Beneath the scorching orb of the sun sprawled the windswept Salt Flats of Mobylet, a vast, sterile waste that stretched from the fortified borders of Al-Bhalhaam to the Southern Sea, where, in shark-bone canoes, the Poltrugo-men spear kargkhanon and net sskalads.
From the south came two wanderers across the burning salt; One was a robust mahogany-skinned woman, naked save for an elaborate leathern harness and a rude turban of red silk confining the dark foamy mass of her hair. Esoteric designs had been scribed into the flesh of her face, neck and shoulders. A wickedly recurved scimitar hung from a baldric in a shagreen scabbard at her hip. She seemed untroubled by the harsh environs, and strode energetically across the salt on bare feet. She shielded her golden, almond-shaped eyes with her hand and scanned the horizon. A grin spread over her face, revealing teeth filed to menacing points. These were all features that marked her as a denizen of the shadow-haunted isles of Iforne’, where brutally hostile jungles and scarce resources molded its inhabitants into hardened savages capable of thriving in the most hellish of circumstances.
She was named Mualla. She gestured and exclaimed to her companion.
Several paces behind, Bault of Y’kon toiled sluggishly forward. Spawned in the arctic chill of the polar regions, he found the scorching heat of the Flats punishing. He was shielded from the elements in a voluminous green cloak, though his tall leather boots and bristling red beard were crusted with salt. His normally pinkishly ruddy skin had darkened to near purple under the sun. his sharp grey eyes peered out from under the broad brim of his conical hat. Both travellers were burdened by bags of specially cured sharkskins, partially filled with water.
His eyes followed Mualla’s pointing finger. Scowling, he produced a satchel from under his cloak and rummaged about in it. He took out an odd, boxy affair composed of metallic tubes and ground crystal lenses. He peered through these in the direction Mualla indicated, then made adjustments to the apparatus. This process went on for some time. Mualla’s brow furrowed as she grew impatient with the bewhiskered Y’konian.
“What buffoonery is this, wizard! Can you not simply behold that which lies yonder without performing some esoteric ritual? Yig’s Coils!”
Bault turned from his apparatus and regarded Mualla sternly.
“We are alone and ill-supplied in the Salt Flats of Mobylet, where untold legions of travelers have met their weird. Now is no time to invoke the Dread Serpent!”
With the traditional flourish, Bault made the claw-like sign of Visking in the air before him, then resumed fiddling with his device.
“This buffoonery, was you call it, is my attempt at duplicating a device of the Elders, it magnifies distant objects so they appear nearer.“
“Why not just walk nearer!“
“It might serve us well to see what awaits us from a safe distance!“
Mualla laughed and snorted.
“Safe! Ha! Yi… the gods... have already inscribed thy destiny upon their iron tablets, my sweetmeat! If doom awaits us yonder, peering through a stack of glass at it beforehand will not save us!“
Not willing to revisit an old argument, Bault merely grumbled under his breath and peered through the array of crystal discs, bringing the distant scene into focus.
He observed an irregular tower of rusted metal thrusting into the sky from an enormous mass of tarnished steel that assumed the rough shape of a canoe or boat. Bault whistled.
“Looks like an ancient seafaring ship, a massive one at that!”
“Out here in this desert? That’s silly.”
“This was not always a desert, Mualla. Why, in the days of the Elders, the Southern Sea may well have bathed these lands, and beyond! This salt beneath our feet may be all that remains of it.”
“Whatever it was, it will make a nice shelter tonight. Come”
Bault watched her muscles work under her supple flesh as she shifted the waterskin on her back and sauntered boldly toward the rusted hulk. There were times he found her disdain for clothing distracting.
It was not long before the pair stood in the shadow of the rusted leviathan. Bault sighed with relief as he stepped into the shade and his exposed flesh lightened, responding to the decrease in solar radiation. Along the base of the structure were arrayed several cart-like conveyances fashioned from bone, scrap metal, and more exotic materials no doubt salvaged from the works of The Elders. They were long and narrow, like wheeled canoes. Masts and carefully folded sails lay in the bottoms of them. Bault ran his hands over one a whistled appreciatively.
“Will you look at that! This is meant to use the wind to traverse the salt flats, like a sailboat, by Visking! We could master it with a little effort.”
Mualla regarded the vehicle skeptically.
"Perhaps. Let’s look around a bit. There must be people living in this thing, I see tents or something above.”
