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Great [Monster] Journey 14

RSanon Dec 28th, 2013 2,046 Never
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  1. Galen let out a sigh as the inn came into view. Adjusting his grip on his aching shoulder, he set off down the street, his scowl twisting into a smile. The buffeting evening wind had returned, numbing his exposed hands and cheeks with its chill. Sybyll maintained her place beside Galen, unaffected by the wind, her eyes ever-searching for danger while keeping track of Galen lest his injury overcome him again and bring him to his knees. Now that they were back on the main streets, Galen’s hobble and bruised body earned him a few stares. He dismissed them. There were more important things to be worrying about at the moment.
  2.  
  3. His brief elation deflated on closer inspection of the inn. Or, specifically, what lied right outside of it. He recognized his pack on the ground and right next to it a certain familiar red slime.
  4.  
  5. “Hi, Galen!” said Mino, hopping up to greet him. “That mean innkeeper grabbed everything from your room and was about to steal it but I stopped him!” She thrust her chest, hands at her hips. “He told me to ‘take you stupid pack and never come back’. He was mad about something.”
  6.  
  7. “Mad? About--“ Oh. Someone was supposed to watch the inn at night in exchange for the rooms. Galen checked the moon. It was well into the evening, probably not too long from midnight. Way past the time they were to stand guard. His chin fell to his chest and he sighed. Great. “Well, that’s okay.” He walked over to his pack and slung it over his uninjured shoulder. “Mino, we’re going to the jail to rescue Seira. She was taken by the guards. They thought she started a fight.”
  8.  
  9. Her face morphed into one of absolute horror. She certainly wasn’t one for hiding emotion. “Oh no! How did that happen?”
  10.  
  11. “Well, uh, she was kinda fighting in the middle of the street. I tried to convince the guards it wasn’t her fault, but they wouldn’t listen. So we have to go find whoever’s in charge at the jail and explain everything. Then they’ll let her go.”
  12.  
  13. “Your expectations may be a touch unrealistic,” said Sybyll.
  14.  
  15. Galen stopped in his tracks. “Huh? What do you mean?”
  16.  
  17. “I do not think an explanation will be sufficient to free Seira. We will need the fee.”
  18.  
  19. “Do you know how much that will be?”
  20.  
  21. “More than nothing, which is exactly what we have right now.”
  22.  
  23. He groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. At least, he tried to, but his shoulder protested quite violently when he moved the injured arm. A short yelp followed by a wince brought him to a knee. Sybyll and Mino were on him in an instant.
  24.  
  25. “We need to do something about that shoulder,” said Sybyll.
  26.  
  27. “What happened?” asked Mino.
  28.  
  29. “During the fight I, uh, half-blocked some kind of spell. Part of it ricocheted into my shoulder.” Galen’s face burned with embarrassment, but he knew there was no lying in front of Sybyll, who had likely seen the whole thing.
  30.  
  31. “Oh! I think I can help with that. Stand still,” said Mino.
  32.  
  33. “Wha--“ Galen’s question froze in his mouth when Mino slipped her hands under his shirt. She laid them directly on the injury. He heard the sound of softly-flowing water as the touch of Mino’s individual fingers melded into a single, cool stream of slime. It grew and spread to encompass his entire shoulder and part of his arm. The throbbing pain of his injury immediately began to subside, numbed and tamed by Mino’s body. After a few seconds, he felt his breathing slow into a more comfortable pace and his arm muscles relax. Mino’s touch was like pressing rushing water right up to his skin without actually getting it wet. At the same time, the chill from her body pervaded beyond the surface to his very bones.
  34.  
  35. When the burn from his shoulder had sufficiently dulled, Mino withdrew her slime, giving Galen a good squeeze before removing her hands and grinning. “Better?”
  36.  
  37. He blinked a few times, staring at his shoulder in disbelief. Did she somehow remove the magic? Or repair his muscles? “Y-yeah. How did you do that?”
  38.  
  39. “Slimes are--well, some slimes are empathetic monsters. Meaning, we can accept pain or disease from other monsters or people. With enough knowledge and training, we can do more than that and actually repair the root of the pain.” She scratched at her cheek. “I’m not too experienced myself, but the injury on your shoulder was fairly simple. I just needed to untangle the magic from the muscle and bone, then massage them back into their proper place.”
