Once again... sorry for all the Shelby posting. But she IS my poor little short sighted magical meow meow and I WILL put her in situations <3
Anyway. Withered Witch au my beloved <3
A Strange Force
Shelby straightened her books on the shelves, making sure they were all in line. Her cauldron was polished clean and all the potions she had prepared were neatly organized into crates.
She was wearing her nicest sweater (so the one least stained with mud) and her green overalls with the dainty embroidery her grandma made as a parting present. She fluffed up the flowers on her hat and tied back her hair in a neat-ish ponytail.
She even went though the effort of scraping away the mud, pulling out the plants that grew on the paths and getting rid of as many of those stupid roots as she could. Which... Shelby admits, she had been putting off for a while.
But Katherine was coming over soon, for her first visit to the Evermoore for a trade deal. Everything had to be PERFECT.
"She know who we are, Sausage. Stop pretending to be some incomprehensible spirit."
"Sausage. Gem." Shelby cleared her throat. "I'm... going to be doing a trade deal in a moment here, so if you wouldn't mind... not being around right now?"
"Who's coming over?" Sausage snapped his attention over, clearly excited.
"Better not be that archeologist," Gem mumbled, crossing her arms. "I bet he knew who we were, no thank you."
"Or that grave robber!" Sausage scrunched his nose. "I swear, he looked RIGHT at me-"
"Uhm..." Shelby shuffled her feet. "Just uhm- just..."
Why did her face get all hot? It wasn't embarrassing, to have a trade deal, right? The two ghosts were emporers way back when, they knew how this stuff worked. And they live in her house, have been, possibly months prior to their first appearance. Shelby has nothing to hide from them.
And... why did everything have to be perfect for Katherine? Katherine was really nice and cool and strong she guessed... probably just because she's a princess. Yes, Katherine was a princess with a nation that could squash the Evermoore like a bug. It would be important to impress her.
"Katherine!" Shelby blurted out. "Just- just Princess Katherine. So please don't make me give off a bad impression because it's very important this goes well because she's really strong and could proooobably kill me if she wanted to."
Ah! That must be why Shelby was so nervous. She was scared of Katherine, obviously.
"Ah..." Gem nodded knowingly. "Magic emporer to magic emporer, Shelby, I never got used to dealing with royalty. It doesn't get better."
Sausage blinked back, shaking his head. "Uh, hello, Gem? I was a king? And one of your closest alliances?!"
Gem looked him up and down. "My point still stands. So Shelby, if you need me to set up some spells, scare the princess off-"
"What?!" Shelby blanched. "No no no no, it's just a trade! I just need to impress her!"
... if Shelby was scared of her, why WOULDN'T she want Gem to scare Katherine off?
"Just..." Shelby took a deep breath. "Don't do anything stupid? Please?"
Gem looked over at Sausage again.
"Hey!" Sausage put on the meanest face he could... which wasn't that much. Despite what the books said, Shelby could NEVER see this guy being the servant of a terrifying demon.
"I literally said nothing." Gem crossed her arms, turning away.
"You both had what, a thousand years to make ammends and apologize?!" Shelby touched her temples. "How do you still SQUABBLE this much?!"
"Wrong," Gem rolled her eyes. "We had a thousand years to get SICK of eachother. "Why couldn't I have been stuck in the material plane with Scott? At least I could have a civil discussion about magic with HIM without it turning into a screaming match. Or Katherine. Or Shrub. Or Pix. Lizzie."
"Joey?" Sausage raised his eyebrows.
Gem paused. "Okay, no. I wouldn't go THAT far."
Shelby yelped as someone knocked the door. "Oh my goodness, she's here!"
Shelby rushed over to the door, turning around one more to shoo the ghosts off.
Sausage shook his head. "Man, this is the thanks we get for the free tutoring?
The ghosts disappeared, but Shelby knew better than to think they were gone. She brushed off her green overalls and adjusted her hat one more time before opening the door.
"Katherine!" Shelby cringed a little as her voice slightly cracked. She cleared her throat, trying to play it off. "How are you?"
Katherine was so cool. She always had the best outfit for the occasion. In the muddy and chilly Evermoore, she wore a pinkish purple peacoat and a brimmed hat with a bow. "Shelby! Here, I've got that string you ordered."
"Nice!" Shelby gave a thumbs up. Was that weird? That felt weird. "Here, you can come upstairs with me and take your choice of potion-"
A book page flipped.
"What was that?" Katherine leaned over to look behind Shelby.
The witch also spun around, seeing Sausage raise an eyebrow as he flipped through her potions manual. Katherine didn't seem to see him at least, but she could definetly see and hear the book's movement.
"Just a draft! Weird... fog draft!" Shelby laughed, rushing over to her desk to slam down the page Sausage had flipped to so he couldn't interact with it. "Yeah, if you'll come with me I-"
Shelby looked down to close the book to take upstairs with her when she froze. Sausage had opened up the book to the page on love potions.
She turned bright red. Why was she bright red?! Shelby quickly closed the book, hoping Katherine didn't see.
"Hey, are you okay?" Katherine crossed her arms. "You don't look so good."
