It’s another Terribleminds flash fiction challenge. Yes, it ran a bit long, but I hope it’s entertaining enough to let that slide. The challenge was to take someone else’s character from last week (I missed out on that part) and write a story including them.
Meet Cossima Renhaus, an adventurer rogue from NKHarrold. https://freelancefedora.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/story-time-the-rogue/
And here is her story, picking up just after the linked backstory:
Cossima stretched up to tap the Questgoer for Hire sign above her storefront. Her good luck ritual meant she would always return. The walls inside were adorned with medals of valor and paintings of her deeds. Half were fakes. Quarrus insisted they market themselves as experienced in every task, magical and otherwise.
Her business partner glanced up from his ledger. She leaned against the edge of his desk, ignoring his dagger-filled gaze. She tossed a bear fang between them. Quarrus crossed his arms.
“You missed three jobs from your extended vacation. Now you show up with a glowing tooth and think all is forgiven?”
“It contains a purified werebear curse. Just a little side quest.”
“You’re ruining us, Coss. These ‘little side quests’ never pay!”
“They needed my help. I may be a rogue, but I’m still a lady of honor.”
“We can’t eat honor. It’s gotten so bad, I was going to sell off your weapons cache.”
Cossima stood up straight.
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“I thought that might get your attention. Another week without pay, and you can say goodbye to your Shield of Invisible Might!”
Her brain knew she was above begging. But, her hands clasped together of their own volition. She bent down, her elbows pinning the paperwork. Even her mouth disobeyed orders.
“Please, Q, sell the medals. Sell the fang to the potions master. Just please-!”
The door burst open, and a broad-shouldered man strode in. The chest of his indigo tunic was emblazoned with a winged badger wearing a crown. Two guards in sterling armor stood behind him. Their shields bore the same crest. Their leader flashed a blinding grin.
“I am Prince Walther of Geldland, and I have a quest that must be undertaken immediately.”
Quarrus shooed Cossima away from the desk. She leaned against the back wall in the shadows, where it was more comfortable. While her partner gushed his sales pitch, she studied the trio. The prince made her stomach turn. Nobody smiled like that sincerely. His guards quaked almost imperceptibly whenever he looked at them; she had an eye for these things.
Without a word, she grabbed Quarrus by the collar and led him to the back room. When she was sure they wouldn’t be overheard, she growled a whisper.
“He’s a villain.”
Quarrus looked over his shoulder. He was silent for a moment. Then, he shook his head.
“Doesn’t matter. He can pay us. It’s this or I sell your Truncheon of Truth.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, but gave in. When they return to the prince, everything was sorted out in a matter of minutes. She would retrieve a magic crown and return it to Walther’s kingdom. It was always the way with these types. The rightful heir couldn’t be accepted without some magical, and conveniently missing, trinket.
After the prince and his guards left, she started to pack. The ruins where the crown supposedly was had a reputation for its giant spiders. She would stick to ranged attacks to avoid being envenomed, and bring her favorite mirrored shield, just in case. As she saddled her horse, Quarrus walked up with a dagger and an antivenom salve.
“No side quests this time. I’m making sure of it.”
It was no use arguing. What he lacked in muscle, he made up for in stubbornness. They set off down the southern road.
They reached the ruins two days later. Cobwebs covered the rocks. Shadows followed their progress from dying trees. The only sound came from the horses’ hooves. A few brave spiders ventured out, and Cossima had a crossbow bolt for each. So long as the horses didn’t touch the webs, they wouldn’t be seen as prey. Quarrus tugged his cloak closed from an imagined chill.
“How will we find anything in this mess?”
Cossima pointed to a lone temple standing in a field of broken archways and burnt out homes.
“Always look for the intact building. You’ll find the most magic there.”
Closer to the center of town, the webs stretched onto the cobblestones and over their heads. It was getting harder to direct the horses. Cossima jumped down. She hitched both horses to a charred, but web-free, fence post.
“Stay here. Don’t let those things eat the horses.”
