“Auntie Gwyn, Auntie Gwyn!”
The cry reached Gwyn’s ears with just enough time for her to brace herself for the onslaught that ensued. Within a moment she was tangled in a mass of limbs as roughly eight little Gnomes attempted to jump into Gwyn’s arms all at once. Gwyn tumbled to the ground; eight sets of arms and legs hugged, grabbed, kicked, tickled and pinched.
“Easy now, easy!” She said, laughing merrily.
When the tumble showed no signs of slowing, she smiled and began to sing. Her voice was melodic and steady. Her warm words had a hypnotic effect and the children rose gasping in surprise and delight as an illusion engulfed them all.
This was how Gwyn’s mother found her: arms in the air tracing patterns, singing softly and sweetly, as children danced around her joyously, chasing something Gwyn had created with her imagination.
Her mother sighed and muttered, “Just like her father, no wonder she’s off chasing dragons.”
Gwyn chuckled, bringing her song to an end, “I’ve never chased a dragon, and neither did he…one did try to kill me once though.” She paused, her eyes following the children as her illusion dissolved into wisps of air, “Twice, actually.”
With a soft smile, her mother shooed the kids inside, much to their chagrin.
Moans of “but Nana!” filled the air.
“Don’t you ‘but Nana’ me, go let the others know she’s home. Oh and Sasha,” she said turning to a Gnome who looked to be about 19, “Would you tell Lorelei to quit sulking, wash up, and come say hello to her aunt.”
Sasha nodded knowing, her blue hair bobbing up and down, reminding the older women of her daughter. Ever the wise child, she said, “Lor feels betrayed because she doesn’t understand that death is part of life.” Sasha frowned, “She’s angry because Rara left like Daddy.”
Gwyn face fell, but only for a moment. She smiled widely, “Well she’s silly, because Aunt Rara would never leave you”, she moved to kneel before her niece. Pulling something out of her pocket she added “Especially not without bringing home presents!”
Sasha’s smile lit up and she took what Gwyn handed her and skipped off to give her sister the message.
When she was gone and the two women were left alone, the smile fell from Gwyn’s face. Replaced by a look of guilt Gwyn began, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner, there were loose ends too–Oh!”
Gwyn stopped as her mother engulfed her in a hug. Squeezing her tightly, Gwyn willed the tear in the corner of her eye not to fall. They were still in public after all, and they were still Gnomes. While she was sure she could pass it off as a tear of joy, she didn’t want to risk dampening the mood. Or her mother’s reputation. From what she picked up on the way in, the entire village knew that when Gwyn was presumed dead, her mother hadn’t been able to keep a smile on her face, and that didn’t sit well with anyone.
Gnomes are always happy. It’s a rule. To break it is to excommunicate oneself, at least while it lasts. Luckily, gnomes were also exceptionally forgiving.
“Ducky, I don’t need an explanation. I’m just glad you’re alive. I’m glad you came home.”
Gwyn smiled gently, “I’m always gonna come home, Mama.”
Her mother smiled weakly. At least it was genuine, and Gwyn was thankful for that. Since her brothers died there was seldom a time that Gwyn had seen her mother smile without pain behind her eyes.
For a while Anisa had been the talk of the town. Thirteen sons and a husband dead, then her daughter disappearing. Leaving the old Gnome with nine step-daughters and countless grandchildren, all fatherless.
She patted her daughter on the back. “I only wish I had known sooner. Garl only knows how we’ll get a party together before supper, but I’m sure we’ll manage. I better speak to Clarisia at once! And Leena of course will be so excited. Ari and Adlyr are so big now, it’s only been two years but I doubt you’ll recognize them.” She took a deep breath and looked back of her daughter, whose face was a mask of distraction.
“What is it Duck?”
“In all the chaos I completely forgot to go to the Shrines today.” Gwyn smacked herself in the head, “Dammit Gwyn!”
“So you’ll go tomorrow. Don’t look so distraught, just come inside.”
“Mother, I really need to go now.”
“Gwyn, I don’t see what the big deal is, Glittergold will still be there tomorrow.”
Gwyn laughed darkly, if only her mother knew the irony behind those words.
“Mama, I’m sorry. I’ll just be an hour. I promise.” She slipped out of her mother’s now vice-like grasp and started to jog away, calling over her shoulder she yelled, “I’ll even make dessert! Just one hour, I promise.”
Anisa shook her head, leave it to her daughter to inherit her father’s fervor for god.
When Gwyn came trotting over a hill on Scout, her Great Dane, exactly fifty-seven minutes later, Anisa once again felt the familiar prickle of tears. Gwyn had her hair pulled back and a midnight blue cloak draped over her. From a distance, and with that dog, she could have been Bane.
It had shocked her at first when Gwyn chose a Great Dane as a familiar. Most Gnomes chose the animal they were raised with for that. Or at least another animal of the same type.
Gwyn had inadvertently been raised with a duck. Well, inadvertently was putting it nicely. It was due to Gwyn’s sheer stubbornness that Squeaker became her’s.
Anisa had intended Gwyn to have a rabbit companion. After thirteen boys and wolves, dogs, bears, hawks, goats, and stags, Anisa wanted Gwyn to have something small and fluffy. Gwyn, however, felt differently.
It was just her luck that a duck had been outside giving birth at the same time Anisa was. Gwyn came into the world just like any baby, sweet with hushed cries. When presented with a bunny, she opened her large, blue eyes and smiled. Her hand was almost on its fur when a loud squawk from outside had caught the child’s attention. From that moment on Gwyn simply refused to go near the rabbit. For hours she cried. Her parents could not understand why the rabbit had bothered Gwyn so much, but gave it away regardless. It seemed that she would be the only Gnome raised without an animal companion because whatever they offered, Gwyn would not accept the animal.
At three days old Gwyn began to quack.
It was strange that after such determination and insistence, that when it came time to bond with a single animal, it was not a duck Gwyn chose.