"Just..." quick quick quick- "I get small allergies to the potions sometimes! Yeah, uhm... me and spider eyes don't mix well, ha."
"I TOLD you!"
Shelby glanced past Katherine to see Sausage floating circles around Gem, who surprisingly looked quite bemused herself. "Okay, I totally see it now... you know what they remind me of? Like Scott and Jimmy before Scott actually made a move."
Sausage barked a laugh. "Oh MAN does that bring me back!"
The two faded out and Shelby was left simmering and confused. Through their talks she had learned that there was a near identical ruler from their time for all of the empires now (except False? And Oli? She really needed to get around to asking about that...), but she had yet to actually write down who was who and what goes where.
The witch spun around. Right! Right. "I uhm... yes?"
"Which potions are strength again?" Katherine went over to a crate, picking up bottles and rotating them so they reflected in the candle light. "I told you I'm gonna be fighting over by the Ancient Capitol tonight, you know."
"Really?!" Shelby cleared her throat, not intending her voice to be that high. Or to crack that much. "That's uh- that's cool! Here, strength are the red ones."
A minute or two went by without anything jurassic happening. Shelby helped Katherine load the potions into her bag, even though the princess didn't really need that much help.
"And you're sure this is gonna work?" There, Sausage. From somewhere outside.
"Yes, yes." Gem, sounding as done as ever. "I've done this one a million times before. I did it at Joel and Lizzie's wedding, for crying out loud! Even with your grimy blood sheep magic in the way."
"Well!" Shelby clapped her hands together, leaning towards Katherine on her tip toes. She needed to get Katherine OUT OF HERE before these ghosts embarrassed her any more. "Thank you so much for making a trade with me, Katherine! I'll see you-"
"Aw," Katherine's smile fell. Only by a little, but for whatever reason it made Shelby feel like she had committed the ultimate act of betrayal. "You aren't gonna show me around the Evermoore?"
"It's..." Shelby looked outside, and was for the first time ever grateful the sun was going down. "It's gonna get dark soon, and not even YOU should brave the Evermoore alone at night. You know? Here, I'll-"
A record scratched. Music started playing. But it wasn't like the weird eery music the ghosts usually played. It sounded like it was coming from all around them.
And it was... some kind of waltz, heavy with strings and wind instruments, not a lot of percussion. Which, if Shelby had to guess (based on a school project from what, five years ago) would make that a song from the long fallen Ocean Empire, dating it roughly 1000 years ago. Based on the counts and the tempo, it was... matrimonial.
Huh. Gem was right, she really had potential for history.
Speaking of Gem, and Sausage, Shelby was going to DOUBLE MURDER THEM.
"This..." Katherine tilted her head, listening to the music for another second before continuing. "Huh. I don't usually like these songs, but this one is quite pleasant! Is this a spell, Shelby?"
Shelby was going to melt away and die. "Uhm I- well... yes! It's my... it reminds me to make sure I don't have any potions left on the stand."
"Do you dance?"
Sausage's laugh could be heard from inside the room, but Shelby couldn't make herself glare to try and find him through the blush.
Why did that make her blush so hard?!
"Uhm, well I uhm- the-" Shelby took a breath. "No, no not really. Just like lame school dance stuff you know..."
Katherine groaned. "Oh gosh tell me about it, I have to go to all these prissy galas and balls... it's been years since I started going to them and I STILL cannot do any of the dances."
"Yeah at the dances I was always just sort of-" Shelby did a short little awkward dance, smiling when Katherine starts to giggle. She did that, she made Katherine giggle, she was doing such a good job. "You know?"
"Oh that looks MUCH more fun than a boring old waltz-" Katherine copied the move Shelby did. She laughed again, doing the dance with a bit more confidence, stylized. "Come on, dance with me!"
Shelby laughed, awkwardly doing the little dance with Katherine at first, but getting more comfortable as she realized Katherine was not taking it seriously one bit. They both loosened up and danced until the record scratched out, Shelby had kind of forgotten it was playing- and who might have started playing it- until Katherine stopped dancing.
Katherine and Shelby just danced together- kind of- to a marriage song.
Shelby stutters to a stop as soon as soon as the song is over, once again: she was going to DOUBLE KILL Sausage and Gem.
As Shelby's face goes back to a furious red, Sausage laughs again, and she SWEARS she heard Gem's snicker.
"Aw, well. That was fun." Katherine lifted her bag of potions with one arm effortlessly. "And Shelby..."
Katherine slowly looked around the room, before her eyes resting on Shelby, looking her up and down. Shelby felt her skin tingle at her gaze, she felt like she was going to bubble over word vomit. "S- Something wrong, Katherine?"
"No offense..." Katherine gave her a sympathetic smile. "You look like a mess... I think I know what's going on."
Shelby ALSO thinks she knows what's going on. Her heart stops, she was too obvious... she wasn't even doing anything she didn't even realize what she was doing or why she was acting like that... "Listen, I'm-"
"Ghosts are tough, but I know how-"
"What?!" Shelby's eyes went wide. She maybe looked a bit too relieved that Katherine didn't know about-... what she was thinking about.
