A prologue that was intended to be a more accessible starting point for readers unfamiliar with the characters/story thus far. Enjoy!
Everything was going to change now.
Gavin was no stranger to major changes, of course. Whether it was waking up one morning and finding you had eight arms instead of two, learning that when you brag you change into a raccoon until you eat cooked food, or discovering that you're being chased by pygmies, a very large salamandar, and one very angry priestess of Tanuki at the same time, change was one very consistant aspect of Gavin's life.
But in the course of six days, things had never changed so much so fast.
Talon and Feather, teenage twins from a werehawk tribe. Keyafael, young girl who didn't say much about it, but had a troubled past. Osujin, a catboy with a reading addiction and prone to droves of yaoi fangirls attacking him at a moment's notice. Cneko, a cat-earred goddess-in-training who was in danger of losing herself to another person, but who finally found that there were pieces of her old power waiting to be found, power that could restore her to her true self. Xayle and Gaw, adventurers who seemed to go back a long way. Tetsusou, a were sabertooth tiger who was the last of his kind. Nyetha, an insectoid would-be queen exiled from her tribe.
And there were more they had met two days before that, when they were all exploring the Ruined City and found themselves separated after a series of traps and some very exausting and gorey fights with enchanted armor, lizard men, and a possessed raccoon-hating warrior named Arsen. Gavin wondered whimsically how Arsen was doing, now that he was turned into a baby. But really, he deserved a lot worse for what he did. Gavin's eyes narrowed unconsciously as he remembered the bloody battle, the way Raelle almost died because of that man...
At least Yabelo, the current (if escaped) villain, was contented to brainwash the entire town of Tameshtal into trying to kill them all. Gavin ran the thought through his head again. You know, that was pretty bad, too, actually.
But that was the weird part. They were his friends. Some of them he hadn't known for twenty-four hours even, and he'd been fighting along side them like he'd known them all his life.
But something inside him knew it was going to change. Soon.
Gavin entered the Tameshtal Medical Clinic, the door hanging open precariously. Hablafe, the healer, had been charged to take care of Farland, an ancient artifact dealer they had found in the Ruined City, bloodied and battered like many of those who opposed Arsen's will. But now Farland was standing, conscious, along the long row of beds, discussing things with the healer.
Feather had figured it out first; the villagers were being controlled magically, and so even though they were attacking, they were brainwashed into doing so, and had begged everyone not to kill them. But it was impossible not to harm some of them, and the ones that lay in the beds were the ones that were just starting to come out of Nyetha's psychically-induced sleep.
"Look who's up and walking!" Gavin commented incredulously.
"Gavin! Buddy!" Farland had been applying gauze to a villager's wound, but now turned to face the treasure hunter. "So it was you who saved my hide!"
"Yeah, I'm expecting some major discounts in return, too." Gavin leaned against the doorway, arms folded.
"Well, I guess I can't deny you that, but really, I got nothing." Farland raised his hands plaintiffly. "Those lizard men took everything they thought was valuable." His voice became slower and more serious. "And really, I don't know if it's worth it anymore."
"Yeah." Gavin remembered finding Farland, barely conscious.
"But hey, looks like you got it back!" Farland brightened up, pointing to the Tanuki Amulet wound around Gavin's belt. "Good thing, too, you woulda never won it back in Blackjack."
The two men stood in silence a while before Gavin spoke again. "Look, man, I hate to just leave it like this, but..."
"You got things to do. I know." Farland was smiling his tight smile. "You watched out for me long enough, man, don't worry about me. But thanks."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Well, I got no money or nothin', so I figure I gotta work my time off with Haha here." Farland jammed his thumb over his shoulder at the busy healer. "And that's fine. S'better than fine, better than what I woulda got otherwise."
Gavin nodded, shifting his weight off the doorway. "Yeah. Anyway, I gotta go, so good luck with everythi-"
"Gavin." Farland interrupted sharply.
"Don't do anything stupid." Farland's usual parting words with Gavin were joined with an appreciative smile.