Malnar was trying to keep herself awake, her eyes shutting and her head drooping forward while she sat, then snapping back and forcing her eyes open. Droka never bothered staying awake. He was fast asleep. Malnar’s head snapped back and her eyes opened again…and were never burdened by sleep again as a figure stood in the light it generated. This light felt otherworldly, and Malnar knew the figure as if she had had continual contact with it. “…Freemal?” she gulped.
“Greetings, young Malnar,” replied Freemal, one of the five Divine Ones that look after the element of earth. Her green hand then touched the curtain of Droka’s bed and pulled it back.
“WHO IN THE DEPTHS?!” snapped Droka as he woke up. “MALNAR, TURN THAT LIGHT DOWN!”
“You cannot turn my light down so easily,” interjected Freemal. Droka then got a good look and gasped.
“Are…are you the guide Calna told me would come?” he gulped.
“I am,” replied Freemal.
“H…How are you here to guide me?” whimpered Droka.
“To help you remember your past,” replied Freemal.
“…That’s all?” remarked Droka. “A trip down memory lane?”
“Come, we must see what began your current view of the world,” directed Freemal. The scene changed into what looked to be outside a hospital room. Malnar gasped when she saw herself as a child sitting on the waiting bench.
“Did…did you just…” she spluttered at Freemal.
“We are but shadows,” assured Freemal. “Do either of you remember this day?”
“This is when my sister Twanmee was born!” cheered Malnar. “Winter Solstice Eve! I was so happy at having another sister to play with. This was just a few years before Mama died and Daddy remarried.” A younger Orbak came out of the hospital room.
“Malnar, want to see your sister?” he asked the child Malnar.
“Yes, please!” cheered young Malnar. Then, her face went pensive. “Daddy, why isn’t Uncle Droka here?”
“He…er…he’s a very…troubled man,” replied the young Orbak.
“I always found that to be an odd answer,” mused the present-day Malnar.
“Then let me clarify,” grunted Droka. “While your youngest sister was born, I was outside the cemetery, reminding myself that money is longer lasting than love, life, or holidays.”
“Why?” asked Malnar.
“If it was as ephemeral as life,” answered Droka, “money wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, it lasted longer than my sister.”
“…Oh,” realized Malnar.
“My sister was the only light in my dark world,” continued Droka. “Not even my wife or son could jolly me out of it. I soon learned that money does not save, it only exists and we need to keep track of it for fear of losing our path.”
“That didn’t serve your marriage well, did it?” mused Freemal.
“Don’t you dare!” hissed Droka. “Don’t you dare show that Solstice!” The scene changed into an old house as a Succubus woman sat down, looking sad. A younger Droka then entered the house.
“It was quite a day,” he muttered. “The Troondars tried to sue me for price gouging. They never had a case; the prices of houses are correct. It’s their own fault that they couldn’t pay on time.”
“And yet, you cannot pay your debt,” muttered the Succubus.
“I beg your pardon?” asked Young Droka.
“You’re barely here,” explained the Succubus.
“Well, I have to brave society and the idiots invading it to avoid poverty for us,” answered Young Droka.
“When I married you,” countered the Succubus, “I thought you were the bravest man alive!”
“Have I done anything cowardly?” quizzed Young Droka.
“Your son feels no attachment to you!” snapped the Succubus. “You’ve become obsessed with gain that no other attachments matter to you, not even your family! Can you look me in the eye and say it wouldn’t matter if we were rich or poor?”
“…It would be preferable for us all to be wealthy,” muttered Young Droka.
“No! Don’t say that!” hissed the present day Droka.
“Oh, what an answer!” wailed the Succubus. “That proves it! The man I loved died with his sister and I’m living with the shell of his former self! Well, no longer! I see no reason to continue calling myself your wife!” She stormed out of the manor and out of Young Droka’s life.
“…You were married!” hissed Malnar. “You had a family and let it slip away!”
“His loss,” remarked Freemal. “Lord Twandek Larkentha’s gain.”
“Twandek? Delga’s cousin?” quizzed Malnar.
“The same,” replied Freemal. “Let us observe the Solstice of 10 years ago, the day Calna died.” The scene changed to Frigandor as the same Succubus was walking with a Frostik man, arm in arm as a Human/Incubus boy laughed and played with a Frostik/Succubus girl. There was a smile on all their faces. The Succubus then had her attention diverted for a bit.
“Twendrii, Wilcam, not so far,” she called, kindly but firmly. The children listened
“Little scamps,” chuckled the Frostik, Twandek. He then remembered something. “My sweet, I passed by a place of business run by an acquaintance of yours during my stay in the Belsnath Citadel.”
“Who?” asked the Succubus.
“Guess,” replied Twandek. The Succubus thought long and hard.
“I can’t come up with an answer,” she giggled. “What’s the place of business?”
“Droka and Calna’s,” revealed Twandek. The Succubus’ smile faded. “I know Droka’s name causes you grief, but I thought I’d tell you that his partner, Calna, was near enough to say that his soul was about to forsake his corporeal body. When he dies, Droka will be without a friend.”
“His money has been a friend to him for some time,” muttered the Succubus. “Some would say, too close of a friend. Poor Droka, to be alone with no physical companion.”
“Spare me your pity!” snapped Droka. “I have no need of it! As for you, Freemal, get out of my sight! Stop tormenting me like this! I don’t need a trip down memory lane to remind myself of how I became who I am! GO AWAY!”
“I’ll leave,” replied Freemal. “I must inform you, though, everyone needs a trip to remind themselves of what made them the way they are.” As she vanished, so, too, did the scene until Malnar and Droka were back in the apartment.
“Just uninterrupted rest,” pleaded Droka. “That’s all I need right now.” He then retired to his bed.
“…Pity is all you will get from me,” sighed Malnar once she was assured Droka was asleep.