But Anisa understood why. Bane’s familiar was a Great Dane. A Great Dane he rode into battle. And dressed that way, Gwyn looked so like her brother, it made Nisa miss her son. All her sons:
Her mind listed them off in age order.
She fondly recalled Gwyn’s youth, so often she would find her daughter curled in a ball on Bane’s lap. The young man reading, or singing, or showing her magic. He too was a master of illusions by the time he was Gwyn’s age. She was only five then. She smiled softly at how proud she knew her husband would be if he was still with them.
Gwyn had a golden tongue. She had alway known Gwyn’s voice to enchant those who were listening, but never before with magic.
She had not believed Gwyn when she had written home that Glittergold had blessed her, but who was she to deny a sight like that.
By the time Anisa looked up Gwyn was only a few feet away, dismounting.
“Well don’t you look pleased as punch. Party planning going well?”
Anisa chucked and nodded. “Everyone’s very excited to see you home, Ducky. Well not Lorelei, but she’ll come ‘round.”
Gwyn sighed softly, “I better go see her. Can’t have her moping during a party.”
“She’s out back,” Anisa paused for a moment. “You two used to be so close…”
“Not that I’m blaming you dear. It’s just sad. She’s been different since we got the news from the Council last year. The Demon invasion didn’t help, mind you.”
Gwyn placed a hand fondly on her mother’s arm, “I’ll go speak with her. She’s forty, I’m sure you remember how hard that age can be.”
Her mother chuckled, “You were a nightmare in your forties!”
“Always trying to run off with your brothers…” She trailed off suddenly, “Oh well, I better go check on the food.” She smiled a clearly forced smile, “I’ll see you inside. Don’t forget you’re on dessert duty.”
Gwyn nodded, her brothers were never an easy topic of discussion.
She made her way around the back of the house. Lorelei would be sitting by the brook that ran across the yard. She always was.
While debating how to approach her oldest niece, Gwyn was spotted by Lor, who quickly and literally disappeared.
Gwyn cursed, “Lor, you know perfectly well that’s not fair! No Alteration Magic between family!”
“Oh come on, Lor!”
“I said go away.”
She sang softly as she turned, casting an illusion of herself walking away with a pout. If that was how Lorelei wanted to play it, Gwyn would play. And she would win. She had almost 15 years on her cousin, and experience with the Crusaders to boot.
After a minute Lorelei sighed, letting the invisibility end, and Gwyn caught sight of her sitting on a large rock, her toes dipped in the cool, clear water. Her violet hair was now cut in a neat bob, the edges cutting sharpy under her chin. It was a harsher look that the long pigtail braids Gwyn was used to on her younger cousin.
Still maintaining the illusion that she was not there, Gwyn said, “So can we talk now?”
Lor jumped, “Dammit Gwyn!”
Gwyn chuckled as Lor accidentally splashed herself with water from the brook in her shock.
“How did you even do that? I was invisible.”
“It’s all in the song.”
“Something new I learned while I was away.”
“You mean dead.”
“No, I mean saving the world from demons.”
“Well you didn’t do a very good job.” Lorelei looked down for a moment, a trace of guilt in her eyes, which currently burnt with anger.
“Lor, I didn’t die. I’m right here.”
“You know we had a party for you and everything. You couldn’t even be bothered to write a letter? Just a quick, ‘Hey Family, still alive, hope you’re well.’ You just let us go on thinking you’d joined the others for a year. A whole year.”
“Lor, for me it wasn’t a year.”
“That’s not how time works Gwyn! A year is a year! In Glimlit, in Kasinthia, hell even in Ko’ebbe, a year is a year is a year.”
“Not in the Shadow Realm.”
“People don’t go to the Shadow Realm Gwyn.” She spat, as though the name left a bitter taste on her tongue. She kicked a stone the sat on the side of the brook, watching it roll into the water and disappear beneath the surface.
“Would you stop saying my name like it was a curse. I have been to the Shadow Realm, I have talked to the Shadows, I’m actually friends with one. And although his sense of humor is scary, he’s not a bad guy. Not a great Gnome, but not bad over all. But I have been there, to the Shadow Court, I have played their games, and vied for my soul…” She paused to breathe, “It’s a terrible place. Worse than Hell in my book. And if you don’t believe me on that I guess I’ll just have to get used to the idea of you hating me, because I can’t change the fact that time isn’t quite as linear as we would like it to be.”
Gwyn didn’t mean to be harsh, but the words seemed to just tumble out of her mouth. Her time with the Crusaders seemed to make it easier for her to be blunt. Something Gwyn wasn’t sure that she liked. Lor was one of the few children in her family that was old enough to remember the genocide, but still far too young to process it. She knew she could be kinder. Or sugarcoat a little. Dear Garl, I sound like Doc! No wait, she thinks Hell is worse…
Lorelei huffed like a disgruntled animals. “My dad wouldn’t have wanted you to go, you know.”
Gwyn’s mouth opened to speak, but she shut it. The mentioning of Bane always had that effect on her. A tear threatened to fall from her eye, but she withheld it. She was a Gnome afterall.
“He would have wanted you here. Safe.”
Gwyn looked at her, her voice steady and for once serious. “I’m sorry, but I can’t change what happened. I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt.”
Lor face had changed from anger, to hurt, to an emotion Gwyn couldn’t quite place. Perhaps it was the look of pain in Gwyn’s eyes when her brother was mentioned. Lor had a bite to her, but once her words met their mark they tasted sour.
Her voice softened, “Are you going to leave again?”
Once again Gwyn questioned her candor, but it didn’t seem fair to misguide anyone.
“I wish you wouldn’t.”
“What if you get yourself killed?”
“Then the Crusaders will be in need of another talented and stubborn Gnome.”
