Deep in the woods, on top of a lonely hill, was a two-story house. It was pretty good-sized, something a wealthy merchant might live inside. Inside the house was a room that looked like it had exploded a few times. Clothes and toys and books lay about and around in messy heaps, but none had the slightest trace of dust on them. A window full of nose marks and breath streaks let in the noonday light, while a low, poofy pink bed sat against the opposite wall with its sheets and blankets scrambled and twisted. The wall across from the door held a fireplace, currently unlit and sealed with a metal grille attached to a lever.
None of these things made much sense at all to the bear, since it had only managed to attain an animalistic level of intelligence, but it peered at them with intense curiosity nonetheless. Well, as much as it could with those annoying squiggles in the way.
If he’d been capable of reading, they would have let him know that he had a choice to make.
NEW SPECIES JOB UNLOCKED – BEAR
DO YOU WISH TO ACCEPT THE BEAR JOB AT THIS TIME? Y/N?
But he couldn’t read, so they stayed there, obstructing about half of his vision. He didn’t have a very good perception to begin with, and this didn’t help.
“This is my room!” His new benefactor told him, using words he didn’t comprehend. But he turned around in her arms and looked at her anyway. A small red-headed girl in a green dress, with woolen stockings over her feet. Her hair was tied back into a big poof, and her manically-grinning face was splattered with freckles.
The teddy bear was pretty certain that he owed her his life. She’d saved him from the cat, after all! At least something like that had happened anyway, the whole thing was very confusing to his thirty-minute-old mind.
The girl, Celia, waded through the room without a care for the mess. She absent-mindedly scootied piles of books away with her feet as she passed through the debris, across to a smaller door in one corner. “Okay, okay okay okay. So what do you want to play first?”
The bear stared up at her. It patted her mouth with one hand. Maybe that was what she wanted? Worth a shot, he guessed.
“Hee hee! Okay, tea party it is! You can meet everyone else, too! Wait here a minute.” She tossed him over her shoulder.
Everything spun, and then WHUMP, the teddy bear landed on the bed. He sat up, shaking his head-
-and found himself in a pile of stuffed animals. Frozen, stiff, they stared at him with mute eyes.
The teddy bear, trembled as he poked at them with his paw pads.
They didn’t move.
They looked just like the skunk had after he’d killed it, with the, the same unnatural stillness.
And the Teddy Bear’s young mind jumped to exactly the wrong conclusion.
I am among the dead. She means to kill me!
“Here we go!” Celia opened up the closet door, ignoring the tumbling mass of clothes and toys that surged out, and rummaged through them until she pulled out a small wooden table, and a set of well-gnawed wooden cups and saucers. “Let’s see… yeah, there should work.” She booted a broken wagon out of the way, shoved a pile of blocks to the side, and put the table on the floor, stacking the cups and saucers on top of it. From the piles she pulled out four little chairs, and spaced them evenly around. “Okay. Come on down and… huh?”
The bear wasn’t on the bed any more.
The bear in fact had high-tailed out the open door and was waddling for dear life. He didn’t want to lose whatever life he had, and become one of the girl’s pile of dead things!
He made it as far as a railing-lined balcony, with a double-stair descending to the front room below, and froze in indecision. He’d seen the stairs on the way up, and she’d done something to climb them, but he had no idea what that something entailed. He hadn’t had a clear field of vision, or a good angle to see what she was doing. Something with her feet, maybe?
Well, how hard could it be?
He chose the left stairs, approached them, and decided to try to keep on walking.
Nine good thumps later, when the world stopped spinning, he lifted his head and looked around at the front room. A large fireplace filled one wall, with pots full of herbs drying on the mantle. Overstuffed but worn leather chairs provided seats around it, and a table off to one side was set with candlesticks and cloth doilies. Solid oaken chairs with feet on the bottom lined it, two per side. One wall was lined with tapestries and crocheted hangers, showing cats, flowers, and other simple objects. A closed door led out to the yard, a few high glass windows let in light, and two doors went deeper into the house.
And then there was the statue.
Made of blackened iron patched with lighter materials, it stood looming on its pedestal in the corner. Large, rounded pauldrons covered its forearms, leaving only blocky, jointed metal fingers poking out. It had a sort of breastplate for a chest, with gears poking through cut gaps, starting with a big one in the center of the sternum and growing smaller and smaller as they moved in diagonal lines toward the statue’s joints. For all the torso was big though, the head was tiny… a helm with two gems for eyes barely visible under its visor. And its waist was narrow, with two sturdy, wide-footed legs supporting the ten-foot-tall armored statue.