  40.  
  41. Galen smiled, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Sounds pretty impressive to me. Thanks.”
  42.  
  43. Giggling, she swayed back and forth. “You’re welcome.”
  44.  
  45. Galen punched his fists together, checking out his newly-healed shoulder. He nodded at the results, then turned to Sybyll. “So, about that fee…”
  46.  
  47. “Do you know where to acquire the money?”
  48.  
  49. “No. I was hoping you had an idea. You’re been around for a while, after all.”
  50.  
  51. “’Been around a while’, huh?” said Mino, attempting to shove her face into Sybyll’s. The height difference made it impossible. “How old are you?”
  52.  
  53. “Hmph.” Sybyll gave Mino only a glance before answering Galen. “There may be ways to earn the money we need. Knowing the guard who apprehended Seira, though, it is probable the fee is unreasonably high. We would need to find one or more jobs and carry them out; possible with time, but time we have not. Those lamia will be back, and I doubt the jailer will stop them.”
  54.  
  55. Galen lowed his head, scrunching up his face in thought. If they couldn’t come across money in time, and they couldn’t talk Seira out of this… what did that leave?
  56.  
  57. “We should break her out,” said Sybyll.
  58.  
  59. Yeah, that really was the only option left--wait, what? “Break her out?! Are you serious? These are the good guys we’re talking about here! We can’t just attack them!”
  60.  
  61. “Excuse my bluntness, but the ‘good guys’ have wrongly arrested and imprisoned Seira. They do not seem good at the moment.”
  62.  
  63. “Well, eh, everyone makes mistakes.”
  64.  
  65. Sybyll crossed her arms, her eyes glowing with intensity. “You’re making excuses for them.”
  66.  
  67. “Sybyll’s right!” said Mino, raising a finger. “Scary Seira is worth it.”
  68.  
  69. “I… uh…” Galen shifted in place, looking between Sybyll and Mino. They weren’t entirely wrong. In fact, they weren’t wrong any way he looked at it. The guard was holding an innocent monster and they didn’t have the time to get the money to pay for her release. If they didn’t take action, she’d be in serious trouble.
  70.  
  71. But Galen couldn’t deny that voice in the back of his head, ragging on his every thought. The guard protected citizens. They only jailed bad guys. Attacking them was wrong. Ever since birth, the rule was to respect authority. Have faith in the people that looked over you. Even in the stories his father told, the guard only helped the heroes. And if Galen went along with this, wouldn’t that make him a criminal? He bit his lower lip. What did Seira tell him?
  72.  
  73. ‘You must do what is necessary, no matter how things are ‘supposed’ to go, or what is ‘right’.’
  74.  
  75. Galen let out a sound not unlike a whimper, his eyes pleading with Sybyll to give him some other answer. All he got in return was the same narrow stare she always wore.
  76.  
  77. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
  78.  
  79. “Cheer up!” Mino placed a hand on his back. “We’re not bad guys, we’re just helping out a friend in a bad spot.”
  80.  
  81. He gave her a half-hearted frown. “That’s just putting a mask on it. We’re definitely bad guys.”
  82.  
  83. “Geez, no need to be such a downer.” She grabbed Galen’s hand in one of her slimy hands and pulled him along. “Let’s go!”
  84.  
  85. “You don’t happen to know where the jail is, do you?”
  86.  
  87. Mino stopped, still facing forward as she considered the question. “Well, we won’t find it standing around here!”
  88.  
  89. Galen allowed himself to be dragged along, staring at the back of Mino’s head and all the subtly squirming hair-tentacles that came out of it. He couldn’t shake the feeling he was in the wrong place, trailing behind Mino. Hadn’t he always been the brutally enthusiastic one? Why was it taking any sort of convincing to get him to go along with this? His head was heavy as bricks, his stomach churning with each step. Even his feet dragged heavier than normal. Sighing, he resigned himself to this role for now. Maybe when he got Seira back all of this would make sense. At least, that’s what he hoped.
  90.  
  91. Because he had no idea what to do if it didn’t.
  92.  
  93.  
  94. **
  95.  
  96.  
