triumphantly. "Vegetable seeds. Found a couple the other day when we went through River Belle. Dad loves them for his garden."
"Why don't you just send the vegetable?" Kronan exclaimed. "It's faster."
"The day I take advice from you about presents is the day the world ends," Esther said darkly.
Thank you for the seeds! Your father has already planted them. He's trying to teach Larkin how to use the trowel but Larkin is more interested in the bugs. Anyway, since we've already got carrots your father is hoping for potatoes.
I am too, to be honest. There's only so many carrot based recipes I can take. Make sure you're eating well out there, I didn't teach you how to cook for nothing!
Take care. All our love,
Mum, Dad and Larkin
Their second stop that year was Mushroom Forest.
The group hitched their papoamus early that morning and set off along the paths meandering between the giant fungi. The Mushroom Forest had long been a Belstone myrrh staple and the tracks and pathways well mapped by Belstone caravanners for generations.
As such, it only took the little party the best part of a day to make their way along the shortcuts to the den of the forest's resident marlboro. The monster blocked the only entrance to the myrrh tree's grove, meaning caravanners usually had no way to the tree other than by fighting it. On sensing their approach the giant plant-beast began its battle preparations, siphoning the energy from the mushrooms around it to fund its sudden growth spurt to attack size.
With the marlboro swelling to giant proportions before them, Esther was already charging a Fire spell. She released just as the monster finished growing, setting the roots alight and starting the battle.
The marlboro was as tough an opponent as any, but those with a good eye and quick feet could defeat it with patience. Fixed in place as it was, it was a sitting duck for Fira spells and the blade of Kronan's lance as Tag defended the pair from the projectiles of the marlboro's plant allies.
"Here comes a Slow!" Esther screamed out in warning, and both she and Tag fled from the magical circle forming on the ground. Kronan ignored her, hacking on heedlessly and protected from time magic by the runes on his gauntlets. The giant ghost of a clock face appeared above their heads; Esther was free of the casting zone but Tag was not. His limbs and reflexes slowed right down, he was forced to wait helplessly with shield upraised as Esther prepared a hasty Clear spell for him.
Just as she released the Clear Esther realised that Kronan was already charging towards them, waving his arms and shouting nonsense. Watching his lips, she managed to form his meaning just a little too late – "Blizzaga Blizzaga Blizzaga!"
Without thinking about what she was doing, Esther seized both of the boys and forced them down, arms over both of them. A split second later a giant crystal of ice coalesced in front of her, spearing outwards in all directions from its icy centre. Teeth gritted, Esther put her faith into her frost badge. The cold air blasted around her but she remained unscathed; half hidden under her baggy overcoat, both of her companions were included in the protective charm and were spared becoming human icicles.
"Go!" she yelled, and both boys scrabbled upright and lunged forward, striking for the base of the base of the plant beast. A final Fira did the trick and the marlboro died before their eyes, a burnt out mess.
"Whew," Esther said, wiping the sweat from her face with a begrimed sleeve. "Gets harder every time, doesn't it?"
"So do we," Kronan replied brightly, shaking frost and tiny ice crystals from his tabard hem. "Come on, let's get the free artefacts."
"Myrrh, you mean."
They found the usual jumble of items scattered about the myrrh tree. As Kronan muttered darkly about not being able to reach those hanging from the branches and Tag examined a Main Gauche, Esther approached with her eye set firmly on a Kris. She was about ten paces away when she stubbed her toe on something small and hard and went sprawling.
"What's this?" she asked, rubbing her elbow ruefully. Tag glanced over to where his fellow Clavat had picked up something just smaller than her clenched fist. "What?"
Esther scrutinised the object carefully, and then her expression brightened. "It's a seed! But it's bigger than any I've ever seen before. And it's kind of... green. But it's definitely a seed." She looked at it for a further moment before pocketing it decisively.
"You're taking that?" Tag said incredulously. "But... you've wanted a Kris for ages."
"Hoarder," whispered Kronan.
Another seed so soon? Your father is very happy but Larkin was really hoping for a present. Perhaps next time you could buy him something nice from a big city, like that brooch you sent me last year. You know what boys are like. Once they get something in their head they won't let it go.
We've planted the seed. It was quite unusual wasn't it? Possibly it's just a rather large strange seed. I just hope your father doesn't try and... mess about with it like he did with the other one. I never want to try a grape-corn again.
I'm glad to hear you're doing well, sweetie. Only one drop to go! Love from,
Mum, Dad and Larkin.
And then, secretly and resentfully scrawled on the back:
wHEreS MY pRezzEnt EshTer?
They set off for Fum and Daemon's Court the next day, heading to the ferry at the Jegon as their first port of call. Just as the little group were about to board the ferry, a cry of "Kupo! Wait!" rang through the quiet air and a moogle came charging around the corner and onto the riverside.
"Hey, wait a second," Esther called to the Lilty captain. She hurried back down the jetty to meet the exhausted little creature.
"Letter for Esther," the moogle panted. Esther held out her hand and the moogle dropped the letter in it. She recognised the familiar handwriting of her mother; with a jolt, she tore open the envelope. Her mother would write approximately four or five times a year, marked roughly by the three myrrh dungeons and her birthday. For her to send two letters in such quick succession could only mean that something awful had happened.