"You look tired, your eyes flicker," Katherine listed off her evidence, keeping on that warm pitying smile the whole time, to her credit. "Books move on their own, MUSIC plays randomly... you even told me yourself I shouldn't go alone through this place. You've got ghosts!"
Shelby blinked at Katherine for... a long moment. The two ghosts stand behind her, Gem looking rather impressed and Sausage rather indignant. "I... am having a bit of a ghost problem, yes."
Sausage threw his hands in the air, grumbling. Gem face palmed.
"I see..." Katgerine looked out yhe windows, before leaning in to whisper, as well as pulling Shelby down to her level to be closer. That did NOT make Shelby's heart stutter, no siree. "Well... I have a little side job I do for the empires... I'm a monster hunter, and I'm sure I could get rid of your little ghost problem if you wanted."
Shelby smiled, big and awkward, not... really sure what to say? What could she?! "Oh don't bother they're from the ancient empires and help me with my magic 101 homework" like what?! And Katherine looks so eager to help...
Not to mention if Shelby DID say that... she'd need to explain WHY she needed tutoring...
"Wow, really?!" Shelby laughed, mainly from the nerves. She managed to give it a relieved air, she's really good at lying on the fly. "That'd be so helpful! How can I repay you?"
"Oh... you're a witch, right?" Katherine looked off to the side, scratching her arm.
"Yes...?" Shelby ignored how that also felt like a lie.
"I've- no, my KINGDOM has this curse, right?" Katherine explained glumly. What Shelby wouldn't DO to get that tone out of her voice. "And now that my parents are retired they- and my kingdom- expect me to cure the land. But I'm not sure how... but! You're the Great Witch Shelby! If you could come over to Glimmer Grove sometime and take a look-"
"Sure!" Shelby smiled, no she did not squeal that out. "I'd love- or, it'd be my pleasure! I'll do some research and... thank you!"
Of course Shelby did not want to get rid of the ghosts, but she did now have two reasons to be around Katherine. It was honestly annoying how much that idea made her grin like a fool.
The ghosts were silent as the emperors bid eachother bye, Shelby sighing dreamily as she leaned against the door after Katherine left.
This moment was ruined by Gem appearing in front of her, arms crossed and foot tapping. Man, she REALLY DID look like her teachers back home. "So now you're letting a ghost hunter in the Evermoore because she's your girlfriend?"
Shelby blanched. "Katherine is NOT my-"
"Not YeEeEeEet~" Sausage teased, forgetting he was in a bit of peril with a ghost hunter on their case now to torment Shelby's crush. Shelby didn't have any siblings, but this is what she thinks her peers at the Academy were talking about when they complained about their younger brothers and sisters.
Shelby hid her face in her hat. "Shut up, both of you! Gosh... now I've got to search for curse cures-"
Gem groaned. "PLEASE use the correct terminology-"
"AND for ghost PROTECTION spells, who would even write about those-" Shelby ignored her and started searching the books on her shelves.
Gem looked over her shoulder, helping her look, but still engaging in the conversation. "Just make sure you tell us before you start like. Kissing or something."
"Gem!" Shelby hissed, turning red again, she struggled to take five books (unlike Katherine, who could probably carry a million books) to her desk. "Can we PLEASE drop it?!"
"Nope!" Sausage piped in. He began to sing. "Shelby and Katherine sittin in a tree~"
Shelby glared down at her books. Maybe she WOULDNT look for those protection spells.
ALSMP Fanfic: Wherever These Flowers May Grow Ch 4
Characters: goddess!PearlescentMoon, actual!angel!Sausage, starborne!Scott; reintroducing: floran!Scott and introducing: floran!Sausage, with special guest Empires SMP S2 Joel and a cameo by Origins SMP CaptainSparklez
Relationships: MythicalSausage/Scott Smajor
Tags: Canon Divergent, scosage, fluff
Warnings: Character Death (temporary as usual with this series), a tiny bit of angst
(Sequel to Echoing Through To You, When The Skies Cry, Until The Blood Moon Descends, and Then We’ll Rewrite the Stars)
(Also available on Ao3!)
Summary: Pearl sends Sausage and Scott on a mission to help out on another mortal world different from their old one. Scott finds himself returned to an old set of powers; Sausage gets new ones which, as it turns out, he has some trouble controlling. It’s not exactly a honeymoon trip, but they do meet a nice new godling while there.
[ Chapter One ] [ Chapter Two ] [ Chapter Three ]
[ A/N: Stay tuned for incoming artwork by Cynthrey! ]
Traveling east led them to finally seeing signs of civilization. They arrived at a strait where a stone bridge was in the process of being built. They approached cautiously, unsure how their appearances would be taken, but deciding they should see if the other land mass needed to be repaired as only their floran powers could allow.
The first person to notice them was a human stonemason, who greeted them with a wave and a delighted look. She called to her fellow builders, and out of the group of five another woman came over as the two florans reached the start of the bridge. She smiled warmly while the others hung back to watch. “Hello, spirits of the forests! We haven’t seen any of your kind for many years. It’s good to know you still exist. This is a fortuitous sign! It means we chose the right time to begin the return to our homeland!”