Interspersed along the deck and among the raised platforms and towers of the ancient ship, there were great sheets of sun-bleached cloth, some laid out like roofs and awnings, others arranged into inverted cones. Bault pointed to the latter.
"Those cones will collect and concentrate the morning dew, pretty clever actually.”
Mualla cupped her hands about her mouth and shouted.
“Hello! Anyone there? We are weary travellers and would ask for shelter!”
Bault cringed visibly.
“Itek and Visking! You think that wise, girl?”
“They would have assailed us with darts and spears already if they were hostile. Either they cower in their land-ship or the place is abandoned. Come sweetmeat, let’s find a way in.”
Bault ignored the repetition of Mualla’s pet name for him. Any indication that it annoyed him would only encourage her.
The pair circled the gargantuan hulk. It looked as though the ancient hull was sunk quite deeply into the salt. They saw where decay and damage had been repaired on it over the years., and great emblems and sigils had been painted upon it for some unknown purpose. They rounded the bow of the ship and saw a ramp that traversed the twenty odd feet up to the deck, it’s base piled high with wind blown salt. No sentries could be seen about as one might expect if the place was used for habitation. Bault and Mualla glanced at each other and shrugged. They mounted the ramp and made their way onto the deck.
There upon the petrified wooden planks they found many tents and shanties made from more scrap metal, old whale bones and other detritus. All were uninhabited. Beneath one awning was a portal that descended into darkness, sporting a steep ladder. Mualla hollered down the opening, and receiving no response, picked up a nearby stone and hurled down the steps. There was a great clanging in the darkness as it fell. Followed by silence.
“It seems no one’s home.” she observed.
“It will be dark soon.” Said Bault. “Let us shelter for the night up here in one of these tents. Perhaps we will explore below tomorrow after we rest.”
Selecting a nearby tent equipped with relatively clean looking cushions and blankets, the pair lounged and took turns dozing as the sun set and the waxing moon swelled brightly in the night sky. The temperature dropped rapidly with sundown. Mualla seemed as untroubled by the chill as she had been by the heat, and Bault, born and bred to a chill climate, found the change refreshing. They drank some of their water and nibbled at their meagre provisions of dried fruits and meats Bault carried in his satchel.
Finishing their repast, the sat in silence for a time gazing upon the moon, and the twelve concentric rings of light that marked the center of its face since antiquity. Mualla mused upon this, and at last broke the silence.
“We of Iforne’ believe that the light in the moon is the all-seeing eye of Yig, observing us and judging our worthiness to live and be his subjects.”
Bault winced slightly at the utterance of that name, long associated with ancient cosmic evil by most peoples, save for the majestically barbaric tribes of Iforne’. Mualla’s casual invoking of the dread serpent god unnerved him. He chose not to comment on it further. Rather, he said.
“In Y’kon we are told it is Grysslhn, Shining city of Visking, where the god feasts and makes merry with his retinue, the Mefehya of Myamphos.”
“But you don’t belive that, do you, as you are a wizard, forever seeking hidden truths”
Bault tuned toward her and, despite their solitude, leaned in and lowered his voice conspiratorially.
“I’ll tell you what I believe. I have read the Elders possessed ships that could sail the cosmic gulfs, and built cities on the moon. I think they are still there, watching, and if one could find a way to go to the moon-city, the Elders would reveal their secrets!”
Mualla moved closer yet, close enough that her breath stirred the whiskers on the Y’konians face. She whispered breathily; “Now I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe you desire me. You should take me here under the moonlight and and give Yig, Visking, and the Elders something worth looking at!”
She wrapped her arms about him and nuzzled his neck, Bault felt the sharp points of her filed teeth lightly brush the tender flesh of his throat. He uttered a choking groan and awkwardly scooted away from Mualla, who scowled with annoyance.
“Why do you demur, wizard? I have often seen the look in your eye when you look upon me. I welcome your affection. What more is there to the matter?”
Bault fidgeted and stammered.
“I… You… Your people have a reputation for…”
Mualla’s eyes flashed briefly, then her countenance turned to one of hurt and sadness.
“You fear me? We have wandered together for many moons, fought side by side and faced many hardships. Do you truly believe I would harm you? Mainlanders hate and fear we of Iforne’, perhaps rightly, But Why would YOU be afraid of ME?”
Bault realized he was in error and struggled for some reply, but before he could formulate one, there came a metallic crash followed by the sound of stomping feet and wind whipped fabric.