It moved, as Threadbare watched, turned its visor to face him with a grinding of metal on metal.
“Intruder!” The armor golem boomed.
Unfortunately, for all its size, it was a lesser golem. Which meant that it had no mind, only the orders it had been given.
And one of those was to destroy all intruders who weren’t in the company of someone on the very short list of family members.
Threadbare knew precisely none of these things. He stood up, staring at the creature in awe.
One leg of the massive golem flexed as it shifted its weight, and cables hummed taught as it stepped down from the pedestal. The other leg followed, and out of its niche, the golem spread its arms wide, brassy voice ringing from under its helm.
“Flee or face my wrath intruder!”
Not its words, just the words its creator had given it. It spoke words it didn’t understand to a creature who couldn’t comprehend the warning.
However, Threadbare sure as hell knew danger when he saw it. He turned and fled.
He waddled with all his might as the hostile golem chased him around the room, arms lashing out with clumsy swipes. And Threadbare noticed one important difference, between his current predicament and the last one. Unlike the cat, the armor golem was actively avoiding wrecking the place.
That was about all that was saving him, though. Threadbare was stuck on one side of the table, darting right every time the golem tried to come around the left, and darting left every time the golem switched and tried to come around the right. If the golem had come through the table, the teddy bear would have been toast. But the lesser golem had no flexibility to its mind, and it had to follow all its orders. Including the one its master had given it to prevent it destroying the house.
“Emmet!” Celia yelled, from the top of the stair. The golem paused for a moment, then resumed trying to get to the bear.
“Destroy the intruder! Protect the family!” The armor golem, Emmet, boomed back.
“Stop! Recognize Threadbare as family!”
“Destroy the intruder! Protect the family!”
“Guh… I’m not his creator… wait, the emergency scrolls!” Celia ran downstairs, giving them a wide berth, and darted into another room. Threadbare and Emmett continued their deadly dance while she was out.
Both of them had enormous amounts of endurance, proportional to the weight they were hauling around, so they weren’t burning any stamina for their actions, at least. Such was the benefit of being a golem! They could have continued this until the house aged and fell to pieces around them, without stopping.
But Celia returned, with a pile of papers in her hands, each glowing with golden sigils. “Okay, okay…” she cleared her throat. “Command Golem! Recognize Threadbare as family!”
The runes on the topmost scroll flashed! And faded to black, crumbling to the floor like dust.
Nothing seemed to happen. Celia scowled. “Failed? Bah.” She threw the now-blank scroll over her shoulder. “Command Golem! Recognize Threadbare as family!”
The scroll flared, and golden letters materialized around Emmett, cycling in spiraling patterns… that shattered, as large white letters appeared over his head.
“Oh come on!” Celia howled, stamping her foot. She pulled out another scroll, glared at him, and bellowed. “Command Golem! Recognize Threadbare as family!”
The scroll blazed, the letters circled…
…and this time, Emmet stopped.
Without sparing the little teddy bear another look, the armor golem stomped back to its niche, climbed up on the pedestal, and resumed its silent vigil.
Threadbare, unable to believe that his ordeal might be over, peered around the chair legs, clinging to them and shaking like a leaf. This was all very stressful.
“Oh you poor thing! Come here…” Celia scooped him up, and he went limp. Maybe she meant to kill him, maybe she didn’t, but Threadbare knew he couldn’t fight her. She’d lifted up the monstrous form of Pulsivar like the cat was nothing, what chance did one teddy bear have against something that could do that?
“Okay. Let’s try this again. No running away next time!” Celia shifted the scroll pile, wedging it under one arm as she carried the toy golem back upstairs. “I don’t think Daddy will mind if I borrow these. Otherwise you might cause trouble again! What were you thinking, anyway?”
The teddy bear hugged her for all he was worth.
Your Adorable Skill is now Level 3!
“Aw, I can’t stay mad at you. You learned your lesson, right? Come on, let’s have a tea party.”
This time she shut the door behind her as she entered her room. Just in case.
Threadbare went limp as she put him in one of the little chairs around the table. He quivered with terror as three lifeless forms; a dolly, a giraffe, and a dragon, were placed in the other chairs.
“And now for the crowning touch!” Celia giggled, and Threadbare jumped slightly as he felt something settle onto his head.
You have equipped a toy top hat!