“Hello!” Sausage responded cheerfully. “We’ve been beautifying the place, so hopefully you like it when you get there!”
Scott smiled as well, although he was curious. “We saw some ruins, but it didn’t look like anyone had been around for, well, several decades at least.”
The woman nodded. “Yes. Centuries have gone by since our people fled terrible calamities that wracked the land. We are the descendants of two empires, whose people came together out of the ashes to build anew in a safer region. You may use our Greatbridge here to visit our haven, Gilded Ratio, if you like. We have a nice orchard that you might find rest in, and I’m sure the farmers will appreciate the blessing of your presence.”
“Thank you, I think we will.” Scott nodded to her in appreciation. She returned the gesture with a bow, then stepped aside and held out one arm to extend the offer of crossing the bridge.
The other builders similarly moved aside, an assortment of wonder and joy on their faces. Scott walked ahead, but glanced back, noticing Sausage was hesitating. The former seraph put a hand to the back of his head. “Uh, yeah, thanks! And, um, I apologize if there’s, like, just a little extra grass or moss or flowers that end up growing on here, eh-heheh! It looks great, by the way! Very solid build, those pylons should stand for many more centuries!”
Scott gave him a patient look and held out his hand. Sausage reached to clasp it, leaning over instead of taking a step onto the bridge. Scott tugged him forward. Sausage hopped awkwardly, then realized nothing was growing under him. “Oh. Oh! Right, direct contact with soil! Ah-haha, never mind! But maybe watch for plants starting to creep onto the end, there.” He pointed to the stone connecting to the land, but then nearly stumbled as Scott dragged him along. “Okay, okay! W-We’re going now! Have fun building!”
He moved up beside Scott and hissed quietly, “You don’t have to be pushy! You could have just reminded me I didn’t have to worry about it!”
“Sorry. I was getting a little nervous. They were kind of looking at us like we’re some kind of gods. I’m not used to so much attention. I mean, yeah, people can see starbornes at work, but as just another star. I don’t have to look them in the eye and go ‘hi, yes, I rearranged the sky, now bow down before me’!”
“That’s a good point. But, um, you might have to get used to it a little bit…” Sausage eyed a second construction crew that was working on a lookout tower at the other end, which appeared to be one of a set to either side. The people halted as the two florans walked by, another round of wonderous gazes coming their way.
“Hello,” Scott singsonged casually, waving, “Don’t mind us, just passing by to bestow some blessings, then we’ll be on our way.”
The two passed through a stone passageway that might have been one source of material for the bridge. On the other side was a new sight to astound them. Before them stood a city below a curved road, with farms cascading down hills and small homes clustered around larger, central buildings. The true focal point, however, was a giant statue of a woman holding a sword, one feathered wing extended to her right and a stylized circular wing on the left. Gleaming with golden accents, it resembled a shining sun, with rays at intervals to add to the effect.
Sausage gazed at the statue with enamored eyes and murmured, “Reminds me of Pearl… It doesn’t look like a temple from here, though…”
“Let’s get closer. We can always ask the locals. Maybe they’re into angel symbolism. Just the place for you.” Scott smiled teasingly. Sausage stuck his tongue out in response, then composed himself when two citizens came up to welcome them with the same excitement as the woman on the bridge.
It quickly became apparent she had sent word for them to find the florans through some type of long-distance signaling system. They were among the numerous agriculture experts in town. They offered to give the florans a tour. The first thing the pair asked when they reached street level was about the statue.
“That is Our Lady of Harvests, the Goddess Peril,” explained the taller of the citizens, “She watches over our city as well as the catacombs, where all of our people have been laid to rest since it was founded. They even say one of the great emperors of the past is entombed within, but the exact location of that crypt is hidden.”
“Peril,” Sausage mumbled, then repeated it with an accent as, “Perl.” He nudged Scott with his elbow. Scott merely smiled.
The other farmer piped up, “You’re probably not here for a history lesson, though. If you would be so kind, we do have one crop field that isn’t yielding. After that, you can visit the orchard.”
The crops in question were several hundred scraggly stalks of what was supposed to be corn. Scott walked along the first row getting a feel for the location’s energy while Sausage waited on the cobblestone path. After touching one stalk and turning it a healthier shade of green, Scott said, “After this harvest you should let this field lay fallow for a season, then rotate to a different crop. The soil tired out early.”
He then nodded to Sausage, who grinned and stepped between the second and third rows. He held his hands out to either side and took off running, fingers grazing sagging leaves. A wave of refreshed green took hold of the corn stalks shortly after he passed. When he reached the end, he turned and ran through the fourth and fifth rows.
Scott ambled down the first row, changing all of the stalks there, then went around the border of the field to mark where Sausage could stop. Several other people wandered over to see what was happening, including a few children. When he returned to the starting point, Scott smiled gently at them; the children had probably heard many fairy tales about the ‘spirits of the forest’ and might not have the same level of understanding as the adults of how the magic was working. He grew a handful of small sunflowers out of his palm, then passed them out to the children one by one. Faces lit up with wonder again. A few of the adults moved closer to see if he had any leftover to give to them.