The pair sprang to their feet, Mualla drawing her scimitar and Bault taking up his heavy-bladed falchion. They cast their gaze desperately about for the source of the cacophony.
It was Bault who first glanced upward.
"Look there girl! on the tower!"
Perched on the edge of a balcony-like projection was a spectral, anthropomorphic figure that appeared to be comprised of bleached, tattered rags that reflected the moonlight. In a gaunt white fist it gripped a spiked metal club that it smashed repeatedly into the side of the tower, producing a shower of sparks with each blow. Its head was swathed with cloth strips, like bandages, and it’s face was concealed in shadow, save for the occasional glimpse of a toothy, lipless maw.
It spread its arms wide, and hurled itself at the wanderers with a soul-rending wail.
Last Edit: Nov 16, 2018 8:01:35 GMT -5 by Char-Vell
As the figure leapt, Mualla lunged forward and swung her scimitar, meeting it in mid leap. There was the squeal of rending metal and a bluish flash like lightning. The bandaged figure fell to one side, still and smoldering, while Mualla was hurled in the opposite direction, she fell twitched violently once, and lay still.
Bault howled in distress and made to render aid, but found himself surrounded by a half dozen more of the gaunt rag covered wights. With lightning speed he drew from his satchel a small metallic box that allowed him access to one of his more powerful illusions, one that had previously bedazzled the Radium Men of Tazzozz to a point where he and Mualla were able to evade them altogether.
He activated the device and it projected before it a near perfect, lifelike image of a buxom blonde woman in an elaborate bejeweled gown, her golden locks piled high in a fashion that spoke of the work of the ancients. The woman in the projection strummed on some sort of stringed instrument and sang a sweet melody in a voice that was like a cold, clear stream tinkling across a rocky, mountainous creek bed.
Alas, what had rendered the Radium Men mesmerized had no effect whatever on these skeletal fiends. They ignored Bault’s’ illusion, stepping through it to attack the magician from Y’kon. Bault lay about with his falchion, striking blows that should have felled a mortal creature ten times over, yet they fell upon these ghoulish scarecrows resulting in a dull thud and a shock of pain along Bault’s arm. Bitterly he fought, to no avail. He had no time for despair however, for Bault was struck a blow to the back of his skull, and knew not but oblivion.
Bault’s next awareness was of oppressive heat and humidity and a sickening, cloying stench that brought to mind vomit and rancid grease. He groaned, and felt himself being drug upright. He forced open his eyes to gaze upon the grinning countenance of Mualla, illuminated by flickering reddish light. It was a vision that was at once angelic and demonic.
“What happened?” he groaned.
“We were bested in combat, and taken captive.” Mualla stated flatly. “We are in a cage in some sort of dungeon. Our captors have been working furiously since I awoke, no doubt preparing some sort of nasty fate for us!”
Bault cursed and struggled upright, rubbing the great knot that rose from the base of his skull.
“You seem untroubled by this turn of events.”
“Oh, I am troubled, but I see no use in wallowing in despair. We will escape, or not. This life is but one fleeting stage of the progression of souls.”
“I for one am not satisfied with ending this stage now, particularly in this manner.” Bault grumbled.
Mualla slapped his arm and laughed.
“Nor am I! Listen; there are only six of the things left. I clove one in twain above, but it blasted me senseless when I did. I have watched the remaining ones carefully. They are frail and sickly. Look.”
Bault gazed out from the tarnished metal bars of the cage that held them. Beyond the bars was a chamber, cluttered with all manner of detritus. Pieces of ancient machinery scrap metal, piles of rags and discarded clothing. Dominating the room were six cylinders in two rows of three. They were heated in some manner and noxious vapor issued from them. Between the rows and in front of the cage was a long metal table, foully stained and cluttered with rusted cutlery.
Scuttling busily about this environment were the six fiends that had attacked them. Tall gaunt, awkward things that moved in a peculiar stiff fashion. In the reddish light spilling down from odd panels in the metal ceiling, Bault could make out more details. The “men”, if they could be called that, were clad in ragged, disintegrating coveralls, inexpertly repaired with various ragged patches. What passed for their flesh was also in a state of decay, cracked, dried, inundated with salt and falling away in chunks. Here again, the things had sought to arrest this decay with ragged bandages and sutures of fabric and wire. Bault hissed through his teeth when he saw the bone exposed by the things loss of flesh. It was not the yellow or bleached white one might expect, but it had the look of burnished steel.
“Androids!” Bault muttered.
