Winner: Best Story, Funniest Story
Runner-up: Most Profound Epilogue
From the Journal of Netia, Journeyman Mage
We did it. Vilroth is dead.
Actually, Sabi did it, amazingly. I’ve wondered why Harek would allow a barmaid to join his band. Being pretty, flirting, and collecting tips aren’t useful skills on a world-saving quest.
But then, I didn’t think I belonged there either. When Harek arrived at the academy looking for a way to destroy the black pearl that powered Vilroth’s magic, I had no intention of coming along. But you listen to Harek talk about what’s at stake, and he looks you straight in the eyes, and suddenly you’re joining him.
Anyway, we snuck into Vilroth’s vault, but it was a trap. Vilroth himself confronted us, I thought we were all dead. But then Sabi swallowed the pearl.
That wasn’t something I’d considered. Judging by the look on Vilroth’s face in the brief moment between his spells fizzling and being beheaded, neither had he.
It was desperation and dumb luck, but it worked. Harek’s getting hailed as the hero, but I don’t think Sabi minds. Tonight we celebrate with the villagers, and tomorrow I go back to the academy.
Woken up this morning by Sabi screaming. It came from the barn that she and Harek had slipped away to last night.
Harek was outside in nothing but trousers. I demanded to know what had happened. It wasn’t a long explanation, but I couldn’t believe it. It took some coaxing, but Sabi finally let me come in.
I can best explain what I saw in terms of how you might reproduce it: First, take one barmaid. Next, find a five-foot watermelon. Have her swallow it whole. Now plump up her arms and legs and head as big as you can imagine. Now make her six times larger.
I did my best to examine her. All I could really tell is that her body was very full of magic. Obviously the pearl had dissolved in her stomach, and obviously its power was in her body, but I’d never even heard of anything like it.
I tried a dispelling ritual. All it did was make her bulge another few feet and start screaming again, and nothing I said would calm her down.
I told Harek I was going to try and research a cure, but mostly I just wanted to get away from her. I have no idea what I’m going to do.
I told Harek that I had no idea if Sabi could be cured.
A few hours later, Harek made a speech through the barn door, pledging to travel to find a cure for her. He asked her to stay brave and wait for his return. And of course I’d stay and look after her.
At least it cheered her up. She poked her head out of the barn for an awkward goodbye kiss. Maybe he really did believe going on a quest with no information and no plan was the best thing he could do for her. But from that moment until he rode out of town, he wouldn’t look me in the eye even once.
Sabi is calm, at least. She asked to be left alone, which was fine with me. I needed to think of a plan.
I still don’t have one.
I brought Sabi a big tray of food, I didn’t think she’d had anything to eat since the 3rd.
She’d gone right back to sobbing about how fat and ugly she’d become. I wanted to tell her she should be a lot more worried about the immense forces now in her body than her vanity, but it wouldn’t have been productive.
She insisted she wasn’t hungry, but I persuaded her to eat something. She was only halfway through a loaf of bread when her stomach rumbled and bloated out even larger.
Fifteen minutes later, unable to calm her down, I simply walked out to leave her to cry alone. It’s like dealing with a baby.
My guess is that the bread was consumed by the magic inside her and destabilized it. If she wasn’t hungry, I think magic alone must be sustaining her now.
She stopped crying eventually, but wouldn’t let me back in. If she wants to be alone, fine, she can be alone. More time for me to figure out what to do.
Damn Harek for running away.
Sabi’s been quiet. I knocked on the barn, she told me to go away.
No leads on a cure.
Sabi still moping alone.
I’ve been paying all the bards that come through to tell the real story. Harek doesn’t get to walk away smelling like roses.
Sabi still moping. No progress.
WHY ME AAAARGH
Woken up this morning by angry farmer. Sabi outgrew the barn.
I followed him back. Sabi was hugging the remains of the barn to herself. I thought she’d be crying again, but she just looked vacant.
I asked if she could walk, she said she hadn’t tried. I asked her to try and follow me. It was slow and awkward going at first, but she started to get the hang of it.
With no better plan, I brought her to the edge of the forest, told her I’d try to figure something out.
She said she was fine, and thanked me for everything I’d done for her. I told her I really hadn’t done very much, but she said not leaving was enough. I stayed with her until it started to get dark, neither of us saying much.
Woken up this morning by May, one of the girls from the village. She asked if she could meet Sabi, destroyer of Vilroth. It seems bribing the bards was money well spent. I didn’t see enough harm in it to stop her from following me.
At first, Sabi didn’t say much beyond confirming or denying the stories May asked her about. But then she started asking May about herself. May said she wanted to go on an adventure too. Sabi asked her what she’d do if she ended up like her, and May told her she wouldn’t mind, if she was big like Sabi, her parents would have to let her stay up past eight.
Sabi actually laughed at that. May asked Sabi to come meet her friends, and to my surprise Sabi agreed. I didn’t know what the villagers would think when they saw Sabi approaching. I needn’t have worried.
By the time we arrived a crowd had gathered to greet her with cheers. They threw another party, just for her this time. It was ridiculous to see all the villagers gathered around her huge form, but it didn’t take her long to join in. She is a barmaid, after all; celebrations are something she knows. And she didn’t even have to serve drinks. When she was offered a mug of ale, she made everyone laugh by gulping it down, mug and all. And she even joined in the laughter as her belly bulged in response.
Right now I can see her from my window, helping raise the new barn to replace the one she broke. She’s talking and laughing with the villagers like everything was normal.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to her. But if she can make the best of a bad situation, then I’m going to try my hardest to do the same.