“So, you were sent by Our Lady Peril,” someone said reverently. “Thank you for these gifts.”
“You’re… welcome,” Scott said with a measure of caution. With all the reminders of PearlescentMoon, he chose to go with sunflowers as an experiment. He had his answer. “Well, you enjoy. We have more to see before we continue our travels.”
He collected Sausage as he was on his way back from the final rows of corn. A bit winded but cheerful, the former seraph beamed at him. “That was fun, too! Is there anywhere else they need us to work on, or are we wandering around some more?”
“We’re going to see that orchard they were talking about, then figure out what we’ll do for the night.”
“I wouldn’t mind sleeping in a real bed again, come to think of it…”
“Shh,” Scott hushed him. He lowered his own voice. “They think we were sent by their god. Remember what our Pearl said. Let’s not mention anything that might reveal we’re something else.”
Sausage coughed. He loudly proclaimed, “A real bed of moss, you know! Not as much mossy moss around these parts like where we usually dwell!”
“Ah— Okay,” Scott murmured helplessly.
Attention kept being drawn their way as they walked. Both responded with polite greetings while making observations of their own. There were pens full of different animals, people transporting goods, and tradecraft shops of all kinds.
Sausage swiveled his head as he took it all in, commenting, “This city seems pretty nice. The red sheep are a little weird, but other than that, it’s a thriving society! Big contrast to the whole other continent I think we were on.”
“I’m starting to wonder if maybe we’ve traveled too far. If this does happen to be a completely different continent, and the worst problem they have is not rotating crops, we might have been meant to go west from the mountains instead.”
“There was the giant lily, though.”
“Hmm, true. West from there, then, or further south, or even back to the north. We could go back over the bridge…”
“We could also maybe ask Pearl for a sign. I mean, if this place isn’t a sign. That statue was really obvious.”
“Yeah, but why would we need to be here?”
“Inspire the people to make more flower gardens? I don’t know!”
Scott held out an arm to stop Sausage as a line of rather unusual trees came into view. They approached with curiosity again, both of them picking up on the modified energy of the trees. A worker carrying a basket of faintly glowing fruit in multiple colors waved at them. “Welcome to the Froglight Orchard!”
Despite numerous invitations to spend the night in available buildings, Scott and Sausage opted to climb one of the acacia trees near the city’s outskirts. They figured no one would want to wake up with the front door blocked by overenthusiastic grass and flowers.
They intended to set off at dawn, but a shepherd herding a flock of sheep out to the plains to feed was waiting for them. They figured he was only trying to be polite.
“Spirits of the forests, we thank you for your visit. If you need anything for your journeys, please ask. We will offer what we can.” He bowed.
“That won’t be necessary,” Scott said, a hand out to try to indicate he meant the bowing and the offer. “We have all we need right from the land.”
“Actually,” Sausage interjected, “Do you, by any chances, have any honey bottles to spare? And maybe a pack to carry them. Oh, and if you could also do us one favor and spread the word of the storm god, Joel, who I’m sure will help with any droughts if you say a sincere prayer to him. Rain goes along with healthy crops, after all!”
Scott raised an eyebrow as Sausage finished drinking his third honey bottle in an hour. They were half a day’s travel from Gilded Ratio, and Scott himself hadn’t been hungry, feeling plenty sustained by photosynthesis.
Sausage was apparently another story. He stowed the empty bottle in the satchel the shepherd had given them, then met Scott’s gaze. “What? I’m hungry! I think all this excess power leakage is draining me!” He then giggled, realizing his incidental pun.
“I hope that doesn’t mean we’re on a time limit,” Scott said thoughtfully. “You didn’t even do anything as strenuous as those redstone chasms.”
“It might maybe possibly be from trying extremely hard to not overwhelm that entire city with abundant crops.”
Scott sighed. “We are officially staying away from all villages and cities and whatever other settlements people might be in.”
“You know, if they’re settled, that means we don’t need to fix anything, anyway.”
“True. We’ll keep going this way for now and see what we find. We can always loop back around.”
For another few weeks the two florans traveled around, finding mostly areas where plant life was beginning to take hold with not so much in the way of calamitous destruction. They helped things along and grew extra flowers before moving on. They continued to be oblivious to the one god who was spying on them – and who was growing more resentful by the day; meanwhile, Joel occasionally zipped down to light-heartedly pester them. His mood had become very cheery, and one time he let slip that the mortals had finally taken notice of him. A small shrine had been created in a major city this side of the planet, and he was feeling more powerful for it.
Sausage made the suggestion that Joel should seek out a mortal and give them an inspirational vision of a temple he would like to see built. Joel said he would take it into consideration before he left them again.
Adelfa was waiting for him above, arms folded and a scowl firmly in place. “Proud of yourself, are you?”
“I don’t see why not,” Joel boasted. “The mortals are seeing the value of a separate weather god. Maybe you should try chilling out and stop snooping into what those two are doing. You have to admit, they have a certain artistry to the way they’re rebuilding things. Sausage is still kind of an overachiever but that’s not a bad—”
“You even bothered to learn their names?! Don’t go getting so attached!”
