Hoarding 1 – Tales and Readiness

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Maltos sipped on his tea, the last of his words still ringing through Apexus’ head. While the slime, the kobold, and the exiled angel reflected on the tale they had just heard, Reysha had an entirely different reaction. “What kind of stupid fucking garbage was that?” she asked. “You telling me that the Progenitor is a double-crossing ass and that every time I curse ‘Hellroots’, I’m invoking the name of some cunty dragon?”

“Maybe you are,” the old Monk responded patiently and continued sternly, “I remind you to keep your cursing down in my house. This is a place of…” He trailed off, letting Reysha finish the sentence.

“Of balance, yes, yes,” she sighed and waved off.

“Was any of that true?” Apexus asked, tipped off by the word ‘maybe’.

“To answer the words of your question: yes,” Maltos answered and finished his tea. A delighted exhale preceded further words. “To answer the spirit of your question: this is a story of the Progenitor that’s part of the Church archives. It’s often taught in Church education. It holds more or less sway depending on where you go. Some of it will be true, some of it made up or simplified to the point of no longer representing reality. The part about the Progenitor bending the truth is doubtlessly true. Keep in mind that all that life flows from it.”

“Why do you keep saying ‘it’?” Apexus asked. “I heard the Progenitor was the Divine Father from Gizmo.”

Maltos refilled his cup from a nearby teapot. “Local tradition. The Progenitor is often described as a masculine deity, due to being the first shaper. Undoubtedly, sex was a reality that came to be by its design later. Whether the first men and women were the first two angels is entirely debatable.”

“I doubt it,” Apexus said, remembering Veramas. The angel had called itself the 1042nd one and it had certainly not appeared like it had been either a man or a woman. Barely, it counted as a person, by its behaviour. “Is the Progenitor a Parasyte?”

Aclysia inhaled sharply at the question. Reysha raised an eyebrow amusedly. Korith was taken aback. They had told her their tale and they had spent a week together since then. This particular topic had not been discussed.

Maltos turned the cup in his hands, staring at the beverage that softly rippled in the cup. “I’ve wondered so myself. The origins of the Omniverse and its first protector are a mystery. The oldest angels certainly resemble them…” he stopped for a moment to cast a glance at Aclysia. The angel was shaking where she sat. “Do you wish to leave the room?” he asked, genuine and friendly. “I understand that this is revolting to your nature.”

“I acknowledge your concern. I will stay.” Aclysia’s words were hard, dripping with contempt for the topic and the mentor who she still had not forgiven.

“Would it not be really bad if the Progenitor was a Parasyte?” Korith asked in a desperate attempt to find her footing in this topic. “Like, really, really bad?”

“About as bad as the fact that I still didn’t get to touch your tits, squishy,” Reysha joked and raised her hands defensively when Aclysia shot her a poisonous glare. “Okay, okay, topic off limits for jokes, the tiger gets it.”

“Dedicate yourself to that rule and do not make it one you break in your steady need for rebellion,” Aclysia hissed.

Reysha visibly bit the inside of her cheek in order to prevent a joke from slipping out that would have done exactly that. Her left foot jittered with the excitement of an undelivered punchline. Every quiet second in the room was another threat of her blurting it out by accident.

“It cannot be bad,” Apexus spoke his thoughts, after some contemplation. “Reality as we know it exists. Regardless of what the Progenitor is, it made and maintains this.” Twice, the slime knocked on the wooden table, using it as a stand-in for all matter. “It is a mystery, not a death sentence.”

“It could be that the Progenitor shaped them after itself and that his shape was that of a Parasyte,” Maltos elaborated on the topic. “Or it could be that the shape it has is merely close by happenstance. It could also be that it merely pulled inspiration from what it wished to destroy. Whatever it is, it would be wrong to call angels Parasytes. They are polar opposites in terms of their goals for the Omniverse.”

“Wrong beyond doubt,” Aclysia nodded, her moth-like wings fluttering. A wave between relief and remaining anger travelled through her body. It ebbed away, when Apexus tightened the arm around her thin waist and kissed the top of her head.

“The primary reason I told you this tale is that it gives you a good insight on how dragons behave,” the old Monk stated and looked at each of them in turn. “Dragons are the primary embodiment of greed. They will do nothing that’s not to their benefit and have no loyalties beyond themselves. Young dragons aim to further their hoards, old dragons wish to leave a legacy that engraves them into every mind. This is why older dragons sometimes go on rampages. Better to be feared than forgotten, in their mind.”

“Sounds like ya should just go over and murder them all, get done with the problem,” Reysha suggested.

“Did you forget the Dragonspawn dungeon?” Aclysia asked.

“The what now?”

Wordlessly, Maltos stood up and left the room. Quickly, he returned with a map of the Leaf.



“We are here,” the Old Monk explained, tapping at the island off the southern coast of the western continent. His finger wandered north and slightly east, to an archipelago between the western and central continent. “This is the Dragonspawn dungeon. As the name implies, it continuously spawns dragons, maintaining a certain population on the Leaf. The strongest of them stay inside the dungeon, the weaker ones get ousted and make their way to the Dragon Isles in the north.”

“Why do they go all the way there?” Reysha asked. “There’s all these mountains a lot closer… if they even want mountains, dunno, dragons go with dungeons in my mind.”

“They do prefer their caves and old fortresses,” Maltos confirmed. “They also like to stay clear of anything that could threaten them or their hoards, so they generally avoid population centres. That only leaves the Dragon Isles or the Spilling Swamp and few dragons would ever wish to live in a swamp.” His finger trailed back south, until he hit an island east of their current location. “Elektrika is the strongest of these ousted dragons and defends her island tooth and claw. She’s also found agreements with the local people, so there isn’t any threat of a rampage from her. Negotiating with dragons is surprisingly simple, if you’re willing to part with valuables.”