Quarrus gripped his dagger. His eyes darted from shadow to shadow. Meanwhile, Cossima crept down the street. The only door to the temple was covered in webs. She traced the strands to several funnel webs. The faint clacking of mouthparts echoed from each hole.
Her hand tapped against her crossbow while she strategized. A long shadow fell over her while she thought. She spun around as a voice boomed.
“Go no further!”
Cossima looked past the empty suit of armor that commanded her. The puppet’s master had to be close. A deep blue robe dashed between wooden columns. The armor drew its broadsword.
“Leave this place. Now!”
She shot at the robed figure as he ran for the next column. The armor crashed to the ground. Cossima stormed over to the thin, young wizard. Blood trickled down his cheek where the bolt grazed it before sticking his hood to a wooden post. Cossima stepped on the hem of his robe before he could remove it and escape.
“What are you doing here, boy?”
“I can’t let you take the crown. My brother doesn’t care for the kingdom. He killed our father and our older brother so he could rule. He wants to raze the fields of our allies to make our crops more valuable.”
She grabbed the wizard by the arm and twisted him around. The winged badger crest was sewn onto the robe back.
“You’re the reason the crown went missing.”
The young prince nodded.
“What else could I do? It’s better to have no king, than an evil one.”
“Become king yourself. You have a magic crown, don’t you?”
“But, I’m fifth in line. The crown would need to find my head of its own power on coronation day. And that’s impossible.”
“Maybe I can-”
Quarrus huffed over, waving the contract in the air.
“Out of sight for ten minutes and you’re side questing again!”
“But this is a worthy cause! If he’s king, he can pay us.”
“I… of course. Yes, I can pay you!”
“It would ruin our reputation of fulfilling quests as directed. Grab the crown, Coss, and let’s go.”
She yanked the bolt out of the column, releasing the prince.
“There’s nothing we can do for you.” When Quarrus turned his back, she winked at the kid. She would find a way to make this right. “Oh, and you caused this mess. Give us a hand with the spiders, will you?”
The wizard prince summoned a fireball to singe away the webs over the temple door. A dozen spiders the size of large dogs spewed out of the funnel webs. He and Quarrus held them off while Cossima ran inside. The crown lay on a pedestal, ringed in rare jewels and an aura of power.
When she grabbed it, three horse-sized arachnids descended from the ceiling. She shot the first one in the face. It dropped to the ground, its legs twitching. She dove through the door just as the other two launched themselves at her. They jostled on another, too big to both cram through at once.
Quarrus cut a leg off the spider nearest him. It shrieked, and sank its fangs into his arm. Cossima shot it with her last two bolts. It lurched, but wouldn’t die. She kicked it in the eyes until her partner was freed. There were four more of the chitinous monsters, but no prince.
“Where’s the wizard?”
“Back home, I hope. Let’s get out of here.”
One of the horses was missing, a trail of blood in its stead. Cossima hoisted Quarrus on the back of their remaining horse, and dumped salve onto his arm. They rode hard until the ruins were long behind them.
When they reached Geldland, Prince Walther welcomed them with a grand feast. They recounted the adventure to their client, leaving out the sighting of his wizard brother. The prince paid their fee, and invited them to attend his coronation.
On the day of the coronation, the children of the king stood in front of a large crowd. The wizard prince stood fifth in the row. The queen mother held the crown aloft. Her ritualized speech instructed the crown to find the kingdom’s most worthy successor. As she carried the crown over to the grinning Prince Walther, she tripped.
The crown flew into the air. The crown flipped and whirled over the row of shocked princes and princesses. The wizard prince staggered as it settled on his head. Those who were near insisted that the wind itself spoke to him when it happened.
Quarrus gaped as Walther all but confessed his crimes in an angry rant.
“I guess the good guy ended up on top after all, eh Coss? Coss?”
Cossima was no longer at his side. She was walking away from the stage, carrying the mirrored Shield of Invisible Might at her side.
“I expect the new king will be sending us along with a reward. Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t sell my things?”