Joel sighed in exasperation. “I’m not getting attached, I’m making allies. Comrades. I have a common goal with them. I can do my job better if they make the land more accessible for rain, and make room for flooded rivers so the banks don’t get washed out all the time. Why isn’t this making you happy? Wasn’t the point to get all the land to flourish again where it was refusing to heal? You clearly couldn’t fix it by yourself.”
“We couldn’t fix it, Joel! We!”
“No, just you. That was never within my ability. I only control the skies, remember?”
Adelfa narrowed their eyes. “Then stop concerning yourself with a couple of land-bound fleas!”
“I just explained myself to you. How about you stop being jealous of them and go do your job? Create some new animals or something. Seriously. Get a hobby, Adelfa. This isn’t the least bit productive. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some mortals to inspire. When was the last time someone built you a temple, by the way? At this rate, those two will get a shrine before that ever happens again!” He cackled, then went on his way as usual.
Adelfa glared after him, then glanced down toward the ground. The two florans were also departing for the next location where they might outshine the irritated god.
Although they couldn’t be too sure of which continent they had ended up on after a bit of boat travel, Scott and Sausage eventually found a site with some more traces of corrupted soil. There were a few struggling stands of bamboo, and a jungle that looked like it had been ravaged at one point, with almost a dozen large tendrils of bright red corruption wrapped around the tree trunks. They weren’t sure what it meant, and Scott didn’t receive a vision right away this time, so they proceeded with a little caution.
Scott called upon a score of regular vines to wrap around one of the tendrils to begin pulling it off a tree while Sausage made an attempt to climb a different one, waiting to see if he could at least convert it to the blue-green alternative. He had to give up when he nearly slipped; he could swear the stuff had shifted under his foot. He picked his way back to the ground, then imitated Scott’s motions to have vines wrangle the tendril for him.
Once all of them had been pulled to the ground, Sausage tried again to convert them. Scott went to work on the bamboo in the meantime, bolstering the thin clusters and spreading more of it all around until it resembled more of a bamboo forest than just a jungle. He widened his radius, giving Sausage plenty of time – as well as checking for any hidden pockets of corrupted soil. However, the further out he went, the more certain he became that it was only that one spot.
Scott returned just as sunset approached, needing to weave between thicker stands of bamboo because, of course, those had been affected by Sausage, too. When he located his partner, he saw no hint of even the blue-green stuff. He tilted his head in curiosity. “What in the world did you do?”
Sausage sat on a raised tree root, looking pleased with himself. “It wasn’t really cooperating, so I made bamboo grow under the whole thing, and they stabbed up into it, breaking it apart, then I crushed all the bits with roots and vines, and then buried everything underground!” To illustrate, he waved a hand at the root he had been sitting on, sending it back into the soil, which quickly grew over with grass and left no trace. “I’m thinking if we camp out right here for the night, those bits will convert while we sleep!”
“That was a creative way to deal with it,” Scott admitted. “So, do we make a tent out of this insane amount of bamboo you’ve now sprouted, or grow even more until it encloses us?”
“I don’t know – do you think you’ll go sleepwalking again, since there is corruption here, too? There’s actually a little rock outcropping over this way, and that could be two walls we don’t have to worry about constructing. We could even sleep right out under the stars this time, without branches and stuff in the way.” With a smile, Sausage clasped Scott’s hand and guided the way through the bamboo to a little sandy area with a protruding rock face. More of the jungle continued around it, so there was still plenty of cover they could call upon.
“Sure,” Scott agreed. He got to work making moss pillows. “I mean, we’re still going to fall asleep before we see too many of them, but it’s a nice thought.”
It took a bit of doing to get bamboo to start poking through the hard soil despite the sand overtop of it, but Sausage managed to get a small wall up in time before they laid down side by side for the night. He gently took Scott’s hand, entwining his fingers as sleep descended on them. Scott smiled over at him in turn, preferring to gaze at his partner and the peaceful look that lingered on his face rather than concerning himself with the stars.
No visions or dreams came to him that night, and yet Scott was slow to wake at the break of dawn. What did rouse him was a sort of scrabbling sound, then Sausage’s voice with a note of panic in it. “Scott? Hey, um… something’s wrong. I still look like a floran but this isn’t responding to what I want it to do…”
Scott sat up. He immediately regretted the move as dizziness swept through his head. Sausage had a hand against the bamboo wall. “Hmm. Maybe our powers are starting to wear off, and it’s a sign we’re done and can go home? Kind of wish it happened before we went to sleep. My starborne powers aren’t strong enough during the day to launch out of the atmosphere. Guess that means we’ll wander around until nightfall again.”
“Pearl said she would come get us, right? But it would also be nice if she showed up soon. I could do without the headache…”
“You too, huh?” Scott gave up on standing and sat on his knees instead, one hand braced on the sand. He tried sending out a request through the ground toward the bamboo wall in hopes of lowering it, but he wasn’t able to even sense the stalks properly.