“Like me?” Lor looked hopeful, it was a look Gwyn was happy to see in her younger cousin. She knew this was what Lor wanted. After all, she had told her so before. She was so like Bane. A fierce protector, she wanted to be out there with Gwyn, fighting the demons. But not yet. She was too young. She would get herself killed. And one thing Gwyn’s family certainly didn’t need more of was death.
Gwyn’s eye twinkled, or perhaps it was the same held back tear, “Perhaps…one day.”
The next day Gwyn reached the Shrines with a wide smile across her face.
With more time on her hands, she had skipped there, leaving Scout to sniff around the garden back home.
While she missed his company, her cheer was impossible to dampen. It had been a wonderful night. Lor had forgiven her, her family had celebrated her return, and perhaps most importantly, she was back in a place full of laughter and love.
Being home reminded Gwyn how hard it was to be in a culture other than her own when she was with the Crusaders. A culture in which her pranks made people think of her as silly, or strange, instead of being her praise and others joy.
Her mind traveled to memories of Dis, who at the very least joked back, and Jain who enjoyed impromptu ice skating thanks to illusions. Still it was not the same. She couldn’t connect to Doc or Mir or even Druku with pranks, try as she might.
But she remained grateful to their friendship none the less. Even if they didn’t always understand each other.
She had to be grateful now. There was so much she had to pay back to the world. If only she hadn’t been cursed by War.
Her lips quirked up in a strange sort of smile. She would rebuild Garl’s shrines, and he would forgive her. His absolution was all she needed. She could not take back the past, nor could she blame herself for actions out of her control, but she had to do her best to set things right. Especially for her own sanity.
She let her mind wander away from darkness, to thoughts of enjoying the summer in Glimlit and relishing feelings of warmth and welcome.
By the time she arrived at Glittergold’s shrine the cheerful smile was back in place. This was one of the few that was still standing and for that Gwyn was grateful. Later she would head to others that were not so lucky and help with repairs and rededications, but for now she could enjoy the lifting she felt in her chest when she was close to her god.
She thanked, she praised, she dedicated herself, and let her mind wander to a time when she had not been so religious. It was the war that had fanned her religious fervor. Well she liked to call it war, it made it seem like her brothers had died for something. In her time of loss she had turned to god and found the healing she sorely needed. She was just as sure that in this time of pain and destruction she would find what she needed here.
After half an hour she left the Shrine and headed in the direction of a newer one, one to Orynn. While she wasn’t a new Gnome, she was devoted in her worship to him as well. He was her role model. He had been a Crusader. He served Glittergold. He had even pranked her at a party! If she could serve Garl as well as Orynn, than her life goal would be complete.
Also learning to use a staff like that would be pretty darn cool!
When Gwyn arrived she was shocked to see a gift wrapped box sitting at the foot of the shrine.
She looked around, as though the owner would suddenly appear.
Upon closer inspection she realized it was identical to the one she left there last night and her heart dropped. Last night, she has left a spur of the moment prank for the god, using her magic box, which could hold illusions for extended amounts of time.
It hadn’t been the best prank in the world, although it was a staple of hers, but he could have at least opened it!
She pouted. Maybe it wasn’t a good enough prank. He would have opened it, there would be a big explosion, and then glitter everywhere! Gwyn loved glitter. It probably would have been added to her name if it wasn’t so similar to Glittergold. Then there would be music. Traditional Gnomish folk songs, the type she missed while she was away and a large Orynn shaped cookie that would have changed the color of his skin, hair and eyes.
Maybe it was a lame prank…it was on the spot…she had thought of leaving one on a whim.
She scolded herself, he was a god, maybe he was busy. Maybe he wasn’t interested in pranks from mortals.
She sighed. She had just been trying to say “thank you for the changing our genders so I got to fuck Doc.” She knew it never would have happened if he hadn’t made her a male Orc. And it was fun!
She walked over, said a quick prayer and picked up the box. Apparently something could damped her mood after all. She didn’t know what she was expected when she left it there, but she thought he would have at least looked at it.
It wasn’t like she was some random person, they had met and joked and pranked before.
Gwyn scolded herself. It was selfish to think she was special, he was a god afterall.
She pulled the ribbon. At least she could enjoy the music and glitter.
When there was no glitter or music she was confused. Only an explosion, then nothing. Was it a dud? Had she lost her touch? Good thing he didn’t open it, her illusions had failed. That would be an embarrassment.
She look down into the box, trying to discover the cause of the problem. Instead she found a pie, and a note.
And something felt strange on the back of her head.
She ran her fingers through her hair and found a…duck bill?
She laughed merrily! This wasn’t her box at all!
She chided herself. Of course it wasn’t her box, her box was enchanted to return to her once her illusion had run it’s course.
Not only had he received her gift, he had decided to prank her back! How wonderful!
She went take a bite of the pie, but found she couldn’t. She tried and tried, and eventually gave up, ending in fits of giggles. She knew she looked ridiculous.
Then she remembered the note.
“Turn around,” was all it said.
She raised an eyebrow and turned around, lifting the pie up to the duck bill. And she could taste it!
Gwyn fell to the floor laughing. This was amazing! It tasted amazing!
When she finished the pie the duck bill began to speak famous Daffy Duck lines like, “I’m not crazy, I just don’t give a darn!”
Gwyn chuckled merrily. Time for another prank.
Pulling her prank box from her bag, she set to work on the next prank. When Orynn opened the box he would find a monkey juggling Sarenuian Fire Apples. The Monkey would follow him around, tell riddles and chuck the apples at the god when he turned away from it.
She placed the box at the Shrine quite pleased with her handy work.
Then she decided head home, her work done for the day.
On the way, Gwyn stopped at a local orchard.
That pie had left her with a serious craving for Fire Apples. She licked her lips. It really had tasted good…even if the duck was the one eating.
She hastily grabbed a large apple off the tree and took a bite.
Crisp and delicious, it made her smile. There was nothing like food from home.
“Burn the orchard!”