  97. Fortunately, Sybyll had some memory of where the jail was from when she had last been at Fullsburg. Her initial guess was a bit off, as the building she pointed out as the jail had since been turned into something else, but the true jail was just down the street. Galen had expected a cylindrical tower of dark stone, small windows spaced evenly along the outside, but in reality the jail stood no higher than the average building in the city, windows just like any other except with iron bars built in. That alone made the building intimidating enough for him to gulp as they approached. Torches, set in regular intervals around the outside and at entrances, lit the place, shadows flickering with the dancing flames. Two guards stood at the entrance, motionless, the only hint of life from them their faces in the shifting light. There weren’t as many guards as Galen expected. The yard in front of the building was empty and he didn’t see any patrols. Most of them must’ve been out on the streets or asleep.
  98.  
  99. As the group approached, Galen tugged at his collar. The looming shadow of the building made sense to set Galen with unease. They were soon-to-be criminals, after-all.
  100.  
  101. “If you would allow me, I believe I should be the one to speak with the guards,” said Sybyll, stepping in front.
  102.  
  103. “W-whatever you want.” He wanted to think he could handle this, but the pouring sweat and stutter assured him Sybyll would be the better choice. Besides, he didn’t have it in him to lie to a guard.
  104.  
  105. He tensed when they neared the guards at the front door, but they let them through without even batting an eye. Their first hurdle came soon after, with the guard manning the desk inside.
  106.  
  107. “What do a couple of monsters and a…” He sized Galen up, squinting over his body. “…a boy want with the jailer?”
  108.  
  109. “We wish to speak with an associate of ours.” Curt, to the point. Sybyll’s specialty.
  110.  
  111. ‘Associate?’ thought Galen. That wasn’t exactly a nice way to describe Seira. Did Sybyll have some kind of beef with her?
  112.  
  113. The jailer leaned forward over the table. “And why should I let you speak with this ‘associate’? Monsters ain’t exactly known for their integrity. Gonna shake this associate down? Or maybe you’re plotting something?”
  114.  
  115. “We believe she has means to acquire the fee for her release. We simply need to ask her how.”
  116.  
  117. The jailer waved another guard over. He approached the table, his armor shifting and clanging against itself. “The fee? Well, that’s a language I can understand. Who’s this associate of yours?” The jailer pulled out a book, a ledger, Galen assumed, and waited for an answer.
  118.  
  119. “A manticore. She was just taken in this evening.”
  120.  
  121. “Ah! That crazy bitch. She ain’t one for being tied up. Probably likes doing the tying. Pricked one of the men bringing her in with one of those spines of her. Nasty stuff. Guy’s still recovering in the barracks. He was a quivering mess last I saw him.” He pointed out an entry in the book to the guard he fetched and the guard nodded. “Unfortunately for her, attacking the guard raised her fee a touch. It’ll be a gold piece to get her out.”
  122.  
  123. Galen watched Mino’s and Sybyll’s faces. He’d never had experience with money, so he had no idea how much a gold piece was. From what he saw, the news wasn’t good.
  124.  
  125. “Pricked him with a spine?” asked Galen. Those small, off-white spikes on her tail came to mind.
  126.  
  127. “Yeah. We didn’t know manticores could shoot ‘em out so fast and so accurately. Figured they were more like daggers they pulled out of their tails. She struck him right in the neck and that poison hit him like a truck. By the time we got the jail, he’d already let loose in his armor just from the friction of walking.” He chuckled. “Shame we can’t pluck those things off of her and sell ‘em.”
  128.  
  129. “One gold is a rather high fee,” said Sybyll.
  130.  
  131. “She’s worth it. Besides, you said she’ll know how to get it. I can wait.” He pointed to the guard behind him. “Joab here will take you to her. Take as long as you want, but she,” he said, pointing to Mino, “can’t go with you. Jails don’t agree with slimes.”
  132.  
  133. Mino grumbled, latching onto Galen’s arm and looking into his eyes with a pleading gaze. He frowned, then pointed her outside. “Nothing we can do about it, Mino. Just wait.”
  134.  
  135. She pouted, but released Galen. “Fine.”
  136.  