Sausage turned and took a lurching step toward him. “Um… S-Scott? Why do I suddenly feel… so...” He toppled forward, landing on his knees then dropping flat. He let out a whimper and worked to reach one arm toward Scott. His hand fell short, leaving him to gaze at the other floran helplessly.
Scott’s mind raced to make sense of what might be happening as his strength flagged, as well. Then it hit him. “The… The sunlight,” he said, trying to look upward. “Something is wrong with… the sun…” The main source of their power, and vitality too, it seemed. He realized that there was too much of a yellow cast to everything.
He decided not to waste any more time on explanations and instead reached to grasp Sausage’s hand as he, too, fell over. He tried to get a hold on the rest of his partner’s arm to pull both of them closer together if only to hug him and reassure him, but the remainder of his strength failed.
Sausage locked eyes with him and made one last attempt to speak. “I… I lo…” The last word died on his lips as his eyes closed.
“I – I know…” Scott managed to reply, keeping a tight grip on Sausage’s hand before he succumbed to the drain from the altered sunlight.
A golden glow flared into existence in the form of bands around the ring finger of each’s left hand, followed by gold tendrils curling out of the ground between them, winding around their wrists and briefly connecting before disappearing into a spray of glittering motes. Beneath their bodies a layer of grass began to sprout where the sand had previously prevented anything from growing before.
High above, the strange yellow tint also faded out. Adelfa withdrew their splayed hands to their sides and grinned with satisfaction. They then sighed in annoyance when they heard a crackle of thunder.
“Adelfa!!” Joel yelled, fast approaching on a dark storm cloud, “Did you think I wouldn’t notice that?! What have you done?!”
“You’re a little late to be worrying about it now. You’ll have to learn to be faster if you want to prevent other gods from undermining your domain.”
“Or you could stop being insufferable.” Joel scanned the surface below, trying to figure out what the vitriolic nature god had been up to. Then he spotted the two florans where they seemed to have suspiciously been cornered between a rock and a bamboo barrier. “What the heck? They never sleep during the day…”
A smirk crawled onto Adelfa’s face. They waited for him to put the pieces together.
Joel then realized there was no wild plant growth going on around Sausage. “Wait… You did something to them, didn’t you?” He turned an accusatory glare on the other god.
“Well, the job they were supposed to do is pretty much done. I have no more use for them. So, there was only the matter of them to clean up.”
“Y-You didn’t have to murder them!”
“Murder is such a strong word, godling. Why don’t you get back to your storms again and mind your own business? Plants and plant-like creatures aren’t of your concern anymore, remember?”
“But this was wrong! They were helping, and they were harmless!”
“They were about to start getting in my way. Mortals are just toys, Joel. You’ll figure that out eventually.” Adelfa snapped their fingers and disappeared.
Joel stood agape, then angled his cloud to rush downward. He placed it directly over the florans then jumped to the ground beside them. He flicked his fingers at the cloud, producing a light, misty rain. “Hey— Hey, fellas? How does a nice refreshing rainfall sound? A little something to perk up the old, under-watered flowers, yeah?”
He could already see it was pointless from the way the flowers in their hair had begun to wilt. He stopped the rain and sat down with his back against the rock wall, wondering if there was anything he could have done, if he had been faster. He wasn’t sure what Adelfa had done to the sunlight, only that the change in the atmospheric filter had prickled at his senses. He should have summoned clouds to the spot without trying to reach it first. He was able to do that – surely it wasn’t necessary for him to be in a specific location to make the weather behave in a specific way…
He continued to sit and watch over the two until the largest blossoms in their hair faded; the beautiful silvery-white one in Sausage’s, the mystical dark blue one speckled with gold in Scott’s. Joel sighed and moved to get up. He couldn’t just leave them here like this. Perhaps he could bring them to the city that had the shrine to him, and the people there would allow the florans to be laid to rest in their monument to the dead…
He stopped when he felt a pulse of energy pass through the ground into his hand – or was it out of his hand? Either way, he dropped back into a seated position as dozens of the white and blue flowers sprang up around the two florans’ bodies.
Then the bamboo wall collapsed and a figure even taller than Joel stepped into view, her hands suffused with a golden light as she reached toward the pair. He didn’t recognize her at first, but realized there was a resemblance to the farming goddess who he had briefly met when Adelfa none-too-politely introduced the rest of the pantheon to him. “Peril? Is that you? What are you going to do with them?”
She didn’t answer. She picked up the florans, cradling one in each arm, then turned. Joel hopped up to try to follow, hoping to find out something, but then he saw the glimmering Aether portal around the corner. He came to a halt, knowing for certain it was not his place to follow her through.
It remained open for a few minutes. He could see through to the other side, where the goddess stood in a large wooden gazebo. She had worry on her face as she gazed downward. He saw a shimmer pass over the bodies of the two florans, then he saw Sausage grow wings that draped over the mystery goddess’ arm as she continued to hold the two, his clothes turning into pristine white robes and bits of gold-trimmed armor. Next, he saw Scott turn into a glowing purple figure before dimming to a normal humanoid appearance with the same clothes but with star motifs instead of foliage and in hues of blue, black, and violet, a trail of bright motes encircling his head instead of flowers. The goddess placed them on their feet, then she shrank down closer to their heights and threw her arms around both of them in a hug.