Gwyn jumped and turned around.
“Wha? Who’s there?”
“Burn the orchard!” came the call again.
“I will not! Now show your self!” She pocketed the apple and drew her bow.
“Burn the orchard!” This time the voice was muffled, as though something from inside a room…or pocket.
Gwyn slung the bow back over her back and pulled out the apple.
“Burn the orchard,” it said once more.
Gwyn dropped it in shock.
“Well that was rude,” it called from the ground.
Then suddenly all the apples on the trees were speaking.
“Burn the orchard!” some cried, while others chanted things like “No, burn that house!” or “Burn your clothes!” or “Burn that field over there.”
“No, no, no! I will not burn the orchard! I like this orchard.”
A family picking apples a few yards away turned to Gwyn in horror. Then the parents ushered there 7 children away.
The apples continued to chant.
Gwyn was yelling, “I don’t even know Flammaccendo!” when the owner came by.
“Excuse me, Miss, we are going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Gwyn, you’re disturbing the other customers.”
“But Terri, it’s the apples! Can’t you hear them?”
Terri looked concerned, “Are you feeling alright?”
“I’m fine! But you’re apples are suicidal!”
“Yes! Can’t you hear them?”
“Gwyn, we don’t we have Killiyan walk you home. She’s on a break now anyway.”
“I’m not crazy!” Gwyn screamed.
Terri just pat her on the arm and escorted her away.
The entire walk back all the apple trees along the way continued to call to her. Just to shut them up at one point Gwyn tired to burn down a very small bush. The second she got the fire going a bucket of water came down from the sky. But instead of putting out the fire, it fell over her head, dousing her with water.
Gwyn let out a cry of frustration. She put out the fire and walked the rest of the way home, soaking wet.
It wasn’t until she returned home and saw her magic box back in her bag that Gwyn realized it must be an illusion. She vowed to get Orynn back the next day.
After another long day of rebuilding, Gwyn made her way back to the Shrines. She had a mischievous grin on her face.
This time she left a note on top of the box.
“They wanted me to burn things. So I burnt them. Enjoy your apples.”
Inside the box was a pie. A most delicious pie that would burn the roof of the eater’s mouth, no matter how long they waited to eat it. That was Gwyn’s revenge.
After the pie was eaten, everything the person touch would burst forth into flowers that sung beautifully in Divine. Then randomly yelled things in grammatically incorrect Orcish.
The Orcish was grammatically incorrect because Gwyn was still learning.
She hoped Orynn could speak the language, because the flowers would yell things like, “Be you happy now!” in very angry voices.
She knew he has received it when one of the trees on her path home grabbed her by the ankle, causing her to fall flat on her face, and a group of children to laugh loudly.
She chuckled. It was funny, she would give him that, even if it was at her own expense.
She stood, dusted herself off and had hardly taken two more steps when a vine crept around her other leg, causing her to fall, this time flat on her ass.
The children laughed louder.
Gwyn gave them a wave and untangled herself.
The third time it happened, about ten seconds later, she fell face down, the contents of her bag spilling everywhere.
Everyone on the road seemed very amused.
The fourth time someone tried to help her up, and ended up on his face too.
The fifth time she landed in mud.
The sixth time the vine ripped part of her dress.
The seventh time Gwyn just grumbled wonder how long this could possibly last.
She hoped it wasn’t permanent.
They would surely add it to her name: Gwyneira Zap Icewick Waywacket Duckstumble Stumbleduck Ass-in-the-Air Beren Nackel.
She could see it now. Forever tripping.
This is how the summer panned out for Gwyn. Each day she would wake up, and go rebuild Shrines. Then she would to to Garl’s Shrines to pray and Orynn’s to prank.
She was surprised and quite pleased that Orynn so readily pranked her back
Each day there was something new and wonderful. Her pranks were outrageous illusions, and she thanked her lucky star to her Eldar artifact. This summer, instead of using it in battle, she could use it to prank a god. Otherwise he could simply see through all her illusions.
His pranks almost always affected the world around her.
Today she had come home to find all of her ducks dead. Even Squeaker X who had been in her bag the entire way home. They had all seemed to die of some sort of plague. She had been on the edge of hysterical tears when she turned around to find them all in a row singing and dancing the cancan.
She found her tears instantly replaces with giggles, and marveled at Orynn’s creativity and ability to create pranks that were intense but never too painful. They would toe the line of embarrassing, or scary or even make her look foolish. But they were always funny to her and those around her.
Tomorrow she would send him an illusion of being stuck in a room with Fire Apples bouncing everywhere. She smirked, let’s see if he was up for some dodge ball. And every time an apple would hit him, he would taste it.
Cookies and Fire Apples were Gwyn’s two most favorite foods, she was always excited to get to use them in pranks.
Gwyn thought for a few moments, then took out her journal to write. After another few minutes she sighed, summer was drawing to a close and fast. In fact, she was expected back for duty in a week. To make matters worse, she had not figured out who was still destroying the Shrines.
Yes, the summer hadn’t been all fun and game, although there were plenty of those. After a brief trip to visit Jain, and meet his mysterious friend Alviss (who had been corresponding with Gwyn for the last fortnight), Gwyn returned home to a distressing situation.
She had discovered cloaked figures destroying Garl’s Shrines and they weren’t demons. She hadn’t gotten much farther in her investigation. It was the Black Sky Covenant, that much she knew. She shuddered, last time they brought on a demonic invasion. Whatever this was, it wasn’t good.
She would have to spend the bulk of her last week investigating, which mean less time with family or for repairs.
What she found of course, only lead to more questions.
A dead halfling. Clearly a demon attack, maybe a daeva.
Like the others, he was dressed in a black cloak, this one torn and bloody.
Five days later Gwyn stood in at the Shrine chewing her lip. Box in hand, she contemplated her next move. Her face showed visible signs of an internal debate that she was apparently losing.