  137. Instead of a hallway to the back, like Galen expected, the guard took them down a stairwell to the basement. The stone walls radiated an alien chill offset only by the occasional torch. No one spoke on the way down. The basement was much the same as the stairwell: cold and dulled. At least a dozen cells lined the walls of the basement, with one much larger, sturdier cell at the far end. Each had little more than some hay and a bucket inside, and a wretched stench came from each. It wasn’t all that spacious, but in the middle of the room there was enough space for a table and a couple benches. Near the top of the back wall of each cell was a window, wider than it was tall, thick iron bars the only barrier between the cell and the outside world. Currently, one guard sat at a table in the middle of the basement, though from the looks of it he was fast asleep.
  138.  
  139. Galen sewed his lips shut and glued his teeth together, lest he somehow let slip their plan. Even if the guard leading them hadn’t given any indication of suspicion, Galen feared he already knew everything and was just playing along to see how far they would get. He almost reached out to Sybyll and told her to call it off, but clenched his hand into a fist and held his fright in.
  140.  
  141. The guard walked up to one of the cells, rattled his armor across the bars and said, “Visitors.” He then turned to Sybyll and Galen. “Try not to take forever. I’ll be over near the stairs to give you a little privacy, but just cause I won’t be listening, don’t think I won’t be watching.” He added a glare to the end of his second statement, then walked off to the stairs, leaving Galen and Sybyll with Seira.
  142.  
  143. Seira’s dark sienna-brown fur was stained to the point of blackness, damp with something, though the smell it gave off didn’t remind Galen of water. Bruises dotted her stomach and arms, and her hair flailed about, unkempt but for that familiar braid of hers. When he looked to her eyes, though, that’s when he truly recognized her. Despite all the guard had done to her, she still held that fiery, almost cocky glare.
  144.  
  145. She walked up to the bars and smirked. “Couldn’t even go a few hours without me, could you?”
  146.  
  147. Galen rushed up to the bars and grabbed one of her paws, causing a sudden stiffness to shock her body and widen her eyes. It passed within a second. “This isn’t the time for joking around! They messed you up and now you’re stuck in jail!”
  148.  
  149. Her smirk deepened. “Are you really so concerned about me?” The paw that Galen had seized gripped him back, squeezing harder and harder until Galen winced. “I’ve been flying solo for a long while. A few disgruntled guards and some iron bars won’t do me in.”
  150.  
  151. “No, but a few certain lamia will!”
  152.  
  153. Her smarmy look vanished. “They got away, huh. Figured the guards wouldn’t want to tangle with them.”
  154.  
  155. “They said they were on orders from the monster lord herself,” said Sybyll, stepping forward.
  156.  
  157. “Ah.” Seira nodded, looking down to the paw holding Galen’s hands. She released him, gripping the iron bars in front of her. “They did say that, didn’t they?”
  158.  
  159. Sybyll’s eyes narrowed. “This has come to the point I must ask your identity or at least their purpose. Your silence has endangered the wielder.”
  160.  
  161. “Sybyll--!” said Galen, tugging at her arm.
  162.  
  163. “’The wielder?’” said Seira. “You mean Galen? He’s right there, you know.”
  164.  
  165. “That does not change my demand.”
  166.  
  167. “Sybyll, really! She doesn’t have to tell if she doesn’t want to!” Galen tugged at her again, trying to pull her away from the cell or at least break that iron gaze of hers.
  168.  
  169. “Galen,” said Seira.
  170.  
  171. “Huh?”
  172.  
  173. She turned toward the cell’s back wall, face creasing from a grimace. Taking a few steps toward the window, she clenched her paws so tight Galen could hear it. “While she phrased it in something of an odd fashion, she isn’t wrong.” She turned her head back to Galen and Sybyll. “But that information won’t come free. Get me out of this cell, and when we leave the city, I’ll tell you everything.”
  174.  
  175. Galen stepped forward until he was inches from the cell bars. “Seira, you don’t have to tell us anything you don’t want to.”
  176.  
  177. “Hmph. No need to tell me things I already know. But this is something I wish to tell you. So get me out of here fast.”
  178.  
  179. “No problem, Scary Seira!”
  180.  
  181. The group’s attention all locked on to the source of the voice. Mino was just outside the window, waving a slimy hand at everyone inside with a grin that literally surpassed the boundaries of her face.