The portal closed with the sound of breaking glowstone. Joel stood frozen for a moment, then turned to regard the patch of unique flowers. He then looked at the rock wall with its protruding features and gave some thought to creating something with his own hands.
This wouldn’t require the skills of an architect, but maybe someone with an eye and appreciation for artistry.
Pearl stepped back after releasing Sausage and Scott, relief beaming from her face. “Boys, I am so sorry. That was not how that job was supposed to end. I was having all sorts of problems getting the local pantheon to cooperate. They’ve got some serious infighting going on over there. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to end well for them later.”
Sausage was happily patting at the feathers of his lower wings, having pulled one around beside his hip. “Don’t apologize, Pearl! We’re used to dying within arm’s length of each other, it’s like a weird pastime or something. But maybe let’s not do it again anytime soon.”
“I’d like to retire from it altogether,” Scott put in. He similarly checked himself over, smiling fondly at the twinkling of his own skin. He sighed with relief. “Back to normal, thank goodness.” He then turned and hugged Sausage tightly.
The seraph patted his back and returned the hug, then moved away to get enough space to stretch out his wings, luxuriating in the feeling before folding them all in. “At least that one was more like fainting instead of being stabbed, or shot by an arrow…” He ticked off the list on his fingers one by one and continued, “…Or an explosion, or—”
“Yes, thanks,” Scott interrupted, “I don’t want to relive those, either.”
Pearl lightly ruffled Sausage’s hair. “It’s good you can keep your sense of humor, my dear angel. I’ll let you get back to building now. You deserve to do some casual work for a bit. I’ll try not to send you on any other big missions for a while, either.” She then turned to Scott with an apologetic look. “As for you, on the other hand…”
She gestured to the opening of the gazebo opposite her wicker throne, where a crimson-hued starborne with black hair and red-rimmed sunglasses stood awkwardly staring in at them. “Sorry to intrude,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you, at last.” He cleared his throat and strode across the floor to grasp Scott’s hand with a sincere grip. “Scott, was it? I’m Prince Sparklez. I confess, I need a little help straightening up a few issues – well, a few dozen, maybe? To be honest, all the things they tell you at the academy and my royal training didn’t really prepare me for being out in the field with no mentor. It was harder than it looked!”
Scott offered a patient smile and patted the other starborne’s shoulder. “I was kind of thrown into the job, too. I’ll help you fix whatever you need help with, Your Highness.”
“Oh, um, please just call me Sparklez. I’m a regular old starborne like everyone else! Well, not everyone here, obviously, since we’re in the presence of gods and angels, and. Well. Nothing particularly special about me, no sir-ree…”
“Okay. If you say so.” Scott then turned back to Sausage and hugged him again. “I’ll see you at home later. I’ll try to get back before sunrise here, and we can finally gaze at the stars together. Love you!” He gave a little wave then started out of the gazebo while Sparklez jogged ahead, although the violet starborne glanced over his shoulder once with a tender smile.
“I know!” Sausage called after him in return. He watched the two starbornes launch upward in twin streams of red and purple, his expression soft. Then he cast a thoughtful look at the reflecting pool. “Pearl, is there any way to check in on that other world? I kind of want to let Joel know we’re okay. He might wonder where we’ve gone off to.”
“Joel...?” she asked curiously, yet with a weird undertone that Sausage didn’t pick up on.
“The storm god. Oh, you might not have had to deal with him like the rest of the pantheon. He was pretty new to whole godly responsibilities thing. He seemed nice! He helped us out a few times. I think he liked seeing our progress.”
Pearl clasped her chin with one hand, considering the matter. Then she smiled. “Actually, no, we can’t – I tried to keep track of you, but the pool wouldn’t always attune for some reason. But I have the feeling he knows you’re all right now.”
Joel stood silently with a candle in one hand, looking over his work for the final time. With hammer, chisel, and some precise erosion techniques, the rock face had been turned into a relief-style statue of two figures facing each other, foreheads leaning together and perhaps implying they were planning to kiss. The one on the right had a hand up as if cradling the side of their partner’s neck, while the one on the left had their hand against the small of the other’s back in an embrace.
The tails of the righthand figure’s overcoat appeared to be swirling in the wind, encompassing the upper legs of both. They appeared to be standing on two different tree roots. In their hair were the same angelflowers and starflowers that stood in the nearby patch which Joel had surrounded with a low border of tumbled river rocks. He had set up a small shrine space in front, and that was where he now set the candle. He lit it with a spark from his finger.
He emitted a gusty sigh, causing the flowers to sway and the candle flame to dip for a second. “Well, wherever you are now, I hope you like this. I think I did all right. I’ll drop some hints and maybe other people will come visit, too. You did a nice job around this spot, so I think someone will find it to be a peaceful sanctuary someday.”
They say that if you find the flowers seen nowhere else in the world that grow near a memorial to two lovers, you should pick one of each and exchange them with someone you care for, as a sign of your own eternal dedication to your heart’s love.