What’s the worst that could happen? Gwyn thought to the voice in her head.
He could smite you! He is a god you know.
Shuttup. Orynn is not going to smite me!
He might! He might hate your illusion, and smite you where you stand, like the puny mortal that you are.
You know, over time I think you’ve gotten meaner.
Over time you’ve gotten dumber.
Nice come back. Gwyn rolled her eyes at the voice.
Hey, I’m you. I am only as witty as you are!
I am far funnier than you. Besides, if it’s not a well received illusion, he’ll probably just laugh and Terramodo me until up is down.
Or hit you with lightning!
“Orynn isn’t going to hit me with lightning!” Gwyn cried out in frustration.
An older couple who had been praying 20 feet away looked startled and chose this time to leave.
“Sorry! Praise Orynn!” Gwyn called after them.
She took her box out of her satchel and cast the chosen illusion into it.
She placed it at the shrine, then bit her lip, picked it up, put it away, then took it out once more.
Surely he wouldn’t smite her. It had been two months of pranking back and forth. If he had been any other Gnome, she would have sent this weeks ago.
Besides Orynn isn’t the smiting kind.
You think…but how well do you actually know the guy? I mean god…
Didn’t I already tell you to shut it!
The chewing of her lip began again.
For the fifth time that day she wondered if she had misread the signs.
They were clearly deeply involved in a prank war, and as any Gnome could tell you, that meant flirting, big time.
Pranking is a courtship. Especially the way they were doing it. If he had been any other random Gnome it would be very obvious if they were in a relationship, or even dating.
But he wasn’t. He was a god.
Gwyn always had to do things the hard way. Of course she would fall for a god, anything else would be too simple.
When she had started, she hadn’t intended to court him of course. Then again, she also hadn’t intended for him to prank her back, at the very least not multiple times. Not every day. Not all summer.
She had considered asking for advice, but she really couldn’t think of anyone to ask.
If she asked Lor, or any of her sister-in-laws, she would be teased from here to the end of Keimin if turned out Orynn wasn’t intending to flirt. It would probably get added to her name in some way.
She could picture it: Gwyneira Zap Icewick Waywacket Duckstumble Stumbleduck God-Misinterpreter Beren Nackel.
If it had been any other issue she could have written a Crusader, but none of them would understand Gnomish dating customs. Sometimes they were even confusing to her.
She briefly considered writing to Doc, who she felt usually gave sound advice, but not only hadn’t she heard from Doc all season, but Doc didn’t even laugh during sex! She would never understand.
Jain might get it, or at the very least he’d appreciate the prank war. But of course Jain had to be an Atheist. When she mentioned Orynn, she simply referred to him as a “friend from back home,” because trying to tell Jain anything else simply wouldn’t work.
Gwyn placed the box at the shrine for the second time. She had been at the shrine for half an hour and it was getting ridiculous. She was not a shy girl; she was outgoing even for a Gnome. This was no time to get nervous.
If it hadn’t been Orynn she would have marched right up to him, looked him in the eyes and said, “So how about sex?”
She probably wouldn’t have waited two weeks, let alone two months.
Now she had only one day until she had to leave home again. If it was going to happen, the time was now.
She took a deep breath, stuck her chin in the air, and walked away from the shrine.
When he opened the box, Orynn would find a singing, dancing, sometimes juggling Gwyn. Who also happened to be naked.
Subtlety was not a Gnomish virtue.
Gwyn passed the elderly couple from the shrine a few blocks towards home. She waved, then turned, stopped in her tracks, and turned back around.
They were utterly and completely naked.
Gwyn blinked a few times. Then reminded herself not to stare.
She giggled and moved on. To each their own.
Then she passed a cart. A man with a cart. A naked man with a cart.
Then some teenagers picking Sarenuian Fire Apples. Also naked.
Why was everyone naked?
This was strange…even for Gnomes. She checked her bag for her box, and sure enough found it nestled back in it’s compartment. He had open it.
Her eyes went wide and she gleefully began to laugh.
The teenagers looked at her like she was crazy.
She looked at them like they were naked.
Sprinting back to the shrine with a giant smile, Gwyn cast another illusion into the box and waited. This one was of both of them. Both dancing. Both naked. Then an explosion and a question mark.
A moment or two later, her box popped back into her hands, and when she open it, it exploded with loud, colorful fireworks.
Gwyn laughed again. If that wasn’t a good sign, nothing was.
“So, can mortals date gods?” She asked the air.
The sound of a sad trombone filled the air. Wa wa wa.
She began to cast an illusion of herself pouting into the box when she stopped herself. She was at his shrine. He was a god. He could see her pouting. As fun as illusions were, maybe one face to face conversation was in order.
As though sensing her next move, Orynn appeared perched on one of the larger Orynn statues.
Gwyn smiled widely and bounced forwards a few steps.
She opened her mouth to say something witty, but all the came out was a nervous giggle. Orynn just smirked at her.
Now that he was here, she found herself shy once more. It’s not that Gwyn was easily intimidated, merely slightly star-struck.
Orynn just sat there with a Cheshire Cat grin from ear to ear. There was no way he was going to make this easy. In fact, he looked quite pleased with himself and Gwyn had the feeling that he found her amusing.
“So fireworks, huh?”
Orynn shrugged, “Fire is fun. And words are boring.”
She took another step forward. “I wasn’t even sure if you could show up. Interfering with mortals and all that.”
Orynn smiled mischievously, “No one’s around and you’re at a shrine, that means I get to have fun.”
Gwyn giggled. “I like fun.”
“I know,” he said wiggling his eyebrows.
“Fun definitely sounds good.”
“Oh, you have no idea.” He hopped off the shrine with a wink and landed on the floor.
“Enlighten me?” she suggested, closing the distance between them.
Orynn simply responded with an illusion far too risque to publish and Gwyn happily reciprocated.