“Androids! Automatons built by the Ancients to perform labors! Some were fashioned to look like people. By Visking! I never thought to see one still functioning!”
“Then you must have some idea how to defeat them! What are their weaknesses?”
“Hard to tell. It depends on the tasks they were built to perform. But I have read that they felt no pain, nor weariness, and took no food or drink, using only the mystic energy that powered all of the Ancient Ones civilization. By Visking! That’s what laid you low Mualla! When you destroyed that android on the deck you spilled out its remaining power!”
“Look how they move. They seem hobbled.”
Bault watched as the decrepit automatons lurched about, tending the cauldrons, organizing the instruments on the table. Their motions were unsteady, and accompanied by labored whines, squeaks, and buzzes.
“Aye, they are in poor repair. I see some heavy tools or something close by we could use for bludgeons. Hmm! I wonder what’s in those cauldrons?”
Mualla crouched and gripped the metal bars, straining like some lithe predatory beast, longing to break free and slay.
“Note ye that stench in the air?” she muttered.
“Aye, what of it?”
“Tis human fat, rancid with age. Yig! I can taste it on my tongue! No doubt they think to render us in those cauldrons for some purpose. They must have done the same for whoever dwelt in those tents we found on deck, unless these things put out the tents to lure travelers here. Coils of Yig! We must break out of this cage!”
Bault blanched and rubbed his beard. He had been stripped of his satchel, hat, cloak and belt, but…
He stooped and slipped his fingers into his boot. Yes! The androids had not been thorough in their search of his body. He had kept in his boot an artifact he had recovered from an ancient ruin some moons ago, a short cylinder made of the transparent, resilient material used so often by the Ancients. It had at one end another metallic tube at a right angle to the larger one, and a small lever that activated the relic. Bault pressed the lever, to no avail.
“Come on, damn you! Function!”
He tried again...and thrice, to no effect. It had worked before, why now did it choose to fail in their hour of direst need? Again he pressed the lever. There was a quiet pop, and a cone of blue flame appeared in the end of the smaller metallic cylinder.
Bault stifled a cry of triumph and turned to Mualla.
“Now. Keep a watch while I…”
In that selfsame instant, he saw two of the androids had come to the cage and unlatched it. No sooner had it opened than Mualla lunged forward, grasping the door and using it to batter aside the two androids; they were caught unaware and were bowled over. Snatching up a long metal implement, whose original purpose was a mystery lost to the ages, she charged a third android stoving in its head in a shower of sparks and pungent fluids.
“Blood!” she shrieked. “Iä! Blood and souls for The Father of Serpents!”
With this blasphemous war-cry she charged at the remaining three androids, who were unprepared to contend with a Warrior Maiden of Iforne’, hot blooded and prepared for battle.
Bault lurched out of the cage as the two androids knocked down by its door were regaining their feet. He thrust the blue flame of his torch into the crumbling face of the nearest and it recoiled as it’s filthy wrapping caught fire. It became entangled with it’s companion, setting that android alight as well.
Casting about the room his gaze settled on Mualla’s scimitar sitting atop the pile of their belongings the androids had deposited on the floor. He seized it and swung at the neck of one of the blazing androids. He avoided striking at its trunk, for that was where he suspected it’s deadly power source was housed. The keen edge of the Ifornean blade bit into the neck of the android, unlike Bault’s falchion, this was a sword forged by the diabolical weaponers of Iforne’, of an alloy wrought of meteoric metal and black sorcery, quenched in blood that had once coursed blackly through beings that frolicked in the outer dark.
The thing’s head flew across the room, and it’s decapitated body stumbled blindly about. Bault spun about, avoiding a blow from the other android with agility he would never have thought himself capable of, and severed the legs out from under the mechanism. It’s trunk crawled after him and clawed upward at him until Bault drove the scimitar though it’s head and it ceased moving with an eerie, pitiable squeal.
Bault whirled about, prepared to combat more foes, only to find Mualla had dispatched her three opponents. They lay at her feet in sparking, smoldering piles. Bault offered her the scimitar.
“I must get one of these for myself. It’s a most effective weapon.”
She shrugged. “Alas, I have but one, and I am unlikely to be able to get another, I am not loved by my people.”
Bault grasped Mualla by the shoulders and spoke earnestly. “Your people are the poorer for that.”
Mualla met his gaze for a heartbeat, and then looked away, rolling her eyes.