  182.  
  183. Seira growled. “What are YOU doing here?”
  184.  
  185. “Helping, of course!” She grabbed one of the thick iron bars over the window. Her hands lost their form and Mino fed more of her body into grasping the bar. Not long after, a subtle sizzling sound filled the air. “Those guards said I couldn’t stick around, but it’s easy to sneak back in when you’re nothing more than a puddle!”
  186.  
  187. “What are you doing with those bars?” asked Galen.
  188.  
  189. “Dissolving them. Slimes can make their bodies super acidic when they need to! I think it’s supposed to be used for melting humans and absorbing them, since we can use that for food if we need to, but I never liked the idea.” A tentacle grew out of her body and wrapped around a second iron bar, adding to the hissing sound.
  190.  
  191. Seira grumbled something under her breath, crossing her arms and kicking at the straw on the floor. Galen did his best to keep his excitement below the surface, but his face grew into a grin on its own and his hands unconsciously closed into fists, his knuckles white with effort. Sybyll gave the guard in the stairwell a glance, but he hadn’t moved from his spot.
  192.  
  193. Sweat poured down Galen’s face. A heat flared up in his chest, swallowing any words he might have had, his gaze fixed on the grinning slime outside. Could they really pull this off? Could things really be so simple? A gulp ran down his throat and he looked to Sybyll.
  194.  
  195. “Where should we meet?” Sybyll asked.
  196.  
  197. “Uh, meet?” said Galen.
  198.  
  199. “We certainly won’t be leaving in the same fashion as Seira, and she can’t simply walk out of here. So we’ll need a place to meet afterwards.”
  200.  
  201. “Outside the city sounds fine to me. I’ve had enough of this place,” said Seira with a shrug.
  202.  
  203. “Can you make it that far?” asked Galen.
  204.  
  205. She raised an eyebrow at him, extended her wings, and pointed at them.
  206.  
  207. “Oh. Right. Forgot about those.”
  208.  
  209. “Very well. Which gate?” said Sybyll.
  210.  
  211. “How about a mile north of the city? Doesn’t matter which gate you go out, a mile north is a mile north,” said Seira.
  212.  
  213. Sybyll nodded, then looked to Galen. Wetting his dry lips with his tongue, he looked back and forth between them, then nodded. “Sounds fine to me.”
  214.  
  215. A clink grabbed their attention. The first bar, now horribly worn and chewed through at the ends, came free. Mino pulled it outside with her, set it down, and devoted her entire attention to the second bar. “You should be able to fit out once I get this one.” She frowned at Seira. “But your cans are awfully big for this opening.”
  216.  
  217. “My c--“ Seira looked down at her chest, then back to Mino, blushing. “Shut up about my cans and clear the damned window!”
  218.  
  219. Mino giggled, but returned to her work. The hissing intensified along with her gaze. Everyone now stared at the bar, willing it to break off as if it would help it move along faster. Galen tuned out everything but the beating of his heart and the hissing of Mino’s slime on that bar. C’mon, c’mon…
  220.  
  221. It broke free.
  222.  
  223. This time, however, when it came off, Mino wasn’t able to get a good grip on it. Seira rushed forward to catch the iron bar, but was a second too late. It hit the floor without a resounding clang, drawing a gasp from Galen, a wince from Mino, and a growl from Seira.
  224.  
  225. “What was that?” The guard from the stairs started over.
  226.  
  227. “N-nothing! Nothing at all! My friend just has a really bad… cough,” said Galen, moving to intercept.
  228.  
  229. “That sounded like metal, not a cough. Get out of the way.” He pushed Galen aside roughly and looked inside the cell. He was treated to the sight of Seira hovering in mid-air, right next to the window, about to squeeze through.
  230.  
  231. Time froze in Galen’s head. His lungs ceased. The air solidified like cooling metal. His muscles turned to iron, his gaze to stone. He took in everything around him all at once and crystallized it in his mind. The back of the guard’s head stared at him, asking him to strike. The situation had just passed beyond any semblance of control. If the guard got help, the rest of them would be in cells and of no use to Seira. Sybyll, as she was, could be of no help. There was no choice. He had to take that guard down and he had to do it now.