A few hours later a very satisfied Gwyn skipped home merrily, having agreed to return the next day for some semblance of a date.
It would be complicated of course.
He could only appear to her at one of his Shrines, and even then, only when others were not around. Apparently hanging out with your worshipers was considered interference.
It was thanks to Gwyn’s connection to Glittergold that Orynn could even appear to her at all. If she wasn’t an Exemplar, well then they would have just had to stick to pranks. And as fun as pranks were…Gwyn smiled to herself and a small blush crept over her face.
When she reached home it was far later than she had expected. The last rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon and Gwyn took a moment to capture this scene in her mind. Her home, lit in fading pink light, the sounds of her family laughing inside, the smell of supper still hanging in the air, plush grass tickling her toes.
Sarenuian summers were perfection.
If only she had a Calanthan Picture Box.
A crack sounded behind her and Gwyn turned sharply. By the time she realized it was Lorelei, her bow was already drawn, arrow ready to fire.
Gwyn huffed, “You shouldn’t do that, I could have shot you!”
“You know, when my dad taught you how to use a bow. I don’t think it was for shooting children.”
“It’s a reflex. Normally when things jump out at me they aren’t Gnomes.” She slung her bow back across her back.
Gwyn smiled almost darkly, “I have to be.”
Lor looked her up and down, “What the hell happened to your hair?
Gwyn’s hand instantly tangled itself in her curls, she smoothed one out before fixing the rest with a simple illusion.
“Better?” she asked.
“Yes, but it doesn’t answer my question.”
Gwyn just shrugged and Lor narrowed her eyes, “Secrets, secrets are no fun unless you share with everyone,” she sang in a chirpy voice.
Gwyn smiled, “Shouldn’t you be inside with the others?
“I could ask the same of you. Where have you been anyway? You said you’d be back this afternoon.”
“At the Shrines. Same as all summer.”
“You expect me to believe you were praying for the last four hours?”
“I promise you, I was with god.” A twinkle lit Gwyn’s eyes, “Get me a Truth Potion if you don’t believe me!”
Lor gave her another suspicious once over, then shrugged.
“Nana’s mad that you missed dinner, you know.”
“She’s always mad when I miss a meal.”
“You better be here tomorrow, we’re having a going away party for you.”
Gwyn chuckled, “We have had far too many parties for me this summer.”
“I thought you loved parties.”
“I do! I’m just not used to having them three times a week. Besides I always have to make dessert! I swear I must have made a few thousand cookies in the last two months!”
Lor laughed, “Well you don’t have to cook for tomorrow’s party. I’ll do the baking. But that means you’re on babysitting duty! Aiden keeps trying to eat my hair and I’m sick of it.”
“He’s 7, he’ll grow out of it.”
“But it’s so annoying!”
“If I recall correctly you used to chew on brightly colored fabric.”
Lor grumbled, “Fine, fine. I just…I like my hair the way it is. And I can’t just illusion it back into perfection like some people.”
“I actually thought your illusions were progressing nicely.”
“They are so hard! I just can’t concentrate for that long! It’s not fair. You make it look too easy!”
Gwyn laughed, “You’ll get there.”
Before Lor could respond, undoubtedly to claim she would never been able to magically enhance her hair, a voice rang out from inside.
“Gwyn? Gwyn dear is that you? You missed supper!”
Gwyn called back, “Coming Mama!” Then to Lor she muttered, “Any guessed how much trouble I’m in for going AWOL?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much, you were already in trouble for forgetting to help Tasha finish sewing that dress.”
“And just where do you think you’re off to young lady?”
Gwyn jumped in surprise as Lor once again snuck up on her while invisible.
“Out. And last time I checked I was older than you were.”
“Out where? There’s a party about to start.”
“The party isn’t happening for at least another four hours. You’re baking, and Tasha agree to watch the kids because I stayed up and did that darn dress for her. So if you don’t mind…”
“Oh, but I do. You see Gwyn,” a mischievous smile spread across Lor’s face, “I happen to know there is something you’re not telling me. You’ve been weird for weeks. Too smiley, always giddy, disappearing, wracking your brain for outrageous pranks; happy then suddenly sad. Tasha swears it’s a boy, but then again, Tasha always thinks everything is about boys. And I know, I just know my favorite cousin wouldn’t hide something like that from me.”
“But then there’s this!” Lor triumphantly pulled out Gwyn’s journal and waved it around.
“What the…but that’s–”
“On your desk, try again!”
Gwyn reached out her hand and watched it pass right through the journal sitting in front of her on the table.”
“That’s my trick!”
“So who is this mystery guy? And where are you actually going every day?”
“There is no mystery guy. I go to the shrines, every day. Where I pray to the gods. Then I go to rebuild other shrines. And if I’m disappearing it’s mostly because there are people in black cloaks destroying even more shrines, that I then have to rebuild, which is just unfair. ”
“There are people destroying our Shrines!? Not demons, people?”
“I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. I’m trying to take care of it. “
“Not supposed to tell me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you.”
“Worry me?” Lor paused, “Do you think it’s the KBA? Or Justicars?”
Gwyn shook her head, “No. It’s another group. The group that brought the demons here.” The room got quiet as both Gnomes thought the exact same thing, destruction of temples was eerily reminiscent of the genocide.
“I’ve alerted the Council, and the King. And the gods.” She sighed, “Try and put it from your mind. At least for now.”
Lor nodded slowly. “So what you’ve been hiding is the possible future destruction of our people?”
Gwyn bit her lip. “Well among other things” Gwyn blushed lightly, “there might also be a boy.”
“Ha! I knew it!” Lor was suddenly excited again and Gwyn envied her ability to cast dark thoughts from her mind as soon as something new and exciting came up.
She continued, “Spill! I want to hear everything! Who is he? You’ve been seeing him for a while, right? Guy from the prank war?”
Gwyn chuckled lightly, “Seeing is a strong word…”
Lor looked confused, so Gwyn continued, “Today will be our first actual date.”