“No deal!” Korith declared, triggered by the very idea. “Shinies are for the Hoard, not some… big… scaley… horned… greedy things!”

“Ya talking about yourself?” Reysha mocked and flicked one of the kobold’s four horns. “How wet does it make you that we’re three people without food expenses anyway? You can have aaaaall the money in this group.”

“I wouldn’t use ‘wet’, but that sounds great!” Korith responded, happily wagging her tail.

“I will maintain control over the funds,” Aclysia asserted.

“Awww,” Korith made her disappointment audible.

“You will make a good quartet,” Maltos remarked, amusedly. “And your goal isn’t to negotiate with a dragon anyway, it is to kill a dragon. Preferably an older, violent one. Most dragons may be blights, slavers, bandits, and latent threats, but they are still sapient and we should not unnecessarily cut them down.” He paused to sip from his tea. “I trust you to make the right decision.”

Apexus did not mirror that trust in himself. His question whether who he should or should not kill was still one he was struggling with. This doubt was something Maltos hoped this journey would challenge and forge into a resolve to kill sapient beings where necessary. A side benefit only, however, as the main goal remained to acquire the magical cortex of a dragon. It was practically identical to that of a human and could, therefore, be used to allow Apexus to learn magic. The challenge of beating a dragon, even a weak one, would double as the necessary stimulant to make it a Permanent Growth.

“You will leave tomorrow,” Maltos said and folded the map again, sliding it over the table. “Be safe. I wish for you all to return stronger and wiser.”

­­­­­­­___________________________________________________________________________

The quartet was on their way home. Aclysia was to Apexus’ right, Reysha to his left, and Korith sat on his shoulders. They often walked in this configuration. It removed the necessity for the kobold to hurry her steps and granted the slime the blessing of her thick thighs around his neck. Everyone won, even Aclysia, who would have gladly taken the shortstack’s place, had she not been so tall that she would have had to dodge the lower branches of the forest they crossed.

“What are you doing?” Apexus asked when he felt Korith pull the band out of his hair that kept it confined in a ponytail.

“Braiding,” Korith answered, combing through his wild hair with her fingers, until she had three reasonably orderly strands of it. Her hands, although scaled and claw-tipped, worked elegantly at weaving the three strands into one braid. “I get jittery when I’m not doing something with my hands.”

“I get that,” Reysha responded.

“No, I won’t let you squeeze me.”

“Didn’t even mean that this time, but I get the confusion,” the redhead cackled and picked up a pebble from the ground, tossing it up and down as they kept walking. “I like to keep my fingers active too… actually, now that we’re talking about fingers, I’ve been wondering how yours work. You’ve got all of the stuff covering your skin, but you don’t seem any clunkier for it.”

“I’m a kobold, we have tinker’s claws,” Korith responded, tying the band around the finished braid. “You know my people are renowned smiths and artificers, yeah? Our claws can sense just as well as your fingertips. Horn doesn’t burn so easily though, so we can deal with hot stuff.”

“That’s so weird,” Reysha said.

“Your nails extend and retract… don’t call me weird…” Korith grumbled, tapping her heels against Apexus’ chest, who said nothing. He didn’t wear anything over his torso and he didn’t mind the bit of dirt. “I’m the normalest one around here.”

“Sure you are, shortstack,” Reysha responded in an overplayed nice tone. “Between the mysterious boy toy, the self-exiled bubble butt and the semi-monstrous, semi-demonic tiger girl you are… actually the most normal one, nevermind, point taken.” Korith nodded strongly several times, approving of this insight. Reysha cackled, immediately switching to another avenue of teasing. “Remember when we first met…”

“Please, don’t,” Korith begged.

“…and you thought I introduced these two as a pexus and a clysia, and you answered you were a kobold because you thought that was their race?”

A deeply red hue flushed through Korith’s tanned skin, as the embarrassment at the memory took hold of her being. Over the loud laughter of Reysha, she attempted to retort. “Well, remember when you… when you… uhm…” the kobold desperately tried to find something to tease the tiger girl with. An impossible task. ‘This woman has about as much shame as a… as a… as drunk me last week… Aaaah, no, she has even less. She would strut around naked if she could.’ “Only reason why you even wear clothes is because you don’t want your nipples to get cold!” she blurted out her thoughts.

“What?!” Reysha asked, not in outrage but insane amusement. “What are you talking about?”

“Truth!” Korith just rode with it. “I speak truth.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“I mean, uhm,” the golden-eyed kobold blinked rapidly, not sure how to respond to that. Before she could make a proper resolution, Reysha grabbed the lower edge of her top and pulled both layers of clothes off her in one motion. Her decently sized breasts jiggled, while she folded her clothes over her arm.

“Ya kinda right though,” Reysha said, looking at her nipples quickly standing at attention. “It is kinda cold.”

“Don’t get sick,” Apexus commented, side-eyeing her breasts. He had indulged in the worldly pleasures a lot since the fast was over and his hunger was not yet fully satisfied. After being so close to death’s door, the breeding instincts kicked back with full force, demanding that genes were passed on before it was too late. Apexus still shot blanks, but his libido regulation didn’t know that. A question surfaced, while their house became visible between the trees. “Are you staying the night?”

“I, uhm,” Korith had to consider that question carefully. Korith had spent many lonely nights fantasizing about it and peeked on them several times on the ship. Because there was nothing holding them back anymore and because she was thoroughly interested herself, her staying the night would inevitably end with her joining them in whatever the three would do. She hadn’t been sure if she was actually ready for that. ‘Come on, Korith, you got so far!’ “S-sure,” she responded bashfully.

The other three members of the quartet smiled.

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