“You are a silly man, Bault of Y’kon. Hurry! Let us gather our things and climb out of here, you’ve managed to set nearly everything alight.”
Verily, the room had become smoky, and flames could be seen flickering in and around the cauldrons. The pair of adventures gathered up their accoutrements and began the arduous trek upward. The place was like a cramped maze, but ever they sought the sets of steep stairs, seemingly placed at random. These they would climb and seek access to the deck. Smoke began billowing up from below, growing thicker, and Bault thought he could hear the muffled roar of a conflagration. They were climbing up their eleventh set of stairs when he gave voice to his concerns.
“Hurry Mualla. We must be free of this place soon. I fear it burns.”
“Aye. It shouldn't be too much farther; we've climbed up several floors and…”
Mualla’s statement was cut short as the whole world seemed to lurch about them. They were nearly thrown from the stair as it pitched wildly about. This went on for what seemed like an eternity, and then stopped.
“What in Yig’s name?” exclaimed Mualla. “An earthquake?”
“It’s possible, but I don’t…”
Again the world shuddered and the two held on for dear life. Again the motion calmed, but this time it did not cease completely. There was a steady trembling, and a rhythmic sway as though the ancient ship were playing the waves once more. And from below the came a deep thudding sound, as though many great hammers where being raised and slammed into the very foundations of the earth.
The couple spoke no more, and applied themselves to climbing furiously upward. At length the found themselves in a small chamber that was open to the air on three sides. The openings had once held some transparent panels like glass, but these were long gone and only jagged fragments remained. The tattered remains of tents fluttered about it, and scattered about were pots, mats, and other evidence of previous habitation.
Bault and Mualla went to opposite sides of the chamber and leaned far out, seeking to divine their location. They were not far from the deck , it was a few feet below them and there were steps leading down to it for the chamber they now occupied. But that fact was but an afterthought compared to the other spectacle they beheld.
“Itek and Visking!” Bault yelled. “Mualla! Do you see?”
“Aye! I see it, magician.”
The ancient ship was indeed moving inexorably across the salt flats of Mobylet. At first unevenly, but now with a steady pace. On either side of the hull Bault and Mualla could see colossal... members, six in number, so large in diameter ten men might not join hands around them. They had a hard, spiky, chitinous surface that shone bluely under the moonlight. They threw up great clouds of salty dust as they swung forward and back, dragging the tarnished battleship of the Ancients across the flats. The rusted hulk groaned and screeched in protest, and pieces of it could be heard breaking away and crashing down, both inside and out. From beneath the prow of the vessel, they saw two long, chitinous tendrils arcing through the sky on either side waving and questing.
“Rise, Magician!” Shouted Mualla. “We must get off this thing! It carries us back into the wastes!”
Bault did as he was bid, and the twain hurried out of the windowed chamber through a doorway on the left-hand side. There they struggled down the steps to the deck, striving to stay upright as the vessel lurched and shifted.
Reaching the wildly pitching deck, they found the front of the ship was dominated by the creature. They could not see all of its colossal form. Only its legs and antennae. To descend from the front of the ship would be suicide. They made their way to the rear of the ship and found that no part of the creature protruded there, and the rusting mass of steel was being dragged along the salty plain.
“Damnation!” cursed Mualla. “The ramp we climbed up has been destroyed. The drop is too far to jump!”
“Tear the ropes from these tents, and gather pieces of the tent cloths!” exclaimed Bault. “We’ll fashion ropes that are long enough! Quickly!”
Frantically they struggled with the weather-beaten canopies; desperate to get off the ship before whatever colossus carried it on it’s back hauled them deep into the salty wastes. Fashioning their crude ropes, they made them fast to the sturdiest portions of the decrepit railing they could find and lowered themselves to the ground. Distaining caution, they clambered down. Many times they were smashed against the hull by the thing’s movement, but with iron sinews, grim determination, and perhaps the goodwill of the gods they held on until they could drop to the surface from a safe distance.
The salty ground was upturned and furrowed by the progress of the beast, and great clouds of choking dust assailed the lungs of the adventurers.
“This way!” shouted Mualla, her voice straining against the assault of the dust. “Climb out of the trench on this side and keep the moon on your left! Follow!”
They climbed out and stumbled across the plain. Stopping for nothing, never turning around, even when the dust began to thin. At last they paused when Bault bumped into an object half-buried in the salt.
“What? Visking! It’s one of those sailing vehicles like we saw by the ship earlier! Help me dig it out Mualla, and we’ll use it!”