“Taking it slow? That doesn’t sound like you…”
“Uhhh.” Gwyn scratched her head, trying to figure out how to explain the situation. “Slow isn’t quite the right word either…it’s complicated.”
“What could be complicated. You like him, he likes you…wait he likes you right? You’re not just like, watching some random guy.”
“Yes, Lor, he likes me. It’s complicated….it’s complicated because of…planar issues.”
“Look, I’m going to be late. Maybe we could talk later?”
“No, no, no! Absolutely not. You hide this from me for weeks, I finally get you to open your mouth, which might I add you never seem to keep closed at any other point, and now you’re trying to bail? Not gonna happen, sister. Sit that butt down, ‘cause we are talking about this.”
“But I really have to go! I’ll be late.”
Lor stood in the doorway looking defiant, “Give me a name. I will give you leave for a few hours, pending full details tonight, in exchange for the name of mystery-man.”
“You won’t believe me.”
“Why? Ooh is it Kerren, because you know I’ve had a crush on him for years, and that’s not fair. I totally called him!”
“No, it’s not Kerran. Kerran isn’t even 50!”
“Is it Aros?”
“Lars, Jelen, Sinvyn–”
“Orynn, for god’s sake it’s Orynn! Just stop guessing 40 year olds! It makes me feel old and creepy!”
Lor smiled wildly, “Nice choice of expression.” Her face contorted in a confused expression for a moment, “Wait, like Orynn Orynn?”
Gwyn nodded, her blush a little more apparent now.
“Yeah, and if you don’t let me go I’ll be standing him up.”
“You’re dating a god?”
“Again, not currently, because I’m standing here talking to you.”
“So when you say you were “with god,” you actually meant–”
“Yes, not my classiest bit of humor. Can I go now?”
“Are people even allowed to do that?”
“That’s why is complicated. Please don’t make me physically move you from my doorway.”
Lor just looked at her shocked and stepped out of the way.
Gwyn breathed a sigh of relief, rushed out the door, jumped on Scout.
She heard Lor call out the window, “I still expect details!”
She was happily trotting to the Shrine when that relief disappeared. She had packed a picnic for the date. She thought it would be a nice touch, so they weren’t just sitting in a Shrine, joking around.
Now she was wondering if gods ate.
He had eaten the illusion pie that made angry Orc flowers…
Gwyn chewed her lip, which was becoming more of a habit than usual. In general, Gwyn was not an anxious person. But she had never liked anyone quite as much as she liked Orynn, and she didn’t want to mess things up.
Luckily, her nerves did not last long.
Instead they were replaced by shock and fear as she suddenly felt a vine curl up around her leg, pulling her off Scout and into the earth that was presently opening, creating a hole.
Gwyn scream as she slid in downward spirals for a couple minutes before finally being spat in front of the Shrine, completely covered in mud.
She stumbled into the Shrine, disoriented, only to find Orynn standing there with a wide grin on his face.
“Oh, come on, showing up to our first date looking like that? I knew you were a dirty girl, but this is ridiculous.”
Gwyn flushed a red scarlet color, “But, I…I mean, the ground…” She was clearly very flustered.
He simply laughed.
Gwyn shook her head as though to clear it, smile at the ridiculousness of his comment as she realized it was quite clearly him who opened up the earth, and cast an Aquatora to try and wash the mud off.
She only succeeded in making herself wet in addition to muddy.
Orynn chuckled again, “Here.”
He held out his hand. The mud peeled itself off of Gwyn’s dress and skin and formed itself into a ball in his hand. He brought his hands together and worked them for a moment as if shaping clay. When he held out his hand again, it held a single Fire Blossom.
For a moment Gwyn wondered if he had known it was her favorite flower, or if as the God of Sarenuian Fire Apples he had simply chosen the flower that grew on the same tree.
She took is with a smile and a soft, “Thank you. It’s beautiful!”
“Shall we?” Orynn gestured for her to follow him further into the shrine. Though still a bit flustered, and blushing from the sweet gesture, Gwyn followed happily.
She laid out the blanket and the food she had brought, and they began to eat and chat.
Within a few moments of talking with Orynn, Gwyn once again felt at ease. The conversation was light and easy. They laughed, joked and talked about pranks, illusions, and parties.
Every once in a while the conversation would go slightly darker: the demons, the genocide, the state of the world. But even then they found that their experiences were similar. As the only two Gnomish Crusaders (no, Dis, the shadow possessing a Gnome did not count!) they had much in common. They had even joined for similar reasons.
Gwyn was relieved to find out that yes, Orynn did eat. He didn’t have to of course, but he enjoyed food, after all he was the god of Sarenuian Fire Apples. Besides he was in the habit after years of being mortal.
She was even happier to find out he was actually quite fond of her Sarenuian Fire Apple pie, although he prefer this one as it wasn’t made to constantly burn his mouth.
Everything was going perfectly until a young man wandered into the Shrine. Orynn had just told a joke, causing Gwyn to laugh, cough and sputter her drink everywhere. Aware of the man’s presence long before his companion, Orynn quickly popped out of existence, leaving Gwyn sitting there, laughing hysterically, and entirely alone.
The man looked at Gwyn, who was sitting in a corner of the Shrine, on a blanket with a picnic setting with two of everything.
He scratched his head, grinned and said mocking, “Sorry for interrupting. I’ll just let you and your friend,” he gestured to the air, “get back to your meal.” He laughed heartily and turned to go, saying “crazy” in a sing-song voice as he walked away.
The second he was gone Orynn appeared laughing harder than Gwyn had ever seen before.
“You really enjoy making me look foolish don’t you?” She asked with a smile.
He smirked, “It amuses me. Besides, it’s cute.” He leaned forward and flicked her on the nose.
Gwyn flushed slightly and shook her head, but her grin went from ear to ear.