Weird sensations flooded his mind, and he shook his head. Suddenly his body was moving more in synch with his thoughts and feelings. He looked up at the girl and raised his hands, trying to indicate confusion. It was a motion that would have been unthinkable for him, before he’d donned the top hat.
“Oh! Don’t be confused, this is how it goes. Just wear it. It’s a tea party. Everyone has to have fancy hats.” Celia put a princess crown on her own head, then equipped the giraffe with another top hat, and the dolly and dragon with a wedding veil and a cardsharp’s visor, respectively. “Okay, now, okay. Hold still just for a moment, all right?”
Then she faced the dolly, poked it with a finger, and said “Animus!’
Golden light flared, and the dolly sat up in the chair.
And Threadbare slumped in relief. They weren’t dead. They were just resting after all. He mopped his brow with one arm, in exaggerated relief. Then he wondered why he’d done that.
The girl chanted her spell twice more, and the dragon and the giraffe twitched and became something more than toys.
“Yeah! Okay, so here’s the tea…” The girl put down the empty cups and saucers, and spread them out to each participant. “Now we need the party. Form Party!”
And a new set of squiggles popped up in front of Threadbare.
YOU HAVE BEEN INVITED TO CELIA’S PARTY!
DO YOU WISH TO ACCEPT? Y/N?
“Come on Threadbare, join the party!”
Its vision became more obstructed, as the words overlapped, Threadbare shook its head and waved its arms wildly, trying to shoo the stupid squiggles away. One of the cups went flying, and Celia sighed. “Just say yes! It asked you to join the party, say yes!”
But the teddy bear couldn’t understand her. Threadbare flailed harder, bobbing its head so hard that the top hat threatened to slip off.
“Oh! Wait, duh. You can't talk. Well, there’s a spell for this. Hold on.” In fact, that wasn't quite true. Vocalization wasn't required to accept a party invite. But Celia didn't know that.
She plucked the bundle of scrolls off the bed, and pulled the next one off the pile. “Command Golem! Say Yes!”
Yellow runes flared on the scroll, yellow letters surrounded it… then what was left of his sight was filled by big white letters, that faded.
You have resisted the command golem spell!
Your Resist Magic Skill is now level 2!
“Seriously?” Celia shrieked. “I don’t suck that bad. I’m a level 5 animator, for foop’s sake. Okay, okay, fine. I have more scrolls, bear! And I’m not afraid to use’em!” She pulled out one more with a flourish, bent at the waist, flexing down until she was looking Threadbare right in the eyes, and snapped the next scroll open. “Command Golem. Say Yes!”
The light flared…
And yes became the full extent of Threadbare’s thoughts. Yes filled it from head to tail, shining through its eyes like golden enlightenment. Yes! Yes to everything!
You have joined Celia’s party!
Words faded, and part of its sight returned.
You have gained the Bear job!
Then all of it sight returned, as the first set of squiggles finally vanished. To be replaced with new words, which faded after a second.
You are now a level 1 Bear!
Strength +5 Constitution +5 Wisdom +5 Armor +3 Endurance +3 Mental Fortitude +3 Unlocked Animalistic interface You have Unlocked the Claw Swipes Skill! Your gain Claw Swipes level 1 You have unlocked the Forage Skill! You gain Forage at level 1 You have unlocked the Scents and Sensibility Skill! You gain Scents and Sensibility at level 1 You have unlocked the Toughness Skill! You gain Toughness at level 1
Its fundamental nature changed, Threadbare felt the fluff under its hide reshape, get bulkier somehow. A new world of sensations flooded into the little golem as it gained a sense that it never had before, and suddenly the room was full of odors, clashing and competing and overwhelming as they seeped into its now-functional nose.
But Threadbare couldn’t say yes, because he didn’t have a working mouth, and so the command golem spell faded.
Celia didn't notice though, just assumed the bear had whispered it too quietly for her to hear. Anyway its name was now in her party menu, so that was all well and good.
“There we go! Welcome to the party!” Celia said, pouring imaginary tea. “Would you like something with your tea, Mr. Threadbare? Cream or Sugar perhaps?” She offered him a small tray full of empty condiment jars.
And though the toy golem couldn’t say why, all of a sudden that honey jar she was offering looked really, really good. Its eyes slid down from the window, to stare obsessively at the little wooden jar with a bee on its side.
Which was why neither of them saw the twisted, evil little face peering in from the other side of the window.
"Oh, she'll want to know about this," the little creature whispered to itself.
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