“Are you sure, wizard? There is little wind.”
"Enough to move us along swifter than we can move by foot I’ll wager. These things are built to catch the lightest breeze. If only it is in good enough repair.”
Swiftly they dug the strange craft out of the salt, and under Bault’s direction ran up the tattered sail and made it ready. Again the gods smiled upon them and in short order they where gliding across the flats toward the forts of Al-Bhalhaam and away from the crawling behemoth. The little craft moved along briskly with its six wheels whining and its adamantine rudder throwing up a plume of salt behind it. Only now did Bault and Mualla turn their gaze back toward the leviathan they had just fled.
It was some distance off now its lower parts concealed by the cloud of dust, and trailing smoke that now billowed out from inside the battleship but a good portion of the thing could still be seen clearly illuminated by the moon.
Its form was suggestive of a crab or lobster, with its chitinous shell and six giant legs, but it had myriad other appendages bristling from its bulk some ending in great pincers, others lashing about with whip like tentacles. From beneath the front edge of its vast shell peered two enormous eyes. More like those of a great squid than a crustacean.
The thing let out a great rumbling bellow and seemed to shake itself. It broke free of the burning hulk of the battleship, which fell away and slowly collapsed into the dust cloud. Then, unfettered, the colossus continued on its way heading due south, as if seeking the waters of the Southern sea.
Bault started as Mualla abruptly guffawed.
“What’s so funny?”
“You burned its house down Bault! How could you?”
“I? How so?”
“You set those An… Ander… Those withered things alight; they must have spread the fire when they flopped about. Making it to hot for that thing to abide. You burned it out of house and home!”
“I wonder what the androids were doing.” Bault pondered aloud.
“Perhaps they thought the giant crab was an Ancient One, and fed it people soup! Who cares! Mind that rudder Bault! I would be out of these salt flats by dawn!”
They did indeed reach the edge of the salt flats by dawn, there; they dragged their strange little craft among the rocks that bordered the salt flats. Here there was sparse grass, and other evidence of a more hospitable environment to come.
They decided to rest before abandoning their craft and arranged its sail over them to form a crude tent. Beneath this they ate the last of their sparse rations and drank a good portion of their remaining water, counting on finding more now they were free of the flats. Finishing this feast, Mualla rolled up an empty water skin and placed it under her head as a pillow, and sought sleep in the floor of the craft. Bault regarded her for a moment, and then lay next to her. He gazed upon her upturned face, stroking his beard somewhat nervously. Then, without preamble, he leaned over and kissed the Warrior Maid of Iforne’ long and deeply. When he finished, Mualla started to speak, but he shushed her and pressed her back down. Then, for the first time in their long association, they made love.
Sometime later, when the bloated red sun rode high in the sky, the pair strode out of the rocks onto a grassy plain.
“It is late in the day to set out wizard!” she said, grinning sardonically. “We would have done better to stay in the salt boat until dawn tomorrow. Aye, much better I think.”
Bault stopped and drew forth his lens contraption once more. He peered through it towards the horizon.
“We need water Mualla, and food, we will not find it among the rocks.”
He lowered the glasses and pointed.
“Yonder lies a forest we should reach it well before dark, we can forage for water and game and make camp beneath its canopy.”
“Aye sweetmeat. Making camp will be a wondrous thing.”
She sidled up beside him and grasped him about the waist; leaning in and playfully biting his ear. Bault cringed and his face grew purple. Mualla laughed and snatched the hat from his tousled red mane.
“Shy again? What happened to the masterful man back in the boat?”
Bault shrugged sheepishly.
“I am sorry Mualla. I am uncomfortable dealing with or speaking about... such matters. Women have ever been a mystery to me. In troth, I am more at ease delving into arcane secrets and eldritch lore than I am in the company of females.”
Mualla grinned at him wolfishly, and placed his hat precariously on her own head.
“Well, you are MY man now wizard, so you will be safely in MY company, and need not worry about other women! Know you the dread wedding rites of my people?”
Bault’s eyes grew wide and he swallowed hard.
“No. What of them?”
“Oh they are most terrible and ghastly! The Rite of Nuptial Combat often ends in death or dismemberment! But no point in worrying about that just yet! Come, let us find that game you spoke of, I could eat that giant crab from the flats!”
Bault watched Mualla as she trotted off in the direction of the forest. Mopping his brow with his sleeve, he set off after her.
“Oh Great Visking!” he mumbled. “What have I done?”