“He probably thought I was crazy.”
“He’s still laughing actually.”
Gwyn turned around as though she would see him back in the Shrine, then realized how silly she must look.
Orynn chuckled, “He’s not here, Ducky. I think he’s on his way to one of Garl’s Shrines instead, you spooked him.”
“It’s kind of crazy that you can see…Ducky? How did you–”
“God powers.” He paused for a moment, “Does that bother you?”
Gwyn thought for a second and shook her head. She briefly considered asking if her mortality bothered him, but thought better of it. If it bothered him enough to matter, he simply wouldn’t be here.
She did wonder if anyone else ever prayed to the people they dated though.
“So you can basically see whatever you want, whenever you want?”
He shrugged, “Pretty much. Although if you keep scaring away my followers…”
Gwyn laughed, “If I do, I promise to make it up to you.”
Orynn raised an eyebrow, “And how do you intend to do that?”
Gwyn blushed and leaned in slightly. She gave a sly grin and shrugged. Her eyes slowly lowered so they were gazing intently at his lips.
With a smirk he pulled her in towards him…then poof. No more Orynn. Gwyn fell forward. Her arms flailed and she landed face first in the rest of the pie.
“What the hell?” Gwyn cried, sitting up and wiping pie from her face. Fire Apple filling burned her eyes and she cursed, “Son of a duck! Wha’d you do that for?”
She looked around, but instead of Orynn she saw a family of new Gnomes staring at
“Fuck.” She muttered, and waved to them.
One child tried to wave back, but the father snatched his hand out of the air. He looked highly disapproving, as though Gwyn was up to no good. Clearly he couldn’t imagine any reason a young woman should have a romantic picnic alone at a Shrine to his god, covered in pie no less. It must be a fetish thing. He cringed and shook his head.
Unlike the other man, this family chose to stay, wary but intent on ignoring the Shrine’s other occupant. The longer they did, the more Gwyn pouted.
Splashing her face with an Aquatora she attempted to clean herself off for the second time that day.
She ran her hand through her hair, pulling out bits of pie crust, muttering to herself.
The mother of the family kept looking over at her with a mix of horror and sympathy.
She briefly considered just using a minor illusion to fix it, but as a god, Orynn would see right through it and it wasn’t worth using her artifact. If she could only have one Eldar illusion a day she wasn’t going to waste it on looking pretty. No, she would save it for something far more fun.
Eventually the family made their way out. The same child tried to wave goodbye to Gwyn, but was stopped once more.
Orynn finally reappeared looking like he was trying to suppress laughter.
“That wasn’t funny! Fire Apples are not meant for eyes!”
He grinned sheepishly, “It was pretty funny. If you could see yourself…Oh, you can!” he finished brightly.
Before Gwyn could say anything she was watching an illusion of herself falling forward into the empty air that was Orynn only a moment before.
She cracked a smile; it couldn’t be helped. If it had happened to anyone else she would have thought it a brilliant prank.
“See, I told you it was funny.” He said with a chuckle, he leaned forward and wiped a glob of pie filling from her cheek, then, making sure to catch her eyes, he slowly and deliberately licked it from his finger.
Gwyn flushed, “Hey, that’s my pie!”
He stuck out his tongue, “Want it back?”
Gwyn grumbled jokingly, and instead reached for the remnants in the pie tin.
Suddenly she eeped as her skirt caught on something, pulling up so it gathered around her hips. She hastily righted it, noticing that it was now stuck to the ground with vines. She looked suspiciously at Orynn, who responded with a wide grin and an open leer.
She giggled and sent a bolt of Aquatora at him, “I think you might need to cool off!” She said with a wink.
“As you wish,” he replied with a wicked grin. Then popped out of existence.
Gwyn had just enough time to wonder if she’d somehow upset him when she heard a faint “pop” behind her. She gasped as a number of ice cubes fell down the front of her dress and into her cleavage. Shivering with the sudden cold and clutching herself, she whirled around to see Orynn behind her, that same devil-may-care smirk on his face.
She raised an eyebrow, plucked out one of the ice cubes and threw it at him with a laugh.
He smiled as it hit him right between the eyes. Then suddenly said “Incoming!” and disappeared once more.
Gwyn sighed in frustration and she turned to see a young woman enter the Shrine. Couldn’t I be dating one of the unpopular gods?
This time, however, she did something about it. With a quick little chant she cast an illusion upon the woman.
Before her appeared Orynn. The woman gasped and bowed to him.
The illusion Orynn beamed at her and said in a commanding voice.
“Mortal, bring unto me a plate of cookies, three chocolate chip, four macadamia nut, and two-point-six sugar cookies. Bring them here and lay them upon the sixth tile from the left door at precisely nine seconds after sunset. My will be done!” He paused for a moment then added, “Orynn out!” with a mock salute.
The woman nodded her head vigorously and praised him. Then the Illusion Orynn disappeared into smoke.
Gwyn laughed hysterically as the confused worshipper ran out of the temple. This continued for close to a minute. Finally, she regained control of herself and realized that she was still very much alone.
She looked around the now-empty temple and sighed. It looked like he was actually gone this time. Had she gone too far in impersonating him? Now saddened and a little bit worried, she sank back down to the floor of the shrine. Dammit Gwyn.
Gwyn suddenly gasped as she felt strong arms around her from behind.
“That,” Orynn said in her ear, “was not bad for a mortal…but for the record I’d prefer five chocolate chip cookies.”
Gwyn grinned, turning in his arms.
“So where were we…”
Gwyn smiled as she head home for her last night with her family. She briefly wondered what the hell she was going to tell Lorelei, then shrugged. Right now she just wanted to enjoy her last few hours in Glimlit.
She grabbed a Fire Apple off a tree that stood at the side of the road. She would miss them.
She took a bite, the sweet taste reminding her of Orynn’s lips. She couldn’t help but giggle in delight.
It had been a good summer