"You okay, Esther?" Kronan yelled from the ferry railings. She waved a hand to shush her friend and began to read.
Exactly what kind of seed was it that you sent us? We're at a complete loss as to what it is. It's not any kind of plant we've ever grown on the farm, at any rate, and not even a weird half-breed like those your father seems so intent on creating.
Where did you get it? Write back soon,
Lots of love,
Puzzled, Esther turned the letter over to look at the back in case any further explanation was forthcoming for such a trivial request. At least it wasn't anything serious. She sighed with relief. Purloining a quill from the waiting moogle, she scratched out a neat and (hopefully) reassuring reply on the blank side.
"Dear mother. Got the seed from Mushroom Forest. Is probably a mushroom seed. You will be the envy of the neighbours. Why don't you just wait until it grows to see what it is? If you are still wondering, can ask at Fum and write when I find out what they think it is. Love Esther."
"Ferry won't wait forever," Kronan called warningly as the captain began adjusting sails behind him. Esther passed her reply back, tipping the moogle. Then she leapt aboard the ferry once more, the odd letter already leaving her mind.
No further communication came from her family that week, or the next, so Esther relaxed in the assumption that her answer had been satisfactory enough. Enquiries at Fum drew a blank however, with not even the expert farmers of the Clavat capital able to put a name to the crop that would grow from the seed she described. She conveyed this to her mother, suggesting that they had discovered a new kind of supercrop, and once again no returning letter came.
They reached Daemon's Court in a fortnight, and prepared to enter under cover of darkness. The lizardmen of the enclosure, though numerous, had poor eyesight, and sneaking in was a much more preferable method of myrrh collection than an outright charge into their ranks. Blades dulled with ash from the fire, the three-strong group stole into the fiend compound.
"I hate coming here," Tag whispered. "It makes me think they're just as intelligent as us, with all these buildings..."
"Don't be daft," muttered Kronan, and angled his spear towards a golden coloured lizard dancing in the flickering light of a torch. Such lizards were honoured with the dubious privilege of wearing keys to the central arena where the myrrh tree was locked. "If they were so smart, they wouldn't give their precious keys to the puniest monsters here."
"On three," Esther said. At her third word, the group surged out of the shadows and ambushed the little beast. Sure enough, once it had been pounded into submission by the butt of Kronan's spear, a search of its belongings revealed a key. The second was a little harder to retrieve but it wasn't long before the Belstone caravaners were urging the arena gate to open as quietly as possible.
It was even easier than they had hoped, with the Lizardman King nowhere to be found and his attendant couerls asleep at their posts. Quickly and quietly, the group collected their myrrh and fled in silence.
Celebrations broke out once the group were back at their caravan with a full chalice. They were a little short-lived, as the mailmoogle arrived only seconds into their dancing.
"Letters!" Kronan exclaimed. "Lots of them, actually."
"One for you," the moogle said to Kronan, and then to Tag, "and one for you. For you..." He turned to Esther. "Five."
Nonplussed, Esther took her huge bundle and began the laborious process of opening them.
I'm fairly certain this isn't a mushroom. It's green. It's also grown incredibly fast. It doesn't appear to bear fruit of any kind yet – no flowers - but we'll just wait and see, like you suggest. Won't Mrs. Edwards next door be green with envy if we really have found a new kind of vegetable?
Love Mum, Dad and Larkin.
This plant you sent us is enormous! It's taken over a corner of the garden now. If it gets any bigger without bearing any fruit we'll have to dig it up. We really do appreciate the present but we just can't afford to waste the space. Don't be sad if you come home and it isn't there any more.
Love Mum, Dad and Larkin.
EstHer! thE pLaNt SmiLeS aT Me! Love laRKiN
I don't really like this plant any more. It's such a nuisance. Your father tried to dig it up today but the roots are so deep he had to get Mr. Edwards from next door to help him cut the plant loose. It didn't work though. They think it'll be a week before they make any significant progress because the plant is just so strong. It's very unusual. Larkin drew you a picture of it, so I put it in with this letter. He really likes it. He plays with it all the time.
I hope he isn't too sad when we pull it up. You won't be too long coming home now, will you?
Love Mum, Dad and Larkin.
Feeling suddenly, inexplicably worried, Esther fumbled around in the fourth envelope and practically tore out the clumsy ink drawing enclosed. There the plant was in all its glory: large, round and bulbous, with vines that looked far too much like tentacles. The image was completed by Larkin's jagged attempt at a toothy smile.
I don't want to alarm you, but we can't find Larkin anywhere! He ran off when we told him we were pulling up the plant and no one has seen him since. And that horrible plant has grown right up against the window! It's like it's trying to get into the house. I don't need the stress right now. We're organising a search for Larkin. Please get home as fast as you can.
"Oh," Esther said vaguely. "Damn."
Poor Larkin. If it makes you feel any better, just imagine that this is a scary bed-time story warning children not to talk to strange plants.
I'm a hoarder. I realised I had a problem when I started throwing out striped apples to pick up... striped apples. Funny how no one mocks me about it when they need something bizarre like toad oil for their armour...