  232.  
  233. As time resumed and his hand flew to his sword, something else rose within him. What had this guard done to him? What had this guard done to anyone, except his job? How could it be the right choice to attack the good guy?
  234.  
  235. What makes this right?
  236.  
  237. “We’ve got an--“
  238.  
  239. The guard yelled out but his voice cut off when the broken blade of Toneruth went straight into his head. Galen cringed as he withdrew the blade, even seeing no blood and knowing the guard was merely asleep. His doubts had given the guard time to call out. He spun to the stairwell, cursing himself under his breath, Toneruth held out, but no one came running.
  240.  
  241. “Hurry up!”
  242.  
  243. Galen turned back to the cell at Mino’s voice, seeing Seira doing her best to squeeze through the window. He got a nice view of her wiggling rear as she squirmed with only her head and shoulders through so far.
  244.  
  245. “I’m trying, you stupid slime!”
  246.  
  247. “I TOLD you your cans were too--“
  248.  
  249. “SHUT UP ABOUT MY STUPID CANS! Who the hell calls them ‘cans’, anyways?”
  250.  
  251. Her legs kicked at the air and her wings clung to her back as snug as possible. Her claws scraped at the stone, trying to get a hold to push off of, but the angle was too awkward for her to get the leverage she needed. Mino reached down to help, but Seira pushed her back.
  252.  
  253. “Don’t touch me, I can do this on my own! Just keep watch.”
  254.  
  255. Mino grumbled, but left Seira alone. Squeezing the cell bars, Galen silently cheered Seira on, watching as she slowly slipped more and more of her body through the window. When her chest—tits included—was at its widest, she was forced to blow out all the air from her lungs. Galen couldn’t deny a tiny bit of satisfaction in seeing those bouncy bulbous breasts of hers shift about. Once they were through, she had room to spread her wings as well and used them to push off. With a good grasp on the ground now, Seira yanked the rest of her body through, grunting as she came free of the window. Galen hopped up and down, half-smiling at her victory, his heart thumping to fast to let his elation run loose.
  256.  
  257. She turned around and gave Galen a thumbs up, grinning, and took off. Mino followed quickly after.
  258.  
  259. “We should leave as well,” said Sybyll, putting her hand on Galen’s shoulder. “We are fortunate this guard did not wake up and would be wise to not press our luck further.”
  260.  
  261. “Wake up?” He looked around the room, spotting the other guard, asleep at the table in the center of the room. “Oh. I totally forgot about him.” At Sybyll’s beckoning, he started toward the stairs, pausing after stepping over the guide guard’s body. Bending over, he propped the guard up into a more comfortable sitting position, frowning at his unconscious face before standing back up. “He’ll be fine, right?”
  262.  
  263. “I see no reason why not. Toneruth never kills without such intent, and even then, only in certain circumstances.”
  264.  
  265. Galen sighed, trying to let out the tension with his breath. They had good reasons for this, and they weren’t hurting anyone. In fact, they were saving Seira, his friend, someone who had helped him out of trouble three times now. Their actions were no more evil than taking a drink of water.
  266.  
  267. So why did his heart keep sinking in his chest?
  268.  
  269. Sybyll lead the way up the stairs, their walk in silence, just as it was on the way down. Galen kept his eyes on her back, his hand grasping Toneruth’s hilt, and his legs moving forward. That’s all he could do. His body moved on its own, his thoughts numb and unwelcome. The air thickened around him, pressing on his shoulders like some invisible burden. Right foot, left foot, one after another. His hand twitched. His ears grew hot. Was that anxiety still nibbling at him?
  270.  
  271. Sybyll took him past the stairs, past the entrance area and all the way up to the door before a voice snapped him out of his daze.
  272.  
  273. “Where’s the guard that took you downstairs?” It was the jailer they’d first spoke with.
  274.  
  275. “He is still down there, speaking with the other guard,” said Sybyll.
  276.  
  277. “That punk,” said the jailer, getting to his feet. Galen would’ve stayed to watch had Sybyll not grabbed his wrist and pushed him to the door. He started moving again, her guiding hand on his back. They made it back to the main street before they heard a holler coming from behind.
  278.  
  279. The words that chased them set their feet aflame.
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